At Skidmore College,
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Charles Stainback, Dayton Director
Ian Berry, Associate Director and Curator
By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 9, 2003
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Charles Stainback, the Dayton Director of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, has recently been appointed as SITE Santa Fe's (www.SITESantaFe.org) new Executive Director, effective September 1, 2003. Charlie, as we know him, has been part of the Skidmore faculty and staff since 1997, and he oversaw the conception, construction, and design of the Tang Museum, which opened in October 2000. The architect was Antoine Predock. Since it's opening, the Tang has displayed work from over 200 artists. Charlie Stainback was formerly Director of Exhibitions of the International Center of Photography in New York City. Charlie has curated numerous exhibitions, including Scenes of Sounds, his Millennial, Inaugural Exhibition at the Tang, which suggested sound, included objects that make sounds, and integrated art and sound technology.
Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College
Charles Stainback, Tang Museum Director, and Ian Berry, Museum Curator
The following interview was conducted on July 9, 2003 in Charlie Stainback's office at the Tang, which has a staff of eleven.
REZ: Why did you come to the Tang?
CS: There's no history here. I wasn't inheriting someone else's vision or problems.
REZ: Where did you work in NYC?
CS: I was Director of Exhibitions at the International Center of Photography for eleven years.
REZ: Is your background in paint or sculpture?
CS: It was in photography, which touches on contemporary art, migration, dance, consumer culture, and history. Working in an interdisciplinary museum, I had all these experiences. Skidmore knew I wouldn't do just prissy little art exhibits. I didn't want to do the same old thing.
REZ: Do you show art by Skidmore alums?
CS: What drives what we do is ideas, not curatorial decisions, like Shaker, Native American Indian, or Rube Goldberg's drawings. If some of these ideas happen to be related to Skidmore (like through an alum), then it happens. This is a first rate museum with amazing catalogues. It functions like it's on Fifth Avenue. It's not a quaint museum.
REZ: Why are you leaving the Tang now?
CS: SITE Santa Fe is an amazing place. It's high profile, and I get to live in a beautiful part of the country.
REZ: Which was your favorite exhibit?
CS: The first show (Scenes of Sounds) was sort of an amazing moment. No one had a notion what the museum would be about. It took two weeks to install this exhibit. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. There were rough edges. See the catalogue (Which he then gave me as a gift).
REZ: What are your personal goals for yourself?
CS: I'm fortunate to have a career that's interesting and challenging. I made a decision years ago that I wanted to work in a museum. This combines an interest in design, publicity, intellectual rigor, and I like the drama.
Anything is possible. There's no way I'd say something isn't possible.
Living with Duchamp (June 27-September 28, 2003): Marcel Duchamp is a revolutionary artist, who worked in many mediums and concepts. For example, he would take an everyday art object and transfer it to an art context, like a bicycle wheel or a roll of toilet paper. He called his works "readymades" and assemblages. An unconventional environment suits this artist best, with room for Duchamp's fascination with consumerism and sexuality. (Tang Notes).
This project includes works by more than forty contemporary artists. It is inspired by Duchamp's installation designs for the 1938 International Exposition of Surrealism in Paris. I found Duchamp's work both familiar and unfamiliar. His American Flag, consisting of sewn parts of dollar bills, was interesting and iconic. The wall of photos was satisfying from the standpoint of a single display of interesting photographs, as well as a peek-a-boo keyhole wall to observe the photos from another room. There was a solitary ballerina on a brightly lit, wooded path. There were multiple prints of cow heads, stereo speakers formed into a religious cross, and glasses arranged on a table to match those of the Last Supper. I enjoyed this exhibit, which I visited two times today.
Living with Duchamp
The Art of Arline Fisch (June 27-September 28, 2003): Arline Fisch, a Skidmore alumna, creates decorative body ornaments that sometimes resemble those of ancient cultures. She works with metal to fashion bracelets, necklaces, collars, head ornaments, hats, and torso wraps. Ms. Fisch's work lends new meaning to the term, "heavy metal". I found the head ornament and the shoulder/arm wraps to look unwieldy. It's doubtful that most of these art objects could actually be worn in reality and allow one to still move about, but they are gorgeous and gallant. There is a sterling silver head décor, a looped neck ornament, a devil-faced silver necklace, a red/gold, silver-coated, copper neck and body ornament, and a metal headpiece for sedentary women, only.
The Art of Arline Fisch
Jim Hodges (June 21-August 31, 2003): Ordinary objects become extraordinary and poignant works with unusual characteristics. Hodges finds innate potential in light bulbs, aluminum foil, and mirrors. There's a collage of cut portions of sheet music, prismacolor on paper, and a large, white structure with stretched canvas. There are strobe lights flashing, bouncing off other installed works and interesting sockets. There's a three-dimensional tree with a photo and collage under glass. Other works include scarves, thread, metal chains, pins, and cut mirror designs.
Jim Hodges Exhibit
Samuel Bak (July 5-26, 2003): James Chansky helped to arrange this exhibit of Holocaust themes. These paintings depict memories of the ghetto and images of the Holocaust, but in a surreal and dreamlike manner. The occupation of the town of Vilna, where Bak had resided, was the catalyst for this series of works, which show no agony, but, rather, "a sense of a world that was shattered" (Bak). This is a "visual testimony to the disaster". (Tang Notes).
The Quartet Series is based on music by Messaien, whose Quartet for the End of Time was performed for prisoners by prisoners, during the Holocaust. Bak's Self-Portrait shows only a cap and shoes, which are representational of Bak and of the shoes, which were ultimately instruments of torture, as they caused pain and blisters. Another 1976 painting shows two cemetery stones, with one word on each, Shema and Yisrael. There is a work with candles on tracks, with the memories of the trains. One disturbing work depicted smoke rising from tablets and headstones.
Samuel Bak Exhibit
Also (see Series on Jazz Institute).