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Open Classroom: Isla de Ventanas

ON VIEW: February 8—May 28, 2023

Open Classroom projects align with course material of Purchase College classes while moving beyond the scope of the traditional classroom.

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Academic museums play a critical role in expanding on the curriculum of their parent colleges and universities. All too often, however, the rich collaborations that happen inside academic museums occur behind closed doors. The Open Classroom at the Neuberger Museum of Art makes visible some of our collaborations with Purchase College students and faculty, featuring projects that move beyond the scope of the traditional classroom through the study of, and engagement with, works of art. The project in the Open Classroom this spring features Isla de Ventanas, a photograph from 1988 by María Martínez-Cañas.

María Martínez-Cañas, Isla de Ventanas (Island of Windows), 1988.

IMAGE: María Martínez-Cañas, Isla de Ventanas (Island of Windows), 1988, Gelatin silver print, 1 from an edition of 2, 6 7/8 x 26 1/2 inches (image and sheet), 17 x 36 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches (framed), Numbered in pencil, lower left: “1/2,” signed and dated in pencil, lower right: “María Martínez-Cañas 1988,” Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY. Gift of Edith L. Calzadilla and family in memory of Luis P. Calzadilla, 2009.02.28.

Art: © María Martínez-Cañas, Courtesy of Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami.


Martínez-Cañas deftly combines recognizable subject matter to create multi-layered compositions that play with perception and memory. Her photograph, Isla de Ventanas (Island of Windows), is part of the series derived from her research in Spanish colonial archives as a Fulbright-Hayes Fellow that explores the widely shared experience of voluntary and/or forced migration. In this work, the artist selected a 15th century European map to serve as the scaffolding for her investigation of the colonization of Cuba. Nude portraits and photographs of architectural sites serve as supporting imagery. Despite the cohesion of the finished image, its power comes not from the whole, but from its parts, and the work the viewer must methodically engage in to understand and interpret the narrative.

Isla de Ventanas is organized by Katherine Frost, Jeremy Goldsmith, and Sarah Anderson Lock—candidates in the 2023 M+ Graduate Program in Art History—with Assistant Professor of Art History Hilary Whitham Sánchez.

The organizers wish to provide special thanks to their advisory committee and the staff at the Neuberger Museum.

This Open Classroom project is made possible with support from the Rachelle Levine Fund and the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art. Curricular support for the Purchase College Art History Department is provided by the Strypemonde Foundation.


About the Artist

Born in Cuba in 1960, María Martinez-Cañas grew up surrounded by the vibrant artist community on the island of Puerto Rico. She trained at the Philadelphia College of Art and the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, among others. Her work is included in numerous local and international museum collections, including the Centre Pompidou, International Center for Photography, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She has made her home in Miami since 1986.

About the M+ Program

The two-year Museum + Curatorial Studies (M+) track within the Purchase College Art History MA program centers the Neuberger Museum of Art in a pedagogical model that systematically programs connections between Art History, the School of Art + Design, and the Neuberger. M+ students work with the Neuberger Museum of Art’s permanent collection, producing original research, exhibitions, and public programming. By offering multiple ways of engaging with works in the collection, they learn how an arts institution functions—training in skills that will prepare them for careers in the field and to rethinking the social role of the arts, tying the values of humanistic learning and critical thinking to the importance of engaged citizenship. In concert with Art History faculty and the Neuberger staff, every M+ cohort will imagine what it means to make a Museum Wide Open.