Responding to Bosnia: An Exhibition by Yvonne Petkus and James Kenney

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Responding to Bosnia: An Exhibition by Yvonne Petkus and James Kenney

January 28, 2020 - April 4, 2020

James Kenney, Profile of War, 36” x 24” (framed), photographed 2017 in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Yvonne Petkus, Marketplace, oil on plexiglass, 30” x 36”, 2018


Responding to Bosnia is an exhibition of work by photojournalist James Kenney and artist Yvonne Petkus. Kenney and Petkus conducted research together in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the 2017 Zuheir Sofia Endowed International Faculty Seminar (ZSEIFS) fellowship program. Both were deeply affected by this experience and have found that similar content and underlying meanings have emerged in the resulting work.

For Kenney, his exploration of the social and cultural effects of the Bosnian War revealed a country and its people still in mourning while trying to return to some version of normalcy. The war and its effects could still be seen in the weary faces and distant stares, as well as in the shrapnel-pitted buildings dotting the urban landscapes. The war is commemorated in art, catalogued in centers that identify human remains, memorialized in cemeteries solely dedicated to genocide victims, and heard in the terrible stories told over and over of torture, rape, and killing, opening up old wounds in the attempt to come to some kind of understanding, and ultimately perhaps some measure of internal peace. Through his photographs, Kenney addresses these complex issues and their outcomes, with the goal of documenting each moment captured with sensitivity and honesty.

Petkus is a process-based artist who uses painting to explore ideas of struggle, perseverance, and the residues of trauma. The method is a sculptural use of mark-making as a critical, living action to develop her imagery and content, working through and past specific inputs toward their potentially larger meanings. Sources include sketches, photos, interviews, and notes, including those gathered during the 2017 ZSEIFS fellowship and her participation this summer in the Kuma International Center for Visual Art from Post-Conflict Societies Conference on Contemporary Art, also in Bosnia. By exploring ideas of struggle and survival, of vulnerability and the stubbornness necessary to persist, this work is intended as a mechanism to address the larger, most difficult and most human of concerns, while providing a space for contemplation, reflection, and understanding.

Responding to Bosnia is part of the 2019/2020 Western Kentucky University International Year of Revisited programming.

Please join us on Friday, February 7 at 6PM for an opening reception and gallery talk.


January 28, 2020
April 4, 2020
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