Leslie Friedman focuses on fictionalized outsiders in her show "There's Got to be More," while Johanna Warwick's photographs show the stark reality of "The Bottom," the neighborhood not far from the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery.
Both artists are assistant professors and the newest faculty members in the LSU College of Art. Their coinciding exhibits at Glassell mark their first solo shows in Baton Rouge.
Warwick teaches photography at LSU and her husband also teaches in LSU's College of Art. When the couple went looking for a space large enough to live and work, they found it in The Bottom in 2016.
"We were living in Mid City before that, and a lot of people told us we shouldn't move to The Bottom, because it wasn't a good neighborhood," Warwick says. "But we couldn't find the kind of building we needed in Mid City. We found it in The Bottom."
And Warwick also found neighbors she's grown to love.
"I wanted to show the lovely people who live in this neighborhood in my photographs," she says.
She also wanted to show why the neighborhood has been marginalized, so she started studying Baton Rouge maps in LSU's Hill Memorial Library and in the City of Baton Rouge's map room.
Warwick discovered several causes, the most obvious being the construction of I-10, which not only created a distinct dividing line between the neighborhood and Baton Rouge's downtown but caused some residents to lose their homes.
More residents will lose their homes as I-10 is expanded to alleviate traffic congestion.
"I photograph city plans and maps juxtaposed with torn-down houses and my neighbors to create a portrait of my experience in this community," Warwick says. "I recognize that histories are often told from the person with the most power, and I understand my privilege in making these photographs."
Warwick also works closely with her neighbors to carefully negotiate her responsibility in representing them.
One of the best illustrations of this collaboration is her photograph of a football team of middle-school-aged boys who practice in a BREC park beneath the interstate.
The boys are dressed out in the photo but appear to have no place to go.
The interstate expansion has forced BREC to close the park and prevent the team from practicing there for safety reasons.
"They had no other place to go, so they kept practicing there for a while, even after it was closed," Warwick says. "They were practicing beneath all the machinery working on the interstate."
Friedman shines a spotlight on her subjects by placing them on an island.
"For a while, I worked with patterns, and my work had political and social underpinnings," she says. "Then I started working with a narrative, combining pattern and story."
Friedman's interests are tied together by the idea of people who are considered social outsiders — people who are bullied because they're different, people who are outcasts and living on the fringe.
But the fringe becomes mainstream in Friedman's world of collagraphs and screen prints, where people are accepted for who they are. Her collagraphs tell the story of an island where people live nude, a symbol extinguishing the necessity of covering up who they really are.
"They also communicate through rock 'n' roll music," Friedman says.
This is symbolized by a looped, three-minute video installation set to music by German singer and songwriter Nina Hagen, whose vocals take on a masculine tone to lend to the theme.
Friedman's inspirations include stories where history repeats itself, documentaries exploring cults and outsider artist and writer Henry Darger's story, "Vivian Girls."
The characters in Darger's story are sexually ambiguous.
"I admire the transgender community and how far they've come in their acceptance in society in recent years," Friedman says. "But this show isn't about that community but about humanity as a whole."
The influence of cults comes into play, because people considered outsiders often are lured to the acceptance of such groups. But Friedman's island doesn't adhere to one set of cult beliefs, instead allowing people to happily live as who they are in the world.
'There's Got To Be More' and 'The Bottom'
Exhibits by LSU College of Arts professors Leslie Friedman and Johanna Warwick
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 5 p.m. weekends. Through Jan. 5.
WHERE: Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery, Shaw Center for the Arts, 100 Lafayette St.
ADMISSION/INFO: Free. (225) 389-7180 or art.lsu.edu