Coffee with the Curators | Installing Dreaming Alice

Carol McCusker, Curator of Photography

 

The Harn exhibition, Dreaming Alice: Maggie Taylor Through the Looking-Glass, was set to open April 5, 2020. Then, COVID struck. Luckily, the show was scheduled to run through January 3, 2021. April, May and June were lost, but several months still remain for visitors to enjoy this stunning exhibition. 
 

Two years ago, the Harn planned to celebrate a woman artist in its large Exhibition Hall during 2020 in order to mark “The Year of the Woman,” or the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Maggie Taylor was a natural choice. Not only is she an internationally celebrated artist with a new body of work, she received her Masters in Photography from UF in 1987, and has lived in Gainesville ever since.  
 

Over the last year, the Harn staff has worked closely with Taylor. Sixty-five prints were prepared, illustrating "Through the Looking-Glass" in four sizes: 15”x15”, 22”x22”, 36”x36” and 58”x58.” After expert matting and framing by the Harn’s Tim Joiner, the prints are now glorious in scale, presence, and detail, guaranteeing long, pleasurable looking at what is Taylor’s finest work to date. 
 

The Harn staff managed to get all the framed art on the walls by Friday, March 20, when the museum closed down. The title wall image was being installed at exactly 4:55 pm on that day. However, installing the seven cases with the objects and etchings that Taylor scans and arranges in her prints had to wait. Then on Friday, June 26 - exactly three months later - a skeleton crew including the artist reconvened to install the cases. It was a unique reunion: we were excited to be in the space again, seeing one another, catching up on stories, and finishing the last details of this amazing exhibition, while masked and social distancing. Yet, like something out of Sleeping Beauty, all our 3-D floor plans, drills, pencils, levels, and moving carts were exactly where we had left them (neatly). It gave a surreal feeling of lost time or a parallel universe not unlike Alice’s Looking-Glass world.
 

Inside the seven cases are over 85 objects placed close to the photographs they appear in. Examples include a tintype portrait, chess pieces and decorative items. 
 

Dreaming Alice also has an on-cell and on-line chess game component for visitors to play while looking at certain images by Taylor based on Lewis Carroll’s chess-themed narrative. The Exhibition Hall gallery is spacious enough so that social distancing can take place safely. We hope to see you there!