Students in Marcus Herse’s Spring 2023 Curatorial Practice class partnered with the Escalette Collection of Art to curate and install an exhibition on the 4th floor of Beckman Hall. LOOK! – On the Nature of Perception is a socially aware exploration of the theme of perception, both in formal and conceptual terms.

The students in Curatorial Practice were drawn to the idea of looking and perception because of the nature of the exhibition space itself. Located in a busy hallway, the exhibition was designed to encourage passersby to stop and look at the art on display. Building off this idea, they selected artwork from the Escalette Collection of Art that also engaged with the complexity of looking, seeing, and perceiving – our surroundings, ourselves, and others. They then created a small 3D scaled model of the hallway, which they used to strategize about the placement of each piece. The students also created a virtual companion to the exhibition to showcase the research they did on each artist and artwork. Visitors can scan the QR code on the label for each piece to access these extended labels. Finally, after a semester of thoughtful planning, the students assisted with installing the exhibition. From measuring to drilling and hammering, the students got hands-on experience preparing the space and hanging the artwork on display.

Link to Virtual Exhibition 

Exhibition Background

Perception allows us to consciously recognize the environment we live in by processing external information received through our senses; however, this is also influenced by our internal cognitive processes, including attention, memory, and expectation. As such, perception of the world changes based on our knowledge of and exposure to various topics, events, beliefs, and attitudes. In turn, this leads to the formation of realities that are subjective to each of us, and which may vary greatly from person to person depending on their unique circumstances, socio-cultural background, and individual interpretations.

Phung Huynh, Vann Nath, graphite on pink donut box, 2019-2020.

The works in this exhibition revolve around this idea of perception, with some exploring how to bring emphasis to mundane or subtle visuals through a focus on the perception of space, depth, texture, patterning, and other forms of pictorial representation. In a similar but different veil, many of the works use this pictorial representation to address and bring attention to topics that are often overlooked, including inequality, oppression, assimilation, disruption, and violence, events which are often particular to the artists’ own experiences, and which have influenced their reality. LOOK! – On the Nature of Perception challenges viewers’ assumptions about the world around them, presenting alternate imagery and meanings to question the reliability of our own conditioned perceptions of the world. This exhibition acts as a thought-provoking and engaging exploration of the complex relationship between representation, perception, and reality, demonstrating the vital role that art plays in communicating narratives, displaying heritage, challenging dominant perspectives, and pushing the boundaries of our own worldviews.

We invite you to explore all the works in the Escalette Collection by visiting our eMuseum

Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is the proud home of the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art. The Escalette Collection exists to inspire critical thinking, foster interdisciplinary discovery, and strengthen bonds with the community. Beyond its role in curating art in public spaces, the Escalette is a learning laboratory that offers diverse opportunities for student and engagement and research, and involvement with the wider community. The collection is free and open to the public to view.