William and Mary students examine the meaning of ceremony in new exhibition

aheymann@vagazette.com

For College of William and Mary Professor Alan Braddock, ceremonious events aren't all pomp and circumstance. They're also the small moments that make up life, such as putting on a fresh coat of lipstick in the morning or a farmer harvesting corn the same time every year.

This idea of ceremony is explored in the College of William and Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art’s student-curated exhibition “Objects of Ceremony: Effervescent: Decay, and the Everyday.”

Originally, the exhibition was going to be held in the Andrews Hall Gallery, but when Braddock found out the Muscarelle was re-opening, he said he was offered the space in the museum to use.

“This was really kind of a godsend and once more, the students are really excited about having access to the space and also the Muscarelle’s collection,” Braddock said.

This show was the result of the course “The Curatorial Project.” Braddock said he designed this class to give students real-world, hands-on experience working on a museum project.

“In other words, to get them out of the classroom and to do applied art history,” Braddock said. “A lot of the students have expressed real interest in museum work, and we have this museum right next door to our department, art and art history.”

One of those students is Alijah Webb, who wants to work in museums after graduating from college.

“The most rewarding part of the of the project was being able to extract all of this knowledge and information about what it means to curate because at first, I didn't have a grasp on how many tasks encapsulated the role of a curator,” Webb said.

While much of the Muscarelle’s collection had been moved off-site, Braddock said there were more than 700 works on paper still available for the students to use in addition to Swem Library’s special collection.

Webb said the students had access to Swem Library’s special collection of artifacts.

“This Episcopal communion set is a traveling communion set from 1910,” Webb said, pointing at a miniature communion cup and wine dispenser. “It fits our theme of religion in the home and connecting a personal narrative to a larger one, like ceremony as religion and ceremony as personal and private.

“(Students) also borrowed a few works of art made recently by William and Mary faculty, so it’s an interesting mix of collections and ideas,” Braddock said.

Braddock said the exhibition is diverse not only in the kinds of work presented, but in how students explored the idea of ceremony.

“Some of the art represents ceremonies or ceremonial ideas, but some of it though has a kind of a ceremonial process about it,” Braddock said.

Matt Parciak, a student who worked on the exhibition, said his group looked at rituals in repetition.

“We looked at how the more you do a ceremony, the more personal it becomes or the more it loses meaning or the more important it becomes to individuals,” Parciak said.

“We also looked at the art-making process, like creating prints, and how different variations are different from the other ones and you’re never going to exactly replicate a ceremony even though you can repeat it.”

Emma Efkeman, one of the student curators, said she was proud of how the exhibit was able to cohesively explore the many angles of what ceremony is.

Want to go?

The exhibit will be on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday through May 31, at the Muscarelle Museum of Art, 603 Jamestown Road. Tickets are $5. For more information about the exhibition and museum, visit muscarelle.org.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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