This past Friday, April 26, Kitao had yet another gallery exhibition to finish off a strong semester of student work. The captionless showcase was curated on the very basis of this anonymity. “Lost-n-Found,” a collection of works that have been left behind at Kitao over the years, was an eclectic and eerie gallery. For those who have never been, Kitao is situated near Olde Club and the buildings previously leased to the fraternities. The space, in effect a house itself, underlines the potential of such a space to serve entire community, frequently utilizing the first floor as the gallery and providing open studio hours and materials on Fridays. Upstairs, dozens of artworks have been stored and, over the years, many have been forgotten.
Sarah Weinshel ’22, a core member of Kitao, explained the inspiration behind the exhibit. “We’ve had a lot of old art upstairs where we store our art supplies for a long time, and we thought it would be really cool to display it all since it’s just sitting there.”
Weinshel also explained different aspects of the pieces. “Most of this was displayed in Kitao at some time, but a lot of times artists don’t pick their work up afterwards.” Despite emails and reminders to artists, each of the pieces was abandoned.
“Some of it is before any of our times there,” continued Weinshel. Kitao members purposefully didn’t display any work that had been on exhibition the past year. This focus on anonymity haunted the gallery, confronting viewers with spectres of Swarthmore art past. Nearly all of the pieces weren’t signed.
Personally, whenever I visit museums, I can’t help but read identifying documents or clues of explanation. Much of our appreciation of aesthetics comes from context like authorship, which is why an authentic artwork can sell for millions of dollars but its perfect forgery is worthless. “Lost-n-found,” however, simply provides the viewer with the raw material of art to engage with. In the collage of individual pieces, artworks seem purposefully juxtaposed by medium; photographs, prints, and paintings line the walls. Portraits of women peer out, each one melancholy. Landscapes border still lives.
Without any unifying style or markers of intention, authorship, or context, viewers must question the subjectivities of value for themselves. One of my favorite things to do in museums is to analyze the themes and images to find a message to take away, and “Lost-n-Found” shows us that a collection of work does not depend on a meaning or conclusion, but can be enjoyed and valued for its beauty, originality, and composition. Even lost art can speak for itself.