Student Spotlight – Jonathan Gonzalez
Studying art history can be thrilling and exciting, just ask graduate student Jonathan Gonzalez. He has been busy this year curating exhibitions alongside faculty advisors Dr. Shana Klein and Dr. Joseph Underwood. One of the exhibitions is currently on view in the Michener Gallery on the second floor of the Kent State University Library and another, for which he served as curatorial assistant, is set to open on November 7 in the Uumbaji Gallery in Oscar Ritchie Hall. The Michener Gallery show Kent Collective: The Importance of Communion at Kent State University features works by William Gropper from the School of Art Collection and was proposed by Gonzalez in a class with Dr. Klein. The upcoming Uumbaji Gallery show (DIS)MANTLE features local photographer Amber N. Ford’s work and was curated by Dr. Underwood.
Gonzalez is no stranger to Kent State or the art history program, receiving his B.A. in Art History from Kent State before starting his path towards a master's degree. We asked him a few questions about his curatorial practice, his background and his hopes for a future career.
Q: Tell us more about the show you curated in the Michener Gallery. What inspired you to focus on this subject? What class was the proposal for and what were the parameters?
A: I would say I was inspired by what I perceive to be the lack of togetherness between students on campus. I find it amazing that technology has provided with so many different ways to connect with each other, yet we seem more alienated than ever. It’s almost as if there is a crippling anxiety that prevents students from asking for help; departing from the collective, or “putting yourself in the spotlight,” thus, I felt that William Gropper’s work, especially his Caprichos series provided an opportunity to encapsulate my ideas in a visually effective/affective manner. The project stemmed from an assignment in my survey of American art with Dr. Shana Klein. Graduate students were asked to create an exhibition using the School of Art’s collection of art and then present our “show” to the class. After taking a vote to decide whose show would be installed in the Michener Gallery, I was the winner!
Q: Did this inspire you to curate any future exhibitions?
A: Absolutely! I have always had in interest in curatorial work, and to see the fruits of my labor and creative thinking manifest into the exhibition, not to mention how students received the work, was very encouraging and something I will definitely consider for the future. Additionally, I was just on the New York Travel Study with Dr. Joseph Underwood in which we met with a variety of curators—institutional, gallery, and independent. I feel that I have so much to think about and utilize, which I look forward to extending into my professional career.
Q: Tell us about your background. Why did you choose to focus in art history? Why do you find it exciting?
A: I have always had an interest on the humanities, but it was not until I had my first art history class while taking courses at Cuyahoga Community College that I decided that I wanted to pursue art history as the focus of my collegiate studies. I recall being spellbound by the visuals of Ancient Rome and how they related to the history of Rome itself. Simply speaking, I think the study of the visual arts throughout human history can tell us so much about the vital importance that imagination and creativity have been in contributing to how we understand ourselves today. Additionally, the output of the arts further acts as a tremendously informative tool in exploring the complexities of human existence. I believe that art history is in a dynamically exciting time. With the emergence of the Internet as well as the continued focus on theory, the field is expanding to include a host of interdisciplinary methods that extend the study of art history beyond simple formal characteristics. Not to mention how contemporary art historians are challenging age-old narratives that have marginalized groups as well as made for elitist circles of art historical knowledge. The future of art scholarship is bright, and I am happy to say that I will be helping in expanding the field into the future.
Q: What career path do you hope to pursue in the future?
A: I hope to pursue a career in academia, ideally as a practicing professor in art history. Additionally, a career in a museum setting, perhaps as a curator, would also be desirable. I will, however, be accepting of any position that enables me to further my career in the field of art history.
Learn more about the upcoming exhibition (DIS)MANTLE via the link below.