Thursday, April 27, 2017

Art+Feminism’s Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the University of Georgia

Art+Feminism aims to improve the representation of female
artists on Wikipedia. Image: Museum of Modern Art

Art+Feminism is a global initiative that aims to improve the representation of female artists in articles on Wikipedia through Edit-a-thon events. In March of this year, the Lamar Dodd School of Art and the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia partnered to sponsor an Edit-a-thon here in Athens. An Edit-a-thon is a community-based event that instructs people on how to edit, improve or create new articles on Wikipedia. Since Art+Feminism was founded in 2014, events like these are held worldwide every March and have resulted in the creation or improvement of over 4,600 Wikipedia articles.

Art+Feminism logo. Image: Art+Feminism
This global effort was prompted by the release of some troubling statistics. According to a 2012 editor survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation, just 10% of Wikipedia editors are female. This gender imbalance means that although this online encyclopedia is open to the public for editing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is representative of the population at large. The skewed editorship has a great effect on the content produced. Editors naturally choose to work on subjects they’re most familiar with, and in art history, this often results in neglect for already-underrepresented female artists. Many female artists have pages that lack sources and crucial information, and many more female artists don’t have a page at all.

Additionally, most Wikipedia editors live in the Global North (the richer, more developed region of the globe), resulting in a website tilted towards one perspective. According to Adeline Koh and Roopika Risam of Post-Colonial Digital Humanities, "Wikipedia reproduces forms of knowledge already implicit in older forms of print knowledge, in which marginalized groups (see: not white, poor, female, queer, disabled) are considered less worthy of representation." The skewed perspective inherent to the existing editorship of Wikipedia has a direct impact on the content that is produced, and the content produced has a direct impact on public perception.

The reproduction and propagation of these biases is dangerous on a site as widely used as Wikipedia. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, as of May 2010, 53% of Internet users look for information on the site. This shows that U.S. adults (in 2010) used Wikipedia at a significantly higher rate than sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This gives Wikipedia a large amount of authority in conveying information online, so when women are left out of its pages, it influences what people perceive to be meaningful subjects to learn and discover.

Elizabeth Jane Gardner, La Confidence, ca. 1880

This is where Art+Feminism comes in. The organization aims to tackle the gender gap on Wikipedia by encouraging new editorship amongst people of all gender expressions and identities. The Edit-a-thon held in Athens included the participation of several volunteers who had little to no experience editing Wikipedia and who, by attending the event, now have the skills to continue editing pages on the website. Effectively, the events have lasting impact beyond the month of March, as new editors are equipped and inspired to combat the male perspective on Wikipedia and to give due representation to female artists.

This event held by the Georgia Museum of Art and the Lamar Dodd School of Art was preceded by a brief tour highlighting works by female artists in the museum. In terms of square footage, the Georgia Museum of Art features a proportionately large amount of female artists. The Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden, for example, only features work by female artists. The space most recently held the exhibition “Driving Forces: Sculpture by Lin Emery,” which are works by the New Orleans–based sculptor. Indoors, “La Confidence” by Elizabeth Jane Gardner is a painting from the permanent collection that was also highlighted on the tour. It features two modest, youthful women sitting and exchanging a secret. Despite the efforts of institutions like the Georgia Museum of Art, the historical exclusion of women from the art world still results in a proportionately low representation of female artists. This makes events like the Wikipedia Edit-a-thons all the more important. Art+Feminism recognizes that mobilizing female editorship on Wikipedia will have lasting effects on biases against female artists.

Jamie Brener
Publications Intern

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Acquisitions: "Shad, Altamaha River, Georgia" by Warren Cushman

Warren Cushman, Shad, Altamaha River,
, 1895. Oil on canvas.
As Earth Day approaches, we reflect on this new acquisition, which touches upon the subject of the ecology of Georgia’s rivers. Through the generosity of Greg and Jennifer Holcomb, the Georgia Museum of Art reeled this work in to its permanent collection. The image is of a shad fish. By the time Warren Cushman painted this image in 1895, the fish may have been something of a rarity, for the shad species had disappeared in the upper waterways of the state, though it played a significant role in the human experience of Georgia, from prehistoric times into the late antebellum period.

