LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art’s new exhibition “Foundling” features 100 portraits of children who were adopted by American parents from overseas painted by artist Megan Rye. Rye will give a gallery talk at the Spencer Museum at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, about issues facing adoptees and adoptive families. She will be joined in conversation by Haley Vellinga, lecturer in the University of Kansas Department of Communication Studies.
Rye, who herself was adopted from South Korea and lives and works in Minnesota, defines foundling as a person who is “twice born, once at abandonment and again at reclamation.” Her paintings are based on the referral photos used by international adoption agencies to introduce children to parents in America. Painted on shopping bags from Target, a nationwide retail chain that originated in Minnesota, the portraits raise questions about the monetary and social costs associated with adoption. For Rye, the project pays homage both to the families who have adopted children and to those who surrendered children for adoption.
“‘Foundling’ makes a strong and compelling case for the immigration journey and experience,” Rye said. “Every child deserves a home, and international adoptees’ perspectives on finding their way home is complex and unique. This is a story of survival.”
The exhibition will be on view through Dec. 22 and also includes works from the Spencer Museum’s collection that relate to adoption and immigrants’ experiences in the United States. These themes are explored in two other current exhibitions at the Spencer: “knowledges” and “Visible and Divisible American: In Conversation with the 2019–2020 KU Common Book.” These exhibitions also examine themes of immigration in unique, yet overlapping ways that consider immigrant communities’ human rights, lived experiences and surveillance.
“Foundling” is supported by KU Student Senate and the Linda Inman Bailey Exhibitions Fund.
Artist Talk: Megan Rye and Haley Vellinga
5:30-7 p.m. / Spencer Museum of Art, Marshall Balcony
Artist Megan Rye discusses her installation of 100 portraits of children adopted from overseas by American parents. Joining her in conversation about issues facing adoptees and adoptive families is Haley Vellinga.
Gallery Talk: Senior Session: “Foundling”
10:15-11:15 a.m. / Spencer Museum of Art, Marshall Balcony
Pinyan Zhu, doctoral candidate in the history of art and former Spencer intern, discusses “Foundling,” an exhibition that prompts questions about the meanings of home and immigrants’ rights. Senior Sessions are designed for senior citizens but open to everyone.
Gallery Talk: Up Close
2-3 p.m. / Spencer Museum of Art, Marshall Balcony
Experience the exhibition “Foundling” through the eyes of Pinyan Zhu, doctoral candidate in the history of art and former Spencer intern. Up Close gallery talks reveal the personal stories behind exhibitions.
Images: Megan Rye, “Foundling,” courtesy of the artist.