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In his exhibit, “With Justice and Freedom For all, Wiconi Win Wakan (All Life is Sacred),” John Willis’s photography prompts viewers to look at the inequality faced by indigenous people within their own homeland, while also asking viewers to recognize what can be learned from indigenous values and customs. The exhibition will be featured in the Lycoming College Art Gallery from Sept. 15 through Oct. 14. A reception will be held Sept. 15 from 4-8 p.m. with a talk by the artist at 5:30 p.m. The reception and exhibition are free and open to the public.
The work presented in this exhibit combines pieces from two of Willis’s projects that developed as a result of his time spent within two indigenous communities. For more than 25 years, Willis has built a relationship with the Oglala Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he says the traditions of the Oglala Lakota people continually humbled him. More recently, in 2016, Willis spent several weeks at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota, near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. At the Oceti Sakowin Camp, Willis devoted his time and talents to assisting the camp media group, an experience that steered him toward joining in the Indigenous-led, prayerful movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Willis is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and has also received artist fellowships from the Vermont Council on the Arts and the Vermont Arts Endowment. His work is displayed both nationally and internationally in the permanent collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the George Eastman House Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Houston Museum of Fine Arts; The Portland Museum of Art; The National Museum of Native Americans; The Bibliotheque Nationale de France and The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
Willis has shown his work in solo exhibitions at the Stark Gallery, the Blue Sky Gallery, the Photographic Resource Center and at Oglala Lakota College. His book, “Views From the Reservation,” was published by Columbia College and the Center for American Places.
Willis earned a Master of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. He is currently professor of photography at Marlboro College, and is co-founder of The In-Sight Photography Project, a teaching facility that offers photography courses to youth throughout Southern Vermont, regardless of their ability to pay. He also co-founded the Exposures Cross Cultural Youth Photography Program, bringing together youth with a wide variety of backgrounds from Vermont, the Navajo Nation, Chicago, New York and the Oglala Lakota Tribe, to share photography lessons and life stories.
The Lycoming College Art Gallery, located in downtown Williamsport at 25 W. Fourth St., contributes to the city’s arts culture and provides a way for the College to become more involved with the community surrounding it. Lycoming art students have the opportunity to interact with visiting artists, as well as learn first-hand the inner workings of a gallery.
The Lycoming College Art Gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 4 – 8 p.m., and Saturdays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 9 p.m. For more information, please visit the gallery online at https://www.lycoming.edu/art/gallery.html or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.