By D'Maia Curry (PO '19), Student curator of "Establishing Justice: Selections from the Permanent Collection" under the Janet Inskeep Benton '79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the Pomona College Museum of Art.
February 8th, 2018 Screening of Ava DuVernay's 13th in conjunction with "Establishing Justice" during Art After Hours
When conceptualizing my exhibit, and the type of images I wanted to present, there were two themes, among others, that I chose to address: complacency and representation as it relates to how we as a country choose to establish justice. Complacency in terms of knowing and recognizing the existence of over policing, unjust sentencing, violence but not wanting to delve in too deep. Of marking the people within this system as just criminals, existing exactly where they belong. I also wanted the images to reflect on how the criminal justice system shapes representation of people, specifically black people.
When I was told that I would be able to develop programming for this exhibition I knew I wanted to screen 13th. It offers historical context and imagery that I was not able to fit into my own exhibit. It deals with complacency head on, blatantly portraying images and commentary that you are not allowed to look away from. The film talks about how media and politics among other influences, have played a role in representing black people as criminal. Bringing to mind the importance of recognizing who has power and control over creating common, social narratives and stereotypes.
Frederick Douglas stated that in terms of images “It is the picture of life contrasted with the fact, the ideal contrasted with the real, which makes criticism possible. Where there is no criticism there is no progress”. 13th reflects on the power of pictures and current social media to shine a light on injustices, to shock people into fully recognizing the injustices within our system. To not have the ability to simply look away. I hoped to do the same with my exhibition and I prompt you to consider these ideas when watching this documentary.
Image: Adela Goldbard and team preparing sculptures for the “Prometheus 2017: Four Artists from Mexico Revisit Orozco” exhibition at the Pomona College Museum of Art and the accompanying pyrotechnic performance A World of Laughter, A World of Fears; part of Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative. Photo Courtesy of Ian Byers-Gamber.
By Jordi Pedroza (PO '20), Cion Curatorial Intern, Mentor: Rebecca McGrew
One of the reasons why I wanted to work in the art museum over the summer was to specifically help Adela and her team create this gigantic and ambitious project. I met Adela and her team, which consisted of four artisans from Mexico, around the beginning of June. On the first day, Adela and her team spent around a day or two laying out the blueprints for the microbus and the cacti. In these meetings, they discussed the dimensions of the bus as well as the amount and shape of each cacti. Adela was the project lead and each artisan had a special skill that was needed for the creation. Viktor trained to be a mechanic and helped with the foundation of the bus. Jesus went to engineering school and took the lead for most of the woodworking and metal construction. Amauri was the jack of all trades as for generations his family has been fabricating giant piñata paper-maché structures. Eduardo was the painter who brought the cacti and microbus alive with its intricate details. Though everyone had specialized skills, each artisan helped out with what they could on a daily basis.
Jesus and Viktor started working on the metal base for the microbus while Amauri, Adela, Eduardo, myself, and Davis, a recent graduate of Pomona who is working with museum over the summer, started helping to create the cacti. Each cacti base consisted of a special type of reed that was held together by string encased by wax. The reed is durable and flexible so it worked perfectly as the base. Once the base was completely constructed, we would make our own glue by heating up a pan filled with water and flour. Then we would get the newspaper that the team brought from Mexico and spread glue on each side of the newspaper. We would then proceed to stick it on the base and basically continue this process until we covered the whole cactus in paper. This was often easier said than done as some of the cacti were extremely tall and had hardly any flat edges. Once we put on the layer of newspaper, we would wait until it dried and continued to make a second layer of newspaper following the same process as before. However, the second layer was not the last layer as the last layer consisted of thick white copy paper that made the cacti as well as the bus more durable so no one could easily puncture a hole, and it made it easier for Eduardo to paint over since it was basically a large blank canvas.
Adela’s whole vision behind this project is to not only make these sculptures but also to blow them up in a fantastic spectacle. To ensure Adela’s destruction vision was going to be achieved correctly, we went to the desert with a pyrotechnic company and constructed a cactus specifically to see how the explosions will look on the actual cacti coming November. I expected this grand explosion where we had to duck behind cars and wear earmuffs to protect our hears from the boom of the explosion. It wasn't nearly what I expected. The explosion was loud but not enough for earmuffs and the cactus didn't shoot into a million pieces. However, the fireworks on the actual cactus was stunning to say the least. It was this beautiful red and green that spewed out every side of the cactus. Though it was daytime, it lighted up the desert with its amazing spectacle of color and the thrust created by the fireworks made the cactus spin so now it was this crazy spinning cactus with what looked like from afar spitting fire from all directions. It was basically a skinny dragon with a rainbow fire breath. I personally enjoyed it. We then had to pick up the newspaper remains from the explosion, which was a drag, but it was still worth it since we got to see the fireworks in action
This type of construction went on for days as each day brought in a new cactus and in a strange way, it was very soothing to me. It was the first real job where I actively was working with my hands to create something that I was proud of. The group of artisans were only supportive when I had questions or I felt I messed up on any aspect of the project. It was a huge learning process to me where I got a better understanding of what it meant to be an artist and how sensational it was to find work that brought myself satisfaction and happiness. Every day was something new and as with all large projects, there were problems but every problem felt obtainable to fix. There was never a day where I disliked being outside and working with my hands. Though there were some days above 100 degrees where it felt soul draining, it was nothing a few waters couldn’t fix and plus it helped with the drying process. Adela was a great person to not only work with but also have discussions with. She brought in a new perspective to the whole America versus Mexico debate that helped enlighten me as to the issues presented in Mexico. Her passions and ideals about her work brought in a refreshing take on the idea of remembering the importance of where you come from and how much it influences your life for years to come.
