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.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Petru Bester and Janna Singer Baefsky are both Smith College students, class of 2015. Bester is majoring in Art History and minoring in Anthropology, and Singer-Baefsky is majoring in Art History with a concentration in Museum Studies. They are both Student Assistants in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
When we and other students registered for From Eyes to I: The Art of Portraiturewe were all pleasantly surprised to have the unique chance to play curator at the Smith College Museum of Art. With the guidance of Professor Brigitte Buettner, we selected a body of work from the Smith College Museum of Art’s Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs to display and analyze.
The exhibition, developed in conjuncture with Smith’s Celebrating Collaborations conference,was truly a collaborative effort. We began the exciting process in early February by selecting a genre of portraiture from which to work. This was perhaps the most difficult part as each of us articulated strong arguments as to why our choice would work best. Eventually a compromise was reached; the exhibition would feature portraits of women, including artist’s self-portraits and official portraits ranging from the 18th to the 21st centuries.
Working in pairs, we met in the Cunningham Center to select our desired prints and an exhibition title. After much deliberation, the seniors came up with a pun that swiftly ended the debate: gaze of our lives? The question led to laughter, a vote, and then the consensus that Gaze of Our Lives: Female Portraiturehad just enough seriousness and spontaneity.
No exhibition would be complete without labels. With the help of Maggie Lind, SCMA’s Associate Educator for Academic Programs, we learned the art of crafting individual labels and an introductory text. From here, Stephanie Sullivan, Exhibitions Installation Assistant, worked with us to create a miniature mock-up of the display. After the installation, all that was left was for us to prepare gallery talks to present on the opening day of Celebrating Collaborations – Friday, April 20.
Gaze of Our Lives: Female Portraitureincludes eight female portraits that encompass a variety of styles, media, and aesthetics unified in their portrayal of women. The exhibition’s intention is to explore different modes of artist representation, the changing social roles of women in society as seen in portraiture, and to convey the various gazes set upon them.
The following are works which will be on view in "Gaze of Our Lives: Female Portraiture" along with quotes from the student curators explaining their selections.
“The way Toulouse-Lautrec rendered her pointed, upturned nose, sword-like umbrella, and designer handbag made her come across as a fierce, cut-throat, take-no-prisoners woman. We found this print so comical, we just had to know more!” - Jinan Martiuk, SC '14 and Janna Singer-Baefsky, SC '15
“We selected this photograph out of a mutual familiarity with Mapplethorpe's work, recognizing its unusual departure from the more provocative imagery he is best known for. When we realized it was a portrait of former President of Smith, Mary Maples Dunn, we were enthralled by the question of what could have brought two such unlikely people together and decided immediately to investigate their story for the exhibition.” - Shama Rahman, SC '13 and Maggie Kean, SC '14
“Oriole Farb Feshbach has ties to the Five College Consortium and was affiliated with the women's movement in the 1970s. We were interested in her use of the mirror as a means of self-reflection.” - Amanda Ferrara, SC ’13 and Frances Lazare, SC ‘14
“We were drawn to this image because of its cultural complexity and critique on the Western gaze.” - Manzhuang Zheng, SC ’13 and Petru Bester, SC ‘15J
“Nicola Tyson's self-portrait is striking and haunting. The bodily distortions and empty skull-like gaze intrigued us--why would the artist chose to represent herself in such a way?” - Honor Hawkins, SC '13 and Maggie Hoot, SC '16
“This print caught our attention because it is a seemingly straight-forward portrait. However, upon closer observation the sitter's multiple reflections in the mirror each convey a different emotion. We thought this composition would be interesting to analyze in the context of our class discussions concerning the various interactions in portraiture - between artist, subject, and viewer.” - Nona Morse, Mount Holyoke College '14, and Marley Smit, Hampshire College '14
“Look at that dress. How could we not?” - Megan Lowry, SC ’14 and Isabella Pioli, SC ‘15
"We chose Cass Bird's I Look Just Like My Mommy because we wanted a work of art that contested ideas of womanhood, which, in every other work, are straightforward. So for us, it was an important point of view to include." - Hailey Hargraves, SC ’13 and Katie Wisniewski, SC ’13
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Guest blogger Clara Bauman is a senior at Smith College majoring in Art. She assisted in the installation of Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides), currently on the third floor of Burton Hall at Smith College until 2018.
