Art exhibit contemplates the watchers and the watched

DeKALB – The Northern Illinois University Art Museum presents its fall opener, “On Watching and Being Seen,” an exhibition featuring 28 artists exploring the roles of voyeur and exhibitionist, especially through social media and surveillance technology.

The exhibition will be held in all four galleries of the museum from Aug. 27 through Oct. 19. There will be a public reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, and a special viewing from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.

How people define “private” and “public” affects whether they feel engaged, threatened or ambivalent. For example, Houston-based artist William Betts elevates the mundane images of public surveillance camera footage into fine art by transforming still frames into mechanized dot paintings. The paintings are as unsettling as they are beautiful; they serve as a disturbing reminder that we are all subjects of surveillance.

Chicago artist Kathy Halper embroiders line drawings of actual Facebook posts to shed light on the cultural phenomenon of young adults posting intimate – and unflattering – pictures of themselves for the world to see. Her image titled “Spring Break” depicts a young man snuggling up to a pair of romantic conquests, and includes the caption: “I can only imagine the horrible things my future wife is doing on spring break right now.”

Exhibiting artists are Martin Backes, William Betts, James Bridle, Mark Daybell, Digital Dan the Drawing Man, Jessica Dimmock, Walker Evans, Brad Farwell, Ron Galella, Scott Groeniger, Kathy 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.

The museum is on the first floor, west end of Altgeld Hall, on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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