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When visitors enter the gallery in Wolf Hall at York College for the Perspectives on Peace art exhibit, they will be greeted by four York women.

They're not physically there, but rather are painted onto the walls of an octagonal room, the aura of each unique and easily felt by those who enter the space. The enormous head shots, nearly alive courtesy of the detail, gaze at each other from across the way, their views only interrupted by passers-by who seem small and somewhat insignificant in comparison to huge presence of the painted images.

"I wanted to engage in a project that mapped out these invisible boundaries," said Gaia, the Baltimore-based artist who painted the immersive mural.

His process began with research and interviews with people in the city of York until he settled on four female locals willing to guide his artistic process by way of conversations about their home city.

"I asked them where they feel comfortable, where they don't," Gaia said. "We talked about strategies of reinvestment, the amenities available for newcomers, the division between neighborhoods as well as education, from middle school, high school and all the way through college."

His end goal was to create a map of the city through the women he had painted. Their stories also will be told in short videos set up in the center of the eight-sided room.

Peace: Co-curators and husband and wife Matthew and Shelly Clay-Robison, York College's art gallery director and adjunct faculty member in behavioral sciences, respectively, sought to present images of peace through contemporary artwork in a unique way.

"I started talking with Matt about this two years ago, about how we weren't seeing any contemporary artwork that offers a perspective of peace without using violence to horrify you into caring," Shelly said. "There is also lots of symbolism, like doves and peace signs. We wanted to curate something that did not use images of horror or these trite symbols to display peace."

Each work engages in one of the following manifestations of peace: positive peace, negative peace, inter- and intrapersonal peace, structural peace and rebuilding after intense conflict.

Artists: The pair began looking for artists who could take on their distinct vision and eventually hand-picked eight who offered works in a range of mediums, including print-making, drawing, photography, painting, video and conceptual mixed media, Matthew said.

"When we started out we were able to look at a huge range of samplings, and then we narrowed it down to contemporary," Matthew said. "It was difficult to find people, not in that there isn't this unending supply of talented contemporary artists, but that we wanted this work to really reflect particular ideals. We're really happy with how it all came together."

Artists in the exhibit in addition to Gaia include Sarah Maple, Hank Willis Thomas and Terence Nance, Luba Lukova, Rita Duffy, Helen Zughaib, Jefferson Pinder, and Lori Waselchuk.

On one wall is a series of photographs depicting hospice care at a prison, on the opposite wall a series of pencil drawings with a range of subjects.

"It was about finding this work and then how it all fits together," Shelly said. "Each artist brings something different.

"Our goal is to have people walk away and further consider these themes."

Panel: There will be a panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14 in DeMeester Recital Hall featuring experts in the field of art and conflict. Some of the panel members include Ivan Sascha Sheehan, director of negotiations and conflict management and global affairs and human security programs at the University of Baltimore; photographer Lori Waselchuck; and Gaia.

The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday; from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The exhibit opened Thursday and will run through Nov. 14 in the York College Galleries.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com

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