This work was selected by Jacob Templin-Fulton (class of 2020), who explains: “What most drew me to this work is the way in which the artist frames industrialism in context with the environment. John Pfahl uses the powerful image of the smokestack to reference the American industrial revolution and the role it played in the development of the US and its culture. He juxtaposes an icon of American nationalism with the current environmental crisis. The plume of smoke in the sunset contrasts strongly with the sky, which is quite beautiful, but also menacing in its encroachment on the horizon. How do you think the environmental crisis has changed from when this photograph was taken in 1988 to now? And have messages like these become more or less important?”
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.