It’s a big opening weekend for Rembrandt at the NC Museum of Art so if you venture over seeking out the Dutch master in the coming weeks, don’t miss another small gem of a show at the museum tucked around the corner from Rembrandt‘s entrance. It’s a group effort, a student curated show taken on by UNC Chapel Hill’s undergraduate Curatorial Projects class (taught by elin o’Hara slavick) that includes self-portrait themed work culled from submissions by college students from across the country. It’s also quite a mixed-bag: from drawing to painting to nearly abstract mixed media and everything in between. There’s straight up traditional portraiture done in charcoal and graphite alongside photographic musings on imagery and approach next to work that ponders the role of identity within the broader scope of society. In organizing the show, a call for submissions was put out (via Tumblr where you can now also view complete artist list and titles) and artists in university and college programs across the country responded in kind, eventually submitting 160 works which were pared down to the exhibitions’s final 41 pieces.
I like the energy and optimism in this show. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes the other day speaking with several of the student curators (and professor slavick ) as well as affiliated NCMA staff who helped with the show’s selections and logistics. Their comments, input and candor were enlightening and it seemed the group had already learned quite alot from organizing such an exhibition. It’s no easy task getting a large group of curatorial students to agree on which images in the end warrant inclusion. But this show’s true legacy might just be the life-changing tales the students related to me that have already come from several of the exhibition’s artists. Several of the artists have experienced jubilation from simply seeing their work on display in the venue of the state’s official art museum. There’s instant validity that comes from this (particularly understood by the artists’ families for instance who might be on the face regarding a career path in the arts.) Most importantly inclusion in this kind of show can bestow a legitimacy on their work that can’t be underestimated. For me, this small exhibition has in fact already proven its power as a game-changer, not on the curatorial scale of a Rembrandt blockbuster, but rather on the direct impact it can have on the lives of up-and-coming artists.
Self-Observed is on view in the East Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art from October 30, 2011 through January 22, 2012