Eeva Stout-Sharp ’13 is reaching into Kalamazoo College’s past in order to forge her own future after K.
As part of her Senior Individualized Project (SIP) in Art History, the Petoskey, Mich. native has curated an exhibit of portraits from the College’s art collection that depicts K faculty and administrators from the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Ten photographs and oil paintings (plus an additional mystery piece) comprise an exhibit that includes images of James and Lucinda Stone who led the College from 1843-63, College benefactor Mary Mandelle whose oil portrait otherwise hangs in the Olmsted Room in Mandelle Hall, and past K presidents such as Herbert Lee Stetson and Allan Hoben.
“The show is [built] around the idea that at the turn of the 20th century, the American identity through portraiture takes a huge turn,” Sharp said. Portraits from the 19th century represented status and a stoic image of America, she explained. In the 20th century, cameras and other technology became more available, allowing middle class Americans access to portraiture.
As a result, said Sharp, the role of the portrait shifted. “There’s this desire to empathize with a person rather than see a symbol of power,” Sharp said.
Sharp said that putting the portraits on display in a new setting will allow viewers to see them as more than just wall decorations. She has painted the gallery walls red and installed ottomans and a Persian rug in the space, in order to “give people the sense of a turn-of-the-century study, which is where these works would have originally been displayed.”
Sharp hopes to work in the museum world after graduation. This project, along with helping to curate other students’ art projects on campus, has giving her a taste for that. “By teaching myself to curate,” Sharp said, “I’m hoping to build a toolkit of skills and experiences that I can contribute to an arts organization.”
The exhibit runs from Feb. 25 to March 8 in the Light Fine Arts Building gallery at the corner of Academy and Thompson streets. A catalog with supplemental information on the portraits will be available in April.
Story and photo by Maggie Kane ’13