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Curatorial Perspective: An Upcoming Exhibition Takes Shape

Manifest, 2010, by Stacy Lynn Waddell

Manifest, 2010, by Stacy Lynn Waddell (American, b. 1966)

Over the next few weeks, the Gibbes collections and curatorial staff will be hard at work in preparation for the opening of Stacy Lynn Waddell: The Evidence of Things Unseen. On view September 3 – December 5, 2010, this exhibition will feature recent work by contemporary artist Stacy Lynn Waddell in her first solo museum exhibition. Waddell’s work is a fascinating blend of painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, and installation created with her innovative technique of burning, singeing, and branding paper and canvas.

Organizing an exhibition such as this is no easy task. It is truly a team effort that requires close to two years of planning. This particular exhibition began with a series of conversations between me and the artist. Together, we hatched a plan for the overall scope of the exhibition and important details such as the dates, gallery location, number of works, etc. As luck would have it, the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro was also interested in hosting an exhibition of Waddell’s work, and a collaboration was born.

To prepare for the exhibition, I took two trips to Durham, NC to visit Stacy in her studio, along with Xandra Eden, the Curator of Exhibitions at the Weatherspoon. Studio visits are one of the best parts of my job. I get to see artwork first hand while building a relationship with the artist—important things when curating a contemporary exhibition. During our visits with Stacy, our main objective was to select the objects for the exhibition. It was important for Stacy, Xandra, and I to meet as a group and develop an object list that worked for both venues and also matched Stacy’s vision for the show.

But selecting the works in only half the story. Once the object list is finalized we need to figure out how to pack the works, ship them to the museum, and install them in the gallery. This requires hard work and ingenuity on the part of our Director of Collections Administration, Zinnia Willits, and our Director of Operations and Preparator, Greg Jenkins. Greg and Zinnia are our resident experts on all things related to art handling, movement, and installation. In the meantime, I am busy writing an essay for the exhibition brochure, preparing label copy and text panels, planning the exhibition layout, and managing all other details of the project. Did I book Stacy a hotel room for the exhibition opening? Do we have high resolution images for our marketing materials? These are the things that pop into my head at 3 o’clock in the morning…

Many, many emails and phone calls later, we are in the home stretch. I have to say, I am really looking forward to seeing this exhibition on the gallery walls, and I know Stacy is too. Come see the final results—the exhibition opens on Friday, September 3—it should be a good time.

—Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

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