Art+History

March 31, 2009 to October 28, 2009
Nightingale Brown House 357 Benefit Street

Art+History was an exhibition and community programming series about the processes of interpreting history. The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage commissioned Carla Herrera-Prats and Jill Slosburg-Ackerman to make new artworks influenced by the physical and historical parameters of the Nightingale-Brown House. Built in 1792 and boasting gardens designed by the Olmstead landscape design firm, it was home to five generations of the Brown family and now houses the JNBC. Art+History was a catalyst for conversation about how historical narrative is crafted and a different model for engaging audiences in historical sites and museums through contemporary artwork. The exhibition was curated by students in the master's in public humanities program, Meg Rotzel ’10 and Rosie Branson Gill ’09.

Carla Herrera-Prats and Keep the word vanishing until the end

Through archival research Carla Herrera-Prats’ work comments on the cultural and economic transactions that flow, often invisibly, in the context of a transnational world. For Art+History Carla uses archival photos from the Nightingale-Brown House to understand how the Brown family has been “historicized” through photography. Based on a list of traditional photo studios that she recuperated from the NBH collection, Keep the word vanishing until the end consists on a series of photographs of the current businesses/households located at the sites where the original photo studios once stood, only two of which continue today as such studios. These images are paired with photographs from the collection in an installation that markedly transforms the parlor of the NBH.

Read the artist's statement and listen to audio from the installation


Jill Slosburg-Ackerman and Import-Export

Jill Slosburg-Ackerman’s sculptures develop from familiar forms of furniture. She subtly bends and transforms known objects causing a reconsideration of use, class and period. She riffs on vernacular and derivative design itself; her work is far from sly, but full of quiet humor, respect and wonder. For Art+History Jill is interested in how the combination of places and things extend or alter meaning, tethered to the collections of Chinoiserie china, in particular, and the life of a family. Jill has come to understand this house as a set of overlays and iterations. For all of its elegance, there are hints of disjuncture in the Nightingale-Brown House, and it is in these inconsistencies that her work is focused. Repetitive labor, which loosely references aspects of imperialism (slave trade and imports) and destruction (rot and termites), are both important aspects of the NBH history. However turbulent the history, Jill’s work also responds to the love within the Brown family, evident in the archives she has researched. The tensions these multiple inspirations represent draw our attention to the complicated memories and histories of the NBH.

Read the artist's statement.

Learn more about Art+History, read critical perspectives, and explore educator resources at the expanded project site

Read the Boston Globe review of Art+History

Download a review of Art+History by The Public Historian