The Italian galleries of the Walters Art Museum bridge the past and the present in an exhibition that seeks to illustrate the connections between the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods and contemporary art, each offering insights into the other.
Activating the Renaissance features paintings, photography, and sculpture by six artists, the majority from the Baltimore area: Jessica Bastidas, Tawny Chatmon, Bernhard Hildebrandt, Murjoni Merriweather, Stephen Towns, and Ventiko. Their art is displayed alongside paintings and sculpture from the Walters collection by masters such as Jacopo Pontormo and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
Joaneath Spicer, James A. Murnaghan, Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art, selected the artists and artworks in the exhibition based on their ability to draw forward and reflect upon stylistic and thematic elements in both classic and contemporary work. The artworks are placed throughout the Italian Renaissance and Baroque galleries to show the techniques and stylistic elements that artists past and present use to share personal experience and portray their subjects.
The Walters Italian paintings constitute one of the most significant holdings in the Americas and some of the most popular and well-known works in the museum.
About the artists:
Jessica Bastidas completed her BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art and Design (MICA) in Baltimore in May 2016 with a dual major in Illustration and Humanistic Studies, a minor in Art History, and concentrations in Printmaking and Book Arts. In May 2017, Bastidas completed MICA’s Master of Arts in Teaching program. Bastidas currently teaches at McDonogh High School in MD. Over the years, Bastidas has exhibited principally in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland with international exhibitions in Italy, São Tomé, France, the Commonwealth of Dominica, and the United Kingdom.
Tawny Chatmon is a Tokyo-born photography based artist residing in Maryland. Her photographs are often digitally intensified by exaggerating the hairstyles of her subjects (who are often her children and other family members), lending them the eyes of someone older and wiser, elongating their form, and drawing inspiration from the Byzantine period to signify importance. Thereafter, she typically combines overlapping digital collage and illustration. After refining and printing, she frequently experiments with various art practices by hand-embellishing with acrylic paint, 24-karat gold leaf, and materials such as paper, semi-precious stones, glass, and other mixed media.
Bernhard Hildebrandt is a first generation American artist of German descent based in Baltimore. Hildebrandt’s work is conceptually informed by the relationship of painting and photography. He is represented by Barbara Mathes Gallery in New York where his recent solo show “On the Lagoon: Venice Recalled” was exhibited. His solo show “A Conjugation of Verb” was presented at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC. Hildebrandt received his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Hoffberger School of Painting, studying with Grace Hartigan, and a BFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design.
Murjoni Merriweather is a black woman artist from Maryland. She has found that the best way to create and talk about black culture is through art, especially claywork. As a student from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Murjoni creates sculpted beings that are based around real people and real experiences. Her work addresses and eliminates stereotypes through clay portraits and video work. With this, she enjoys going against the European standards of “beauty” that are placed upon people of color and normalizing what is natural about black bodies.
Stephen Towns is a painter and fiber artist whose work explores how American history influences contemporary society. Towns received a Bachelor of Fine Art in painting from the University of South Carolina. His work has been exhibited locally and nationally, including solo exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Goucher College, Galerie Myrtis, as well as group exhibitions at Arlington Art Center, Montpelier Arts Center, and Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, American Craft Council Magazine, and Baltimore Sun. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize and received a Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Rubys Artist Grant in 2015. In 2018, Towns was a semi-finalist for Sondheim Artscape Prize and awarded a Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award.
Ventiko is a critically acclaimed conceptual artist working in photography, film, performative experiences, and social practice. Her/their work focuses on de/re-constructing societal positions on identity specifically sexuality, persona, gender, and the state of the modern woman. Ventiko’s works have been exhibited and experienced internationally at art fairs (PULSE, Select, Korean International Art Fair, Sluice, Photo LA), institutions (Tate Modern, MOMA) and in the public sphere. She has been featured in Interview Magazine, Quiet Lunch, Korea Monthly Photo, Hyperallergic, The New York Times, Bedford & Bowery, Vulture, Emergency Index, Cool Hunting, Gothamist, Artist News, Posture Magazine, T Magazine, Frieze Magazine, The Creator’s Project, The L Magazine, Artnet News, Beautiful Decay, and Vogue Italia to name a few.