Strange Collections: Cat People of the Outer Regions
The Art of Karen Kuykendall
Our lives are bound up with objects. Humans have a deep preoccupation with the things that surround us. Whether an object is the product of a human endeavor or from the natural world, we keep stuff. There are many reasons why we collect. Museums collect objects in order to both preserve and construct stories about our changing communities. An object can provide a tangible link to the past and our future while invoking strong emotions that conjure both nostalgia and challenge our connections to each other. But who determines what objects are of social value? In the exhibition Strange Collections: Cat People of the Outer Regions: The Art of Karen Kuykendall, the Mesa Historical Museum takes an unprecedented look at a never-before-seen collection of art and artifacts and asks: How do the things we make end up in museums? Who determines what is kept and seen? How is the value assigned to an object determined in public institutions? In this whimsical and imaginative collection of aliens and cats, we explore how Kuykendall’s art may be viewed within in a modern museum and social context. Has our idea of fantasy art changed since Kuykendall created her work? What is the role of history and art in science fiction today? Kuykendall was a pioneer in the popularization of science fiction art. We explore the historical implications of her work, how it may be viewed from a modern lens, and how collecting and assigning value to objects within a museum mirrors social and community change.