Miracles Unknown artistically explores the mysticism of daily life
Through the doors of the USC Fisher Museum of Art, a spacious gallery boasts pieces that, at first glance, seem to have no connection with each other. The center of the installation is a painting of a fruit stand on a wooden panel, its background adorned with gold leaf. At the top was the title of the exhibition: Miracles Unknown.
Upon first glance, a fruit stand offers no significance to the abstract principles of miracles and the unknown. A fruit is a mundane object — the antithesis of the unknown — but through these everyday objects, the curators of this exhibition attempted to channel a sense of mysticism surrounding commonplace items like fruit.
Seniors Lauren Jones and Yomyung Regina Chung, junior Madelyne Gordon and and sophomore Antonia Jade Matias-Bell worked with Fisher Museum Director Selma Holo to tackle what these two subject matters mean. After a week of browsing through catalogs from previous exhibitions at the Fisher Museum’s permanent collection and choosing some initial artworks, the art history majors decided upon the theme and located the artworks.
“Throughout this process we were working on our wall text and trying to verbalize what our theme was,” said Chung. “And the last step was, we hung them up.”
The first half of the installation discusses the miracles individuals encounter everyday and often take for granted; the other half examines the unknown of everyday existence, an unfamiliar and scary concept that is simultaneously awe-inspiring.
Bell and Chung teamed up to show the existence of miracles through a section titled “Everyday Miracles.” The exhibits include a variety of artistic works: A two-part photograph of an artist’s hands, an oil painting of a shipwreck, a plexiglass depicting a winged dinosaur flying out of the La Brea Tar Pits and a series of photographs by Christina Fernandez, which illustrates her grandmother’s journey from Mexico to San Diego, Calif. At first glance, the artworks appear unrelated to each other, but the overarching theme of everyday miracles created cohesion and started a conversation about the definition of a miracle.
“We didn’t want to just deal with miracles in the sense that we think of them as being mythical or out of reach, but something that actually has already been here … like the choice of our works that have already been with the USC Fisher Museum,” Chung said.
According to Chung, miracles already exist in daily life but are rarely recognized. The “Everyday Miracles” installation intends to portray a search for commonplace miracles and the mature perceptions of individuals once they realize this precious phenomenon.
Gordon and Jones worked on the second part of the exhibit, which was named “Unknown.” The exhibit started with a two-part photograph of a family called “En Circulo I” by Mira Bernabeu. The first photograph depicts a large family in a dark auditorium. The second photograph shows the same family in an almost identical pose, but there was a stark difference: They are without their clothes. Like “En Circulo I,” all parts of the exhibition raised questions that bring out the unknown in daily life.
The installation frames the uncertainties of life through the lens of an artist: how art can be used as a way to identify the unknown and to present the artist’s reaction. It can be an attempt to reach a solution, but it can also be the artist trying to figure out how they feel about the unknown. “We decided together to use the show as an opportunity to explore what we consider the unknown, especially in this current time that we’ve entered where access to healthcare is unknown, people’s immigration status is unknown, gender identity, personal identity … all these questions that sometimes we don’t have the answer to,” Gordon said.
One artwork stood out as a commentary to today’s turbulent times: a silver print by Loren Sandvik depicting a bloodied woman holding her baby, set in a background of pitch black. Called “Lucy Alamillo and Maia Ixchel Ramirez,” the picture was taken in 2000 as the artist’s way to comment on immigration in the United States. The basis of immigration and border protection contains a plethora of uncertainties, but it is the reality of life for many.
“Especially after the travel ban that Trump has issued in his executive order, the photograph is still relevant today, 17 years later,” Gordon said.
At the center of the exhibit stood the “Fruit Stand” painting. It displays common themes found within Miracles Unknown.
“We decided to share this central painting because … [of the] common ground between the two themes that we independently came up with,” Gordon said. “[It] happened to work really well together,”
“The Fruit Stand” by Robert Glen Ginder channels Byzantine-era art style, but instead of depicting the usual subject matter of Madonna-and-Child, the artist chose to paint a fruit stand. The juxtaposition between this everyday object and the traditional theme of miracles shows that, to the artist, miracles exist in everyday life.