- Curator’s StatementDouble X
The artists who created the works that accompany this edition of Frontiers were first brought together for an exhibition titled “Double X” that I curated at Arizona State University’s Step Gallery. The exhibition was a celebration of the extensive incursion of women sculptors into the professoriate in the past four decades. It focused on the networks of mentorship that have promoted the ascension of women into the highest ranks of the academic and nonacademic art worlds. There were twenty-one artists in the exhibition: eleven professors and ten students, with several multigenerational groupings. The professors in the exhibition began their careers over the course of the past fifty years. Now retired, Bella Feldman, the most senior artist in the exhibition, began teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts in the late 1950s, while Ruth Stanford started her job at Georgia State in 2007. The exhibition emphasized the role of pioneering women like Feldman (who was forced to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to keep her job) in creating today’s climate of greater gender parity in sculpture programs around the country. I also wanted to create an opportunity for women professors and their students to acknowledge the importance of their mentoring relationships. The exhibition is documented in an extensive online catalogue posted at http://art.asu.edu/gallery/step/doublex/index.html . The exhibition included one of my own important mentors, Amy Hauft, whose work is also presented in this journal.
When Mary Margaret Fonow and Gayle Gullett approached me about including artists from Double X in the current issue of Frontiers, I decided to work with a smaller group of artists so as to provide a more rounded representation of each artist’s work and to allow for greater resonance between the articles and the artworks. Wanting to preserve the celebration of mentorship that was central to Double X, I chose two professor-student pairs. Elizabeth Chaney studied with Amy Hauft at Virginia Commonwealth University, [End Page 65] and Chelsea Lorber studied with Michelle Illuminato at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. With twenty-one outstanding artists to choose from, I settled on these four artists because their work seemed to connect most closely with the theme of feminist standpoint epistemology. Just as standpoint epistemology challenges notions of objectivity in the social sciences, new tendencies in the visual arts since the 1960s have challenged modernist notions of the autonomous art object and the universality of the artists’ expression. Among the many strategies artists have developed to revise modernist practices, site-specific installation and relational aesthetics have been particularly important. It was the work of Amy Hauft and Michelle Illuminato in these respective areas that led me to include them in Frontiers’ issue on standpoint epistemology.
By deliberately raising the viewer’s awareness of both the physical and cultural details of the exhibition setting, site-specific installations emphasize the contingency of the artwork’s meaning. Amy Hauft’s marvelously crafted installations mediate between the viewer and the gallery or museum in poetic and synesthetic ways. Providing a variety of pathways and vantage points, often with a shifting layering of translucent materials, her works provide a bodily experience of the conditionality of perceptual phenomena. Reviewing her exhibition “No More Than Meets the Eye” at Derek Eller Gallery, Janet Koplos says, “One’s experience of it was the kinesthetic circuit of the space, a physical process of knowing, rather than a retinal response.”1 By intervening between the viewer’s body and the space of the gallery or museum, Hauft slows the viewer’s encounter with the room, allowing an awareness to develop that spaces and bodies are constantly informing and altering one another. Taking the question of standpoint quite literally, Hauft gently prods the viewer into a greater consciousness of the quality of their encounters with the built environment.
Michelle Illuminato is one of many artists whose work in “relational aesthetics” shifts the emphasis of the artwork from the voice of the artist to a forum for multiple voices of participants. By creating circumstances in which people come together, meaning is made...