About 20 people toured a gallery featuring the works of photojournalist Dan Elden at the University Art Museum last night – where the exhibit will be open for another three days – while museum curator Natalie Sanderson led a discussion of Elden’s art and his life.
Sanderson focused on the journal writing and photographic works of the “socially aware” Elden. The exhibit, which will end Sunday at 5 p.m., includes photographs from war-ravaged Somalia and other African countries, as well as Elden’s private journals and collages. The exhibition also has a component that allows visitors to create their own collage.
Sanderson said the exhibit was laid out and finalized in roughly one month – a process that she said typically takes six months to a year.
“There were many late nights spent on this; it was like cramming two months into one,” she said.
Part of the challenge of creating the exhibition, Sanderson said, was that it is different from most presentations of Elden’s work. Sanderson said other exhibits about Elden typically focus on the biography of the artist, but the University Art Museum gallery was laid out to stress the artistic aspect of his work.
Sanderson said she incorporated into the gallery an area in which visitors could make and display their own collages. Materials in the section range from old magazines to cardboard cutouts and markers.
“It’s supposed to be a cathartic experience,” said Sanderson.
During the gallery talk, Sanderson provided biographical information on Elden, who was born in England but emigrated to Kenya as a young boy, where he attended an international school. At age 22, Sanderson said, Elden became the youngest photo correspondent for Reuters international newswire.
Elden documented civil war and famine in Somalia, earning him international recognition. Sanderson discussed Elden’s tenacity during her talk, saying that the photojournalist would often use his bathroom as a darkroom for developing photographs that would later appear in publications such as Time Magazine and Newsweek, as well as the Reuters newswire.
Elden was killed in 1993 shortly after a U.N.-sanctioned bombing of Somali buildings, which were mistakenly thought to house Somali warlord general Mohamed Farah Aidid. Elden, who rushed to the scene to document the carnage, was immediately killed by a mob of angry Somalis, Sanderson said.
After his death, museum Public Relations and Graphic Manager Alexandra Halsey said, Elden’s surviving family created the Creative Visions Foundation, which is, according to the foundation’s website, “a dedication and continuation of the abundant energy, enthusiasm and creativity with which he lived.” The foundation funds the artistic endeavors of individuals interested in social movements. The foundation’s website is www.creativevisions.org/foundation.htm.
The original idea to host an exhibition of Elden’s works came from emeritus professor Gary H. Brown, who teaches Art Studio 112, a class that teaches students how to keep a “visual sketchbook,” according to the course website.