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We Love Arts: Dana Ellyn, BANNED

"The Books" by Dana Ellyn. Courtesy of the artist.

There was a time when banning a book meant silencing a voice. Flush with the power of our digital age, we may forget that information so readily available to us – both truth and lies – was once so easily stopped. That is, until we read about governmental attempts to control knowledge through digital means and realize it’s all still very prevalent.

I distinctly remember being very frightened as a child by the idea of books being banned – or worse, burned. The clandestine copy of Forever passed around my grammar school, eagerly highlighted, was the best instructor of sex education we had (we have it so easy now, seriously) and when it was confiscated by a puritanical teacher the sense of shame and then rebellion that resulted was a defining moment. Later on, books like Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange spoke deeply to my developing beliefs about personal freedom and responsibility. There’s a natural outrage in me against those who would try to censor artists from holding the mirror up to our not-so civil society.

Artist Dana Ellyn continues her examination of controversial subjects with Banned, a solo exhibit showing now through July 31 at MLK Library. Last December she applied her laser eye for hypocrisy to a wide range of untouchable subjects such as religion, politics, and feminine identity in Divinely Irreverent, a show I unabashedly loved as “an audacious exhibit delivering hard slaps to myths of many kinds.” Here, the examination comes from books banned or otherwise considered subversive – perfect for Dana’s love of metaphor – and the slaps are delivered to those who would ban information and keep us in the dark.

The exhibit opened to coincide with the American Library Association’s annual conference, and it’s worth taking a look at their list of the frequently challenged books – you may be surprised by what you see. Banned features seventeen paintings inspired by controversial books; here are three that I found resonated particularly with me. Continue reading