When I first dived into this project, I was honestly a little mad and depressed to know the works would blow especially after hours upon hours of work. I also thought the artisans would be pretty gloomy themselves until Amauri showed me this video of a gigantic bull they created for a Mexican festival that Amauri personally dragged in front of people who threw fireworks and all sorts of pyrotechnics into it. This video showcased this mesmerizing scene of pure authentic Mexican culture where everyone in the festival was ecstatic to be a part in the destruction of these piñatas. There were sparks of all different colors and varieties just flying everywhere. Not a dull face in the whole crowd. There was even a picture of Amauri under the Bull, and I never saw a person so happy as to where they were in that moment, especially since that moment was filled with explosives. And that was the moment I realized how building these delicate structures is wonderful for the hand and body but destroying these structures not only provides a visual marvel but also creates an appreciation for the connection between the mind and the hands for the ability to be able to craft such beautiful pieces of art. If I learned anything at all during this process, it is to take greater appreciation for my hands and explore any opportunity that brings a new dimension to working with them.
By Daphnide McDermet (PO '20), Getty Multicultural Intern, Mentor: Steve Comba
Generally, mystery is not the first thing most think of when they think of art museums. But when several boxes magically turned up on the steps of Bridges Auditorium last spring, a mystery was born. I imagine whoever left the boxes stealthily placed them on the steps with furtive looks around, hoping no one saw them. Perhaps they whispered, “You will have a good life here” as they hastily attached the only clue to the owner of the boxes: “donation of Cahalan”. Of course, this scenario is my own imagination, but what is not imagination is the fact that these boxes and their contents became the museum's responsibility and since they did not come with information, it was also the museum's responsibility to find out that information.
The story of the Cahalan donations is the story of the process of working backwards, with practically no clues to try to answer the basic questions that art museums ask:
“What is it?”
“What materials is it made out of?”
“Who used it, when was it used?”
“Who donated it?”
The first question was more easily answered than the rest. The opened boxes contained what were clearly African artifacts, ranging from weapons to cloths. My personal favorite was a box containing a large painted mask with a shaggy “mane” of dried plant fiber or raffia.
To answer most of the other questions I turned to the preliminary research done by my predecessor and the millennials’ Bible: Google. The intern before me had discovered that some of the pieces were from the Congo, so I started there. Sometimes the research was more sophisticated-reading scholarly articles on the materials available in the Congo region and the traditions of various tribes in the region. Other times it was as basic as typing into Google images, “African masks with raffia fiber,” and scrolling through pictures of masks, trying to find a match, like an inverse memory game. I spent a lot of time on the websites of other museums, searching through their online catalogues, reading their interviews with curators of African artifacts.
I learned a lot from my research. I learned that the Ndeemba mask was used in coming of age rituals for the Yaka people of the Congo, where elaborate plays were performed centered around these masks. I learned that the prestige cap, decorated with cowrie shells and blue and white beads, was used to denote status and class. I learned that Kuba cloths from earlier than the 20th century are hard to find because they were often used as burial cloths. My research placed the artifacts in the Congo region, with the possibility of a couple Nigerian statues. Most of the artifacts are from predominantly the 19th-20th centuries. The materials used varied from wood to medals.
While I did learn a lot, one of the most pressing questions remains unanswered. Who is Cahalan? Both my supervisor, Steve Comba, and I have spent a significant amount of time, searching through the records of donations, scouring the web, looking for any relations, any hint as to the identity of Cahalan. But no Cahalan shows up. The identity of Cahalan is useful in order to get more information about the history of the objects and their acquisition and also in order to catalogue the pieces with the most amount of information possible.
When I asked Steve what the next steps needed to be in order to find answers, he said that he needed to contact the Scripps Art Museum, who houses a collection of African objects. Given what we know or rather don’t know, it is possible that these African objects should actually be a part of Scripps’ collection. If so, then, the mysterious person who left the boxes at Bridges should have left them at Scripps. Perhaps the objects have yet to finish their journey. In the meantime, the mystery continues.
By D'Maia Curry (PO '19), Janet Inskeep Benton ’79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), Mentor: Kathleen Howe
Its crazy to think that the Summer is already coming to a close but, as a Curatorial SURP intern, I have had an exciting, albeit challenging, Summer curating a ramp show for the Pomona College Museum, of which will be up in the Spring of 2018. The SURP internship is a pretty immersive experience that has allowed me to not only gain experience curating an art exhibition (which is pretty cool in and of itself) but also create programming, design a one of a kind brochure and write labels/press releases, all while traveling to really awesome L.A. cultural institutions with other museum interns. As a stem major with very little Art/Art History background, working as a Curatorial intern has granted me the opportunity to exercise my brain and utilize my education and creative abilities in ways I have never had to before.
In the beginning of the Summer, I was tasked with determining a theme in which to center the exhibition, and selected art works, around. The Pomona College Museum of Art holds a collection of over 10,000 artworks, ranging from Native American textiles, to Photographs of Nuclear Bomb Bunkers, to Chinese Snuff bottles. So, deriving a theme, and eventually selecting pieces, based solely off the collection database, was not a simple task. However, with help from Kathleen Howe, the Pomona College Museum Director, I was able to gain direction in every step of my project.
My show will be on display concurrent to the Mickalene Thomas Photographs, tête-à-tête exhibition and one of my initial assignments was to understand Thomas’ art and create an exhibition concept that was related to, but not a carbon copy of, the ideas present in her work. Mickalene’s exhibition is composed of highly textured and eye-catching photographs and visual sets that prompt contemplation of societal representations of the black body and western stereotypes of blackness. Through understanding Mickalene’s work, I garnered a wealth of exhibition ideas ranging from exploring notions of visual representation and representational justice, to examining how art allows for the exploration and contemplation of societal manifestations of beauty and justice.
