ArtPrize entry highlights inequality, racial tension

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With ArtPrize just around the corner, many artists have already started installing their pieces, and one of the artists has created a piece inspired by the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

The piece is called “Exclamation,” and was created by Eric Wieringa, a teacher who lives near Ferguson, Missouri. It’s an oil painting featuring a man standing in the middle of the composition and is featured at the Fountain Street Church.

“You see this man, he sort of has something really important he’s trying to exclaim, but he doesn’t have a voice and so he sort of positions himself in a way that he becomes the punctuation to his own statement,” said Wieringa.

Wieringa said the painting was inspired by his personal experience, but is not about him.

“Living and teaching near Ferguson, Missouri, there were a lot of moments when I really had the desire to bring people together and I just didn’t have the power to do that. I teach at a school where I’m sort of on the border between a lot of rural areas and a lot of more urban low-income areas so I get students from all walks of life and I was very much in the middle in many cases,” he said.

Wieringa described the painting in more depth to 24 Hour News 8 saying it has a much deeper meaning.

“He’s right in the middle [the man featured in the painting] of the composition, and if you look close, he’s just a little bit to the side and what that means to me visually is that he hasn’t compromised his beliefs. He still has convictions, but he understands that you have to come to the middle in order for real words to be spoken, real solutions to be found with all of these tough issues that we face with social inequality and racial tension,” Wieringa said.

It’s a controversial piece and Wieringa said he was reluctant to enter it.

“There was some anxiety because I’ve had every advantage in the world so who am I to talk about this issue really. I didn’t really create this piece to make a political statement or push an agenda or anything like that, but really just to have people come together. After I discussed this with a lot of my colleagues from various backgrounds, even students from Ferguson and friends, I had overwhelming support from them and they encouraged me to show this,” said Wieringa.

Wieringa said he hopes the piece brings about good conversation.

“There’s always going to be a little tension and it’s still a fresh wound. We have to empathize with each other. We have to seek understanding and that understanding never happens unless we at least get close enough to each other where we can say words and hear words and not just be shouting words,” he said.

ArtPrize organizers said some other venues will be open this weekend as well.

“Frederik Meijer Gardens’ exhibition is open to the public today. The UICA’s exhibition is called ‘Sense,’ and it’s great and the Grand Rapids Art Museum has pieces installed too so those are some of our biggest, hottest spots and they’re all open this weekend,” said Kevin Buist, the Exhibitions Director.

Buist said some smaller venues may also be open this weekend, and will have signs out on the sidewalk if that’s the case.

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