Staff Spotlight: Camille Morgan
April 15, 2014
By Hannah Lorenz
As project coordinator for the Department of Exhibition and Performance Spaces (DEPS), Camille Morgan has many roles. A graduate of both fashion and museum studies, she curates exhibits, mentors student workers and keeps tabs on the art world, especially art influenced by fashion.
When you’re curating an exhibition, do you get an idea based on artists’ work, or do you have an idea first and try to find pieces that fit?
It can go either way. Recently, I’ve been more moved by things going on in society. For instance, I’m thinking about working on an exhibit that looks at mourning rituals, specifically within the black communities that live on the South Side of Chicago. Usually when you hear about fashion mourning rituals, you are taken back to Victorian times, but there are so many mourning rituals outside that small group of people that are still going on today.
What was your most memorable project?
I’ll say it’s the quinceañera show [Layer Cake: Tales from a Quinceañera, 2009]. It started with my love and fascination with quinceañera dresses. They’re really amazing and kind of ugly, but great. So, because of that show, I got to do a lot of research in areas of Chicago I had never visited, like Pilsen, and pretend like I was going to a quinceañera and I needed a dress. I sort of felt like a secret agent, looking at another culture. I mean, my family’s from the Caribbean, but we do not have quinceañeras. Sometimes you can’t get an in to those things, those special traditions, and it allowed me to do that. And it seemed to touch a lot of people.
Is your family still connected to Jamaica?
Oh, yeah. We would go every other year from when I was 3 years old. Until I was about 6, I didn’t have any idea what anyone was saying. In fact, we were just back there last summer for a family reunion. Immigrant families can get really separated or spread out for long periods of time. I only ever saw [my grandparents] every other year. So it kind of taught me about a different way of living to a degree, like what you need and what you don’t need.
When you’re putting an exhibit together, what are some of the problems that crop up?
We recently had the Guerilla Girls here, and those artists only go by pseudonyms, so that got a little dicey when it came to having to pay [them]. I’m talking to them and they have these gorilla masks on because that’s just what they do, and you have to be like, “This isn’t crazy. What is your payment information?”