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, February 29, 2012
David Dempsey, Associate Director for Museum Services, describes the process of conserving several of our nineteenth century French posters for the exhibition Debussy's Paris: Art, Music and Sounds of the City.
The Debussy's Paris exhibition was a great opportunity to have several nineteenth century posters conserved. The posters were never meant to last very long, so they were printed on poor quality paper that is full of impurities and turned acidic and weakened over time. In the past they had been glued onto a thin linen cloth to give them some strength and to protect them. They had never been framed and were generally stored rolled up and then unfurled for classes and exhibition. This had caused a lot of wear and tear over the years.
We asked Leslie Paisley of the Willliamstown Art Conservation Center to work on conserving them and mounting them in a more formal manner. Leslie and her team began by checking to see if the inks were water soluble, which they were to some extent, so that limited our options. But by working from the back of the linen they were able to soften the glue enough to gently pull the linen off the back. Once it was completely removed they used wheat starch paste as a “poultice” (a thick gel that wet the remaining glue without causing the inks to run) to soften the remaining glue so that it could be carefully removed from the back of the posters.
The linen was replaced with Japanese tissue paper, which is very light and strong. Paste was applied to the back of the poster and the tissues placed on the back and pressed to make sure they adhered. Then the posters were mounted on larger temporary panels by stretching the Japanese tissue around the edges of the panels. They were then left to dry for two months to make sure the posters had a chance to relax and adjust to their new mounts. After drying they were transferred to custom built panels that are acid-free and very resistant to warping. New metal frames were ordered and the completed pieces are now a focal point of the exhibition.
REBECCA JOHNSTON, JENNIFER McGLINCHEY Removing the old mounting linen from the back of the poster.
LESLIE PAISLEY, REBECCA JOHNSTON applying wheat starch paste in preparation for relining
LESLIE PAISLEY, REBECCA JOHNSTON Applying wheat starch paste in preparation for relining
LESLIE PAISLEY, REBECCA JOHNSTON Smoothing wheat starch paste in preparation for relining
REBECCA JOHNSTON, JENNIFER McGLINCHEY Aligning new Japanese paper lining
LESLIE PAISLEY, REBECCA JOHNSTON Checking the alignment of the edges of tears
LESLIE PAISLEY, REBECCA JOHNSTON Replacing loose and separated edge pieces
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
In this post, guest blogger Kelly Holbert, SCMA Exhibition Coordinator explains the process of mounting our new exhibition, Debussy's Paris.
Debussy’s Paris: Art, Music, and Sounds of the City (February 3 – June 10, 2012) is an exhibition that celebrates the life and culture of Paris around 1900, the era of the composer Claude Debussy. Of the 60 works on view, 35 are works on paper from SCMA’s own collection.
The planning process began with the curator selecting the works of art and placing them within the thematic sections of the show (Dance; Correspondences: Art and Music; and Noise and Popular Music), both conceptually in the catalogue and physically in the design of the gallery’s layout. Guest essayists and curatorial consultants also contributed to the catalogue.
The installation itself took about 3 weeks, starting with moving the gallery’s partitions and painting the color bands on the walls. Loans arrived and were unpacked by the registrar, Louise Laplante. Bill Myers and Stephanie Sullivan installed the art and worked on the lighting. David Dempsey fabricated the housings for the ambient music and listening stations, which were installed by RBH Multimedia. Last to go up were the title, wall texts, and labels.
It takes several years to plan and mount an exhibition, involving staff from Education, Membership and Marketing, and other Museum departments, so be sure to come by and enjoy a little piece of Paris in Northampton!
Bill Myers hangs an aquatint and etching by Jacques Villon
David Dempsey installs the support for the touchscreen station while Claude Debussy looks on
Adam Guerrin, from Visionsignworks, adheres the vinyl title to the wall
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Janet Fish. American, born 1938. Winsom’s Shells, 1985. Offset lithograph and screenprint printed in eleven colors on Arches Cover paper. Printed by John Hutcheson and Dwight Pogue at the Smith College Print Workshop. Gift of Janet Fish, class of 1960, through the Smith College Print Workshop. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.
When I began volunteering at the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs in August, 2011, I was totally unaware of the amazing opportunities I would be given in the coming months. As a 2011 participant in the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS) at Smith College, I had been exposed to the Cunningham Center during class time and as part of the curatorial team, which conceptualized, organized, and researched the SCMA exhibition Surface Tension: Reconsidering Water as Subject, which was the culmination of the program. Given my brief exposure to the Cunningham Center, I was excited at the possibility of becoming a volunteer here after the program ended. As a person with artistic and scholarly interests, I found the prospect of being able to handle and research artworks on a daily basis incredibly invigorating. What I did not know then was that I would be given the rare and wonderful chance to act as a guest curator of an exhibition, including picking artworks and writing wall labels. I would be able to apply all that I had learned at SIAMS to my own curatorial project. While SIAMS gave me a whirlwind introduction to curatorial work, this is my first singular venture into the process.
The exhibition I have been working on is in honor of Janet Fish, one of Smith College’s most successful artist-alumnae. Fish is to be awarded a prestigious 2012 Smith College Medal, which is awarded annually to alumnae whose lives and work exemplify a devotion to a liberal arts education. Selecting the works to be displayed was the easiest part; the Museum owns three finished prints by Fish from three distinct points in her printmaking career: the 1970s, 1980s, and 2000s. The first, Cherries in Brandy (1973), is actually Fish’s first print of her professional career. The other two were both produced as part of the Smith College Print Workshop, separated by almost twenty years.
One of these works from the Print Workshop, Winsom’s Shells (1985), was particularly fascinating to me because it is accompanied by almost twenty working proofs which were produced during the printing process. As part of the Print Workshop, Fish made the print in just a few days on the Smith College campus and students were able to drop into the studio at any time to observe and ask questions. The Museum displayed these working proofs as they were produced. They serve to dissect and illuminate Fish’s use of lithography and screenprinting, as they explicitly show the order in which she printed the 11-color work, as well as insight behind purposeful and accidental changes made along the way. To me, the existence of these working proofs is incredibly instructive and exciting. I mean, how often do you get to see the working progression of a print in a museum? Seeing these proofs as evidence of Fish’s process really helped me better understand and greatly appreciate the finished print. I hope that other viewers, artists or not, will have a similar experience.
Janet Fish will be on view at the Museum from February 10 through June 3, 2012. Janet Fish will be awarded the Smith College Medal at the celebration of Rally Day on February 23.