This work was selected by Patrick O’Grady (PhD Student in the Department of History), who explains: “I first became aware of Rockwell Kent’s work through his illustrations in an edition of Moby Dick that I’ve had for a few years. Much like Melville’s prose in that work, Kent’s work is often quietly ornate in depicting isolation. In life one might see Kent as a sort of Ishmael, Moby Dick’s quintessential outsider and narrator. Kent was a humanitarian, a socialist, and an activist critical of fascism and later the darker side of the United States’ Cold War policies. As a result, Kent became a victim of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare slander. Just like those illustrations I fell in love with, To God plays on spirituality, tragedy, and solitude—in this case the story of Moses on Mount Nebo. Much like those artists showcased in The Edge of Things: Dissident Art Under Repressive Regimes, an MSU Broad exhibition with which I worked, Kent’s life and work reflected on and spoke up against the darkest days of the twentieth century.”
The Vault, which also houses some of the works from our permanent collection, is dedicated to featuring and displaying works chosen by MSU students who work at the museum. Each month, one of our student gallery guides selects a piece from our collection and writes a short text explaining why they chose it and believe it should be displayed. By providing our gallery guides with an opportunity to participate in the curatorial process of selection and display, we aim to open a dialogue with the student community while simultaneously sharing with the public works from the collection that would otherwise remain in storage.