Theaster Gates: Amalgam at Tate Liverpool


Theaster Gates: Amalgam at Tate Liverpool
December 13, 2019 through May 3, 2020
Opening Night Artist Talk December 12


Theaster Gates: Amalgam is an opportunity to see how Gates’s Lunder Institute appointment and his time in Maine have influenced his artistic practice. On December 12, the Lunder Institute is sponsoring an artist talk at the Museum of Liverpool in which Gates will be in conversation with scholar Michael Ralph (Associate Professor and Director of Africana Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the School of Medicine, New York University), and London-based fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner.

Previously presented at Palais de Tokyo (Paris) last winter, Amalgam originated in 2018, when Gates researched the history of Maine’s Malaga Island during his first year as our distinguished visiting artist. He created parts of the video Dance of Malaga on a bleak November visit to the island. Shortly after, Gates developed its musical components during a creative retreat in his Waterville studio with collaborator Yaw Agyeman and other members of the Black Monks, his musical ensemble.

Gates has long been fascinated by the intersection of property ownership, land values, and racial identity. Malaga was one of several islands located in the mouth of the New Meadows River owned by Benjamin Darling, a Black man whose descendants settled on Malaga in the years following the Civil War. By the turn of the twentieth century, real estate developers and elected officials regarded the racially mixed community, visible from the mainland, as an impediment to the burgeoning tourist industry along the coast. The state purchased the island for $400 in 1911, and the following year the governor expelled all of Malaga’s residents. Some of the displaced people assimilated into near-by towns; others were involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions.

The exhibition title is both a near-anagram of Malaga and a riff on the use of “amalgam” by nineteenth-century eugenicists, for whom it denoted racial, ethnic, and religious intermingling. Taking the history of Malaga Island as a jumping-off point, Gates’s Amalgam addresses histories of the Black diaspora and the sexual aggression and racial mixing that resulted.

Featured image from home page: Still from the film Dance of Malaga, 2019. Copyright Theaster Gates and courtesy of the artist. Photo by Chris Strong.

Image above: Installation view of Amalgam at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 20 February to 12 May, 2019. Copyright Theaster Gates and courtesy of the artist. Photo by Chris Strong.

‘The River Rail: Occupy Colby’ brings together art and scholarship on climate change

The Lunder Institute for American Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, and The Brooklyn Rail have joined together to co-publish The River Rail: Occupy Colby, a special edition of the magazine that connects the dialogues surrounding climate change to the Colby community.

Building on the themes of the exhibition Occupy Colby: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 2, on view at the Colby College Museum of Art through January 5, 2020, The River Rail: Occupy Colby focuses on humankind’s role in and response to ecological crises, including climate change.

Curated by Phong Bui—New York-based artist, critic, curator, publisher and artistic director of The Brooklyn Rail, and a 2019 Lunder Institute Fellow—Occupy Colby continues an initiative launched in 2017 at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City. The Colby iteration, a satellite show to Rail Curatorial Projects’ contribution to the Venice Biennale, features works by Lauren Bon, David Brooks, Mel Chin, Mark Dion, Maya Lin, Meg Webster and others responding with heightened awareness to the fragility of planet earth.

“The decision to orient the Colby iteration around environmental issues and climate change as well reflects the college’s long history of leadership in environmental studies and stewardship,” write Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art, and Lee Glazer, director of the Lunder Institute for American Art, in the publication’s introduction.

Guest edited by three Colby College faculty members, Kerill O’Neill, Julian D. Taylor Professor of Classics, Denise Bruesewitz, associate professor of environmental studies, and Chris Walker, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow of Environmental Humanities, The River Rail: Occupy Colby features a transcribed panel discussion Bui moderated in September between Occupy Colby exhibiting artists Allyson Vieira and Alexis Rockman and several Colby faculty members. Also featured are a text by Diana Tuite, the Museum’s Katz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and a selection of essays by Colby faculty and students in both the sciences and the humanities.

