Issues of Ethnic Identity are Confronted in a New Installation at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

“Geraldine Ondrizek: Shades of White” is on view from September 2 to December 14, 2014


EUGENE, Ore. -- (August 14, 2014) – The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon presents a new site-specific installation by artist Geraldine Ondrizek, which explores the many colors of race. On view in the Artist Project Space, the installation is open from September 2 to December 14, 2014. In the installation, Ondrizek, an Oregon artist and professor at Reed College since 1994, as well as the recipient of a 2014 Hallie Ford Individual Artist Fellowship, examines personal and political issues related to genetics, ethnic identity, and disease.


“Rigorously researched and thoughtfully executed, Ondrizek’s installation invites viewers to look through the silk panels, designed to approximate variations of skin pigmentation, and consider their own ideas about race and identity,” says June Black, JSMA Associate Curator for the Arts of the Americas and Europe.


Using steel and silk, “Shades of White” reinterprets the many colors of the “Gates Skin Color Chart,” a tool used by eugenicists in the mid-20th century to chart race by color gradations from dark to light. These color charts were used for racial classifications and institutionalized discrimination. As a visualization of this data, Ondrizek’s work is a critique of determinist racial labeling as well as a celebration of the natural spectrum of diversity.


Ondrizek’s inspiration for the work is based on the research of medical scholar Dr. Alexandra Minna Stern, historian of science and medicine and a professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History at the University of Michigan. For years, Stern has investigated the history of eugenics and its attendant genetic and racial discrimination as practiced in Oregon and the United States from 1900 to 1987.


In conjunction with Ondrizek’s exhibition, Stern will give a lecture titled “Dividing Humans: Genetics, Race, and Disability in Mid-Century America” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 14. During this lecture Stern will discuss her book, “Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America,” which profiles the history of state-sanctioned medical abuses targeted at so-called undesirable populations based on race and mental health in the United States.


On Saturday, November 8, at 2 p.m., Ondrizek will give an Artist’s talk, “Eugenics to Genetics: Tracing Visual Categorization in 21st Century Art,” in which she will discuss her work, how she seeks to shed light on the racist history behind eugenic tools, and how they were used to profile candidates for discriminatory medical procedures. Although these practices are most often associated with Nazi-era medical abuses, the United States was equally culpable of instigating discriminatory laws that targeted individuals based on supposed links between genetics and moral fitness. In Oregon alone, more than 2,600 sterilizations were performed between 1917 and 1983. It was not until 2002 that Governor John Kitzhaber publicly apologized to the victims of forced sterilizations and declared December 10th Human Rights Day in Oregon. In commemoration of this declaration, the JSMA will offer free admission on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.


The exhibition was organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and supported in part by the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; a Hallie Ford Fellowship from The Ford Family Foundation; and the Stillman Drake Fund at Reed College.


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of six museums in Oregon accredited by the American Association of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,