On Wednesday, Nov. 19, the Beard and Weil Galleries reopened, introducing two new student-curated exhibitions: “Tracing the Thread” and “Goya and Beethoven: Finding a Voice Out of Silence.” Both exhibitions blend art, music, and education and connect past works to present-day issues.
The exhibition on Francisco Goya coincides with another exhibition of the artist’s work, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston’s “Goya: Order and Disorder.” Students in Evelyn Staudinger’s art history class, “Impossible Monsters: Goya as Painter and Printmaker,” gained the unique opportunity to observe the exhibition at the MFA and to help install a similar exhibition at Wheaton. According to Staudinger, the experience provided students with a once in a life time opportunity “to produce an exhibition that was visually beautiful, distinct from the MFA’s and yet still conversant with it, and sensitive in its political and socially-conscious role, not only for late 18th/early 19th century Spain, but also 21st century America.”
“Goya and Beethoven: Finding a Voice out of Silence” was inspired in part by Art History 298’s unique connection with Music 398: Beethoven, taught by Professor Ann Sears. The display not only features twenty-three Goya prints but also nine print portraits of Ludwig von Beethoven and his contemporaries from the Wheaton College Permanent Collection and on loan from other collections. Beethoven and Goya held similar political and social views and went deaf around the same time, towards the end of the 18th century. Beethoven was devastated by the loss of his hearing and struggled to compose music. Goya also faced enormous difficulties as his income depended on his court patronage to the Kings and Queens of Spain and on his position as Director of the Madrid Arts Academy. The exhibit explores how loss of hearing may have affected the works of Beethoven and Goya and begs the question: how did these men maintain their own unique, artistic voices when all they could hear was silence?
Staudinger’s class helped install the exhibition and wrote wall text to accompany the prints, while Sears’ students recorded short audio statements and chose selections of Beethoven’s music to accompany the portraits (accessible through Smartphone technology). Although neither Staudinger nor Sears knew of another exhibition on Beethoven and Goya when they started, they later discovered that a similar exhibition was introduced in Greece in 2012. Thus, “Goya and Beethoven: Finding a Voice out of Silence” may be the second of its kind.
The Beard Gallery exhibition, “Tracing the Thread,” is also unique to Wheaton. The exhibition features more than 55 objects from Wheaton’s Permanent Collection, the Gebbie Archives and Special Collections and other private collections. The display was curated by students in the art history course “Exhibition Design,” led by co-instructors Leah Niederstadt, Zephorene Stickney and Megan Wheaton-Book. Tracing the Thread” is arranged into three thematic areas: Self and Identity, Leisure and Warfare, and Controversy and Knowledge, which explore the many ways in which humans create or use fiber. The exhibition displays various types of fiber art such as crochet, embroidery, felting, weaving and knitting which can be used to represent personal and ethnic identity. Through a diverse selection of objects, the themes demonstrate how fiber functions in a similar way for all people regardless of social, political, or economic status.
Both “Goya and Beethoven: Finding a Voice Out of Silence” and “Tracing the Thread” will remain on display, Monday through Saturday from 12:30–4:30 p.m., through February 13. The galleries will be closed Dec. 5 through Jan. 20 for winter break.