Anna – Catherine Kueng ~ Assistant Editor
On Monday, April 22, 2019, The Rockbridge Group: Masters Along the Maury opened at the Daura Gallery. It is student-curated, designed, and installed by Teresa Gunter, Whitney Grim, Christine Moore, Emma Noe, Grace Rogansky, and Will Tharp. It is also the capstone for MST 302: Museum Exhibitions.
“The Rockbridge Group: Masters Along the Maury features the work of four distinguished modern artists, whose lives intersected in rural Rockbridge County, Virginia. These four artists — Pierre Daura, Jean Hélion, Cy Twombly, and Sally Mann — were all impacted by the people and places of Rockbridge. Indeed, many of their works closely relate and show the influence that the members of the group had on each other,” said Tharp.
Grim added, “The pieces range from oil paints on paper to photography showcasing the different styles of each artist and what inspires them. The landscape of the Rockbridge County Maury River is prevalent in many pieces, but there is a large variety of subjects for each piece.”
“Some of the works are from the gallery’s collection, as well as loans from places like Hollins University, Washington and Lee University and the Taubman,” said Noe.
Tharp researched Pierre Daura, the Catalan-American artist that the Daura Gallery is named after. “In his [Daura’s] exhibition, there are several of his beautiful Virginia landscapes, some sketches of his family and friends, and a few colorful, abstract works,” said Tharp.
The students have been preparing for this exhibit since last semester and for many of them, it was the first exhibit they curated.
“We have been working and making decisions on this exhibition since November. This is the first time that I am curating and I never realized how much detail goes into each little aspect of the pulling the whole thing together. The biggest realization is how precise and exact everything has to be when hanging the pieces in the gallery during the installation. Also, the design aspect of the exhibition because there are studies of psychology that influence how pieces are placed in the gallery and where the texts labels are placed, etc.,” said Grim.
Tharp elaborated, saying, “We began working on this particular project at the end of last semester…by picking the topic. However, the real work began at the beginning of this semester when we started researching, writing labels, and choosing which works we wanted to include. This exhibition is a culmination of months of our work.”
“This is my first time curating. I work in the gallery and have seen and been a part of putting up some of the other exhibitions this year, but this is the first that I have had this much involvement in one. It has been a lot of planning, researching, editing, editing some more, researching some more, and a lot of communication among all of us,” added Noe.
In regards to how the curation experience will help the students in their major, Grim said, “I think that my public relations skills have been benefited because I am doing public relations for the exhibit. My knowledge of communication has helped the group, specifically in writing the text labels, because I remind the rest of the team that we cannot necessarily use these big intellectual words because the visitors may not understand and then have a negative view of the rest of the exhibition, thinking that the stereotype of a modern art exhibition is elitist.”
Tharp explained, “I am a history major with a minor in museum studies. As this is the capstone experience for museum studies, this exhibition has been beneficial in that regard. Moreover, as I might want to work in a museum after I finish graduate school, so working on The Rockbridge Group will be helpful when applying for those positions.”
As for the overall experience, Grim said, “The whole experience has opened my eyes to the work and expertise of individuals that curate for a living. I also am a little more critical of museums that I visit now because I have this knowledge and I just think ‘Oh, that could be better. Or this painting should be moved over here.’ The biggest take away was the ability to collaborate with this group of people on a project of this size. We all work extremely well together and we have become closer in our field and in our friendships and I would never change this experience.”
“The experience of working with a dedicated and close group has been great. Though challenging at times, creating this exhibition with them has been a blast,” said Tharp. Noe agreed, saying, “I have loved every part of the process. It has been a lot of long days and stress, but it has been worth seeing everything come together.”
If you would like to see The Rockbridge Group exhibition, it will be on display at the Daura Gallery through May 10, 2019. The gallery’s hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.