Hunger, real hunger, is not just being hungry. Real hunger is a feeling in the stomach and the mind that most of us have never experienced. Real hunger is both being hungry and not knowing when or from where your next meal will come. That uncertainty, I imagine, can be more frightening than just being hungry.
The Arts Council of the Brazos Valley has partnered with the Brazos Valley Food Bank to tell the story of hunger through the photography and audio stories of San Antonio artist Michael Nye. The exhibit, called About Hunger and Resilience started last month and will continue through July 25 at the Arts Council building at 2275 Dartmouth St. in College Station.
Nye's collection is the result of nearly five years traveling the country, looking for and discovering the face and souls of hungry people - really hungry people. The lawyer turned photographer found plenty of them, everywhere, and the 50 portraits on display at the Arts Council are a sampling of the result of his journeys.
His collection consists of photos in black and white, a medium that almost always tells a story more vividly and completely than color photography.
Nye calls himself not only a photographer, but part reporter and part anthropologist. He said he's both haunted and inspired by the stories of his subjects. He reveals only first names because last names don't matter. They can have any last name: your neighbor's, your child's best friend at school, your co-worker.
"Hunger is a whole lot like an iceberg," Nye told National Public Radio. "The mass of it is underwater, invisible - I think nine-tenths of it. And I've heard so many people talk about the experience like a glass wall disconnecting them from the rest of the world."
Nye's photography methods are somewhat old school and hugely effective. He uses an 8x10 Deardorff view camera, makes silver gelatin prints in a traditional darkroom with a large Beseler enlarger. "The Deardorff large format camera is a beautiful instrument," he told NPR. "I like the slow process of making a negative. Like winding string into a ball. Not the 'decisive moment,' but the longer and slower moments. Sometimes my family says I disappear into the darkroom for weeks."
He spent up to four days with each of his subjects. The finished product for the exhibit is one all-telling image and a five-minute audio clip for each subject.
"Once you start listening, you find that it's really about ourselves," Nye said. "That it's not about those people, but it's about humanity."
"I've had many times where I've had no food at all," Helen says in her recording at the exhibition. "I've had times when I've gone into the grocery with my purse and stole a bag of baloney. How do you explain that? Getting up the courage to walk in and do it? Being so hungry, it destroys your will. You look in the mirror, and you don't know who you are. ..." Helen is an artist herself, who was hit by a truck several years ago, rendered unable to work and lived in her car.
Kathy is a homeless mother. "How do you explain to a 2-year-old or 4-year-old there's nothing to eat?" she said in her sound clip. "All they know is that they're hungry. And the pain in their stomach. And you try to sit there and say, 'Honey, I'm sorry. I don't have anything to cook you. I don't have nothing to give you. I have nothing.'"
Nye said that visitors often sit on the floor, lost in the stories behind the faces that hang on the wall.
"One of the premises behind this project is a profound belief that everyone knows something that no one else knows - a wisdom about hunger," Nye said. "I hope that this exhibit is not just about making noise but about making things better, to see hunger as it is - without any illusion. And I think it's easier, then, to take it on and look for solutions."
For more information on the exhibit About Hunger and Resilience call 696-2787 or go on-line to www.acbv.org.
No summer break for the players and crew at Brenham's Unity Theatre as they are deep into rehearsals for their summer show The Wizard of Oz, the musical adaptation of L. Frank Baum's timeless story of Dorothy Gale and her yellow brick road travel-mates Scarecrow, Lion and Tinman, and their dealing with the Wicked Witch of the West on their way "off to see the Wizard."
But wait! Hold on to your ruby slippers. This is not The Wizard of Oz you've seen a dozen or several dozen times on television. This is Prince Street Players adaptation of the story and is not based on the famous 1939 film starring Judy Garland. It does have all the characters but none of the music that you know. It's new and it's fresh and was written by Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy.
The Wizard of Oz runs for one weekend only - July 26-29 - at Unity Theatre. The Wizard of Oz plays on July 26 and July 27 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; July 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and July 29 at 4 p.m. It is suitable for ages 4 and older.
Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $10 for children, with group rates available for parties of 10 or more. Reservations may be made by calling the Unity Theatre Box Office at 979- 830-8358, which is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, go to unitybrenham.org.
July 24: Arts Council of Brazos Valley Development Series presents "Grantwriting 101: Writing a stellar Proposal" by Scott Robinson, noon to 1 p.m. (696-2787, acbv.org)
July 26-29: Unity Theatre Brenham presents The Wizard of Oz (979-830-8358, www.unity brenham.org)
July 26-Aug. 11: StageCenter Theatre presents The Mousetrap (823-4297, stagecenter.net)
July 29: The Theatre Company's Preview Party, 6:30 p.m. (779-1302, theatrecompany.com)
July 30: Brazos Valley Chorale presents Summer Sing, 7 p.m., The Brazos Center (776-1776, bvchorale.org)
July 30-31: Huntsville Community Theatre hold auditions for The Boys Next Door, 6 p.m., Old Town Theatre (936-291-7933, huntsvillecommunitytheatre.org)
Aug. 9-Sept. 29:Rescued From Hurricane Katrina (696-2787, acbv.org)
Oct. 5-19: Arts Council of the Brazos Valley presents Reflections of a Special Olympics Athlete (696-2787, acbv.org)
All month: George Bush Library and Museum presents Headed to the White House (691-4000, bushlibrary.tamu.edu)
All month: Children's Museum of the Brazos Valley in downtown Bryan offer various programs, including Monday Madness, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (779-5437, cmbv.org)
Tom Turbiville is The Eagle's arts columnist. He is also sports director for WTAW-1620 AM and Bryan Broadcasting. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.