Artists and cultural thought leaders address urgent questions of the day in new forum

Artists on the Future
Artists on the Future is a new Stanford public speaker series that kicks off March 4.

Appropriation and representation are the first topics to be discussed in the new Stanford public speaker series Artists on the Future that kicks off March 4 at 6 p.m. with artist Dana Schutz, who will be in conversation with Hamza Walker, director of the independent nonprofit art space LAXART.

“This new discussion series offers an innovative approach to thinking about arts and artists and the critical role they play in informing our future,” said HARRY ELAM JR., vice president for the arts at Stanford. “We are excited about the possibilities of how these conversations at Stanford can make an impact and have far reaching reverberations. These free public events will bring those working at the highest levels of human expression, creative thinking, and aesthetic impact into our deepest national conversations.”

Dana Schutz
Dana Schutz

Schutz is a contemporary artist known for combining social and political commentary in her work. Her dynamic paintings reveal the complexities and ironies of human nature, hypothetical situations and impossible physical feats. Her controversial piece Open Casket, based on photographs of murdered teenager Emmett Till, was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. It sparked debates and protests because some found it offensive that a white woman chose to paint black suffering.

Artists on the Future will continue on May 20 with multimedia artist Lorna Simpson, who will be in conversation with Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. They will discuss social justice and how to increase diversity and representation in art. Simpson came to prominence in the 1980s with her pioneering approach to conceptual photography. Her early work – particularly her striking juxtapositions of text and staged images – raised questions about the nature of representation, identity, gender, race and history that continue to influence the artist’s expanding and multidisciplinary practice today.

On October 22, visual artist Lynda Benglis will discuss what it means to be a female artist with Kimberly Drew, art curator and social activist. They will examine how one can move away from prescriptive labels toward individual autonomy. Benglis will also discuss how artists can continue to innovate and defy categorization against rich artistic legacies. Since the 1960s, her work and the range of materials she uses have given her a distinctive female identity in a male-dominated art world.

Hamza Walker
Hamza Walker

Stanford is a vital home for art and artists and the Artists on the Future series underscores the welcome that the university extends to creative thinkers and doers. In addition to commissioning and presenting works of art to the community and inviting practicing artists into art and non-art classrooms to teach, Stanford is providing a public forum where artists are invited to be part of national conversations around critical issues and questions of the day.

Artists on the Future is made possible by a gift from Silicon Valley philanthropists Komal Shah MS ‘93 and Gaurav Garg. They hope the series will be a catalyst for critical dialog on the Peninsula and provide a new context for imagining how that future will unfold. The first conversation takes place in Cemex Auditorium.

Said Shah about the series,“Artists bring a unique perspective to the most important questions of our time. Their voice is essential to our future. I’m thrilled to be supporting this series of conversations with three leading, powerful artists for new audiences. As someone who has worked in technology and is now an avid art collector, I believe that the cross-pollination will show the relevance and importance of artists’ voices in turbulent times.

“I hope that the series will galvanize increasing engagement with art in Silicon Valley for future generations.”