“Topics range from the perils of generational amnesia in recognizing environmental decline to the use of deep ice core samples in understanding climate history; from reflections on river-detritus-as-data to the suggestion that algorithms, which now so massively and ubiquitously organize our data, should actually be regarded as organisms within their own ecosystem. The thread binding these texts together is a common recognition of the interconnectedness of nature and human activity,” reflect Corwin and Glazer.

There was a public celebration with catered reception at Colby College on November 14 in the Brewster Reading Room of Miller Library, where students and faculty members read excerpts from The River Rail: Occupy Colby. The Lunder Institute is also hosting open mic nights for the Colby community at Mary Low Coffeehouse at 9pm on November 22 and December 6, and a printmaking popup workshop at Waterville’s new Hinge Collaborative space, with Director of Civic Engagement and artist Elizabeth Jabar on December 9. A private launch party took place on October 29 at The Landing Annex at Industry City in Brooklyn, NY.

The River Rail: Occupy Colby will be distributed for free on the Colby campus and at various locations throughout Maine and New York City. For information about obtaining copies, email


About The Brooklyn Rail

Founded in October 2000 and published 10 times annually, The Brooklyn Rail provides an independent forum for arts, culture, and politics throughout New York City and far beyond. The Rail further fulfills its mission by curating art exhibitions, panel discussions, reading series, and film screenings that reflect the complexity and inventiveness of the city’s artistic and cultural landscape. Other Rail initiatives include its small press Rail Editions, and the curatorial endeavor, Rail Curatorial Projects. Rail Editions publishes books of poetry, experimental fiction, prose meditation, artists’ writings, and interviews with artists in addition to art and literary criticism. Rail Curatorial Projects seeks to establish dialogues between artists, curators, dealers, critics, collectors, and art historians via rigorously conceived and researched exhibitions and events. The Brooklyn Rail is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and distributes its journal free of charge around New York City, as well as to a growing list of national and international subscribers.


River Rail cover image: Mark Dion, After Den, 2012/2017. Diorama model of existing public installation, mixed media, 49 x 61 x 57 in. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles.

Renowned American artist Carrie Mae Weems to deliver 2019 Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Lecture on October 23

The Lunder Institute for American Art and the Colby College Museum of Art are pleased to welcome Carrie Mae Weems to deliver the 2019 Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Distinguished Lecture. Considered one of the most influential contemporary American artists, Weems has investigated family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Weems has sustained an ongoing dialogue within contemporary discourse for over thirty years, during which time she has developed a complex body of art employing photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation, and video.

Weems was a 2013 recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant, was one of the first people to receive a Medal of Arts from the U.S. Department of State, and was conferred with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among other honors.

This lecture is free and open to all.

October 23, 5:30–6:30 pm
Given Auditorium, Bixler Art and Music Center

The Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Distinguished Lecture is cosponsored by the Colby Museum, Lunder Institute for American Art, Center for the Arts and Humanities and Art Department.

For more information about the Prentice Lecture, please email

Image: Carrie Mae Weems, Magenta Colored Girl, 1997. Silver print with text on mat, 30 x 30 in. (76 x 76 cm). Colby College Museum of Art. The Lunder Collection, 2019.006

Lunder Institute, Archives of American Art, and Cleveland Museum of Art lead the field in teaching the history of American art with primary sources

The Lunder Institute for American Art, the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art have joined forces to present a series of three unique workshops to create innovative, adaptable models for teaching the history of American art with primary sources.

Earlier in the year, through a competitive application process, ten teachers were selected to participate in all three of the upcoming workshops.  We are delighted to announce our cohort:

Clockwise from top left: KATIE ANANIA, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; MELODY DEUSNER, Assistant Professor, Indiana University; TESS KOROBKIN, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park; ANNIE RONAN, Assistant Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; ALLISON STAGG, Curator, Mark Twain Center for Transatlantic Relations, Kurpfälzisches Museum, Heidelberg, Germany; SARAH ARCHINO, Assistant Professor, Furman University; MELANEE HARVEY, Assistant Professor, Howard University; AUSTIN PORTER, Assistant Professor, Kenyon College; EMMA SILVERMAN, Visiting Assistant Professor, Smith College; BERNIDA WEBB-BINDER, Assistant Professor, Spelman College.

