Humans of the Art Museum – Q&A with Amy Torres ’22

I talked to Amy Torres, a fellow art history major in the class of 2022. Read on to hear her insights on art during quarantine, her memories at the Princeton University Art Museum, and more!

Q: Hi Amy, wonderful to hear from you! Where are you spending this semester?

A: I’m from New York City, but I spent most of the summer and am spending the semester in Pennsylvania.

Q: We really value your insight from the perspective of an art history major, in the department of Art & Archaeology. What else can you tell us about your campus life?

A: I’m getting a certificate in Latin American Studies. My whole family is Dominican, which means I’ve always had a personal connection to the region. My extracurriculars, for that matter, have often been connected to Latin America in some way. For example, I process ephemera for Princeton’s Latin American Ephemera Collection (at Firestone Library) which is an incredible resource that lets you look at any country in the region through the distinct lens of primary documents like pamphlets, flyers, posters, brochures, memorabilia, etc. It’s definitely one of the most unique resources I’ve found on campus. I also process Latin American decorations (so medals and orders, which are a type of decoration given by an organization connected to the state) for Princeton’s Numismatics Collection, which is another way of being around primary material and just learning about the region from a different angle.

Q: How have you been staying connected with art and museums during the quarantine period?

A: I’ve mainly stayed connected by exploring online exhibitions. I’ve had a lot of time to do that just because of the classes I’m in, so Junior Seminar of course, with the practicums, but also ART272, Rage Against the Machine: Art and Politics in America, which also includes exploring several online exhibitions. In the process I’ve become aware of many museums, big and small, that I’d never really looked at before. I’ve also taken more advantage of the A&A talks/lectures that are now happening through Zoom. Since everything — socializing, work, reading — is online, it’s easier to just pop into a lecture than when I was on campus, when I really only went to a talk if I was super interested in the topic, otherwise I rarely made time for those events. That part has been easier, but also means more screen time.

Q: What are you most looking forward to or what is your main hope for the new museum?

A: I don’t know much about it, but I’ll be interested to see how they conceive of a museum that is both for the public but also for teaching, and how that might impact the way they think of the space.

“Pitching a Story” from Life Magazine and the Power of Photography

Q: Do you have a favorite memory at the Princeton University Art Museum or favorite piece from the collections?

A: I don’t know if I have a favorite piece, but I do have a favorite exhibition, which was last year’s Life exhibition, particularly Gordon Park’s photographs of a “Harlem gangster” which I vividly remember seeing, partly because they were beautifully shot, but also because I had a lot of questions about what the accompanying article might have been and the general context of the images. I recall that Park’s negatives (or at least several shots of the same roll) were displayed so we could get a good sense of how Parks shot, how he photographed a subject. It was also interesting to see how Life editors chose the photos (like the notes and markings they left on negatives) and how they edited and cut the photos. It was also clear throughout that the images that appear in the magazine tended to look quite different from the original negatives. Plus, at the time, I was taking a class with Professor McCauley on fashion photography and Parks was a photographer we had discussed, so it was just such an amazing coincidence that the exhibition was taking place at the same time.

Thank you to Amy for her time, and for sharing!

Lydia Yi ’22

Learn more about the exhibition Life Magazine and the Power of Photography here.

View installation photographs of the exhibition Life Magazine and the Power of Photography here.