Shad fish had been a prominent part of the food culture for early American Indians as well as later settlers. Interestingly, Athens was found to be an attractive settlement site in part because the Oconee River had a “shad run,” but by 1807, the Augusta Chronicle reported that the shad had ceased to “run” on the upper Oconee River. By 1812, the Georgia legislature tried to secure open rivers as part of some of the first environmental legislation in this region. Writing in 1877, W.L. Jones observed the radical demise of various species of Georgia fish: “It is lamentable fact that our food fisheries are so rapidly decreasing in numbers, and, unless the State, in a few years, shall take the matter in hand, and resort to artificial propagation to replenish our nearly exhausted streams, our grand children will have to refer to a book on Natural History to ascertain the kinds of fish upon which our fathers fed so bountifully on.”

Books of natural history were created from works of art such as this depiction, a visual description designed to catch the observable physical characteristics of this species. Cushman’s work, however, also betrays a genre of decorative still life. Within the image, he uses decorative wood “graining,” a technique used to simulate either wood on nonwood surfaces or expensive woods on cheaper ones. While Georgia’s children can now have a shad fish image to view, thankfully they are not restricted to it. Ecological restoration to Georgia’s rivers has since resulted in increased runs of shad. Happily, objects like this one point to cross-disciplinary study and collaboration, one of our sustained educational goals. We extend our appreciation to the Holcombs for their generosity in making this gift.

Dale L. Couch
Curator of Decorative Arts

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spotlight on Studio Workshops: Q&A with Instructor Heather Foster

Open to artists of all levels of experience as well as new artists, “Studio Workshop: The Human Figure” is a month-long series of two-hour studio sessions focused on the human figure. The workshop runs Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. from May 4 through May 25. Led by Heather Foster, an Athens-based alumna of the UGA MFA program, students will try their hand at gesture drawings, paper shadow portraits, live model drawings and abstracted paintings. The sessions will also draw inspiration from examples of figurative works in the museum’s collection, including works from the archives not currently on display.

For this week’s edition of “Holbrook’s Trunk,” we caught up with Heather to learn more about the upcoming workshop and about her work as an artist.

1. What are some of your favorite works at the Georgia Museum of Art?

“The Playground” tempera painting by Paul Cadmus is my absolute favorite. I love the grotesque look Cadmus gives his characters. Something about their rigid postures and caricatured physiques — wilted and gangly, round and protruding, beady-eyed, dog-eyed — reminds me of Byzantine and Romanesque figures. Like these medieval draughtsmen, Cadmus is more concerned with the spirit behind the corporeal vessel; the spirits he portrays aren't the austere, ethereal sort, but comic, lewd and humane. In “The Playground,” Cadmus’s invasive attention to texture, the infinitely gritty bricks, and the opalescent skin of the pale, butt-rubbing protagonist wraps Cadmus's imaginative take on human characters with uncanny tangibility. 

Paul Cadmus, The Playground, 1948
2. How does a visit to the museum inspire you as an artist?

For me, experiencing work in person is like an intimate conversation with a fellow artist. The indentations an artist makes with his or her pencil, the way paint absorbs or reflects light, the saturated, velvet surface of gouache or pastel, etc. do not translate through cellphone and computer screens. Apart from net art, or consciously digital media, which deftly navigates technology, physical artwork is much more eloquent in the flesh. Experiencing drawings, paintings or sculptures face-to-face hugely expands their vocabulary. The museum offers a guttural, communicative experience that reminds me why I make art. 

3. What are some of the pieces from the museums collection that you have selected to show in the studio workshop “The Human Figure,” and why did you choose these?

