Newcomb Art Museum’s new exhibit stretches imagination

The Newcomb Art Museum’s newest exhibit not only sheds light into the past of Newcomb College, but also gives visitors the chance to get in touch with the animal that’s somewhere inside all of us.

The exhibition opened Jan. 20, featuring two collections that explore the connection between humans and nature in vastly different ways. Kate Clark’s “Mysterious Presence” is a transformation of the traditional practice of taxidermy, while Andrea Dezsö’s “I Wonder” brings together multiple unrelated pieces to unearth the human imagination, a place full of fantastical worlds and mythical creatures.

Clark began working on her sculptures in graduate school, attempting to smooth the transition from animal to human by giving animals readable, human faces. Each one of Clark’s sculpted faces is meant to communicate different expressions. The collection fuses primal emotions and human familiarity, balancing both the natural and human world in one piece.

“We’re sort of at a tipping point where we’ve been able to adapt to cultural evolution, and even though we haven’t physically evolved, culture has evolved in an amazing way,” Clark said. “But we’re recognizing that adapting isn’t really what we want to do and we can rekindle our relationship with nature.”

Dezsö works with various mediums in her collection, including embroideries, collages and pop-up art. Her art is open-ended, but each of her pieces features the creation of an imaginary place filled with people who are hybrids of various different life forms.

Her diorama installation, “Krewe of Intergalactic Women,” was inspired by drawings of float designs from the Krewe of Proteus’ 1892 parade. The drawings are composed of eighteen float designs by Carlotta Bonnecaze, the first woman to design floats for a carnival Krewe.

“What was interesting to me was that there is a place in the world, here in New Orleans, where grown-ups actually get dressed up and create these floats, and they become fruits or mushrooms or plants,” Dezsö said. “That’s something that really resonated with me because that’s something that I’m personally interested in.”

Museum director Monica Ramirez-Montagut chose to exhibit Clark and Dezsö’s pieces to honor the legacy of the Newcomb Enterprise, the world-renowned Newcomb pottery organization that spanned from the late 1800s until 1940. Women in this region were internationally recognized for their crafts, which are now held as collectables in museums around the globe. Ramirez-Montagut felt that Clark and Dezsö’s artworks emanate the modern Newcomb woman.

“I think both of them are updating what are traditionally female crafts, like stitching, embroidery, to make them viable in the 21st century,” Ramirez-Montagut said. “So it’s an approach to crafts but a very contemporary, cutting-edge one.”

Correction: A previous edition of this article gave Monica Ramirez-Montague the professional title of curator of the Newcomb Art Museum, when she is, in fact, director of the Newcomb Art Museum. We regret the error.