Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh is a consortium of local museums, galleries and archives working together to share information and expertise, and foster collaboration in research, teaching, and public engagement.

Here, at the HAA Constellations blog, you can read about some of the outcomes of these partnerships. Learn more about Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh at https://haa.pitt.edu/ckp.

 

Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    The bulk of my research over the past year for Andy Warhol: Revelation occurred in The Warhol’s Archives Study Center, which is the epicenter of primary source scholarship on Warhol. Almost all of my questions could be answered by the trove of archival objects or scholarly texts housed within their collection.

     

    Realizing Andy Warhol: Revelation

    Author: Kenneth Wahrenberger, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at The Andy Warhol Museum – Summer 2019

    After innumerable hours of planning, writing, and curating, Andy Warhol: Revelation will open October 20, 2019 at The Andy Warhol Museum. The show explores the Byzantine and Roman Catholic influences on Warhol’s artistic production from his earliest known works all the way to his Last Supper series completed at the end of his life. 

    In May of 2018, I had my first meeting with José Carlos Diaz, the chief curator of The Warhol and organizer of Andy Warhol: Revelation. At that time, José was working on the exhibition with Micol Forti, the director of the Contemporary Art Collection at the Vatican Museums. The exhibition was planned to open in conjunction with the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary in October 2019. In addition to its Pittsburgh premier, the show and will travel to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. 

    We worked in earnest throughout the late summer and fall of 2018, finding every possible text related to the artist’s clandestine religious practices and Byzantine Catholic upbringing. After developing a solid research base, we began sorting the exhibition checklist into sections and drafting preliminary floorplans (and looking back, they are astonishingly different than what they are today!).

    In January of this year, José and I began working on the Revelation exhibition catalogue, which ended up being a source of joy (and frustration) until the end of my Fine Foundation Fellowship in late August when the book went to print. The catalogue consists of two scholarly essays, one from Jose and one from Miranda Lash, curator of contemporary art at the Speed Art Museum, a forward from The Warhol director Patrick Moore, section texts describing each part of the show, a selection of high quality plates of works in the show, and a comprehensive exhibition checklist. Suffice it to say, the 96-page catalogue required a remarkable amount of editing, fact checking, and drafting, which occupied my time for the last six months. 

    I was fortunate to work with a marvelous copy editor named Tom Fredrickson and a talented graphic design team from Glue + Paper Workshop. Of course, they were not Warhol scholars and could not help fact check many aspects of the text. I can remember spending weeks culling the exhibition checklist and working with the archival and collections teams to provide names, dates, mediums, dimensions, etc. to certain items in the show. One of the most extraordinary parts of Revelation is that it will exhibit rare and never-before-seen objects like icon panels from Warhol’s childhood church and the original source material for his Last Supper silkscreen series; however, these objects also present new issues of titling, dating, and artistic attribution, which are important to determine for a publication. While this was an complicated process for me, the team at The Warhol was extremely helpful and turned every challenge into a fruitful, educational experience.  

    At the end of the Fine Foundation Fellowship and my previous internship engagement at the Warhol, I have the experience of managing a book project from start to finish, along with heavy involvement in researching and curating a major exhibition with a brilliant curator. Although I am anxious for the public response after the show opens, I think people will be amazed or at the very least intrigued by this mysterious side of Andy Warhol. 

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Students Explore Museum Careers at Welcome Week

    Author: Alex J. Taylor 

    Assistant Professor and Academic Curator, Department of History of Art and Architecture

    As part DiscoverU Day, sponsored by the Career Center as a part of Welcome Week at the University of Pittsburgh, 20 first year students signed up to hear about the career opportunities to work in museums from a panel of staff from across the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. This was the first year that the Carnegie Museums participated in the program. After lunch in the William Penn Union, students made their way to the Carnegie Museum boardroom to hear how employees from a range of departments made their way from undergraduate study to a museum career. Organized by Grace Anderson and Renee Thomas from the museum’s volunteer office, the students heard from staff across the Oakland museums including Juliana Carlino, Manager of Admissions; Matt Lamanna, Associate of Curator of Vertibrate Paeleoltology, CMNH; Natalie Larson-Potts, Associate Curator of Education, CMOA; Laura Zorch, Manager of Social Engagement, CMOA; and Pitt alumni Valerie Bundy, Education Program Manager, CMOA, and Mandi Lyon, Interim Program Manager for Schools and Groups, CMNH.