A lot of work that I have chosen for us to examine at the Human Figure workshop is sketchy, simple and obviously hand-wrought. I want to embolden participants by making it evident that figure drawing is an instinctual, responsive ability accessible to everyone. As a young artist, I was hugely intimidated by the human figure. However, I was forced to create gesture drawings under a minute for a community college art class. These rapid gestures did not give me the time to convince myself that I could not draw people. Discovering that I could create a decent gesture emboldened me — I have been drawing and developing my understanding for the human figure ever since.

With this personal experience in mind, I decided that we would study and emulate phenomena such as Alberto Giacometti’s searching lines in his lithographs “Annete” and “Derriere Le Mirior: Seated Woman.” Giacometti made mistake after mistake when studying his sitter, however, he eventually carved out a semblance of the person with his persistent marks. We will also be looking at figural studies by Richard Diebenkorn, Rodin and Lamar Dodd, along with Kathe Kollwitz’s tremendously emotive, yet palpably drawn prints.    

4. Is there something you are currently working on or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

Studio instructor Heather Foster visiting the offices
of the Georgia Museum of Art
I am currently working on a series of line drawings called “Vanishing Mountains.” While studying Chinese silk paintings for an art appreciation that class I'm teaching, I was struck by the scholar painters. Rather than saying that he was going to paint for a session, a scholar painter said he was going to “write.” Also, scholar painters used a monochromatic black and white palette, stressing that painting ought not be encumbered with visual delights, such as color, but ought to be immediate, closer to the mind than the eye. Black ink was the scholar painter’s limit. What contemplative landscapes they produced with ink alone!

When making my own “Vanishing Mountains” drawings, I like to think that I’m writing too. I have confined myself to materials that are prescribed for creating documents, not art: ballpoint pens and printer paper. For me, using pen and paper activates a part of my mind that jots down the vanishing fragments of my dreams just when I’ve woken up. As with the Chinese scholar painters, my use of simpler material closes the gap between the mental and drawn image. My subject matter draws from my experiences at the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Thanks to the experience volunteering as a docent at the Georgia Museum of Art, I was privileged to intern at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

5. What do you read, listen to, or look at to fuel your work?

When creating, I love to listen to audiobooks and lectures on YouTube. The last book that I’ve listened to was “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco. I am currently listening to World Science Festival panels — topics include black holes, holograms and multiverses.

6. What advice or words of wisdom have influenced you as an artist?

Atlanta-based artist Eric Mac told a group of us UGA artists to “keep your hands busy” — that’s been my mantra for now!

“Studio Workshop: The Human Figure” runs Thursdays, May 5 through 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost of the course is a $15 materials fee, which covers all necessary supplies for the four sessions. Space is limited, call 706.542.8863 or email to reserve a spot.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Introducing the 2017 Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates

Every spring, as the cherry trees on North Campus begin to bloom and the school year comes to a frantic close, the Georgia Museum of Art has the pleasure of exhibiting the annual exit show for the Lamar Dodd School of Art’s master of fine arts degree candidates. This spring is no exception, and it is with much excitement that we present this year’s artists.

An accomplished group, many of these candidates have been exhibiting their work in galleries and shows across the country for the past few years. While it may be difficult to draw conceptual similarities between the pieces in the show, these candidates almost completely favor installation work. Drawing and painting appear not just on canvas, but are more often incorporated into video and sculpture. This move towards creating pieces that are tactile, engaging and 3-dimensional is indicative of current and upcoming trends in contemporary art practice.

Dan Ba Vu, Breathing Room, 2016. Wedged into tight spaces, the concrete overflows and bends to the rigid
structures that contain it, illustrating Dan Ba Vu’s experience assimilating to American culture as a child
immigrating to the United States from Vietnam. Photo: Michael Lachowski

From Meirav Goldhour-Shvorin’s interior designs wrought with special attention to the ways in which design can facilitate a safe, mindful and functional experience for those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder to Amanda Scheutzow’s grotesque, humorous monster sculptures crafted from disparate, thrifted objects, this show reflects the wide-ranging capabilities of this talented group of artists.

