By Noelle Muni, Contributing Writer
Merlyn Maldonado Lopez ’22, a double major in art history and an individualized major titled “Magazine and Popular Culture in Media,” is the curator of one of Schmucker Art Gallery’s newest exhibits “Martin Puryear: 40 Years Since Sentinel.” Reflected in the marriage of her majors, Maldonado’s drive toward curation came to her as a combination of her love of art and communications. After taking her first class in art history here at Gettysburg, she knew that it was something she wanted to continue.
The exhibit, a reflection on Martin Puryear’s stone sculpture on the college campus, the Sentinel, contains not only the history of the sculpture, but also many original two-dimensional drawings and prints from the now widely successful artist.
When asked about how she came to curate the exhibit, Maldonado explained that it had been in the works for quite some time. It was during the spring of Maldonado’s sophomore year that her art history advisor, Professor Nicholas Miller, first mentioned the project to her as the 40th anniversary of the Sentinel statue approached. During Maldonado’s time as a Kolbe Fellow this past summer, the project fully came to fruition.
Maldonado completed her fellowship under the guidance of Professor Shannon Egan, Director of the Schmucker Art Gallery, and over the summer completed all of the research and curation of the show as her Kolbe Fellowship project. She said of her time in the fellowship, “My experience with the Kolbe Fellowship was great. All the people involved were very supportive and willing to help you and your project out. I would absolutely recommend it to other students.”
“Martin Puryear: 40 Years Since Sentinel” isn’t Maldonado’s first exhibit here at Gettysburg, though. When taking her art history methods course, Maldonado worked alongside her classmates in the collaborative curation of another exhibit, titled “From the Yellow Springs to the Land of Immortality: Chinese Art and Artifacts.” During this process, she and the rest of her class worked together to prepare the exhibit, which displayed Chinese artifacts from the College’s Special Collections. This first collaborative show taught Maldonado how much she enjoyed curation, particularly the research process behind curating an exhibit.
Curating the Sentinel exhibit, however, was a different beast: instead of being the collaborative effort of many students, she was doing the research and writing exclusively on her own and with the guidance of her advisor.
She described the individual nature of the project to be the most challenging part of the experience, especially while completing her fellowship remotely. Presenting the exhibit at her Gallery Talk on Sept. 8 was “a relief,” she said, as she now feels confident that all her work is finalized, on display, and being enjoyed by the Gettysburg community.
When asked what the greatest takeaway from her experience curating at Gettysburg was, Maldonado said that she would advise anyone, especially younger students, to actively engage with the campus.
“If you want to do something on campus, put yourself out there!” she counseled. “There are always so many opportunities and [so many] people willing to help you.”
Regarding her future plans following graduation, Maldonado is keeping her options open. “I do not have any post-grad plans aside from graduate school,” she explained. “I am not attached to a location, so [I’ll go] wherever I have a good opportunity.”
“Martin Puryear: 40 Years Since Sentinel” will be on display at the Schmucker Art Gallery through Nov. 6, 2021.
This article originally appeared on page 16 of the September 24, 2021 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.