The Wonder of Wandering Interns

By <a href=”” rel=”author”>Angelica Cullotta</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Claudia Flores</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Hannah Fuller</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Ahmad Irons</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Jessy Lembke</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Mia Moore</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Arianne Nguyen</a>, <a href=”” rel=”author”>Bianca Phipps</a>, and <a href=”” rel=”author”>Emma Thibodeaux-Thompson</a>

You explore the galleries with a cohort of other learners, who each bring their own experiences and knowledge, or even wander on your own. Though it can be intimidating to walk through the galleries before they’re open to visitors, it’s also so intimate. You can come back to works again and again, often connecting to them in unexpected ways. It’s refreshing, inspiring, and new. And it’s a far cry from looking at photos of art in a classroom.

In this article, eight of us share our curiosities, discoveries, and questions from across the collection. You’ll hear reflections and musings—some we don’t have the answers to yet. We invite you to learn and walk through the galleries with us.

—Ahmad Irons, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Academic Engagement and Research, and Arianne Nguyen, McMullan Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow, Gallery Activation, Interpretation

Arthur Dove listened to jazz while he worked and often translated the syncopated rhythms and improvised aspects into paint.

Arthur Dove

He used abstract forms to interpret musical subjects, such as explosions of deep reds to symbolize the brilliant flare of a trumpet in a nightclub. The sound of swing music is also flawlessly conveyed: curved shapes give off the smooth, brassy flow of a song’s introduction, while jagged edges guide us into the ups and downs of improvised tonal range and rhythm.

As a flutist, this combination of mediums has deepened my appreciation for both audial and visual art. When you view this piece, pick a starting point, then let the painting guide you in any direction. Your viewing experience will be just as unique as each swing performer’s style.

—Angelica Cullotta, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Imaging

This scene of a man, Tjenti, and his wife, Nefret, would have been displayed in their tomb’s chapel for family members who come to visit and honor them.

Ancient Egyptian

Tjenti sits across from his wife at a table filled with bread to sustain them in the afterlife, while their son (to the right) and granddaughter (to the left). Rather than aiming for hyperrealism, Egyptian funerary reliefs like this one relied on heavy symbolism to teach visitors to their tomb about who these individuals were in life. How might they want to be remembered? What parts of themselves did they think were worth portraying? Tjenti and Nefret have idealized, youthful bodies; they wear gendered clothing that fits their roles. To me, standing in an art museum millennia into the future, the familial ties I see in the stele stand out as reflections of a familiar, human desire to be surrounded by loved ones in both life and death. 

—Hannah Fuller, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Arts of Africa

Sword still raised, Judith looks over her shoulder, eyes wide with the adrenaline of the blow she has just struck.

Jan Sanders van Hemessen

Judith is a personal favorite of mine; she draws my eye even when I pass by her from the adjacent gallery. Her gaze is especially striking—knowing and challenging. In the bottom left corner is the newly severed head of Holofernes, the Assyrian general whom Judith slays to save the Jewish people. Van Hemessen’s soft shading and color construct a muscular, immediate, and even dangerous feminine body. To me, Judith exudes a power and a physical strength normally reserved for male heroes. I especially love the way the corner of her mouth almost tilts up to smirk confidently at the viewer, like a Hollywood hero who has just finished off an impressive fight scene.

—Emma Thibodeaux-Thompson, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Prints and Drawings

Ominous, otherworldly bronze beings scale all sides of this wooden humidor, seeming to act as a layer of security, protecting the cabinet’s contents and intimidating trespassers.

Charles–Guillaume Diehl

The creatures appear common, yet remain unidentifiable. Their tails, wings, and fins feel familiar, but they cannot be comfortably categorized.

This perplexity is thrilling, as it dares viewers to think beyond what can be immediately recognized. I am particularly drawn to the creatures in the opening above the humidor’s door. They appear to be hissing, and I can’t help but wonder why.

The remaining ambiguity surrounding the creatures’ actions and form are unsatisfying but tempting. Thinking beyond their existence on the humidor, I am left eagerly wondering about their origins. Cigar Cabinet shows that function and fantasy are not mutually exclusive, and I most appreciate how the object invites its viewers to finish the story for themselves, using their own imaginations.

— Mia Moore, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in the Research Center

“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is a fragile, ever-shifting, brightly colored memorial monument.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres

© The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation

Kneeling down by the piece mimics sitting near a loved one; taking a piece of candy is, for a moment, like holding their hand. In New York in 1983, Felix González-Torres met his partner, Ross Laycock. They were together for nearly ten years, including sharing space in Los Angeles in 1990. In January 1991, Laycock passed away from complications from AIDS. González-Torres described the portrait as “an attempt on my part to rehearse my fears of having Ross disappear day by day right in front of my eyes.” 

For queer people, love is a radical act of defiance in the face of those who would have us disappear day by day. González-Torres closes the gap between us and them, between death and life. By participating in the act of loss, we open the door for regeneration. Though the pile may dwindle, the candy, like love, is endless.

—Bianca Phipps, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Research Center

Inspired by the poem by Eugene Field, Edith B. Murphy created this batik for a close friend and student with the childhood nickname of Nod in 1930.

Edith B. Murphy

The indigo on the wax-resist batik mimics the blue-green of the sea upon which the trio has set out to catch herring. The design of the ocean is rhythmic and curving, mirroring the sail of the boat. Complemented by the abstracted borders, the effect is a whimsical scene that captures the glistening of light on the ocean. The moon laughs as the eponymous fishermen try to catch the starlight reflected off the waves, mistaking it for fish.

Murphy studied under John Singer Sargent before settling into a career teaching art in La Grange, Illinois. There she continued to make art while encouraging students to pursue further art education. This piece lived its life with the friend who it was made for, the symbol of a long-time friendship, before coming to the Art Institute.

—Jessy Lembke, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Textiles

Skunk Cabbage

Marian Dale Scott’s approach to paintings often featured structured composition and organic subjects.

Marian Dale Scott (Canadian, 1906–1993). Oil on canvas. Visual Arts Collection, McGill University Library and Archives, 1974-013. © Marian Dale Scott Estate

Here, the defined center of the cabbage and its surrounding petals give way to more experimental strokes in the background. The shapes shift to a faded, circular motion. Upon first seeing Skunk Cabbage, I easily assumed it had been created by Georgia O’Keeffe. Perhaps it’s the pastel color palettes, the use of highlights, or the landscape subjects. But there’s something about this work that makes it stand out to me, just like the flower seems to jump off the canvas: a sharpness despite the organic strokes, almost like an outline marking her work. 

—Claudia Flores, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Exhibition Design

Painter Alma Thomas expressed herself through a rich color palette and mosaic-inspired painting techniques. Her vibrant blue smudges pull the viewer’s eye up and down the canvas.

Alma Thomas

Born in 1891, Thomas lived through a time when racial prejudice robbed African Americans of potential. But she also witnessed barriers being broken and new ideas like space travel becoming possible. Through her perspective as a black woman, Thomas displays a definitive passion and curiosity about the space age; in the changing world of Starry Night with the Astronauts, Thomas addresses aspirations, dreams, and the sense of belonging. 

At the same time, Thomas’s technique creates a façade that seemingly aims to conceal something I haven’t quite figured out. The seemingly random red, orange, and yellow strokes invite us to peel this concealment off, teasing the unknown underneath. Is this innocent curiosity about the new world shading her mixed feelings about her space and identity within America? 

—Ahmad Irons, McMullan Arts Leadership Intern in Academic Engagement and Research

Interested in becoming an intern at the Art Institute of Chicago? Learn more.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *