Twenty-five softly lit faces glow on dark backgrounds.

Eyes gaze straight ahead, glance down or squeeze shut.

These are the faces of children, adults and elders who came to mark the closure of the Ashland Public Library on April 6.

Southern Oregon University faculty member Erika Leppmann's photographs chronicling that day are on display at the Schneider Museum of Art through June 23 as part of an Art Department professor, alumni and emeritus faculty exhibit.

When the Ashland library shut its doors along with 14 other Jackson County libraries, it was the largest library system closure in the country. Many people had tears in their eyes, and some cried openly as librarians lowered the flag at the end of the day and an Ashland police officer gently escorted children from the building.

But Leppmann does not exploit those emotions. The people in her portraits have frank, open expressions.

They are troubled, but strong.

Other works in the exhibit also delve into the political, without becoming strident or putting aside aesthetic concerns.

Former student Jessica Hale's painting of a Vietnamese woman with an open mouth and disfigured eyes, titled "Defoliants," looks like a sepia-toned black and white photograph. The painting has the feeling of a clinical document.

Hale's painting "Southern Air" is more mysterious.

Also done in the tones of an old photograph, it depicts an Asian man in a tuxedo with the features of his face nearly erased.

The exhibit has many works that are visually intriguing.

A profusion of spiky porcelain balls juts from the wall in a sculpture by new ceramics professor Robin Strangfeld.

To make the piece, she dipped seed pods and cotton string in porcelain slip. The organic matter inside the porcelain coating is obliterated in the kiln, leaving behind the delicate-looking structures.

Vermilion, black, gray and cream circles hover on a dark ground in former student Julie Vanderberg's abstract painting, "Any Day Now."

Another former student, Tyson Grumm, is displaying paintings done in an almost Old Masters realist style, but with a surreal mix of imagery.

In "The No. 2 Observer," a man wearing a suit sits in a director's chair next to a projector screen. A fish floats at his side, a ship plows through dark seas in the background and a pelican perches on a wall. A partially visible sign under a pile of fine material &

perhaps sand &

reads, "The beginning of project..."

The Schneider Museum of Art is located on the SOU campus near the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Indiana Street. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a $3 suggested donation.

For more information, call 552-6245 or visit /sma.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.