At Play in The Sandbox: Where Images and Ideas Converge


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Museum visitors browse some of the photobooks on display at The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook installation during its opening event on May 3, 2014 © Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Josh Franzos.

Last Monday, The Sandbox: At Play with the Photobook, an installation that transformed the Coatroom Gallery into a reading room and public forum on the photobook, ended its three-month run at Carnegie Museum of Art. Facilitated by artists-in-residence Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar, who own Spaces Corners, a Pittsburgh bookshop dedicated to photography books, The Sandbox offered visitors an immersive look at the medium, while at the same time sharing the work of both emerging and established photographers who often operate at the intersection of experimental image-making and modern photography.

“There’s a density to these books,” says Panar, “each one is like a gallery exhibition.” He motions with his hand to a plywood table in the center of the Coatroom Gallery that displays rows of neatly ordered photobooks—most of which are little-known to the general public, but often highly coveted among photography enthusiasts keen on high-quality, limited-run publications that express the personality of a given photographer or moment in time. Salad Days, for example, a zine-like photobook that chronicles Panar’s own teenage years at a vocational high school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, acts as a time capsule of American culture in the early 1990s. Shot with color film, the photographs in the book capture an awkward yet intimate view of adolescence that goes beyond Panar’s personal experience, with many of the images evoking an almost-tangible sense of time and place. Continue reading

In Memory of Thelma Williams Lovette: Advocate, Activist, and Mentor


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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Thelma Lovette, Andrea Williams, and Nadine Woodward, gathered at table for Sequoires Tri Hi-Y Club meeting in Centre Avenue YMCA, February 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Carnegie Museum of Art, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.14910 © 2006 Teenie Harris Archive.

Another icon of civil rights, equality, women’s advancements, and a mentor of youth has left us in death: Mrs. Thelma Williams Lovette. Born on February 28, 1916, and raised as one of 11 children on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Lovette was modest and demure, but quite spunky, which surprisingly offset her outstanding moral strength and civic duty. She never was one to take the spotlight, which is most evident in the Teenie Harris Archive photos of her (only in several instances did she look directly into his lens), but rather she gave focus to the others with her and to the occasion at which she was being photographed. This subtle observance denotes one of her most honorable qualities—humility. I say one of her qualities, because Mrs. Lovette had many. Continue reading

What Does It Mean for a Museum To Be Truly Experimental?


Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014.

Screenshot of the Hillman Photography Initiative website, launched April 2014

Ever since Carnegie Museum of Art launched the Hillman Photography Initiative earlier this year, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means for a museum to be truly experimental. When I began my research three years ago, the major premise of the Initiative was to create something totally new in the field of photography. On the other side of a successful launch, I now realize just how ambitious our goal was. But at the time, it felt more like an amorphous challenge, albeit one that had all my problem-solving neurons firing. As with any experiment, we didn’t have a clear understanding of how the Initiative would manifest or what form it would take. Now that the project is up and running, I find myself looking back at how the Initiative was realized and some of the things we’ve learned so far. Continue reading

A Closer Look at the Technology Behind an Exhibition


"A Closer Look" iPads installed in the gallery.

“A Closer Look” iPads installed in the gallery

The museum recently opened Small Prints, Big Artists: Masterpieces from the Renaissance to Baroque, a comprehensive exhibition that traces the development of prints across the centuries, explores the evolution of printmaking techniques, and unlocks the images’ hidden meanings. The works in the show are dynamic, striking, elaborately detailed, and quite beautiful. If you haven’t yet seen the exhibition, it runs throughout the summer and I highly recommend it. Continue reading

How a Rembrandt Self-Portrait Made Me a Curator


Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait in a Velvet Cap with Plume, 1638, etching,  Bequest of Charles J. Rosenbloom

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Self-Portrait in a Velvet Cap with Plume, 1638, etching, Bequest of Charles J. Rosenbloom

I fell in love with prints by accident. As a college student, I was interested in medieval art, or, more specifically Byzantine art, especially manuscripts. I needed a part-time job to help with my living expenses, and I applied to work as a research assistant at a New York art gallery that specialized in manuscripts and early printed books. Unbeknownst to me, the gallery also specialized in old master prints and drawings, which I managed to ignore during my first few months at the gallery. I was thoroughly immersed in the world of medieval saints and philosophy. Continue reading