The University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) at UMass Amherst is proud to present Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power .
Kara Walker has become one of the most widely-known and controversial artists working today. Exploring the painful history of American race relations through large-scale silhouette installations, Walker’s work transforms historical materials, literary sources and popular culture, challenging us to access buried emotions about our nation’s past. In her hands, the medium of silhouette becomes a tool for examining the traumatic legacy of slavery.
This exhibition brings together 60 works in a variety of mediums, from printmaking (such as lithograph, etching with aquatint, photogravure, linocut, and screen-print), to wall murals, metal sculpture and shadow puppetry. The exhibition was curated by Jessi Di Tillio, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon. All works in this exhibition come from the Portland, Oregon-based collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
Collector Jordan Schnitzer has said, “Kara Walker is one of the most important artists in our collection. Her art needs to be seen and the themes need to be examined. No artist today does a better job of forcing the viewers to deal with stereotypes, gender, and race.”
The exhibition includes three narrative series — The Emancipation Approximation (1999–2000), Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War: Annotated (2005), and An Unpeopled Land in Uncharted Waters (2010) — along with numerous individual works that underline Walker’s use of Antebellum and Reconstruction-era imagery and themes. Her narratives unfold in elaborate tableaux that tackle issues of race, slavery, sexuality, identity, and power. The works, which are inventive and painful but also satirical and humorous, were selected for the exhibition to display the range of approaches Walker uses to explore the legacy of slavery.
Walker explained, “One theme in my artwork is the idea that a Black subject in the present tense is a container for specific pathologies from the past and is continually growing and feeding off those maladies….” By looking carefully at a selection of Walker’s projects in different media, this exhibition emphasizes the interface between technique and concept in her work. Walker’s use of historically inflected techniques investigates the question: “How is contemporary identity shaped and affected by the imagery from the past?”
Natural Selections: Flora and the Arts explores through more than 20 objects how nature has inspired, impressed, and enlightened society long before the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859. Using three themes, the exhibition explores the subject of flora and how it inspired the decorative arts.
“Botanical Studies” looks at the movement to classify, study, and teach though a selection of educational books and prints detailing floral anatomy and stages of life. “Art in Nature” delves into the museum’s rich collection of decorative arts to see how plants and flowers have influenced designers and craftspeople in fields as diverse as textiles, ceramics, furniture, and architecture. Finally, “Domesticating the Outdoors” showcases ceramic and glass vessels which brought colorful and fragrant flowers and plants indoors for personal enjoyment and study.
Gaze through a telescope out to sea, what is it you see? Ships, birds, maybe a whale? Join us in the art studio as we create scenes from our imagination.
A photographic series looking at the fragile renewal of Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the early 21st century, by Israeli-American photographer Loli Kantor.
In 1763, Massachusetts Bay celebrated the birthday of King George III with banquets and toasts, parades and fireworks. Ten years later, Massachusetts teetered on the brink of open rebellion as colonists denounced the British Parliament’s new taxes on imported goods. Join us as we commemorate the 250thanniversary of the Townshend Acts in a winter lecture series exploring the politics of tea, consumer culture, and resistance on the eve of the American Revolution.
- Sunday, January 22: “Colonial Opposition and the Road to Revolution, 1763-1775” Presented by William M. Fowler, Distinguished Professor of History, Northeastern University
- Sunday, February 26:”‘Renounce the Baneful Herb:’ Colonial Boycotts and the Invention of Liberty Tea”
Presented by Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History, Towson University
- Sunday, March 26: “‘Earthen Ware, made in Boston:’ Benjamin Leigh and John Allman’s Revolutionary Partnership”
Presented by Angelika Kuettner, Associate Curator of Ceramics, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
A lecture by Keely Sarr, Assistant Museum Educator at the Mead
See the Mead’s beloved curiosity in new light, as Keely Sarr reconstructs its fascinating cultural context through a postcolonial lens.
(3 PDPs) Inspired by the installations and displays of the Art Studio, this professional development workshop will explore ways to incorporate collaborative and interactive displays into your learning environment. We will reflect on how displays can capture student learning, extend on that learning and encourage collaboration. This workshop is designed to explore frameworks connected to project-based learning, as well as give educators hands-on time with materials. The workshop will also address time-management, resourcing and cost issues as related to the creation of effective and exciting displays.
In conversation with Jon Western, Dean of Faculty. Reception to follow.
Co-sponsored with the Departments of International Relations, Art History, Classics and Italian, English, French, German Studies, History, Politics, Theatre Arts, the Film Studies Program, the Weissman Center for Leadership, and the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives.
Please join us to celebrate the Spring Arts Festival with special faculty performances across the arts. Offered in collaboration with the Arts at Amherst initiative.
Discover the tricks of animation and cartooning—inspired by Kota Ezawa’s animated film and lightboxes in Gardner Project Revisited—at this afternoon of art-making, short films, and gallery talks. FREE and open to the public.