June 10, 2010 – 8/4/2010
Gallery 1055 at Diocesan House is pleased to present More Depleted, an exhibition of photography and installation by Cheryl Meeker.
More Depleted uses 4x5 photography “anti-portraiture” and written material to educate about and explore the underreported use and effects of depleted uranium in military weaponry. The project seeks to find a way to recognize a relationship between ourselves and people impacted by our government’s policies, children born in Iraq with birth defects purportedly due to exposure to depleted uranium, including some children who are born with no eyes.
Giving individuals a packet of information on the topic and inviting them to collaborate if they feel moved to do so after reading the material, the artist finds those who would like to connect with More Depleted. The project was begun with the involvement of visual artists, for whom the condition of these children is unthinkable. Continuing with the project, new people who are interested are engaged.
Included in the exhibition is a library/archive of reliable and contested literature on the use and effects of depleted uranium, which the artist has gathered and made available to gallery goers. Clark Buckner, curator of the exhibition of Depleted Selves at Mission 17 in 2008 wrote, “This material provokes the questions: what we can confidently take to be true in this internet age, how much do we know about our military's activities, and what information has been withheld?”
More Depleted extends the project in the context of the Episcopal Diocese gallery, with photographs that have not yet been exhibited, and with additions to the archive of written material, including updates on the movements of the Environmental Protection Agency on DU, and the implications of birth defects in Fallujah that have come to light since the last exhibition.
The public may collaborate with this project via an interactive website where one can first become informed about the topic of DU, and then upload an appropriate “anti-portrait.” Suggestions for taking action on the issue are also accessible at this site, as well as a randomly circulating series of photos previously uploaded, including images from the exhibitions. The project website URL is:
In conjunction with the exhibition More Depleted, an event will be held at the Diocese, on July 1, 2010, at 7 pm. A conversation with Gretel Munroe, via Skype from Boston and a recorded interview with Doug Weir from the UK will be an opportunity for those interested to learn more about the topic. An overview of the history and health effects of depleted uranium, new EPA involvement with the issue, and an update on ICBUW’s work with UN resolutions on DU will be included in the discussion.
Gretel Munroe is a graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts/Amherst where she received a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition. She is a Registered Dietitian and a Licensed Nutritionist in the State of Massachusetts. She has taken courses in biochemistry and physics. Gretel is a member of Grassroots Actions for Peace, Concord where Nuclear Metals/Starmet manufactured DU penetrator shells for 25 years. She is a member of the ICBUW Science Team.
Doug Weir is International Coordinator for the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW.) Doug has been Development Worker of the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium since 2005 and ICBUW Coordinator since 2006. He holds degrees in Geology and Journalism.
Cheryl Meeker is a visual artist and writer based in San Francisco who uses 4x5 photography, installation, social sculpture, video, drawing, and the Internet to explore sustenance in a market dominated economy. Her work has been exhibited at Mission 17, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Southern Exposure, and the Oakland Art Museum, and her art writing has been published in NYFA Current, Stretcher, and Art Papers. She is a co-founder and co-publisher of Stretcher.org and also works in the collaborative team Dan and Cheryl with Dan Spencer.
Gallery 1055 inside Diocesan House
1055 Taylor Street, San Francisco
gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
Meeker's collaborative process is based on sharing with friends and colleagues the information that she has collected on the effects of depleted uranium. She invites them to participate in creating a portrait of themselves with their eyes covered to demonstrate the barriers in accessing this information. The blindness of the portrait subjects suggests our own complicity in the use of these munitions and our willful ignorance about their effects. The images lack a standard portrait's point of entry for the viewer, evoking an uneasy vulnerability. Because the process deliberately removes complete creative control from the artist, the backdrop and mood varies in each of the photos. Some portraits have a sinister quality, echoing hooded prisoners or detainees on their way to secret locations. A large black-clad person with a Henry Art Gallery bag over his head -- implicating the art world in his blindness – looms menacingly. Others, like those done in collaboration with a group of young students wearing their clothes backwards or covering each others’ faces, mix a more whimsical quality with their disturbing undercurrents.
Meeker's project may be viewed as empathetic gesture and her subjects seen as stand-ins for the victims of DU munitions, but her collaborative process describes an urge to connect and participate in a more open-ended conversation. Meeker uses a large format camera, a time consuming early 20th century portraiture process. With the black fabric draped over her head while she adjusts the camera on its tripod, she performs a mirroring of her subjects. The conversation between the subject and artist is cloaked, as the news they are responding to is shaded in misinformation.
In our anxiety-ridden image economy, how does one make politicized art that doesn't work to incite a hysterical response to a specific agenda? Rather than look for a blueprint for the efficacy of artistic practice in the political arena, we would do well to nurture all forms of sustained critical engagement with political issues. Meeker's open ended anti-spectacular process points to the value not only of sharing information with each other but also of creating reasoned dialog for the reflection on our own culpability in our government's policies.
Valerie Imus is an independent writer and curator and is exhibitions manager at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco
Using a 4x5 view camera and the genre of portraiture as a starting point, I've begun a project, the centerpiece of which is collaboration with people photographed. Inspired by the desire to meet and create something new with others as well as to learn and share information about depleted uranium, an under-reported component of military weaponry, I'm working with subjects who determine in what way they would like to be represented, with eyes and/or faces obscured.
This project seeks to find a way to begin to recognize a relationship between us and children who have been born in Iraq with birth defects due to exposure to depleted uranium, including some children who are born with no eyes. I thought the best place to start this partly educational project was with friends who are primarily visual artists, who invariably find this especially poignant.
The slowness of the process of photography with a 4x5 camera creates a different time frame for personal interaction. The protection and/or withholding of identity of the subjects of the portraits and the representation of a kind of non-seeing, is a significant element in this project,
As part of the relationship transacted through the mutual creation of the portrait, I give the portrait subjects a press packet of information including detailed essays about depleted uranium and about the current simultaneous breakdown of the well being and social networks in the societies of elephants world wide, a topic which may be seen to be related.
My intention is that as pictures are added to the project, exhibitions will be developed, along with zine relating to events produced in conjunction with the exhibitions. In launching this project, I also created an on-line presence for the project to make a good part of it accessible to people anywhere. Please see www.depletedselves.com to read the material and to add your own image if you so choose.
by Cheryl Meeker