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One-Day Exhibit To Present Student Insights On Museum, History

June 13, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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The Sam Houston Memorial Museum and its grounds are filled with artifacts from the Houston family and Texas history.

These items have provided inspiration this summer for students in assistant professor of art Annie Strader’s “Site-Specific Art Practice Class,” and the product of this inspiration will be on display for one day, June 26.

students on Sam Houston Memorial Museum grounds taking notes and thinking
Students in Annie Strader's "Site-Specific Art Practice Class" reflect upon what they've seen on their tour of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and grounds in preparation to create art inspired by their visit and Gen. Sam Houston's history. Those pieces will be on display on June 26, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the museum grounds and Gaddis Geeslin Gallery. —Submitted photo

The “IN-Site & IN-Response” walk-through exhibit and progressive reception will be from 6-8:30 p.m., during which students will discuss their art and share what they have been learning this semester about site-specific art.

The practice of site-specific art was developed in the 1960s and refers to “artists who create work that is integrated into a specific place and responds to the specific topography, geography, architecture or histories of that site,” according to Strader.

Because of its popularity over the past 50 years, site-specific art has become a dominant force in the field of contemporary art, and Strader offered the class to expose students to the practice.

“The idea of making site-specific work is to incorporate an understanding of a place into your artwork,” Strader said. “(In this case,) that connection between the history of (Gen.) Sam Houston and the museum grounds to the creative works is paramount to the success of the projects.”

For her summer class, students toured the museum and grounds and were then required to select an idea and conduct research on that topic at the museum and the Newton Gresham Library’s Thomason Room Special Collections to delve into the history and develop their concept. They also composed written proposals that were reviewed by both Strader and museum staff.

“For the exhibit students developed individual projects both situated within the specific geography of the park (In-site) as well as in the gallery context (In-response),” Strader said. “In doing so, students gain an understanding for how their research of a site can be integrated with their unique perspectives into a work that resonates visually and conceptually.

“Each student picked up on different aspects of Sam Houston’s history that intrigued them, and their projects grew out of that research,” she said. “The response from the staff was overwhelmingly positive, and they really embraced the ideas that the students came up with.”

Among the pieces that will be on display include senior Dana Tibbs’s “Regeneration of the Past,” which takes the form of a small garden planted with an assortment of clay replicas of tools and furnishings from the various historical buildings, such as the blacksmith shop, the kitchen, and the Woodland Home.

“Tibbs is responding to the way that Sam Houston transplanted his family from life in Tennessee to Huntsville and utilizes the garden as a metaphor for growth, adaptation and nurturing,” Strader said. “This work will be on the grounds for several weeks, and Tibbs will tend the garden through the duration of the installation.”

Senior Wendy Franklin focused on the relationship between Margaret Houston and her slave Eliza, and she will be doing a performance in Eliza’s Kitchen that incorporates two simple acts—grinding rose petals (which Margaret was very fond of and exist on the site) and writing out Eliza’s recipes in the dirt floor with the ground petals and then erasing them.

“This performance is meant to embody both Margaret and Eliza, and metaphorically examine the connection between the women which was understood to be a good and loving connection. It also examines the ideas of beauty, labor and erasure,” Strader said. “Franklin will do this performance on the evening of the reception.”

Junior Katelyn Newman created a film that focuses on the history of the grounds as sacred space once inhabited by Houston.

To create her project, she filmed the ground as she walked through the park, seeing the same earth that Houston saw. She will manipulate the footage to create a video work that will be projected on the porch ceiling of Houston’s Woodlands Home during the reception.

“Her work examines the importance of ‘place’ and the idea of seeing through another person’s gaze, perhaps through time,” Strader said.

Junior Luke Ikard will create a "crime scene" within the creek bed to tell an alternate history of Houston.

“His work questions how we approach museums and history and rarely question what it is we are learning through didactic information,” Strader said. “His work invites the viewer to challenge how we consume history. Ikard's installation at the museum will directly connect to objects or ‘evidence’ that will be on display in the 3G Gallery.”

Other artists whose work will be on display include Emelia Bates, Paige Reans, Kevin Shelton, Jack Weidman and Joshua Yates.

Some of the projects will be on view only for the evening of the reception, while other projects will remain on the grounds through July.

The reception and walk-through tour will begin at 6 p.m. at the Woodland Home, on the museum grounds, and will move to the Gaddis Geeslin Gallery, in Art Building F, at around 7:30 p.m.

“Students will talk specifically about the concept of their work and the process of making it, as well as how the ideas in the work formed into their unique projects,” Strader said. “This walk-through tour is a great time for people to learn more about the history of Sam Houston through an artist’s eyes and to draw new connections between the works the students created, the site and the histories that inhabit it.

“Students are also making works that will be on display in the 3G Gallery that are in some cases connected to the projects on the grounds,” she said. “Understanding how a site can inform a work that exists in a different location is also an important tool for young artists to grasp as well.”



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