My experience assisting in the installation of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #139is among the highlights of my Smith career. LeWitt’s directions for this drawing – Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides– translates, in this version which we created in the Burton Hall’s Math Department, into approximately 1,550 graphite lines. It took our team of four people (Roland Lusk of the LeWitt studio, and three Smith students) nearly eight full days of drawing work to complete. The process was meditative, all consuming, and unique – something which very few people ever experience. Those eight days have transformed my reading of the final drawing, as my view is infused with the stories and perspectives of our diverse installation team, as well as my own musings on the drawing’s development.
There were six phases to our drawing process. Each set of lines – the verticals of the grid, the horizontals of the grid, and the arcs from each midpoint – felt very different to make. Each time we established a different rhythm to our line-making. We watched as the drawing became increasingly dense and complex. Each layer complicated the patterns in the drawing. As the arcs intersected, giant S-shaped waves emerged and intricate diamond patterns decorated the wall. At the center of the drawing, the grid remained dramatically untouched and became increasingly prominent.
Our eyes quickly became attuned to the subtleties of this process. We learned about the particular density and thickness of the 6H pencil mark, about the way the lead reacted to the textured surface of the wall, and about the small hand movements necessary for controlling the line.
It is rare to experience a work of art through the eye of its maker. Whilst drawing, I wondered if LeWitt went through a similar experience of acquainting himself with the materials the first time he drew an arc drawing. Perhaps he spent hours testing the accuracy of the plumb lines as we did, and perhaps he was also concerned about whether the arc’s midpoint was going to meet the grid’s midpoint. In the eight days I spent with Wall Drawing #139 (Grid and arcs from the midpoints of four sides),I built a relationship with it. This drawing taught me patience and diligence and about the importance of simplicity. I am blessed to have a relationship with this drawing and to have insight into Sol Lewitt’s artistic process. This insight into the makings of Lewitt’s Wall Drawing #139is one of the most amazing gifts I have ever received.
Monday, April 1, 2013
Student Picksis a SCMA program in which Smith students organize their own one-day art show using our collection of works on paper. This month’s student curator and guest blogger Suzu Sakai ‘16 discusses her show “Beauty by Design: The Art of Japanese Kimono” which will be on view this Friday, April 5 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Suzu will also be presenting an original miniature kimono designed specifically for this exhibition, along with a brief and fascinating account of the history of Japanese kimono design. We hope to see you here!
Despite being a Japanese, I have never been as interested in learning about my own traditional culture as much as foreign cultures. However, my way of thinking changed last semester, in taking Smith College’s Costume Design I class. While working on a project which involved researching feudal Japanese costume, I fell in love with the beautiful and exotic Japanese kimonos. This helped me realize how wonderful and serene Japanese culture was.
In my Student Picks exhibition Beauty by Design: The Art of Japanese Kimono,I have selected certain woodblock prints focused on the design of kimonos, mainly during the 1800s. These woodblock prints feature women’s kimonos and kimonos worn as costumes by actors, who at the time were all men.
The term kimono,the T-shaped traditional Japanese garment we know today, in Japanese means simply ‘a thing to wear.’ This term kimonowas actually invented in the Meiji era (1868-1911), when Westerners asked the Japanese to name their style of dress. The history of the kimono goes as far back as the eighth-century, when the Emperor proclaimed that all garments in the Imperial Court were to be worn strictly overlapped from right to left. This style reflected the style in the Tang dynasty (618-907) of China, and it was in the Heian period (794-1185) that the Japanese started developing their own distinctive culture and style.
Looking at these artworks on Friday, I hope viewers will leave with some kind of interest in Japanese culture, and may be even be as mesmerized by the beauty and richness of these kimonos as I am.