Healing and humanity viewed through photographs and poetry at Penn State LV
“Charles F. Stonewall: Between Silence and Light” explores the emotional aftermath of personal trauma captured through the camera lens, in an exhibition through Dec. 15, Ronald K. De Long Gallery, Penn State Lehigh Valley, Center Valley.
Each photograph, shot with models, some with acting experience, reflects emotions of sadness, hurt and betrayal experienced by people who had been severely traumatized. The powerful works provide a face for the anonymous victims.
Their stories were collected by Stonewall from staff members of shelters where casualties of sexual assault, psychological abuse or domestic violence sought refuge.
“When I Call You Sis or Bro, it is Not Meant Lightly” (2007-2018, photograph, 35 in. x 30½ in.) features a pensive young woman sitting behind a flimsy kitchen screen door that leaves her feeling betrayed and vulnerable.
Another work, “One of Us” (2008-2018, photograph, 23 in. x 30 in.) illustrates the grief of an elderly woman as she wraps a blue robe around her protectively. Many of Stonewall’s subjects are wrapped in robes or blankets in this fashion.
“I think artists are brave people and they can represent other people to help become a voice for them.” says Stonewall.
“Artists are really activists. They can become activists. There’s a history of that.” He cites Stevie Wonder as the artist who supported the movement to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday.
“Hope for Wounded Hearts” (2018, photograph, 35 in. x 27 in.) portrays an anguished young man prone on a wooden floor. The calming hand of an older woman touches his upper arm. The backstory for this work, explains Stonewall, happened when he was in graduate school.
“I’m in church and the minister had just finished this wonderful sermon,” he relates. “The choir is swaying and humming.”
Stonewall said he noticed a group of well-dressed elderly women “with their fancy hats” nearby and their reaction to a muscular, 20-year-old man who was “filthy” and wearing a dirty shirt when he entered the church sanctuary.
“These elderly ladies at the side got up and they surrounded him,” Stonewall recalls. “This guy, who was as muscular as he was, and as dirty as he was, he cried like a baby,” adds Stonewall, who was moved by the suffering and compassion he had witnessed.
To make the exhibit an audio and visual experience, iPads with headphones provide audio recordings created by sound designer Kristian Derek Ball. These feature poems about suffering and recovery written by Justice Davis, Beth Harris, Corey Riotz and Justina Trotter.
Stonewall, born in Easton, began his career as a professional photographer at Pennsylvania Power and Light, Allentown, then worked as an educational consultant and photographer at the Sprint World Headquarters, Overland Park, Kan.
His work has been presented at a private reception at the Louvre Museum, Paris, and he held African-American art exhibitions in Easton during the early 1980s. Stonewall received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Says Stonewall, “In a spiritual sense, ‘Between Silence and Light’ was chosen as a metaphor to reflect the restored soul yet to be revealed.”
Ronald K. De Long Gallery, Penn State Lehigh Valley, 2809 Saucon Valley Road, Center Valley. Gallery hours: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday. lehighvalley.psu.edu/gallery; 610-285-5078