Women On The Inside: An Insightful Exhibition into Transience

As pictured: Ruth Orkin, An American Girl In Italy, 1951

Contributing Writer // Michael Grichenco

Do you have free time this weekend? Are you feeling bored? Do you want to try something new? The Frost Art museum is offering a variety of art exhibitions this term for FIU students, and best of all… it’s free! 

Women On The Inside examines various introspective themes as well as provide portrayals of women who are mutually supportive and who trudge through male-dominated institutions. 

In this exhibition, with a particular focus on photography and video, the Frost Art Museum offers visitors an opportunity to reflect on the expansive 20th-Century collection by prominent photographers such as Manuel Carrillo and Ruth Orkin, alongside other self-made photographers who studied at Florida International University such as Cecilia Arboleda, Velma Mcdermott, and German Ruiz.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” 

This quote by Elliot Erwitt is among the primary inspirations for Velma McDermott in her passion for photography. Born in Claremore, Oklahoma, McDermott is a proud member of the Muscogee Creek Nation Tribe. 

She began studying photography in 2014 and earned her bachelor’s degree in 2018 from Florida International University, where she also received the Betty Laird Perry Award. McDermott’s photography was chosen to participate in the 29th Annual University Student Exhibition at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, FL, in 2019 shortly after she completed her academic studies.

Another feature artist, Ruth Orkin (1921 – 1985) was a multi award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker. She grew up in Hollywood during its golden age, the 1920s and 1930s. 

She acquired her first camera, a 39 cent Univex, when she was ten years old. She started by photographing her classmates and instructors at school. She took a momentous bicycle ride across the United States from Los Angeles to New York City when she was 17 years old to visit the 1939 World’s Fair, and she documented the entire journey. 

Manuel Carrillo (1906 – 1989) was a Mexican photographer who pioneered a vision of Mexican culture through his photography. In his early years, he worked on Wall Street and other odd jobs in New York City, and in the railroad business in Mexico City as well before joining the Club Fotografico de Mexico and the Photographic Society of America at the age of 49, starting his final career in photography. 

His first worldwide show, “Mi Pueblo” (“My People”), was exhibited at the Chicago Public Library in 1960 and featured ordinary life in rural Mexico. Carrillo’s art has been shown in 209 individual exhibitions and 27 group exhibitions in Mexico, the United States, and throughout the world since 1975.

His photography has appeared in a number of photographic anthologies and journals. Manuel Carrillo, popularly known as “EL Maestro Mexicano” by both admirers and critics on both sides of the border, was a man of tremendous dedication to the people and culture he so strongly associated with as “Mi Pueblo.” 

Carrillo’s photography is an essential sociological documentation and interpretation of Mexican culture from the perspective of a post-revolutionary Mexico seeking for its own identity.

Analyzing the works of Ruth Orkin and Manuel Carrillo, both of whom captured exquisite fleeting moments in their images, the theme of ephemerality is heavily featured. 

Ephemerality, the concept of things existing only briefly, is most striking in Orkin’s An American Girl In Italy and Carrillo’s Mi Pueblo, with each of these images showcasing an assertion of identity, with Orkin’s girl expressing confidence in travelling alone through Italy and Carrillo’s people expressing their culture in a post-revolutionary Mexico. 

These powerful images along with their rich histories convey the passion behind each photographer, to capture a transient moment and effectively immortalize it; honoring its impact and preserving its theme. 

Juxtaposing these works with our fellow FIU alumni displayed in this exhibition, the many portrayals of women demonstrate how individual voices are crucial to building a community and how similarities between works of ostensibly diverging artists may have the potential to build such a community.

This is just one of the exhibitions that the Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum provides for FIU students. Women on the Inside  is currently on display  now and will continue until August 1, 2021. So if you have some free time and are interested in learning more about the art of photography, come and visit the Patricia & Philip Frost Art museum. 

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