I then consulted relevant literature to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between art and justice, the most notable reading being Pictures of Progress by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith which analyzes how photography was not only used to highlight the injustices subjected to African American people throughout the 19th and 20th century (and still today) but also as a vehicle of self-representation and a tool for social and political justice. As the summer progressed, I continued to read and ponder varied assumptions of justice and narrow down my focus on the specific manifestations of justice I wanted to highlight and unpack in my exhibition. When I found, or rather happened upon, the preamble of the constitution, which states that we “establish justice” in order to form a more perfect union, I knew I had to focus on a governmental construction of justice for my show.
After finally deriving a central theme for my exhibition, my next task was to scour the museum’s collection and select preliminary pieces that related to my exhibition theme. Thanks to a collection database overview from Steve Comba, combined with “Curatorial Thrifting” sessions and artist recommendations from Kathleen, I was able to easily sift through the museum’s collection and select a significant amount of relevant pieces. While choosing works, Steve also helped me create an online portfolio of my selections for the museum’s online database and construct a preliminary checklist of all selected pieces. I then wrote a press release for the Museum Website outlining the argument and scope of my exhibit and also met with a graphic designer to discuss the layout and content of the illustrated brochure that will accompany my show. There were specific challenges along the way, such as having to work within the limited and spatially complex area that is the museum ramp or picking way too many pieces for the exhibition and having to, heartbreakingly, weed out pieces, but I value the ways in which I have had to adapt and expand my own thinking, and I know I will have a more solid show in the end.
Even though the summer is nearly coming to an end, I still have lots of work to do including writing an essay for my brochure, selecting images for the brochure, meeting with Justine Bae to develop programming and, finally, locking down the layout and design of the exhibit itself. Curating is super exciting yet visually and intellectually exacting work and I have greatly enjoyed my time working at the museum--getting to know the museum interns and staff. While I will miss the calm Claremont Summer and easygoing museum intern space, I look forward to continuing my work with the museum into the new school year.
By Nikki Dequesada (PO '20), Josephine Bump '76 Programming Intern, Mentor: Justine Bae
It’s 6 o’clock and you’ve invited your friends over for a dinner party at 8. The oven is set to 360 degrees Fahrenheit and all the vegetables are chopped up next to raw chicken, seasoned and waiting to be baked according to the recipe you’re following. Feeding your friends is far from difficult when you know that following all the steps in the recipe will make for a successful dinner. There’s nothing wrong with following the recipe, it’s just that it takes a different skill than creating the recipe, because well, it could be a recipe for disaster if it’s never been tried before.
Working on Pomona College Museum of Art’s first ever Family Program for Fall 2017 was very much like creating a recipe. As an intern, I had the opportunity to help with the entire process from conceptualization to execution, with no cut and clear idea of what the final product would be. My first meeting with Justine Bae, museum coordinator and the one who spearheaded the family program, was strictly brainstorming. We had so many broad and open-ended questions to answer: What do we want to achieve with a family program? How do we tie it into the “Prometheus 2017: Four Artists from Mexico Revisit Orozco” exhibition? What kind of resources do we need? We finally decided to organize the family program for the exhibition into four separate events that highlight each individual artist and their connection to Orozco. We wanted to create a fun program that was also educational and enriching for kids in grades K-12, and we figured the best way to do it was to give each artist their spotlight so as to be thorough enough with the information we’re sharing about them and also to help guests make stronger connections with each artist rather than a vague and fleeting one.
After we had that breakthrough, we had to figure out what we were going to do in each of the four events and how. This was the fun part. For weeks my desk was covered in huge notepads filled with drawings, notes, and research findings. I got to come up with activities for each of the events that were specific to the major themes in each artist’s work and their relationship to Orozco, draft prompts that were more accessible since not everyone is familiar with art history jargon, and even use my art skills to design some stuff for the activities and events. Now I’m out and about buying supplies and even helping to advertise a little.
Seeing this program unfold from beginning to end and knowing that I was there to help make it happen was one of the most fulfilling feelings. I was able to be a researcher, educator, and designer all in one internship. I was able to explore museum programming. I was able to help the museum open up its doors a little more to the community and become more accessible, particularly for children. Art will always be important, and it is important the interact with it from a young age. With Pomona College Museum of Art’s up and coming Family Programs, kids will be able to do just that; and with a final product looking this good, it’s far from a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes when you are developing a new program, you must do a little field work. Sometimes, being a museum intern means you get to go on field trips to other museums. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Or maybe three, since in natural PCMA fashion, we always make a pit stop for some good food.
On a Sunday, a rather unusual day for a work field trip, some fellow interns joined Justine and I on a trip to LACMA to check out their family program to see if we could draw anything from it. The day started with us stopping for lunch at a Korean restaurant where we indulged in some tasty tofu soups and hot stone bibimbap. We then made our way over to LACMA to do some investigating. After making our rounds, stopping at different tents to learn about the exhibition and see what the kids were enjoying, we left the family program inspired and chockful of idea. But we didn’t leave LACMA. After the family programs, we had free reign of LACMA, so I decided to visit their current exhibition, “Home—So Different, So Appealing.” This might be one of my favorite museum exhibitions I have ever explored. As a media studies and GWS major, I have thought a lot about the home and its implications within a feminist and media studies context, so when looking at the pieces I was able to tie in past thought and research. There were two particular pieces that had me awe-struck. One of them was a single channel video in black and white of a woman pacing through her home, and the other an armoire made entirely of mirrors and shards of stained glass and crystals. The entire exhibition was beautiful and spoke a lot about identity and its complexities through something as seemingly simple as the concept of the “home.” Definitely worth going to LACMA to see. Especially if you make a stop at 85 Degrees Celsius on the way back home for some Taiwanese baked goods like we did.
