by Kim Sweeney, teaching assistant; Camille Rose Shortridge, student; and Kate Woestemeyer, student
Earlier this year, students in the University of Denver’s Curatorial Practicum class prepared a works on paper exhibition for the Clyfford Still Museum under the guidance of their professor, Dan Jacobs. As a teaching assistant for the course (along with fellow TA, Anna Estes), I was excited for the opportunity to work with such a distinguished Denver museum. With help from the Museum’s collection manager, Bailey Harberg, and its archivist, Jessie De La Cruz, students examined hundreds of artworks on paper and archival documents to develop the concept for Clyff Notes: A Lifetime of Works on Paper, which opened on April 11th.
After several research visits to the Museum, students found that they were particularly interested in Still’s life as a student and teacher and decided to focus on researching this aspect of his life. Students discovered that although Still later rejected institutional organizations, many of his artistic theoretical beliefs evolved from his early life as a student and professor. After deciding on an exhibition theme, the class planned all the details of the exhibition, from the gallery’s layout to writing the object labels. The students’ final assignment was to propose their exhibition to the Clyfford Still Museum staff. The exhibition is now on view in the CSM works on paper gallery until June 15th.
During our research visits to the archives at the Clyfford Still Museum, the American master came back to life for me. As an avid viewer of Still’s artwork, assuming the role of researcher and student curator encouraged me to make connections between the meaning of his work and who he was as an artist. I also gained new appreciation for Abstract Expressionism, a movement that many fail to understand due to the common critique that “my child could have painted that.” Learning about the the gradual development of Clyfford Still’s style—a progression that can be clearly understood through close observation—illustrated to me the intentionality of Still’s artistic expression over the course of his life. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with the Clyfford Still Museum and curate the show, Clyff Notes: A Lifetime of Works on Paper.
–Camille Rose Shortridge
I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked closely with a museum as unique as the Clyfford Still Museum. Looking carefully at Still’s body of work firsthand, I began to discover the artist as I think he might have intended. The Museum does a great job of emphasizing the looking process, and I’d like to think that our Clyff Notes exhibition provides more insight into why it is so important to learn about Clyfford Still by looking closely at his work.