Michelle Millar Fisher, Gabriella Nelson, and Lauren M. McCardel
The Berman Museum has invited the minds behind Designing Motherhood to speak on the intersections of labor and parenthood in the arts. Join Michelle Millar Fisher and Gabriella Nelson for a conversation about their work to promote equity and transparency in the workplace and beyond through advocacy, policy-making, and community activism.
Designing Motherhood explores the arc of human reproduction through the lens of design. It has created numerous conversations related to motherhood and the systems, taboos, and inequalities associated with it. The project exists in several forms: book, public programming, Narrative Portraits, curriculum, and exhibitions at the Mütter Museum and the Center for Architecture and Design.
Michelle Millar Fisher is the co-founder of Designing Motherhood and Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts within the Contemporary Art Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her work focuses on the intersections of people, power, and the material world. Passionate about gender and design, she has written widely on care work, mothering, and reproductive labor, including parenting in museums, hiding care work at work, being childfree, grief, and the architecture of maternity.
Gabriella Nelson is a member of the Maternity Care Coalition and serves on the advisory team for Designing Motherhood. As the Associate Director of Policy at the Coalition, she advocates for the best policies and practices relevant to maternal-child health and early learning. She has a strong interest in the confluence of urban policy, public health, and design. Her work aims to redesign cities, systems, and policies that oppress and work against those historically left behind.
Deborah Barkun and Fernando Orellana
Fernando Orellana, whose piece Voice is featured in the center of the Berman Art Museum's Essential Work exhibition, joins us virtually to discuss his poignant work.
The robotic picketers in Fernando Orellana’s Voice occupy space in silent resistance until a museum visitor presses the blinking red button reading, “RESIST HERE,” setting in motion 30 seconds of vigorous, cacophonous protest. Prompted by the visitor’s intervention, the robots, gears whirring, disrupt the quietude of the space, hoisting political signs aloft that read: “DO WE LOOK LIKE ALIENS,” “IMMIGRANTS ARE AMERICA,” and “WE ARE HUMAN.” However, the robots are not human; they are mechanical surrogates for the human bodies they represent, acknowledging the precarious position of migrants, especially when speaking freely and forcefully.
At the same time, the visitor’s gesture is revealed as passive and short-lived, as they either press the button again to continue the agitation, or move along, suggesting the degree to which labor in general, and dissent in particular, are increasingly mediated by technology.
In connection with the Berman Museum of Art exhibition Essential Work, journalist and podcaster Sarah Jaffe shares her research on labor and inequality. Sarah Jaffe is an incisive voice on labor, inequality, and social movements. Her latest book, Work Won’t Love You Back, challenges the rhetoric of “do what you love.” Told through the lives and experiences of workers in various industries, she argues that the “labor of love” mentality has led employees to sacrifice fair pay and ethical treatment for the “privilege” of feeling passionate about their work. By raising awareness of these dynamics, Jaffe endeavors to empower workers to know their worth.
Deborah Barkun and Katie Merz
Katie Merz, 2020 Artist-in-Residence, and Deborah Barkun, BMA Creative Director, discuss the process of creating the Ursinus smokestack mural, which commemorates the UC Class of 2020 and the events of this year on the UC community.
Katie Merz’s Live the Questions documents the memories and stories of Class of 2020 alumni—who departed campus unexpectedly and without opportunity for closure or commemoration—and current students—in a frieze of images that winds around the Facilities Building smokestack from base to top. Merz’s dynamic mural features iconography derived from a research phase, during which Class of 2020 alumni and current students shared stories, questions, histories, and memories, and reflected on the critical events of 2020.
Deborah Barkun and Zackary Drucker
In this interview, Dr. Deborah Barkun, Creative Director at the Berman Museum, Director of Museum Studies and Associate Professor of Art History at Ursinus College speaks with Zackary Drucker about working as an artist during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zackary Drucker, a trans artist whose work has been featured internationally, is also a producer on the Amazon Prime television series Transparent.
