May 25, 2019  

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Museum of Art Opens With Iraq War Photo Exhibit by U.S. Soldier Holland

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Lt. David Holland took 25 photos of life on the street of Baghdad during his tour of duty in 2008. (Submitted photo)

An array of eclectic media will fill the walls of The University of Southern Mississippi Museum of Art for the inaugural exhibit of the New Year.

The opening reception for works by Hattiesburg photographer Lt. David Holland and sculptor/artist Claudia DeMonte begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27 in the museum.

Holland took 25 gripping photographs of life on the streets of Baghdad during his 2008 tour of Iraq with the U.S. Army National Guard. For one year, Holland never went out in the streets without two things: his Nikon camera and rifle.

While on missions, I was forced to view the world with a military mindset, ready to defend my country and my fellow soldiers and the countless innocent people that are helpless to defend themselves in the face of war,” Holland said.

Raised in a small town in North Mississippi, Holland discovered his passion for art and photography during his college days. Assigned as a military engineer, not a photojournalist, Holland felt compelled to document the hardships he witnessed firsthand in the poorest neighborhood of Baghdad. The exhibit titled, “Baghdad Beyond the Wire” offers an artist’s view of the capital of Iraq in the last years of the war.

“I was required to keep an engineer’s mindset. But I carried with me and continue to carry with me the mindset of an artist. It is from all three perspectives that my photography emerges.”

With thousands of photos from which to choose, Holland selected a few to display in Hattiesburg museums. Twenty more of Holland’s photos will be showcased in the new gallery on the first floor of Cook Library. Twenty others will soon be displayed in the Armed Forces Museum of Camp Shelby starting Feb. 15. A beautiful catalogue of Holland’s best 125 shots titled “Baghdad Beyond the Wire, Faces from the Fair Garden” will be available the day of the opening reception at the museum.

The Jan. 27 opening will also feature DeMonte’s showcase of a range of media from bronze sculptures to works made in fabric, pewter and wood. Her work forces the viewers to confront their own conceptions of global culture and the primitive. With each medium, she combines sobering commentary on the status of women in the world with lighthearted humor.

“For the last thirty years, my work has dealt with the roles of women in contemporary societies. Working in series, using various media, each body of work focuses on various aspects of gender issues. I want my work to challenge our ideas about women’s everyday lives and the concept of beauty in our global culture,” said DeMonte.

With more than 60 one-person and 300 group exhibitions nationally, DeMonte’s work is in numerous museum collections and public commission spaces. Southern Miss is showcasing a traveling display and retrospective of 30 years of DeMonte’s work titled, “Opera di Donna.”

“In Italian it simply means ‘work by a woman,’” said Dr. Jan Siesling, museum director. “It refers to her ancestry and its relative mystery will, I hope, stir the curiosity of our public.”

The museum is located in the Fine Arts Building on the Southern Miss campus in Hattiesburg.  Admission is free and open to the public Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 pm.  For more information, call 601.266.5200.