Art-400 Students Capture Memories in Curated Addison Exhibit


Standing in front of a gray background with hints of rainbow and sky peeking out from the corners, a dark-skinned figure made from a collage comforts another cutout person. According to Art-400 student Andreea Procopan ’19, the piece includes photos of ancient African sculptures that were put into the setting and memory of the artist’s childhood.

“I really like how it seems like it’s made by a kindergartener, no offense to the artist… it has a kind of raw component to it, like really open and fragile. [It has] this idea of [putting] African art into the Western art canvas, where everyone can see and appreciate [it],” said Procopan.

This piece by Romare Bearden, titled “Carolina Memory,” is part of the exhibit titled “Blink: Memories Contained” currently on view at the Addison Gallery of American Art. “Blink” was curated by the students of the Art-400 course, “Visual Culture: Discovering the Addison Collection.” Taught by Stephanie Sparling Williams, Visiting Scholar in Art History and Assistant Curator of the Addison Art Gallery, the students selected pieces from a collection of over a hundred photographs to put together the exhibit.

“We hope to encourage viewers to consider the ways mementos are used to capture and ‘contan memories,’ and to reflect on how representations of the past can be far more multifaceted and complex than we might think,” said Zoe Yin ’19, a student in the Art-400 class.

Over the course of the term, the students researched and held discussions about the pieces and their artists, while assembling the works into various combinations. Yin found coordinating with her peers to be both the most challenging and rewarding part of the course.

“There was a lot of discussion and back-and-forth as everyone advocated for different ideas… We pushed and challenged one another to take our ideas further and really explore all the possibilities that were open to us. In the end, together, the class created an exhibition focused on memory,” said Yin. 

Two photographs depict a man standing inside the frame of a photograph. A light from a projector throws different textures and colors onto his body. Art-400 student Riley Gillis ’19 named these two portraits by Stephen Laub, titled “My Father when He was 23” and “My Father Holding Me in 1949”, as his favorites in the exhibit because they remind him of his father.

“I thought [Laub had] a really interesting and unique method of photography… my dad looks almost exactly like him when he was 23. Also, the man in the picture has a really sophisticated pose like a lawyer, and my dad works as a lawyer. A lot of [the pieces] are chosen for the story that they express and the mood they evoke,” said Gillis.

The students also held a gallery talk for the exhibit, which took place at the end of Fall Term. During the talk, Art-400 students introduced the purpose of the course and the theme of their exhibition, as well as some more detailed information about the work. According to viewer Karen Sun ’20, the gallery talk was her favorite part of the exhibit.

“Individually observing the gallery was an amazing experience; however, listening to my peers talk about their thought processes and interpretations added an entirely new element to the gallery. It brought light to many aspects of curating that I had never considered before and offered more insight into the images’ meanings,” said Sun.