GRINNELL, IA—What began as a one-week faculty summer seminar to explore the Grinnell College Art Collection has transformed into a two-month Faulconer Gallery exhibition of cabinets—cabinets of curiosities—a Renaissance concept that predated museums.
“Influence: Faculty Selections from Grinnell College Collections” opens Jan. 29, curated by Professor of Biology Jackie Brown; Assistant Professor of English Shanna Benjamin; Associate Professor of German Daniel Reynolds; and Special Collections Librarian Catherine Rod who mined the college’s collection for works of art and artifacts that fit their areas of expertise.
“In the Renaissance period, cabinets were a systematic way to collect and organize items that went together,” said Lesley Wright, director of the gallery. “In the Influence exhibition, the cabinets developed by Grinnell faculty inform and influence one another.
“The exhibition’s theme of influences—historical, familial, cultural, cross-cultural, educational, technical, contextual, and genealogical—works within each cabinet and across the disciplines represented.”
Brown’s cabinet looks at human depictions of animals and their behavior, from medieval prints to videos; Benjamin chose artifacts from her own life as an African-American and works in popular culture that reflect on a legacy of slavery; Reynolds selected images of the human body that reveal complex ideas about mortality, spirituality, and physicality; and Rod focused on art forms where words compose images.
“Influence” will run concurrent to a student-curated exhibition called “Repeat, Reveal, React; Identities in Flux,” which also draws on Grinnell College collection. “The two shows combined are the largest exhibition ever of the college’s collection,” Wright said. “Well over 100 works will be on display, most acquired within the past 10 years. Since we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Bucksbaum Center for the Arts this year, it’s fitting that we offer concurrent shows that demonstrate the depth of our collection and the breadth of our exhibition space.”
Part of the faculty seminar assignment was to incorporate the resulting cabinets into coursework for Grinnell students during second semester. Many of the gallery’s public events offer a view inside the classroom component of “Influence,” including:
• Fri., Jan. 29, 4:15 p.m.: Opening reception with music by the G-Tones, an all male a cappella group.
• Mon., Feb. 8, 4:15 p.m.: Gallery tour with faculty co-curators Brown, Benjamin, Reynolds, and Rod.
• Wed., Feb. 10, 4:15 p.m.: Benjamin will discuss “Sorrow Songs to Beating the Blues: Re-membering the Black Literary Tradition,” in reference to the musical soundtrack playing in her curiosity cabinet.
• Sat., Feb. 13, 1-3 p.m.: Community Day with hands-on activities, stories, tours of the exhibition, and opportunities to create cabinets of curiosity.
• Mon., Feb. 15, noon: Students from Benjamin’s seminar on “Studies in African American Literature” will read from unpublished slave narratives.
• Fri., Feb. 19, 4:15 p.m.: Presentation by historian Hal Wert on “Totalitarian Posters and Democratic Society.” Co-sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights, Writers@Grinnell, and the concurrent student-curated exhibition.
• Mon., Feb. 22, 4:15 p.m.: Faculty panelists Karla Erickson, sociology; Astrid Henry, gender, women, and sexuality studies; and Asani Seawell, psychology, will discuss “The Influence of the Material Body” and how art influences perceptions of mortality, spirituality, physicality, and death.
• Wed., Feb. 24, 7 p.m.: The Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir will perform in response to Benjamin’s cabinet and the concurrent exhibition.
• Thursdays, Feb. 4 –Mar. 18, 12:15 p.m.: yoga in the gallery with instructor Jenn Mavin.
All events are in Faulconer Gallery unless otherwise noted. Gallery hours through March 21 are Tuesday-Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed Monday. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, call 641-269-4660 or visit www.grinnell.edu/faulconergallery.