Image: left to right Adam Starr (PO '18), Josephine Bump '76 Curatorial Intern, Dmaia Curry (PO '19), Janet Inskeep Benton '79 Art After Hours Intern, Crystal Orazu (PO '19), Janet Inskeep Benton '79 Art After Hours Intern, Daphnide McDermet (PO '20), Cion Education Outreach Intern, and Nina Mueller (PO '19), Josephine Bump '76 Collections Intern
Adam Starr (PO '18), Josephine Bump '76 Curatorial Intern presentation at the new Pomona College Museum of Art groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, May 12, 2017
Good afternoon. As you heard, I am a Junior Math major here at Pomona College and held various positions at the Pomona College Museum of Art, including a Benton SURP, culminating in my curation of the exhibition Now Screening: Andy Warhol Prints, which closes in a couple of days.
What's great about Pomona College is that even as a pure math major, the Museum has been an central part of my career here. Before I arrived on campus my first year, I read through the course catalogue to see what was offered in the fall. I noticed a course called Art History 47: Museum Collecting taught by Museum Director Kathleen Howe.
By enrolling in this course, I not only joined a class but the museum family. Kathleen became a mentor, who helped me learn about art, college, and life. I learned how museums operate, how they choose which artworks to acquire, and some of those industry insights you only encounter by being in the right places.
I learned that most museums only show about 3% of their collections, the rest is kept in storage only to be seen by museum staff. Whereas, Pomona maintains a teaching collection. Works, which are not on display in galleries, may be show to classes or even individual students.
Every year, I have a class which visits the museum, and many times I have emailed Steve Comba, the museum registrar, and have asked to see certain works such as our Michael Asher schematics, Enrique Chagoya prints, or Jose Orozco drawings, either because I read about the work in a class or simply because I was interested in the artist.
The new museum will not only consolidate the collection to make such viewings easier, but it will also provide curricular galleries where students can curate short-term exhibitions mid-semester.
The museum already has amazing staff, and the new space will provide facilities which will allow the museum to flourish. If I were to list all of the advantages of the new museum, we may be here until 1am.
Today, we break ground on a key part of the Pomona experience. We will see amazing growth in all parts of the museum: from the intellectual, to the meditative, to the social. I am sad that I will not be a student here when the new museum opens, but I am so happy for the generations of Sagehens who will engage with art in ways we have only dreamed of.
Image: Interns Romario Ramirez (PO ’18), Janet Inskeep Benton ’79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), Camilo Bacca (PO ’19), Josephine Bump ’76 Curatorial Intern, and Lily Soule (PZ '17), Graham "Bud" ’55 and Mary Ellen ’56 Kilsby Curatorial Intern at the Huntington Library (Pasadena, CA)
By Lily Soule (PZ '17), Graham "Bud" ’55 and Mary Ellen ’56 Kilsby Curatorial Intern
Bring back the summer – beach, long relaxing days, and interning at the Pomona Art Museum! The internship program was perfectly curated, like the exhibitions in the museum, to be both educational, productive for both the students and the museum and all around fun.
I’ve worked at the museum in a couple positions, including being a museum guard and a curatorial intern. It has been wonderful to try my hand working with different sections of the museum. I feel like this has allowed me to obtain a more in depth understanding of the functions of the museum, both inside in its’ daily routines, and outside in community dialogues.
In my current position as curatorial intern to Senior Curator, Rebecca McGrew I am working on research for a future exhibition. I started by research in the Spring of 2016 and have continued my research through this summer and will likely continue through my senior year.
Spending the summer with the Pomona Art Museum in Claremont was an all around rewarding, fun and educational experience. I would highly recommend the summer internship program to anyone interested in getting involved in the Museum or who may want to do museum work in the future. It was great to be involved with such a multifaceted place, where one day I would been meeting with visiting artists and sitting in on curatorial brainstorming sessions, and the next day I would be discovering new artists and artist groups in my research for the future exhibition.
Since beginning my work with the Museum I’ve learned a lot about its’ role and unique position being closely connected to the colleges – often working with academic departments and classes in the curation and exhibition processes – at the same time that it is also an independently functioning institution in its own right. The project I am conducting research demonstrates this special relationship well. My project in part facilitates a dialogue between the 5C group EnviroLab Asia, working specifically with its second research cluster to bring students and faculty to Japan, where conversations about environment, culture and art will take place. This project, even in its preliminary stages, has given me immense insight into the ways in which the institutions work together, as well as grant writing, and how these kinds of projects come about. Working with Rebecca has been very inspiring as I begin to understand what it takes to be a museum curator.
Not only did I become better acquainted with the Museum’s collections and our exciting new acquisitions, but the Museum also sponsored many amazing intern trips into Los Angeles to experience the art, culture and other incredible (and often delicious) resources the city has to offer. We visited a variety of museums, galleries and cultural sites including LACMA, The Getty, the His Lai Temple, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple, The Hammer Museum, Storier Stearns Japanese Garden, and my favorite Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. I was very inspired by the all female sculpture show as this subject is a personal interest of mine. This trip provided insight into the ways in which galleries are developing into more inclusive community spaces. Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in particular seems to function as a space for fine art, educational opportunities, fun events, and all around cultural activities.
