Gerace highlights American photography at Booth Western Art Museum
By MARIE NESMITH
Serving as the Booth Western Art Museum’s curator of photography since August, Samuel Gerace III is thrilled to help broaden the venue’s permanent photography collection.
“While working on my Ph.D., I interned with the National Museum of Scotland and worked at the National Gallery, which hosted amazing temporary exhibitions,” he said. “These experiences helped show me curation was a career path I wanted to pursue. Art and artifacts have an aura about them, and I love being able to tell their stories and share their importance with the public.
Currently celebrating its 15th year, the Booth is known worldwide for its extensive collection of contemporary Western art. The 120,000-square-foot venue — situated at 501 Museum Drive in Cartersville — became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2006. The museum offers a variety of exhibit spaces, some of which include the Civil War gallery; Sculpture Court; a presidential gallery; the Picturing America photography gallery; and the interactive children’s gallery, Sagebrush Ranch.
“I curate the photography collection, which includes making sure they are properly cared for so that years from now others will continue to be able to enjoy the Booth’s collection,” Gerace said. “This also means I develop exhibitions to feature works from the Booth’s collection, draw in outside artists for solo or group shows, and help interpret the collection and share those findings with the public.”
• Name: Samuel Gerace III
• Age: 34
• Occupation (title): Curator of photography for the Booth Western Art Museum
• City of residence: Rome
• Family: Oldest of five siblings
• Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Shorter University; Master of Science, History of Art, University of Edinburgh; Master of Arts, Celtic Studies, University of Wales; Ph.D., History of Art, University of Edinburgh
The Daily Tribune News: When/how did you get interested in photography and provide some details about your photography career and background.
SG: I was fortunate enough to take dark room photography in high school and continued with it into college. Dark room photography is an almost alchemical process for me, and I love working in them when I can. I have a few series on mortuary art, religious architecture and medieval art.
As part of my postgraduate research, I continued to take photographs of the objects and places I visited. I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in 2017, so I have written papers, lectured and taught on various topics in art history.
DTN: When and why did the Picturing America gallery open, and how many special exhibits has it featured?
SG: The Picturing America gallery opened on April 8, 2017, with “Ansel Adams: The Masterworks.” Since then, we have had “Zoë Urness: Keeping the Traditions Alive” and “American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart.” On Dec. 1, 2018, “Bob Kolbrener: 50 Years in the West” will open, making it our fourth exhibition in this gallery.
DTN: Describe the “American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart” exhibit that will close Nov. 18. How is this exhibit being received by the Booth’s visitors, and what do you believe makes it unique?
SG: Organized by the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, “American Ballads” consists of three sections of black-and-white prints by Marty Stuart and five pieces of vintage “Cowboy Couture,” collected by Stuart. Inspired in part by the work of jazz bassist Milt Hinton, Stuart uses his unique access to capture intimate moments during his many travels as a musician.
The first of three sections, “Badlands” features photographs of everyday life and traditional ceremonies of the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which Stuart first visited as a member of Johnny Cash’s band in the early 1980s. “Blue Line Hotshots,” an equal parts reference to old highway maps and small-town eccentrics, shows portraits of the many unique characters from the towns Stuart travelled through. Finally, “The Masters” presents intimate views of the country music stars Stuart has met through the years, from Johnny Cash to Connie Smith.
Not only do guests get to experience Stuart’s unique access, but the Booth has included additional images of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, thus offering a truly unique experience.
DTN: What are your future aspirations for the Booth’s photography gallery?
SG: My future aspirations for the Picturing America gallery are to have larger shows that draw on diverse collections and artists to really explore the many sides of American photography, while also developing more traveling exhibitions from our collection. Western photography is still central, but with Picturing America I want to explore the full spectrum of American landscape, history and culture.
DTN: Share how Jay Dusard has enhanced the Booth’s permanent photography collection, and what that means for the Picturing America gallery.
SG: Jay Dusard’s donation essentially doubled the Booth’s permanent collection of photographs. Dusard’s work is vast, including iconic landmarks, cowboy portraits and Western landscapes. In the coming years, we will create exhibitions that will include Dusard’s work, which we hope can then travel to [other] museums.
DTN: What do you enjoy most about working at the Booth museum?
SG: I am able to see and help direct the growth of a recently expanded — and expanding — collection of photography. It is an exciting time, and we have guests who are passionate about our museum, which makes working at the Booth so much fun.
DTN: What is your favorite spot in the museum and why?
SG: My favorite spot in the museum is the Native Hands Gallery. You are able to see American Indian artifacts from across America, which gives you a greater appreciation for the entire collection.
DTN: Who is your favorite photographer and why?
SG: I can never pick just one: Ian Ruhter’s large ambrotypes are a fascinating exploration of “older” techniques pushed to their limits; Anne Brigman’s work uses the landscape of the West to create images seemingly out of antiquity; finally, Minor White’s breadth of work captures the full spectrum, from figures to architecture to nature.
DTN: What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
SG: I worked on a project that helped 16- [to] 24-year-olds engage with Scottish history, heritage and archaeology through events and a YouTube series named “Dig It!” My work on this project was honored at the 2016 Scottish Heritage Angel Awards.
DTN: How would you describe yourself in three words?
SG: Detail-oriented, affable and witty
DTN: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
SG: I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for five years.
DTN: What is the best advice you have ever received?
SG: If you are interested in working in museums, it is vital to get involved early. You can volunteer; develop an internship if there isn’t one already; and generally try and help out in departments, like education or curatorial, who are forever needing people passionate about museums.
DTN: What do you like to do in your spare time?
SG: I’m still a bit of an academic, so I write scholarly articles. I also still practice art, from photography to drawing. I love to go to other museums when possible.
DTN: Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
SG: I love downtown Cartersville, and my favorite restaurant [is] Table 20. Can’t recommend it enough.