‘Framing Beauty’ trains its lens on aesthetics and cultural notions with exhibition, events

Michael Baldwin, Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ 2007

The exhibition”Framing Beauty: Intimate Visions” includes Bill Gaskins’ photograph “Michael Baldwin, Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ,” 2007. Gaskins also will participate in several public events as part of the accompanying symposium. Image courtesy of the artist.

Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences is digging deep beyond the surface meanings of “Beauty” this fall in its eighth annual Themester.

One signature event of Themester 2016 will be the “Framing Beauty” symposium taking place today and Friday in the Fine Arts Building on the Bloomington campus.

The symposium’s free lectures, panel discussions and other events are related to the exhibition “Framing Beauty: Intimate Visions,” which will remain on display at the Grunwald Gallery through Oct. 6.

The show includes photographs, paintings, videos and objects from 20 major contemporary artists, including IU Bloomington photography associate professor Osamu James Nakagawa and Gordon Parks, the groundbreaking fashion photographer, filmmaker and chronicler of black America who died in 2006.

“Framing Beauty: Intimate Visions” was curated by Deborah Willis, chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School for the Arts at New York University.

Omar Victor Diop

Omar Victor Diop, “Frederick Douglass,” 2015. Image courtesy of the MAGNIN-A Gallery.

Willis is a photographer, historian and author who has been named one of the 100 most important people in photography by American Photography magazine. She also is a recipient of Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships and multiple NAACP Image Awards.

Much of her professional work has centered on ideas of beauty and identity, especially among African American people and communities, past and present.

Willis has written that she finds beauty both personal and political.

In 15 years of research, she has pondered both its aesthetic and philosophical implications. In the courses she teaches, Willis explores how the black body is visualized in photography and how those images relate to our society and ideas of gender.

“We are honored to host this exhibition about beauty selected by esteemed curator Deborah Willis,” said Betsy Stirratt, director of the Grunwald Gallery. “I anticipate that the show and symposium will require viewers to consider how images shape our personal and cultural definitions of beauty.”

Symposium events

All of the “Framing Beauty” events are free and open to the public:

  • 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 — Willis will moderate a discussion in the Grunwald Gallery between artists Omar Victor Diop, Bill Gaskins, Kalup Linzy, Osamu James Nakagawa and Ji Yeo. Diop is a portrait photographer from Dakar, Senegal, while Gaskins addresses neighborhood and community through his photo portraits. Linzy is a multimedia and performance artist, and Yeo is a photographer and performance artist concerned with plastic surgery. Nakagawa’s work in the show addresses political cultural perspectives.
  • 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 — A welcome reception will follow in the Grunwald Gallery.
  • Noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 9 — Gaskins will be the featured artist at a brown-bag lunchtime gathering in the Grunwald Gallery.
  • 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 9 — Willis and the artists will participate in an informal round-table discussion at the Grunwald Gallery.
  • 5 to 6 p.m. Sept. 9 — Willis is scheduled to speak as part of the McKinney Visiting Artist Series.The talk will take place in Room 015 of the Fine Arts Building.
  • 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 — Willis will attend a reception and book-signing in the Grunwald Gallery.

Willis is co-author of “Envisioning Emancipation,” along with Barbara Krauthamer. Her other notable books include “Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty,” “Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs” and “Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present.”


Kehinde Wiley, “Ena Johnson,” 2012. The oil on linen painting is from the collection of Nathan Serphos.

The “Framing Beauty” exhibition also features artists Mangue Banzima, Shelia Pree Bright, Zoe Buckman, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Ana Theresa Fernandez, Gerard H. Gaskin, Susan Kae Grant, Myra Greene, Michael M. Koehler, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley and Fo Wilson.

The exhibition and events are sponsored in part by Themester 2016: “Beauty,” an initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences, and IU’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program. Further assistance comes from the College Arts and Humanities Institute and the Center for Integrative Photographic Studies, with additional support from the Studio Art Department in the School of Art and Design and the Grunwald Gallery, all at Indiana University. The lecture by Deborah Willis is made possible through the generous support of Dr. Meredith McKinney and his wife, Elsa Luise Barthel McKinney. The Grunwald Gallery also would like to thank the lenders to the exhibition.

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