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Exhibits from the Telfair Museum of Art

Updated on April 8, 2014

"Arsenal" by Sarah Frost

When I visited the Telfair Museum of Art in January 2013, I took notes on the exhibits they had up at the time. However, I ended up delaying the review originally intended for my other blog. A delay that lasted over a year. A Master's Thesis can do that to you. Now, after reading this out loud to people and listening to their suggestions, I am ready to publish this article.

My visit to the museum started on an innocuous note when I came across Jessica Scott-Felder’s High Chairs. An immense sculpture, Scott-Felder created a normal looking wooden chair and named it after a term commonly found in furniture for young children. After looking at it and taking notes, I opened the doors to one gallery and found myself confronting another large sculpture called Arsenal by Sarah Frost. A sculpture consisting of nothing but white guns. I did not know about this exhibition beforehand, so this came as an unsettling surprise to me. I can imagine the disturbed look on my face when I saw the huge diverse array of fake guns decorating this one room. That expression resulted in a worker giving me a written statement addressing Arsenal's accidental connection to the Sandy Hook tragedy. According to the Telfair's official statements and Savannah Now, Frost created Arsenal after seeing children make them. Contemplating the installation long after the visit, it made me think of mobiles that parents would hang over a baby's crib.

The work also hit me on multiple senses. In sight, I saw guns made out of white paper floating in the air via a series of barely visible threads ("Monofilament" if you want the correct term). Arsenal also had a smell that reminded me of glue or paint.


"Facing South: Portraits of Southern Artists" by Jerry Siegel

After that overwhelming installation, I went to other exhibits. Exactly as the title above says, this show featured artists from regional Southern areas in their own environments. Nothing too outlandish, the portraits do what people expect portraits should do: showcase the subject’s personality. Siegel shot the artists in their studios, their homes, at work, or just framed their face up close and tight sans negative space. Occasionally, he does capture an artist's emotional state. For instance, he captured Radcliffe Bailey with a wistful expression on his face. In another, he showed Don Craig in a casual mood and Barry Buxkamper looking comical. Given how many photos they had on display, I did wonder about the ones that did not make the approved list.


After Arsenal, this felt respectable and safe.

"Paperwork"

You can click on the Telfair link to learn the story behind this.

Two artworks from this show stood out to me. The first one came from Jeff Koons. Looking at his work Untitled (coloring book), I have to wonder if he pulled a Marcel Duchamp on the Telfair for agreeing to display this work. To elaborate, the thing consisted of nothing but a page from a children's book (of cartoon characters, I don't remember which) and markings from crayons on it. The second came from an enormous painting named Where were you when the moon was full? by an artist named Aldwyth. Wonderfully surreal, the painting nearly covered the entire wall and depicted disembodied hands moving around and manipulating other subjects and objects.


"Act/Natural Photography" and "The Rizza Collection"

Act/Natural Photography featured the usual famous photographers and some I have never heard of. I did enjoy Neal Slavin and his amusing group portraits of sports teams and groups. More memorable photographs came from Dan Winters and his dignified black and white photographs of celebrities such as Laura Dern and Denzel Washington.


The last exhibit showed selections from the Rizza Collection. What I remembered most? Lots of silver and glass. All lovely and well crafted functional wares from companies such as Tiffany, Cartier, Wakely, Goodnow, and Jinks. This exhibition did have something that I have never seen before in shows similar to this: baby rattles and silverware for children. Given how expensive they had to have been, I wonder if parents who owned them actually allowed their brood to use them.

Besides Arsenal, I saw the theme of childhood and consumer goods interacting with each other throughout the show in different ways. Whether it came from wordplay, non-functioning simulations of real weapons, or imitating a child's attempt at art, artists used the age of youth as their personal muse. After all, in childhood, everything seems large, new, exciting, and you want to add your own spin on a tradition.


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