“Torch ‘72” by Shane Aslan Selzer Credit: University Art Museum archive
By Meghan Brink | February 17, 2021
The University Art Museum reopened its doors for in-person visits for the Spring semester with two new exhibits: one embracing Black idealism and identity and one showing a historical snapshot of Black, queer, and women’s rights activism on campus.
The museum, following New York State museum COVID-19 protocol as well as protocol from the university, is open for visits from students, faculty, and staff free of charge via online appointment 12-3 p.m. every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday where the new exhibits “i.de.al.is.tic” and “Torch ‘72” are on display.
After the campus-wide shut down in March 2020, the art museum closed temporarily, resuming operations online for the summer and through the fall. During that time, the museum was able to virtually deliver “ARTISTS OUT LOUD!” a collective exhibit on race and protest, and the “2020 Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition,” an annual display of graduating student’s work. Both exhibits remain on the museum’s website for viewing.
“It has been great to find ways to share our exhibitions in different ways, but to be able to see a real-life exhibition is our favorite thing to offer,” said Museum Director Corinna Ripps Shamming.
Due to the 10-visitor maximum in each hour-long appointment slot, Shamming said the staff is now accessible for questions and walk-through tours.
After receiving a $100,000 grant to fund exhibits for two years from the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts in September 2020, the museum began planning “i.de.al.is.tic” and “Torch ‘72” which will be on display until April 3, said Shamming.
As the university reflects on Black history, culture, and justice during Black History Month, Shamming invites students to “celebrate these Black artists and Black culture through the work of these exhibitions.”
Curated by Michael Mosby, “i.de.al.is.tic” brings together the work of Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola, Sean Desiree, and Marcus Leslie Singleton, three young Black artists who attempt to capture a different perspective of idealism through the scope of Black identity.
Idealism is a metaphysical view of reality that is often associated with Eurocentric art. These three artists seek to redefine idealism through the daily experience of Black life.
Akinbola’s work, “mural-sized” pieces made of durags stitched together, “celebrating and mourning Black life,” according to the exhibition description.
Desiree’s woodwork pieces create quilt-like woven patterns representing public housing, government subsidized housing typically associated with low-income and Black neighborhoods.
“It’s to combat words like ‘ghetto,’ ‘sketchy,’ and ‘dodgy’ that are typically used to describe poor Black neighborhoods, and to show our humanity,” said Desiree in an interview with the museum.
Singleton’s work seeks to heal trauma experienced by the Black community both from the present and the past through his paintings.
“Torch ’72,” the second exhibit on display curated by Shane Aslan Selzer, combines content from the UAlbany’s 1972 “Torch” yearbook edited by the queer, Black, AIDS activist Ron Simmons, with images of present and past significant protests ranging from the Vietnam War, to footage from the killing of George Floyd, and even features current student voices.
Selzer’s parents graduated from UAlbany in ’72, making Simmons yearbook that contains images of student protests on campus a time capsule that tells the tale of their experiences as college students.
“My story, my parent’s stories, are very much entangled with Ron Simmons’ story as seen in the yearbook,” said Selzer. “Just so much of white and Black America is inextricably entangled in ways we are only just beginning to speak about.”
Simmons’ yearbook broke traditional format, becoming a historical depiction of student driven social justice movements on campus, featuring photographs of protest fighting for queer, women’s, Black, and Puerto Rican rights.
Later, Simmons went on to become a prominent AIDS activist, creating the organization Us Helping Us that provides HIV/AIDS care to Black LGBTQ individuals.
Updates on future events at the art museum can be found on their Instagram. Shamming stated that “Student Speaks” series are planned for the near future where students
will speak on the current exhibits.