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Papuan Tribal Art Exhibition Opens Friday, Oct. 3

An exhibition of more than 60 works of tribal art from the Sepik River Valley of Papua New Guinea will open Friday, Oct. 3 in the Burke Gallery of the Myers Fine Arts Building at Plattsburgh State University of New York.

WE SHOUT TO MAKE IT SILENT , a collection of Papuan art owned and curated by Marc Assayag of Tookalook Native Arts in Dollard des Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada, will run through Jan. 18, 2004.

The exhibit will kick off Oct. 3 with a lecture by the curator at 4 p.m. in Room 200, Yokum Lecture/Communication Hall followed by an opening reception for the college and the public in the Winkel Sculpture Court/Burke Gallery of the Myers Fine Arts Building at 5 p.m. Dr. John B. Clark, interim college president, and the Plattsburgh State Art Museum will host the opening reception.

Now owned by Assayag, the Papuan art collection dates to the first half of the 20th century and was first assembled by Bruce D. Lawes in New Guinea between 1955 and 1969. The collection was then purchased and held for some 30 years by Mr. and Mrs. W. Nicholson until it was subsequently acquired by Tookalook Native Arts earlier this year.

Papua, New Guinea is part of what is commonly called Melanesia - a place left unexplored until the mid 20th century. In this area, more than 700 tribal groups evolved, each with a distinct and separate system of beliefs. While generalities naturally exist, each group adhered to its own system handed down by oral tradition and unique images.

Edward Brohel, director of the Art Museum, said the collection of Papuan art offers a broad range of styles and functions, which gives the viewer an immersion into the culture and special objects used by the people of Papua, New Guinea.

"The exhibition contains ancestral spirit masks of endless variation; yam masks to celebrate fertility and bountiful harvests and large gable masks, which, like gargoyles, adorned the men's houses where they served an apotropaic purpose," said Brohel.

"Carved hooks served utilitarian purposes from holding food to ritualistic trophy hangers. Large shields, found in Papua in great variety, carried clan designs to strike fear in an enemy. And flute stoppers; figures of mermaids; ancestor totems and a Great Spirit image relate the cosmology to the individual."

Brohel said the exhibition also features orator stools (revered objects by the Iatmul people that served as pulpits from which important speeches and debates were delivered) and jewelry and other utilitarian objects.
The Burke Gallery will be open daily 12 to 4 p.m. except holidays and from Dec. 24, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2004. The exhibition is being shown for an extensive period to permit full exposure for the Plattsburgh State students and visiting public.

A full-color 28-page catalogue with illustrations of all the works in the show will be available for purchase in the Burke Gallery. The cost is $5 to the public, $3 for docents and senior citizens and complimentary for Plattsburgh State students with S.A. cards.

For more information on the exhibit or the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, or contact Edward Brohel, Art Museum director, at 518-564-2178.

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