Monday, March 21, 2011

Theatres of Memory: Re-examining Edward Curtis at the University of Rochester

By Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

A few weeks ago I traveled to the University of Rochester to see the exhibition component of a project called Parallax Effects: Representations of Native North Americans Then and Now. The faculty and students organized a small exhibition in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library called Theatres of Memory: Re-examining Edward Curtis. The student curators - Visual and Cultural Studies graduate student Alex Marr, a former Otsego Institute participant that I had the opportunity to spend 5 days with last summer, and undergraduate Art History student Carlie Fishgold - did a splendid job of presenting the photographs and writing the text.

Carlie and Joe examining a bag before the event started

Otsego Institute reunion: Joe, Janet, Jessica, Jon, me and Alex

The afternoon program started with a viewing of the movie Coming to Light about Edward Curtis (dir., Anne Makepeace). I highly recommend the film – it is excellent. Then it was time for a lovely wine and cheese reception where I had a chance to talk to old friends and see the exhibition.

Curators Carlie Fishgold, Alex Marr with Joe Horse Capture from the MIA

Then the program continued with a Roundtable with Joe D. Horse Capture (A’aninin/White Clay People), Associate Curator of Native North American Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Joe spoke about his personal experience with Edward Curtis photographs - his great-great-grandfather Horse Capture was photographed in the early part of the 20th century by Curtis. It was very interesting to get a Native persons view on the photographs and thoughts about what can be learned from them. Janet Berlo, Professor of Art History and Visual and Cultural Studies at the university, presented an overview of Curtis photographs. Jessica McDonald, doctoral student in the history of photography, placed Curtis in the history of photography. It was a most enjoyable scholarly afternoon and fun-filled evening as Janet Berlo treated us to a great dinner accompanied by fun art conversation, a sleepover party, and even a super-yummi cornbread breakfast.

Janet making breakfast for her house guests

Be sure to come see our own Edward Curtis exhibition, Shadow Catcher: Edward Curtis Among the Kwakiutl, opening April 1 at Fenimore Art Museum.


Carlie said...

Can't wait to see yours!

Sarah said...

Hi Eva,
I was hoping to get in contact with you regarding the Naskapi summer hunting jacket from ca. 1785that is in your Thaw collection at the museum.
I'm a history student at the University of Sydney in Australia, and I am actually basing a research essay of mine around this source in particular!
I just have a few questions to ask about it.
I would have contacted the museum via email, but it didn't seem to be working on the site.
If you could get back to me that would be great.

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