The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has reopened with two new exhibitions that address health and the human body, relevant topics amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Curator Cassandra Mesick Braun has been interested in art related to human health for approximately six years. To create these exhibitions, she attended various conferences, researched the museum’s existing art collection, and met with contemporary artists who were also interested in health and the human body.
The KU Spencer Museum of Art reopened to the public in November for the first time since closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors are allowed by reservation only to ensure safety protocols.
“My original intentions with this exhibition were to take a really global and cross-cultural perspective on health and the human body as a way to decenter Western biomedicine and legitimize other forms of healing and knowing ourselves,” Mesick Braun said.
One of the exhibitions is “The Aorta of an Archivist,” by Dario Robleto. It is a sound and video installation that depicts early recordings, like the first time brain waves were recorded in a dream state.
The museum also has virtual options for many of their exhibitions on their website, including a virtual experience for “Healing, Knowing, Seeing the Body,” for those who are unable to visit in person.
“The way we’ve designed it on our website is meant to mimic how you stumble upon things as you’re navigating through a gallery in person,” said Director of External Affairs Elizabeth Kanost. “It’s meant to replicate that sense of surprise and discovery and self-guidedness you have in a gallery.”
The museum planned for the new exhibitions in advance of the pandemic, but staff members acknowledge the relevance they hold now.
“The theme of this show is talking about really relevant topics, like health, and how we care for our bodies, the inequities that come up when we talk about healthcare and access to healthcare and vaccination,” Kanost said.
Rachel Quist, a Ph.D. student at KU interning at the museum, said viewing the new exhibitions is a good way to introduce new ideas in what has been a “monotonous time.”
“It just so happens that health is at the forefront of peoples’ minds right now, but I think that especially with ‘Healing, Knowing, Seeing the Body,’ it’s a really important opportunity to use art to process what’s going on in society and across the globe,” Quist said. “It might be an opportunity for some sense of catharsis or to develop some inspiration.”
The Spencer Museum of Art will remain open until May 16th, after which it will close for renovations that will last until mid-fall 2021. Students and community members are encouraged to view the exhibitions while they have the chance.
“We hope that coming into our galleries, which we have made as safe as we are able to make them, will be an opportunity for folks to think about their bodies in a joyful way and not be full of anxiety,” Kanost said.
Visitors are encouraged to make reservations on the museum’s website. The public hours this semester are Thursday-Sunday from 1-5 p.m. The gallery has a limited capacity of 50 people at a time, and every visitor over the age of two years old is required to wear a mask.