Pomona College Museum of Art Creates Dialogue Between Collection, Faculty

In just a few short weeks, students, faculty and staff at the 5Cs will have the opportunity to participate in the creation of the Pomona College Museum of Art’s newest exhibit, “Art in Dialogue.”

The exhibit is structured so that selected members of the 5C community can pick an artwork from the museum’s permanent collection to be displayed. The work they select will be shown in the museum lobby, along with a short text describing any personal or academic interests that led them to make their choice.

“The series will reveal the ways in which visual art can richly inform and reflect many disciplines and offer the opportunity to view rarely seen artworks from the museum’s vaults,” Curator of Academic Programs Terri Geis said.

“Art in Dialogue” was primarily created as a way to promote discussion surrounding art and how art relates to other disciplines, and it also provides participants with behind-the-scenes access to the museum’s collection.

“The museum hopes to encourage interdisciplinary dialogues with our very rich and varied collection. Each selected work and accompanying label will be featured on the museum’s website in order to expand the conversation and inspire further research and engagement,” Geis said.

Since different community members will be selecting various pieces of art, the exhibit should present students with a wide range of artwork. 

“[We] look forward to displaying many different types of objects as part of the series. Highlights of the permanent collection include Native American art, 15th-century Italian panel paintings, prints from the 15th century to the present, a photography collection focused on 20th-century America, and abstract and conceptual works by contemporary artists based in Southern California,” Geis said.

A few selected pieces are already on display, one of which was chosen by Aviva Chomsky, the Ena H. Thompson Visiting Professor of History.

She chose a photograph by Don Normark from his series created in 1949 of the Mexican-American neighborhood Chavez Ravine near downtown Los Angeles. 

“Shortly after the photograph was taken, the residents were displaced in order to make way for Dodger Stadium,” Geis said.

Professor Chomsky’s label highlights the significance of the relationship between photographs like Normark’s and historians in uncovering, according to Chomsky, “the voices of the ordinary people.” 

Benjamin Kersten PO ’15, an intern at the museum, also had the chance to select a piece from the permanent collection.

“We [he and Geis] got to go to the collection study area. I get such a rush out of it because you get to put on gloves and open all these drawers and literally move this painting over here and look at these prints that are underneath it. It’s a really hands-on experience, and I’m astounded at the wealth of our collection,” Kersten said. 

Last semester, Kersten took a class entitled The Arts of Japan, which served as inspiration for the piece he chose.

“What’s really nice about choosing a Japanese print for the Art in Dialogue program is that it … felt like I was being able to pick a piece and give it the focus it wouldn’t otherwise get,” Kersten said.

The print, by Utagawa Hiroshige, was created shortly after the end of Japan’s isolationist regime, and it comes directly out of the new, cross-cultural interactions between Japan with its use of chemical pigments. 

“I wrote about the use of the color blue. In previous artistic traditions, artists tended to use organic materials for everything, but the first thing to make its way over was this color blue. It was a chemical pigment, it was fade-resistant and very vivid, and it was the first Western material to be incorporated in Japanese prints. It was one of the things that helped his print gain widespread popularity, and because of that a lot of the prints made their way back to Europe, where they had a lot of influence on Van Gogh, Degas, and the other Impressionists,” Kersten said. 

Other pieces chosen by community members will be showcased when the museum reopens May 2.

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