Judy Barie and Erika Diamond are known for being the lead curators of the arts galleries at Chautauqua, but this weekend, Chautauquans will see them in a different role.
“Talking about our own artistic work and practice is something that we don’t usually do here,” said Diamond, assistant director of CVA Galleries.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7 in the Hall of Christ, Diamond and Barie — the Susan and John Turben Director of CVA Galleries — will collaborate to give this week’s Chautauqua Visual Arts lecture. The pair will talk about their roles at Chautauqua, how they each approach curating and creating art, and their own artistic practices.
When they are not on the grounds during the summer, they both work as studio artists. Barie lives and works outside Pittsburgh, where she specializes in painting. This summer, she has curated a wide range of exhibitions for the Strohl Art Center, including “Natural Rhythms,” “The Shape of Things to Come” and “Wallflowers.”
Diamond has also curated exhibits this season, such as “All That Glitters,’’ “Undercurrents” and “Squaring Up Histories.” She said she enjoys being both a curator and a creator.
“I’ve always really enjoyed handling artwork and making connections between the artworks within a space,” she said. “Being here at Chautauqua has allowed me to do that full-time for a short period of the year. During the off-season, I can focus on my own studio practice.”
In 2000, Diamond graduated with a bachelor’s in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. After working at museums and galleries for over a decade, she came to Chautauqua in 2014, and began curating exhibitions here a few years later.
She started out her career in sculpture, but has since transitioned to creating more textile-based works. From eggshells to strands of her own hair, she enjoys incorporating unconventional and undervalued materials into her pieces.
In her series “Eggshell Garments,” she stitches pieces of eggshells between materials such as tulle and silk. In her ongoing series “Imminent Peril – Queer Collection,” influenced by the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, she weaves, knits, and sews bulletproof Kevlar vests and garments to raise awareness on the lack of protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States. She strives to amplify the voices of marginalized and disenfranchised communities through her work.
“There’s a lot of great work out there that wouldn’t necessarily be authentic for me to create as an artist,” Diamond said. “So I enjoy using my role and this space as a megaphone and platform to showcase that work. There’s a different kind of pleasure when it comes to putting together an exhibition and creating my own work.”
She believes it is important for curators to remember that they are ultimately in a position of power and that the role comes with responsibilities.
“I have found that curating has made me more of a generous artist, because it is a position of privilege to be able to give someone else access to a space,” she said.
When putting together an exhibition, Diamond often aims to juxtapose formalism with conceptualism, merging together both traditional and contemporary themes, techniques and ideas.
“I’m really interested in disrupting the hierarchy between fine arts and craft … and in deconstructing a topic,” she said. “For ‘Squaring Up Histories,’ I was specifically interested in bringing in artists that use different materials.”
In the exhibition, she balances more traditional works from artists, like Gee’s Bend, Alabama, quilt-maker Loretta Pettway Bennett, with more contemporary pieces, like artist Matthew Szösz’s glass quilts. In “All That Glitters” in the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, she spotlights artists that focus on undervalued themes and materials.
Through curation, Diamond works to challenge traditional notions of what fits into an artistic medium and calls into question why certain materials are often prioritized over others.
“For me, it’s always fun in an exhibition to test what a theme actually means and to kind of leave room for future interpretations of the work,” she said.
Through their work, Diamond and Barie are trying to create opportunities for artists.
“It’s important to continue to create spaces for the new and clever things that people are inventing, coming up with, and crafting today,” Diamond said.