Food & Drink

Henry Art Gallery’s New Senior Curator on the Role of Art in Challenging Times

Her first installation, Edgar Arceneaux’s "Library of Black Lies," explores "how history is constructed—for and by whom—and the multiplicity of 'truth'”

By Gavin Borchert November 9, 2018

momin-2

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Seattle magazine.

This article appears in print in the November 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Shamim Momin arrives at a time when many artists, arts administrators and museums are feeling a new sense of urgency in the face of the country’s political and cultural divide. Now more than ever, she says, an arts organization’s role is to directly ask the audience to think about the world around them, and to “present art exhibitions and programs that innovate and stimulate.” Momin will bring one such installation, a project she previously commissioned as curator of public-art nonprofit Los Angeles Nomadic Division from Pasadena artist Edgar Arceneaux: his 2013 walk-through labyrinth, “Library of Black Lies.”

The piece expands on Winston Churchill’s famous observation: Not only is history “written by the victors,” it’s bent to their own ends. Arceneaux’s structure contains wooden bookshelves lined with mirrors and Mylar, and is filled with books coated with snow-like sugar crystals, literally “whitewashed,” obscured by whiteness. Yet the crystals are alive: “They actually grow like the branches of a tree,” the artist explains, and “continue to breathe in and exhale the moisture in the room.” As Momin sees it, “This is what the Henry’s vision—to expand thinking through transformative experiences with contemporary art—embodies.”

Edgar Arceneaux’s “Library of Black Lies.” 11/17–6/2/2019. Times and prices vary. Henry Art Gallery, University District, 4100 15th Ave. NE; 206.543.2280; henryart.org


Exterior view of Edgar Arceneaux’s “Library of Black Lies.” Photo via henryart.org

Check out Momin’s extended comments below:

Momin: The Henry has long been one of my favorite contemporary art museums, with a balance of scale and presence that enables it to embrace many conversations—with the Seattle community directly as well as the national/international art world. I must admit I am still getting to know Seattle overall, but in my past experience, I’ve always found its residents incredibly civic-minded, with a strong cultural community that truly seems to care and collaborate on what the city can and should be. My first entrée to Seattle years ago was via the literary community, which has always seemed to me to resonate on a deeper level here than many others; in fact, it struck me this morning on my bus ride to the office (I am a huge fan of public transportation) that everyone was reading print books/material, and only one was on their phone!

As I am getting to know the fantastic team here at the museum, I am so looking forward to collaborating on plans for the next exhibition cycle. There are exciting exhibitions already upcoming this fall, notably Nina Bozicnik’s “Between Bodies” [through April 28, 2019], a group show that explores very timely concerns of humanness, technology and the increasingly false division of nature and culture. I am also thrilled to bring Edgar Arceneaux’s “Library of Black Lies” to the Henry [Nov. 18–June 2], a project that I previously commissioned that embraces the artist’s ongoing excavation of how history is constructed—for and by whom—and the multiplicity of “truth.”

On the role that art and arts organizations can and should play in times such as these (so challenging on all levels—politically, culturally, socially, internationally): This is when I feel our ongoing responsibility to present art exhibitions and programs that innovate and stimulate, and ask the audience to think about the world around them, becomes ever more poignant. All change and movement begins with passion, belief, investigation and openness, and this is what the Henry’s vision—to expand thinking through transformative experiences with contemporary art—embodies.

Follow Us

Clearing Up Misperceptions about Juneteenth

Clearing Up Misperceptions about Juneteenth

Delbert Richardson’s traveling museum seeks to educate, inform

Delbert Richardson wants to set the record straight...

Finding Freedom 

Finding Freedom 

Seattle author Stacey Levine’s new book, Mice 1961, follows two sisters during a single day of their fraught relationship

From the get-go, Stacey Levine’s latest novel, Mice 1961, plunges the reader into a story of motion. “I’m interested in playing with language,” says Levine, who, in addition to authoring several novels and a book of short stories, teaches English composition and creative writing at Seattle Central College. “I’m also intrigued by the drama of

Celebrating 50 Years of Seattle Pride

Celebrating 50 Years of Seattle Pride

From 200 people in 1974 to more than 300,000 today, Seattle Pride has grown into Washington’s largest parade

Seattle's LGBTQ+ history stretches back to the late 1800s when Pioneer Square, known at the time as "Fairyville," was a sanctuary for the queer community, housing thriving gay bars and social spaces...

Tacoma Art Museum Reckons With the Roots of One of its Biggest Collections 

Tacoma Art Museum Reckons With the Roots of One of its Biggest Collections 

TAM’s latest show reconsiders the meaning of Western American art

On the night of Nov. 3, 1885, a mob composed of hundreds of people marched through Tacoma, expelling members of the Chinese community from their homes, intimidating them (with weapons and threats) into leaving the city permanently, and then burning down the remaining houses — often with all of the victim’s possessions still inside.  The…