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‘Picturing War’ exhibition of photographs opens Feb. 13 at Hamilton Gallery

NEWPORT, R.I. – “Picturing War: Photographs by Claire Beckett and Suzanne Opton” will be on display at The Dorrance H. Hamilton Gallery through Friday, March 7. The exhibit, curated by Michelle Lamuniere, is free and open to the public at the gallery, located in the Antone Academic Center on Lawrence Avenue.

An opening reception will be held from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13. A panel discussion will be held at 6 p.m. in the DiStefano Lecture Hall. In addition to Beckett, Opton and Lamuniere, panelists will include Army Spc. James Hilton, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Davis and Capt. Anselm Richards, assistant professor of military science for the ROTC Cramer’s Sabers Battalion.

For her “Simulating Iraq” project, Beckett photographs role-playing exercises at U.S. military training centers. In settings fabricated to look like Iraqi villages, soldiers and civilians in Middle Eastern dress enact engagement scenarios used to prepare troops for deployment. Beckett’s work conflates identities – both of people and place – creating an ambiguous reality that elicits both curiosity and confusion from the viewer.

The subjects of the intimate close-up portraits in Opton’s “Soldier” series are American military personnel that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When requested to lay their heads on a table, few of her subjects seem at ease, their wartime experiences internally manifested but only suggestively visible on their faces. Opton’s portraits convey individuality and vulnerability, countering the fearlessness and strength we have come to associate with the military, particularly in America.

Beckett holds an MFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and teaches photography at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Wadsworth Atheneum and the University of Rhode Island.

Opton is a self-taught photographer whose work is strongly influenced by performance art. The recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, among other awards, she teaches at the International Center of Photography. Her work was recently shown in solo exhibitions at the Chrysler Museum and Linfield College.

Lamuniere is the photography specialist at Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers. For more than 12 years, she served as a curator of photography at the Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum. Lamuniere has curated exhibitions for the Addison Gallery of American Art and Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.

The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The gallery is closed on Mondays.