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Ellen Carey b. 1952, Self Portrait, 1987; lithograph, artist proof 1/5, from an edition of 30, 23 ¾ x 19 ¼ inches; Gift of Steven and Cecile Biltekoff, 2000

Ellen Carey b. 1952, Self Portrait, 1987; lithograph, artist proof 1/5, from an edition of 30, 23 ¾ x 19 ¼ inches; Gift of Steven and Cecile Biltekoff, 2000

Disclosure: Women of the Burchfield Penney Collection

On View Saturday, June 15–Sunday, December 29, 2013

Margaret L. Wendt Gallery    R. William Doolittle Gallery   

Disclosure: Women of the Burchfield Penney Collection exposes the collision of society’s myths and norms against the issues and narratives defined by artists in the Burchfield Penney collection, particularly in regard to beauty, work and motherhood. In renaissance art, a drawn curtain—similar to that seen in Patricia Carter’s work—signaled an epiphany or divine revelation. Within the exhibition, classical ideals of beauty, in portraits and reclined nudes, are in contest with representations of old age or women more concerned with reading than being objects of consumption. Familiar items such as pressed shirts, coffee pots and toys express a tension in the domestic sphere and ask us to consider work in unrecognized economies. Longstanding ideas of biological determinism—of women to be wives and mothers—are made more complex with scenes of protection, sorrow and sacrifice.

This exhibition is a 21st-century sacra conversazione,* or holy conversation, in which the viewer will advance the understanding of the objects. From Adam and Eve to Cindy Sherman, this unusual assembly gathers together artists, subjects and traces of experiences from across the decades. You will write the labels that accompany each work of art. The commentary will be rotated throughout the exhibition, shared online and live on in the archives. What you see are the stories that emerged when one person looked through the collection, a collection that reflects the preferences and history of this institution. They are framed further by the artists with the social capital to be in a museum. Consider what is not represented on these walls. Break the silence of this heavenly court.

Disclosure was organized by Alana Ryder, curator for public and academic programs.

*A sacra conversazione is a compositional device used by artists in the renaissance. It was usually a gathering of the Virgin Mary, Christ, saints, important patrons and members of the nobility. In this holy arrangement, no one spoke or moved.