This weekend sees the opening of a very special exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries.
Twenty works by leading American photographer Diane Arbus will be on display until Sunday, May 31.
The ARTIST ROOMS exhibition is visiting the Lang Toun for the first time and it’s an exciting project for all those involved behind the scenes, including a group of local art and design students.
They are busy acting as curators for the exhibition and will be displaying their own art works, inspired by Arbus, which will sit in the Galleries alongside the exhibition.
Arbus is famous for photographing individuals marginalised by society and by refusing to take pictures of her subjects in ways that people wanted to see them, she challenged concepts of identity, beauty and normality.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Karin Hill, project co-ordinator, said: “It’s really exciting.
“Kirkcaldy is the only place in the UK that you can see her work this year.
“It is part of the Artists Rooms and this is one of 15 exhibitions touring this year and we are the only people getting Arbus.
“Diane Arbus took out on the edge pictures of every day people.
“It’s the first time the Trust has got an ARTIST ROOMS exhibition.”
ARTIST ROOMS is an inspirational collection of modern and contemporary art acquired for the nation by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland through the generosity of Anthony d’Offay, with additional support from funders.
The touring programme is now in its seventh year.
Karin continued: “We have 26 or 27 students working on this project.
“We had a similar project for ‘Generation’ by Toby Paterson last year and we had four students involved in that.
“We thought this time it would be great if we could get 12 young artists involved.
“So it’s wonderful to have so many of them.
“The students have been studying Arbus.
“They started last semester focusing on Arbus and two other artists of their choice similar to her.
“They have been creating work for their own portfolios inspired by the artists.”
Arbus’ approach to photography revealed the complexities of human nature and relationships, making the ordinary, extraordinary and the misunderstood familiar.
And the exhibition will explore how her work reflected the social, political and economic changes taking place throughout the United States between the 1950s and 1970s.
The work of the local students will be on display in their own exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries running for the duration of the ARTIST ROOMS exhibition.
Karin said: “It’s really nice for us. It’s a special exhibition and it won’t just be photographs.
“The group is using different methods.
“Their work is not just one genre of art, it’s every genre.
“As the exhibition goes on, the students will be continuing with their own work and visitors will be able to see how Arbus’ work is continuing to inspire them.
“And it will be interesting to see how their thoughts about this artist have changed over time.”
The whole curation project seems to be an enjoyable one for the art students, as well as Karin.
“They have been a great team to work with,” she said.
“They are so excited and so motivated.
“These students realise what a good opportunity this is for them as young practising artists.
“I’m not sure we’ve had another opportunity like this one we’ve presented for them.
“We’re hoping to be able to keep the project going or to use this to connect the artists to the new Fife Youth Arts Hub.
“They have young people interested in doing work for this too, creating musical compositions and theatrical presentations inspired by Arbus’ work that will be on show through a digital element in the galleries.
“From my point of view it’s a lot of fun as it’s my educational background looking at the social, economic and political landscape in the States during the 1960s.
“I don’t know if it was ever her intention to make a political statement but her work ended up doing that anyway.
“It’s really interesting – she has had more of an influence with her work than she may have intended it to have in the first place.
“To me, it really hits home and it’s really interesting.”
As the finishing touches were being added to the exhibition, Karin added: “I’m feeling very confident about what we’re doing and how it’s all going to look.
“We only have 20 of her portraits in the gallery and I think they will stand out.
“People will be able to come in and view the work the way it should be seen.
“It’s going to look beautiful and it’s going to be really crisp.”
The student curators who are working on the project at the Kirkcaldy Galleries are studying for their NC Level Five Portfolio Art and Design at Fife College.
Ayesha Montador (19, pictured right), from Kirkcaldy, is one of those involved in the exhibition’s curation. She said: “It’s very enjoyable, it’s a really good opportunity for a lot of us.
“For myself, it’s great, as I’ve never had anything displayed before, so it’s a really big deal for me.
“It was an opportunity for me and my classmates to get our names out there and be noticed. “We’re getting to create and getting to choose things that are going to be there for the public to see.”
And as part of their course, the students were studying the work of Diane Arbus and using it and the work of other portrait artists to inspire their own work. Ayesha continued: “Her photographs speak a lot of words. “They show people who have struggled in life or haven’t been in the best position and I think they will continue to speak a lot to people in modern times. “Often, it’s older people that go to museums and galleries, but I think these real figures will speak to people of all ages. “Being part of this project has let me come to understand what’s involved in setting up an exhibition, as it’s really quite complicated. “There’s a lot more involved than you might initially think. “I’m excited about the launch, but I think we’re all quite nervous to see what the public reaction will be and what people will have to say about it.”
And sitting in the Galleries alongside the Arbus exhibition and the work of the local students will be a complementary exhibition by Fife Contemporary Art and Craft. The exhibition entitled ‘Portraits+’ sees the issue of identity explored by artists using many different materials, and this exhibition will bring together a range of unusual contemporary approaches, some using photography as a start or end point, as science and art come together to surprise us and reveal new viewpoints.