Ghada Amer: The Breakthrough
This fall, the Center for Collaborative and International Arts (CENCIA) presented “Ghada Amer: The Breakthrough,” a multi-faceted program, coordinated by the Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design Welch Galleries, and organized and curated by Professor Dr. Kimberly Cleveland, Gallery director Cynthia Farnell, and MFA Jack Michael. The CENCIA series featured a lecture by the New York-based artist Ghada Amer (part of the Welch Visiting Arts & Scholar Lecture Series) along with two related gallery projects: “Ghada Amer: The Breakthrough Resource Room,” curated by GSU Associate Professor of Art History Kimberly Cleveland and Gallery Director Cynthia Farnell, and “The Economy of a Woman’s Touch: Contemporary Female Artists in Dialogue with Ghada Amer,” curated by GSU Associate Professor of Art History Kimberly Cleveland and MFA Candidate Jack Michael. The program included a lecture, gallery artist talks, a panel discussion (lead by Dr. Kimberly Cleveland), and a space for classroom discussion. This exhibition and additional programing is unprecedented in it’s caliber of student opportunity. This director and faculty team designed the program to provide an opportunity for selected graduate students to engage in dialog and exhibit alongside with the work of an artist of international recognition and influence.
Much of Amer’s production is informed by her personal history and relevant to the studio and art history courses offered at the school. Although Amer’s parents encouraged her academically and her family traveled internationally due to her father’s position as a diplomat, her position as an “outsider” in the West lead her to contemplate questions of cultural identity and hybridity. Amer subsequently applied a hybrid approach to some of her production by combining painting, which she considers a more masculine art form, with sewing and embroidery, which she considers more female forms of expression. Further, in reaction to some of the stereotypical representations of the female in Islamic culture she encountered in both Egypt and France, Amer appropriates images of women that are directed at the male gaze and reinterprets them in her own, often erotic, embroideries and paintings. Through her visually abstract works, Amer engages in a type of post-gender rebellion against pre-established cultural values, commodification, and male-dominated societies.
This gallery program offered an opportunity for second and third year graduate students to meet and exhibit alongside an artist of international notoriety. Themes of empowerment, the body, identity, gendered labor, and material ran through the current of the work produced by the graduate students in “Economy of a Woman’s Touch.” In this exhibition and the accompanied discussions, Jessica Caldas, Jack Michael, Maria Ojeda, Carla Powell, and Parker Thornton responded in their own way to these ideas through sculpture, drawing, painting, and textiles.
Ghada Amer visited our campus as a part of the Welch Visiting Artist and Scholar Lecture Series this fall. She is a NY-based artist who was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1963 and spent part of her upbringing in France. She studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, received her MFA in painting from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Nice, and moved to New York City in 1996. She explores numerous themes in her paintings, sculptures, and public garden projects, including cultural identity, definitions of East and West, feminine and masculine, and art and craft. Amer has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Sydney Biennale, the Whitney Biennale, and the Brooklyn Museum, among other locations. In October 2018, she will be an honoree at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s Awards.