Thursday, March 29, 2018

MFA Candidate Spotlight: Kaleena Stasiak

Kaleena Stasiak, eternal return, 2018

The Georgia Museum of Art will soon host the annual Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates exit show. The exhibition will display the creative works of 16 students slated to graduate from the Lamar Dodd School of the Art in May. This week, we continue to spotlight a few of these unique artists with information on Kaleena Stasiak.

Kaleena Stasiak grew up near Niagara Falls before moving to Toronto, where she received her bachelor’s degree in printmaking from the Ontario College of Art and Design. She then found herself drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the master of fine arts program at the University of Georgia. She continued her studies in printmaking and book arts, but has recently ventured into more three-dimensional works made of ceramics, wood and foam. Her works in the upcoming MFA Degree Candidates exit show will mainly feature the latter two categories.

Through her work, Stasiak responds to the history of the South and how that history is represented today. Southern architecture and domestic objects tell the story of “us,” a fact readily seen in her art. From hand turning spindles to carving foam, Stasiak’s works evidence a beautiful and intriguing foray into Southern material culture. Her own adventure, a perpetual learning experience, takes viewers into the world of the South, turning truths the audience might take for granted on their heads.

Stasiak is “curious about exploring . . . how tourism is marketed in the South,” and, as she recognizes her own tendency to romanticise the South, she “also wants to subvert then call into question things that are glossed over.”

As she plays with key architectural and material tropes, she leads the viewer to appreciate and simultaneously question southern romanticism. Viewers will certainly leave her portion of the exit show considering familiar local buildings and heirloom furniture in a new light.

To see Stasiak’s work, along with that of all the other MFA candidates, you can visit the exit show, on view April 7 – May 20, 2018.

Savannah Guenthner
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, March 22, 2018

MFA Candidate Spotlight: Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay

Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay, Code Switching, 2017

The Georgia Museum of Art will soon host the annual Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates exit show. The exhibition will display the creative works of 16 students slated to graduate from the Lamar Dodd School of the Art in May. Over the next three weeks, we will spotlight a few of these unique artists with information on their artistic journeys and processes.

UGA master of fine arts degree candidate Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay calls Calcutta (now Kolkata), India, home. Mukhopadhyay received his undergraduate degree in photography at Louisiana Tech. He continues to create art in the visual realm but has expanded beyond a single medium.

Today, he sees “forms as a result of concepts,” concepts he portrays in his installation work. The one photographic image within his installation at the MFA exit show is simply another material. More often, his “gestures are . . . in terms of readymades or assisted readymades.” Many of his materials are products you could buy, such as an LCD monitor or light fixture. He makes these standard objects new via their placement.

The context of the objects’ placement, and of Mukhopadhyay himself as he creates, define his work. In past installations, he took on heady topics such as post-colonialism. His inspiration for this show includes labor—specifically his labor as an artist—within institutional spaces.

“Maybe,” he suggests, “the white walls around me are what influenced me to make the work.” The inherent structure of his context influences his works but does not detract from the joy he finds in creating. “I find it funny, and I find joy in making these pieces,” says Mukhopadhyay, which is part of what he wishes to evoke in his audience.

Mukhopadhyay creates his installations with certain perspectives and intentions, but he hopes the audience will take it from there. When you walk through his installations, allow yourself to notice the sensations and think about the space as a shared, interactive experience.

To see Mukhopadhyay's work, along with that of all the other MFA candidates, you can visit the exit show, on view April 7 – May 20, 2018.

Savannah Guenthner
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Junior Ladies Garden Club Hosts Flower Show at Georgia Museum of Art

A participant in the Junior Ladies Garden Club Flower Show works on an arrangement inspired by "The Eagle," 1969, by Lamar Dodd (American, 1909–1996)
On March 3 and 4, the Junior Ladies Garden Club partnered with the Georgia Museum of Art to host a flower show titled Artful Elements. The show featured flower arrangements inspired by works from the museum’s collection and included horticulture specimens from members’ homes and gardens.

The flower show served three distinct purposes: to set standards of artistic and horticultural excellence; to broaden knowledge of horticulture, floral design, conservation, photography and other related areas; and to share the beauty of a show with fellow club members and with the public.

The Junior Ladies Garden Club performs a number of services in the Athens area. They work to stimulate knowledge and love of gardening, aid in the protection of native plants and birds and share advantages of association by means of open meetings, conferences, correspondences and publications. They also restore, improve and protect the quality of the environment through programs and action in the fields of conservation, civic improvement and education.

The garden show was a great success, with works of art by Lorenzo Scott, Harold Rittenberry, Lamar Dodd, Howard Thomas and many other artists represented. Participants’ arrangements were placed near the works of art that inspired them, allowing visitors to compare and appreciate them both simultaneously.

More than 400 people attended the museum over the course of the two-day show, and dozens of arrangements were on view. A panel of judges considered the arrangements and awarded prizes to a number of selections.

Junior Ladies Garden Club is a member of the Garden Club of America. Founded in 1913, the Garden Club of America is a volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization of 200 member clubs and approximately 18,000 club members throughout the country.

For more images from the flower show and other museum of events, visit the Georgia Museum of Art on Flickr.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Redefining “the spaces of femininity” at the Georgia Museum of Art

Gallery Talk: Art + Feminism on March 3
Today, on International Women’s Day, my friend Catherine cakes a canvas with wet colorful paint in the semi-chaos of an art studio. Another peer, Mary, calculates neat equations in a classroom on North Campus. And Isabelle conducts experiments in the austere excitement of a science laboratory. For each of these women, these spaces and activities are all relatively normal environments.

