Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
Sept. 13, 2011JustArts sat down with Nera Lerner ’12, the assistant curator of “Floors and Ceilings,” a student art exhibition hosted by the Women’s Studies Research Center. The show features the works of nine graduate and undergraduate student artists and focuses on gender expression and identity, often within the confines of the “floors” and “ceilings” of our society.
JustArts: How did you become the curator for “Floors and Ceilings”?
Nera Lerner: Last spring Michele L’Heureux [WSRC’s Curator of the Arts] started contacting the Fine Arts department to see if there were students who would be able to curate a show with feminist themes surrounding a larger global theme for student art at Brandeis, which is something the Women’s Studies Research Center has never done before. And based on recommendations, interviews, etc. they picked me to be in what functions as a fellowship-type position, where I came up with the theme and all the different elements of the show, and then we put it together.
JA: How do you see your own feelings about gender impact the way you ran the show?
NL: I think a lot of what I’m personally interested in is the space of gender in an artist’s work. A piece could be male- or female-centric, but it could also be both or neither. This was something that I was looking for a lot, especially in selecting the work. That’s the message I’m most interested in, that in-between. To varying extents that was successful. I’m happy that people are seeing a differentdialogue.
JA: What was it like having the show run through the summer?
NL: The summer involves a pretty different dynamic than the other shows at Brandeis because most of the people who come to view it aren’t Brandeis students. Because of that, the feedback is really different, especially with student artists. A lot of their work is more experimental, so you see the response from an older viewing public to be more curious about the less traditional pieces or definitely very uncomfortable with them. I’m really excited that now a lot of students are back, and they’re seeing the work and their interaction. It’s more exciting to see your friends’ work than it is to try to figure out what an art student is coming up with and how that’s related to feminism and everything else. A lot of people would get it in a really amazing way, and others wouldn’t. That’s kind of what we expected and what we were looking for.
JA: Do you have a favorite piece in the show?
NL: I love all the pieces. I think one specific piece that’s really cool is by a postbaccalaureate that finished last year, her name is Milcah Basel. It’s a white piece that goes out like a papier-mâchésculpture. I think it’s really interesting because it invites anyone who goes to the show to interact with it at their comfort level. An aspect of the piece is that you can climb into the bottom of it, and then you’re completely enveloped in this white monster. Bassel has this really interesting approach to what she defines to be feminist art, and it’s about being involved in something rather than having to surround it and walk around it and observe it in a hierarchical manner. She has a really cool approach to all that stuff. Then there’s another really cool piece by Matthew Grogan that’s offsite, at South Street across from the Village. At the Women’s Studies Research Center there’s a map and a floor plan of what it looks like. It’s on what used to be the site of a woman’s house who used to live here before Brandeis existed. Matt has an entire history related to the piece. It’s an interesting piece about campus history that I don’t think many people know about, and now it’s the concrete production sight for Brandeis, which is weird.
JA: What is planned for the closing reception on Thursday?
NL: The closing reception is an opportunity for the student artists that are still here to come and talk about their work and if people have questions to interact with them. The show officially closes on Sept. 23, and before then Milcah will be coming back to talk more extensively about her work. Other than that the reception serves as a reminder that this is the last hurrah for the show and that people should still come and see it.
JA: Do you plan on being involved in other art shows this year? What about after you graduate?
NL: I’m double-majoring in Art History and Economics, so I’m interested in how economics affects the art world at different levels. I’m spearheading the student committee for the Rose Art Museum, so I’ve been doing a lot of work related to the Museum. In terms of shows, that’s still up in the air. I might be organizing something in the library.