Constructing Identity | Perceiving Humanity
April 20 - July 24, 2021
Constructing Identity / Perceiving Humanity brings together thirteen objects from the museum’s permanent collection to explore artists’ age-old interest in depicting the human face. From the propagandistic images of the powerful and faces lost to history, to self-portraits and abstract renderings, this exhibition considers the way identity can be defined as a likeness or a state of being as well as an exercise of ownership. Through portraiture, the exhibition investigates the ways that identity is a construction constantly in flux between subject, artist, and viewer. In other words, as art historian Jennifer A. González articulated, “portraiture always functions within a larger ecology of portrayal. Not only is a portrait an image of someone, but it is also always a representation of the process of looking." Artists can manipulate the perception of the subject through their choice of color, technique, or presentation. But it is also the gaze of the viewer—with their own assumptions and stereotypes—that aids in their understanding of the subject.
Portraiture is meant to convey likeness or express identity, but it does not always allow its subjects to be fully human—they can be reduced to stereotypes and violent tropes. While some subjects use portraiture to manipulate their image in order to represent their power, others are left hyper-aware of their need to confront or combat stereotypes. This exhibition will address what narratives are told in the construction of identity. How do we perceive humanity? In instances where names are lost or purposefully not used, does a person lose their identity? Constructing Identity / Perceiving Humanity considers they ways a portrait has the power to influence and shift the perspective of those who interact with it, and it is ultimately the gaze and values of the subject, artist, and viewer participate in the construction of meaning.
This exhibition is curated by students in Professor Greenwalt’s ART 4813/5813 Museum Exhibition course, spring 2021. The student curators are Catherine Courteau, Emily Duncan, Jacie Earwood, B Hinesley, Macy Jennings, Ally Kummell, and Grant Shane Swift.