For one of my classes, I had to go to the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) to review two exhibitions on two separate occasions. Both experiences were enjoyable but very different.
For my first assignment in the CMA, I had to review Renee Cox’s exhibition titled “Soul Culture.” Cox made several intricate, mandala-like pieces out of photographs she’s taken accompanied by a video that brought all her pieces to life. A few even had other elements such as hair. This exhibition was really a wonderful and personal experience because it felt like I could relate to Cox as an artist. According the CMA website, Cox wanted to “deconstruct issues of race and gender using the body as central image to promote positivity and empowerment.” I think she flawlessly accomplished this. I felt very empowered while looking at her work and watching the video. As an African American, it is always empowering to see other African Americans portrayed in a non-sexual way because I often see that in the media. There was nudity in this exhibition, but it was harmless. I looked at some of the pieces and thought, “Wow, look how beautiful this woman is. Look how peaceful she looks. Look at the power in her eyes. I can be just as powerful.”
For my second assignment, I had to review Imogen Cunningham’s “Seen & Unseen.” This exhibit featured several photographs by Cunningham throughout her career. I really liked the mystery behind some of the pieces. There were descriptions for some of the photos, which forced me to use my imagination. I asked a lot of questions while in this exhibition. For example, I often asked “What lead Cunningham to take this picture?” or “What is the relationship between Cunningham and the subject?” Overall, Cunningham’s images made me feel very tranquil. Part of my tranquility came from how quiet the CMA was at the time, but mostly because of the black and white film photography. The dark room is a very relaxing place to be. I could only imagine how many hours Cunningham spent developing prints. Not only is the thought of the darkroom relaxing, just looking at monochromatic images calms me down. Sometimes monochromatic settings seem more put together or organized, and for me that’s important.
I encourage you to go to the CMA and see these for yourself. Everyone has a different outlook on things. I’d love to hear your opinions on these exhibitions!