Faculty and Staff Spotlight
"Part of my personal mission is also to provide a platform for a wider representation of artists in museums. That’s what drives me. My mission is deeply connected to the university’s overall mission of inclusion and access to opportunities."
Julie’s vision is to give a wide range of politically active, socially engaged artists a place to have their voices heard.
Julie Rodrigues Widholm is the Director and Chief Curator of the DePaul Art Museum (DPAM)
Prior to her position at DPAM, Julie had been at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago for sixteen years. Her move to DePaul’s university museum has given her the opportunity to exhibit artists from more diverse backgrounds who explore cultural and political themes in their work. DPAM also serves as a platform for Chicago-based artists. Julie’s vision is to give a wide range of politically active, socially engaged artists a place to have their voices heard.
After curating at the Museum of Contemporary Art, what appealed to you about DPAM?
To move into a position at a smaller museum was very exciting. Since it was a young museum, I could shape it and execute a vision to really put this museum on the map. So it was a huge challenge with a ton of opportunity. I always thought my next position would be at a university museum.
I was also excited about the idea of working with students and faculty, and the idea that this environment of thought, ideas and dialogue could create a fantastic setting to present exhibitions.
The art world can drift toward similar artists and be a little homogenous. You may see more artists that are coming out of primarily a western canon. It can sometimes squeeze out the opportunities for lesser-known artists.
I think there’s a bit more freedom here to be experimental and forge a new path. Our charge is to be a place of ideas and debate. Being in an academic setting allows us to really dig into the issues and ideas and dialogue, and not worry so much about the biggest, hottest artist right now.
Can you describe the connection between your work at DPAM and the broader mission of the university?
My interests and the mission of DePaul University are very much in line. As a curator, I’ve worked a lot with diverse artists—from Latin America, female artists. I feel like diversity and representation in museums, especially one in an urban community like ours, is very important.
I want to build a community and connect people through art. Art is about all facets of life and learning how to look at art, or visual literacy, is an important part of one’s education. We want to be a resource for innovative teaching across campus. Part of my personal mission is also to provide a platform for a wider representation of artists in museums. That’s what drives me. My mission is deeply connected to the university’s overall mission of inclusion and access to opportunities.
As Director and Chief Curator, what is your vision for the museum and its exhibits?
I am very interested in curating politically active artists. Not only because it provides a platform, but it also validates these voices and experiences. I strongly believe that art and museums can provide a space to confront views that are different from your own and help negotiate those differences. Art can be a powerful way to gain understanding of someone else’s life and their way of being.
At the core, I believe that we all want to be seen and heard and loved. It’s that balance between negotiating difference, but ultimately getting to more of humanity.
Can you tell me about your current exhibits?
What are the stories that we’re not hearing that we should be hearing? What are the stories that we should learn more about? These are the artists that I want to feature.
This summer (through August 6) we have two female artists that have solo exhibitions. One of the artists, Hương Ngô, is Chicago based. She is Vietnamese-American. She has done a lot of research into a revolutionary feminist from Vietnam named Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai. This research-based activity has created a whole new body of artwork she is making, and we are debuting it here. The show is titled, “To Name It is to See It.” She works with a variety of materials. Neon pieces. Sewn textiles. Instruments created from a 3D printer. Her work explores the importance of language in validating certain experiences.
I am very interested in interdisciplinary shows that can tap into politics, science, gender studies. There’s so much embedded in this kind of work. It’s uncovering a story about a woman who is very well known in Vietnam, but I’m not sure a lot of people in our community know about her. Rigorous artistic innovation and exploration uncovers these stories. They are very personal to the artist, but also quickly expand to address social and political issues.
Check the DPAM website to learn more about current and upcoming exhibitions. Admission to the museum is free for students, faculty and staff.
The museum is just to the east of the Fullerton Red and Brown Line stop.
More information about the two summer exhibitions (from the DPAM website):
Hương Ngô: To Name It is to See It
April 27 – August 6 / 2017
In this new body of work that includes photographs, textiles, prints, neon, video, sound, and objects, Hương Ngô engages with the French government’s surveillance archives of Vietnamese anticolonial organizer Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai (1910-1941). The role of performance in the construction of identity is at the forefront of Ngô’s investigation of this historical figure. Minh Khai’s constant crossing of borders – those of nation-states, ethnicities, languages, genders, and classes – via her numerous pseudonyms and disguises, was key to her invisibility to authorities yet renders her difficult to classify even today.
Firelei Báez: Vessels of Genealogies
April 27 – August 6 / 2017
Firelei Báez is a Dominican-American artist whose large-scale paintings, drawings, and textiles evoke the beauty and political implications of hairstyles, textiles, and tattoos for those whose cultural identities have remained traditionally absent from dominant culture.
Báez explores her own divine being signifying a wide range of imagery that attests to the artist’s own hybrid racial background. The artist developed a style in her large-scale works that challenges a traditional linear art history; these works were influenced by a wide range of images from different cultures, including techniques from Persian miniature painting, studies on the female body and subjectivities, and science fiction. She is interested in reimagining her own origins, creating labor-intensive works that explore specific issues of landscape, womanhood, and race.