The workshops will be held at the Archives of American Art in Washington, DC, September 26-28, 2019; the Lunder Institute for American Art in Waterville, Maine, April 2-4, 2020; and the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, March 25-27, 2021. The workshop in Washington has been generously supported by Max N. Berry.

Each workshop will offer an intensive three-day program of presentations, discussions and hands-on archival encounters for its ten core participants, invited leaders, and guests. The workshops aim to build lasting relationships among the participants, who will serve as advocates for teaching with primary sources in the field of American art for years to come. Tied to specific topics and engaging with local expertise, each workshop will incorporate time for peer-to-peer discussion, interaction with invited presenters, reflection on models shared, and experimentation with teaching strategies. The outcome will be a set of distinct and adaptable models for incorporating primary sources into the teaching of American art history.

The objectives are as follows:

  • To provide a forum for sharing and developing innovative approaches to teaching the history of American art;
  • To demonstrate how the Archives of American Art, Lunder Institute for American Art, and Cleveland Museum of Art can support and expand the use of primary sources in the field, and specifically, to encourage the use of the Archive of American Art’s online collections (nearly 3 million files) in curricula;
  • To create and disseminate (at no charge) a set of adaptable models for teaching the history of American art with primary sources;
  • To help students develop competencies in primary research; and
  • To empower students to ask their own questions and develop evidence-supported interpretations.

LIZA KIRWIN, Deputy Director, Archives of American Art, will lead the first workshop, and TANYA SHEEHAN, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar and Director of Research at the Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College, will direct the April series. The culminating session in Cleveland in 2021 will be overseen by CYRA LEVINSON, Deputy Director and Head of Public and Academic Engagement at the Cleveland Museum of Art and KEY JO LEE, Assistant Director for Academic Affairs, also at the Cleveland Museum. Additionally, each venue will feature invited faculty composed of distinguished scholars who have developed innovative methods for teaching with archives and primary sources.

The faculty for our first workshop at the Archives of American Art, September 26-28, 2019, includes:

Janice Simon, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Art History in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia

Richard J. Powell, John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History, Duke University

Hannah W. Wong, art historian and independent scholar

Michael Leja, James and Nan Wagner Farquhar Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

Ellery Foutch, Assistant Professor of American Studies, Middlebury College

Avis Berman, Independent writer and art historian

About the Lunder Institute for American Art  
The Lunder Institute for American Art supports innovative research and creative production that expands the boundaries of American art. A collaborative initiative with the Colby College Museum of Art located in central Maine, the Lunder Institute invites visiting artists, scholars, and museum professionals to engage across disciplines with Colby faculty and students, the College’s network of institutional partners, leading experts, and other creative collaborators. Through fellowships, workshops, symposia, and incubator grants, the Lunder Institute amplifies marginalized voices, challenges convention, and provides a platform for generative dialogue through art and scholarship.

About the Archives of American Art
Founded in 1954, the Archives of American Art fosters advanced research through the accumulation and dissemination of primary sources, unequaled in historical depth and breadth, that document more than 200 years of the nation’s artists and art communities. The Archives provides access to these materials through its exhibitions and publications, including the Archives of American Art Journal, the longest-running scholarly journal in the field of American art. An international leader in the digitizing of archival collections, the Archives also makes nearly 3 million images freely available online. The oral-history collection includes more than 2,400 audio interviews, the largest accumulation of in-depth, first-person accounts of the American art world.

About the Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art offers dynamic experiences that illuminate the power and enduring relevance of art in today’s global society. The museum builds, preserves, studies, and shares its outstanding collections of art from all periods and parts of the world, generating new scholarship and understanding, while serving as a social and intellectual hub for its community.

Lunder Fellow: Phong Bui

Phong Bui is a 2019 Lunder Institute Fellow. An artist, writer, curator, and publisher and artistic director of the Brooklyn Rail, Bui is the co-curator with Colby’s Diana Tuite of Occupy Colby: Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 2. 

