The Masur Museum of Art’s Artist-in-Residence Program consistently showcases Northeast Louisiana culture and accomplished artists from outside our area. We choose artists with little to no connection to Louisiana because it removes all assumptions in terms of looking at our culture. Artists who are curious by nature, improvise well, and have something about their studio practice that is compatible with Louisiana are natural fits. If an artist is a blank slate and earnestly wants to learn about us, it will translate to our audience, who we try to include in the creative process. If we remove as many barriers as possible for people coming to the Masur to see art, it will be a more personal experience, especially for those who may be unsure of how to respond. This provides an opportunity for Louisiana natives and transplants alike to feel more connected to our shared cultural heritage.
Our most recent Artist-in-Residence, Beili Liu, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. Most of Liu’s projects combine folk craft traditions with a sense of place to create metaphorically rich installations. Her work is always beautiful, delicate, and overwhelmingly intricate. Experiencing Liu’s work in person is like seeing a memory.
Upon inviting her to visit the Masur this past spring, we assembled a group of people who could give Liu an introduction to a variety of folk crafts tied to Louisiana. The resulting program was a Cultural Exchange Panel. Members of our community, with Liu in the crowd, listened to Sarah Albritton, Rose Fisher-Greer, Danny Frasier, and Mary Shambin speak about their experiences as masters of their crafts. Each is respectively a renowned storyteller and folk painter, an expert cane basket weaver holding onto her Choctaw roots, an amiable man who ties traditional hoop-style fishing nets with great speed, and a pillar in the quilting community of Northeast Louisiana. Susan Roach, a respected folklorist emceed the event and ensured Liu left with a thorough introduction to skills that may inform the work she creates for her exhibition at the Masur. It is my hope she carries the stories and skills she learned along with her for future projects, making her time in Louisiana part of her personal narrative.
In the days following the Cultural Exchange Panel, Liu gave a lecture about her career and studio practice, met with museum members over cocktails, ate at local restaurants with members of Monroe’s arts community, and went on a memorable canoe trip in Black Bayou Lake. While on the lake Liu was entranced by how water trapped on top of lily pads shined as though it was electrified. Upon touching it, she discovered the bubbling, flashing water flowed like quicksilver. Since hearing about the abovementioned crafts, and their ties to the land, Liu has endeavored to capture this fluid relationship in a single work of art. The selection process of the title for the exhibition, as well as the work to be exhibited, is in progress. Please come see the results, and attend more programs with Beili Liu at the Masur Museum of Art between November 28, 2016, and March 11, 2017.