During the spring semester students of one of Natalie Gummer’s religious studies class have been researching, writing, and planning an exhibition based on their studies. Initially each student chose an object or two from either museum as a focal point for their research; the real trick is to bring all these objects under the same curatorial umbrella.
As Professor Gummer notes, “The process of translating the complex theoretical materials we've been exploring into a concrete exhibition of religiously significant objects has been really exciting and challenging. The students have approached the exhibit with such intelligence and ingenuity—it's going to be really thought-provoking.”
Professor Gummer is impressed with the depth and breadth of her student’s individual research and the class’s group discussions, but that intelligence and ingenuity really does come across in their own words:
“Over the course of this semester, my class has been putting together an exhibit that's developed into a difficult, but rewarding, multi-step process. We started the semester reading scholars such as Arjun Appadurai, Hans Belting, and most recently Bruno Latour, and now we're applying a lot of this theory to our exhibit it hopes to give our objects of devotion a new life. Though collaborating with a dozen people to create an exhibit is a challenge, it's so exciting to see it all coming together so quickly. There are so many unique, intelligent people putting their heads together, that no matter what, it's going to be an incredible exhibit.”
“In preparation for "The Sacred Lives of Objects: Seeing and Being Seen" exhibit, I have been researching George Rouault's Christ on Cross print. It has been really great to see how the artist Rouault was deeply informed by his faith when he created artwork. By exhibiting an etching as an object of devotion—next to other "obviously" devotional objects like a votive relief, an icon, and a thangka—I hope to challenge the viewer to see the piece as more than just a depiction of a religious scene. I hope the viewers in our exhibit may see the Rouault etching as an extension of his very personal convictions about Jesus. More so, I hope that our exhibit as a whole will challenge guests to recognize that for some people objects of devotion are central to their daily struggle and journey through life, similar to how others get through the day with objects like cell-phones or cup(s) of coffee.
I am really excited for the exhibit to premier. Our class has been theorizing and designing for quite awhile, so it will be wonderful to see this exhibit come to life and to see how others respond. I want to see if they "get" what we are trying to do and what new insights they will leave us about devotional objects that we have yet to consider. Natalie has been a wonderful advisor to this project, and I feel a deep sense of community with my classmates (whom apparently I have begun identifying as their objects; the other day I called my classmate Traci "Thangka"). They have all put an amazing amount of work into this.”
The Sacred Lives of Objects exhibit will be a joint display between the Logan Museum of Anthropology from April to August, and at the Wright Museum of Art from September to November, so if you’re returning to campus in the fall, you’ll have another opportunity to see this collaborative exhibit.