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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.

  • Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Kiss Cross

    Taylor Fallon is a Smith College student, class of 2016, with a government major and an art history minor. She wrote this post for Islamic Art and Architecture, a course which surveys the architecture, landscape, book arts and luxury objects produced in Islamic contexts from Spain to India, and from the seventh through the twentieth centuries. The Fall 2014 session was taught by Professor Alex Dika Seggerman, the Five College Post-Doc in Islamic Art & Architecture.

    Amer Ghada (born Egypt, 1963) and Reza Farkhondeh (born Iran, 20th century). Kiss Cross, 2006. Lithograph printed in color with hand sewn elements on paper. Purchased with the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2008:45-2

    Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, artists of the Middle Eastern diaspora, create collaborative works that highlight the female figure through use of embroidery, paint and stenciling. While not works of Islamic art, Amer and Farkhondeh’s creations reference several facets of the Islamic tradition through their use of stylized figures, a collaborative process, and detailed interpretation of female body.

    In Kiss Cross, the watercolor background of linear motifs with abstracted trees and the intricate embroidery of two figures are carefully layered to evince the individual skill of each artist. While Amer and Farkhondeh work in tandem, each artist is responsible for one medium in their separate locales. This collaboration, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, reflects the workshop style of Persianate painting, again referring to aspects of traditional Islamic art with a modern twist.

    Detail of Kiss Cross

    While there are two artists, in Kiss Cross Amer’s work takes precedence and, unlike in the art of Persianate Painting, the artist’s hand is intentionally and extremely visible. Her striking depiction of the female body highlights themes of objectification, sexuality and empowerment. “I liked the idea of representing women through the medium of thread because it is so identified with femininity,” Amer said. “I wanted to ‘paint’ a woman with embroidery, too.”

    In depicting the two bodies, sourced from erotic magazines, Amer does not stay within the perfectionist confines of tradition embroidery but rather uses a loose running stitch, leaving a tangle of lines and hanging threads to better engage the viewer. This sketch-like embroidery paired with Farkhondeh’s cage-like pattern serve to highlight the women’s faces, one of the few portions of the print left bare from color. This emphasis on the faces both serves to humanize rather than objectify the women and draws attention to their intimacy.


  • Friday, February 27, 2015

    Student Picks: Clutter + Collage

    Student Picks is 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 Samantha Page '17 discusses her show “Clutter + Collage: Mixed Media on Paper” which will be on view FRIDAY, March 6 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!

    Anne Ryan, American (1889 - 1954). Collage, no date. Paper and cloth collage with watercolor on heavy textured white wove paper. Gift of Mrs. Alfred H. Barr Jr. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1979:8-2

    Across medium and aesthetic mood, these works on paper evoke stories and senses through layers, both visual and material. Although we can’t touch Anne Ryan’s tender patchwork or Jiri Kolar’s decoupage, the textures and colors resonate in the mind. The limitations on our interactions with art objects that beg to be touched push us to engage with them in new realms of our imaginations. 

    Jiri Kolar, Czechoslovakian (1914 - 2002). Wine Press, 1967. Paper bits collaged to wood backing and to attached wine press. Gift of Virginia Dwyer Caruthers. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1995:39

    By creating depth in the layers of materials, as in Qiu Deshu’s Blue Mountain and Reika Iwami’s Autumn, the artists and their works expand our sense of space and bring us to a unique place in which we view each piece of art. 

    Qiu Deshu, Chinese (1948 - ). Blue Mountain, late 1990s. Collage and acrylic on paper. Gift of Joan Lebold Cohen, class of 1954, and Jerome A. Cohen. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:59-8

    Reika Iwami, Japanese (1927 - ). Autumn, 1978. Woodblock and collograph printed in black and metallic ink with embossing on medium thick, slightly textured cream-colored paper. Gift of The Tolman Collection, Tokyo, in honor of Hilary Tolman, class of 1987, on the occasion of her 20th reunion. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:10-4

    The counterintuitive nature of this visual disorder also appeals. The clutter draws us in, as we get lost in the remnants of someone else’s life. If I made a collage like Thomas Barrow’s or Moyra Davey’s, what would it look like? What does the chaos of my life say about my time or me? 

