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Museum & Buildings
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April 7 – 8, 2017
This thought-provoking symposium examines the intersection of art, political discourse, and social practice. Artists, art historians, curators, students, and art enthusiasts will come together to explore issues of identity, race, class, gender, and the environment through the lens of artworks in the Crystal Bridges collection.
Friday, April 7
Opening Conversation with Alice Walton and John Wilmerding, introduced by Sandy Edwards
Crystal Bridges founder and board chair Alice Walton and founding board member John Wilmerding will discuss artworks in the Museum collection they consider transformative, either on a personal basis or for society at large. Museum deputy director Sandy Edwards will provide introductory remarks.
Saturday, April 8
Welcome with Anne Kraybill, Director of Education and Research in Learning, Crystal Bridges
Opening Conversation with Nari Ward: We the People
Hosted by Lauren Haynes, Curator, Contemporary Art, Crystal Bridges
The recent Crystal Bridges acquisition We the People (black version) poses a fundamental question: How does a work of art serve as a call to action to challenge societal power structures? Artist Nari Ward will discuss this with Crystal Bridges Curator Lauren Haynes in an exploration of the relationships between art, American history, and issues of race, identity, and politics that remain relevant in this country today. The conversation will pose questions that will be pursued more in the following panels.
Session One: One Planet, One Experiment
With Opening Spoken Word Performance
Opening Spoken Word Performance by Suzi Q., poet-in-residence
Moderated by Chad Alligood, Curator, Contemporary Art, Crystal Bridges
Through the centuries, American artists have responded to nature’s transcendental qualities, the rapid cultivation of the wilderness, and now, issues around global climate change. Art historian Laura Turner Igoe will present new scholarship toward understanding how artists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries presented environmental issues of the time. Igoe’s presentation will be followed by a conversation with artists Nathalie Miebach and Pam Longobardi, who address environmental issues in their work.
Session Two: The Myth of the Melting Pot
With Opening Spoken Word Performance
Moderated by Lauren Haynes, Curator, Contemporary Art, Crystal Bridges
In popular culture, American identity has been idealized as a homogenous “melting pot” of cultures, rather than as a rich system of cultural exchange. While this exchange can result in a diversity of new traditions and artistic forms, it can also lead to an unfortunate appropriation of cultural elements by those who are naïve or insensitive to their significance. Art historian Claudia Mesch will present new scholarship exploring how cultural exchange has informed artmaking in the Americas through history. A discussion with artists Jeffrey Gibson and Ghada Amer, each of whose work explores issues of cultural identity and re-appropriation, will follow.
Session Three: The Unreality of Memory
With Opening Spoken Word Performance
Moderated by Mindy Besaw, Curator, American Art, Pre-WWII
Collective memory is preserved and perpetuated through texts, visual culture, oral histories, monuments, and more. It shapes our views of the past and of everyday contemporary life, but memory is selective and often biased. Deeper exploration requires us to pause and ask who and what is missing. Art historian Erika Doss will present new scholarship about artists’ use of memory throughout history, which will spark a larger conversation with artists Sandow Birk and Michael Waugh about the role memory plays in art and how it is often at odds with social reality.
Following the symposium, join fellow guests and symposium participants in a cocktail reception and informal conversation.
Chad Alligood is curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges. In 2013, alongside the Museum’s former president, Don Bacigalupi, Alligood curated State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now, a year-long project that included nearly 1,000 in-studio interviews with artists across the US. The exhibition, which debuted at Crystal Bridges in 2014 and is now traveling the United States, has placed Crystal Bridges at the forefront of an ongoing discussion about contemporary art in America. In 2015, Alligood curated Warhol’s Nature, featuring work drawn primarily from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and shown exclusively at Crystal Bridges, as well as a major reinstallation of the Museum’s 1940s to Now Gallery. He is currently engaged in development of Crystal Bridges’ new contemporary art venue in downtown Bentonville.
Ghada Amer was born in Cairo in 1963. In 1974, her parents relocated to France where she later began her artistic training at Villa Arson, Nice. Through her paintings, sculptures, and public garden projects, Amer takes traditional notions of cultural identity, abstraction, and religious fundamentalism and turns them on their heads. In her well-known erotic embroideries, she rejects oppressive laws set in place to govern women’s attitudes toward their bodies and repudiates first-wave feminist theory that the body must be denied to prevent victimization. Amer explores the dichotomies of an uneasy world and confronts the language of hostility and finality with unsettled narratives of longing and love. Her work has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Sydney Biennale, the Whitney Biennale, and the Brooklyn Museum. In 1997 she was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, and in 1999, she received the UNESCO award at the Venice Biennale. She currently lives and works in New York.
