Skip to main content

Céline Browning’s ‘War Games’ explores America’s fascination with war

Dittmar Gallery exhibit will be on view Feb. 20 to March 25
'In the Palm of His Hand' is part of Céline Browning’s exhibit 'War Games' at Dittmar Gallery.
'In the Palm of His Hand' is part of Céline Browning’s exhibit 'War Games' at Dittmar Gallery.

EVANSTON -- CélineBrowning’s “War Games” series investigates the line between safety and peril present within toy weapons, combining the world of children’s play with violence from the outside world.

“War Games” will be on display from Feb. 20to March 25 at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery, located at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive on the Evanston campus.

The opening reception is 5 to 7 p.m., Feb. 22 in the Dittmar Gallery. Admission is free and open to the public.

Browning explores the boundaries of childhood play, looking at how real and play violence overlap and influence one another to create a murky line between safety and danger. The works of art included in “War Games” combine children's toys with state-sanctioned violence, commenting on the insidious ways that threats of violence impact American domestic life. The surreal toys presented seem disconcertingly new, disturbingly familiar and vaguely threatening.

Inspired by the diaristic capacity of everyday items, and the way they reveal personal, social and inter-relational truths about their users, Browning began the “War Games” series after the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed by police while he played with a toy gun in a public park. Many of her recent projects are moored in a sense of local history using objects as portraits of an individual or a community. 

A question hanging over the work is “What will keep us safe?” 

Céline Browning is an artist, art writer and educator born and raised in Chicago, currently based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Using the vocabulary of surrealism and pop-art, she deconstructs, combines and repurposes familiar functional objects, creating an uncanny visual language that reimagines what these objects signify.

Dittmar Gallery admission is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays, except when a new exhibition is being mounted.

For more information, visit the Dittmar website, call the Dittmar Gallery at 847-491-2348 or email

Dittmar Gallery is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theatre, dance and visual arts.