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Monday, April 15, 2024

Gone are the days when Hollywood starlets glamorized smoking. Guys are finding it harder to pick up a girl in a bar by offering her a light.

UF alumnus and local photographer Randy Batista uses his art to chronicle smoking's decline from a sexy symbol to a rejected bad habit.

His exhibition, "Up in Smoke," is on display at the Focus Gallery on campus.

The photographs use literal and figurative interpretations to expose the ugly sides of smoking and show how it affects what the Gainesville artist calls "the dying breed."

Batista touches on how smoking cigarettes vastly increases the risk of death by causing cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer death.

Although the rate of smoking is growing globally, the rate of smoking in developed countries is declining due to mandatory education programs and drastic attitude changes toward the unhealthful pastime.

Smokers are no longer perceived as glamorous Hollywood heroes. They have become social outcasts, relegated to smoking in designated areas large distances from buildings, Batista said.

"The subject of this photo exhibition - smokers and the documentation of issues around smoking - has intrigued me for years," Batista said in a press statement.

His inspiration for the idea traces back to his early childhood, when his Cuban parents smoked Camels without filters until they learned about the health hazards associated with smoking cigarettes.

His grandfather died of throat cancer after being an avid smoker for the majority of his life. His aunt died of emphysema, hooked to an oxygen tank and begging for one last cigarette, after smoking most of her adult life as well.

During his years at UF, one of Batista's professors, Jerry Uelsmann, gave him an assignment to photograph "evidence of a man."

"Over the years when I have noticed 'evidence of a man' details related to smoking, I have reminded myself that this is a topic I want to explore and address," Batista said in the press statement on the College of Fine Arts' Web site.

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Batista will hold a public reception Oct. 12 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Focus Gallery. Batista and Dr. Steven B. Pokorny, an assistant professor from the College of Health and Human Performance who is researching tobacco abuse, will speak before the reception at 5 p.m.

Batista's work will be on display until Oct. 19.

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