On Saturday, August 27, top UIMA supporters gathered at the elegant University Club for the annual Director’s Circle reception. The program featured a dynamic introduction to a ceremonial mask from Burkina Faso, a recent Museum purchase made possible by Dick and Mary Jo Stanley, as well as an introduction to Catherine Hale, the new curator of African and non-Western art.
Chris Roy, art history professor and UIMA adjunct curator, expressed the Museum’s deep appreciation for the continuing support of the Stanleys and their commitment to further enhance the UIMA African collection, and presented an overview of the history of gifts made to the Museum by the Stanleys. The generosity of this family has enriched the excellence of our pre-Colombian and African collection, establishing it as a teaching asset to the University of Iowa, the surrounding community and scholarship generally.
Afterwards, Roy introduced the spirit mask of the Winiama people of Burkina Faso, purchased at Sotheby’s Paris auction in June. He explained the symbolism of religious laws in the graphic patterns and explained that the zigzag motif represented ancestral paths.
He noted the materials – chalk, gum Arabic, dyes and hemp fiber nets – and underscored the differences in Western and African restoration, where signs of wear indicate use and power. He also showed a video clip featuring a bush buffalo mask in situ during a ceremonial dance. Roy noted that mask-makers of Burkina Faso realized, before Picasso and other Modernists, that “the best way to represent an abstract idea (such as the spirit world) is through abstract art.”
Catherine Hale then took to the podium, and explained her myriad reasons for joining the UIMA, including the high caliber collection of African art, and the opportunity to display work in innovative ways—a positive spin on the curatorial challenge resulting from the devastating 2008 flood that shuttered the previous art museum facility. Hale then showed excerpts of her fieldwork on Asante stools in Ghana.
The evening ended with socializing, dinner, and much enthusiasm for the coming year at UIMA! Check out our Flickr page for more photos of the events.
PHOTO: Professor Chris Roy presents personal research footage