Last Tuesday, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) hosted “The Mark and The Memory,” which focused on creating art around the aftermath of trauma. Multiple artists across New Jersey and the nation put their art on display both virtually and in-person at the JKC Gallery located at MCCC’s Trenton Hall, 137 North Broad Street in Trenton, across the street from the James Kerney Building.

MCCC Professor Ryann Casey, who hosted the event along with MCCC’s Director and Curator Michael Chovan-Dalton, explained that she has been setting up this gallery since 2020. The purpose of the gala was to highlight the role of photography in coping with trauma. 

“A lot of the traumas in photography are instant, right at the moment of pain, the moment of documenting that impact,” said Casey. “I thought what if we have a show that’s not about that, but about how our artists are coping with it, or addressing, or thinking about it, and that is where the show came out of.”

She explained that she has been looking for artists across the country to exhibit their artwork at the Gala. “I think it was interesting, and so I looked for artists that I thought addressed trauma but in very different ways, without showing that impact because I don’t want to have images that traumatized the viewer,” Casey added.

The subjects of the photos discussed topics about recovering from domestic violence, traumatic situations, and the aftermaths that the photographers dealt with. The Gala began with essayist Kate Spiller explaining her ongoing conversation with trauma. 

“I am also a survivor. I am a survivor of emotional abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, racism, sexism, homophobia… it’s a list. To be frank, I am an ongoing survivor of white supremacy. As a survivor, I carry the wounds and scars of trauma with me, visible on some level, invisible on another. What I have learned about is the complexities of my traumas. Some of my traumas feel strange and foreign and take time to unpack. Other traumas I have become so accustomed to that they’re like an old acquaintance I’m sharing time and space with,” Spiller writes.

They explain that this subject is challenging to discuss with others and share with a community. “It’s like a tough topic because I think we’re all still like, oh, how do you talk about trauma, like how do we do this, and because there’s such a range of different experiences of trauma in the show,” Spiller said. 

While the Gala is over, the photographs, essay, and tour can still be found online here: https://jkcgallery.online/the-mark-and-the-memory-curated-by-ryann-casey and via the catalog. “If you like people sharing both sorts of collective and personal stories, I feel like the show does a really good job of making it personal, ” said Casey. “And you know one of the responses I’ve gotten is that it makes you feel inspired that there’s a space for you to tell your own story.” 

MCCC’s next Gala in October, The Road Home, will feature a first-person look into displaced people and cultures. Director Dalton explains that the show “is about displacement, and it’s about people who have experienced either physical displacement from their homes, social displacement from the identities, and other forms of displacement. The artists will be people who have experienced displacement, it’s not going to be a kind of photojournalism show where people are covering displacement, but actual first-person experiences.”

For more information, visit: https://www.mccc.edu/community_gallery_jkc.shtml.