‘I always feel like somebody’s watching me’

Kathy Halper's "Spring Break" (2012). Image courtesy of the artist and Packer Schopf Gallery.

Kathy Halper’s “Spring Break” (2012).
Image courtesy of the artist and Packer Schopf Gallery.

The NIU Art Museum will present “On Watching and Being Seen,” an exhibition featuring 28 artists from the Chicago area to around the globe.

This show will be held in all four galleries of the NIU Art Museum from Tuesday, Aug. 27, through Saturday, Oct. 19, with a public reception planned from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.

A special Sunday viewing of the galleries will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.

“On Watching and Being Seen ”explores the roles of voyeur and exhibitionist, especially through the impact of social media and surveillance technology. How we define what is private and what is public – or what we think should be – has ramifications in feeling engaged, threatened or ambivalent.

For example, Houston-based artist William Betts produces mechanized dot paintings of public surveillance camera footage.

Betts elevates these mundane images to “fine art” by transforming the still video frames into paintings. Consequently, by tapping into the art historical significance of the medium, he is able to facilitate conversation about images that may otherwise go unnoticed. The resulting paintings are as unsettling as they are beautiful; they serve as a disturbing reminder that we are all subjects of surveillance.

William Betts’ “Park Sequence III” (2007). Image courtesy of the artist and Peter Miller Gallery.

William Betts’ “Park Sequence III” (2007).
Image courtesy of the artist and Peter Miller Gallery.

In terms of addressing social media, Chicago artist Kathy Halper embroiders line drawings of actual Facebook posts to shed light on the new and strange cultural phenomenon among young adults of posting intimate (and unflattering) pictures of themselves for the world to see and scrutinize.

Her image titled “Spring Break” depicts a young man snuggling up to a couple of romantic conquests, and includes a caption beneath the picture reading: “I can only imagine the horrible things my future wife is doing on spring break right now.”

A complete list of exhibiting artists includes: Martin Backes, Betts, James Bridle, Mark Daybell, Digital Dan the Drawing Man, Jessica Dimmock, Walker Evans, Brad Farwell, Ron Galella, Scott Groeniger, Halper, Larson Harley, Adam Harvey, Mark Hogancamp, Ed Kashi, Jay King, Joachim Ladefoged, Ben Lowy, Noelle Mason, Kate McQuillen, Susan Meiselas, Jim Newberry, Helmut Newton, William Noland, Marc PoKempner, Henry Simon, Art Shay and Kohei Yoshiyuki.

Located on the west-end first floor of Altgeld Hall, the galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours.

Exhibitions and lectures are free; donations are appreciated.

Pay parking is available in the visitor’s lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. Free parking is available Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures in the lot northeast of Gilbert and College Drives.

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the Friends of the NIU Art Museum; and the Dean’s Circle of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, NIU Foundation.

Call (815) 753-1936 for more information.

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