I am excited to continue my work and look forward to the culmination of my research in 2020! Thank you again to all of the staff and interns who have, and continue to make my time at the Museum a wonderful and memorable experience.
Image: Intern Adam Starr (PO '18) inside the Getty Center's "Cave Temples of Dunhuang"
By Adam Starr (PO '18), Janet Inskeep Benton '79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP)
Wow! How is summer almost over? Interning at The Pomona College Museum of Art has been such a wonderful experience. The staff is amazing and supportive. I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to curate an exhibition of Andy Warhol prints as an undergraduate.
I started the project with an exploration of our prints and preliminary readings on Warhol and his screen prints. I selected the prints I wanted for the exhibition, and since we have over 150 of Warhol’s Polaroids, I selected a few photographs from a portrait session with Frederick Weisman, whose resulting portrait print will be on display. I also examined the Warhol prints owned by the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. I noticed that they had a version of Cologne Cathedral with crushed glass, which would complement our version with diamond dust. I seized this opportunity to learn about loaning and borrowing artworks in a museum setting.
I then organized the gallery layout and began work on the website and press release. This was my first experience with institutional editing, which provided a great opportunity to learn how to write for an organization and how to incorporate many (sometimes conflicting) revisions into my writing. This process was good practice for writing my essay for the brochure.
I worked with the Museum and a graphic designer to design the illustrated brochure and develop programming. We were able to build off of the work of previous student curators in our brochure design, which greatly streamlined the process. Terri and Justine were very helpful in developing programming. We will have interactive arts projects for students and community members. I will work with Terri to find tie-ins to spring courses once the catalogue is released.
I was also able to learn about other operations of a museum, and when I was not working on my exhibition, I could help frame artworks or photograph recent acquisitions for Steve. Every person at the museum takes on many rolls, so I was able to learn about museums in a more holistic way than if I were at a larger institution.
The Museum taught me not only about our collection but about the art and culture of Los Angeles with frequent fieldtrips to museums, cultural sites, and public art. I very much enjoyed seeing the reconstructed Cave Temples of Dunhuang at the Getty. The detail was amazing, and by replicating the caves in America, they may better preserve the original sites in China. The visit provoked many questions about the value of authenticity in art and the contradictory roles of a museum as preserver and displayer of objects, and we interns were able to have a dialogue as a result.
I look forward to continuing my work with the Museum throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.
Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
Image: Artist Sue Coe with Benjamin Kersten, Josephine Bump ’76 Curatorial Intern, Pomona College ’15
By Benjamin Kersten (PO '15), Josephine Bump ’76 Curatorial Intern, since Fall 2012
"Prints, Programs, and Publications: The Process behind Allied Against AIDS: Sue Coe’s AIDS Portfolio"
The opportunity to curate an exhibition for the Pomona College Museum of Art excited me from the beginning, but the process taught me more than I expected about an important part of United States history, my personal history, and how museum exhibitions actually happen.
The exhibition Allied Against AIDS: Sue Coe’s AIDS Portfolio and related publications and programming resulted from the process, but the project started out very differently. Having interned the previous semester at a print and sculpture publisher, I examined the modern and contemporary prints in the museum’s permanent collection to provide myself with a bit of continuity. And then I came across the AIDS Portfolio and the portraits and scenes within. Each portrait held a face and a voice, each scene of the hospital environment showed the dignity of healthcare providers and the community of those affected by AIDS. The portfolio made visible a moment in United States history, and I could not turn away.
The prints have a distinct focus, but they are situated within multiple histories: the history of the United States, the history of the queer community, the history of art and politics, Coe’s own history of calling out political injustices and the suffering they inflict, and more. In my research, I also learned about the differing perspectives regarding representations of people with AIDS, especially as the strategies used by the visual arts to address AIDS have consequences for how public discourse and policy address AIDS. Coe’s prints portray some of the more gruesome aspects of the crisis, sickness and pain. Other perspectives include that of U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, who exploited links between AIDS and homosexuality to deny funding for HIV/AIDS research and treatment, and that of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), who encouraged the visual arts to represent people with AIDS in a more uplifting manner to counter the misdirected fear gripping the country. This research emphasized the role of context in interpreting images. I figured that my role as curator would allow me to surround her prints with social, historical, and political context in my essay and a timeline recording details of the emergence of AIDS, how the media responded, government policy, and more. Additionally, a shelf held pamphlets providing information on HIV/AIDS, safer sex practices, and testing facilities in an effort to contextualize the prints in the present and to provide museumgoers with important resources.
The work continued even after the installation and opening of the exhibition. The related programming became a crucial part of the exhibition. In October, Sue Coe visited Pomona. She spent time with classes, shared a dinner with students, spoke about her work, and sold and signed some of her work at a reception at the museum. Meeting Sue Coe after spending months researching her career and her work brought quite a bit of the curatorial process to life. Coe is every bit as impassioned, intimate, and determined as her work. She becomes her causes. Where many might have necklaces with their own names spelled out, a blingy “Vegan” flashes against Coe’s otherwise all black outfit. She shared her ideas, answered questions, and radiated warmth. In addition to Coe’s visit, I also gave a curatorial talk and led a walkthrough of the exhibition and led workshops collecting people’s own artistic responses to AIDS for a zine that we distributed during events around World AIDS Day in December. Finally, I attended a meeting of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Claremont High School and gave a presentation on Coe, the exhibition, and the place of AIDS in LGBTQ history. The related programs and publications allowed the exhibition to extend beyond the museum walls.
