Ruby Funfrock ‘24, Ford Scholar & Pindyck Summer Fellow
John Murphy, Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings
For eight weeks this summer, I worked on two curatorial-based projects that allowed me to explore different aspects of exhibition design. With guidance from John Murphy, I considered the importance of art historical research in better understanding the Loeb’s permanent collection and discovered the intricacies involved in the care, research, interpretation, and display of works as part of the curatorial process.
The first project consisted of researching the bequest from Philip and Lynn Straus (Class of 1946). The couple had generously donated over one hundred works from their personal collection since 1981 up until Lynn’s passing in 2023. Since the Straus Bequest contains a wide temporal, stylistic, and geographic range of prints, I narrowed my research to works by Edvard Munch and the German Expressionists. I ended up with more questions than answers, as many of the artists and subject matter are highly problematic: Emil Nolde’s support of Nazism, the Die Brücke group’s interest in primitivism, and the use of adolescent girls as models. What does it mean to have these works and artists a part of a museum’s collection, especially at a collegiate institution? As a space that builds community, how can the museum environment reckon with these complex histories? My hope is that my research will provide a foundation for the Loeb staff and Vassar community to continue to challenge and contemplate these layered questions.
The second project centered on the gallery space, as I curated the Fall Works on Paper Rotation that would supplement John’s Art History seminar, “Revolutionary Art and Global Politics in the 1930s.” Upon surveying the Loeb’s collection, I became fascinated with art produced under the Works Progress Administration. In selecting five works, I aimed to consider government-sanctioned prints and photographs while balancing the personal and political motives of the artists.
I am grateful for the support and mentorship of John and the Loeb staff and the generosity of the Bruce Eben and Maryellen Pindyck Fund.