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Femmescapes: An exhibition curated by Mills students

Andrea Bowers’ delicate piece Political Slogans and Flower Magick: No Hanger, 2006. All photos by Joann Pak.

Have you ever wandered through an art exhibition and noticed the subtle lighting that illuminated the soft features of the painting or how the artwork is hung at the perfect eye level for viewing? Many viewers of the exhibition aren’t keen on the small details that go into making an art exhibition successful. Often times, these nuances within a museum or gallery can heighten your experience or make the whole show unremarkable.

Museum Studies Workshop

Offered every spring semester at Mills College, it is an upper division class that takes on a curatorial project. The class entitled, Museum Studies Workshop, is led by Dr. Stephanie Hanor, director of Mills College Art Museum (MCAM). Hanor guides the  class through all the aspects of making the project a reality. This year the class consists of five undergraduates: Paige Azarakhsh, Rachel Levinson, Bridget Stagnitto, Anna Vanderslice, and myself included; two graduate MFA students: Keegan Luttrell and Jenny Sharaf.

Sternly rested on a plinth is Kiki Smith’s Untitled (Head with Coin), 1998.

Lenore Pereira and Rich Niles’ Private Collection

The Museum Studies Workshop was given an opportunity to curate an exhibition from Lenore Pereira’s and Rich Niles’ private collection focused on contemporary female artists. The class split up into teams and came up with three strong proposals that elucidated the curatorial narrative of each concept and made a working checklist of the works of art that would be exhibited. With the difficult decision to chose the exhibition theme proposed by the groups left up to Lenore and Rich, they sought some outside counsel from their friends at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). After, a week they decided that the themes of Femmescapes strongly encompassed an interesting aspect of their collection they wished to explore.

A look at Marilyn Minter’s sensuous Crisco, 2003.


While brainstorming ideas with the curatorial team, “Femmescapes” was a neologism, a newly coined word, shouted out by Jenny Sharaf, first-year graduate student, which was agreed upon unanimously by the team for its succinct appeal. The neologism amalgamated the two main entities and encapsulated the sweeping contextual spectrum of the works within the show.

The exhibition includes varied works by the female artists, which explores the relationship between women and the environment. Exploring the literal and figurative notions of the relation between the female and the environment, there is a wide spectrum of work that exhibits the intersection of the two entities. The malleability of environment and women integrates and re-interprets gender ideals and engages a deeper dialogue for the visitors.

Anna Vanderslice, member of the curatorial team puts up Amalia Pica’s Sorry for the Metaphor, 2010.

Curatorial Experience 

As a member of the class and curatorial team, I found the experience to be enlightening. The balance of theory and practice in the class was engaging mentally and physically. We learned how to release a proper press release, publicize the event, and strategize with the generous help of Maysoun Wazwaz, MCAM’s program manager. Stacie Daniels, MCAM’s manager of collections and exhibitions was there to aid in the technical necessities of the show, which included a lot of drilling and measuring. Without the great resources provided by Dr. Hanor and MCAM, I’m not sure if Femmescapes would have been possible.

Through the learning process of putting a show together, we not only took part in the analytical process of exhibit but the physical aspect of the exhibition. Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue that includes an essay and artists’ entries from each member of the class.

Installation of the artwork was one of the most dynamic aspects of putting the exhibition together due to the varied mediums of the works. The exhibition includes everything from Jeanne Dunning’s video installations to Sarah Sze’s delicate sculpture hanging high in a corner to Amalia Pica’s Sorry for the Metaphors 3, which was compiled Xeroxed sheets that were wallpapered to create a 14 feet high tiling installation on the wall.  The hands-on experience of actually installing the pieces was surreal.

Everything went fairly smoothly thanks to the teamwork put in by the team and Niles, who took on a very active role with the installation process and went above and beyond to help put the show together.  With the exhibition finalized we wait excitedly and nervously for the public to see the wonders of Femmescapes.

Dr. Stephanie Hanor walks around the gallery space to make sure all the final touches are made.


An exhibition featuring work from the collection of Lenore Pereira and Rich Niles curated by students in the Mills  College Museum Studies Workshop.

Exhibition Dates:

Saturday & Sundays

April 15-May 6, 2012

11 a.m. – 5 p.m.


70 South Park

San Francisco, CA



Approximately 40 works including painting, video, photography, sculpture, and works on paper, Femmescapes presents work by Louise Bourgeois, Andrea Bowers, Jeanne Dunning, Ann Hamilton, Mary Daniel Hobson, Nina Katchadourian, Lisa Kokin, Lynda Lester-Slack, Ann Mandelbaum, Ana Mendieta, Marilyn Minter, Shirin Neshat, Chikako Okada, Marlo Pascual, Amalia Pica, Liza Ryan, Kiki Seror, Kiki Smith, Oriane Stender, Sarah Sze, Nicola Tyson, Sue Williams, and Francesca Woodman.