ETSU Department of Art & Design and Slocumb Galleries with the Tennessee Triennial
proudly present POSITIVE/NEGATIVE 38: National Juried Art Exhibition
from February 14 to March 24, 2023, Slocumb Galleries
P/N 38 Artists' Talk: March 8, Wednesday, via ZOOM 710 908 4999 at 6 p.m.
Juror's Lecture by Mark Scala, Chief Curator at the Frist Art Museum:
March 23, Thursday at 6 p.m., Ball Hall Auditorium following the awarding reception at 5 p.m. at Slocumb Galleries
Best of Show: Sisavahn Phouthavong
Positive/Negative 38 artists: Ken Abbott, Hale Allen, Katherine Allison, Erin Anfinson,
Jose Ardivilla, Michael Baggarly, Kamau Bostic, Jane Broderick, Jan Burleson, David
Carlson, Nathan Childers, Bill & Tina Collison, Isabelle Du Toit, Mitch Eckert, Sheri
Fafunwa Ndibe, C.E. Fitzgerald, Mark Flowers, Katherine Frensley, Cheryl Hazelton,
Jean Hess, Kristy Higby, Sisavanh Phouthavong Houghton, Forest Kelley, Christine Kuhn,
Tina Linville, Emilio Maldonado,
Randi Matushevitz, Maureen Meyer, Irene Pantelis, Hayden Phelps, Russ Revock, Wesley Roden, Erin Sedra,
Anne Vetter, Carlton Wilkinson, Annamarie Williams-Buchanan, Chris Wubbena, Kevin Wurm
Juried group exhibitions typically feature a selection of artworks linked by a preset framework. This may simply relate to a particular medium or the place of production (a cross-section of the best photography of a region, for example), but it also may involve an overarching theme, with artworks serving as arguments in a larger curatorial expression. Charged with valorizing certain objects that they did not seek out, jurors may simply choose to acknowledge extraordinary individual achievement. But there is the temptation to see them as threads in a larger story—what does this body of works tell us about ourselves, our society, our world, even though it was never meant to be seen together?
Confronted with a diverse range of intriguing objects, I want to avoid the impulse to draw narrow conclusions about their combined meaning in the larger culture. But being human I look for patterns. Works chosen for this show are not objectively better than those not chosen. But subjectively, their appeal lies in what I perceive to be their potency—how they cut to the quick. Paradoxically, at a time when everyone seems to be shouting over everyone else, the effectiveness of these works resides not in bold declaration but in intense inscrutability, supplanting easy clarity with rich ambiguity. I see them in alignment with surrealist poet André Breton’s idea that “the marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” Triggering an empathic igniting of the imagination, these artworks are marvelous in the way they uncover a veiled world of beauty or pain, wonder or connectivity.
I imagine that most people have seen art or heard music that has moved them so deeply that their psychic DNA was altered. Artists have an opportunity to inspire such transformations, to think of their work not only as a part of the artworld but as an instrument of broad resistance to the incurious and uncaring—a population that seems ubiquitous (although I don’t really believe it is as solid a bloc as it appears). This extends out--in a country divided into urban, suburban, and rural bubbles, galleries like this at East Tennessee State University have an outsized capacity to offer safe spaces for discourse, to establish the bond of creativity that might indeed have a unifying effect. And in the end, even if only a small percentage of the region’s population sees an exhibition here, they can take comfort in feeling themselves to be part of the world outside East Tennessee.
Frist Art Museum
About the Juror:
Mark Scala is the chief curator at the Frist Art Museum. His major exhibitions have focused on the subject of bodily vulnerability in the context of cultural transformation in global contemporary art. Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century (2018) was an international survey of artists who convey a sense of anxiety and sublimity arising from the contemplation of an increasingly unstable social imaginary. Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art (2015) explored the subjects of physical absence, loss, and remembrance in contemporary art. Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination (2012) considered the theme of the hybrid body in folklore, science fiction, and genetic engineering. Paint Made Flesh (2009) featured expressionistic figure painting from the U.S., Germany, and Britain since World War II in which the experience of trauma, internal and external, is borne out in representations of the damaged body. Scala is currently working on the exhibition Matthew Ritchie: A Garden in the Flood, scheduled to open in November of 2022.
Scala has also organized exhibitions of the works of Diana Al-Hadid, Inka Essenhigh, Alicia Henry, Angelo Filomeno, Simen Johan, Ragnar Kjartansson, Osgemeos, Vesna Pavlovic, Jaume Plensa, Tokohiro Sato, Mary Sibande, Do-Ho Suh, Anna Maria Tavares, U-Ram Choe, Camille Utterback, and Guido van der Werve, among others.
Scala received his MA in art history/museum studies in 1988 and MFA in painting in 1979, both from Virginia Commonwealth University. Before coming to the Frist Art Museum in 2000, Scala was curator at the Art Museum of Western Virginia (1990-2000). From 2008-2013, he held the position of senior guest lecturer at Vanderbilt University, teaching the course Sources of Contemporary Art. He has been a critic for The New Art Examiner and has been interviewed by Huffington Post (see Lilia Ziamou, “Mark Scala: On Curating Thematic Exhibitions for the Body”) and NPR (see Susan Stanberg https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105544892).
Scala has been a member of the Association of Art Museum Curators since 2001 and served on its board from 2010-2016.