Give a damn. opens June 30

New exhibition features recent acquisitions from artists such as Dawoud Bey, Corita Kent, Ana Mendieta, Zanele Muholi, Lari Pittman, and Wendy Red Star

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (June 5, 2018) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College announces Give a damn., an exhibition of work from the Tang collection by artists who give a damn about the world around them and the people in it. The exhibition will be open from June 30 through September 30 and will be a featured part of the museum’s annual community day, Frances Day, on Saturday, July 14.

The exhibition features numerous recent acquisitions, many of which are being shown at the museum for the first time. Among those are:

  • Lari Pittman’s seminal Once a Noun, Now a Verb #1 (1997), a large-scale, intensely intricate four-panel painting filled with a cacophony of symbols commenting on American life and culture. The work is a gift from Peter Norton.

  • Recent MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Dawoud Bey’s black-and-white photographs from his 1970s debut series, Harlem, U.S.A., reflect the many dimensions of street life in that place at that time. The photographs are a gift from Jack Shear.

  • Wendy Red Star’s four-part photographic series The Four Seasons (2006), in which the artist is shown dressed in Crow clothing in settings (one for each season) that feature artificial turf, plastic backdrops, and other mass-produced items like an inflatable elk. The photographs were purchased with generous funding from Ann Schapps Schaffer ’62 and Melvyn S. Schaffer.

  • Images from visual activist Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases project (2006–ongoing), for which she photographs mostly black South African lesbians and trans men, serves to, as she says, “fill a gap in South Africa’s visual history that … wholly excluded our very existence.” The photographs were purchased by the Tang.

  • Photographs of the Black Panther Party as well as the posters and other material they distributed represent the political activism of that late 1960s and 1970s movement. The collection is a gift from Jack Shear.

  • Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Sangrienta (“Bloody Silhouette”) is a silent, approximately two-minute film from 1975 that explores the relationship between landscape and the female body and the artist’s sense of loss at having been sent away from her home and parents in Cuba after the Cuban Revolution. The work was acquired jointly by the Tang and the museums at Bowdoin College, Colby College, Mount Holyoke College, and Brandeis University through the New Media Arts Consortium.

Other work in the exhibition includes prints, photography, painting, textile art, collage, and drawing by artists diverse in race, sexual orientation, gender, age, and nationality, active from the mid-20th century through today. These artists protest injustice through their work. They bear witness to marginalized people and politically charged events, interrogate historical narratives and question stereotypes, advocate for freedom, equality, and understanding, and importantly, inspire others to do the same.

One of those calls to action is embedded in a 1969 Corita Kent print that asks, “Why don’t you give a damn about your fellow man?” In response, the Tang is presenting a postcard-writing project in which visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to write to their elected representatives about issues meaningful to them. The Tang will provide pens and postcards; a tool to find one’s local, state, and national representatives; and guidance as to which representative can best answer their needs. The museum will stamp and mail all postcards in support of a democratic process in which all voices have an equal opportunity to be expressed and heard.

The Tang is a partner institution in the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, a non-partisan campaign that encourages civic discourse in art institutions and the creation of centers for dialogue and action. Give a damn. is one of multiple Tang programs participating in this initiative. Learn more at

On Saturday, July 14, Give a damn. will be a featured part of the Tang’s annual community celebration, Frances Day, in honor of the museum’s namesake, Frances Young Tang ‘61. The day’s events run from 2 to 6 pm and include a diorama designed and set up by the artist Wendy Red Star and her daughter, Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, in which visitors will pose and have their photograph taken by the artists; a 3 pm curator’s tour by Mellon Collections Curator Rebecca McNamara; and a button-making station in which visitors can make their own buttons inspired by the work in the exhibition.

Give a damn. is supported by Accelerate: Access and Inclusion at the Tang Teaching Museum, a project of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About Accelerate: Access and Inclusion at the Tang Teaching Museum

Accelerate: Access and Inclusion at the Tang Teaching Museum is an ambitious three-year project at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College that explores new ways in which the museum’s collection can ignite intellectual curiosity and thoughtful engagement through deeper understandings of compelling issues. This project is realized through exhibitions, public dialogues, new scholarship, and publications, catalyzed by the ideas and issues of the work in the Tang collection. The project is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About the Tang Teaching Museum

The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the institution’s approach has become a model for university art museums across the country with exhibition programs and series that bring together the visual and performing arts with fields of study as disparate as history, astronomy, and physics. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, the Mellon Seminar, and robust publication and touring exhibition initiatives that extend the institution’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of ideas and exchange the institution catalyzes. The museum is open from noon to 5 pm on Tuesday through Sunday, with extended hours until 9 pm on Thursday, and is closed on Mondays and holidays.

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