Chicago, IL  August 2015 – Opening October 16th at the Bridgeport Art Center is, The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions. This fine art exhibition, features the work of twenty artists from around the country, calling attention to the ongoing ancient rituals that kill or maim millions each year—yet are not considered crimes. The exhibition utilizes the beauty of high-quality fine art to raise awareness of human rights issues and—in doing so—begins a dialogue that may encourage change. It’s no mistake that this unique rendition of the Breaking Criminal Traditions exhibition is presented during October—Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This provocative yet engaging exhibition debuted in 2013 at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, putting the shadowy topics of honor killing, child marriage, acid violence—among others—directly in front of current and future law makers. Since the show debuted, new art pieces have been added. The show has evolved into the unique presentation designed specifically for the Bridgeport Art Center.

Chuck Gniech is the curator of the always-changing Breaking Criminal Traditions exhibition. With various human rights issues outlined by Executive Producer, Cheryl Jefferson, Gniech began researching and selected pieces that could be interpreted to define the issues at hand.  Gniech points out that “Many of the exhibiting artists never intended that their work define human rights issues. I simply select beautifully intriguing works-of-art that contain multiple levels of meaning. Each was chosen to allude to the issues—the meaning ultimately decided by the interpretation of the viewer.”

Gniech continues… “Although most of the work in this exhibition is taken out of context, from the artist’s original intention, there are pieces that have been created to address specific criminal traditions.”

“Richard Laurent’s Arcadia, is a surreal composition of a faceless female figure amongst a strangely beautiful landscape. The painting—filled with subtle surprises—highlights a monumental mask as the point of focus. The mask rests gently against a patterned mountain range—that upon closer inspection—appears to be the haunches of an animal. The eyes of the mask, stare blankly off into space… providing an expression of loss or disillusion.”

Artist Richard Laurent explains that “The image references an ancient social idea—an idea where women are considered feral and by ancient logic… dangerous. She exists only as a mask. Her dream is to be transformed from an empty vessel, into a moral—if not empowered—human being. The title points to a personal outcome without limits.”

Chuck Gniech has curated numerous fine art exhibitions with an emphasis on social justice. The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions continues the string of shows that offer a visual exploration of human rights issues. This show is designed to begin a dialogue and raise consciousness, which is the first step toward preventing the continuation of these horrifying acts.

unnamed2“The global reach of these complex behaviors extends to the United States,” points out executive producer, Cheryl Jefferson, a participant in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. “The exhibit allows us to take the first step toward change and to support the legal evolution that can only come from within other cultures and our own.”

The exhibition includes works of art by: Corinna Button (Chicago, IL), James Deeb (Evanston, IL), Sheila Ganch (Chicago, IL), Claire Girodie (Baltimore, MD), Charles Gniech (Chicago, IL), Sergio Gomez (Chicago, IL), Andrea Harris (Chicago, IL), Teresa Hofheimer [Chicago IL], Lelde Kalmite, [Chicago, IL], Paula Kloczkowski Luberda (Naperville, IL), Richard Laurent (Chicago, IL), Kathy Liao (Seattle, WA), Chandrika Marla (Highland Park, IL), Zoriah Miller (New York, NY, Paris, France), Nancy Rosen (Chicago, IL), Lorraine Sack (Indianapolis, IN), Dominic Sansone (Chicago, IL), Valerie Schiff (Chicago, IL), Barbara Simcoe (Omaha, NE), and Anne Smith Stephan (Wilmette, IL)

The Art of Influence: Breaking Criminal Traditions will be on display through November 13. A public Opening Reception will take place on Friday, October 16 from 7-10pm. Additional information can be found at BreakingCriminalTraditions.com.