Creators of the art exhibit “Relationship” offer thoughts on black curtains

Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst are concerned about the decision to install black curtains at the entry to their exhibition “Relationship” at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

The curtains were installed two days after the exhibit opened.

Some volunteers of a children’s program at the museum had concerns as well. Museum administrators agreed, saying that some of the exhibits content could potentially infringe on parental consent guidelines for nudity.

Jill Hartz, executive director of JSMA, explained some exhibits that are fine for one, could act as a “trigger” for another museum visitor. The museum relies on what Hartz refers to as “community standards” to determine how to handle each exhibit or exhibition.

“We reach out broadly across the community on and off campus so that we can understand what the interests are and pair our shows with what we think can support community interest and academic interests as well,” Hartz said.

Part of the work Hartz and her staff focus on is serving the diverse viewership of the museum. Hartz believes the museum offers a wide range of opportunities for community members of Eugene, University of Oregon and K-12 students who come from all over the state.

Hartz says she and her team were initially unsure if the “Relationship” warranted the drapes.

Drucker and Ernst see the museum’s choice as igniting a negative connotation around the topic of trans*.

“The gaze of ‘Relationship’ is tender, playful and complex — all of the narrative themes and emotions that love presents,” Ernst and Drucker wrote in an email to the Emerald.

The duo don’t agree that the exhibit’s content is for adults only. They are concerned that the reasoning for the change in its presentation could be viewed as condemnation of a transgender person’s body.

Perhaps the one complainant mentioned in the article considers transgender bodies inherently inappropriate or perverse,” wrote Ernst and Drucker. […] “Since there is no overt nudity or sexuality depicted, we are flummoxed as to what ‘preventative’ use the black curtains serve in blocking off the artwork.”

Though some conversations about the show are perceived as negative by the exhibit’s creators, Drucker and Ernst see this as an opportunity to further discuss the stigmatization of trans* individuals.

“It’s no coincidence that this issue comes up at a time when trans* bodies are being checked, questioned, declined entrance, and otherwise repressed as part of a backlash against LGBT rights,” wrote Drucker and Ernst.

Due to the tiebacks installed on April 22, volunteers now can block off the entrance of exhibit during times when children are present. Otherwise, the curtains will be pulled back during operating hours.

Drucker and Ernst are understanding about the entire situation, and they think the conversation surrounding the issue is valuable.

We’re happy that it’s inspiring dialogue and conversation. We hope that museum goers will push the curtains aside to see it,” wrote Drucker and Ernst.

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Christopher Trotchie

Christopher Trotchie