An exploration of evolving concepts through historic, modern, and contemporary at at the Montclair Art Museum

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, February 21, 2024

An exploration of evolving concepts through historic, modern, and contemporary at at the Montclair Art Museum
Caren King Choi (b. 1984). "Mt. Rushmore (Nieces & Nephew)," 2020. China marker, graphite, stickers on paper, 36 x 46 in. Museum purchase; Acquisition Fund, 2022.13

MONTCLAIR, NJ.- The Montclair Art Museum is thrilled to present its latest exhibition, Family, Community, Belonging: Works from the Collection. This unique collection-based exhibition delves into the ever-evolving notions of family and community, and explores themes of belonging, diversity, and inclusion through a diverse array of artworks.

Featuring a selection of historic, modern, and contemporary works, the exhibition aims to showcase the rich tapestry of American culture, emphasizing the individual and collective experiences shared across lines of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and geography.

The works range from nineteenth-century portraits of European American mothers with children, providing a glimpse into the essence of family life during that era, to Elizabeth Catlett’s powerful portrayal of an African American grandmother and grandson from the 1980s and Afro-Indigenous artist Natia Lemay’s Four Generations (2023), featuring herself as a little girl at her grandmother’s house. Each respective work speaks to their individual ideals of what it means to be a family or belong to a community. Some of these ideals prove to be universal and span across multiple works in the exhibition, despite those works being created decades apart.

Artists from various Indigenous/Native American communities are also prominently featured, including Melanie Yazzi (Diné) and Mario Martinez (Pascua Yaqui), whose works represent generational narratives and familial bonds.

Chief Curator Gail Stavitsky provides insights into the exhibition, explaining that the showcase isn't thematically arranged but offers broad perspectives on family and community over time. The featured works include a diverse range of artistic styles, from classic portraits to contemporary mixed-media art, fostering an appreciation for the evolution of artistic expression.

One highlight is the recent acquisition, Mt. Rushmore (Nieces & Nephews) (2020) by Asian American artist Caren King Choi, a monumental work created with thousands of drawn upon stickers, making it a contemporary and technical marvel. The accompanying label includes a selfie taken by Choi's nephew, illustrating the contemporary and personal connections embedded in the artwork.

Stavitsky also emphasizes the importance of presenting a variety of family structures and relationships, acknowledging the complexities of modern society. Family, Community, Belonging aims to provide a space for reflection on how individuals define and navigate their sense of family and community, especially in today's polarized environment.

In a unique approach, the introductory panel connects the exhibition with the Museum's mission statement, reinforcing its commitment to being a place where everyone feels welcome, respected, seen, and heard. We encourage visitors to contemplate the definition of family in a contradictory society and engage in conversations around these themes.

"We hope this exhibition becomes a safe space for dialogue and reflection," says Gail Stavitsky, emphasizing the potential of art to bridge gaps and encourage understanding. "While families may be experiencing divisions in today's world, we aim to showcase the diverse ways individuals and communities define and come together, contributing to a more just and equitable society."

Family, Community, Belonging: Works from the Collection opens on February 9, 2024, and will be on display at the Montclair Art Museum until January 2026. The Museum invites art enthusiasts, families, and the community to explore the varied perspectives showcased in our collection through this thought-provoking exhibition.

Montclair Art Museum

The Montclair Art Museum boasts a renowned collection of American and Native American art that uniquely highlights art-making in the United States over the last 300 years. Works in MAM's Native American art collection span the period of ca. 1200 C.E. to the present day. The Vance Wall Art Education Center encompasses the Museum’s educational efforts, including award-winning Yard School of Art studio classes, lectures and talks, family events, tours, and the mobile MAM Art Truck. MAM exhibitions and programs serve a wide public of all ages, from families and seniors to artists, educators, and scholars.

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