SCMA Acquires Work By Trans Artists: In Response to Proposal by Emily Gallagher ’16

Veronica Brown ‘16
Associate Editor

Emily Gallagher ’16, an art history major, museum studies concentrator and intern at the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA), recently developed a proposal for the Museum to acquire “She Gone Rogue,” a piece of video art created by trans artists Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst. The Museum accepted the proposal and has acquired the piece for its growing video and new media collection. The Sophian sat down with Gallagher to discuss the importance of the piece for SCMA and Smith’s broader community.

When did you first become interested in “She Gone Rogue”?

I initially saw this piece when Frazer Ward was teaching a contemporary art topics class, and as part of our class we all went down to Whitney Biennial together. This video was actually in the lobby gallery, so it was one of the first things you saw when you went to the Biennial show. I just remember the room was really crowded, and I walked in and was pulled in to this video because it’s so visually interesting – which I think is one of the best qualities of the video because it forces the viewer to stay with it. Before you even know what you’re signing up for, you’re taken in by it. I just found it so engrossing – I didn’t know what it was about when I was first watching it, but as I kept watching the video, I saw really cool themes emerge of identity formation and trans narratives that I thought were really relevant to Smith College in particular.

Why were you interested in bringing a new piece of identity-based art to Smith’s campus?

Identity-based art is really exciting, especially when you think about it in the context of Smith College. This is such a great place because it’s so diverse, and there are so many different kinds of people here. Questions of identity are so relevant on our campus, especially being a women’s college that’s very in touch with queer and trans narratives.

“She Gone Rogue” will be the first work in the Museum’s collection by a self-identified trans artist. Why was it important for you to have the museum include the work of trans artists?

After I saw the video I was thinking about the Smith College Museum of Art collection and the content of it, and it seemed like there was no trans artists or trans narratives happening in the museum space. When I looked into it more I found out that the Smith College Museum of Art didn’t even have any self-identified trans artists in the collection and I think that’s a total gap in our collection. I believe the Museum should reflect all members of the Smith College community. As of [May] 2015, Smith now accepts applications from all self-identified women, which is so exciting and necessary but also an acceptance that needs to be extended to the museum.

SCMA’s Video and New Media Gallery is a new addition to the Museum, having opened in the fall of 2015. How does the piece’s medium contribute to its importance to the Museum’s collection?

The other day, the artist Candice Breitz came, and in her lecture, when she was talking about our museum, she was saying how exciting it was that Smith College’s Museum is committed to collecting interesting new media art. I think that’s something so unique about Smith College – that we’re building this amazing collection of contemporary work that is media-based and that really explores topics that are so relevant to our campus and our larger community.

After graduation, Gallagher will work in the Drawings and Prints department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art under curator and Smith alumna Jennifer Farrell ’92. “She Gone Rogue” is expected to be on view in SCMA’s Video and New Media Gallery in the upcoming academic year.

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