Students explore the Light Work Collection for curating ideas

We received the following note from Syracuse University graduate student Lily Betjeman, who is enrolled in the Goldring Arts Journalism Program at the school. As part of the coursework, the program asks their students to curate an exhibition from the Light Work Collection, which they do online. Lily writes in to share her experiences looking for exhibition ideas in the Collection:

When Amei Wallach, an art critic and filmmaker who is a visiting scholar for my course, asked us to curate an exhibition from the Light Work Collection, it felt unwieldy at first. After all, where do you start if you have over 3,000 works to draw on? The task proved much more fluid than I had thought, however, once I let myself respond to a couple works and associate from there. I have a feeling this experience may be common for people interested in art.

While reading about Light Work’s history on their website, an image called Cheers, from Standards of Perfection (1999) by Linda Adele Goodine stuck out. The work features a grid made out of wedding cakes interspersed with pictures of young female cheerleaders. The images of the girls look like they are taken from a yearbook, preserved moments of rigid good humor.

Often associated with ambitious if not repressed females, perfectionism can take a powerful hold of people. Goodine’s work shows both the allure and the falsity inherent in notions of female perfection. But I wanted to explore more artists’ visions of perfection.

Enter the search term “perfect” into the online Collection database and more than 700 images show up. The term “perfection” in contrast yields 30 images. I decided to look through the “perfect” images first to have a broader range to choose from. Rita Hammond’s Architecture: Resort Series was haunting and felt related to Goodine’s work. The series of black and white images capture resort culture in central New York. Absent in the photographs, however, are people.  One work, Untitled (track and stands of Saratoga Race Track), shows the deserted track, so lively during the summer months. I felt an inkling of a theme developing: Notions of Perfection in Americana.

I have much more searching to do, and I’m really excited to see where my instinct takes me. The process is about looking at art but also about forming connections, another kind of creative process. The show I end up with may desert my initial idea entirely, but I’m sure the exploration will lead somewhere revealing. — Lily Betjeman

We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the Goldring students’ research, and we’ll be featuring a selection of their exhibitions on this blog in April.

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