Images that inspired a select group of the campus community are featured in “15 Photographs, 15 Curators,” a new exhibition at Sheldon Museum of Art.
The exhibition allowed the 15 guest curators – which include seven staff, six faculty and two students, all from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln – to delve into the nearly 3,000 images in Sheldon’s photograph collection. Each curator picked a single image that generated a personal response, which is explained in an accompanying description.
Wally Mason, Sheldon’s director and chief curator, proposed the guest curator concept as a way for the museum to expand its engagement with the university community. It is based on a similar exhibition at Mason’s previous museum, the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University.
“A few years ago, the Haggerty Museum did a similar project and it was widely popular,” said Carrie Morgan, Sheldon’s curator of academic programs and one of the 15 guest curators. “It resulted in a lot of diverse engagement with the museum, opening doors to disciplines outside of traditional audiences.”
Guest curators were given access to the images online and asked to cull them down to a handful of options before making a final choice.
“I started sifting through the images on my phone at night,” said Richard Graham, an associate professor in the University Libraries and a guest curator. “It wasn’t long before I switched to a computer because the depth and scope of the collection is really quite impressive.”
Among images by artists like Ansel Adams, Carrie Mae Weems and Diane Arbus, Graham was drawn to a Harold Edgerton photo of Wes Fesler, an Ohio State player, kicking a football. The power and action of the image, which shows Fesler’s foot forcing itself into the ball, along with the subject matter intrigued Graham.
“I know people will roll their eyes because of the university’s ties to football, but I thought this would be a good image for someone visiting the museum without a humanities interest or background in fine art,” Graham said. “I think it may also inspire someone to learn more about Edgerton, a Fremont native and graduate of the University of Nebraska whose photos contributed to both science and art.
“I thought it was also a great representation of the captured aspects of photography, of being in the moment and preserving a great image in time.”
Morgan was able to narrow the 3,000 images down to a final 10 before selecting Frank Gohlke’s photo of a storm over Lamesa, Texas.
“I’ve always been drawn to great landscapes,” Morgan said. “Gohlke’s photo is so crisp and precisely rendered. It shows these familiar forms of a small town, nothing really special but something very beautiful.”
With a background in working with landscape and architectural records, Morgan said she likes to put herself into the vantage point of precisely where the photographer in standing in landscape photos.
“I look at these photos like they are a doorway to connect to a specific scene,” Morgan said. “The door opens and you are there, on the roadside with all the incredibly rich drama of a thunderstorm and lightning.”
Other guest curators for the exhibition are: Matty Cunningham, information technology services; Ryan Dee, University Communication/ITS; Shane Farritor, engineering; Charlie Foster, Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services; Derrick Goss, undergraduate, education and human sciences; Pablo Morales, head coach, swimming; Walker Pickering, art, art history and design; Judith Sasso-Mason, scholarships and financial aid; David Sellmyer, physics; Jamie Swartz, graduate student, textiles, merchandising and fashion design; Sriyani Tidball, journalism and mass communications; Elizabeth VanWormer, veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences; and Michelle Waite, chancellor’s office.
The “15 Photographs, 15 Curators” exhibition is open through May 7 and will be featured in a First Friday celebration, 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 3. The event will include time for visitors to interact with the 15 curators and a free screening of “Kandahar Journals,” an award-winning documentary about photojournalist Louie Palu’s experiences in Afghanistan.
The First Friday celebration is free and open to the public.
“This exhibition is a reminder of Sheldon’s mission as a teaching museum and as a space for conversations that are diverse,” Morgan said.
For more information on Sheldon, including current exhibitions, click here.