My first exposure to the art world came at the age of 15, when I studied abroad for a year in Lille, France as a Rotary International Youth Exchange student. Coming from a rural town in Idaho, my experience abroad completely subverted the way I perceived the world, my home country, and my identity. From this eye-opening experience, I resolved that in college I would further examine the history and theories of politics, cross-cultural identity, and diplomacy. Though I initially planned to study political science, when I took my first modern art history class I discovered the subversive nature of Impressionism. This piqued my interest in artists who were socially engaged and who protested the status quo. I then took a seminar on art in the 1960s and discovered the early work of Yoko Ono. As I explored Ono’s work in the context of the circles of John Cage and George Maciunas, I realized that often the greatest cultural and political ambassadors have been artists, who shaped the identities of their communities.
While writing a research paper on Ono’s involvement with the Fluxus movement, I formally declared my major to be Art History, and it was her work that profoundly influenced my decision to pursue a career in the arts. After watching Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” (1964) and reading Grapefruit, Ono’s anthology of instruction works, I recognized the power of conceptual art as a medium for challenging personal perceptions and catalyzing social and political change. I admired Ono’s activism as an Asian, female artist fighting for her right to work within an oppressive, male-dominated world of art. Although her art felt warm and accessible, it was still politically charged.
Simultaneously with this course on art in the 1960s, I became involved in a small resurgence of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Brown University. Through many New England SDS conferences, I participated in discussions on race, class, and economic privileges. SDS was my first exposure to grassroots mobilization and revolutionary discourse, which transferred to my studies in art history from Edouard Manet protesting the elitism of the Paris Salon, to contemporary activist artists.
As my interest in the political capacity of art deepened, during my senior year of college I completed an independent study on Adrian Piper’s conceptual art. I focused on Piper’s feelings on artistic integrity, her distaste of corporate sponsorship in the art world, and how decontextualized, postmodernist art is oppressive to minority artists. My paper on Piper greatly influences my decision to focus on the way in which art has been commodified in the 20th- and 21st-centuries. I also want to study how capitalism affects the freedom and neutrality of art production and the necessity of promoting art production which protests the status quo.
Recently, I have been extremely involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, examining the negative impact globalization and capitalism have on the world. I participate daily in the life of the Occupy Boston by vocalizing my opinions and voting in the consensus process of the General Assemblies. I am also extremely active in the Occupy Boston Women’s Caucus, an all-woman, feminist Working Group. This experience reinforces my interest in economic disparity and issues of oppression, and this has carried over into my activities in the art world. Working with a few Occupy Boston artists, in the spring I will be curating a contemporary art show called “connecting…”, which focuses on the construction and deconstruction of identity in mass media.
I plan to research modern and contemporary activist artists in the context of economics, politics, and globalization, investigating how artists transform the political into the aesthetic. My studies will build upon my professional experiences, which include curatorial internships in the Education Department at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, in the Création Contemporaine et Prospectif Department at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, France, and in the Contemporary Art Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Wish Tree, Yoko Ono, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden