BY ABIGAIL STERN
The New Acquisitions Show will be on display from March 1 until March 17 in Dalton Gallery. Included in this show will be works by prominent artists Kara Walker and Catherine Opie. The works being shown have been accumulated over the past few years and have not received a permanent home on campus yet. It was a combined effort by many in the art department to put this show together.
The permanent collection of art on Agnes Scott’s campus is meant to be an inherent part of the liberal arts education on campus. The idea that art should challenge the viewer is included in the “Questions We Ask”: a document that the Arts Advisory Committee uses when choosing which artworks should be acquired. One of the questions to ask about pieces is “Does it speak to the intellectual and social challenges of our time?” These questions ensure that the art on campus is more than decorative. Ideally the collection should be used as an interdisciplinary teaching tool, and accessible to all members of the campus community.
Both Dr. Katherine Smith, Art History Professor, and Dr. Nell Ruby, Studio Art Professor, emphasized the importance of expanding the representation of our collection.
“We don’t have enough work by women of color, by queer artists, or art of queer objects that reflects diversity of student population, reflects identities on campus, and manifests diversity,” said Smith. The Walker and Opie pieces were described by Smith as “filling a hole in our collection.”
Catherine Opie is a lesbian American visual artist who uses photography to document the Queer community. Opie took a road trip across the US to photograph lesbian couples in their homes because she felt like there weren’t images of her community so she wanted to represent it. Her works on display are “Catherine, Melanie & Sadie Rain New York, New York,” a portrait of a lesbian couple and their child, and “Kara,” a portrait of Kara Walker, whose work is also in this show.
“Part of what I find strong about her work is that the visual qualities of it match really strong conceptual qualities,” said Smith. “If all we were to do was talk about the complexity of the gazes and the hand gestures, there would be a lot to talk about.”
On the other side of the room facing the Catherine Opie piece are three prints by Kara Walker, a prominent African American artist. The Resurrection Story with Patrons is exemplary of Walker’s style, which includes silhouettes that explore history of oppression and race. Ruby explained some of the the importance of the these prints to the collection.
“I want our collection to empower people,” said Ruby. “Images are more challenging than text…These images help us talk about Black Lives Matter and slavery.”
Agnes Scott pays for new pieces like these with The Kirk endowment given by Mary Wallace Kirk and the Dalton Art Acquisition Fund created in the name of Mary Keesler Dalton.
Another method of acquisition is the Senior Select project, which Ruby was instrumental in the creation of. The Senior Select allows Senior Art majors to argue for which pieces they want to bid on during an annual auction. This event, involving bidding wars and meetings artists, allows seniors to display the knowledge they have absorbed in the art program. One of the pieces selected by seniors in Alston is the “No Pattern Necessary” print near the first floor elevator.
Who is helps in discovering pieces for Agnes to acquire though? Leah Owenby, Manager of the Permanent Collection of Agnes Scott, aids in maintaining and acquiring works. She “coordinates the payment, shipping, framing and cataloguing of the pieces” and performs many other roles as the amount of paid positions for the maintenance of the collection was cut severely in the past decade. She is currently the only employee of the college managing our collection of more than 1000 pieces. One of Owenby’s biggest challenges when the collection receives an additional work is figuring out where the best place on campus to put it.
“We have to consider the space, the vibe of the building and if the piece can be kept safe,” said Owenby. “We don’t actually know where the Walker pieces are going to be put up yet.”
Along with the Walker and Opie pieces, The New Acquisitions show will include works by Kirk artists Kojo Griffin and Maria Karol, prominent conceptual artist Joseph Beuys, and “Cliteracy” artist Sophia Wallace. These works will be on display for the public, so students can stop by Dana to view them.