While the world is gearing up to celebrate the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one local art exhibit is working to spread the word that in that region, there are far more important things to pay attention to.
The Russian subtropical city of Sochi is located on the coast of the Black Sea. In the coming weeks, the home of the 2014 Winter Games will be associated with the spirit of competition, the hysteria of victory and the torment of defeat.
But one art exhibit, making its North American premiere at the DePaul Art Museum, paints a portrait of Sochi that Russia is not very happy about. "The Sochi Project" features the findings of two men who spent years in the region.
"These are really important stories that are being told, but they are tragic stories," Greg Harris told FOX 32 News. "That's obviously something the Russian government doesn't want attention being paid to."
Harris, the assistant curator of the DePaul Art Museum, is hosting the controversial findings of Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen. Their tragic findings - stories of graphic dismemberment, sacrifice and unspeakable loss - make up "The Sochi Project."
Harris called the area one marked by distinct contrast.
"On one hand you have the most expensive sporting event in the history of the world being staged on a seaside resort and a few miles away you have people living in abject poverty, people displaced from their homes," Harris said. "You have people who are victims of regular kidnappings, bombings. It's a very violent place."
As a result of their disturbing findings, Hornstra and van Bruggen were arrested several times and denied visas to return to follow up. Harris says it's likely we won't see a real portrait of the region from any of the other reporters staged there for the Olympics.
"International journalists are being granted permission only to report and to travel within what they call ‘The Olympic Bubble,' a cluster of stadiums down by the seashore," "In addition the Russian government is monitoring all communication that goes in and out of the country - email, social media, telephone calls - for anything I would imagine they don't approve of or stories they don't want told."
For now while the world is focused on figure skating, snowboarding and bobsledding, an uncensored vision of Sochi remains on display in Chicago. A vision of life and of loss - a vision that proves sometimes the greatest victory of all is surviving.