Suzy Kopf: This show has been a multi-year project you worked on with a lot of people. What was your original concept for the show and how did you bring all your collaborators on board?
Alex Ebstein: This was a show that I had in mind before beginning my role at Goucher in 2018. I first saw this collection in 2010, when a friend of mine who knew about it brought me and four other people to go see the collection with her. She made the appointment and then she mom’d us into her car and brought us to the place.
That’s where I saw the work and learned about it for the first time. It changed my life. I remember the drawers opening with these insanely beautiful neon images and the freedom to flip through them with the collection steward, Tricia Pyne [who became a collaborator on this show].
When I started researching Kent on my own, I realized that there was even more to her and that this was about her love of being both a nun and part of a progressive religious community, but also an art teacher. I felt like I identified with her, not the nun part, but being part of a progressive community and working with art felt very similar to what I was doing in Baltimore to address things creatively. I just fell in love with her work.
When I was interviewed for this job, they asked, What would your dream show be? I told the interviewers, there’s this beautiful collection of work that’s never been shown in Baltimore. And I think this is the place for it—a school where students are learning the basics of printmaking, and they’re also learning about content in different ways from an unexpected place. [Kent’s biography] teaches us to not judge a book by its cover. I started talking to Tricia in 2018, right when I started working here. I started doing visits to see the work again and picking what to include. We agreed on a Fall 2020 date for the show originally.
[In the time the show was delayed due to COVID,] the Goucher collection was given the Tom Lewis print I included in the show. I realized what it was and then started to look into his work and found Morgan Dowty’s article, so I asked her to write about it for the show. [That connection] created the opportunity to work with Debbie Harner in Special Collections, which is how this idea expanded to be a multi-floor, multi-gallery show.
[Ed. Note: To complement the Kent show, Ebstein invited R.L. Tillman to create a text-based body of work.] [Tillman’s] concept is clever without it falling flat. It approaches the subject and lets it land on its own. The installation of the show in Rosenberg Gallery is meant to be more organic than Kent’s in Silber Gallery. Tillman decided to crumple one print from each series by soaking them and letting them dry differently, which alludes to what happens when posters are left out in the street. It’s an interesting gesture to talk about commerce and finance in a nonprofit space that has to confront the value of itself all the time.