Photo above: Tobias Schneebaum with wuramon, spirit canoes, in Asmat. Photo by Fr. John Fleischhacker, OSC
September 4, 2013- December 20, 2013
Second floor, east end, Anderson Student Center
2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul
6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013
Among the Asmat: The Schneebaum Perspective is the fourth original exhibition produced by the AMAA @ UST for its new home in the The Gallery, Anderson Student Center. Curated by art history graduate student Gretchen Burau, this exhibition features drawings and quotations by artist and writer Tobias Schneebaum. During the 1970s and 80s Schneebaum spent time in Asmat communities assisting with objects collected by the Catholic Crosiers Fathers and Brothers. He recorded information about celebrations, daily activities, and the sacred relationships people had with specific carvings. His reflections offer insight into Asmat culture and provide an opportunity for considering the complex dynamic between Asmat people and outsiders.
On his first collecting trip to Otsjenep Schneebaum wrote about a man named Kas who agreed to exchange drums:
"Kas went to the far end of the house and came back with two drums. They were intricately carved and were patinated to a deep shiny black from the hands that had caressed and rubbed and beat them, and from having rested within the drummers' thighs. They were named Yaor and Waika for the elder brothers of Kas who had been killed years earlier in battle. The deaths of Kas' brothers had long since been avenged and he could therefore, almost with impunity, give the drums in exchange for whatever he needed or wanted."
- Tobias Schneebaum, Where the Spirits Dwell, 39-40
Many of the objects obtained on these collecting trips became the core collection for the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress located in Agats, Papua, Indonesia and the Crosier Art Museum in Hastings, Nebraska. Schneebaum worked for a period at both of these museums. The Hastings collection moved to Shoreview, Minnesota and then in 2007 came to the University of St. Thomas as a generous gift from the Diocese of Agats and the American Crosier Fathers and Brothers. Schneebaum's detailed pencil drawings of objects remain a valuable tool for understanding how specific works have changed over the years. His notes provide significant contextual information.
For her exhibition Burau reviewed Schneebaum's his comments about pieces in the AMAA @ UST from the collection database, read his books, and investigated other documents and drawings by Schneebaum now housed in the Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota.
Among the Asmat: The Schneebaum Perspective opens September 4, 2013.