Senior Ruth Holmes spent a lot of time in the archives’ deep storage matting prints and wiping dust off of frames and paintings. Holmes has been working in the archives for two years now and is excited that the other students will finally get to see some of the pieces held there.
“I don’t think a lot of colleges have as large a collection as we do. We have like 3,000 pieces and that’s just what’s in the database right now and some of that might be prints that aren’t all that great but it does show that we have a lot,” Holmes said.
Next year, Holmes will be post-baccing and helping with the new gallery going into CFA. The gallery will give students and community members further chances to see what the archives have, as well as chances for student artists to exhibit their work.
The work Holmes did was for an exhibit currently being shown in the Civic Art Center gallery. The class is a product of the ART 130: Intro to Art Museum Studies course taught by Professor of Art and Art History Greg Gilbert. The class also made an online version of the exhibit.
Gilbert said that the course was meant to help expose students to some of the issues relating to museum curation.
“The growth area in art history is really museum work … There’s been just a really large number of either new art museums like the Figge being built or museums expanding and I would say art museums now are a major part of our leisure industry in the United States,” Gilbert said.
The first half or so of the class focused on learning about curation and careers in museums and then the second half focused on the class researching their pieces (two works of art each) and putting what they had learned into practice. Part of their readings also focused on visuality and theories about seeing.
“I kinda knew their background, what their majors were, what disciplines they were coming from. So I picked objects or picked artworks that I thought would really kind of match their background in terms of their major, minor and just things they were interested in,” Gilbert said.
Sophomore Meredith Beck has self-designed a minor in museum studies. The pieces Gilbert assigned her were both by Galesburg artists, George Rickey and Clare Smith. Smith attended Knox as an adult, majoring in French and Art and studying in France.
“For me, all of the art was really diverse, but my artists had worked in Galesburg. So my research, I went into the archives at the library and got a lot of information from there and then just more general information of technique of the print and kinda stuff like that,” she said.
The students produced their two labels each, which are on the displays both online and in the arts center. Gilbert also had each student write a statement for the gallery as a whole, which he then collected. He produced the final statement from the ideas in the students’ statements.
The exhibit is titled “Seeing America” which Gilbert said combined themes from two of his classes Ð one in American art history and the other in visual culture theory Ð and was accessible to the wide range of students in the class.
“What it really was is kind of trying to look at cultural, social issues in American art É maybe American cultural social views towards issues of seeing, issues of visual representation,” Gilbert said.
The people who worked on the exhibit all brought different preferences and prior knowledge to the course. Beck’s pieces, for instance, included a print, something she is familiar with from taking printmaking classes and which she likes working with and learning about. The print by Clare Smith was also one of Gilbert’s favorites, partly for its connection to Galesburg and Smith’s time studying at Atelier 17 in Paris under Stanley William Hayter
Holmes’ favorites played into the process of matting and framing, including Robert Smithson’s “Torn Photograph from the 2nd Stop (Rubble): 2nd Mountain of Six Stops on a Section” which features four torn parts of a photo. Holmes liked being able to see all of them laid out in relation to each other.
“It was my favorite to mat and frame and I was really happy with how it came out because it is torn in four pieces, so it’s like how is this going to be presentable in any way,” Holmes said. “Usually it was just stored in an envelope on a shelf and it’s nice to see it all laid out for everyone to see.”
The online exhibit can be seen at https://knoxart.omeka.net/exhibits/show/seeingamerica