Art and photography share the spotlight in Mining the Museum

Mary Ann McQuillan’s gallery show “Mining the Museum” urges people to explore “the spectacle of spectatorship.” Ms. McQuillan, who teaches photography and AP art history, offers both photographs and films in her current show in the Dana Hall art gallery.

Ms. McQuillan is inspired by museums themselves, and she confesses, “I have a love/hate relationships with museums.” On the one hand, she does not like how crowded they are, how many rules they have, and how they are set up. “The museums are like zoos; It is like crazy circus atmosphere,” she said. On the other hand, she believes that museums bring people together from all culture around the world. Her show is trying to question whether people can have authentic experience with art in the museum context. Ms. McQuillan asks, “Can they really be moved to cry? Can they learn something about themselves? And can they slow down enough to really study the paintings?”

Another point Ms. McQuillan tries to express in her show is how people learn about the past through the objects that are left. In the right setting, when people are looking at some exquisite objects from the past, those artists from the past are speaking to those people in the present through their work. There is a conversation going on about human issues like love and death. In her photographs, Ms. McQuillan tries to make images not typical, showing only the fragments of a whole painting. She hopes the audience can study art from various points of view. Some photos also convey Ms. McQuillan’s appreciation of the space of museums themselves, the windows, and the natural lights. She follows the natural light rather than what she is supposed to look at, which are the well-lighted paintings on the wall.

Gallery visitors thus far seem most struck by the use of film. Candice Zhao ’14 likes those films “because they show the point of view of the tourists’ perspectives and thus I feel closely connected to this gallery show.” David Bligh, currently teaching in the Art Department as Kassie Teng’s maternity leave replacement, commented, “I enjoyed seeing the combination of video art in conjunction with the photographs. The background hum of voices and music created a subtle counterpoint to the intense focus of the photographs.” Diana Musni ’14 agreed, “I like that the show that includes the films because they bring another perspective to the audience and make everything more vivid.”

Ms. McQuillan’s gallery show will run until February 7,  so everyone is welcome to join the exploration of art and perspective in Mining the Museum.

Photo: Mary Ann McQuillan with her photographs and films in the Dana Hall Art Gallery. Photo credit: Luceo Wang.

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