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Higher Ground August 22, 2013  |  By Jenna Kloeppel

Rarely in the early years of graduate school does a student have the opportunity to examine— in person— an artwork that he or she is studying in an academic context. More often than not, the work remains an image on a computer, or, possibly an image that can be glimpsed in a museum or a private collection.

Installing the exhibition Ancient Traditions: Pueblo Pottery from the Whetzel Collection earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of hanging a painting entitled Higher Ground, by Santa Clara Pueblo artist Pablita Velarde. This painting is featured prominently in my Master’s thesis for the University of New Mexico. While installing the exhibition, I was allotted the luxury of standing in front of this painting for extended periods, examining every inch of paint on the canvas. In the end, I observed paint techniques, symbolism, and detail that I had not previously considered.

Spending time with the painting at the National Museum of Wildlife Art changed my understanding and interpretation of it, and those precious hours have shaped my thesis discussion immeasurably. The educational benefits of this show thus reach not only the public who views it, but also those who planned and saw to its creation!

Jenna Kloeppel, Summer 2012 Museum Intern

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