Art, research intersect in ‘Feedback Loops’

Apr. 25, 2013 @ 04:23 PM

In the gallery space at Blue Coffee Café, Randy Rogers’ painting proclaims, “We Are ALL the FACE of HIV/AIDS.” Matthias Pressley’s painting “Survival in the Face of Stigma” sits next to Rogers’ painting. Adina Black’s painting “Journey” proclaims that there is “Change Ahead.”
Their works are among eight artists’ responses to some findings from a research study LinCS 2 Durham recently completed. LinCS 2 Durham is a nonprofit group that links scientists and community members to determine what kind of research needs to be undertaken to prevent HIV in Durham’s black community.
The organization conducted a survey of more than 500 young black people, trying to get information about groups they feel connected to, and exploring issues of trust and attitudes about HIV testing, said Natalie Eley, the study coordinator.
The first LinCS project dates back to the 1990s. The current five-year project began in 2008. “Feedback Loops,” the name of this exhibit, offered LinCS 2 Durham “a creative way to give back to the local community,” and connect the public to their work, Eley said.
Members of the organization were inspired by Duke University behavioral researcher Dan Ariely’s “Artistically Irrational” exhibits, in which artists react to findings from his experiments. LinCS 2 Durham contacted visual artist Catherine Howard, who has curated several “Artistically Irrational” exhibits. The eight visual artists were chosen after LinCS 2 Durham issued a call for submissions in December.
“The thing that was important to us was that the artists not just regurgitate the statistics, but incorporate them into their work,” Howard said. She stressed to the artists that she was not looking for “fun presentation tools,” but for their interpretations of the research.
Each artist has supplied a written statement of how they approached the research results. Many of the artists have had personal contact with people with HIV/AIDS. “My work is all about taking research and information and putting it back out into the community,” Pressley writes in his statement. “As a black gay man, HIV prevention is something that is extremely significant in my life.”
Michelle Gonzales-Green writes that her mixed media work “Transmission” is “my personal statement to identify with embracing empowerment, to shed the oppressive propaganda stamped into my gender … and to hope that I never have to endure the loss of another loved one from this disease.” Her mother died of AIDS, at age 42, in 1991, Gonzales-Green writes.
“The findings discussed in the feedback forum,” writes visual artist Black, “are all factors that push us further along the path of change and motivate us to reach that point.”
Other artists who have contributed to “Feedback Loops” are Anthony Johnson, Claudia Corletto, Fatima Smith and Katina Parker.
Howard and the artists discussed at length where to display “Feedback Loops,” and decided on Blue Coffee Café because it represents “a perfect little slice of Durham” because of the number of people who stop by for coffee, food, and to work at a table, she said. Displaying the exhibit in a place that is not a traditional museum or gallery brings the conversation to the public in a way that does not stigmatize people, Howard said. “That’s the purpose of this kind of exhibit, to make it more comfortable for people to discuss these issues in public,” she said.

Go and Do
WHAT: “Feedback Loops” art exhibit
WHEN: On view through May 17
WHERE: Blue Coffee Café, 202 N. Corcoran St., Durham
ADMISSION: Free. For more information, visit