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Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.

Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.

  • Friday, August 11, 2017

    Contemporary Black Women Artists in the Cunningham Center: Carrie Mae Weems
    Guest blogger Zoe Dong is a Smith College student, class of 2018J, with a major in studio art. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. This is the second of a three-post series on contemporary works by Black women in the Center's collection.

    Carrie Mae Weems was born in 1953 in Portland, Oregon and is a multimedia artist who works in text, video, textiles, and most prominently photography. She has won numerous awards including the MacArthur genius grant, the ICP Spotlight award from the International Center of Photography, and Harvard’s W.E.B. Dubois medal. Her work addresses racism, sexism, family relationships, class and power, her photographs spanning from intimate documentations of her family and community to powerful works that widely address the African-American experience.

    Carrie Mae Weems. American, 1950-. Jim, If You Choose to Accept, the Mission is to Land on Your Own Two Feet. 1988. gelatin silver print. SC 1990:20.

    The Cunningham Center has two works of Weems’: Jim, If You Choose to Accept, the Mission is to Land on Your Own Two Feet and Portrait of a Woman Who Has Fallen from Grace and into the Hands of Evil. Both created in 1988, these two works are carefully posed portraits of characters with accompanying text underneath that hint at a lengthier narrative than the ones presented in these square, black and white compositions. Weem’s famous Kitchen Table series uses similarly square, posed compositions, and much of her other work also uses mysterious, leading text that recalls fictional mythologies and unidentified stories.

    Carrie Mae Weems. American, 1950-. Portrait of a Woman Who Has Fallen from Grace and into the Hands of Evil. 1988. gelatin silver print. SC 1991:2.

  • Friday, August 4, 2017

    Contemporary Black Women Artists in the Cunningham Center: Lorna Simpson
    Guest blogger Zoe Dong is a Smith College student, class of 2018J, with a major in studio art. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. This is the first of a three-post series on contemporary works by Black women in the Center's collection.

    Lorna Simpson was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, graduating with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and receiving her MFA from UC San Diego. She rose to prominence in the art world in the 1980s for her art exploring black female identity and historical memory. Her work combines photography, text art and installation to create subtle and engaging works that are difficult to decode but meaningful in the effort it takes to understand them.

    Counting is an excellent example of Simpson’s style, which excludes the eyes of any subject, utilizes text as a central element, and features hair as a motif. Counting shows, from top to bottom, the bottom half of an unknown black woman’s face, a Carolina smokehouse once used to hold slaves, and finally a long coil of braided hair. Surrounding the images are coolly inscrutable phrases listing hours for an unknown event, numbers of years, an amount of bricks, numbers of “locks” “twists” and “braids.” Where Kara Walker’s work about the history of American slavery is starkly in-your-face, Simpson’s art eludes a simple meaning.

     

    Lorna Simpson. American, 1961-. Counting. 1991. photogravure with silkscreen text on paper. Purchased with the Janice Carlson Oresman, class of 1955, fund. SC 1992:2.

    Details is a series of 21 photogravures with silkscreen text. The series alludes to a story of a romance in muted, delicate, and mysterious language, focusing on hands and their gestures, flowers and furniture instead of the faces of the lovers who the story centers around. Each of the photogravures in accompanied by text underneath, hinting at the meaning of each carefully composed, Pictorialist-reminiscent smoky image. The absence of a face is per usual in Simpson’s work.

     

    Lorna Simpson. American, 1961-. soulful from Details. 1996. photogravure with silkscreen text on Somerset 300 lb. paper. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund and the Carol Ramsey Chandler Fund. SC 2012:6-1.

    Lorna Simpson. American, 1961-. desired from Details. 1996. photogravure with silkscreen text on Somerset 300 lb. paper. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund and the Carol Ramsey Chandler Fund. SC 2012:6-3.

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  • Thursday, July 27, 2017

    Welcome, Shanice!

    Hey everyone! My name is Shanice Bailey, and I'm the new Brown Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow. I'll be taking over for Colleen McDermott, and I'm joined by Charlotte Hecht and Abby Moon, the Post-Baccalaureate Fellows in Museum Marketing & Communications and Museum Registration.

    As Colleen's successor, I'll be in charge of the Student Picks program and this blog. However, unlike previous fellows, my work won't be restricted to the Cunningham Center. SCMA is in a period of growth and transition, and like the Museum, this position is set to undergo some major changes. I'll be working across collections with all of the Museum's curators (including Emma Chubb, the inaugural Charlotte Feng Ford '83 Curator of Contemporary Art) in a larger capacity, and you'll see these developments reflected here on the blog. It's a very exciting time at the Museum, and I'll be using this platform to give our audience some insight into this process and the work of our post-bac cohort.

    Lorna Simpson. American, 1961-. half learned from Details. 1996. photogravure with silkscreen text on Somerset 300 lb. paper. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund and the Carol Ramsey Chandler Fund. SC 2012:6-18.

    During my time at Smith, I majored in American Studies with a focus on visual culture and digital media. I received a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which gave me the opportunity to conduct an independent research project on the work of black creatives during the AIDS Crisis. I'm most interested in modern and contemporary art, and in work by black and queer artists in particular. That being said, I look forward to integrating my interests into the content I develop for this blog and broadening my technical and art historical knowledge by working with SCMA's vast collection. As a first-generation citizen and college student, I'm passionate about issues of representation and accessibility within arts institutions, and I hope to use this platform to broaden the Museum's reach within the greater Smith and Five College community. One of my goals for the blog is to have a greater diversity of voices in order to make space for a variety of perspectives on the collection and provide more opportunities for student engagement. I'll be sharing an open call for submissions to Paper + People when the semester starts, so keep an eye on this page for updates!

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