Connie Frisbee Houde is much more than a photographer, and she's also more than a reporter, though she is darn good at both. It would perhaps work to call her a cultural anthropologist, but to my mind intention is the main thing, and I think Frisbee Houde's intention is to wage peace in the world. So, can I call her a peace warrior?
The exhibition The Forgotten: Afghanistan & New Orleans ties together two diverse locations that have seen devastation under the Bush administration and continue to struggle against that devastation while much of the world ignores their condition. Frisbee Houde has filled the somewhat labyrinthine galleries of the Chapel + Cultural Center at Rensselaer (that's RPI before the rebranding http://www.chapelandculturalcenter.org/) with pairs of photos that juxtapose oddly similar images from the two locales.
Taken during multiple trips to both places, and with text printed directly on the borders of the digitally printed pictures, they make a strong effort to inform without preaching. Some of the pairings are really visually arresting, and all of the images are well seen. Still, this is an exhibition that I would categorize as educational more than artistic - again it's that intention thing. Frisbee Houde has shown work as art (most notably in last year's Mohawk-Hudson Regional at the Albany Institute), but this time the emphasis is clearly on the content.
It's an age-old stratagem to combine images and text to get a point across, and Frisbee Houde has been doing it for years. This may be the most integrated presentation she has put together as a wall-mounted exhibition (she has also done a lot of slide shows over the years, where her voice provides the words) and I found that it works well to communicate her message: That we should not forget those we have allowed to suffer unnecessarily, and while some are very far away in strange and exotic cultures, others are right under our noses.
It is not the job of artists, reporters or anthropologists to offer solutions. Rather, they find facts, ask questions, point out problems. Frisbee Houde does all this very well, and with the quiet conviction that makes you want to listen and - this is a reach, I know - take action.
The show hangs through Weds., Feb 25, and the gallery's hours are extensive. See it if you can.
The week ahead
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