Please write a short essay about why you want to attend this summer program at the Atlanta
University Center. In your response, discuss your leadership and community service
experiences. If you have a specific interest in Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College or
Spelman College, be sure to address your interest in those schools.
In this section, you will be asked a variety of questions about your interest in the study of art
history and curatorial practice. You also will be asked to reflect on views from prominent African American art professionals. We are interested in the unique attributes you will bring to the program and how you envision yourself contributing to these fields.
1. Why do you want to participate in the AUC Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective Early College Program? What are three things you hope to learn this summer about art history and/or curatorial studies?*
2. What unique skills and experiences will you bring to the program?*
3. Art history is an interdisciplinary field offering many exciting opportunities to link interests in other fields of study. Review the quote below by curator Rujeko Hockley and describe your academic interests.*
“When I took my first art history class, I had this moment of realization that there was this whole field of study that encompassed all my interests. Art history is about looking at people and the development of societies and cultures through the things that they make—the things they cared about enough to keep in their homes and share with each other. I was very compelled by that. I
was also very interested in social justice and politics and race, and art history involved studying those things, too.”
-Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator, The Whitney Museum of American Art
4. Studying art history and curatorial studies opens up many postgraduate and creative career opportunities. Considering the list of art-related careers below, which are you most drawn to? Select all that apply.
5. Choose one (A or B, but not both) of the following questions to answer in no more than 200 words.*
A. The curatorial profession requires creativity, resilience, and vision. View the following video, Black Icons of Art: Thelma Golden and Rujeko Hockley to get their perspectives on curating and the museum world. After viewing, relate how their career paths will inform your contribution to art history and museums. Refer to specific moments from the video.
B. Museums are not neutral spaces and can provide a platform for activism around social, cultural, and political issues. Watch the following two videos to gain insight from an artist, a curator and a museum professional. Then, refer to historical moments, current events, or specific ideas from the videos as you answer this last question: What is the role of the museum in changing the future?
6. Have you ever seen an exhibition that changed your perspective or point of views? Describe the exhibition. If you have not, imagine you’re curating your own show. Which topic would you choose to explore?*
In this section, you will be introduced to formal analysis, contextual analysis and gallery labels. You also will have an opportunity to consider the impact of the art market.
Art historians and curators engage with art and objects on a daily basis. They utilize formal and contextual analyses – together or separately – to understand the meaning of art objects. Art historians and curators write extensively about art and one writing form that we will discuss during the course is the gallery label.
To answer the questions, you will need to read the material provided in the APPLICATION RESOURCES document.
Kerry James Marshall, Past Times, 1997, acrylic and collage on unstretched canvas, 114 × 15 inches.
7. In the spring of 2018, Sean "Diddy" Combs purchased Kerry James Marshall's 1997 painting Past Times 1997 for a record $21.1 million. Respond to both Prompt A and Prompt B below.
A. Provide a 200-word formal analysis of the work based on what you see. For this question, be sure to use the specific vocabulary outlined in Elements of Art and Principles of Design from the APPLICATION RESOURCES document. You do not need to utilize all of the elements or principles. One approach is to focus on the two elements and/or principles that you consider the most prominent in the image.*
B. Provide a 150-word discussion of African American art and the art market. For this question, look back at the image above and in your response, discuss the themes of the image and what the purchase reflects or projects about African American art in society.*
Amy Sherald, First Lady Michelle Obama, 2018, oil on linen, 72.1 x 60.1 inches and
Kehinde Wiley, President Barack Obama, 2018, oil on canvas, 84.1 x 58 inches.
8. Respond to both Prompt A and Prompt B below.
Art historians look at the formal characteristics of artworks as well as the contexts in which they are created or viewed. In other words, they may engage in a formal analysis or a contextual analysis and many times, they do both methods at the same time. Additionally, they “compare” art works for both similarities and differences in meaning based on how they look visually or the circumstances in which they were created. This type of analysis is called a comparison or is referred to as comparing/contrasting because the differences are as important as the similarities. In Question 7, you conducted a formal analysis and here you’ll do the same thing but combine it with a contextual analysis to compare and/or contrast two artworks.