Mindy N. Besaw is curator of American art at Crystal Bridges. She oversees the American art collection covering the Colonial era to 1900, and is currently working on a major reinstallation of the Museum’s Colonial and nineteenth-century art galleries. Besaw is co-author of Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley, the first examination of Stanley as an important nineteenth-century American artist. She has written and lectured on a variety of artists, covering nineteenth- to twenty-first-century America.
Sandow Birk’s past work has dealt with social issues including inner-city violence, graffiti, politics, travel, war, and prisons, as well as surfing and skateboarding. His projects are often elaborate and epic in scale, including a series on “The Leading Causes of Death in America” and the second war in Iraq. His most recent project involves a consideration of the Qur’an as relevant to contemporary life in America. He was a recipient of an NEA International Travel Grant to Mexico City in 1995 to study mural painting, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996, and a Fulbright Fellowship for painting in Rio de Janeiro for 1997. In 1999 he was awarded a Getty Fellowship for painting, followed by a City of Los Angeles (COLA) Fellowship in 2001. He was an artist in residence at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in 2007, and at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2008.
Erika Doss is a professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her wide-ranging interests in American art are reflected in the breadth of her publications, including Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991), which received the Charles C. Eldredge Prize, Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (1999), and Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010). Doss is also co-editor of the Culture America series at the University Press of Kansas, and is on the editorial boards of Memory Studies, Public Art Dialogue, and Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. The recipient of several Fulbright awards, Doss has also held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Sandy Edwards is Deputy Director for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, playing a vital role in the conception, planning, building, and opening of the museum. She was instrumental in the establishment of endowments for the museum’s operations, acquisitions, and capital improvements, as well as a grant that provides free admission to the Museum. Edwards continues to be a guiding force in establishing this cultural destination, creating and growing connections to increase tourism to the area, and to offer the region’s residents unparalleled arts, cultural, and educational experiences. Edwards served as a trustee on the board of her alma mater, Lenoir Rhyne College; received the Penn State’s Outreach Pioneer Award for Distance Education; was named honorary alumna of the University of Arkansas; and received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and Distinguished Alumna Award from Western Illinois University where she received a master’s degree.
Jeffrey Gibson draws influence from popular music, fashion, literature, cultural and critical theory, and his own Cherokee and Choctaw heritage. Gibson’s work re-contextualizes the familiar to offer commentary on cultural hybridity and the assimilation of Modernist artistic strategies within contemporary art. His sculptures and paintings bring together image and language, blending traditional Native American craft with contemporary cultural production and references to form works that speak to individual experience within the larger narrative of contemporary globalization. Gibson has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Creative Capital Foundation, The Joan Mitchell Foundation, Art Matters, and Harpo Foundation, and is 2012 TED Foundation Fellow. He is currently a Visiting Artist at Bard College, New York.
Lauren Haynes is curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges. A specialist in African American modern and contemporary art, she has curated numerous exhibitions at The Studio Museum, Harlem, including Alma Thomas (co-curated), Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art; Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange; and Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series. Haynes has authored several landmark catalogs such as The Bearden Project (2011), Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art (2014), Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange (2015) and Fore (2012; co-author), and has contributed to several others. Her innovative curatorial work has received favorable recognition in publications such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and Art in America.
Laura Turner Igoe is the Maher Curatorial Fellow of American Art at Harvard Art Museums. She specializes in the history of American art, material culture, science, and ecology in the nineteenth century. Igoe co-edited A Greene Country Towne: Philadelphia’s Ecology in the Cultural Imagination, forthcoming in 2016 from Penn State University Press, and has published essays in American Art and Panorama. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Henry Luce Foundation / American Council of Learned Societies, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Terra Foundation for American Art, among other institutions. Her current book manuscript, Art and Ecology in the Early Republic, investigates the ways Philadelphia artists and architects negotiated changing environmental realities, and the politics of nature in the decades following the American Revolution.
Anne Kraybill oversees the overall programmatic strategy to engage all audiences, and is shaping the institution’s research agenda to better understand the value of art museums to society. With the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, she helped to spearhead a random assignment evaluation that measured the impact of a fieldtrip to an art museum. She also led the development of a distance learning initiative, providing free on-line arts classes to high school students across the nation.
Kraybill has held leadership positions at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC; Vero Beach Museum of Art in Vero Beach, FL; Center for Creative Education in West Palm Beach, FL; and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL.
