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Mills College Art Museum opens latest exhibitions

The newest exhibit at the Mills College Art Museum is a collection of photographs and videos, and will be on display until March 15. (Hart Rosenberg)
The newest exhibit at the Mills College Art Museum is a collection of photographs and videos, and will be on display until March 15. (Hart Rosenberg)

Mills College students and visitors gathered at the Mills College Art Museum on Jan. 21 for the opening reception of the latest exhibitions — Sheldon B. Smith & Lisa Wymore: “Endless Gestures of Goodwill” and Bill Owens: “Suburbanites and Socialites.”

“Endless Gestures of Goodwill,” created by Sheldon B. Smith and Lisa Wymore, is a two-channel video that displays a seemingly never-ending dance. The video is a looped compilation of 250 clips of short movement inspired by folk dances, edited to produce the appearance of endless movement.

“Suburbanites and Socialites” is a collection of 33 photographs by Bay Area photographer Bill Owens that depicts the lives of women and girls in the 1970s . The photographs were recent gifts to the Mills College Art Museum from local collectors, Robert Shimshak and Marion Brenner.

Smith, one of the creators of “Endless Gestures of Goodwill,” is interested in how the computer combines the video clips to form a dance. The video is intended as a 21st century folk dance that integrates the body, the internet and globalization. Smith explained that the video contains a total of 16 gestures filmed from five different angles to create the 250 different video clips.

“It’s somewhat interactive,” Smith said. “People come in slowly; [the slow video movements] invite you into the middle. The dance, with this strategy, invokes participation instead of static observation, giving a sense of wanting to participate.”

Mira Mason-Reader, a senior majoring in dance and English creative writing, was excited about the “Endless Gestures of Goodwill” exhibit and said it was her favorite piece.

“[Smith] was one of my teachers; of course I had to come and see,” Mason-Reader said.

Sophia Draznin-Nagy, a first year majoring in anthropology, enjoyed the syncing of shared experiences of Smith & Wymore at points in “Endless Gestures of Goodwill.”

“I really like the video because there’s no visible pattern. It’s hard to find where the loop is unlike choreographed dances,” Draznin-Nagy said. “I’m interested in the slow motion of the video and the way it speeds up.”

Stephanie Hanor, Mills College Art Museum director, along with students in her Museum Studies class, curated the “Suburbanites and Socialites” exhibit of Bill Owens’ photographs.

“The photographs themselves came as a group two years ago. I taught a class, Museum Studies, and with the six students in the class, we talked about the content, themes and ideas to organize the exhibition,” Hanor said. “Working with the objects themselves, we weren’t thinking about the artists’ intent. Instead we looked at how interesting it is to think about the content of the images, how we are looking back 40 years and the content of the images that spoke to us.”

Hanor’s favorite piece was Bill Owens’ “Untitled [Baton Practice].”

“There’s something interesting about looking at the transition from being little girls to early adulthood,” Hanor said.

Christine Soukiassian, a first year majoring in women and gender studies, was most interested by Bill Owens’ photographs of women. Soukiassian connected more with these photographs when she realized that the women were from her mother’s generation.

“Looking at it from that lens, as the time that my mom’s generation was going on, the pictures stood out,” said Soukiassian. “I found the pieces a lot more meaningful and relatable.”

Sheldon B. Smith & Lisa Wymore: “Endless Gestures of Goodwill” and Bill Owens: “Suburbanites and Socialites” are on display at the Mills College Art Museum until March 15.