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Masters among Us

/ December 9, 2011
With the opening of Rembrandt in America, our visitors are able to see more authentic paintings by this master presented together than in any other show to date in the U.S. They can enjoy these great works of art, learn about the Rembrandt Research Project, and have a glimpse into the intriguing field of conservation.
Mark Wroblewski, I’m Trying to be Serious, from the NCMA’s first juried college art exhibition Self, Observed

A few steps outside the Rembrandt exhibition in East Building is another exhibition, titled Self, Observed. Conceived and organized by our Education Department, this exhibition is a juried college art competition. Over 160 online submissions of original self-portraits in various media were received from all over the country. The jury, made up of college students from the Curatorial Projects class at UNC–Chapel Hill, selected 41 works for display, plus two video entries. Other entries can be viewed on a video screen.

This project is unique for the NCMA in several ways. It is our first juried college art exhibition. I will admit the suspense was thick over the summer as the entries seemed slow to arrive, but as soon as the fall school semester started, the whole thing went viral. The entries poured in.

Another twist is that the jury was made up of college students. The Curatorial Projects students (under the leadership of professor elin o’Hara slavick) selected art for the exhibition and wrote label copy. They provided not only enthusiasm and thoughtful perspectives, but also another layer to the outreach programming for which our Education Department is known. That reaching out and taking the Museum experience into different communities creates connections and partnerships that enhance the art experience for us all.

As the designer for this project, my original challenge was to design a room with only 18 works. By the time final entries were received, the challenge was to design a room with so many. The curatorial students wrote what we call “extended” labels, which take up more than the usual amount of wall space. I felt it was important to allow each work to have enough space to be seen on its own and not simply as part of the whole. I believe a good balance was created between the individual self-portraits and the groupings of works.

Self, Observed is an inviting and contemporary companion exhibition to Rembrandt in America. Congratulations to those students whose work was selected. Between these students and Rembrandt, there really are masters among us!

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