SCAD Contemporary Art Museum

Matryoshka Verse

SCAD Artists

In May 2024, I traveled to Savannah, Georgia, where I visited the SCAD Contemporary Art Museum. The museum is known for having the artwork of international artists. So, during my visit, the museum featured ten must-see exhibits focusing on various diasporas of different ethnic groups. Given their genre, two exhibits that stood out to me were Sunken City and At the Edge Of Superhumanity by Cammie Staros and Cao Fei. Both exhibits focused on two different cultures – Greek and Chinese – giving a contemporary depiction based on history and industrialization. The artists tell stories of history and culture through various other art forms, such as 3-D dimensional objects, surpassing traditional oil on canvas painting. Cammie Staros brings in history, and Cao Fei offers an immersive experience. This article will focus on two of the featured exhibits and the mastermind of both artists behind them. 

Sunken City entrance. Photo by Rosella Parra.
Sunken City entrance. Photo by Rosella Parra.

Cammie Staros

Beginning with Cammie Staros, she is an American artist born in 1983 in Nashville, Tennessee. Her exhibit, Sunken City, has been featured at SCAD since February 9th, 2024, and will remain there until June 24th, 2024. According to SCAD, Cammie's exhibit mission is to engage “the visual language of antiquates to examine the role objects play in understanding culture.” She used various artifacts, such as Greco-Roman within fish tanks, to help tell and understand stories from the past. SCAD addressed how using Greco-Roman artifacts and fish tanks was Cammie’s “playful” approach. Looking at her work closely, there were various fish tanks on display with two black amphoras mirroring one another. For example, one black amphora was above the surface of the water inside the fish tank, and the second black amphora was underwater upside down. The faces of the black amphoras reveal Greek narratives such as Face of Athena, Back of Man and Beast, and Running Men at Pantheon Race. Thus, Cammie’s work is perfect for anyone who loves Greek mythology, which is what drew me to her work personally. Through her work, Cammie reminds us of “the eventual decay of even the most valued systems of functional human societies.”

Face of Athena
Pascina reflexionis
Pascina reflexionis
Narcissus in Love

Cao Fei

Cao Fei is a Chinese artist born in 1978 in Guangzhou, China. Her exhibit at SCAD is At The Edge Of Superhumanity and has been on display since February 26th, 2024. Cao’s exhibit will remain at SCAD until July 29 th, 2024. Unlike Cammie’s work, Cao’s exhibit occupied two galleries. Cao used various objects to create his art and tell stories about China. According to SCAD, Cao was a “pioneer of creating digital worlds.” Through various digital forms, Cao takes a deeper look into contemporary Chinese culture by telling “compelling stories through films and installations about the impact of social and cultural change on people, particularly Chinese citizens, articulating how these shifts after their lived realities and dreams of the future.” To further support this genre, she focused on the citizens of China during the years 1950 to 1979, specifically covering the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union.

Nova 17, 2019
Nova 17, 2019. Photo by Rosella Parra.

Cao has her audience, like me, time travel in an immersive world of reality and fantasy. Through the use of live-action videos, blow-ups, and framed pictures on brick walls, we see Chinese themes of globalization, urban development, and technological advancement. For example, in the first gallery, a video of industrialization in China consisted interestingly of animated life-size mammoths and Russian dolls. Having grown up owning and playing with Russian dolls, I was immediately drawn to them. Both elements were animated in a film, like a documentary, that was filmed live-action-like. In addition, within the second gallery were life-size, blow-up, 3-D dimension Russian dolls from the video on fake lawn grass. Cao didn’t hesitate to inhabit space within both galleries. 

Nova film, 2019. Photo by Rosella Parra.
Nova film, 2019. Photo by Rosella Parra.

In completion, Savannah itself is a city full of art and history, which is still very much alive for tourists, college, and residents who roam the city today. Yet, apart from all art history, SCAD Contemporary Art Museum shares artwork from international contemporary artists all over the world. Thus, it gives insight into other perspectives and diasporas outside the South. 

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