Haggerty kickstarts the semester with two new exhibitions

This painting depicts a scene from a traveling theater performance. Photo courtesy of the Haggerty Museum of Art.

As the temperature drops, the desire to stay inside grows stronger and stronger. But if you can bear the cold and step outdoors, you’ll find things are starting to heat up over at the Haggerty Museum of Art, which opened two new exhibits this week.

The first, “The Truth is Not in the Mirror,” features a wide variety of photographs that fall under the umbrella category of narrative photography, which is described by the Haggerty as the construction of “narrative sequences that pose questions with open-ended outcomes.”

According to John Loscutio, registrar at the Haggerty, one of the main objectives of the exhibit is to help viewers project a story onto the photographs, creating a connection.

“All the artists are talking about how people are represented and perceived and associated and what their stories are,” Loscutio said. “You’re creating a story in your head and relating it to yourself.”

In creating these implied narratives, many of the photographs flirt with the fine line between reality and fiction. For example, in the photographs of Michael Corridore, smoke and wind is used to achieve a look of destruction. In actuality, the setting is nothing more than a dusty racetrack.

Loscutio said the exhibit has a mix of emerging and well-established artists, resulting in an eclectic collection.

“There are some artists that are in their 30s, others are in their 60s or have passed away. So you have a wide range of artists from different countries, age groups, cities,” Loscutio said.

Lynne Shumow, the Haggerty’s curator of education, believes the age of the artists plays a particularly important role in the audience’s ability to relate to the exhibit.

“A lot of these artists, especially the ones that are coming here, are really young, so I think they can really relate to a young audience,” Shumow said. “They’re not much older than some of our students.”

Telling a whole different set of narratives is “Hollywood Icons, Local Demons,” a series of paintings by Ghanaian artist Mark Anthony. Designed to advertise and demonstrate scenes from traveling theater performances, called “concert parties,” the paintings are the size and style of billboards.

These aren’t like any billboards you might see here in the States though. The paintings are constructed with hinges, making them easier to transport, and Shumow said they are commissioned through oral briefings made directly to the artist.

The paintings in the exhibit come from three different plays: “Some Rivals Are Dangerous,” “In This World, If You Do Not Allow Your Brother to Climb, You Will Not Climb,” and “When A Royal Dies, We Take Him Home.” Like American billboards or movie posters, the paintings depict scenes from the plays in an attempt to catch the attention of passersby.

She said the concert parties, and the paintings based on them, generally tell stories similar to American cautionary tales.

“They’re delivering a message to the people,” Shumow said. “They’re looking at Bollywood films and they’re looking at American films, and they’re looking at standup comics and they’re looking at old Buster Keaton movies and things like that. That’s sort of where this imagery is coming from.”

The Haggerty will be hosting lectures for both exhibits later in the semester, broadening the collections’ scope. The first, for “The Truth is Not in the Mirror,” will be given Jan. 26 by Alex Soth, one of the contributing photographers. The second, for “Hollywood Icons, Local Demons,” will be given Feb. 16 by Dr. Ahmed Mbalia, of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Department of Africology. Both begin at 6 p.m.

Whether for an escape from the cold or an immersion in new art, it’s a perfect time to check out what’s going on at the Haggerty Museum of Art.

“The Truth is Not in the Mirror” and “Hollywood Icons, Local Demons” will both run through May 22 at the Haggerty Museum of Art. Admission is free to the public.