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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.

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    Three Songs of Devotion

    Guest blogger Thalia Berard is a Smith College student, class of 2015, majoring in Art History. 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.

    Nusra Latif Qureshi, Pakistani (1973 - ). Three Songs of Devotion, 2002. Gouache on wasli paper with tan-colored paper frame. Purchased with the Janice Carlson Oresman, class of 1955, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2004:5

    Born in Lahore, the capital city of Pakistan, Nusra Latif Qureshi studied classic miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore. In 2001, she immigrated to Australia to continue her studies postgraduate at the Victorian College of the Arts at University of Melbourne, where she continues to work as an artist today. Qureshi’s work is built both on the traditional Mughal painting style she honed in Lahore and her own contemporary painting style born from her studies in Melbourne.

    Three Songs of Devotion represents her earlier work, as it is dated to 2002, a year after Qureshi immigrated to Melbourne. Her perspective of being both Middle East-born and immigrant has led to her using well-known symbols from South Asian and Middle Eastern art combined with her own boldly minimal style to illustrate the difficulties she’s faced in crossing cultures and identities.

    Detail of female figure

    In addition to studying miniature painting in Pakistan, Lahore also studied the technique in India, inspiring her to adopt Hindu cultural motifs into her works. Gardens of Desire II, for instance, depicts two such Hindu divinities, lovers Radha and Krishna, by referencing an eighteenth century Hindu painting Krishna and Radha in a Pavilion.

    Detail of bird drawings

    While Three Songs of Devotion may not make as direct a reference, Qureshi’s choice to represent the male figure as a basic outline and the female figure in detail calls into question traditional gender roles in Mughal painting, a field typically dominated by men, by showcasing the woman in the painting. The overlay of line drawings recalls the British colonization of India, as the British were instructed to record and document native Indian plants and wild life. The angelic figures take the reference to Western invasion one step further, harkening back to putti that populated European Renaissance paintings.

    Detail showing putti

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  • Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    Hippolyte Arnoux

    Guest blogger Clementine Hamelin is a Smith College student, class of 2015, majoring in both Architecture and Geosciences. 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.

    Hippolyte Arnoux, French (active c. 1865). Photograph #1021 from Photographs of Egypt, no date. Albumen print mounted on paperboard. Transferred from Hillyer Arts Library. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1999:23-1ii

    The French photographer Hippolyte Arnoux, who documented the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt, is also known for his ‘ethnographic portraits’ of women often representing fake sultanas.

    The woman in the foreground is dressed with loose and light ornamented clothing, her face is partially covered by a transparent veil. It is greatly possible that the model is not herself Egyptian, underlining the effort to create an illusionistic, exoticized and fantasized image of Middle-Eastern women through on orientalist, colonialist – and literal photographic – lens that is characterized by a fascination for the ‘exotic’ orient.

    Detail of photograph

    The theme of the gaze is an interesting one – the model appears to be looking at herself in the mirror but is in reality looking at the mirror at an angle that makes it appear that she is directly looking at the photographer. She is made into an object to be seen by others – for the male gaze of the photographer, that of the West on the East, as the photographer objectifies and sexualizes the middle-eastern female body through this portrait and technique, which is of course not an accurate representative of the culture that he is representing.

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  • 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.

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