By Victoria Mejicanos, Feb. 21, 2023
From Feb. 7 through April 30, the Getty Center in Los Angeles will showcase a new exhibition titled “Our Voices, Our Getty: Reflecting on Drawings.” The exhibit features exclusive drawings from the museum’s private collection, including personal interpretations of the art written by alumni Elsie Voong and other interns from the Getty Marrow Undergraduate Internship program.
During a private showing of the exhibition, held on Feb. 5, Voong reflected on the internship experience and the support that her professors at Cal Poly Pomona gave her.
“All of them have been super instrumental in me deciding what I wanted to do. Especially with their studies, they inspired me to look further into primary sources, secondary sources and it ultimately led me to the center,” said Voong.
The exhibit provided an entirely unique experience not just to attendees but interns as well. To participate, interns were placed into an empty room with about 100 exclusive art pieces and were asked to choose one they connected with. Once they chose their piece, they were asked to write their personal thoughts or perspective.
Voong initially found the idea of participating in the project to be intimidating due to the writing portion, not typical of exhibitions like these. Through the encouragement of her supervisors and peers, she realized her perspective and angle was unique and a challenge worth taking on.
“When it comes to art, everybody has their own insight, and it’s important for you to share that insight with other people, even if you don’t think it’s worth anything,” Voong said. “In truth, because it’s yours, it is worth something.”
The drawing selected by Voong is titled, “The Choir and North Ambulatory of the Church of Saint Bavo, Haarlem.” The piece was motivated by Voong’s experience with religion and her interpretations of it.
The drawing depicts a large empty hallway inside of a church, which Voong describes as the feeling of being surrounded by comfort and experiencing the discomfort of religion simultaneously.
The piece is captioned, “colored in blue and brown hues, the church is large and unsettling. It conjures up a feeling of emptiness and austerity …”
The piece evokes feelings of the familiar grandiosity of cathedrals so vast, yet empty, as there were only a few patrons pictured in a long hall of the church. It was a portrayal of an institution, larger and more complex than the people who partake in it.
The pieces featured in the exhibit gave attendees and staff alike an opportunity to have an unfiltered conversation about what art makes them feel and what they think a piece represents regardless of their experience with art, or what a traditional museum might present as the meaning.
Edina Adam, assistant curator of drawings, shared her excitement behind the fresh perspectives that the interns brought to the art given that many did not have a background in art history. Adam expressed gratitude for the interns as each had a role in creating the exhibit. She thanked them for “pointing out details that we had previously failed to notice, I must say their energy was truly re-energizing for the department,” Adam said.
When speaking to support staff, they shared that The Getty aspires to bring in a fresh audience.
During the height of the pandemic many museums were put on pause, allowing the Getty a chance to rebrand themselves through changes such as working towards mixing the art in their collection with more contemporary pieces.
Attendee Guadalupe Carbajal shared how this exhibition is not the traditional Getty experience she anticipated.
“I do think it was surprising that so many of the interns were people of color,” Carbajal said. “I think it’s just amazing that they’re, like, letting everybody partake in it. Not because they know somebody, and that’s how it should be, because if not they’re losing invaluable talent.”
Voong also expressed that it was a unique opportunity and encourages others to apply so they can have experiences such as this one.
“Although a Getty internship seems really prestigious, if you don’t even attempt to apply to these internships, how would you know what you’re worth?” Voong stated. “I feel as though anybody could’ve been in my position, and the fact that I got it wasn’t a fluke, it was a show of my skill, and it was a show of what I had to bring to the table.”
Feature image courtesy of Victoria Mejicanos
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