    Find out more about the other organizations and businesses participating in DiscoverU Day here

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Maria Lis and other workshop participants at the University Library System, Archives Service Center, during the Work Forces workshop

     

    Work Forces Workshop: The City of Pittsburgh as Pedagogical Tool

    Author: María Lis Baiocchi

    PhD student in Anthropology and Work Forces workshop participant

    The history of Pittsburgh as a center of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, its relevance to the history of the labor movement in this country, and its identity as a distinctly working-class city are some of the most interesting things that any non-Pittsburgh native gets to learn about this city when deciding to move here. At least that was the case for me when I decided to move here to do my PhD in Pitt’s Department of Anthropology. At the time, my work did not involve addressing issues of labor at all. It has been fortuitus that my research trajectory changed to put labor, and specifically household labor, at the center of my doctoral project while doing my PhD in a city where labor has historically taken center-stage.

    The Work Forces Workshop was an in-depth exploration of Pittsburgh’s rich labor history and culture through the prism of archival collections and art exhibitions. It is not an understatement to say that taking part in it transformed my view of the city. Work Forces underscored the potential of Pittsburgh for labor-related research projects through a range of onsite experiences. For instance, we looked into the Left Ephemera Collection in the Frick Fine Arts Library. Visiting the archive in the Bost Building of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, we examined (among other notable materials) notebooks documenting the accidents of workers in one of Pittsburgh’s steel mills which revealed the laboring conditions in this city at the height of its industrial age. I was struck by an interview with a household worker who used to work at Fallingwater kept in the Heinz History Center. 

    Perhaps most interestingly, Work Forces showed the ways in which the city itself and its surroundings can serve as pedagogical tools for teachers addressing the topic of labor broadly conceived in their classroom. An instructor teaching an introductory social theory course covering foundational Marxist concepts could benefit from taking students on a field trip to the Carrie Furnace or the Tour-Ed Mine to drive home abstract ideas about labor conditions imparted in the classroom. Anyone teaching on the anthropology of labor could very successfully draw from the University Art Gallery collection to discuss material covered inside the classroom. In sum, labor scholars and labor teachers of any background, including and especially anthropologists, stand to benefit from engaging with Pittsburgh’s rich material culture not just in research but also in teaching. Work Forces served as a fantastic invitation to do just that.      

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    fig 1. Continuous Miner Paintings at CMOA (photo by Ana Rodríguez)

     

    ‘Work Forces’ Workshop: automation and the transformation of labour

    Author: Mark Paterson

    Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and Work Forces workshop participant

    The ‘Continuous Miner’. A phrase that has a rhythm, and sounds almost poetic. Like Handel’s famous suite from 1720, ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’. Or so I thought when I first heard the phrase. Whereas one of these titles is a delightful set of baroque pieces of music played on a harpsicord in the music rooms, salons, and concert halls of polite society, the other is possibly the farthest away in terms of space and culture that you could get. For the Continuous Miner is actually a huge hunk of thick metal and articulated conveyer belt, a noisy room-sized machine which works incessantly in the sulphurous underground amongst dark seams in the sooty coalface. With its hardened, pointed, rotating claws at the front of the conveyor, it digs into the darkness like a monotonous machinic dinosaur. Yet how it becomes a subject of artistic production, as opposed to an object of art, will seem unlikely at first.

    It has a certain brutal aesthetic, based as it is so purely on function over form. The ‘aesthetic’ aspect is not superficial, as our introduction to the machine within the Work Forces workshop was as a series of paintings presented to us in the Carnegie Museum of Art (fig. 1), commissioned by the manufacturer. The Jewish-Romanian emigrée Hedda Sterne, instrumental in the avant-garde art scene of New York in the 1940s and 1950s, was one of those commissioned artists, and her oil on canvas painting ‘The Continuous Miner’ of 1954 (fig. 2) differs from the others because the framing is circular, giving an almost fish-eye impression of the machine in its dark environment to the viewer. Costas Karakatsanis, Fine Arts Curatorial Researcher at the CMOA, talked about the background to the paintings, explained that those machines had been invented as far back as 1948 by the Pittsburgh-based Joy Manufacturing Corporation and cost $50,000 at the time (fig. 3; an online inflation calculator tells me this is equivalent to $532,304 in 2019). A variant of this machine is still being made by the Japanese Komatsu Corporation, which bought Joy in 2016, but enshrines the prior company in the model number: the Joy 12CM12 (fig. 4).

    Studs Terkel’s rather wonderful oral history of workers in America, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, includes the account of Joe who graduated from high school in 1930 and went straight to work in the mines, getting up around 3.30-4am to start work at 6. 

     

    My hearin’… It coulda been affected with so much noise. I was tampin’ up, shootin’ the coal down, just behind the machine. I worked that continuous miner. That made lotsa noise. This hearin’ aid cost me $395. (Joe, in Terkel 1997:16).

     

    The overview and discussion of the paintings was on Wednesday May 8, and the following day we had the opportunity to see one of these machines ‘in the wild’, as it were, with a visit to the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum in Tarentum, PA, which had a number of demonstrations of mining equipment, starting from the old carts on rails and the use of human loaders with pick axes, and then as visitor progress through the mine you encounter more advanced machines that automated the process. The final machine was a working Continuous Miner manufactured by the Joy Corporation, the exact same machines as in the paintings. We got a sense of the scale of the machine and the noise it created first-hand, and one of the tour guides described working with the machine in his previous job. 

    For me, the fascination with the Continuous Miner is part of a wider developing interest in the history of automation. Based on my current work on the history of the measurement of bodily sensation from 1833-1945, pain and fatigue feature in factories and workplaces (Movement, Measurement, Sensation: How We Became Sensori-Motor, forthcoming with University of Minnesota Press). But my next project will benefit very directly from the Work Forces workshop, as I look at the history of automata and automation, and increasingly how work and the future of work are being transformed (Animal Automata and Living Machines: Robots, Replicants, and Companion Species, contracted with Routledge). Prior to the HAA Work Forces workshop, my emphasis was beginning to change because of the rich history of labor and work around Pittsburgh, and colleagues for example had introduced me to the Pittsburgh Survey and scholars such as Edward Slavishak’s Bodies of Work: Civic Display and Labor in Industrial Pittsburgh (2008). But the visits to archives, museums, and the intense conversations with fellow workshop attendees has certainly advanced this intersection between the history of labor, automation, and the transformation of the workplace.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Sound shirt showcased at the Access+Ability exhibition at CMOA

     

    Access+Ability: A Vital and Inspiring Exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Author: Thomas J. Morton

    Senior Lecturer, Architectural Studies Program, History of Art and Architecture

    As the world continues to refine its thinking on accessibility – perhaps most importantly by expanding the general concept of accessibility – the Carnegie Museum of Art hosted a provocative and timely exhibition, Access+Ability (1 June – 8 September 2019), that showcased dozens of products and designs that are expanding access and ability for many people around the world.

    Organized into four large sections: ‘Moving,’ ‘Connecting,’ Navigating the Environment,’ and ‘Living,’ the exhibition highlighted some of the recent products and designs that have sought to great expand access and ability for many. Some of these were to be expected, e.g. better designed walking canes, while others, such as the Soundshirt, which “translates the experience of listening into a physical and sensory experience for people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” were completely new and stunning in their creativity. Wonderfully, within each of these sections there were plenty of objects and displays that encouraged active engagement with the visitor. For example, one could touch the handles of new canes, try out the new flatware, and play with Uno cards that were redesigned for those who are colorblind. In addition, there was a display monitor and program entitled, “I wonder what it is like to be dyslexic.” Each of the four sections did not try to be exhaustive in terms of the objects and designs on display; rather, a tremendous breadth of items was on display. They ranged in scale from the fabulous DotWatch (2017) with its Braille displays for time functions and receiving text messages to inclusive playgrounds such as the Magical Bridge Playground (Palo Alto, CA, 2015).

    Each time that I visited the exhibition, I was pleased by the audible gasps of the museumgoers and to hear frequent exclamations such as, “That is pretty brilliant,” and “This is so freaking cool.” The designs on display are awe inspiring, and as it was noted in the wall text: digital technology has completely transformed communication in our lifetime, and people with disabilities have benefitted greatly from these new digital communication tools. These individuals drive innovation, and these new designs are greatly expanding access and ability for many. 

    Although the majority of this exhibition’s run has occurred while most classes were on summer break, its final weeks have provided a brief window for students of all ages to engage with the show. I hope that Pitt faculty members in various disciplines might still encourage students to use the exhibit for class visits, assignments, and projects before the exhibition closes on September 8. 

    As a side note, I am sure this exhibition will have encouraged the Carnegie Museums to reflect on its own accessibility challenges. It was not lost on the observer that docents had to stand at the entrance doors to the exhibit – an exhibit on accessibility – since there are no blue push pads to activate automatic doors for those with limited mobility. As is equally true of our own Frick Fine Arts Building, the accessibility problems of historic architecture remain an urgent issue for public institutions of all kinds. 

    Lastly, one cannot review an exhibition without a few words on the related items in the museum store. The exhibition highlighted products and research, and accordingly, design objects and books with research were for sale in the museum store. I applaud the museum store staff for having affordable objects that would appeal to a range of ages (e.g. Braille math blocks for children and compression socks for adults) and darn good and relatively inexpensive books. Graham Pullin’s book, Design Meets Disability (MIT Press, 2009) and Matthias Hollwich with Bruce Mau Design’s New Aging (Penguin, 2016) stand out among the books; the latter being a particularly enjoyable book to read. 

    Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring exhibition. Initially organized and exhibited by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2018, the CMOA exhibition was curated by Rachel Delphia, the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. I applaud her and the museum for bringing such an important exhibition to Pittsburgh and would strongly support the curation of similar exhibitions at the CMOA. As a recent transplant to Pittsburgh, I can state without a doubt that this has been my favorite exhibition at the CMOA.

    Categories: 
    • Faculty Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    Westinghouse Auditorium entrance at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. George Westinghouse Museum Collection, c.1864-2007, MSS 920, Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center
     

    Uncharted Territory: Researching Pittsburgh’s Changing Image in Film

    Author: Zoe Creamer, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at the Senator Heinz History Center – Summer 2019

    How many movies can you name that were filmed in Pittsburgh? I could only think of a few (actually, just two: The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Dark Knight Rises) before starting my internship at the Heinz History Center, and now I’ve gotten to know several of them on a frame-by-frame basis. For a few years now, the Heinz History Center has been in the midst of a long-term collecting initiative regarding Pittsburgh film history, and guided by dedicated curators, Leslie Przybylek and Lauren Uhl, I quickly became invested in the project. 

    Some of the world’s first movie theaters were established in Pittsburgh, and several early film stars and directors came from the area. This includes Lois Weber, America’s first female film director, who was born in Pittsburgh’s North Side. Near the beginning of the summer, I attended the unveiling of the historic landmark plaque in front of the Allegheny Library to commemorate her birthplace. Pittsburgh’s vibrant film history continues its journey to this day: close to the end of my internship, I also had the exciting opportunity to visit the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an upcoming film produced by Netflix based on the August Wilson play of the same name. 

