The University of South Carolina Upstate will highlight artwork by the American illustrator Sandow Birk in November as part of a program exploring art and religion in the United States today. The exhibit, An American Qur’an: Exploring Religion in Contemporary American Art, runs from November 1 to December 6 at the Curtis R. Harley Gallery on USC Upstate’s main campus. Other program activities include an interpretive lecture on November 4 at the Spartanburg County Headquarters Library and a gallery talk and artist reception November 12 on campus. SC Humanities supported this project with a Mini Grant.
Sandow Birk is an accomplished Los Angeles-based artist with a lengthy resume whose works examine contemporary themes, including religion, environmentalism, social issues and inner-city violence, with fresh energy and classical sensitivities. The works on display at USC Upstate are part of a larger project called “American Qur’an,” in which Birk hand-transcribed a translation of the Quran and illuminated the text with relevant scenes from contemporary American life. Nine years in the making, the project was inspired by a decade of extended travel in Muslim regions of the world.
In conjunction with the exhibit, Dr. David Damrel, an associate professor of religion at USC Upstate, will lecture on “Inside American Qur’an: Muslims in Art in America” from 5-6 p.m. on November 4 in the Barrett Room at the Spartanburg County Headquarters Library (151 S. Church St., Spartanburg, SC). Sandow Birk will speak about his project at 6 p.m. on November 12 at USC Upstate in the Humanities and Performing Arts Center, Room 120, with a reception to follow at the Curtis R. Harley Gallery. All programs are free and open to the public.
In addition to SC Humanities, the Office of Student Affairs and the Religion Program at USC Upstate and the Middle East and North African Studies Program at Wofford College are sponsors of the program.
The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 20-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.
Image: American Qur’an Sura 2-D, courtesy of the artist