Gainesville is a huge college town that centers around University of Florida (UF). I didn’t expect much, so I was surprised when I fell in love with the Harn Museum of Art. It’s a small museum but has lots of exhibits. It has made my shortlist of great museums.
Harn Museum of Art is pretty small and took me and my new friend Patrick about 1-1.5 hours to finish. There were somewhere between 6 and 8 exhibits, and each of them were very well-curated. In this post, I will be talking about 4 exhibits that really impacted me.
Monsters and the Monstrous
This exhibit springs from a UF undergraduate course designed by Nina Stoyan-Rosenzweig and team-taught by 4 undergraduates (Yasmina Bassi, Mary Johnson, Arvind Sommi, and Olivia Trumble) in the Honors Program in the 2018 fall semester. Throughout the class, students explored monsters in books, movies, talks, and other media. Then the students chose relevant artworks and wrote interpretive texts for the final exhibit.
My favorite piece from this exhibit is “Princess Tamatora Pursued by a Dragon”. I’ve always enjoyed Asian art, especially ones that were inspired by Asian folklore. This piece has everything I love: a villainous monster and a strong female who takes lead in the story.
Inside Outside: Outside Inside – A Century of East Asian Landscapes 1900s-2000s
This is the most modern Asian exhibit I have ever seen. I loved how the exhibit “highlights East Asian landscape traditions remain vibrant in our contemporary world”. I’ve lamented to Annie before about the loss of culture through generations, and how we have to work hard to remember our history and maintain the traditions that make sense in the world today. What I enjoyed most about this exhibit is how the artists maintained Asian tradition while shining a light on the tension between urbanization and natural environments.
I, Too, Am America: Civil Rights Photographs by Steve Schapiro
This exhibit has 3 distinct sections. The museum did a great job describing the exhibit:
This exhibit has 3 distinct sections. The center piece are 40 photographs by activist-photojournalist Steve Schapiro, who traveled in the 1960s with James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and Muhammad Ali. Schapiro’s photographs capture key moments during marches and rallies, as well as candid moments with the major leaders of the Movement that have become emblematic of that volatile era.
Also included in the exhibition are photographs by African American photographer, Gordon Parks, from his 1956 “LIFE Magazine” photo essay on segregation in Jim Crow Alabama. Alongside his images will be the actual “LIFE Magazine” layout and storyline that features a single, extended family’s struggle against racism.
Lastly is about James Baldwin, a brilliant thinker and orator. As a gay black man, he was a passionate writer, eloquent Civil Rights speaker, and formidable media commentator whose words still ring true today. Through his travels and residencies in France, Switzerland and Turkey, he saw firsthand how differently blacks were treated abroad versus in the United States. Through his words and deeds, Baldwin sought to bring our shared humanity to the fore, and advocated for “truth and reconciliation” by confronting America’s past, and then forgiveness—not unlike post-apartheid South Africa three decades later. Bold quotes from Baldwin will be on the gallery walls accompanying the photographs.
I, Too, Am America is vital to today’s Black Lives Matter Movement, since the civil rights of many are still not a reality. The struggle for equal rights and justice continues in a new form today, using social media and activism to rally communities nationwide and globally. Yet, the inspirational photographs of Schapiro and Parks, combined with Baldwin’s words, prove that change can and did happen—albeit slowly—by bravely and persistently “speaking truth to power.”
I didn’t take many photos of this exhibit because I was so wrapped in learning about it. This was one of the few civil rights exhibit that made me feel hopeful. It’s difficult for me to describe. I feel as though other civil rights exhibit come from an angle of “these were all the atrocities that happened during the fight for equality” and “these were all the faces of civil rights”. This exhibit felt more like “although these civil rights leaders understood the importance of the moment and all the travesties caused, they lived each day with hope and empathy”.
The World to Come: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene
In the recent months, I have been paying more attention to my individual carbon footprint. How much waste am I producing? What’s the effect of me eating steak? That’s on a micro level, but it really adds up with 7.6 billion people on the world (link). It’s a topic that I will share more as I figure out how to be better myself.
Everything we do as humans affects world economies, the climate, and lots of other things that I don’t even know about yet. There are people who do not believe in climate change, but this exhibit proves otherwise. Some snippets from Harn’s description:
[The exhibit] chronicles an era of rapid, radical and irrevocable ecological change. We live in a world of imminent extinctions, runaway climate change and the depletion of biodiversity and resources. Our age has been identified as the Anthropocene, a controversial term used to name a new geological epoch defined by human impact. While geological epochs are known as products of slow change, the Anthropocene has been characterized by speed. Rising water, surging population and new technologies that compress our breathless sense of space and time. Philosopher Santiago Zabala, echoing Heidegger, warns, “The greatest emergency is the absence of emergency.”
Despite the challenges of disaster and denial, artists in the exhibition respond with resistance, imagination and new ways of seeing and thinking about the world to come. The artists contest mastery of human power over nature while re-visioning the bond of humans to non-human life. In this way, they sustain an openness, wonder and curiosity, keeping optimism in check and nihilism at bay. Organized around overlapping trajectories, the exhibition is structured as a collage of networked ecologies and stories within stories. They include raw material, disaster, consumption, loss, justice and the emergence of new and nonhierarchical alliances in human-non-human relations.
Some of the pieces were horrific, like seeing all the plastic inside those birds’ bodies. It was also humbling to see that when we talk about climate change, it isn’t just about climate change. Climate change interconnects with so many other aspects of the world, like the economy and ethics. How does it connect to ethics, you might ask. I’ll talk about that later in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
If you ever find yourself in Gainesville, Florida, I highly recommend this museum!