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Getty Center’s College Night invites students to reexamine history through art

On a sunny day, illustrated Bruin bears take in Robert Irwin’s Central Garden at the Getty Center. The museum will host its annual College Night on Monday evening. (Photo by Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff. Photo illustration by Joy Chen/Daily Bruin)

“College Night 2024”

Getty Center

April 15

6 to 9 p.m.

By Izzy De Leon

April 13, 2024 4:02 p.m.

This post was updated April 14 at 7:39 p.m.

The Getty Center’s annual College Night strives to display accessible, inquiry-driven art to a college-aged audience.

Set to begin Monday at 6 p.m., the event will host a plethora of artists with a wide range of mediums and interactive aspects – such as a pop-up installation and an experimental documentary – alongside hands-on activities, tours, food and music. The Getty Center has opened its doors to Southern California college students since 2006 and encourages them to view all seven ongoing art exhibits, including “Hippolyte Bayard: A Persistent Pioneer,” “Nineteenth Century Photography Now” and “Drawing on Blue.” Greg Sandoval, senior public programs specialist at the Getty, said the accessible nature of this event allows for an unmitigated creative experience that can encourage students to enter the world of art.

“The value of any arts … is something that unlocks a lot of things that are not necessarily taught in schools, and it’s something that should be valued and appreciated,” Sandoval said. “By providing something completely free, that removes many bars of entrance for people, so it can really be an unmitigated experience. It can be something full of discovery and joy and awe.”

Aiming to underscore reimagined 19th-century art to surface intellectual threads connecting diverse facets of society, this event endeavors to provoke thought and creativity, Sandoval said. For example, artist Jordan Eagles said his works with blood donated by members of the LGBTQ+ community focus on bringing awareness to blood donation restrictions faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s for advocacy, it’s for awareness, it’s for building community … such as at the Getty, where viewers can engage with the works, experience the art, but also learn about the policies in place,” said Eagles, who has been using blood as a medium for more than 25 years.

[Related: Kyreeana Alexander’s ‘We Cool’ reimagines childhood hope for today’s adults]

Traversing through different eras with his art, Eagles said he often pairs pop culture references with different art pieces, creating new narratives that widen conversations about the history of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community. As part of the “Illuminations” pop-up installation, Eagles said he layered a 1994 comic book cover of “The Incredible Hulk” beneath blood from an individual who is HIV positive and undetected, and blood from one who is on PrEP. These images bolster his focus on highlighting the history of stigma and scientific development surrounding HIV in the LGBTQ+ community, Eagles said.

Eagles also said he works with blood donated from slaughterhouses with the goal of depicting spirituality, regeneration and life cycles. During College Night, Eagles’ work will also be featured in the “Blood: Medieval/Modern” exhibition. Emphasizing the value of College Night, Eagles said art’s crucial role in our society makes it imperative that it always be free and accessible.

Also imbuing tropes of older technology and art, educator and artist Melissa Ferrari will present her experimental documentary, “Relict: A Phantasmagoria,” which explores the technology of Magic Lantern projectors as a medium, its history and the ways animated documentaries present this history in a unique way, she said. An alternative approach to more conventional documentaries, experimental works tell nonfiction stories through a film medium and intend to capture topics that can open up new ways of thinking, Ferrari said.

“The piece I’m showing has to do with things like the mythology of science, different approaches to scientific histories – more than anything the use, the resurrection and revival of 19th-century technologies – to think of how we experience media,” Ferrari said.

[Related: Second Take: Historical dramas prefer to preserve neo-aristocracy, romanticize ruling class]

Ferrari said this presentation centers around the subject matter of cryptozoology, the study of creatures that may or may not exist. Her work is open to and invites personal subjectivity where visitors bring their own experiences and perceptions of mythological creatures, such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, she said.

Having the pieces in conversation with each other continually manifests itself throughout the works on display, including those by Indigenous contemporary artists Elisa Harkins and Wendy Red Star, Sandoval said. Harkins’ work links Indigenous language with electronic music, while Red Star’s work ties photographs of Indigenous communities with contemporary phrases in the form of critique, Sandoval said.

Catered toward college students, the art presented allows students to learn about the history of the Getty itself, Ferrari said. This opportunity for students who may not be artists or frequent visitors of museums to gain insight into how art is created and what materials are used allows them to tap into their creativity, Eagles said. As the inspiration behind her art is a subjective experience, Ferrari said she hopes that students who attend College Night are open to asking questions and fostering a more analytical view of the art media they consume.

“It’s (making art is) more so that I find a really interesting fact or a really interesting history that I want to share with people in a way that can produce more wonder and more questions than the typical way you present information,” Ferrari said. “Being able to appropriate those types of experience to put forward more critical ideas and more critical history is something that I find exciting.”

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