In February 2018, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC unveiled the newest additions to their collection of portraits of Former Presidents and First Ladies. Both portraits are the first by African American artists to be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery for the presidential collection. Read the websites linked below for context about the portraits and their relationship to African American photography.
A. After reading, compare and contrast two formal elements or design principles (of your choice) in the portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.*
B. Looking at the formal elements and principles of the works and considering the context of presidential portraits and the history of African American photography, what is the importance of these two portraits for African American culture?*
Archibald John Motley Jr., Portrait of My Grandmother, 1922, oil on canvas, 38 ¼ × 23 ¾ inches.
When artworks are exhibited in museums or other venues, they have labels that accompany them to provide the viewer with important information about the object. It’s often challenging to determine what to include on the label; in many cases, the curator chooses different information to highlight based on whether the work is a new acquisition, included in a travelling exhibition, or is hanging in a gallery as part of a permanent collection exhibition.
For the image above, you will find different examples of labels in the APPLICATION RESOURCES document as well as an artist’s video here. The work above has an “Object Description Label” and an “Object Overview Label.” Each label serves a different purpose. Take a look at these examples to see what is included on labels for Portrait of My Grandmother.
Shown from the knees up, a woman with brown, wrinkled skin, wearing a white blouse, apron, and black skirt is shown in front of a pale gray background in this vertical portrait painting. Straight-backed, she faces and looks at us with her hands resting in her lap. Her wavy, iron-gray hair is parted in the center and pulled back from her face. Her eyebrows are slightly raised, and her face is deeply lined down her cheeks and around her mouth. She wears a heart-shaped brooch with a red stone at its center at her neck and a gold band on her left ring finger. The light coming from our left casts a shadow against the wall to our right. The artist signed and dated the painting in the lower right corner: “A.J. MOTLEY. JR. 1922.”
Archibald John Motley Jr. created this portrait of his 80-year-old grandmother, Emily Sims Motley (1842–1929), in 1922. Born enslaved by the Kittredge family, Emily lived through the Civil War on a sugar plantation in Louisiana. In 1894, she and her family settled in Chicago, where her son—the artist’s father—worked as a Pullman porter on regional trains.
Archibald Motley graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1918. At the time he completed this painting, he lived on the South Side of Chicago with his parents, his sister and nephew, and his grandmother. In Portrait of My Grandmother, Emily wears a white apron over a simple blouse fastened with a heart-shaped brooch. She looks directly at the viewer (and at her grandson, as he was in the process of painting this portrait). With sympathetic honesty, Motley acknowledged his grandmother’s age, detailing the hollows under her eyes and her delicately wrinkled chin. Her hands, marked by age and manual labor, rest on her lap. Motley has taken special care to note Emily’s gold wedding ring.
Bolstered by a pared-down setting and simple backdrop, much of the composition is dominated by a single color, white. Motley expertly differentiates between varying shades: the slightly sheer sleeves of her blouse, the brighter white tie of her apron, and the touches of white in her hair. Behind Emily, her slender shadow is a quiet, ghostly presence against the soft white wall.
Motley’s art studio and his grandmother’s bedroom were on the top floor of the family home. At the end of each day, the artist lovingly carried his elderly grandmother up the stairs to her room. Motley’s portrait of the family matriarch is both truthful and dignified, commanding yet understated.
Now, think about your future and your accomplishments. Imagine that your portrait is hanging in a museum. Write a 100-word label that will be placed underneath your future portrait. For this question, you are writing about an imaginary portrait of your future self and are not writing about Portrait of My Grandmother by Archibald John Motley Jr. Use the examples and the video as inspiration.
9. YOU are the curator of the label for your portrait, so show us your style!*
Indicate at least two recommenders who can speak to your academic, personal and professional strengths. One of the recommenders must be your high school guidance counselor (who will submit your transcript). Family members may not serve as recommenders. Upon application submission, you will receive an e-mail with your student application ID number. You must share this number, along with the link to the digital recommendation form with your recommenders. All forms are due on April 10, 2023.
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