On Thursday, Feb. 8, the Hood Museum of Art hosted its Winter Opening Event, celebrating the opening of new exhibitions. Students and the greater Hanover community indulged in live music, enjoyed refreshments and explored the museum.
“The opening is an exciting moment to see the exhibition through the eyes of our visitors who are experiencing it for the first time,” Offill said. “More broadly, we are a museum for our communities — Dartmouth, Hanover, the Upper Valley and beyond. We want people to feel welcome and excited and engaged at the Hood, and [the] opening is a perfect way to do that with a celebratory tone.”
One of the new curations at the Hood, titled “Gilded: Contemporary Artists on Value and Worth,” uses the appeal of valuable commodities, such as gold leaf, to draw attention to often overlooked parts of life. This loan exhibition was originally planned and designed by Emily Stamey at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Hood Museum’s curator of collections Ashley Offill brought the exhibition to Dartmouth.
“I love learning about materials and how objects are made, so the idea of gold leaf as a connecting thread for all of these artists who otherwise come from different traditions and backgrounds was really interesting to me,” Offill explained. “Most of the artworks in the show are loans from the artists and the galleries, so it is also a really unique opportunity to see all these artworks in conversation with each other.”
As the curator of collections, Offill designed the layout of this exhibition to fit the space at the Hood, making label revisions to cater to the Hood’s audience and design decisions, such as painting a teal focus wall and framing the introductory text. In comparison to original exhibitions created by curators and pieces from the Hood, Offill’s work with “Gilded” consisted of various challenges to adapt it to a new space. One consideration was the Hood’s more segmented rather than open halls, where the exhibition had previously been held, requiring Offill to rethink the groupings of artworks.
“I ended up identifying three main themes that the artists engage with — place, identity and history — and loosely grouping the art based on those themes,” Offill said. “It actually worked really well and highlighted many different connections between the artworks.”
Another exhibition featured during the opening event is “And I’m Feeling Good: Relaxation and Resistance” curated by the Hood’s associate curator of photography Alisa Swindell. Taking inspiration from Nina Simone’s song “Feeling Good,” Swindell explains how this exhibition explores the theme of Black joy through photography as both a celebration of identity and a form of resistance against the silencing of African American voices.
“The show is set thematically … around family, childhood, beauty, sexuality, domesticity and performance,” Swindell said. “The show is really taking on that topic in terms of how joy exists, how it is presented photographically in an African American context.”
Swindell explained how there has been constant pushback against embracing Black joy. Studies show that young Black girls are often assumed to be and treated as four years older than they are, resulting in a shorter childhood. Furthermore, Black success or celebration is often overshadowed by disheartening news of racially motivated violence against the community. Although this exhibition about joy is shown through an African American perspective, Swindell said that the message of this exhibit is for all audiences.
“There’s an engagement area in the exhibition that asks people to ask questions, and I put that to all audiences and Black audiences. I framed the exhibition around African American histories as I wanted to discuss how joy is challenged and I do not know those histories across the diaspora as well. It’s just easier for me to place the things I’m addressing in an African American context, as I am also African American.”
This exhibit not only uses photography but also has a musical component with a playlist of 32 songs, created by Swindell, that encapsulate Black joy. This playlist was presented with the exhibition during the Winter Opening Event and will be playing in the gallery every Thursday. Visitors are also encouraged to also use the QR code in the gallery to listen to it on their own. According to Swindell, the deliberate decision to only have the playlist play in the gallery once a week was to create the multidimensional impact of the usage of mixed media while ensuring that the music does not conflate and take away from the exhibit itself.
Swindell also emphasized the medium of photography, a medium that often gets less recognition compared to other art forms.
“I hope photography is considered an art in the same way that painting and sculpture is by this time,” Swindell said. “It’s just a different method in medium … I think the photography does something special, especially when the artistic voice matches up with something that is so ubiquitous in our daily lives, like photography.”
Both of these exhibitions ask their audiences to see beyond what is presented on the surface. While Offill’s “Gilded” uses the draw of gold leaf to see the various layers underneath, Swindell’s “And I’m Feeling Good” asks viewers to reflect on the world around them through photography.
“I hope that people who come to see the exhibition are able to appreciate the artistic skill and ingenuity of these artists, but also have spent time considering the conceptual layers within the artworks,” Offill said. “The gold draws viewers in, but I think the greater knowledge of and understanding for different perspectives, experiences and histories is the true wealth.”
Uma Misha ’26, who attended the opening event, said these goals were conveyed to her.
“I think my favorite exhibition was ‘Gilded,’” Misha said. “It was so interesting to see how each of the different artists used gold to first catch my eye and really ask me to investigate further what is beyond all the sparkle and shine.”
In addition to these two featured exhibitions, the Hood this year is also showing an exhibition by Nick Cave and Jeffrey Gibson titled “Gather, Move, Resonate,” which Swindell also helped curate. Other exhibitions span various topics, including global African Art and Indigenous-Australian Art, liquid commodities and the apocalypse.