Sophia Topper
The Silhouette

From the Hellenistic Era to the Space Age, the McMaster Museum of Art covers it all. Thursday, Sept. 19 marked the opening of the Museum’s fall 2013 exhibits.

The exhibits span the spectrum, from modern art like John Noestheden’s Sterrenstof, ‘Stardust’ in Dutch, to Worldly Possessions, curated by Professor Gregory Davies and several of his McMaster students, containing Baroque art and natural specimens.

Noesdtheden’s works explore the mathematics of astronomy and site-responsiveness, creating works that command the gallery. On a deeper level, Sterenstof also explores our origins on a cosmic scale, and describes our entrancement with the notion that we are all, in fact, stardust.

Another new exhibit, Thelma Rosner’s Homeland, also examines our origins on a more domestic level. This vein is quite different from her past work that focused on patterns and repetition, but Homeland still incorporates these phenomena into captivating painted cross-stitch rugs, with motifs that morph into machine guns. This work is also influenced by her interest in craft, showcasing mediums like textiles and calligraphy that were once thought of as lesser, women’s hobbies.

Worldly Possessions, described by curator Prof. Gregory Davies as “ambitious”, also explored a setting of rapidly shifting values, the 17th century Netherlands. This exhibit seeks to explore how acquisition of wealth was justified in a highly moralistic society, especially when that wealth resulted from the horrors of Colonialism.

Davies says he hopes that visitors “reflect on those ideas, especially as they apply to their own lives”, as two of the main themes, consumerism on the backs of the third world, and humanity’s interaction with nature, are equally applicable today.

Voyager, featuring Albrecht Dürer, William Hogarth, and Patrick Mahon with Stowaways, explores moralizing through art as well. The “ship of fools” trope is used to show the consequences of poor behaviour in an attempt to dissuade the view from engaging in the same sins. Shipwrecks, showing vessels in states of devastation and demise, add an immediacy to the message.

Antiquities, curated by Owen Phillips and Dr. Spencer Pope, showcase McMaster’s collection of ancient glassware and Greek and Roman coins. The glassware collection is an enlightening glimpse into the everyday life of our ancestors, and the art they produced.

Likewise, the coin collection gives us information about the economic, political and artistic culture and, with research occurring right here at Mac, tell us about the political structures of antiquity by showing where metals for coins come from by creating “isotope profiles for silver deposits,” as explained to me by Dr. Pope.

He believes that the exhibition is an incredible way for students to interact with artifacts direct.

The on-campus museum, with free admission for students, is a place to get out of the Mac bubble and think about the world as a whole. It is a chance to ponder how the very roots of civilization in antiquity, flowing through the moralistic lessons of the Baroque era, influence the conflict in the near east and our daily lives on our own “ship of fools” and our place in the universe.


Photo credit: Tyler Welch / Assistant News Editor

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