“An Active and Urgent Telling” Brings Lived Experiences to Schaefer Art GalleryIn partnership with Strange Fire Collective, the Gustavus Department of Art and Art History will host the exhibition from Feb. 11-March 17.
Posted on February 9th, 2021 by

Photograph by Irene Reece.

“When we started planning this collaboration with Strange Fire Collective over a year ago, the department was excited to share how visual arts can express a critique of dominant social structures,” says Gustavus Adolphus College art professor and Schaefer Art Gallery manager Nicolas Darcourt. “After the recent changes in awareness toward racial equity and identity, both within Gustavus and nationally, perhaps this exhibition can now be an even stronger contribution.”

An Active and Urgent Telling will be held from February 11 through March 17 in the Schaefer Art Gallery on the Gustavus campus. The exhibition was organized by Strange Fire Collective (SFC), a group of interdisciplinary artists, curators, and writers focused on work that engages with current social and political forces.

An Active and Urgent Telling features the work of six contemporary artists working with photography to honor the weight of lived experience through an intersectional lens. Stemming from SFC’s mission, the exhibition centers artists for whom questions of identity deeply affect their relationship to representation. The work included engages with ideas of visibility and invisibility, the reality of lives that exist outside of, or in opposition to, expected and enforced social norms, and the social and political power of speaking one’s truth. Each artist contributes nuance to a redefinition of the commonly understood fabric of difference through an active and urgent telling of their own lived experiences.

Studio art major and arts administration minor Megan Aber ’22 helps prepare the gallery as Nicolas Darcourt looks on.

Exhibiting artists include Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Penny Molesso, Rachelle Mozman Solano, Irene Reece, and Chanell Stone.

“We are excited to bring this exhibition to Gustavus Adolphus College and are looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with students in photography and arts administration. In light of the past year–and the social and political inequities it so clearly highlighted–this exhibition feels especially timely and urgent,” Strange Fire Collective said in a statement. “We hope that the exhibition will provide an opportunity for students to engage with larger issues of identity and social justice through highly personal work and will act as a catalyst for meaningful discussions about these pressing topics.”

An Active and Urgent Telling will be available online with works from the exhibition and a video walkthrough.

Original, in-depth interviews with each exhibiting artist will also be posted on www.strangefirecollective.com during the exhibition to illuminate a more thoughtful understanding of the artists and their work. The exhibition was made possible with support from Gustavus Artist Series funds and the Johnson Endowment for the Arts at Gustavus.

According to Darcourt, the limitations presented by COVID-19 also created new opportunities to connect Gustavus students with working artists.

“The exhibition includes national artists with works coming in from across the country,” he explains. “By having less of a focus on the in-person experience, we were able to bring more voices into our storytelling.”

Those long-distance connections will also impact classroom learning in the department. SFC members are slated to meet with Priscilla Briggs’ Digital Photography class and Colleen Stockmann’s arts administration course, Critical Issues in the Arts, as well as offer virtual critical discussions for studio arts majors about their work.

“That was one of the goals in bringing Strange Fire Collective in,” Darcourt says. “The opportunity to develop experiences for students in the arts administration program so they can learn from working artists who balance their creative work with their commitments to art institutions.”

More information about the Gustavus Department of Art and Art History and the Arts Administration program is available online.

Strange Fire Collective seeks to create a venue for work that critically questions the dominant social hierarchy and is dedicated to highlighting work made by women, people of color, and queer and trans artists. Their collective practice is centered around increasing the visibility of meaningful work and creating dialogue and community through publications, exhibitions, and events. The Collective is committed to making projects accessible, affordable, and socially relevant. 

Strange Fire was formed in 2015 by Jess T. Dugan, Hamidah Glasgow, Zora J Murff, and Rafael Soldi.


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