Western Neolithic Idols and Stereo Photography
CHICAGO, January 30, 2009 – On Saturday, January 31, the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) opens the exhibitions Western Neolithic Idols: Symbols of Fertility and Life and Just Like Being There: A Collection of Stereo Photography. Both exhibitions will be on display at the museum through Sunday, March 8.
Western Neolithic Idols: Symbols of Fertility and Life
A recent gift by Harlan J. and Pamela Berk, and Mr. and Mrs. Aaron R. Berk,Western Neolithic Idols: Symbols of Fertility and Life features more than 100 Kiliya-type, Thessalonian, and Vinča (modern-day Turkey, northern Greece, and Macedonia, respectively) sculptural objects and fragments. The exhibition is intended to challenge viewers, asking them to ponder the idols’ original purpose.
The exhibition consists of marble fragments of Kiliya-type sculpture, which are commonly called stargazers because the position of the head is tilted upward to the sky. Complete stargazer figures are extraordinarily rare, with reports of only 15 intact pieces worldwide. Kiliya idols date from as early as 4500–4000 BCE, and are precursors to the better known Cycladic sculpture of ancient Greece. Due to the frequency of finding fragments rather than complete figures, the idols are thought to have been part of a ritual in which they were broken.
From the Thessalonian Neolithic period (6800–5600 BCE), the earliest objects in the exhibition are terra cotta with more developed facial features and with indications of scarification—decorative designs incised in the clay. They are less stylized and more representational than those of Kiliya type, but larger in scale with prominent arms and torsos. The collection also includes Vinča idols (4500–4000 BCE) from southern Serbia. These idols were obviously made as fertility figures or for ritualistic use, and may also be zoomorphic.
Since the early 20th century, the stylized representations of the human form found in Neolithic art have influenced modern artists, particularly sculptors. This exhibition, which contains works by contemporary artists Peter Ambrose, Rick Beck, Harold Cousins, and Jerilyn Virden, clearly illustrates how these ancient objects continue to influence contemporary artists. This exhibition is presented as a study exhibition, and is curated by Helena Shasekevich, a 2008 Loyola University Chicago art history graduate.
Just Like Being There: A Collection of Stereo Photography
From the collection of Loyola University Chicago art professor James Jensen comes the exhibition Just Like Being There: A Collection of Stereo Photography. Examples from the professor’s extensive collection of stereographs will be on display in the Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. Works on Paper Gallery, and will serve as a companion exhibition to LUMA’s main exhibition, The Eternal Light of Egypt: The Photography of Sarite Sanders.
Just Like Being There surveys the diversity of subjects and processes from the early years of stereo photography. Immensely popular with the public through the beginning of the 20th century, the stereograph recorded personal portraits and exotic cultures, local scenery and distant wonders, and common occupations and world events. It provided entertainment as much as it did information.
The phenomenon of stereography—two slightly different pictures of the same subject viewed through a stereoscope to appear as a single three-dimensional image—was developed prior to the invention of photography. When a practical hand-held viewer was developed in 1850, the principle of stereoscopic imaging was applied to the camera image and continues to be used in the present day. The three-dimensional photograph was so realistic that images were marketed as “just like being there.”
Meet the Collector
Tuesday, February 10, at 6 p.m.
Harlan J. Berk began collecting 60 years ago with the gift of an old coin from his grandmother. In 1964, he founded Harlan J. Berk Ltd., a firm that deals in coins and antiquities. Join us for a walk-through of Western Neolithic Idols: Symbols of Fertility and Life to learn more about the passion of this collector and to understand more about the mysterious objects in the exhibition. Admission is free.
Just Like Being There with James Jensen
Tuesday, February 17, at 6 p.m.
Simpson Lecture Hall, LUMA
James Jensen, photographer and associate professor in Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, has been studying and collecting 19th-century photography for over 30 years. Many of these works are on exhibit in Just Like Being There, which includes more than 175 stereo views—photographs that appear startlingly three-dimensional when seen through a stereoscope. Join Professor Jensen for an illustrated lecture about the diverse subjects and processes of stereo photography. Admission is free.
Western Neolithic Idols: Symbols of Fertility and Life and Just Like Being There: A Collection of Stereo Photography are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.
Opened in 2005, the Loyola University Museum of Art is dedicated to exploring, promoting, and understanding art and artistic expression that illuminates the enduring spiritual questions of all cultures and societies. As a museum with an interest in education and educational programming, LUMA reflects the University’s Jesuit mission and is dedicated to helping people of all creeds explore the roots of their faith and spiritual quests. Located at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus, the museum occupies the first three floors of the University’s historic Lewis Towers on Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue. For more information, visit the museum’s website at LUC.edu/luma.
Art illuminating the spirit!