EMILY GOMEZ'S EXHIBIT "UNEARTHED: 170 YEARS AFTER INDIAN REMOVAL" OPENS AT MGC
(Cochran, GA) - Emily Gomez's exhibit "Unearthed: 170 Years After Indian Removal" recently opened at Middle Georgia College's Peacock Gallery in Russell Hall. To honor its opening, Gomez hosted a gallery talk for students, faculty, and community members.
Gomez's large format photographs document Southeastern and Midwestern landscapes and their lack of an American Indian presence. In her artist's statement, Gomez says, "My work is driven by my desire to uncover the past: to find evidence of what was here before us and to educate others and myself about the history of our continent that we rarely learn. In a time of war, we must look to these sites as a reminder of past conquests and how much is lost when America imposes its values on other nations."
The photographs show Indian mounds and former town sites as they look today, which are often in contrast with the seriousness of their history. For example, one photograph shows a Wal-Mart in Charlotte's Pike, near Nashville, Tennessee. What the picture doesn't show, and what the viewer doesn't learn until they read the text next to the photograph, is that the Wal-Mart was built on an old Indian burial ground. The remains were moved and reburied before construction began. "These sights are just as beautiful as others in the world, but are treated differently," said Gomez.
Gomez aims for simplicity, subtlety, and beauty in her work. She wants viewers to be drawn in, and then given a jolt when they read the text. "I want people to think about their own neighborhoods and the people who have been there before," she said.
After viewing the Santee Indian Mounds in Summerton, South Carolina, Gomez sent the Santee chief a letter asking for more information. "I wrote him saying the mounds were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen," she said. "I asked for book recommendations and other places to see." Since there are not that many books available on the Santee, Gomez and the chief decided to meet in person. Eventually, she became an adopted member of the Santee Indian Nation. Her experience stressed the importance of getting involved. "If you put yourself out there, you will learn different things," she said.
Gomez has known she wanted to be a photographer since she was 15 years old. "I fell in love with the darkroom and the process," she said. "I'm one of the lucky ones who figured out what they wanted to do as a teenager, and I stuck with it."
Gomez works with an 8x10 camera, which is useful in landscape photography because it allows better control of perspective and depth of field. Her process takes a couple of days, from taking the picture, scanning the negatives, working with them in Photoshop, and printing the images on a large scale digital printer. In addition to the quality of the print, Gomez uses the 8x10 camera because of its stature. "It's really physical," she said. "I like to feel exhausted afterwards."
Charlie Agnew, an Associate Professor of Art at MGC and the Director of Peacock Gallery, said Gomez's work gives viewers an interesting look into our past and present. "You can enjoy looking at it, but it's also thought-provoking," he said. "It shows us a part of America's past we often glaze over. We hear about cowboys and Indians, but we don't think about the atrocities done to the Native Americans."
Elijah Maurice, a freshman at the Eastman aviation campus, said he found the exhibit to be very informational about Native Americans. "I didn't know a lot of the places she showed," he said. "It's shocking how America takes over and claims it as its own."
In addition to her work as a photographer, Gomez is an Assistant Professor of Art at Georgia College and State University. She received her B.A in Fine Arts/Photography from Loyola University Chicago in 1998 and her MFA with Distinction from the University of Georgia in 2006.
"Unearthed: 170 Years After Indian Removal" will be on display through September 30. Peacock Gallery is open Monday-Thursday from 8:30 to 5:30, and on Fridays from 9:00 to 12:00 noon. The exhibit is free and open to the public.