By Hannah Fierle, For The Miami Student
Bold colors, whimsical patterns, figures from miniature to gigantic and themes ranging from humorously unique to downright bizarre. These are the types of features that make the Miami University Art Museum’s (MUAM) exhibit “Seldom Seen: Fun and Quirky” an experience unlike any other. The MUAM’s spring exhibition premiered on Jan. 26.
The pieces featured in the exhibition all share one similar criterion — their lack of similarities. The works selected for the exhibition were all chosen because they lacked the contextualization to be displayed in other exhibitions.
MUAM boasts over 17,000 works, but only about two percent of their collection will be displayed at any given time. The concept behind “Seldom Seen” is to showcase pieces of art that have not been seen, but are nonetheless intriguing and valuable to viewers.
The impetus for “Fun and Quirky” began with what is perhaps the exhibition’s marquis piece — a 12-foot figurine of a man laughing, lounging, and enjoying a drink, appropriately named “The Cocktailer,” by James Grashow.
“My original inspiration was ‘The Cocktailer,’ said curator Jason Shaiman. “I wanted students to see it, but didn’t know how to contextualize the piece for display.”
As Shaiman began to notice other intriguing pieces the museum held, he formulated the idea to present the misfits together. With the help of his intern, Raechel Root, they researched the unique selections in order to write labels and learn about their histories — many of which have deep, sometimes dark, meanings.
“There are so many cool, fun pieces that don’t really fit anywhere else, so it makes sense that they’re displayed together,” said Shaiman.
Shaiman also expressed his desire to continue the “Seldom Seen” series every few years, changing the sub-theme to incorporate other angles of unseen works.
Although the works demonstrate great variation in style, color, medium and meaning, many similarities were nonetheless discovered. Drawing on the analogous features, the pieces in the exhibition are classified into seven different categories such as Mythology, California Funk and Representation of the Human Body.
While some works may fall into four or five of the categories, others may only coincide with one classification. The general idea is for viewers to be able to make connections among the disparate elements and seemingly random works.
“We are already having so much fun seeing our guests explore and engage with the works from our collection in “Seldom Seen.” In addition to walking through the exhibition, guests also can use special topic cards available at the entry to the exhibition to explore various related themes. This is especially fun as it is a scavenger hunt of sorts amongst what seems, at first glance, seemingly unrelated works,” said Krazl.
Not only do the selected works make the exhibition unique, but the level of student involvement is also a key feature. From museum interns, assistance with curating and research and graphic design for the exhibit, students have had a key role in bringing the exhibit to life.
“Seldom Seen” is close to senior Morgan Murray’s heart because it is the last exhibit she has helped to design while working with the exam since her freshman year. During her time with MUAM, she has contributed her expertise to their visuals and graphics for exhibits.
“Because the works in ‘Seldom Seen’ are all off-the-beaten-path from usual museum works, I wanted to invoke that feel in the designed visuals while still keeping a lighthearted and fun feel,” said Murray.
Premiering along with “Fun and Quirky” are two other exhibits, “Subjective Objectivity: Documentary Photography as Fragments of Experience” and “Creativity and Innovation: A Student Response,” featuring works from university students.
The exhibits will remain at MUAM until June 25.