Gordon Parks & Contemporaries: Through the lens
Denison Museum intern and political science major Seyeong Hanlim ’23 shares her experience with the exhibition Gordon Parks & Contemporaries: Through The Lens.
“An artist must see oneself beyond one’s artwork.”
This is how studio art professor JSTN CLMN began his Black Arts class this spring. He spoke about the idea that as an artist, one must go beyond the perception of artists as individual geniuses, and see oneself within the lineage of artists who have continued the history before our times. While this statement did not come into clarity at first, it soon became ingrained in my heart. Because every time I stared into Gordon Parks’ works, I could not help but internally scream, ‘Count me in!’
Parks’ photographs invite us to explore the different dimensions of human life. Through his lens, he tells a lived story of pain and peace, and the meaning beneath the two grand concepts. Whether it be the history of Black life in America, political turmoil, or deeply personal moments, Parks’ works carry the kind of strength found in vulnerable lives, as the capturer himself echoed the sorrow, healing, and resilience in what he saw.
Parks’ pictures speak louder than words. Entering the museum, among the first works that audiences encounter is a photograph of interracial activities at Camp Christmas Seals in 1943, where children are aided by the Methodist Camp Service. Reflecting the times, it shows discomfort and unease between black and white girls standing in front of one another in swimsuits. This contradicts the very act of ‘play’ captured in the image, as there is no sight of playfulness among the children. At first sight, this picture seems to be focusing on the blurred lines of biracial division among the Black and white population through physical integration. However, at its deepest core, it resonates Martin Luther King’s quote in The Ethical Demands for Integration: “A desegregated society that is not integrated…leads to physical proximity without spiritual affinity…where elbows are together and hearts are apart.”
The moments that Parks spotlighted in our world brings a sense of hope and solidarity to audiences and artists. Among those joining this lineage of inspiration are six-time Grammy winner and Emmy nominated trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the E-Collective, fellow Grammy winners Turtle Island Quartet, and visual artist Andrew F. Scott. In collaboration with Denison’s Vail Series, these world-class musicians and artists will celebrate Parks’ art through a multimedia concert of music and art on March 2. By merging the audiovisual impacts of music and art, this concert incorporates Parks’ philosophy that considers various aspects and intersections of individual subjects.
More information on the exhibition Gordon Parks & Contemporaries: Through The Lens can be found on the Denison Museum Website.
As a Denison Museum intern, political science major Seyeong Hanlim ’23 gains a lot of skills, including data organization and analysis, social media and public relations, podcasting, videography, web design, graphic design and marketing on InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator platforms, and more. These skills prepare Denison students to qualify for interesting internships, enter graduate schools and find careers in many fields.