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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, December 17, 2014

    Art from Cape Dorset

    This post is part of a series about the growth of the print, drawing and photograph collection at Smith College. Contemporary Inuit Art is on view in the Works on Paper gallery (2nd floor) until April 2015.

    Tivi Etook (Inuit (1928 - ). A Story about Ekeagualuk, 1974. Stonecut on white paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Houston (Alice Watson, class of 1959). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1979:35-15

    The Cape Dorset printing workshop emerged from an unusual seed: a pack of cigarettes. In 1957 a Canadian artist, James Houston, lived on Baffin Island in Cape Dorset, the Canadian Eastern Arctic. To the Inuit group that lives there, Baffin Island is Kingnit, and they are the Kingnimuit. The Kingnit men and those from other Inuit groups in the area have a long tradition of carving miniature sculpture, often with intricate designs etched into the surface. They used the materials at hand - stone, ivory, bone – culled from the environment around them to make art.

    Oshaweetok (Inuit, 1923-2005). Hawk, 1955. Green stone. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Houston (Alice Watson, class of 1959). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1988:52-7

    That year, Houston was spending time with his friend Oshaweetok, an artist famous around Cape Dorset for his sophisticated stone carvings, such as this Hawk carved from green stone (above).

    Oshaweetok, also known as Osuitok Ipeelee, was examining the illustration on a pack of Player's cigarettes, an image of a sailor's head. As he studied each detail, he turned to Houston and said: "It must be very boring for someone to sit and paint each on like that."

    Houston was surprised. As he put it, "I just assumed he knew [about the process of printing], but I don't know why."

    Peter Aliknak (Inuit, 1928–1998). Sorcerer's Contest, 1966. Stonecut printed in black on ivory paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Houston (Alice Watson, class of 1959). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1979:35-12

    Houston's language skills were not up to the task of explaining the art form, so he decided to show it instead. Oshaweetok had a small ivory carving nearby. Houston borrowed it, and then grabbed some ink and a few sheets of onionskin paper. He spread the ink over the pattern on the carving, and lay the toilet paper down on top. The ink transferred, and left the incised design on the paper. The germ of a prints workshop was planted that night, and grew into a thriving cooperative that is still in operation.

    Helen Kalvak (Inuit, 1901–1984). Fate of a Caribou, 1967. Stonecut on ivory paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Houston (Alice Watson, class of 1959). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1979:35-11

    The Cunningham Center has a great collection of Inuit drawings and prints, thanks to a close connection: James Houston married Alice Watson, a Smith College graduate of the class of 1959.

    Kananginak Pootoogook (Inuit, 1935–2010). Eider Duck, 1962. Engraving on ivory wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Houston (Alice Watson, class of 1959). Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1979:35-9


  • Tuesday, December 9, 2014


    Guest blogger Janna Singer-Baefsky is a Smith College student, class of 2015, majoring in Art History with a Museums Concentration. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    Moyra Davey. Canadian (1958 - ). Untitled from 16 Photographs from  Paris, 2009. Folded digital c-print with paper and cellophane tape, postage, and ink. Purchased with the Dorothy C. Miller, class of 1925, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2010:19-4

    When I was eleven, my parents took our family to Paris. The excitement was palpable; other than the occasional trip to Toronto to visit family, I had never flown this far before. I did not know what to expect. Would it be the romanticized world of baguettes, cheese, and art that I had dreamed about or would my imagination let me down? From the moment I stepped off the plane, Paris did not disappoint. She was everything I had dreamed about and more. This was a city alive – everyone was going somewhere, doing something. Paris was the first city I fell in love with. When we boarded the plane to go home, it was pouring rain. It was a sign that Paris was going to miss me as much as I was going to miss her – I promised myself I would go back.

    About ten years later, I boarded a plane in Heathrow. Destination: Charles de Gaulle Airport. My best friend from high school was studying in Paris while I was studying in Oxford. It would be a reunion with both my loves.

    I began my first day in the Louvre and ended it in the Musée d’Orsay café, sipping a small cup of coffee. When I look at Moyra Davey’sUntitled from 16 Photographs from Paris, I am brought right back to that moment. I can smell the faint mixture of cigarettes and floral perfumes. I can hear the conversations of couples, tourists, and school children. I can taste the rich, bitter, perfectly brewed cup of coffee.

    The composition is simple and elegant, much like the city. The cup and spoon are in focus and everything else – the open sugar packet, the table top – are blurred into the background. To me, it is a metaphor for the singular moment of consumption, when all the troubles and stress of the day also fade into the background as one stops to enjoy a simple cup of coffee.  This photograph captures what is, perhaps, the most beautiful thing about Paris. It is an environment conducive to pausing, reflecting, and enjoying life’s most basic pleasures.

    I now make a habit of enjoying a cup of tea or coffee every day to give myself a necessary moment to pause. It is something I had forgotten to do for many years until I was reminded by an afternoon in a café and an unassuming photograph. I have fallen in and out of love with many cities over the years, but I’ll always have Paris.


    Dr. Stanley Workman - 18/02/2015

    Cleveland, America's Paris

    Check out the Cleveland artist being hailed as the daVinci of this, the digital age, Marc Breed. Creator of the psychedelic peace symbol, male exotic dance pioneer, filmmaker to two of the highest grossing adult films of all-time, civil and first amendment rights advocate, and if that weren't enough, he readily admits to having escaped from one of America's most secure prisons (his golem remains in the prisons archive).And to boot, he has a testedI.Q. Of 152

    Renee - 09/12/2014


    Thank you, Janna! Beautifully done.

    Zak - 09/12/2014

    Interesting Post!

    thoughtful post, thanks!

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  • Thursday, December 4, 2014


    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 Emily Kim '15 discusses her show “ALWAYS CONTAINER, SOMETIMES CONTAINED” which will be on view FRIDAY, December 5 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you here!

    Chester J. Michalik, American (1935 - ). Untitled (Las Vegas), 1983. Color photograph on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:28-2

    Architecture today is often seen less as an art form and more as articulated spaces tailored to human needs.  It can be hard to see the beauty in a glass curtain wall skyscraper or a cookie-cutter motel when compared to, say, a Van Gogh. 

    Juan Laurent, French (1816 - 1892). Interior of the Mosque Cordova, ca. 1860s. Albumen print in bound photograph album. Purchased with Hillyer-Tryon-Mather Fund, with funds given in memory of Nancy Newhall (Nancy Parker, class of 1930) and in honor of Beaumont Newhall, and with funds given in honor of Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1982:38-1224

    But being able to find and capture the beauty of a seemingly generic space is an art in and of itself.  Architecture is (or if not, should be) first and foremost about functionality.  That being said it is still an art form - an outlet for creative minds to rethink how we live our everyday lives and how we can improve them.

    Unknown artist after Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese. Storm, early 20th century. Woodcut printed in color on paper. Bequest of Henry L. Seaver. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1976:54-461

    Always Container, Sometimes Contained attempts to celebrate “the box” as an art piece, a stimulating and intriguing ode to something often thought of as a simple "container."