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Anguished refugees from Iraq

Images convey the turmoil of people who fled their country's violence and fear that they may never be able to return.

Gabriela Bulisova's photographs , "The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States," are on exhibit at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.
Gabriela Bulisova's photographs , "The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States," are on exhibit at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.Read more

Gabriela Bulisova is a go-getter.

Much of her artistic activity early in her career has been documentary photos of marginalized people in several lands, most notably at Chernobyl. And in 2009, she turned her attention to a hot-button issue: Iraqi refugees in our country.

These pictures by this young Washington photographer, who hails from the former Czechoslovakia, are on view in her show - "The Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States" - at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.

The photos, taken with the cooperation of the subjects, who are in hiding in this country, are guaranteed to give viewers a jolt. That's because each image is accompanied by anguished background information.

This brings up the whole sensitive question about Iraqi refugees. Often well educated, they fled sectarian violence in their homeland and are uncertain of their return, as they're still often regarded with ill will by their government.

Said to be in this show are a translator for the U.S. Army targeted for assassination, a provincial government employee labeled a collaborator, and three generations of women in one family who, after each fled to a different country, are reunited and pictured in a shadowy, dark silhouette.

The images excel at conveying the emotional tang of living desperate lives, often with no food. "These human beings," Bulisova said, "need our immediate help."

The exhibit is interesting both for its educational value and for the acceptance by the art community of a subject as yet unfamiliar in public displays.

Ceramics by the dozens

What would an exhibit by artists with master's degrees in ceramics look like? It probably would resemble the 43-piece regional show, "Main-Lining Ceramics," at the Main Line Art Center, whose works were chosen by Kansas State University's Glen R. Brown from many entries.

Most of the 27 regional exhibitors have the degree. Cozy little amateurish bowls are not to be found here. More often this work resembles sculpture, and that's OK.

It's just that I found myself yearning for more ceramic pieces having plausible utilitarian function - pieces such as Nick Kripal's terra-cottas that are fully realized statements, and the pristine small containers that Heather Erickson made in Denmark at Royal Copenhagen.

Andrea Marquis and Deborah Sigel offer stellar performances in the handling of ornaments, and Chadwick Augustine has an achingly exact variation on a poetic archaeology theme.

Linda Huey, Rina Peleg and John Williams are sculptors of invention and ability who also show their concern for the environment. Del Harrow has deep personal feelings about abstraction and about the human figure as a symbol, and involves the two effectively without losing the mood to decorative detail.

'Building by the Book'

Historic books in the Athenaeum of Philadelphia's rare collection inspired the proposals in "Building by the Book: Book Artists Respond to Architecture & Design."

Impressive are the book "carvings" by John Magnan and Aimee Denault, architect Don Rattner's rendering of a hefty architectural column, and Claire Owen's appealing take on imaginary creatures, part plant, part animal, from a biblical source.