VisArts Presents Alison Kysia Art, Islam, and Activism: Works in Progress; Cecilia Kim Private Varnish; and Sound of Fire Group Exhibition

By Editorial Team on January 23, 2023

Wed, 25 January 2023 - Sun, 12 March 2023

Opening Reception: Friday, January 27 from 7pm to 9pm

VisArts is pleased to present new exhibitions opening this month. Bresler Resident Alison Kysia’s Art, Islam, and Activism: Works in Progress is in their Common Ground Gallery and Bresler Resident Cecilia Kim’s Private Varnish and Bresler Curator Gabrielle Tillenburg’s Sound of Fire are in their Kaplan Gallery from January 25-March 12.

The 2022 Bresler Residency call was for artists or collaborative artist teams whose primary residency practice focus was on projects centering environmental, social, racial, and economic justice.

An opening reception featuring artist and curator talks will be held Friday, January 27 from 7-9 p.m.

Alison Kysia, Take a Good Look in the Mirror, 2021-Present (Work in Progress)

Alison Kysia: Art, Islam, and Activism: Works in Progress
Common Ground Gallery
January 25-March 12

VisArts’ 2022 Bresler Resident Alison Kysia’s solo exhibition showcases three works in progress that express her love of art, Islam, and activism.

99 Clay Vessels: The Muslim Women Storytelling Project is a sculpture representing the 99 names of God in Islam, which inspired the online multimedia project at

Take A Good Look In the Mirror is a series of Pentagon-shaped handmade clay tiles framing a mirror. Each tile represents a puzzle piece in the story about the Global War on Terror, from the perspective of those most impacted.

A Vessel to Hold Your Truth is a series of clay vessels that Kysia is sculpting in anticipation of a performance about the life of Muslim scholar, poet, and martyr Mansur Hallaj, who has much to say about truth and justice.

About the Artist

Alison Kysia is potter, multimedia artist, and educator whose work centers Muslims, Islam, and Islamophobia. She creates functional and conceptual vessels to nourish relationships, inspire reflection on the purpose and meaning of our lives, and connect us to our humanity.

Kysia is a resident artist at Red Dirt Studio in Mt. Rainier, Md. and a facilitator with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. She was an educator for more than 20 years, committed to the concept of learning for liberation. She created and directed the Challenge Islamophobia Project, a platform for which she developed lesson plans and shared them with teachers throughout the U.S.

For the past three years, she has been fundraising for activists fighting the criminalization of certain communities to justify wars, including Muslims, Black Muslims, Black immigrants, Arabs, Sikhs, Middle Easterners, and South Asians. Her current projects include 99 Clay Vessels: The Muslim Women Storytelling Project, a collaborative multimedia art, storytelling, and healing project created by, and centering the stories of, Muslim women.

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Cecilia Kim, Tidal Calling, 2022 (Still)

Cecilia Kim: Private Varnish
Kaplan Gallery
January 25-March 12

VisArts’ 2022 Bresler Resident Cecilia Kim’s exhibition explores the permanence and impermanence of home and memory. The works on view connect the transient conditions of living and contemplate how temporary places and people may become permanently embodied within us, creating a dissonance between reality and the visions of our mind.

About the Artist

Cecilia Kim is a South Korean-born artist living in Richmond, Va. She is an instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her M.F.A. in photography and film. She holds a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kim was awarded Best in Show at The 19th Annual Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions and screenings around the world, including The Immigrant Artist Biennale (New York City), 0 GALLERY (Seoul, Korea), Hamiltonian Gallery (Washington, D.C.), Target Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (Alexandria, Va.), The Anderson Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Va.), the 6th Louisiana Biennial (Ruston, La.), the Hume Gallery (Chicago, Ill.), the Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Ill.), the NOFLASH Video Show (N.J.), Around International Film Festival Amsterdam (Netherlands), and the Student Experimental Film Festival at SUNY Binghamton (Binghamton, N.Y.).

Kim participated in the Busan International Open Arts Residence (South Korea) and the Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency (Mich.). She is a 2021-23 Hamiltonian Artists Fellow.

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Eric Rivera Barbeito, $753,000,000,000.00, 2021

Gabrielle Tillenburg: Sound of Fire
Kaplan Gallery
January 25-March 12

VisArts’ 2022 Bresler Curator Gabrielle Tillenburg’s group exhibition examines the powerful influence of the U.S. military beyond the borders of America’s 50 states.

With more than 750 military bases in approximately 80 countries around the world, the U.S. military challenges our notions of “American soil.” As the largest contributor to climate change, its global impacts are difficult to see and measure.

Through video, audio, and sculpture, Sound of Fire contemplates the effects, rhetoric, and narratives of the “U.S. military,” proposing listening and other sensorial engagements as a way of “seeing.”

Works in this exhibition rely on speculative fiction to conjure new understandings of what it means to occupy and what it means to resist and reclaim.

Artists: Nayda Collazo-Llorens, Jonathan Perez, Eric Rivera Barbeito, Jezabeth Roca Gonzalez and Joshua Roca Gonzalez, Jess Shane and Katie Mathews in collaboration with Mansoor Adayfi, John Dominic Colón

About the Curator

Gabrielle Tillenburg (she/her) is an independent curator from Rockville, Md. She holds a B.F.A. in film from the University of Central Florida and is pursuing her doctorate in art history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Tillenburg specializes in modern and contemporary Caribbean and diasporic art, and her research focuses on artistic responses to U.S. military presence on the Caribbean and Pacific islands.

Bridging her scholarship and curatorial practice, Tillenburg is interested in artist activism in independence movements, interpretations of time in photographic media, and contemporary use of craft materials.

Tillenburg’s curatorial projects have included Re∙Cast: Sculptural Works from the AMA Collection (UMD Art Gallery), Past Process (Strathmore), Soft Serve (Willow Street Gallery), and public art installations at Torpedo Factory. She has worked on Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery exhibitions, such as the Outwin Boochever Portraiture Competition, and was the exhibitions coordinator at Strathmore. Her work has been published in Sequitur and Artlines journals.

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About VisArts
VisArts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is a hub for the visual arts that engages nearly 30,000 visitors annually through contemporary art exhibitions, a studio artist program, art classes and camps, VisAbility Art Lab (a supported studio for artists with disabilities), community art programs, the annual Rockville Arts Festival, and event space. Founded in 1987, VisArts is committed to our mission of transforming individuals and communities through the visual arts.

VisArts is in Rockville Town Square, three blocks from the Rockville Metro station, at 155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, Md. Galleries are open Wednesday-Thursday/Saturday-Sunday, 12-4 p.m. and Friday, 12-8 p.m. Exhibitions are free and open to the public. Visit or call 301.315.8200 for more information.