Photograph by: Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star
University of Windsor artist’s gallery showing inspired by humanitarian trip to Nigeria
BY SONJA PUZIC, THE WINDSOR STAR JANUARY 20, 2011
An eye-opening trip to Nigeria with a humanitarian organization is the inspiration behind a local young artist’s latest exhibit.
Stephen Surlin, a 24-year-old University of Windsor visual arts student, will showcase his latest work at the university’s LeBel Gallery next week.
The exhibit, entitled Artist as Activist, opens Monday and will feature what Surlin calls activism design projects, including a solar powered rechargeable LED lamp. His work combines installations, audio, video, painting, photography and sculpture.
Surlin, who works with the local artist collective Broken City Lab and has been involved with Artcite’s Fringe Festival and the Fahrenheit Festival, said he was inspired by new design and technology ideas as they relate to impoverished nations like Nigeria.
“After my trip to Nigeria … I did a lot of research on the idea of architecture as activism,” Surlin said. Many of the people he met in the West African country were very interested in technology and electronics, although they had limited access to it. At the same time, they lacked basic necessities – proper medical care, HIV/AIDS treatment and eyeglasses.
Surlin travelled to Nigeria with the AIDS Crisis Response Team, a non-profit organization that provides direct medical services, medications and education to people in developing countries affected by the disease.
“I handed out a lot of glasses there. I had people telling me they wanted to be able to thread a needle, see better,” he said.”I was also a documentarian during the trip.”
Surlin said he hopes to raise awareness of social and humanitarian crises through contemporary art and engage people in discussions about social activism.
Lizzy Walker, director of the AIDS Crisis Response Team, will join Surlin for his exhibit’s closing reception Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the gallery, located in the visual arts building at Huron Church Road and College Avenue. She will talk about her work with the organization.
For more information, visit Surlin’s website, stephensurlin.com or check him out on Facebook.