History of Art Ph.D. students Laurel McLaughlin and Mechella Yezernitskaya first collaborated as curators on Beyond Boundaries: Feminine Forms with Carrie Robbins, curator and academic liaison for arts and artifacts at Bryn Mawr College.
That experience inspired the duo to work together on two exhibitions this summer at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Laurel and Mechella share co-curator credits on SWARM., and worked with Natalia Angeles Vieyra, a Ph.D. candidate at Temple University, as curators on Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA's Permanent Collection.
Both exhibitions are on display until Sept. 9, 2018.
Laurel and Mechella write about curating SWARM. in the exhibition catalogue:
“In many ways, our conversations with Didier and Nestor directed and inspired the curatorial structure in SWARM. Each section of the exhibition applies their imperative, 'to swarm,' to an aspect of their diasporic experiences. The repetition of this imperative throughout the exhibition creates pointed opportunities for viewers to reflect upon and respond to oppressive histories, syncretic faith traditions, heterogeneous artistic processes, hybrid identities, and emotional experiences.”
For Infinite Spaces, Laurel, Mechella, and Natalia incorporated works from across the history of American art. Each curator carefully selected and researched works within their areas of expertise with Natalia focusing on historic; Mechella on modern, and Laurel on contemporary. They then devised how to integrate the works together through the dynamic theme of space.
“Our goal was to pair works together and create a conversation around the ways in which artists have sought to understand various spaces such as urban, environmental, interior, psychological, and fantastical,” says Mechella.
Laurel is currently studying for her preliminary exams and working as a curatorial assistant on an exhibition titled Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World with Curator of Contemporary Art Jodi Throckmorton at PAFA. The exhibition opens this October. She’s also working with Robbins on a series of programs accompanying the Tania El Khoury residency with the Performing Arts Series at Bryn Mawr.
Mechella is writing and conducting research for her dissertation at various collections of Russian and Soviet art in New York City and Philadelphia. Starting in the fall, she will be traveling to Russia on a Fanny Bullock Workman Travel Fellowship awarded through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to conduct archival research for her dissertation.