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Moore MFA Students Wrap Up Semester with Curated Exhibits

Broken trophies in a glass case question the American Dream. A plaster cast of a hand found in Moore’s archive exudes a curious vibe. Paintings and sculptures by Moore undergrad students who identify as something other than female explore gender identity. Food containers evoke the issue of hunger.

The four students in Graduate Program Director Daniel Tucker’s Curatorial Studio class studied these topics through their art in the fall semester of 2018, and then put together exhibits based on their work. The exhibits are on view through January 12 at Moore.

“This is the first time the class has been offered, and the intention of the class was both to get the artists thinking curatorially in a broad sense so they’re prepared to engage in both the active exhibition-making for their thesis exhibit in the spring, but also more generally to think about the role of curating as being an extension of an artist’s practice where they are making stuff happen in the world,” Tucker said. The class’s subtitle is “book/archive/event/exhibit.”

ON EXHIBIT

The exhibits the MFA students created for the class focus on housing equality, accessibility, inclusion and hunger. Three of the master’s degree students have their work on campus at Moore. Sara Berg’s exhibit, Living the American Dream, and Tim Goldsmith’s Curiosities from the Moore College Archives are housed in the Connelly Library. Rachel Yinger’s exhibit, titled Moore Inclusion: Noncisgender Students at a Women’s College, is on view on the Philadelphia Wall outside The Art Shop. Steve Mogck created Sated (The Food Container Project), and showed his artful handmade food containers at the James Oliver Gallery in Philadelphia December 7.

“In the field of socially engaged art, actually contemporary art in general, it is not uncommon for an artist to have to take on multiple roles in the development of their work, especially curation,” Goldsmith said. “This class explores the ways that various artists take on that role in their work to address particular audiences through various strategies, like events, exhibitions, archives and books.”

Goldsmith works as a graduate assistant in the Connelly Library, and became interested in the art and objects in the archives and the stories they tell, including a wooden box from the Sartain collection ominously labeled “Grandpa’s hand,” containing a plaster cast of the left hand of John Sartain, who was father to Moore principal Emily Sartain.

“There is a particular box of 100-year-old dinner party menus, place cards and itineraries from the Moore family, which includes a handwritten note from Joseph Moore Jr. that states, ‘All in this Box to be carefully preserved. – JMJ,’” Goldsmith said. “But this begs more questions.”

While Goldsmith has brought the items from behind the walls of the archives, he hasn’t made them any more accessible than they were, relating to questions about what belongs in an archive and who determines what should be in an archive.

“Boxes have been left closed and a painting has been displayed backwards,” he said. “As a viewer, you are only provided with what is indicated externally to make sense of what might be contained within or even how such items are related to one another.”

VALUE, INCLUSION, HUNGER

The glass case just off the elevator in the Connelly Library contains medals and trophies for sporting events like tennis and lacrosse that Berg’s older siblings earned from 1998 to 2005. Some are broken, some are modified with paint. She also includes books from the library that explore the American dream. The idea for her installation arose through her thesis research about housing inequities and the effects of gentrification.

“The trophies on the top shelf are a symbol of traditional ideas of success,” Berg writes in her artist statement. “The ones on the bottom are there to illustrate all of the pieces that have come together in order to achieve what society has dictated as the American Dream.”

Yinger solicited art from undergraduate students at Moore.

“She was a teaching assistant in an undergrad class where there was a student who identified as male,” Tucker said. “That sparked her interest in what was this school’s policy as a historically women-only institution in terms of transgender inclusion.”

That interest sparked a research project resulting in a zine, which looked at colleges historically for women and what their admissions policies are.

Mogck built food containers from high-quality watercolor paper, and hand-painted black and white images of celebrities and sports figures onto them. He also asked other artists, including Moore faculty members, to make their own container art pieces, all of them to be sold to raise money for Philabundance, a nonprofit food bank serving the Philadelphia region. Mogck organized the December 7 event, and so far has raised $5,500 for the food bank. He had never curated before.

“Not knowing that some of my favorite artists also had a curatorial practice was very encouraging,” he said. “I hope to continue the role as artist/curator while also showing my new works.”

The course included visitors and field trips with representatives from the People’s Paper Co-op, Slought, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Colored Girls Museum, Kadist, The Free Library of Philadelphia, Common Notions Press and others. The course drew extensively from the book The Artist As Curator: An Anthology, edited by Elena Filipovic (Mousse Publishing/Koenig Books, 2017). 

“They had a good 10 to 15 different examples to draw from just here in Philadelphia of how both institutional curatorial practices work in relationship to exhibits and events and archives and books, as well as of more independent grass-roots or artist-driven projects,” Tucker said.

Published on January 8th, 2019