In a project awarded two consecutive Art Works grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Spencer Museum of Art commissioned internationally recognized artists Ann Hamilton and Cynthia Schira to create room-sized works of art in the Museum’s galleries. Using digital technologies to explore the essential nature of cloth and the ways museums organize and maintain material legacies, Hamilton and Schira responded to the commission by considering the role of the hand and thread and the meanings of gesture and notations.
Working with current KU art students and Spencer Museum staff, An Errant Line investigates the artists’ former relationship as student and teacher (Hamilton came to KU in 1976 to study fiber arts with Schira). Transforming multiple galleries with their monumental installations, both artists employ images of and actual objects from the Spencer Museum’s permanent collection to create a rich and surprising tapestry.
Honoring the origins of the project in the student/teacher relationship, the Spencer Museum’s famed Bechstein piano (draped by Ann Hamilton) will host a series of lessons between volunteer master and student pairs. Throughout the run of the exhibition, students, musicians, dancers, and poets are invited to respond to Hamilton and Schira’s coded notations, adapting them to musical, theatrical, and literary dimensions.
The exhibition is organized by SMA curator Susan Earle and will be accompanied by a multi-author book.
Ann Hamilton is widely recognized for large-scale, multi-media installations that respond directly to the sites they occupy. Currently a Distinguished Professor of Art at The Ohio State University, she received a BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University before going on to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, among others. Her installations have appeared in major museums worldwide.
Cynthia Schira is one of the contemporary textile world’s most influential figures. She earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from the University of Kansas, where she taught from 1976 to 1999. She is the recipient of two Craftsman Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2000 she was awarded a Gold Medal from the College of Fellows of the American Craft Council. Her work has been exhibited internationally for more than forty years and is represented in major collections.
When the Spencer Museum of Art commissioned internationally renowned artists Ann Hamilton and Cynthia Schira to create new work for a major exhibition, the opportunity arose for University of Kansas art history students to witness contemporary art in the making. Students in John Pultz’s spring seminar, “Case study in contemporary installation art: Ann Hamilton + Cynthia Schira’s Commission for the Spencer Museum of Art An Errant Line,” gained unprecedented access to the planning, envisioning, trusting, creating, and installing that culminates in a public exhibition of this scale.
This blog is a tapestry of slowly unfurling thoughts and reflections written by Pultz’s students over the course of the semester.