Conceptually rich pieces dominate the show, and Ellie Dent’s interest in themes of the body, the abject and pain as well as trauma are particularly thought-provoking. Dent cuts into surgical paper, inflicting wounds then stitching them with real medical tools. The wounds appear in various stages of healing, and within these cuts and sutures, Dent discovers danger, fragility, intimacy, repulsion and obsession. And as Dent slashes the body, Ariel Lockshaw slashes the land. She paints ravaged, empty landscapes in order to explore the way politics and the economy inform the way we view, use and exploit our surroundings. In her swirling representations of places and non-places, Lockshaw highlights the consequences of both man-afflicted and natural abuses.

Like Dent, Stephanie Sutton is incredibly interested in the body, and her own body appears as the subject in many of her pieces. Sutton simultaneously defends the fat body and employs it as an offensive measure; by doing so, she explores the complex societal associations attached to fatness. Her videos suggest that the fat body is a place where pleasure is indulged — the body then becomes a source of power and an expression of identity rather than a site of weakness.

In preparation for the exhibition, Reid Blechner installs his work 
In the Absence of Unproductive Fiction, 2017. Photo: Michael Lachowski

Thomas Bosse’s metalsmith work explores the lifespan of handmade metal objects. Much of his research involves keeping detailed logs and video recording the process; this leads to a comprehensive study of his process of creation. When viewing/interacting with his works in tandem with the videos that Bosse creates, the viewer can draw connections between an object, its past, and the artist’s hand. Found in the same gallery space are Zachary Harris and Jonathan Nowell. Harris’s work is made of concrete, marble and steel. His tactile approach to engineering appears in this mix of materials, and his formal arrangements are created with soft, sweeping shapes. Nowell’s work is comparatively rugged; his interest in vernacular architecture manifests in his work through objects such as deer stands, Home Depot tubs and Carhartt jackets.

Dan Ba Vu and Julia Megan Burchett are both artists who contemplate transformation and play into the unexpected potential of seemingly rigid materials. Vu’s bulbous concrete sculptures appear as acquiescent as silly putty. Wedged into tight spaces, the concrete overflows and bends to the rigid structures that contain it, illustrating Vu’s experience assimilating to American culture as a child immigrating to the United States from Vietnam. Burchett’s materials display a similar kind of malleability. A cracked car windshield drapes softly over a metal structure as a meditation on renewal and identity.  

Inspired by mathematics, Reid Brechner looks to illustrate concepts by exploring the complicated nature of duality. The tension necessary to his work arises in the challenge of representing purely conceptual ideas. Through printmaking, Arron Foster’s work inhabits a similar realm in its effort to represent the relationship between time, space and consciousness. Foster opens associations to a comprehensible, familiar world through representational images and leaves his work open-ended through more abstract marks.

Jamie Diaz (ceramics) sits with her work, Within, 2016–2017. Photo: Michael Lachowski
Shuk Han Lui’s multidisciplinary interests are evident in both medium and style, and the pale colors and organic geometric shapes present in much of her work exemplify the meditative calmness with which she approaches the creative process. Lui sees art as a way of being, and her studio practice focuses on the spiritual journey of creation to address moments of ephemerality. Jamie Diaz’s large vases inspire a similar kind of meditative reflection. The bulbous sculptures beg to be seen from all angles, and a walk around the installation shows the rich texture of the pieces.

The exhibition, which runs from April 8 through May 14, is a stunning show of talent, innovation and contemporary practice. Each gallery, each artist, presents a new way of seeing, and when viewed together, the works both encourage and challenge one another. The opening reception tomorrow, Friday, April 7, from 5:30–8:30 p.m. We encourage you to come out and celebrate this accomplished group of artists.

Sarah Dotson
Publications Intern