Newsletter 2022: Graduate Student-Organized Exhibition at the University Museum of Contemporary Art
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
Cecily Hughes (MA student in History of Art and Architecture) and Tirzah Frank (MA student in History/Public History) were this year recipients of the new Eva Fierst Curatorial Exhibition Grant. Over the course of a year, they organized the terrific show “We Gotta Get Out This Place – Transportative Art” on display March 24 to May 1, 2022. The curators also organized a related talk by artists Sue de Beer on Zoom.
During the fourteen months that encompassed the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic here in the U.S., the concept of escape took on a poignant salience, as lockdowns, fear of illness, and social responsibility kept many of us cloistered inside our homes. When there was nowhere to go, we sought to be transported — through stories in books and television encompassing distant histories or dystopian futures; via digital images and videos of cute animals or faraway places; and with meditative and spiritual practice that connected us to our inner selves, the natural world, and our global community. Even taking a darker turn — following violence and political strife or dabbling in the supernatural, the spectral, and the spooky — became a means of getting out of our physical reality. This show is a celebration of art objects that are imbued with such transportive potential. They have the ability to move us across time and space, taking us out of ourselves and into another realm. Featuring work from Susan de Beer, Anne Beresford, Chakaia Booker, Marc Chagall, Caitlin Cherry, Oriole Farb-Feshbach, Sam Gilliam, Edward Johnson, Kara Walker, Gary Winogrand, and many others, We Gotta Get Out of This Place alights on themes of home, fantasy, escapism, nature, the uncanny, and the ways that history haunts everyday experience.
Cecily Hughes’ Interview with the UMCA Social Media Intern
About yourself (major, graduation date, etc.):
I am a second-year masters student in the History of Art and Architecture department, graduating this May (2022). I specialize in medieval art, particularly from the British Isles and Scandinavia, with a focus in on humor and games. I also study Islamic art, especially textiles.
1. How did you get chosen to do this exhibit?
I applied! I strongly encourage any student interested in curating, public humanities, art, or material culture to do the same. It is a wonderful and enriching experience, and it helped me develop both disciplinary knowledge and lots of practical, 'on-the-job' skills like using a floor-to-ceiling laser level (thanks, Lyle!) to hang artworks during installation.
2. What was your process in picking the pieces and creating the exhibit?
It was LONG! My co-curator and I went through many rounds of looking through the collection separately (the UMCA collection of artworks is all digitized, and Jenny, the collections manager and registrar, does a wonderful job keeping it updated!), then meeting to discuss ideas, going back to the collection and discovering something new, refining old ideas, and so on. But the length of the process felt luxurious—it gave us a chance to really think through and explore ideas.
3. Do you have a favorite or one that speaks to you the most?
Sue de Beer’s enormous German Shepherds Sticker (2006). It's a huge glittery sticker, and I love dogs, so what's not to like?! But it also introduced an element of the uncanny, or something not quite right. This darker undertone and the unsettling feeling it creates, balanced with the sheer joy of a GIANT GLITTER STICKER makes the work really intriguing to me.
4. What do you hope the exhibit achieves?
World peace. But that seems unlikely. For a more pragmatic, achievable goal, I'll quote the essay we wrote: "We hope that the artworks we have chosen, and the ways they are presented, allow visitors to uncover narratives of their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences that speak to both the broad and the narrow experiences of the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, as it has irrevocably changed both self and collective."