Tuesday, April 18, 2023

As a film lover and maker, the combination of audio + visual is the medium of creation that captures my attention the best. Museums can be hard for me to focus on in silence, but when I look at art with music in my ears, I can more easily immerse myself in the work. I find myself drawing connections between the themes of the galleries and the songs coming through my headphones, and develop a more meaningful relationship with both mediums of art. When it came time for me to pick a project to work on throughout my internship, I wanted to create something that might encourage people to engage with the galleries in a new, fun way! I love listening to music, so I explored hours of new-to-me songs to curate these playlists that, to me, represent themes of each section of the galleries. 


A graphic that depicts an abstract drawing of a face over a red and white background, with pink text overlay that says "About Face."
About Face

"About Face: African Masks in Iowa" centers around the visage as a global artistic symbol. The West and Central African masks in the Stanley’s collection emphasize geographic and temporal place, existing as moments of history steeped in ritual and performance. This playlist attempts to explore the broader themes displayed by the exhibit: the shifts between performative and authentic identity demonstrated by the wearing of a mask and the disguise of a face. Listen to Isaac Dunbar’s and Sudan Archives’ insights to the relationship between hair and identity, and the raw lyrics of Julia Jacklin that explore a fear of authenticity.

Scan the code on the image with the Spotify app on your phone, or click this link to listen to the playlist. 





A graphic of a globe, with a textile design. The globe stand and green text overlay reads: "Centering on Cloth: The Art of African Textiles."
Centering on Cloth

See the Stanley’s collection of African textiles in this centralized exhibit. Pieces from across the continent of Africa emphasize the global network of threads connecting African art to worldwide exchange of goods and artistic ideas. In an effort to demonstrate the importance of the study of African art, this playlist features only artists of Africa. From The Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the Sahara, to Madagascar, various regions and styles of music of the continent are represented here.

Scan the code on the image with the Spotify app on your phone, or click this link to listen to the playlist. 





A hot pink graphic with a pixelated portrait at the center. Curved text along the top reads "Fragments of the Canon."
Fragments of the Canon

What do we miss when we do not look beyond the structures and standards set by the notion of what is “canon” in art? The collection of black ophthalmologist Dr. Meredith Saunders has been excluded from canonized programs on African Art in Iowa, but his collection is highlighted for the first time in "Fragments of the Canon." The exhibit questions what belongs to canon, and who determines what is canonical. In keeping with the theme of displaying what has been previously excluded from canon, this playlist seeks to highlight marginalized artists of all kinds within their genres of music: see the indie folk/pop of Liberian-born Mon Rovîa, the Gambia/Senegal- born Papa Mbye’s music labeled by First Avenue as “post-everything, art-rap”, or the psychedelic funk of Puerto Rican-American act The Marías.

Scan the code on the image with the Spotify app on your phone, or click this link to listen to the playlist. 



A graphic image with star shaped photos on top that depict images of works in the Stanley galleries. Dark purple text on a lighter purple background beneath the images reads "Generations," repeated 9 times.

Generations: the gaps of time that divide and define human history, or the making of something out of nothing. Both interpretations of the word are present in the gallery, imbued through the works of artists who have challenged the hierarchies of art history through new innovations of creative expression. As home to the art of several University of Iowa alumni, "Generations" highlights the Iowa Idea, demonstrating the nexus of scholarship and artistry. Each song on this playlist was selected as a sonic match to the themes of the exhibit, a musical translation of the intricacies of the human spirit felt as one strolls through "Generations." Lyrical literary references in “Old Bones” and “SULA (Paperback)” evoke the artistic link between past and present, and the sweetly-sung specificities of Samia and Maya Hawke remind listeners of the everyday delight of connection. Themed along the lines of human interconnections and innovations, this collection of songs aims to be an auditory extension of the exhibit.

Scan the code on the image with the Spotify app on your phone, or click this link to listen to the playlist. 


Graphic involving a background with layered colors of orange, black, blue, pink, and red. White text overlay at the top reads "HISTORY IS" with smaller text underneath, repeating and fading, that says "always now."
History is Always Now

"History is Always Now" places the African diaspora as its focal point, emphasizing the global network of artists relevant to African art history. With themes of social justice, the relationship between the past and present, and the globalization of people and knowledge, the exhibit examines connections through art between time and space. Just as "History is Always Now" features art from African, Asian, and indigenous artists, its musical counterpart in this playlist does the same. Collaborations such as “Winona” and “Cheesin” emphasize the many different roots of a singular piece of art, and featured works of Joy Oladokun and Ms. Lauryn Hill emphasize the past and present fight for African American social justice, and the acknowledgement of the past necessary for change and growth.

Scan the code on the image with the Spotify app on your phone, or click this link to listen to the playlist. 



A photo of Abbie, smiling.
About Abbie McLaren

Abbie McLaren is a sophomore double majoring in Cinema and Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Geography (she is curious about lots and would have 6+ majors if she could, but here we are). She is also a Club Life Officer for the Iowa Track and Field Club, a teaching assistant for the Presidential Scholars Program, and an avid TV-watcher and concert-goer.

As the Museum Programs Intern, Abbie assists with public programming put on by the Stanley, primarily by capturing and editing video of lectures. She loves helping out at events, hearing speakers, and learning new things, but her favorite part of her job is getting to operate a super nice camera during Zoom broadcasts!