In the past, however, spaces like studios, classrooms and laboratories were not always available to women. Contesting intellectual and artistic real estate in galleries, museums and universities has required commitment to craft and their works of art. In art and science, entering new spaces redefines what it means to be a woman. During the month of March, for National Women’s History Month, the Georgia Museum of Art is providing a space for scholars, students and visitors to discuss gender and art.

The month started with some intellectual discussion and online activism. Sarah Kate Gillespie, curator of American art at the museum, and Nell Andrew, associate professor of art history at UGA, led more than 40 attendees through the galleries on March 3. Their talk focused on the intersection between modernity and feminism in art history. Gillespie described how art historians “rediscovered” women artists in the 1970s as demand for female-made works of art increased. This discovery contrasted with the erroneous belief that no female masters existed because of a lack of training and opportunity.

Andrew explained that often women were given a “smaller range of vision” for what was considered appropriate to paint. Scenes of the family, domesticity and portraiture were popular among women artists. Additionally, works by men depicting women often placed them in the background of a painting. Andrew discussed Griselda Pollock’s argument in her essay “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity,” which highlights the limiting dimensions of space for women. In the 21st century, these dimensions look different and continue to evolve.

After the gallery talk, visitors headed to the Lamar Dodd Art Library for the “Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.” Wikipedia, as a crowd-sourced pool of information, provides many with a quick definition or explanation. Its entries and contributors remain largely skewed male, meaning it does not adequately inform visitors of the historical contributions of women. At the event, attendees received training on how to edit Wikipedia articles and an extensive list of incomplete pages. While they worked, qualified women in the room naturally discussed interview techniques, networking and even salary negotiations. These conversations expand the range of vision.

After the event on Saturday, I met yet another woman redefining the female environment: Kaira Macentire, a doctoral student in wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. She told me that she learned a lot during the gallery talk and was motivated to take art history again. In addition to her scientific interests, Kaira is an artist. She creates works of pottery adorned by salamanders and frogs. She views her work as a source of communication about the diversity of aquatic life. I am grateful to live in a world increasingly defined by diverse female identities and spaces.

McKenzie Peterson
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Georgia Museum Curators Discuss Kehinde Wiley's Portrait of Barack Obama

Kehinde Wiley's portrait of President Obama

On February 12, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. Created by Kehinde Wiley, the eye-catching portrait of President Obama garnered a large reaction across the Internet, sparking many people to give their take. Two curators at the Georgia Museum of Art — Dale Couch, curator of decorative arts, and Shawnya L. Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art — now offer their perspectives after a period of thought.

First, Couch surveys the image itself, paying attention to the deliberate choices of the artist and what they could reveal:

“Kehinde Wiley's portrait of President Obama is an intriguing work, rich in allusions. First, the remarkable verdure or millefleurs background with only the minimal suggestion of middle ground isolates the seated former President from ordinary spatial perspective. Spatial ambiguity reigns in this image as President Obama is slightly embraced by a suddenly alive foliage operating almost like ankle anchors to keep him from floating in space, as the background magically can be viewed as folding a perch for the chair — or not.

The foliage background is an intentional allusion to British pre-Raphaelite portraiture, which in turn is quoting a medieval tapestry, also intentional. He uses a similar though strikingly more modern version of this background in the image of Shantavia Beale II at the Brooklyn Museum. The chair is in a general British neo-classical style and not dissimilar to American neoclassical chairs in the White House. The result is a clear-cut portrait in the grand style for which Wiley has become known.

But grandeur takes a backseat here to the underlying sense of surreal experience, a notable mood of both pre-Raphaelite and to previous Wiley portraits. So in this historically grounded style a 21st-century president leans forward with his arms folded and his elegant, artistically rendered hands before him, as he pensively leans out to the viewers. One could say that this portrait holds his hands as a focus as much as his face. His character is as a thinker, perhaps a man of letters.

An aging Obama is presented and it is clearly a post-presidential portrait. But it is in this portrait that he emerges as a man of tradition instead of revolution, a man who would understand that reform is what makes conservatism possible. With the minimal trappings of power, this figure gains dignity and even grace.”

In addition to the details of the portrait itself, Harris considers the artist and his story.

“Although Wiley's portrait is steeped in the grandeur of decorative and fine arts tradition, the context of the Obama presidency in the 21st century and even its unfolding in the life of the artist himself illuminates other possible meanings. During the unveiling ceremony, painter Kehinde Wiley's bold and articulate remarks about the creation process were punctuated by his tearful acknowledgment of his mother, temporarily forgotten by Wiley himself.

Wiley's explanation of her undying support of his craft despite humble beginnings in a single parent household mirrored Obama's own narrative. Notions about rising ‘above the ashes’ of life or ‘beating the odds’ are inherent in the American story but resonate with many in the African American community and in the life of its artists. The Obama portrait could then symbolize the possibility of inclusion in a variety of traditions in the background foliage Wiley uses as his backdrop.

The seeming incongruity of that verdant background to the formal seated portrayal serves to highlight, in some ways, Obama's calm demeanor as alien or even magical in the midst of the natural environment over which he presided. On the other hand, the fertile backdrop could be a sly reference to his wife Michelle, whose iconic presence in his life and the White House Gardens further cements his legacy.”