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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.

  • Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Reinstallation & Reinterpretation

    The Works-On-Paper Gallery, 2nd floor
    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    Summers at the Smith College Museum of Art are usually tranquil, but this summer we've been busy with Phase I of one huge project: the Reinstallation and Reinterpretation of the permanent collection! It all started when our director and chief curator, Jessica Nicoll, decided that the Museum's walls needed a fresh coat of paint (after all, it had been over ten years since the opening of the new building). As all the art would need to come down from the walls anyway, she realized that it was a great chance to look at the collection in a new light.

    For the past two years, we've been discussing and planning just how to do that. It's a two-part process: this summer, we focused on the second and third floor galleries, where we house works spanning ancient Egypt through eighteenth-century Europe. Next summer we'll renovate the lower level and first floor of the Museum.

    Aprile Gallant, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, hangs a work with Stephanie Sullivan, Assistant Preparator
    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    For those of us in the Cunningham Center, the Reinstallation is an opportunity to bring even more prints, drawings and photographs out to the public. On the second floor, in the works-on-paper gallery, we will have a show about the origins of the Museum's paper collection, with art from professors, alumnae, students, clubs, and everyone else who planted the seeds of the Cunningham Center.

    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    Photography by Henriette Kets de Vries

    Displaying paper can be tricky: too much light damages photographs, prints and drawings relatively quickly, so these works cannot be in the galleries as long as a painting or a statue. Limiting their exposure to light is essential.

    Still, we wanted to bring even more artworks on paper into the permanent galleries. Our solution: works-on-paper cabinets with drawers, so that visitors can open and see the art themselves.

    A Works-On-Paper cabinet on the second floor

    The art in the cabinets will build on the ideas and themes of nearby art on the walls on the second and third floors. They will change once or twice a year, so even more paper-based objects can be seen by visitors.

    The second and third floors will both be open to the public tomorrow, September 12th. We can't wait for you to see it yourself, and we look invite you to share your comments via the new Visitor Survey area on the second floor!

    Read more about the Reinstallation project on the Grécourt Gate, news and events for the Smith College community: Gallery Redesign at Smith College Museum of Art Puts Collection in a 'New Light'

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  • Tuesday, September 2, 2014

    YOUR art, YOUR vision

    Nan Goldin, American (1953 - ). CZ and Max on the Beach, Truro, Mass, 1976 negative; 1996 print. Cibachrome. Purchased with the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund, in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2005:41

    It's time again for the Student Picks sweepstakes! Every year, the Smith College Museum of Art invites six Smithies to curate their own individual exhibition, using actual art from the real Museum collection. There's no application - the winners are chosen by lottery, entirely by chance. All you need to do to enter is submit your name into a Student Picks ballot box.

    Barbara Morgan, American (1900 - 1992). Martha Graham, Letter to the World, 1940 negative; 1976 print. Gelatin silver print. Purchased with the gift of the National Endowment for the Arts. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1977:28-19

    Do I have to be an art history major? Nope! In fact, you don't need any experience with art at all -- the Museum staff will help you every step of the way. 

    What art can I use? We will help you chose art from the Museum's collection of over 18,000 works on paper. It's a really diverse group: from Salvador Dali-designed Playing Cards to Japanese-inspired Mary Cassatt prints to probing contemporary photographs such as Cass Bird's I Look Just Like My Mommy. There are endless possibilities and themes to explore.

    Cass Bird. American, born 1974. I Look Just Like My Mommy,2005. C-print. Purchased. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe. © 2011 Cass Bird. SC 2011:41-1

    What does a Student Picks show look like? Last year, the Museum hosted a slew of exciting, engaging, very personal Student Picks shows, all organized by Smith students. Amelia Yeoh Jia Min '17 put on Human Connections - Manifestations of the Mundane, her exhibition about the way artists depict the ordinary and the personal. You can read more about her show here, in Amelia's own words.

    Visitors at "Human Connections," curated by Amelia Yeoh Jia Min '17

    For her show Soulful Rebellion, Kenny Clarke '17 showcased graffiti art, and graffiti-inspired art, in the Museum collection. An artist herself, she created spray-painted labels with psychedelic colors for each piece of art. You can read more about her show here, in Kenny's own words.

    Kenny Clarke '17 with her friends at "Soulful Rebellion"

    Feeling inspired? You can enter the sweepstakes yourself! Find ballot boxes in all the libraries on campus (that's Neilson, Hillyer, Young AND Josten) as well as the Campus Center, lower level, and the Museum Lobby! Any Smith student can put her name in as many times as she wants - until the sweepstakes ends on September 15, that is. We'll keep our fingers crossed for you!

    Ballot box in action

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  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Kin

    “I’m not particularly interested in making paintings. I’m not particularly interested in making drawings or that whole dialogue. But the fact that I’m doing this with my hand, and that it’s a hand-drawn image, is very important to me. I love the act of drawing. Of course I love drawings and paintings. But in my current work I’m mostly interested in the people and the imagery, so that my drawings are more in service to the imagery than being about ‘drawing.’ I do gain a lot personally from examining those old photos. A lot of that comes from my background, and my father having been a self-taught photographer. Most of the earliest imagery that I looked at was of his photographs. He did a lot of family portraits.”

     – Whitfield Lovell [Source]

    Whitfield Lovell. American, b. 1959. Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind), 2008. Conté crayon on paper with  barbed wire. Purchased with the Dorothy C. Miller, class of 1925, Fund. SC 2008:58

    Seeing Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind) in person is so different than seeing it as an image on a computer. I wish I could take you into the Cunningham Center and show you this drawing right now. Since the work is three-dimensional, Lovell encased the entire piece in a black box frame; it takes up a lot of space, projecting out from the wall. When you look at it directly, you’re really looking into a box, and it takes up all your peripheral vision. There’s a sense of being absorbed, or surrounded.

    Shadow suddenly plays a major role when you look at Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind) in person, too. Not only does the box frame create its own shadow on the wall, increasing its physical presence, but it casts a shadow on the drawing of the woman’s face. Likewise, the barbed wire has its own shadow, making it seem larger than it is. On some level, the work changes at every location, based on the lighting in every different gallery.

     

    Detail from Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind)

    There are subtle details that are difficult to make out on a computer screen as well. When you look closely, you can see the light impression of a shirt color, fading into the blank background. Lovell has drawn delicate, light flyaway hairs emerging from the woman’s tightly coiffed hair. These small, meticulous additions speak to Lovell’s incredible skill and attention to detail.

    Detail from Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind)

    Detail from Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind)

    The barbed wire is rusted and old. Lovell doesn’t shy away from loaded symbolism, and so it immediately reminds me of the crown of thorns that biblical tradition says Jesus wore on the cross. Such an association conjures up suffering and sacrifice. In conjunction with her worried expression, the effect is disturbing. Does the barbed wire refer to some earth-shattering event in her life? Is it a reference to her personality somehow? Could it relate to the persistent pain of racism, both historical and present, which she faces as a black woman?

    The title, Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind), only complicates these ideas. Kin implies connection and relationships, even family. As this work is part of a much larger series, it makes me wonder about the connection between each piece. The statement Run Like the Wind could be a command or a description. Typically, barbed wire is used to prevent people from entering or leaving a place, and it contrasts sharply with the freedom that running implies.

    Like all of Lovell’s works, this piece provokes more questions than it answers. This ambiguity, coupled with the sheer physicality of the work, creates a piece that sticks in your mind long after you see it. 

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