My name graced the museum wall, the website, and many brochures, but many people helped make this exhibition possible. From advice and edits to funding and frames, the museum staff walked me through the entire process, generously funded by Josephine Bump. My friends, family, and partner Cole came to each related program and offered invaluable support. Sue Coe, of course, bravely documented the injustices of the AIDS crisis, preserving the names, faces, and dignity of those involved. Finally, the resilience and compassion of those most affected by the ongoing crisis and the caring medical staff should never be forgotten. I hoped that visitors to the museum would take away more than textual information about AIDS. I hoped that people would spend time with the experiences preserved in the prints and understand the political nature of the arts. AIDS remains a relevant subject today. The syndrome continues to affect many people around the world, including in the United States, and the relative invisibility of AIDS takes on a disturbing significance when considered with the disproportionate rates of infection across class and race. The faces and voices preserved in the portfolio are not the whole picture, but rather a piece of it, a piece that I hope spurred dialogue, contemplation, and emotion.
By James Parker Head (PO ’17), Janet Inskeep Benton ’79 Curatorial Intern, Summer 2013
When asked to write about the experience of being an intern for the Pomona College Museum of Art, a half-page spray of platitudes immediately materialized – simultaneously fulfilling the requirement and negating everything it is to experience. It is with sincere intentions that I rewrite this to address experience, positing questions about it that were provoked by artwork during my time as an intern this summer.
During one of the many off-campus organized excursions that were part of my SURP I visited the Museum of Latin American Art to view their exhibit entitled Frida Kahlo, Her Photos. Before giving details on works in the exhibit I would like to apprise the reader to some particulars that I was forced to piece together. The photos in the exhibit are digital scans of the originals that permanently reside in Kahlo’s residence in Mexico City. I offer this amended title of the exhibition to the readers, Frida Kahlo, Photos of Her Photos.
I was drawn to two photos in the exhibit. One, of her husband Diego Rivera, was emblazoned with the bright red kiss of Kahlo The other was a family photo with a large swathe – crudely, passionately – cut out of the center by Kahlo. After closely examining the plaque accompanying each of these photographs, seeing them cite Giclée Print as a medium, in place of the period appropriate, and expected, Gelatin Silver Print, did I learn the reproduction based nature of this exhibit.
After discovering that the photos I had viewed were imitations, I began asking myself value-based questions concerning authenticity and artwork: Is a photo of a photo the same as the original? If you can’t tell that it’s not the original, does it matter? Are museums only allowed to show the originals? Isn’t it more democratic and beneficial to share with the world the photos, whether or not they are original?
If the slight derision was not picked-up in my rephrased exhibition title, then I will more overtly say that I do not regard reproductions of equal standing as the original. I may not be able to distinguish a perfect replica from the original, but this does not negate the existence of a difference. And this difference is the absence of something essential. Benjamin describes what is lost as an artwork's aura, “its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”1 It is this being that is missing, its existence dependent equally on artist and medium. These same questions of authenticity have been fodder for theorists for centuries, and, although infinitely engrossing, begin unraveling into esotericisms that this brief recap of my internship is inadequate for addressing.
But it was these ideas of authentic artworks, and the singular experience that I grant viewing authentic artworks, that seemed the best way to write about my experience as an intern. My internship was its own singular experience, as original and unique as the photo kissed by Kahlo that is somewhere in her house in Mexico City.
Just as the development of photography, and subsequently film, as a reproducible artistic medium allowed Benjamin to write of the individuality of art, a new technology will need to come about before individuality of experience can be thoroughly examined. Maybe artificial reality, a virtually reproducible reality, will allow us to see the singularity of experience. Hypothetically, then others could participate in my experience as an intern. I say participate because it would be something different, just as the reproduced photographs in the exhibit are separate photographs from the originals. Through this participation an experiential aura – to borrow Benjamin’s term – might reveal itself.
1Benjamin writes extensively on the actuality of, and the nonexistence of, aura in original art . For a more complete dialogue on the aura of art see his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Trans. J. A. Underwood London: Penguin, 2008. Print.
Fall 2013 and Spring 2014
By Winona Bechtle (SC ’14), Graham "Bud" ’55 and Mary Ellen ’56 Kilsby Curatorial/Research Intern, Since Spring 2013
At times, herding college students is no easier than herding cats. With the wide array of activities ranging from a capella to early morning labs, it is difficult for students to carve out time to sleep, let alone think about critical issues like consent and sexual assault that impact every student’s time on campus. What I set out to do as an intern at the Pomona College Museum of Art was create a discussion around these issues and get people talking freely about their experiences with consent and rape culture on a college campus, specifically The Claremont Colleges campus.
With the support of the museum staff and my collaborator Estephany Campos, I set out to host a series of 3 tea talks on 3 of the college campuses in conjunction with Project Series 48: Andrea Bowers: #sweetjane. Estephany and I set up a camping table equipped with a hot water heater, tea, snacks, magazines and scissors and set out getting people to sit down with us and talk about Andrea Bowers’ exhibition as well as the implications the presence of her exhibition had on our college campus. Due to the sensitive material explored in Andrea’s show focusing on the Steubenville rape case, Estephany and I tried to let conversation flow as naturally as possible and we began with topics like school dances, feminism, and college hookup culture as jumping off points for discussion. Throughout our discussions we guided conversation and simply listened as students, both male and female and from all 5 colleges, discussed their fears, hopes, and concerns in creating a safe space on campus. They expressed these emotions through the creation of zine pages that featured visual collages about consent and rape culture as it specifically related to them and their experiences. Estephany and I collected these pages at the tea talks and also allowed students to submit anonymously through the museum. All in all, we gathered about 40 unique submissions and set about creating a publication that would showcase these anonymous student voices as well as a centerfold with relevant and easy to use information of on-campus resources in the event of sexual assault.
