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  October 22, 2001

Benton Arts Exhibits Place
Spotlight on Human Rights Issues

Fifty-five life-size, headless figures stand like leafless trees.

Overhead lights cast an eerie glow on the stark assemblage.

This installation by sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz is one of four exhibits with human rights themes on display Oct. 28 through Dec. 20 at the William Benton Museum of Art. An opening reception will take place on Oct. 28, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Abakanowicz's figures are essentially shells with no backs. Sal Scalora, director of the Benton, says they are "mysterious and compelling. They suggest a human presence that is both the evidence of past atrocities and an ever-vigilant group of spiritual witnesses."

Ordinary people who performed extraordinary deeds are the focus of Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust by Gay Block and Malka Drucker. Through photographs and text, this exhibit offers a glimpse into the lives of those who hid, protected, and saved Jews during World War II, when six million people were murdered. Most of the rescuers interviewed for the project said they had no choice but to act, says Scalora: "Never before had right and wrong been so clear to them."

Facing Death: Portraits from Cambodia's Killing Fields, is a visual statement from the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia. The 100 photographs on display are of men, women and children held at a secret prison in the capital city of Phnom Penh. They were among the 14,000 people killed during the regime.

An artist recreates and manipulates World War II documentary photographs in Judith Liberman: Self-Portraits of a Holocaust Artist. In these mixed media works, Liberman inserts her own facial image over the faces of those in historical photographs. "She is connecting herself as a Jew, even though she wasn't killed there," Scalora says.

He says he'll be surprised if people who come to the exhibits aren't "emotionally moved." He hopes to design an addition to the museum that would be a human rights gallery with rotating exhibits.

Sherry Fisher

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