Willamette’s very own Hallie Ford Museum of Art presented a new art installation, the Hidden Histories exhibit, on Jan. 3rd which closed its run recently on April 22nd. Fred W. Neumann, a historical art collector, gifted a vast and expansive collection of his own. The installation work appears to display objects of little extravagance, containing simple everyday items such as pots, vases and makeup utensils. At first glance, it seems unremarkable, but upon closer inspection, the true value of this selection is revealed.
The pieces themselves are ordinary—for example, a glass containing perfumed oil. However, the delicate craftsmanship of the piece is truly where its beauty is reflected. The slight curve in the neck section, the bonding of the two, and even the speckling of age on the bottom of the piece stand out. As a piece of history, rather than a straightforward piece of art like a painting or a sculpture, the work can be appreciated in a multitude of ways. A simple elegance, crafted for everyday purposes.
Other works in the exhibit include
ancient eating pots, ladles and buckets—all essentials, functional and meaningful. The exhibit itself features a small room with pieces on clear glass shelves, evenly spaced, and some presented as if to have just been utilized. A hairpin sits slightly ajar and pots and vases sit at various other levels, all with an air of naturalism. The exhibit, visually, is not too flashy or spectacular. The pieces are functional and their beauty comes from the fact that they serve a purpose. The aim is to showcase Neumann’s collection of history, to honor what he was able to bequeath for the education of others.
Given that this exhibit is affiliated with a university, it can be assumed that these works are to be studied and used educationally. The very name of the exhibit is “Hidden Histories,” which alludes to the fact that these works, being unglamorous and every-day, are parts of history often overlooked in favor of flashy, vibrant works of beauty. Art comes from the craftsmanship of hard workers in these particular societies. Another noteworthy piece is that of the aforementioned hairpin. It is shaped like a flower, with a large bulb at the top and a long, cascading stem. Each work questions the understanding of what is to be considered art. Something as simple as a well-crafted hairpiece answers that consideration.