On view at the Colby Museum of Art through January 5, 2020, Occupy Colby is part of an ongoing initiative launched by the Brooklyn Rail in 2017 at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City. The Colby iteration focuses on environmental issues and climate change—perhaps the most urgent concern of our time. Bui and Francesca Pietropaolo have mounted a companion show at the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Penitenti as part of the Venice Biennale.

During his Lunder Institute fellowship, Bui will convene Occupy Colby artists for a public conversation and engage with Colby students and faculty across the humanities and sciences. In addition, Bui will co-publish with the Lunder Institute and the Museum a special issue of the River Rail composed of essays, poetry, field notes, and interviews that expand on the themes of Occupy Colby.

The Institute will host a conversation at Colby on September 18 between Bui, Occupy Colby exhibiting artists Alexis Rockman and Allyson Vieira, and Colby scholars Denise Bruesewitz (Associate Professor, Environmental Studies) and Keith Peterson (Associate Professor, Philosophy). A reception will be held in the Diamond Building atrium from 5:00-6:00pm, followed by the panel discussion and Q&A in Ostrove Auditorium from 6:00-7:30pm. These events are free and open to all.

Meet Jessamine Batario, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow

Jessamine Batario joined the Lunder Institute team in August after earning her PhD in art history at The University of Texas at Austin. She just bought her first real pair of snow boots, but already had a canoe.

Jessamine works on a variety of programming for Lunder Institute fellows, visiting artists, and scholars, linking them to Colby College faculty and students, as well as to other artists and writers in Maine. This semester, the Occupy Colby exhibition became a classroom for her: she engaged with students in Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and English to consider the artworks on view through a variety of disciplinary lenses.

When she’s not teaching in the galleries, Jessamine also supervises a cohort of five undergraduate research assistants. Together, they are working with Tanya Sheehan, the Lunder Institute’s distinguished scholar and director of research, on this year’s Research Fellows Program on art by African Americans. They’re also laying the groundwork for next year’s initiative, which will focus on modernism and the arts of the southwest.

In addition to her activities at the Lunder Institute, Jessamine maintains a scholarly profile working on a wide range of topics in modern and contemporary art. An essay on pareidolia—the tendency to discern meaningful images in abstract forms—was published in the October issue of The Brooklyn Rail. Her next project, which will appear in the peer-reviewed journal Different Visions, explores the relationship between theory and history, opening a dialogue with contemporary artists and scholars of medieval art. Outside of Maine, you can find Jessamine at the upcoming College Art Association conference in Chicago, where she will be presenting a paper titled, “Simulations at the Byzantine Fresco Chapel.”

The Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in supporting this postdoctoral fellowship.

Theaster Gates and Black Artists Retreat [B.A.R.]

On June 16 and 17, 2019, Lunder Institute Distinguished Visiting Artist Theaster Gates convened a group of scholars and musicians in Washington, DC, for an open workshop, Discussions of the Sonic Imagination. 

“Sonic Imagination: the capacity to dream, feel, motivate and activate through sound; to think through and love through sound; to incant, incite or invoke using the invisible energy of wind and body to materialize form that moves us. This capacity to deeply consider a sonic measure that heals, disrupts, enables and unifies is a powerful wielding,” Gates said. “Our hope is to offer conversations and performances infused with sonic complexity and musical ambition that provoke and shine a light on the tremendous dexterity of contemporary art and musical practices.”

Organized by the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in partnership with the Lunder Institute, Gates’s Rebuild Foundation, and the Park Avenue Armory, the two-day program was the culminating moment in Processions, a series that began as a Hirshhorn commission in 2016, and has featured throughout a diverse group of local and national performers, artists, and scholars introducing unexpected connections between African and African American culture and history, theater, music, dance, chant, and oratory. 

Discussions of the Sonic Imagination was also a prelude to Gates’s Black Artists Retreat at the Park Avenue Armory on October 11 and 12, 2019. Public events in New York City will include lectures, roller skating, DJs and performances. Information on the weekend, including ticket sales, can be found on the Armory’s website.



Image: Terry Adkins, Native Son (Circus), © The Estate of Terry Adkins / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of The Estate of Terry Adkins, Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein