House of the Muses
ON VIEW SEPTEMBER 24 – DECEMBER 16, 2022
Curated by Ciara Ennis
Plan your visit HERE »
PITZER COLLEGE ART GALLERIES
BROAD CENTER, 1ST FLOOR
1060 N MILLS AVE, CLAREMONT, CA 91711
Saturday, September 24th, 1–3pm
Referencing Greco-Roman antiquities and their museological display, House of the Muses approximates a museal landscape in a state of decay. Suggesting a post-human future, the installation alludes to failed historical and contemporary empires that have, through hubris, enacted widespread devastation socially, politically, and ecologically. In Staros’ universe, vitrines modeled on those found in the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art become life-supporting aquariums for freshwater fish and aquatic plants. Providing shelter and diversion for the fish, Staros’ Grecian-style amphorae are playfully distorted versions of their historical counterparts. Portals to the past and future, each aquatic vitrine functions as an artifact alternately buried and revealed by the dramatic impact of human discard and climatic transition.
Reflecting on the past as a means to project into the future is articulated by the twinning of objects to resemble mirrored images. This doubling is apparent in two pairs of works involving Grecian-style urns. In the vitrines, a symmetrical upright vase placed on top of an inverted and undulant one gives the impression of an amphora and its watery reflection. To reinforce this visual pun, the display cases are only half submerged, the waterline at the point where the two vases meet. In other work, one pair of free-standing amphorae embellished with a contrasting black and grey pattern is stacked mouth to mouth with a pitted marble sphere balanced between them. It is echoed by another set of vessels stacked foot to foot. This latter pair are made from red clay and patterned with both a fine meshwork motif and a second network of breaks repaired with silver. Further entangling these two netted halves are delicate chain spiderwebs creeping over the vessels’ surfaces, suggesting that these human artifacts, like those in the vitrines, have been repurposed by the nonhuman.
House of the Muses—a title born of Greek mythology and translated from a Latin synonym of museum—highlights the role that Encyclopedic museums play in the construction of histories and cultural narratives by alluding to ancient artifacts and the exhibitionary procedures used in their display. While evocative of classical civilizations before their fall, the exhibition calls attention to the inevitable collapse and fragility of such empires, past, present, and future. Staros’ construction of museal ruin overrun by natural forces asks us to consider the fate of our own civilization, our impact on the planet, and the legacy and futurity of the human species.
Cammie Staros: House of the Muses is curated by Ciara Ennis, Director and Curator of Pitzer College Art Galleries. Ennis received a PhD in Cultural Studies and Museum Studies from Claremont Graduate University and an MA in Visual Arts Administration, Curating, and Commissioning Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London.
Pitzer College Art Galleries will be open to visitors starting on September 24, 2022. Viewing appointments are offered throughout the exhibition, Tuesday through Saturday on the half-hour from 1-4:30 p.m.