In 2016, MAG has acquired a number of important works by 20th-century American artists, further expanding director Jonathan Binstock’s vision for the museum’s contemporary collection. Sam Durant’s Knowledge is Power! is on the exterior wall of the museum’s entrance, while works by Judith Schaechter and Wayne Higby are on view on the first floor in the Post-War and Contemporary galleries.
For over thirty years, Judith Schaechter has developed her masterful approach to the medium of stained glass by sandblasting, filing, engraving, and painting her images onto multiple layers of colorful flashed glass. Stained glass is inextricably bound to the glowing saints and martyrs of Christianity, yet Schaechter’s inspired and unorthodox application of centuries-old traditions is seamlessly melded with her idiosyncratic subject matter. Her dark narratives feature her favorite subjects, “Sex and death, with romance and violence the obvious runners up.” Schaechter was an artist in residence at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where she made The Battle of Carnival and Lent for a site-specific installation at the prison. All 17 windows produced for this project explore collective ideas and feeling about crime, punishment, imprisonment, and repentance.
Pictured: The Battle of Carnival and Lent, 2010-2011. Stained (engraved, painted) glass. Marion Stratton Gould Fund, Rosemary B. and James C. MacKenzie Fun, Joseph T. Simon Fund, R.T. Miller Fund and Bequest of Clara Trowbridge Wolfard by exchange, and funds from deaccessioning, 2015.39
Through a variety of media, Sam Durant explores relationships between politics and culture, often referencing American history or current events. Durant takes the text for his commercially produced signs from photos of protests and other events surrounding liberation conflicts. The source photo for Knowledge is Power! documents protesters who responded to the violent death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. While the text itself is from a specific handmade sign and a particular event, the artist intends for the message to stand apart from its origin and to take on new meaning dependent upon its context.
Pictured: Knowledge is Power!, 2015. Plexiglas and steel with vinyl. Marion Stratton Gould Fund, 2015.21
Wayne Higby has received international recognition for his innovative approach to the American landscape in his ceramic work. Pictorial Lake is one of Higby’s signature covered boxes and was featured on the cover for the catalog for the artist’s retrospective exhibition, Infinite Place: The Ceramic Art of Wayne Higby. Higby is a professor of ceramics at Alfred University and the director of the Ceramics Art Museum. With the addition of Pictorial Lake, the MAG now holds five ceramic works by Wayne Higby.
Pictured: Pictorial Lake, 1986. Glazed earthenware, raku-fired. Mabel Fenner Lyon Funds and funds provided by William H. Mathews, 2016.1