In Flux: April and May in the Cultural Arts Gallery
Updated: May 18
Key Lime was a success by all metrics. I personally was pleased with it, and the visitor feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The only thing I wish I had done differently would be to include more information about Graham and his creative process. In other words, I wish I'd been more proactive with the gallery texts. That said, I'm still pleased with how the gallery looked for the month of April.
The transition into May has been a tumultuous one - I had another artist cancel at the last second, and I was once again forced to scramble to find someone new. This cancellation went somewhat more smoothly than the one for February, in large part because I was now prepared for the possibility that an artist or collaborator may be unable to participate. Luckily, artist Max Rae Cunningham stepped up to fill the spot, and they came prepared.
The walls are colorful and reflective, containing a plethora of content, all rendered in rich, vibrant pastels. Max's images possess an otherworldliness to them, perfectly translating deeply held feelings, sometimes sexual, sometimes frightening. The drawings are suspended in cellophane, and then clipped to transparent suspension rods. Max's personal sketchbooks are placed around the room, and the viewer is invited to flip through them.
In the (highly controversial) wall text I wrote that,
The resulting exhibition is deeply vulnerable, allowing the viewer to bear witness not only to the artist’s skill development, but also to the contents of what is essentially a diary. One feels as though they have stumbled into another person’s bedroom while looking for the bathroom, and are greeted by the sight of the inhabitant changing clothes.
I attribute this mood to the 'DIY' feel to the space. Max opted to keep all of their labels handwritten, and attached to the wall with painter's tape. The images themselves are hung non-traditionally. Finally, the IUPUI Cultural Arts Gallery has become a place for Queerness and subversion of oppressive norms. IN MEDIAS RES is celebratory, tragic, and imaginative, and I'm delighted to have it in the gallery.
There have been two major lessons that I've taken away from this particular exhibition.
The first is to be more careful with wall-text, and any curatorial attempt to steer discussion. Unfortunately, I miscommunicated and implied that Max's art is inferior to the work produced by classically trained artists, when I don't believe this to be the case at all.
My opinion has always been that the democratization of art should be at the forefront of all art institutions, and that real efforts should be put towards de-stigmatizing self-taught artists. My full thoughts on this would require a whole other post, so I'll leave it there for now.
The second lesson is that there is, unequivocally, an institutional obligation to pay artists and exhibitors for their time, effort, and energy in service of the IUPUI Cultural Arts Gallery. Exhibiting work costs money that inevitably comes out of an artist's own pocket, in addition to the labor of making the artwork in the first place, and paying for supplies. I intend to approach my supervisor with a proposal to pay monthly exhibitors an extremely modest amount to display the fruits of their labor. Not only is this the equitable, correct, bare-minimum thing to do, it would provide an incentive for collaborators not to drop out at the last second, thus making my life much, much easier.
The past few weeks have been chaotic, frankly. There are so many transitions happening all around me, and us. Winter has come to a close, the semester is ending, as is my position at the Cultural Arts Gallery, and I am no longer a student. As I emerge into the world as a fully-fledged arts professional, I must be vigilant to remain both active and careful in my community, and to cherish even the difficult lessons.
5/18/23 Edit - Max Rae Cunningham deinstalled their exhibition, bringing IN MEDIAS RES to an unexpected close.