Last weekend’s opening of the 44th Annual Salon of Door County High School Art at the Miller Art Museum celebrated not just the museum’s support of local young artists, but also its first exhibit under new curator Elizabeth Shoshany Anderson.
Shoshany Anderson is a Madison native who has spent the past several years working the academic circuit to earn her bachelor’s degree in art history and master’s degree in art museum curation. A lifelong love of studying art and visiting art museums as a child inspired her career trajectory.
While she is not a maker of art, Shoshany Anderson takes seriously her role in overseeing the creative outputs of artists working with the Miller Art Museum.
“The job curator really comes from the Latin word cūrāre which means ‘to care,’” Shoshany Anderson said. “So at the core of curating is caring for the collection and making sure the collection of the museum, which numbers at about a thousand pieces currently but it’s growing quickly, is well cared for, in good condition and part of that, in my opinion, is to have a responsibility to show it to the public as well.”
Her experience designing exhibitions was highlighted last summer when she completed an intensive 12-month master’s program at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. In the Courtauld Gallery, she and other master’s program students curated the exhibition CORPUS: The Body Unbound, which explored how modern and historic artists have engaged with the body to explore the human condition. The one-month display incorporated pieces from the Courtauld Collection and the Arts Council Collection of London, and incorporated work from artists past and present.
The experience steeped Shoshany Anderson in the deepest realms of English art history, bringing her up close and personal with works created several hundred years ago.
“For this exhibition, I got to work with an actual [Sir Peter Paul] Rubens painting, ‘Cain Slaying Abel,’ which was an incredible experience, one that is hard to repeat elsewhere,” she said. “That was really special.”
While she relished the opportunity to work with such historic pieces (“Cain Slaying Abel” was created by Rubens in about 1608), Shoshany Anderson’s real passion lies in working with modern artists.
“Obviously working with an artist who has passed or a more historic artist has its own sets of complications and challenges that are really exciting but for me, I love to work with living artists,” she said. “I just think it’s so generative for both me, for the artist, I think that the kind of work that you see out of those collaborations really means something special to the time and the place in which it’s exhibited.”
The museum’s remaining four exhibits of 2018 incorporate plenty of living artists and modern themes – Our Water Stories, celebrating the peninsula’s relationship to water; Abstract Thoughts, offering a closer look at abstract art; and the Juried Annual next winter. But there is one Shoshany Anderson is particularly excited about.
“We have an exhibition on James Ingwersen coming up this summer, which I’m really excited about,” she said of Capture Moments, running July 21 through Sept. 11. “I love portraiture.”
As Shoshany Anderson looks ahead to her first year at the Miller Art Museum – a place she has long enjoyed visiting – she hopes to build on its strong foundation by expanding its exhibition program and educational endeavors.
“The museum has a great audience, a really committed patron base, really committed donorship base, a lot of really wonderful volunteers and it’s got a pretty steady audience among a certain age bracket and demographic,” she said. “I’d love to see a bit more of a widening of the museum audience, getting a few more young people in there, getting a few more people who are interested in the emerging arts themselves. Door County has such a great cultural scene so it’d be great to get people who are interested in other elements of that cultural scene to come on into the Miller and see what we’ve got going on.”