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COUNCIL: State of the University

October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09

Lynn Marsden-Atlass

I’d like to introduce you to some 2010-11 exhibitions that will engage students, faculty and include collaboration with academic departments. 

Naked: The University Collection Unveiled (currently on view in the Arthur Ross Gallery through October 31) features 42 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and photographs of the nude from the 1st century BCE to the present. This focused exhibition is selected from the University of Pennsylvania’s outstanding art collection. The proseminar I offered on September 3 at New Student Orientation raised questions on the nature of beauty, and social, political and cultural views of the body. That included Lady Gaga and Snooki from the Jersey Shore! On September 30 Doug Martenson (School of Design) taught a life-drawing class in the gallery to 24 students, staff and members. Students in The Body and Photography will be studying the exhibition. Naked is also an assignment in Anthropology 104, Sex and Human Nature. I also want to add that it is a collaboration between the Arthur Ross Gallery and the Office of the Curator, and the first of a series of focused exhibitions that will highlight Penn’s remarkable art collection, which is on view throughout the campus. I also need to thank President Gutmann and the 17 schools, departments and offices that so generously lent to the show.

In partnership with the Year of Water, the ARG will present The Dogon: Work, Women and Water, Photographs by Stuart Franklin, opening on November 4 with a talk by the internationally renowned photojournalist.  Franklin’s images document the daily struggle for survival in the region, and the work of the Voss Foundation to drill wells and provide clean drinking water. Twenty-five percent of a Dogon woman’s daily life is devoted to obtaining water to sustain her family.  You may have also noticed in the Weigle Computer Center in Van Pelt Library or in the Fisher Fine Arts Library building two monumental “Hurricane” photographs, generously lent to the University by Clifford Ross in honor of the Year of Water.

On January 21, Joan Lebold Cohen, curator, will speak on her life in China during the 1980s where she met many of the artists struggling to find their own voices. Some of these are revealed in the fascinating exhibition Post-Mao Dreaming: Chinese Contemporary Art. After having coffee with my good colleague Richard Hodges last fall, the Gallery rescheduled Post-Mao to coincide with the Penn Museum’s blockbuster, Secrets of the Silk Road. Plans are afoot to co-sponsor some related educational programs. The Gallery is also organizing a panel discussion on China on February 23 with a panel discussion with Jacques DeLisle and Nancy Steinhard, co-sponsored with the Center for East Asian Studies. We are eager to get the PAIC students involved as well.

Revealing, insightful, and sometimes disturbing, Lauren Greenfield’s award-winning photographs capture the essence of contemporary youth culture. In Girl Culture—opening at the ARG on April 15—she turns her lens on American girls. The resulting photographs provide a window into the secret worlds of girls’ social lives and private rituals, the dressing room and locker room, as well as the iconic subcultures of the popular clique, cheerleaders, athletes, strippers, debutantes, actresses and models. This partnership began as an e-mail inquiry from Julie Schneider, director of the fine arts undergraduate program. Would I consider a show of Greenfield? Fine Arts had invited Lauren Greenfield to speak on November 11 as a Spiegel Fellow. I wrote back—I was planning a Greenfield show of Girl Culture in 2012—but was able to work with Greenfield studio to present it instead this spring. The Gallery plans related programs with Women’s Studies, the Penn Women’s Center and the UPHS on women’s health and eating disorders.

In closing I’d like to celebrate how democratic Penn’s art collection is —hanging all around us, and visually engaging us at every turn on Locust Walk.  Next time you pass Oldenburg’s Split Button pause a moment to enjoy it—and all that surrounds it.







Almanac - October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09