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Vol. LXIII, No. 27
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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Ladybugs “Communing” and Lit Streetlamps: The University Community Visualizes Peace

Dilshanie Perera

The comfort of a mother’s arms, a gathering of ladybugs, and a cityscape at dusk are among Princeton community members’ visual responses to the question, “What Is Peace?” currently on view in the Murray-Dodge Hall lobby.

The exhibition includes 34 images selected from 160 submissions of photographs taken around the world by Princeton students, faculty and staff. It is sponsored by the Office of Religious Life, the dean of undergraduate students, the vice president for campus life, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and The Daily Princetonian.

“We tried to pick a theme that will reflect a goal and mission of the Office of Religious Life, which is to investigate, promote and educate around questions of peace,” said Paul Raushenbush, associate dean of religious life and one of the exhibition’s curators. “We also were interested to see how various individuals would respond to this, either through personal and more private understandings of peace and also social and political understandings of peace. We thought it was an interesting way of getting into the multilayered aspect of what peace is.”

The seemingly disparate black and white and colored images in the exhibition, from locations as far apart as Queens, New York and Iran, actually lend themselves to several fairly distinct groups.

The theme of light can be found in “Enough Light for Everybody,” a photograph of two lit street lamps amid the tops of several buildings; “Calming Candlelight,” with its circular array of burning votive candles; “Illumination,” a portrait of a meditating figure situated in front of an open-work window; “Rise,” an image of sunrise over a body of water; and “Light Upon Light,” which is described as “Light bursts onto a stone carpet, breaking the silence of an empty hall,” in an Iranian mosque.

Children feature in “Simple Virtue,” portraying three young children eating watermelon; “Comfort in Mother’s Arms,” where a faceless woman holds her half-clad child over an unnamed watering place; the somber “Devotion of a Too Young Mother;” and “Struggle Begets Peace,” in which a mother, the IV needle still visible in her hand, holds her newborn child.

“What Is Peace?” follows two previous yearlong exhibitions of photographs by Princeton community members who were asked to submit images addressing the questions of “What’s Sacred?” and “What Is Family?”

In addition to Mr. Raushenbush, curators of this year’s exhibition included Eve Aschheim, senior lecturer in visual arts in the Lewis Center; Vice President for Campus Life Janet Dickerson; Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne; and seniors Shin Jae Won and Daniel Hayes-Patterson, executive editors for photography at The Daily Princetonian.

“What Is Peace?” will be on view in Murray-Dodge Hall through December 1. It can be viewed online at

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