    Because of the many interesting possibilities in considering Pittsburgh’s history of film, I settled on two research areas: representations of Pittsburgh in movies, specifically since 1980, and the city’s early film industry. I began by watching about 30 films while compiling data on them to note common trends. For one part of my project, I focused on four contemporary movies filmed in and set in Pittsburgh to research their locations and differences in the portrayals of Pittsburgh. I used these data points to create a digital map prototype based on the four films. I mapped out Flashdance (1983), Striking Distance (1993), Dominick and Eugene (1988), and Fences (2016). Each of these films highlight different aspects of Pittsburgh’s image, and I wanted to track these changes while providing physical locations on a map that may serve as a future walking tour. 

    To obtain data points for my maps, I re-watched the films carefully to identify significant locations, such as local landmarks or areas of change. Some places were easily recognizable, such as Carnegie Music Hall in Flashdance, but others, such as a historic church in Dominick and Eugene, took some dedicated digging through archived newspapers and virtual exploration with Google Street View. Imagine my surprise when I confirmed that this church, once home of the Lithuanian parish of St. Casimir, had been turned into luxury condos that I’d passed by countless times before in South Side! Click here to open an interactive online map of Dominick and Eugene and explore the setting for yourself. 

    My second project centered around Westinghouse Electric’s  connection to early film history. In reading about early Pittsburgh film, I learned that the Westinghouse companies had made a series of 21 short films shot inside four factories around Pittsburgh. These were actuality films, movies lacking a central narrative that showed people in action as they would be if there were no camera recording their movements. The Westinghouse Works films were made for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 World’s Fair, held in St. Louis, Missouri. 

    Advanced for their time, these were among the first interior films ever made—early cameras required a great deal of light to reach a shutter speed capable of creating a “moving” picture, and the only way to do this was to film in natural light or gather bundles of hundreds of incandescent lamps indoors. The latter option was not desirable because of the amount of electricity needed to power many inefficient incandescent bulbs, but the Westinghouse films utilized a new light source. 

    Inventor and electrical engineer Peter Cooper Hewitt, with financing from George Westinghouse, invented a mercury vapor lamp which emitted abundant light and was much more efficient than the common incandescent lamps. The mercury vapor lamps gave off a strange bluish green light which made them undesirable for home use, but the color of the light was unimportant with black and white filming. Learning that it was these lights that made the films possible, I looked with renewed interest at photos of the Westinghouse exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair and realized that the lights pictured lighting the exhibits were mercury vapor lamps. Other photos depicted the aptly named Westinghouse Auditorium that the films were shown in. I found a scan of a daily program for the World’s Fair from the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis. As the Westinghouse Films have not received much scholarly attention, any seemingly small finds aids the understanding of Westinghouse’s connections and contributions to early film. 

    These projects helped me understand that museum research takes many forms. While I felt out of my element at first, I began to realize that curatorial research does not always have to result in securing a three-dimensional artifact for exhibition, as my projects focused on creating a digital resource and conducting archival research. I gained valuable knowledge regarding navigating careers in the museum field, and got an inside look at Pittsburgh film, both past and present. I am thankful for this opportunity and hope to see an exhibition on the Hollywood in Pittsburgh project in the near future so more Pittsburghers and visitors from around the world can learn about this intriguing subject.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    The recently remodeled Education Center served as my office for the summer.

     

    Using Storytelling to Create Meaningful Experiences for Visitors

    Mellon Museum Profession Fellow at The Frick Pittsburgh – Summer 2019

    As a native of Point Breeze, I was excited to return to the neighborhood when I received the news that I had been accepted as the A.W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Frick Pittsburgh. Growing up, I loved coming to the Frick to see the racecars in the Car and Carriage Museum (CCM), and my little brother has carried on the tradition. As I grew older, I remember touring Clayton (the Frick family home) and the art museum when my grandparents came to visit Pittsburgh. This summer, while working with the department of Learning & Visitor Experience (L&VE), I was able to see first-hand how the Frick interacts with public audiences through programming that connects to visitors of all ages and demographics. In my first few days, I went on a tour of Clayton, one of the first public CCM tours, and attended gallery talks, in order to familiarize myself with the mission of the L&VE department. Prior to the tour, I was told to listen how the docents employ storytelling to deepen the connection between an object or a space and the visitors.

