Arts & Culture

New Exhibit Puts A Face On Hunger

The Health Museum’s latest exhibit comes during “Hunger Season” for many school children.


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Kathy, a subject in Michael Nye’s exhibit, “About Hunger and Resilience.”

They all have different stories, but there's one common thread: Pepper, Alejandro and Kathy have all gone hungry at some point during their lives.

"I know exactly what hunger is. It's doing without."

"It's like you have a lion in your stomach that wants to be fed."

"It destroys your will. You look in the mirror and you don't know who you are."

They're three of 42 people who are the subjects of a new exhibit at the Health Museum. Over the course of four years, artist Michael Nye spent two to three days with each person, recording their stories.

"Stories may not feed people," Nye says. "But they shine a light, I think. And they can do something."

In the exhibit, visitors can listen to excerpts of the conversations through a pair of headphones while looking at Nye's black and white portraits of the people he interviewed. Most of their facial expressions are austere, even solemn.

For Brian Greene, the show hits close to home. He works to help hungry people on a daily basis as president of the Houston Food Bank.

"You see the exhibit and these are real people," Greene says. "And they're good people. They have a story. You get that message when you actually see their faces, you see their eyes, and you hear their stories in their own words."

The opening of the exhibit is timely. Summertime is "Hunger Season" because the hunger rate goes up dramatically for children.

"During the school year, so many of the low income children are participating in the school lunch and breakfast program," Greene explains. "Only a tiny fraction are participating in any summer food service program."

Based on Census Bureau figures, Greene says about 66,000 people in Greater Houston suffer from hunger. About 5,000 are children.

The show also proves there are misconceptions about who's hungry. It's not always the guy on the side of the street holding a sign. The subjects range from young adults to senior citizens and many do have homes. Green says he encountered many elderly people who'd fallen on hard times.

"They couldn't keep it together, their Social Security wasn't enough," he says. "I found a lot of people losing their jobs, living paycheck to paycheck."

He calls his work About Hunger and Resilience. It's on display at the Health Museum through August 31st.

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