For Immediate Release
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Student-Organized Show Surface Tension Opens at SCMA
Northampton, MA July 19, 2011— The Smith College Museum of Art is announces the opening of Surface Tension: Reconsidering Water as Subject, the culminating exhibition for the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS), a six-week intensive for college students that is administered by the Museum. This collaborative exhibition, organized by the 15 students attending SIAMS 2011, will be on view July 22, 2011 through September 11, 2011.
Surface Tension consists of ten works by 20th-century artists that investigate the physical relationship between water and its surroundings. The focused selection of paintings, prints, and sculpture (most by American artists) invites the viewer to carefully explore each work on display. Several of the objects deal explicitly with the rhythm and texture of water’s surface, finding new ways to elaborate on modern modes of representation. Some transform common perceptions of the substance in order explore its architectural qualities or its surprisingly solid appearance. Others obscure water’s perceivable characteristics or treat it as an invisible, environmental force. Together, these pieces actively avoid contextualizing and symbolizing water, unsettling one’s impulse to create narrative. Instead they challenge the viewer to look carefully and critically, exploring the uneasy space between naturalism and total abstraction.
The exhibition features modern and contemporary works from the Museum’s permanent collection by Milton Avery, Richard Bosman, Marilyn Bridges, Vija Celmins, Harold Edgerton, Willi Hartung, Brian Hunt, Margaretta Mitchell (Smith College class of 1957), Edward Ruscha, and Susan Heideman. Despite the artists’ diverse styles and media, their works share a focus on water as an abstracted subject by emphasizing its textural and formal qualities.
Founded in 2006 by former SCMA director Suzannah Fabing, SIAMS introduces college students and recent graduates to the broad spectrum of career opportunities in the art museum field. Marion Goethals, former deputy director and director of programs at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) and Katy Kline, interim director at WCMA and previous director of Bowdoin College Museum of Art, led the program in its sixth year.
The SIAMS 2011 class includes five recent college graduates and ten undergraduates from ten states, including Hawaii; seven of the 15 students attend one of three Five College schools: Smith (four students); UMass Amherst (two students); and Mount Holyoke (one student). During the six-week intensive program, students are exposed to the museum field in a variety of ways. Rigorous classroom sessions explore the different facets of museum operations, supplemented by weekly trips to regional museums.
Over the course of the program, SIAMS students visit over fifteen arts institutions ranging from academic, historical, and encyclopedic museums to private collections, galleries and auction houses. These visits expose students to a variety of career options within the museum field. Career exploration days with museum staff throughout the Pioneer Valley also allow for first-hand experience and further personal development.
Additionally, panels comprised of graduate students, faculty, and professionals help to guide students as they consider post-graduate options and career paths. In addition to classes and museum visits, SIAMS students work collaboratively over the course of the program to develop and produce an exhibition at SCMA. At the start of this year’s program, students were presented with a general theme (water), as well as a set of pre-selected works (39 total) from the Museum’s permanent collection. From these, the group chose to develop a “focus show” – one that would delve deeply into a group of only ten objects.
Three teams were assembled: Curatorial, Education, and Design and Public Presentation. Each team was assigned one or more mentors from corresponding departments within SCMA who worked closely with students throughout the development, preparation, and installation of the exhibition. Beyond the responsibilities of each individual team, students were also required to work together to generate and implement a cohesive vision for the show.
During the development and design process, the students carefully considered the desired impact of the art on the viewer. Their decision to focus the show on a small selection of works was made in an effort to facilitate for the viewer an in-depth exploration of the water theme, as well as a personal experience with the objects on display.
A comprehensive exhibition catalogue was assembled by the curatorial and design teams. The essays included focus on the formal characteristics of the objects, relating them to the exhibition’s theme. The catalogue also features essays which examine selected works of art more generally within the context of their materials, the practice and methods of the artist, or in relation to theoretical considerations.
The supplementary materials accompanying this exhibition include gallery guides and interactive materials produced by the education team, encourage the audience to look closely at the objects on display and to reconsider the significance of and techniques by which water is depicted in art.
Smith College is grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and several individual donors for partial support of SIAMS.
SCMA is open year-round to the general public, Tuesday through Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. For up-to-date information on hours, fees, amenities, special exhibitions, and programs (including free Second Fridays), visit the Museum’s award-winning website: www.smith.edu/artmuseum.
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