By: Misty L. Nelson
On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, I visited the Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University. The museum operates as a part of the School of Art and Design at Kennesaw State, approximately twenty-five minutes north of Atlanta off I-75. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free, and you do not have to be a student to visit. Visitors are directed to park in lot J. The fee to park is small, only three dollars an hour with the first thirty minutes being free.
I only recently discovered that Kennesaw State has a museum on campus. I am very fond of visiting museums because it is usually a thoughtful and reflective experience for me. I enjoy seeing how others interpret the world around us and the experiences we create within.
The museum greets you with a beautiful, towering glass atrium, making the transition from the outside world feel natural. Upon entering, an attendant at the front desk greets you and asks you to sign in. You are also asked to provide your student ID number on the sign-in sheet, but it is optional, and they do not check your ID. They go over a few guidelines with you, such as no food or drinks, no touching, and no flash photography.
I visited the museum that afternoon with the intention of viewing the current exhibitions. I found information on their current exhibits on their website, and they also have upcoming exhibits listed as well. The museum begins on the upper level which is accessible by elevator or a grand set of stairs. The wall that rises from the stairs, also part of the atrium, houses a remarkable installation, and one of the exhibitions, by Sonya Yong James that spans the whole of the wall. Don’t worry, you have no chance of missing it; the striking red color is as mesmerizing as it is stimulating.
The piece by James is titled One Hundred Blossoms and the Sweetest Scent. It draws inspiration from Little Red Riding Hood and the Greek myth of Persephone. It would be easy to look at this piece and pass it off as just an enormous piece of red fabric with flowers and a few random objects. I suppose all art could be easily dismissed if we don’t look closer. But I could sense all the complications of life. I could feel how each part was connected. Sometimes, it blends, and all looks the same. Or, it is just a different shade of the same color. Our stories may all be different, but they are connected by common threads. Temptations can be masked to appear beautiful or innocent. Life isn’t uniformly shaped. It is rugged, uneven, and worn. But it is life; it is my life; it is your life.
Once I navigated my way up the stairs and managed to pull my eyes away from James’ captivating work, I found myself on a landing where another exhibition is displayed. It is the Ruth V. Zuckerman Collection titled Inside Out, and it is in what is called the Ruth V. Zuckerman Pavilion. There was no mention of an end date for the display of this collection. Here, the museum is utilizing what is called “visible storage.” It allows the museum to both store and display parts of their permanent collection. This one consists primarily of a series of statues and figures in different colors and materials. I started at the left and worked my way right. In doing this, I noticed an evolution in the figures. They start out as more abstract, often individual components of life, but become more complex and mature. The left side is dominated by figures of people standing alone or connected in some way. The superficial layer had been stripped off. I could feel the connections and longings. Human connection. Bonds and memories existed. I was looking at life in raw form.
Next, I moved into a large hallway beyond Inside Out. On the right, there is a hall that leads to restrooms and the Bailey Performance Center. Straight ahead is another entrance/exit. To the left is the Mortin Gallery that holds the third exhibition I visited, Fruitful Labors, which runs until November tenth. There is another attendant right inside the door to monitor the room and ask you to sign in if you happened to come through one of the side entrances. Brochures with background information on the works featured and the artist are offered here as well. This exhibit focuses on coping and making sense of life and our place in it. The installations range from murals to photographs to video clips. They all have something profound to say about humans and how we live. One thing to note about art galleries as you move through them is there are a lot of open spaces. This allows room for you to view each piece from different perspectives and distances and gives your thoughts space to wander. It also gives each piece freedom to express itself.
My favorite in this gallery was a video by Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn titled I See You Man. This video involves a woman on a beach with a dog. She is having a conversation with the person holding the camera, but they do not respond to anything she says. She caught my attention first by saying, “Humans aren’t bad.” She stares out toward the ocean in silence. The dog runs towards it and vanished in the fog. She eventually finds herself running towards the waves, but as soon as she is almost there, she turns to run away from them as they chase her across the sand. She does this more than once, but finally ends up in the water, rejoicing and encouraging the cameraperson to try it, even though they may get wet. She then tells you that you are strong. The lady in this video is an example of all of us. We fret and worry. Sometimes we cannot see through the fog of uncertainty in front of us. We are afraid to fail, so once we get close to our goal, we run or back down. Ultimately, we succeed and find joy. We may get a little wet, but it’s worth it. We are strong enough to make it.
Finally, moving back towards the front of the museum and past Inside Out, but still on the second floor, the fourth exhibition I visited is in the East Gallery by the elevator to the right. It is called Painting Who? and runs until December fifteenth. This room also has an attendant and brochures with more information. The room is set up with a wall in the middle, so you walk not only through, but around the room. Most of the paintings here are abstract, so you get to use your imagination, which is always fun. These are meant to challenge and reference painting as a medium, exploring a range of subjects. The lighting was low but focused on the artwork. This room had a very comfortable and familiar feeling to it because it represents the image we all have in our heads of what an art gallery looks like. As I moved through the room, I spent a little time with each piece. One of my favorites was a painting by Gracie DeVito titled Window at Café Loup.
This painting immediately reminded me of Impressionism. It was the ideal view to have to look out of a café window, lush green grass and beautiful wildflowers. The scene gives me a dreamy feeling; I could sit and daydream while staring at this view all afternoon. The bottom edge is uneven – imperfect and beautiful just like the garden. It could be the artist challenging the tradition of art by breaking away from a uniform canvas but still using a traditional style. Humans value tradition and ritual, but we must also be open to the idea of change and growth. Likewise, it could be the actual view we have, meaning something could be obstructing our view along the bottom of the “window.” This possibility caused me to think about what the rest of the world around this scene was like. I no longer felt like this was just a window view, but a glimpse of something much larger.
As I left, I was thanked by the staff. I only spent about an hour at the museum, but I feel it was plenty of time. They also offer other galleries, the Anna F. Henriquez Atrium and the Fine Arts Satellite Gallery, so you could easily spend more time on your visit. The exhibits change somewhat seasonally at the Zuckerman Museum, so I will be sure to return. I encourage anyone who loves art or is looking for a memorable, cultural afternoon activity to visit this local gem.
Afterward, I felt invigorated and inspired. I don’t get to visit art museums often enough, I have concluded.
All photos displayed on this page of the original artwork were taken by Misty Lantrip at the Zuckerman Museum of Art.