‘Gaza Zoo’ communicates its message

Artist and author Laray Polk, whose work is currently on display in the Visual Arts building, has finally received the last element that she says makes her art complete-people.

On Aug. 27, she watched and talked to students, faculty and staff as they walked past laminated pictures, hanging on the gallery walls.

Wearing a jasmine lei, Polk greeted gallery visitors with bright eyes and a contagious smile.

“Tonight has been wonderful,” Polk said. “The show is meeting with a very good response.”

Polk’s exhibition includes 150 digital prints, which form the pages of Polk’s book, “Gaza Zoo.”

But her work has not always been so well received.

In 1995, a painting of two larger-than-life male nudes or as she called it “social harmony and peace,” sparked controversy.

Polk said it influenced the creation of her book, “Gaza Zoo” published five years later.

“I really enjoy her work, especially the use of text with the pictures,” said Whitney Breaux, biochemistry freshman. “I’m not an artist, and it really helps me understand what the pictures are saying.”

Greg Metz, gallery director for the main gallery and curator for “Gaza Zoo,” worked with Polk to develop the exhibit. Metz said he was not aware of another artist who displayed the entire contents of a book as an art installation.

“It’s definitely a first for UTD,” Metz said He looked around at Polk’s work with a broad smile on his face. “Displaying this way is really kind of a novel idea. You’re witnessing history.”

Polk has described her work as metaphorical. She tells viewers not to concentrate on the message, but to concentrate on the way the message is being delivered.

Her book also contains a “dialogue,” with the works of Marshall McLuhan, namely “Project for the New American Century” and “War and Peace and the New Global Village.” Other influences include B.F. Skinner and Noam Chomsky.

“‘Gaza Zoo,’ among other things, is a multi-layered process based on the politics of domination inherent in a phonetic alphabet, and by extension, other forms of Western communication and acculturation,” Polk said.

“Gaza Zoo” is open until Sept. 25. For more information, call 972-UTD-ARTS or visit <a href=”http://ah.utdallas.edu/”>ah.utdallas.edu</a>.

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