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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Thematic contemporary art exhibit opens at the Wichita Art Museum

The Wichita Art Museum (WAM) opened a new exhibit on Jan. 28 that challenges what it means to be an American artist.

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) was the first art school and museum in the United States. “Making American Artists: Stories from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1776-1976” challenges what it means to be an American artist.

The exhibit features 74 contemporary works by nationwide artists whose careers were shaped through PAFA. It is centralized around representing artists who may have been previously overlooked: people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Barley Hendricks, for example, created life-sized portraits featuring elements of Black fashion and culture from his hometown of Philadelphia. His artwork shifted the portrayal of Black masculinity through the energy in his models, such as in “J. S. B. III” by Hendricks, featured in the exhibit.

The simple, compartmentalized symbols of Adolph Gottlieb’s work “E” appear to have been painted over a prior work. Gottlieb’s art is meant to communicate a thought or feeling once it is understood. Among other symbols, the painting has the letter “E,” a triangle and a doodle of a man with a big nose looking over a wall. The character looks similar to the World War II meme “Kilroy was here.” This military graffiti symbolized American pride, especially if it was seen on enemy territory.

Sonja Sekula’s work was often overlooked in her time due to dismay towards her mental health issues and because she was openly lesbian. Curators of her art studied her biographies and found she likely struggled with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Her identity as a lesbian was said to be a manifestation of schizophrenia and she was put through conversion shock therapy. Her work, “The Rains” is featured in the exhibit. The painting appears to have dull colors and faded outlines of shapes and people.

All of the artwork is divided into five themes: portraiture, history, still life, genre scenes and landscape.

Most of the artwork is oil paintings on canvas, in addition to a few marble sculptures.

It is common for exhibits to display artwork in chronological order, however, “Making American Artists” is displayed by theme. This way, various artistic time periods are juxtaposed in order to challenge beliefs about what it meant to be an American at the time.

The exhibit will be available until April 21. Tickets to the exhibit cost $12 normally and are free with a student ID. On March 1, WAM is hosting an event where curator Tera Hendricks will speak in further depth about “Making American Artists.”

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About the Contributor
Loren Amelunke
Loren Amelunke, Reporter
Loren Amelunke is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore at Wichita State, currently pursuing a psychology major. She loves to write poetry and hopes to publish a poetry book in the near future.

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