Vanessa Lopez is a sophomore majoring in English Education at Florida International University. Having a passion for literature and academia, she hopes to be an English professor. She is currently a Desk Assistant for FIU Housing. As a part of Art Society Conflict, she is looking forward to being exposed to unfamiliar areas of history and art.
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum is a museum on Florida International University’s (FIU) Modesto A. Maidique campus. Its current building has been open since 2008. The museum has gained international recognition as one of South Florida’s major cultural institutions, as it is known to display Latin American art and innovative, contemporary pieces.
Through my volunteering experience, I worked closely with the museum’s Chief Curator, Amy Galpin, PhD. Before, she was a Curator at Rollins College’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and an Associate Curator of Art of the Americas at the San Diego Museum of Art. As a Chief Curator, Galpin places an emphasis on placing research and writing into the exhibitions and collections at the museum.
One of the reasons I picked this volunteering opportunity is that it was one of the few opportunities available during the current situation of the spread of COVID-19. More importantly, I was mostly drawn to this opportunity due to not knowing enough about the Frost Art Museum. Being a part of Art Society Conflict has taught me so much about the art world in Miami already, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to learn more through this opportunity.
Despite the subject of my research not necessarily being related to my major, the research aspect is still something I have to do in most of my classes. Still, what I ended up researching was the Pattern and Decoration (P&D) movement, and a lot of its messages and themes coincided with my own interests and beliefs. Therefore, I became more ecstatic to be a part of this project.
My classmate, Ruth Shmueli, was the first to accept this opportunity to volunteer at the Frost Art Museum. I asked her if there was a way that I could contribute to the research, and she was generous enough to put me in contact with Amy Galpin, the museum’s chief curator. Galpin was immediately willing to have me contribute to research for the museum, and we began exchanging emails.
WHERE & WHAT
On April 9th, Galpin had given me the task to look into the Pattern and Decoration movement. With a quick google search, I learned that it was an American art movement that took place between the 1970’s and 1980’s. Of course, since the subject involves art, I looked over the images that popped up. The pieces that fell under this movement were colorful, bright, and a mish-mash of different pieces. I saw some pieces that were clearly inspired by other cultures, and as I delved deeper into the movement, I learned that that appropriation is one of its major elements.
On April 11, Galpin and I had a phone call, where we discussed more about the movement and what specific research is needed. Galpin gave me a few tasks, which included gathering quotes on the significance of the movement, research on important figures in the movement, and finding pictures of these important figures.
On April 15, I started gathering quotes. The P&D movement was short-lived and didn’t gather enough attention in its own time. However, there seems to be a revival and new interest in the movement right now, and museums have set up exhibitions revolving around it. Therefore, I began looking through articles and reviews of these shows. A majority of these reviews were positive, with many claiming that the P&D movement is something that is parallel to today’s discussion of feminism and celebration of all cultures. One thing that stuck out to me is that some even argue that the P&D movement is the last art movement of the 20th century. I gathered all of the quotes into a document, ensuring that there are proper links and credit.
On April 16, I began doing research on notable figures in the P&D movement. I first looked up information on Anne Swartz, an art historian and professor. I found that she is heavily involved in discussions regarding the movement, and has created a multitude of essays and articles. In addition, I was asked to create biographies for two P&D artists: Betty Woodman and Jane Kaufman. Woodman was an American artist, specializing in ceramics. Kaufman was one of the original figures in the movement, and she was known for her collages and quilts. Whereas I had many success with finding information on Woodman, I had difficulty finding a piece of biographical information in terms of Kaufman. I decided to continue researching the next day.
On April 17, I began searching for pictures of fifteen P&D artists. My aim was to find dynamic shots, such as working in the studio. In some cases, I managed to find awesome shots. Some artists were found giving speeches, inviting people to their studio, and visiting schools. One thing that I found amazing were pictures of Robert Kushner in his performance act days. I gathered all these pictures with links in a document and a shared folder. Afterwards, I began my search for more information on Kaufman once again. In the end, I could only find two links containing 3-4 lines on Kaufman’s involvement in the movement. Whereas I am excited that the movement as a whole is gathering attention once again, it is a bit disappointing to find that one of its important figures isn’t receiving as much recognition. Especially since the movement revolves around female artists, it’s a bit frustrating to find that male artists within the movement seem to be exhibited more.
On April 18, I gathered all of my research and sent it to Galpin. We had a phone call later in the day. We talked about my findings and future events at the museum. I discussed some of my difficulties, as well as things I found interesting and fun. I also learned more about Galpin and her role at the museum, and I could tell that she was very passionate about her job. I ended the call with excitement, looking forward to visiting the museum once everything gets back to normal.
Overall, my experience of being a remote volunteer for the Frost Art Museum was amazing. Through this opportunity, I found that researching is what I enjoy the most. It’s extremely satisfying to finally find a piece of information you have been looking for this whole time. More importantly, the information I found about this movement was intriguing and fascinating, and I am now on the lookout for any P&D exhibitions that could pop up near me.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find everything in my research. When I was searching for quotes, Kaufman and her elaborate quilts were usually mentioned. It was a surprise to find that there isn’t a lot of information on the artist. I hope that, with the increasing interest in P&D, I will get to learn more about her.
Despite the serious situation we’re all in, Chief Curator Amy Galpin and I still managed to maintain communication through emails and our phone calls. Throughout the process, she was very patient and understanding. Not only was she interested in research that could help the museum, but she wanted to make sure I was conducting research that I was also interested in. I am very grateful that I was able to have the opportunity to work with such a passionate person. Thanks to Galpin, I learned more about the Frost Art Museum and an important art movement.
Adamson, Glenn, and Glenn Adamson. “Reassessing Pattern & Decoration, the Last Art Movement of the Twentieth Century.” ARTnews.Com, 3 Sept. 2019, http://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/pattern-decoration-legacy-reassessed-la-moca-ica-boston-63654/.
Kushner, Robert. “ROBERT KUSHNER.” ROBERT KUSHNER, 2014, http://www.robertkushnerstudio.com/robert-kushner-and-friends-eat-their-clothes-nyc-1972.
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU Appoints Amy Galpin as New Chief Curator, 2018, https://frost.fiu.edu/_assets/docs/press-room/new-chief-curator-pr-jan-2018.pdf