The actual process of putting together the zine proved just as much of a challenge as actually gathering the submissions. Using a combination of manual layout and Indesign formatting, I created a 40 page zine that featured the student submissions and resource/phone number centerfold. The museum was kind enough to provide funding for printing and I began the process of distributing these zines on campus, in dorms, and at events. After a certain point, people I didn’t even know began coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed the zine! This, for me, was a true measure of its reach and success.
Logistically, the project was difficult to execute. The subject matter was intense, and sometimes even the weather didn’t want to cooperate during the tea talks. Student support remained consistent however, and my peers were all very interested in seeing this project come to fruition and having the zine as a resource all students could access for solidarity, support, and information. I am very happy that the Pomona College Museum of Art let me independently lead and execute this portion of my internship, as I feel it was one of the most valuable things I did during my time in college. My hope is that the zine is continually printed and circulated on campus, and will hopefully inspire more students to explore means of self publishing in order to get their voices out there, anonymously or otherwise.
By Shayda Amanat (SC ’14), Graham "Bud" ’55 and Mary Ellen ’56 Kilsby Curatorial/Research Intern, since Fall 2012
One of the most interesting experiences that I had during my internship with Rebecca McGrew was negotiating with Hirokazu Kosaka, the Japanese performance artist that was the subject of a retrospective (and corresponding catalogue) at the museum.
Rebecca and I began with a really rough outline of what we wanted the Hirokazu Kosaka catalogue to be, and it followed a standard format of an introduction, an essay, images, and then some form of a resume that could be used by future scholars, which I was to compile. After a few preliminary meetings with Hirokazu where Rebecca and either Glenn Phillips (the co curator) or Kimberly Varella (the catalogue designer) were present, I had my first one-on-one meeting with Hirokazu. I went in with some basic knowledge about his life and work, thinking that he was just going to provide me with a resume that I could supplement with some personal details. However, just a few minutes into my meeting with Hirokazu I quickly realized that this was not going to be the case. Hirokazu explained to me that producing this kind of list of achievements really did not fall in line with his views or values.
Understanding why he didn’t want to do a resume meant getting to know a lot about Hirokazu and how he sees the world. This includes seeing how ego can be demonstrated in things that I had previously seen as totally normal, or understanding that Hirokazu and I have completely different notions of time and language. For example, he told me that people often ask him how long he has been practicing archery, and that he often responds 800 years, because archery has been practiced for centuries in his family, and it runs in his blood. At first, that answer made no sense to me. Then, with time, I slowly began to comprehend Hirokazu’s responses as I gained a better understanding of his worldview. This process really required me to step out of my comfort zone—to question things as basic as my understanding of time. Hirokazu helped me realize that there are many different ways of seeing the world, and that mine has been especially influenced by the Western systems of knowledge that I grew up with.
After this first meeting, I came back to Rebecca with a lot of questions—how do we reconcile Hirokazu’s views while still working within the confines of what we understand as a catalogue? How can we create something that still provides information for future scholars while giving a more honest representation of Hirokazu as a person? How do we remain sensitive to Hirokazu’s wishes and create something that we also see as “legitimate”?
With Rebecca’s guidance, Hirokazu and I came to a compromise. Instead of doing a resume, we decided to do a chronology of artworks—a chronological list of Hirokazu’s major works with images and a description of each piece that could provide information to someone researching Hirokazu while staying true to his views. In addition, we also created the Artist Notes—short narratives from Hirokazu’s life and spiritual practice that drew connections between his artistic practice, experiences, and beliefs. We decided that the narrative notes should be printed on transparent paper, allowing them to fall around an image or work that they pertained to.
Adding the narrative notes and the artist chronology to the catalogue definitely made it a more challenging endeavor—but it also made me engage deeply with the material, and I really appreciate that. Overall, it made the catalogue into a much more impressive and interesting resource. Moreover, it made my internship much more rewarding and insightful.
By Daisy Adams (PO ’16), Josephine Bump ’76 Collections Intern, 2013-2014
I have always been enamored with Native American art. However, growing up in Atlanta, few museums contained any Native American art. When arriving at Pomona College, I was delighted when I heard that the Pomona College Museum of Art had a large collection of Native American objects in its collection. Part of my internship in the Collections department of the Pomona College Museum of Art entails teaching elementary-aged students from schools in the Claremont area about Native American art. The students are invited to visit the Native American Collection Study Center at Pomona College where they are able to closely examine Native American objects in the collection.
While I am always struck by the utility and beauty of the objects, the objects took on a new meaning for me when I viewed them through the eyes of the elementary school visitors. They were able to see what they had been learning about at school come to life. The Native Americans that they recall from the story of Thanksgiving and their history books come to life. They no longer appear as mythical and unearthly. Native Americans are a group of people that remind them of themselves. A small hide shirt worn by a child, a tiny pair of moccasins and other objects on display gave them a better perspective on Native Americans. Their excited faces with when they entered the cool vault, their wide eyes gazing intently at a miniature basket, and their enthusiastic and thought-provoking questions made teaching them a wonderful experience. It was amazing to see elementary-aged students just as excited about Native American art as I am! I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to see and help nudge along their realizations and change their perspective on Native Americans as "people of the past", to people just like them and their families.
Left to Right: Abigail Rodriguez SC '16, Nidhi Gandhi PO '15, MCLA Director Isabella Rojas, and Benjamin Kersten PO '15 visiting David Siqueiros' America Tropical.