    Within a week, I was acquainted with the site, the permanent collection, and this summer’s travelling exhibition, A Sporting Vision. I also conducted research for Coffee and Culture programs and contributed to docent training for A Sporting Vision. The most comprehensive segment of my internship came later in the summer, when I helped plan this year’s Wine Walk. I was present at all stages of the planning process, from helping decide the route and topics for each stop, to attending logistics meetings and doing research on the content of the program. For one stop, we decided that it would be interesting to hear about other buildings that Frick commissioned around Pittsburgh, all while standing in the shadow of Clayton.

    While researching Frick’s buildings I had to find useful facts to present, but also figure out a way to weave them into a cohesive narrative. I ultimately tied everything into a story about Frick showing his commitment to Pittsburgh by investing in the construction of prominent buildings that still stand today. I also used this information to create a piece on the StoryView app, which will also be displayed on iPads in the Grable Visitor Center and in the galleries. The emphasis on storytelling ultimate relates back to creating enriching educational experiences for visitors, a value that L&VE, as well as the rest of the Frick, hold deeply.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Presenting my research to the Education Department staff at the end of the semester

     

    Finding “Museum Joy” at the 57th Carnegie International

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    "The whole room is filled with joy!” was just one of thousands of comments made by visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 57th Carnegie International. As an intern at the museum this semester, I was tasked with reading and analyzing these comments as reported by Gallery Ambassadors, who were present in the museum’s galleries to provide clarification and conversation for museum visitors. Evaluating these comments gave me a better understanding of how visitors’ experiences reflected engagement with the artwork, education, and positive change.

    The artists whose work I focused on most closely were Alex da Corte, Art Labor, Jessi Reaves, Post Commodity, and Tacita Dean. Each of these exhibits provided museum visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in artwork: one visitor to Alex Da Corte’s Rubber Pencil Devil stated that they “like[d] it because you really get drawn into it,” and another expressed that “I needed to get lost in some art today, and this did that for me.” Other works, especially Art Labor’s, enabled visitors to learn something new: few visitors were familiar with Vietnamese coffee culture, and more than one visitor stated that they “had no idea Vietnam had such a huge coffee industry.” Visitors to Jessi Reaves’ works expressed joy at being able to touch and sit on the art, and many who experienced local jazz musicians interpreting Post Commodity’s work had not previously seen art and music combined. Finally, much of the artwork sparked emotion in visitors, with many feeling nostalgic from Alex da Corte’s references to Mr. Rogers and others recalling their own experiences in Vietnam after experiencing Art Labor’s Vietnamese hammock cafè. While certain visitor comments reflected frustration with the exhibition’s use of The Guide instead of wall labels, and others revealed hesitation to engage with contemporary art, the vast majority of visitors seemed to like this year’s International better than any other exhibition they had experienced previously. Above all, these visitor comments serve demonstrate that the Carnegie International succeeded in embodying curator Ingrid Schaffner’s vision of sparking “museum joy” in the exhibition’s visitors.

    Prior to completing this internship, I had considered pursuing a career in museum education. Now, I’m more confident that this is the right career path for me, and I have a better understanding of how art can be used to inspire education and engagement for a wide range of museum visitors.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Annie Abernathy visiting Kahlil Robert Irving’s sculpture in Paintings Storage at the Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Visualizing Research at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    The visual is always an art historian’s first resource, and it is difficult to understand an artist’s practice without seeing their artwork firsthand. However, this semester, I researched thirty artists, basing much of my understanding on written source material alone. 

    In my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Art this spring, I conducted preliminary research for an upcoming exhibition concerning art and economic inequality. I had the privilege of working with Eric Crosby, Acting Co-Director and Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, and Hannah Turpin, curatorial assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography. In my research, I found many descriptions of artist’s work and photographs, but these can’t compare with seeing the work in person. With every review of an artist’s gallery show, I became frustrated that I didn’t have the same personal experience of the work. This pattern became especially disheartening with sculptures.

