If these walls could talk

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One of Etz’ favorite pieces from the Little Boxes exhibition is this dollhouse created by Yinka Shonibare.

Last year, Karly Etz ’13 worked in the Denison Museum with three staff members and nine student workers. This summer, she’s working with dozens of staff members at The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla. “It’s a huge difference in size, even though The Norton employees consider the museum to be small,” she says with a laugh.

Etz, a Ruth H. Rosenberg summer intern at The Norton, primarily is working with three other interns to organize the exhibition, Little Boxes: Vernacular Architecture from the Museum Collection. Comprised of 20 pieces, including art by Ansel Adams and Norman Rockwell and a dollhouse by Yinka Shonibare, Little Boxes explores “the ways in which people, environment, and necessity shape the spaces in which we live.”

“We [the interns] wanted to put together a collection of objects that had relevance to vernacular architecture,” Etz says. “How does a building and its architecture tell the story of the people who dwell in and utilize it? What does the architecture say about the location of the building? The time period? The culture?”

Vernacular architecture usually changes with time to reflect the environmental, cultural, technological, and historical setting in which it exists, a concept reflected in Little Boxes. “A Victorian home differs greatly from a French hut in the backwoods,” Etz says.

Etz’s favorite piece and the core of the exhibit is Shonibare’s dollhouse, the only piece that simultaneously reflects interior and exterior. One of multiple pieces that were created by Shonibare, the dollhouse is culturally, historically, and artistically profound. “Shonibare is Nigerian but lived in London,” Etz says. “It’s interesting to examine the two separate influences, in terms of location and culture.”

An added bonus to working with the dollhouse? “Whoever sets it up gets to decide where the furniture goes,” Etz says. “There are no guidelines, so the curator gets to leave his or her mark on how it’s displayed.”

Etz earned a B.A. in art history from Denison and will attend graduate school at Pennsylvania State University for an M.A. in the same discipline. From there, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the university level.

Little Boxes will be on display at The Norton Museum of Art beginning today (Aug. 1) and running through Oct. 19, 2013.

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