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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, July 9, 2014

    Low and Slow

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Carlos Archuleta, Espanola, '66 Chevy from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-5

    In 1950s southern California, Mexican-Americans began to lower the suspension in their cars, bringing the vehicles closer to the ground. Unlike “hot-rodders” who customized for speed, their motto was “low and slow,” creating custom cars with personalized decoration with which they could cruise through the city streets. These vehicles, and the men who drove them, became known as “lowriders.”

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Paul, Annabelle, and Paula Medina, Chimayo, '68 Chevy Impala from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-2

    As lowrider culture flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, it became more than a shared interest, and grew to encompass a sense of belonging to Mexican-American communities. During periods of segregation and racial discrimination, lowrider clubs proudly displayed their pride in their Latina/o heritage. Catholic imagery, airbrushed portraits of family and girlfriends, and personal designs all reveal what was important to the community, and to the individual artists. Los Unidos, one lowrider club, (pictured below) took on the virgin of Guadalupe as their logo.

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Sammy Martinez and Los Unidos - Franke Maestas and Vangie Martinez, Leroy Martinez, Rob Garcia, Delfino Martinez, and Donaldo Valdez - Espanola '68 T-Bird, '66 Chevy Caprice, '70 Supersport, '56 Chevy, '62 Chevy, '49 Chevy from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-12

    It is this sense of community that Meridel Rubenstein captures in her photography series, The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico. In 1980, she took shots of drivers posed next to their brightly painted vintage cars. In her words, "These cars... are directly descended from a great tradition of Hispanic crafts. The outside of the car must be flamantito or clean. This means they must be perfectly spotless and waxed, and beautifully painted with either metal flake or pearl paint, pin-striped or lacquered with a mural and often a message."

    When David Jaramillo died in a car accident, his brothers took on the vintage car that he had been in the process of customizing, and spent thousands finishing the work he had started. The work, titled Dave's Dream, is a '60 Ford LTD with an image of Dave and his family. In Rubenstein's photograph, his widow and young son sit against the car, a testament to his memory and to family.

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Irene Jaramillo, San Juan Pueblo, '60 Ford LTD from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-3

    The women pictured in Rubenstein's portfolio are not pin-up girls in revealing outfits, but owners and partners in this culture. Particularly striking is Peggy Martinez with her '64 Chevy Two-Tone (pictured below). She sits in the driver’s seat, her head resting on her arms, looking straight at the viewer. Her gaze placid and proud.

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Peggy Martinez, Santa Cruz, '64 Chevy Two-Tone from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-6

    It’s this pride that permeates every image of “The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980.” Its clear that Rubenstein recognizes that the owners of these vehicles are artists in their own right, and she honors their work.

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Bennino Martinez, Chimayo, '64 Chevy from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-11

    Meridel Rubenstein, American b. 1948. Delano Whitney, Albuquerque, ' 70 Olds Cutlass from The Lowriders: Portraits from New Mexico, 1980. Ektacolor 74 print debossed on T. H. Saunders 100 percent rag paper. Purchased with the Madeleine H. Russell, class of 1937, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 2005:1-10

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  • Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Reinstall, Revive!

    The Museum Reinstallation & Reinterpretation Project is in full swing! Those of us in the prints room have been getting ready for even more change: we moved everything out of the way for our floors to be refinished. Here's a rare look into an empty Cunningham Center.

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  • Thursday, June 5, 2014

    St. Jerome in his Study

    Take a moment to examine these two prints.

    Albrecht Dürer, German (1471 - 1528). St. Jerome in His Study, 1514. Engraving printed in black on antique laid paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-48

    Johan Wierix, Flemish (ca. 1549 - after 1618), after Albrecht Dürer. Saint Jerome in His Study. Engraving on paper. Gift of Mrs. Charles Lincoln Taylor (Margaret Rand Goldthwait, class of 1921). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe.  SC 1992:25-31

    The first piece is an engraving titled St. Jerome in his Study, by the German master, Albrecht Dürer. The second looks almost exactly the same – but it’s not. In fact, it’s an exact copy of Dürer’s work by Johan Wierix.

    Despite his print’s remarkable similarity to Dürer’s own print, however, Johan Wierix was not attempting to trick anyone into mistaking his prints for Dürer’s actual work. Instead, his goal was much more innocuous – along with his brother Hieronymous, he was an apprentice learning how to engrave by copying a master’s work.  Like other young apprentices in the large Antwerp Print houses during the mid-16th century, the Wierix brothers learned from an early age how to engrave and to use the burin to create technical masterpieces.

    At the early ages of 12 and 16, respectively, Hieronymous and Johan could create technically perfect copies of the works of Dürer, and in the following centuries some unscrupulous dealers have even tried to pass off their work as originals. Careful examination reveals differences between the two, as you can see when you examine the window reflection below.

    Comparison detail of window reflection, both Durer (left) and Wierix (right)

    Although Wierix did his best to capture every detail, here his circles are not quite the same shape as those in the original. Art historians use records about these differences to identify prints and their makers accurately.

    As Wierix had no intention of passing off his own work as one by Dürer, he did not hesitate in signing his own piece, making the work of the curator that much easier.

    Detail of the signature of Johan Wierix

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