    Thomas Barrow, American (1938 - ). FILMS, 1977. Photolithograph printed in color on paper. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:60-27

    Moyra Davey, Canadian (1958 - ). Untitled from 16 Photographs from Paris, 2009. Folded digital c-print with paper tape, postage, and ink. Purchased with the Dorothy C. Miller, class of 1925, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:19-14

    The fun in creating this exhibition was largely in the diversity of interpretations that we can apply to collage. Every artist brings his or her own ideas and experiences to each creation, ultimately benefitting us as viewers by opening our minds to the wealth of materials, subject matter, and methods that can create something jarring, beautiful, or confusing.

    I hope this exhibition and its strange, funny, and stunning selection of works surprises and inspires viewers. 


    beth fink - 27/02/2015

    Clutter and Collage exhibit

    I am interested in the ideas you have expressed here, Ms Page.
    I especially like the Ann Ryan collage, and I wish I could see the exhibit in person and
    Have a closer look at the layers and textures in these works of art.
    Very interesting collection!

    Add New

  • Tuesday, February 24, 2015

    An Old Man Mad About Art

    Guest blogger Anya Gruber is a Smith College student, class of 2016, with a major in Art History. She was a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    The painter Hokasai was given the name Katsushika Hokusai, but repeatedly reinvented himself by taking on new names throughout his life. Each time, these rebirths were followed by a renewed artistic style and spirit. When he was young and first started studying under the famous Japanese artist Katsukawa Shunshō, Hokusai called himself Shunrō, adopting the last letter of his master’s name. After adopting a half a dozen other names throughout his youth and middle age, he began to call himself Gakyōjin. Gakyōjin means ‘an old man mad about painting,’ a fitting epithet for an artist who was absorbed in perfecting his craft, and hardly ceased to continue learning and reinventing himself. 

    Hokusai was born in 1797 in Edo, a pastoral region of Japan, during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Nakajima Ise, a silver polisher, took a very young Hokusai under his wing. With the help of Nakajima, Hokusai found an assortment of different apprenticeships which apparently didn’t work out for him; by age 15, he moved out of the Nakajima household (though his adopted family remained very dear to him) and found himself working under Katsukawa Shunshō. Here, he mostly helped make portraits of the famous actors of the time. After fifteen years or so, the Katsukawa School began to lose prominence, and Hokusai left to continue making art on his own, and to illustrate novelettes. He began to intensely study a great variety of artistic traditions, including Dutch engravings. Hokusai’s interest in Western-style art had a great effect on his own work and set him apart from his contemporaries.

    Beginning in 1753, Hokusai produced many western-influenced pieces that mainly depict landscapes of his hometown, the rural and rugged Edo. Most of the works from this time are created with a perspective that is unusual for traditional Japanese art, and Hokusai employed characteristically European techniques, such as chiaroscuro, which is so closely associated with Renaissance art.

    The Cunningham Center has a number of Hokusai prints that exhibit Hokusai’s characteristic blend of East and West. The print below, entitled Suruga Street at Edo, comes from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji. Here, you can see how the sky in the background is softly shaded, and the mountain are stark but still natural-looking. Here, you can see how Hokusai uses on low view point, which was a very Western technique, rather than a more traditionally Japanese flat viewing plane.

    Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese (1760 - 1849). Suruga Street in Edo, the Mitsui Shop, No. 21 from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, ca. 1832. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Gift of Mrs. Arthur B. Schaffner in memory of Louise Stevens Bryant, class of 1908. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1959:268

    As he grew older, Hokusai became more and more prolific. He predicted in his autobiography that by the time he was an aged man‘each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own.’ By this, I think he meant that by devoting his entire life to his art, his work would be animated so much by his own passion, it would gain its own life. When he was seventy-four years old, he wrote that he thought that no works he produced before the age of seventy were any good; he pushed himself incessantly to become the best artist he could. He was rather an embodiment of the stereotypical artist, in fact; he was focused on his art, and his art only. He lived up to his name Gakyōjin, as he became rather eccentric, still changing his name and moving to new cities in a restless search of perfection. He prayed to live to at least one hundred years old and, in honor of that hope, he created a new seal which read ‘hyaju,’ or ‘one hundred.’ However, he passed away at the age of eighty-nine. Though his life had not spanned a century (as he had hoped), he left behind an incredible trove of artwork and is still renowned not only in Japan but throughout the world.

    Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese (1760 - 1849). Clear Weather, Southern Breeze (Gaifû Kaisei), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku Sanjûrokkei), 1831. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Barker (Margaret Clark Rankin, class of 1908). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1968:245