On Thursday, September 20, students in Lauren Cunningham’s Art History class headed to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art to tour the “Commanding Space: Women Sculptors of Texas” exhibition. The show features artworks created by living female artists from Texas. Cunningham’s goal in sharing this exhibit with students was twofold.
“First, this semester, we are studying the evolution of art from ancient times to modern with a focus on sculpture, so an exhibition entirely of sculptures was very appropriate,” she shared. “Second, women artists are notoriously under-represented in museums, so this exhibition seemed very important, especially since my class consisted of all girls when I scheduled the field trip. [Later in the semester, a male student joined the class.]”
The group’s guide, Erin Long, did a great job asking the students questions about what they observed and in particular, guiding them to notice the materials used. The sculptures in this exhibition featured a range of materials, from more traditional media like wood, to new media, like rope and dirt. There are also sculptures that use traditional materials in different ways, such as the bronze pillow in Linda Ridgeway’s Husband (2005)
Peri Huling ’19 was intrigued by Kana Harada’s Heart (2008) and reflected, “I thought that it was some type of metal until I looked closer and saw the real medium.” The sculpture, which vaguely resembles a bird cage, is actually made out of black foam sheeting.
Felicia Pang ’20 said, “I learned that [sculptures] can be created with a lot of unexpected materials.”
The sculptures in the exhibition were either non-representational or abstract. As a result of inquiring questions, the students began to ponder the deeper meaning of these unique forms. Brett Nowlin ’20 said her favorite sculpture was Foojin—God of the Wind (2008) because “it signified how peace can be brought out of chaos. It showed there is hope [even] when there are problems in one’s day-to-day life.”
The more mysterious artworks were the most fun to discuss and debate. Kennedy Smith ’20 said, “My favorite artwork was Husband because it could be interpreted in so many different ways.”
Cunningham loves teaching art history in Fort Worth because she has access to the city’s three great art museums. “The longer classes (75 minutes) in the Upper School afford us the time to visit the museums during the school day. What I have learned in my years of teaching is that museum visits can leave a lasting impression, for better or for worse,” she said. “A negative experience can deter a student from ever wanting to step foot in a museum again, whereas a positive experience can have a lasting impact and possibly even inspire a student to want to be an artist or curator. What students need to have a good museum experience is guidance on how to interpret what they are looking at. The Amon Carter does a particularly great job of fostering these conversations.
“Erin Long has worked with my students several times and is an expert at engaging them,” Cunningham continues. “She never lectures or bombards the students with facts. Instead, she invites their observations and then asksquestions to help them reflect on those observations.”
Eden Harveson ’19 said Long was “an excellent docent and help[ed] us learn and have fun!” For Smith, the tour was “very interactive and captivating. I had an amazing time!”