Artborne Magazine November 2016 - Page 45

Political art does not always have answers; sometimes, it simply questions During a class session on portraiture, some students really struggled with a portrait by Vanessa Bell (currently on view as a part of the exhibition This Side of Modernism). They questioned its validity as both a modern representation and as a successful portrait. Instead, they were drawn to Betsy by Jess T. Dugan. For them, Dugan’s portrait offered the intimacy they wanted between subject and artist. Moreover, many stated they saw themselves in Betsy and the medium of photography felt accessible. In 2015, after presenting the first museum exhibition of Dugan’s photographic series, Every Breath We Drew, I could not agree more with their positive assessment of the photographer’s work. Although I did not Yoan Capote, Abstinecia (Libertad), 2014, cast bronze and engraving and drypoint, agree with the students’ assessment of Bell’s Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum modern picture, I embraced their energy. ©Yoan Capote. Image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery They saw in Dugan’s work a commitment to what she describes as “visual activism” ther Bubley. Bringing contemporary artists into the discussion of wom- and they responded to her dedication in seeking dignity for her many en, war, and industry seemed appropriate given current events. Works of her subjects, who identify as LGBTQ and have often experienced by Miyoshi Barosh, Any-My Lê, Pae White, Catherine Opie, and Iana marginalization. As Dugan brought her subject into the public sphere, Quesnell were featured in the contemporary portion of the exhibition. viewers of her photographs who see themselves in her subjects could Video artist Michelle Dizon, who lives and works in Los Angeles, made feel recognized and valued too. After all, being seen and feeling respecta new work for the exhibition titled Basing Landscapes, which presents ed are universal desires. haunting scenes of abandoned U.S. military bases in the Philippines juxtaposed with interviews with female sex workers who have experi- Every day presents new challenges, new responses to work, and new enced violent encounters at the ends of American visitors. opportunities to expand the conversation. I hope that certain exhibitions spark conversations and provide an opportunity for reflection. Since joining the staff of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins Col- Museums can provide a space to foster community, when the events lege three years ago, I have been able to develop group exhibitions unfolding before our eyes shock us, hurt us, challenge us, or simply such as Fractured Narratives (co-curated with Abigail Ross Goodman) make no sense at all. and Displacement: Symbols and Journeys which presented political work addressing diverse issues, from the use of drones to immigraYou can see more at: tion. Beyond these temporary exhibitions, consistent presentations of socially engaged work occurs in the Michelle Dizon, Basing Landscapes, video, 2013, running time, 50 minutes, Image courtesy of the artist museum’s permanent collection gallery and at the Alfond Inn. At the Alfond Inn, works by artists such as Yoan Capote and Jenny Holzer draw visitors in with a sense of awe. While both artists produce visually intriguing works, deeper political meanings resonate beyond the initial aesthetic impact. At an elegant hotel, as opposed to a traditional museum space, the surprise encounter with a political work becomes amplified. Capote’s bronze hands spell the word “libertad”—or freedom—in sign language. The models for the hands were Latino laborers. Across cultures, classes, genders, and individual experiences, freedom means different things to different people. Orlando’s Art Scene, v. 1.5 44