Graduate Students Curate SMGA Permanent Collection Show

works of art in storage
Works of art in storage in the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art’s Permanent Collection.

The Sarah Moody Gallery of Art and the department of art and art history are pleased to present the student-curated exhibition, 14 SELECT(IONS), from March 22 through May 7, 2021, in the two front rooms of the gallery. Students in Professor Craig Wedderspoon’s ART 525 and 625 Graduate Critiques course – Ryan Ackers, Sarah Dittmann, Zoe Fitch, Molly Lay, Will Henry, Parker Hunt, Juan Lopez-Bautista, Upneet Kaur Mair, Kelsey Meadows, Kole Nichols, Shivam Pawar, Amber Quinn, Rene Thompson, and Sandra Vega – selected works from the SMGA’s Permanent Collection, resulting, as exhibitions coordinator Vicki Rial noted, “in 14 points of view trained upon 14 works of art.”

Thornton Willis, “Streetwise,” 2010, oil on canvas, 79 x 61 inches, P2018.TW31.

Professor Wedderspoon gave each of the students in the class the task of choosing a single work from the Permanent Collection to research and write about. The collection is made up of more than 1,600 works – paintings, prints and small sculptures – collected by the gallery since 1950.

Students were given a list of artists and works, chose a work off-site, and then were given an opportunity to look at the collection’s works in person. Rial, who has worked with the collection for two decades, guided the students through its storage facility. She explained, “Prior to their visit, Bill Dooley [SMGA director] pulled the works by the artists that the students had selected. But I also took the students through the framed portion of the collection, as there is a real opportunity there. We have so many artists of note that may not be recognized from a list of names or titles.”

William Christenberry, “Building With False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1997,” Ektacolor print, P1997.6.

Once they saw the works “in real life,” Rial said, some students stuck to their original choices, while some saw a new piece that caught their attention. Shivam Pawar, a second-year printmaking student, had gone to the curatorial meeting having chosen a work by the influential painter and printmaker Philip Guston. Instead, he said, “The painting titled Streetwise by Thornton Willis caught my eye with its structural yet representational qualities.” Pawar explained, “Willis’ selection and application of color are remarkable. After viewing his works, I consider him on equal grounds with first-generation color field abstract expressionists.” He added, “As an international student, I think of this viewing as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the whole collection personally.”

Second-year painting student Zoe Fitch chose a photograph by William Christenberry titled Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1997, taken about sixty miles southwest of Tuscaloosa in Sumter County. Fitch said that the renowned photographer’s work “captures the history of the American southeast with old signage, abandoned buildings and overgrowth of flora. This piece feels nostalgic yet mysterious to me, and I wanted to bring an image of past, rural Alabama into the view of contemporary collegiate viewers.” She explained, “In my own work I am inspired by the landscape and culture of the South. Photography closely connects to painting, and I am able to reinterpret history.”

Elizabeth Murray, Series: 23 (Whazzat) 16/24, unique pastels over collaged lithographs, 26 x 17 inches, P2009.08.

Juan Lopez-Bautista, a second-year painting student who is also a professor of biology at UA, chose Elizabeth Murray’s mixed media work, Series: 23 (Whazzat), a collaged lithograph with pastels. “I chose this because the work of Murray has been a great influence in my own practice. Murray is well known for her use of biomorphic shapes in her pieces. I find a great inspiration in her artwork, especially considering that one of my backgrounds is in biology and biological forms have intrigued me for quite some time. I find her work exciting, hopeful, energetic and vivacious.”

“Seeing and responding to the work in person is an opportunity I relish and enjoy seeing others experience,” Rial remarked about working with the graduate students. “It was a great experience to share the collection with so many personalities. The selections speak to their interests as well as their work.”

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in art history and studio art, visit our Degree Programs page.

Visiting the Gallery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The SMGA is an essential part of the education and development of UA students and our community. Admission to the gallery is free. Hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 1:00-4:30 p.m. The gallery is open to the public with reduced capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors must wear face coverings inside the gallery and maintain a minimum distance of six feet from others. The gallery is limited to fifteen (15) visitors at a time. Have questions or need assistance? Call (205) 348-1891. Visit the SMGA exhibitions on Instagram and Flickr.

Funding support for the Sarah Mood­­­y Gallery of Art comes from the department of art and art history and the College of Arts and Sciences. Additional support comes from the Farley Moody Galbraith Endowed Exhibition Fund. The gallery is located at 103 Garland Hall in the heart of UA campus on Woods Quad. Information about visitor parking is available on the UA Parking Services website. Parking is free on campus in a legal space after business hours.