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University of Iowa News Services

Feb. 18, 2005

PHOTO: Artist and Lutheran minister Laura Gentry of McGregor, Iowa, poses with the front and back views of one of her pieces, "Gabby," which is based on a 16-year-old Caucasian girl Gentry interviewed for her traveling exhibit, "Seen But Rarely Heard: Voices of Adolescent Girls."

'Seen But Rarely Heard' Exhibit Illustrates Young Girls' Hopes, Fears

Taylor, a 12-year-old African American girl with short-cropped hair, a loose purple shirt and baggy jeans, stands with her arms crossed and her gaze direct but not unfriendly, her bare smile exuding a cool confidence. 

But look closer; there's more to her than first meets the eye. She's had run-ins with the law, trouble fitting in with other girls her age. She thinks studying and homework are more important than being popular. Still, she struggles with her weight and skipped lunch for a while to slim down, although she knows it's important to be happy with the body she has.

Corina, a 15-year-old Caucasian girl, wishes she were skinnier, taller and prettier and that she could "take all the violence" out of men in her life so they wouldn't beat women and pressure them to have sex.

Iman, a 15-year-old girl of German and Palestinian descent, knows that true beauty is on the inside of people but struggles with comparing her appearance to others. She believes that having a boyfriend boosts her self-esteem.

The girls, whose names are pseudonyms, are life-size paintings of real, young women by Iowa artist and Lutheran minister Laura Gentry and part of an exhibit titled "Seen But Rarely Heard: Voices of Adolescent Girls." On one side of each cutout is a portrait of a girl, and on the other a collage of the girl's comments about life, love, school and other matters gathered by Gentry in interviews across the country.

Beginning next week, the paintings will be displayed in several locations around Iowa City, including at the University of Iowa, with a kick-off event Feb. 22 at the Iowa City Public Library, where Gentry will discuss her work and make a multimedia presentation. The UI's Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) is organizing the visit.

All events are free and open to the public.

A virtual gallery of the artwork can be found at The exhibit calendar is available at

The project was born out of Gentry's concern about the self-esteem of today's adolescent girls, having counseled them for more than a decade as a Lutheran minister. The figures are designed to bring the girls' concerns to life and to shed light on the struggles - and joys - of young women growing up in America today. 

The young women in Gentry's exhibit are all high school and college age. Gentry used contacts from around the country and from different high schools and colleges and interviewed each girl for about an hour.

Gentry is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is the pastor of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Lansing and Waterville Church in Waterville. She and her husband, William, live in McGregor.

The complete exhibit schedule follows:

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.: "Meet the Artist!" Lecture by Laura Gentry, Iowa City Public Library, Room A. Gentry will talk about her work in an interactive lecture for all ages. During this one-hour, multimedia presentation, Gentry will address the power of the media to influence body image and self-esteem of girls and women as well as boys and men.  Her lecture will include a variety of tools for building self-esteem, especially in young people.

Feb. 23-March 1: Exhibit on display in Iowa City Public Library.

March 2-3: Exhibit on display in the UI College of Education Curriculum Resources Lab, Lindquist Center Room N140.

March 3, 4:30 p.m.: "Children of Change Presentation." UI College of Education, Lindquist Center, Jones Commons (Room N300). The presentation, headed by UI assistant professor of art education Rachel Williams, will feature girls from the Iowa Juvenile Home sharing their personal stories. Williams received a Year of Arts and Humanities grant from the UI for her work with girls at the home, where she facilitates art workshops where they can create self-portraits, write personal stories and poetry, create performances and make recordings of their stories. Gentry's paintings will be on display during the presentation.

March 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Exhibit on display on the eighth floor of the University of Iowa Hospital's Colloton Pavilion, near Elevator F.

March 7-11: Exhibit on display in United Action for Youth Gallery, 410 Iowa Ave.

In addition to RVAP, other collaborators and sponsors of this exhibit are the Iowa City Public Library, the Iowa Women's Foundation, the UI College of Education Diversity Committee, the UI Women's Resource and Action Center, UIHC Project Art and United Action for Youth.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact RVAP at 335-6001.

RVAP provides confidential, accessible support and advocacy to victim/survivors of sexual abuse and their friends and family members.  RVAP also works to create a community free from sexual violence by providing education and prevention strategies and by promoting social change.  RVAP's purpose of sponsoring this exhibit is to increase awareness, compassion and empathy toward girls' lives, and to reveal that sexual violence is all too common in their lives. 

For more information about the presentations or exhibit, call RVAP at 319-335-6001. 

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,