Pam Longobardi’s artwork is framed within a conversation about globalism and conservation, and involves painting, photography, and installation. In 2006, she founded the Drifters Project, an international collaborative artistic research project focusing on ocean plastic pollution. She was lead artist on the 2013 GYRE expedition, an art-science research project along Alaska’s remote coasts, and was featured in the National Geographic film GYRE: Creating Art From a Plastic Ocean and in National Geographic magazine. Longobardi is the Oceanic Society’s Artist-In-Nature, leading international expeditions as artist/naturalist. She has an ongoing collaboration supported by the Ionion Center for the Arts and Culture in Metaxata, Kefalonia, Greece, and co-directed the short film Plastic Free Island (2015) documenting the project, which is currently on exhibit at the Goulandris Museum of Natural History in Athens, Greece. In 2013, she won the prestigious Hudgens Prize. Longobardi’s artwork has been shown extensively across the US and internationally.
Claudia Mesch is professor of art history at Arizona State University. Her books include Modern Art at the Berlin Wall (2009), and Art and Politics: a Small History of Art for Social Change (2013). She is a founding editor of the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas. Currently Mesch is working on a study of European and American Surrealist artists’ engagement with ethnography and Native culture in North America in the 1930s and ‘40s, and the work of Native artists who critically reexamine those interactions. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Nathalie Miebach explores the intersection of art and science by translating scientific data related to meteorology, ecology, and oceanography into woven sculptures and musical scores/performances. Miebach is the recipient of numerous awards and residencies, including a Pollock-Krasner Award, Virginia A. Groot Foundation Award, TED Global Fellowship, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, and a nominations to the World Technology Award, Brother Thomas Award, and the Women to Watch Smithsonian Award. She did her undergraduate studies in Chinese and Political Science at Oberlin College, and received an MFA in sculpture and an MSAE in Art Education from Massachusetts College of Art. Her work is shown nationally and abroad, and has been reviewed by publications spanning fine arts, design, and technology. She lives in Boston.
Suzi Q. joins the Symposium as Crystal Bridges’ poet-in-residence, opening each panel to spark conversation on environment, memory, and identity. In addition to working as a teaching artist in Denver, Colorado, Suzi Q. performs throughout the United States. She was the founding Slammaster of Slam Nuba, and she currently serves as the Executive Director of Poetry Slam, Inc. In addition, she is a co-coach of Denver Minor Disturbance Youth Poetry Slam, and a partner artist with Youth On Record (formerly known as Flobots.org). While most of her current work in the poetry slam arena is organizational, she placed as a finalist in the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2011 and 2013, as well the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2011, She is a Southwest Shootout champion and has earned the champion (or co-champion) title at the Taos Poetry Festival: Versing in Converse three times since 2009.
Alice Walton is the founder of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and now serves as Chairwoman of the museum’s Board of Directors. The establishment of the museum and its impact within the region has prompted numerous accolades for Walton, such as inclusion on the 2012 TIME 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is a recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Medal, the John Cotton Dana Medal for Visionary Leadership in Museums, and the Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts for her significant philanthropic contributions. Walton has served as a member of the board of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Trustees’ Council of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Nari Ward was born in 1963 in St. Andrews, Jamaica, and currently lives and works in New York. Ward’s dramatic sculptural installations are composed of systematically collected material from his urban neighborhood. By revealing the numerous emotions inherent within found everyday objects, Ward’s work examines issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture. Ward was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial in New York and Documenta XI in Kassel (2003). His works have been exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit.
Michael Waugh is known for intricate, representational drawings formed from minuscule handwritten words, a practice known as “micrography.” Waugh transcribes texts—such as government commissions and theoretical books about power and capitalism—into portraits and landscapes. To Waugh, the selection of texts and images and the relationship between the two are the conceptual heart of the work. He also explores these themes through mixed-media installations, performances, and videos, as in The Wealth of Nations project (2009), for which he staged (and documented) public readings from Adam Smith’s seminal economic text. Waugh has exhibited internationally for the last 15 years and his work has been reviewed by the New York Times, Art in America, and ARTNews. He is the recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
John Wilmerding is Sarofim Professor of American art, emeritus, at Princeton University. A founding board member of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Wilmerding has been instrumental in helping shape the Museum’s permanent collection from its earliest days. He is a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and was the longest-serving member on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a presidential appointment, from the first Bush to Obama administrations, 1989-2017. He was previously senior curator and deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where he later served as a trustee, retiring in 2013 as chairman of its board of trustees. He has an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Vermont, and is a member of the American Philosophical Society.