Deborah Barkun and Justin Favela
In this interview, Dr. Deborah Barkun, Creative Director at the Berman Museum, Director of Museum Studies and Associate Professor of Art History at Ursinus College speaks with Justin Favela about working as an artist during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justin Favela is an LGBT artist whose work has been featured at the Denver Art Museum in Colorado, at Ursinus’s Berman Museum, and many other museums around the US. He hosts two podcasts, Latinos Who Lunch and The Art People Podcast.
Deborah Barkun and Ken Fandell
Artist Ken Fandell discusses his work in the context of the Berman Museum of Art exhibition Science Fiction. This exhibition features the work of international artists who were all born in the 1960s and 70s, when the line between science and fiction seemed to blur in unprecedented ways: satellites routinely orbited the earth and began to send data back to scientists about the mysterious expanses of the universe, the Space Race was in full swing, and, in 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the surface of the moon. Today, this line seems to blur once again as science and technology relentlessly reach into new territories.
Consideration of the relationship between the arts and sciences, and between fact and fiction, are particularly timely today. Science Fiction strives to recognize and analyze the dynamic relationship between fact and fiction, as well as the critical role that art and science play in the future of our planet.
Deborah Barkun and Kate Gilmore
Artist Kate Gilmore has been creating her single channel video pieces since the early 2000s. Trained as a sculptor, Gilmore began experimenting with video during her master’s education at School of Visual Arts in New York and has since gained international renown as a performative video artist.
Gilmore constructs absurd, even wacky, obstacles that she must overcome, all while wearing a dress, heels, and a full face of makeup. Every piece is performed and recorded privately by Gilmore—the camera being her only witness. In Cake Walk (2005), Gilmore wears a pair of roller skates and attempts to climb a slanted wooden wall. In With Open Arms (2005), Gilmore repetitively holds her arms open wide, trying to indicate the end of a performance. She is pelted with tomatoes and constantly wipes juice from her eyes, all while maintaining a beaming smile. Although Gilmore is always the performer, she does not view herself as the subject of her pieces, instead choosing to see the female body as subject and manipulated form.
What connects all these works is the element of struggle; Gilmore’s character must struggle to complete the challenge she has set up for herself, no matter how impossibly difficult it may appear. While to some viewers Gilmore’s works may seem merely silly, these videos more importantly serve as pointed critiques of the societal and self-inflected barriers women experience as they struggle to succeed. However, Gilmore does not set out to make exclusively feminist minded pieces, as she states herself: “We all know what it means to struggle, to ‘lose it’”.
Artist Matthias Schaller in Conversation with Matthew Affron, Curator of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Matthias Schaller and Matthew Affron
The highly detailed photographs that comprise German artist Matthias Schaller’s Das Meisterstück (The Masterpiece) each document the paint palettes and sometimes brushes of legendary artists—Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Natalia Goncharova, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, among others. Schaller’s project began when the photographer visited Cy Twombly’s studio in Gaeta, Italy. Since 2007, Schaller has made a career of documenting over two hundred palettes from over seventy artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Schaller sees each image as “an indirect portrait of the painter and of his or her painting technique.” The sparse chaos of Twombly’s swirls of abstract color, or the overwhelming depth of Yves Klein’s blue, or the broad, gestural brushstrokes on Édouard Manet’s palette, or Piet Mondrian’s flat expanse of white each signal the work, style, and legacy of each individual painter. Schaller’s photographs stage a conversation between artists and between media, while providing invaluable insight into each artist’s use of color, organization of space, and facture.
Justin Favela and Emmanuel Ortega
Artist Justin Favela and Curator Emmanuel Ortega record their “Latinos Who Lunch” podcast live from the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College. Justin is a Las Vegas native working in the mediums of painting, sculpture, and performance. His work draws from art history, popular culture and his Guatemalan/Mexican heritage. He has participated in exhibitions and artists residencies across the United States, Mexico and Europe. Emmanuel is a recent Ph.D. in Ibero-America colonial art history from the University of New Mexico. Since 2007 he has explored themes of violence, identity, race and class difference in colonial Latin American art.