    Kahlil Robert Irving was a turning point in the semester. He is a sculptor who uses clay to think about black identity and the history of ceramics. He uses molds of nineteenth-century forms to reference European fetishization of porcelain. Next to these vases, he piles ceramic fast-food containers, soda bottles, and newspapers. In reading about his artistic practice, I felt that I needed to view one of his intricate sculptures in the round to get a sense of its layers of meaning. This time, I got lucky. The Carnegie Museum of Art had recently acquired a work by Kahlil Robert Irving, and I had the incredibly special opportunity to visit it as part of my research. 

    Rachel Delphia, the curator of Decorative Arts & Design, and Elizabeth Tufts-Brown, one of the museum’s registrars, took me to see the sculpture in Painting Storage. In my research before this visit, I was able to get an overall sense of what his sculptures were like, but in person, I saw the fine cracks in the porcelain and the shimmer of the glaze. I was also able to gain a better understanding of his process of making these art pieces as Rachel Delphia explained to me the different firing temperatures of the clay and the technique that Irving used to transfer photographic elements onto the sculpture. 

    Because of this visit to storage, I was able to better describe Irving’s artistic practice. It also made me more aware of the challenging process of exhibition-making and research. Oftentimes, you don’t necessarily have access to a work of art when making curatorial decisions, so when you do, it makes you that much more aware of the physical and material demands of art. In storage, the objectness of the art is more clear, separated from its vulnerability and timelessness in a gallery space-- making visible the multiple iterations of art as it moves from space to space.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    United Steelworkers of America Patch from the Rivers of Steel Archives

     

    A Thing of Shreds and Patches: Exhibition Making at Rivers of Steel Arts

    Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel Arts – Spring 2019

    Rivers of Steel Arts (RoSA) is an organization which connects Pittsburgh communities to their cultural and economic heritage, wrought from the booming industrialization of the 19th century. Through a dedication to conserving and interpreting local history, RoSA fosters compelling opportunities for visitors to experience the area’s past steeped in the steel industry. Held in the Rivers of Steel Archives are a plethora of materials showcasing the history of the steel industry, its workers, founders, the labor movements, and the cultural history of Pittsburgh itself. 

    At the beginning of my internship, I was tasked with familiarizing myself with the objects held in the RoSA archives by my supervisor, Director and Chief Curator, Chris McGinnis. From there, I was to study these materials and formulate a narrative for a forthcoming exhibition display case to be shown in Fall 2019. My appreciation of the area’s cultural legacy was bolstered through my hands-on work done in the archives; it was amazing to work so closely, so personally, with the objects of local history – many of which held an amazing aesthetic value. Even the most seemingly mundane of objects were striking in their artistic, historical qualities. 

    After coming into contact with numerous objects from the Pittsburgh steel age, I decided to center my exhibition narrative around art in steel. Specifically, I titled it, Art and Design in the Steel Industry. The dramatic beauty of the mills and the intricate details given to materials such as pins, cups, and letters were not lost on me. These objects informed me of a larger artistic movement within the steel industry that is often unnoticed. The design of publications and documents often affirms this stance, with their futuristic, minimalistic, and geometric graphic compositions. 

    I greatly value the information I gleaned in the RoSA archives, and from the countless hours of object research guided by Archivist Melanie Root. I am thankful for my newfound appreciation for the artistic initiatives taken by the working, industrial class of the Pittsburgh area. These works of high aesthetic value and consideration further cement the steel industries’ transformative, dynamic nature. 

    In terms of my career, this internship has allowed me to directly pursue my museological interests and gain experience in the field itself. My involvement at RoSA has inspired my appreciation of esoteric art – I can more easily find beauty in the mundane and in the “untraditionally” artistic. I feel a renewed commitment to revealing the beauty of working class art and design to the rest of the world.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

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