Finding Refuge in the Heartland — What Matters Most

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) — Struggle can breed a number of different outcomes. For Jim Lommasson, he is attempting to turn hardship, into art.

Lommasson, a decorated photographer from Portland, Oregon, has brought his 'What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization' exhibit to the Capital City, which is appearing at the Sheldon Museum of Art on the University of Nebraska - Lincoln campus.

The foundation of the exhibit is built upon objects, but only a particular kind. Lommasson photographs the most important items that made the trip with Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have been placed in America.

Mountain View

Individuals who find refuge within American borders are often fleeing persecution or dangerous situations, and in turn, are only able to bring a few possessions with them.

“What those objects represent is the things that matter most, because you can only take so much,” Lommasson said standing in front of a wall of his creations. “They also remind us of what has been left behind. And that's everything else. That's one's school, job, family, culture.”

Mountain View

The process of turning these valuable objects into art involves both Lammasson, and supplier of the item.

“I photograph them as gently as possible, kind of matter of factly, and then I make a print,” Lommasson added. “I give that back to the participant, and they write why that object was so important that they brought it above all others.”

On Wednesday, UNL student Kasim Hamo was the selected participant.

Mountain View

Hamo, who formerly assisted the United States Army in Iraq, was resettled in Lincoln from Mosul in 2012. Since then, Hamo has been advancing his education, currently as a Husker.

“It was a rough experience from the beginning, because I had to work full-time, stand on my feet for a couple of years. It took me two years to go part-time to a community college,” Hamo said. “Then I transferred to UNL.”

Mountain View

For Hamo, who came to America alone, deciding which object to make the focal point of the piece was easy — two airline ticket stubs.

“I waited for a visa for almost two years to get here, so I still keep that ticket with me because it's kind of important to me," Hamo, a senior pre-pharmacy major, said.

When Lommasson completes his artistic process, and returns the print, Hamo said he will likely write about when he first left Iraq, his friends, and family behind. He explained that when he first stepped on the airplane to come to America, it was “the first moment that I was separated from my family, and from my town.”

Mountain View

These emotions, as well as a feeling of togetherness, is what Lommasson draws from when building his newest exhibit.

“I think one of the messages I want this project to send is how similar we all are, whether we're born in Lincoln, Nebraska, or Portland, Oregon, or Basra, or Baghdad, or Aleppo,” Lommasson said. “All we care about is our kids getting educations, and living a life without tremendous danger.”

This lesson is an important one for students receiving their education to learn, according to Associate Director of the Sheldon Museum of Art, Todd Tubutis.

“I think this is the other half of war,” Tubutis said. “We have a quote from a photographer on the wall that war is only half the story, and I think (Lommasson) is helping tell that other half.”

The ‘What We Carried’ project is part of a larger exhibition at the Sheldon Museum of Art, called ‘Conflict and Consequence: Photographing War and It's Aftermath,’ which is on display until May 7.

There's no date yet for when Hamo’s project will be completed.

For more information on the Sheldon Museum of Art, click here.

This is Part Four of a five part series titled “Finding Refuge in the Heartland.” Part Five will air on March 9.