By Ben Kersten PO'15, Janet Inskeep Benton ’79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), Summer 2013
As an intern at the Pomona College Museum of Art, I was allowed privileged access into the walls of an esteemed educational institution. I traveled to Rome with an art history professor, experiencing the fieldwork aspect of art history by sitting in an artist’s apartment and interviewing her about her works which I would soon photograph, catalog, and write about back at the museum. Working with supervisors who love what they do and being able to pick their brains about all that a museum director oversees, responsibilities of a curator, or different kinds of cleats used to mount paintings let me see many of the necessary elements it takes for an art museum to operate successfully. Being surrounded by and handling artworks, framing them while giving the public entry into their intellectual and expressive intricacies, raises the stakes quite a bit. In the end, I’ll be able to point to works I matted and framed, illustrate my encounter with the artist in focus in a published interview, and speak about my recent and revealing exposure to the LA’s art scene from a few wonderful field trips.
One of these fieldtrips, in fact the first fieldtrip, was to the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles where we met Isabel Rojas-Williams, the Executive Director. Despite having spent the last two scholastic years in the Los Angeles area, this guided look into public art around the city gave me a much greater appreciation for and understanding of the social-political art movements of Los Angeles. It was fascinating to learn about how the organization restores, preserves, and documents murals around the city, not just because they fall under the “esteemed” category of art, but because of how these significant works of public art are intertwined with historical and contemporary issues and artistically cultivate cross-cultural understanding. Walking down Olvera Street and peering over the edge of the freeway, a mural I had driven past a few times finally registered. Glenna Boltuch Avila’s L.A. Freeway Kids features seven children, from diverse backgrounds. It’s impossible not to feel compassion for each of their smiling faces. This is why public art is important. It can be a unifying factor in the world, as we celebrate each child despite their differences. We realize that we are all those optimistic and kindhearted children, carrying carrying those values with us into the future as we move forward together.
By Shayda Amanat SC'14, Graham "Bud" ’55 and Mary Ellen ’56 Kilsby Curatorial/Research Intern, Summer 2013
On Tuesday, August 6th, I went on a field trip with Rebecca McGrew and a number of other interns; we visited artist Iva Gueorguieva at her studio in Downtown Los Angeles, met with Irene Tsatsos at the Armory Foundation in Pasadena, and had a meeting with artist Scott Benzel to discuss his work. Each meeting provided a different lens into the art world.
Iva’s studio visit was my favorite part of the trip. Her studio actualized the traditional, romantic idea of an artist’s space: we met her at a warehouse downtown, traveled up a dark, narrow staircase and ended up in her studio, which had paint splattered on the floor and materials strewn about. Iva was truly a pleasure to meet; she is full of energy and enthusiasm, especially when describing her works. First she explained her process, which includes a repetitive method of layering and painting. Her explanations drew on the history of abstraction, especially when they touched on the concepts of depth and space in her work. Although her works are extremely abstract, Iva explained the narratives and inspirations behind each work. In addition to discussing her art, we had a conversation about the challenges of the gallery world.
Meeting with Irene Tsatsos of the Armory was interesting because of the Armory Center’s unique mission and Tsatsos’ history of varied institutions. She gave us a tour of the space while describing their program of artist educators. Over lunch, she provided us with an account of her varied career, describing what it was like to work in both a traditional museum and an alternative space.
Finally, our meeting with artist Scott Benzel gave us a look into the world of performance and installation. He described the context and research behind a number of his projects, each of which reflects on the history of a time or place. Unlike Iva’s work, which was incredible personal, Scott’s art was more distanced and involved a lot of research. The two can be seen as opposites: Iva’s artwork was very raw and could speak to anyone, while Scott’s work needed a complete understanding of very specific art histories.
Left to Right: Benjamin Kersten PO '15, Nidhi Gandhi PO '15, and Abigail Rodriguez SC '16 visiting Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) under Levitated Mass.
By Nidhi Gandhi PO'16, Janet Inskeep Benton ’79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), Summer 2013
Even after two years of attending Pomona College, I’ve never been to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – literally one of the most famous and popular museums in LA. When the museum staff decided to take us on a fieldtrip there to meet a LACMA curator and see the exhibit “James Turrell: A Retrospective," I of course immediately transformed into a kid from sheer anticipation. We got there with just enough time to run up the huge red staircases, get a little confused about where we were going, and finally get into the Turrell exhibit a little after our entrance time. My minimal exposure to Turrell’s art (who, by the way, graduated Pomona College ’65, CGU ’73) consists of the Pomona College Skyspace, Dividing the Light, and his infamous Roden Crater – a minute fraction of his total work. The exhibit went chronologically, presenting his work from his initial concept sketches of light and geometrical light projections to entire rooms that altered light and space, his recent exploration of holograms, and a dedicated area about the Roden Crater.
I expect that in public locations I’m supposed to act a little more like the twenty-year-old woman I am, but this exhibit just constantly amazed me. My favorite areas were his room installations: being immersed in these spaces is an experience in being completely manipulated and vulnerable to the interplay of light, space, perception, and sensation. After wandering and wondering through all this, we were fortunate enough to have lunch with Ilene Fort, a curator at LACMA famous for organizing the exhibit “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States.” She was upfront and direct about curating and museum work in a large institution, which is completely different from working in a place like the Pomona College Museum. After that we were free to wander the vast treasures of LACMA, including the Henri Matisse exhibit, the Hans Richter: Encounters show, and under the Levitated Mass, where we took numerous photos while “holding” the huge rock. The Hans Richter show was particularly appealing to me, as I took a class last semester on the changing art scene in Berlin over the last century. I was able to visit LACMA for the first time, meet a wonderful curator who offered some poignant and pointed advice, and see THE best James Turrell exhibit right now, all for free. All in all, a successful day as an intern at the Pomona College Museum of Art.