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.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Guest blogger Kendyll Gross was a 2012 participant in the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies at Smith College. She also served as the 2012 Brown SIAMS Fellow, which offers one SIAMS student a four-week internship in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
The Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies class of 2012 at the opening reception for Outside the [Box].Photograph by Julie Warchol.
When I was accepted into the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS)program, I could wrap my mind around the weekly readings and writing assignments, the extensive traveling, and the career exploration days we would be doing. However, I could not fully grasp the concept of putting on an exhibition in only six weeks, something that usually takes years of planning and work. It was not until I set foot in the museum’s Nixon gallery for the first time that the imminence of our exhibition seemed so real. It was exciting to see the objects that we could include in our show, but it was also overwhelming knowing how much work we had to do in so little time.
Our class of fifteen was divided into three groups of five: Curatorial, Education, and Design and Public Presentation. After choosing thirty-three pieces, Curatorial was then faced with the challenge of weaving together these diverse objects into a single theme. How would we tie together a twentieth-century W. Eugene Smith photograph with an eighteenth-century French snuff box? The Master ZBM print, Pandora’s Box or An Allegory of Les Sciences qui Éclairent l'esprit de l'homme (The Sciences that Illuminate the Human Spirit),was a great inspiration for our theme. The myth of Pandora’s Box has popularized the notion of the box as an object of curiosity as it conceals its contents from the viewer. We wanted our exhibition to challenge the idea of what a box was by evoking a dialogue between objects from diverse cultures and time periods in a respectful manner. Just like Pandora, we wanted our audience to be fascinated by our boxes and to question them - to truly think outside the [box].
With our theme and object checklist established, it was time for Design and Public Presentation and Education to make the gallery come alive. Design and Public Presentation were responsible for the overall design of the show and the marketing materials, choosing a color scheme that would complement the objects, organizing the layout of the gallery, and installing the art. As a member of the Education team, I worked closely with fellow classmates to create the didactic materials for outside the [box].We did not want the labels to dominate the viewer’s experience, so we mixed a few extensive labels of varying lengths with short “tombstones” labels. We also refrained from using words and concepts that appeared too academic. An alcove within the gallery serves as a place for families to reflect upon what they see in the exhibition. It also gives them the chance to tack sticky notes on the museum’s wall while reading an adorable story about a bunny with a grand imagination. While the introductory wall text sets the tone of the exhibition, the kids’ pamphlet and audio tour serve as guides to help the audience interact with the show.
It was an honor to work with such an enthusiastic and bright group as a part of the SIAMS class of 2012. Together, we constructed an entire exhibition from scratch in six weeks, utilizing each other and our resourceful SCMA mentors for guidance and support. We truly hope that the Northampton community will enjoy our show as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Outside the [Box]is on view in the Nixon gallery until September 30, 2012. Read more about the exhibition here.
This installation shot features works by Larry Bell, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp, and many others. Photograph by Julie Warchol.
SCMA staff members check out works by Claes Oldenburg, Max Peckstein, and Jane Hammond. Photograph by Julie Warchol.
The Education alcove space, where visitors can create and post their own responses to the show. Photograph by Julie Warchol.
out of the [box] and SIAMS 2012
Can you imagine living and working with 16 total strangers for six summer weeks? : through sickness and health, richer and poorer, heat and cold, Lamont and Hillyer, Hubbard and hiking Mount Holyoke? Not only to live, learn, and travel together with all that it implies, but to develop a full exhibition project together in a very short time frame?
The Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies Class of 2012 was the “sure, we can do that” class; the “not a problem” class; they had together a great can-do attitude. But they had much much more than positive attitude; each one is extremely smart and deeply thoughtful. They both taught and learned from each other just as their four teachers have taught and learned from them.
But this class of strangers came together particularly to ‘protect and honor’ their boxes, the objects which you may see at the Smith College museum in their show “out of the [box]”. They united in their recognition that the objects in the show -- which originate from all around the globe and from many cultural traditions -- should be allowed to tell their own stories and not to have their heritage consumed by an overly didactic organizing theme. That intelligent respect for the boxes, and for each other, is what we mean by ‘protect and honor’.
One participant succinctly summed up the impact of the SIAMS program: “How could I explain that we didn’t do it for the final destination?” So yes, DO imagine living and working for six weeks with total strangers because quite quickly you find, as they did, a common creative purpose and become friends and colleagues.
Thanks to everyone, and to Kendyll Gross and Julie Warchol for their posts, Marion Goethals, Director, SIAMS
Taming of a Garden
Is a gallery boundless? Due to the free form aestheticism of its composition, one would guess so. Yet this characteristic is often overlooked; and by many art exhibitioners, may even be denied.
A gallery is a living collection of artistic specimens. Carefully crafted by an artist, each art piece is enveloped in its own aura. Like a seed, each piece waits for its surface to be scratched by the gallery's viewership. With more visitors, more activity, the gallery starts to come alive.
Galleries' pieces take root in their respective places. They grow, develop an aesthetic presence which, overtime, become interwoven in that of the other works.
Once established, a gallery is its own garden; a box, if you will, whose own dynamic aura interchanges with the particular environment it is suited to. But like every garden, there is a gardener. Who picks out the pieces, arranges them, has an often intuitive sense of which will grow well near what. The success of the box is dependent on this gardener, yet, need only be fed resources once it has blossomed and been enriched by the feet, breath, and energy of its visitorship.
However, the SIAMS gallery is anything but boxed by the planks of a single mind, the masonry of a set of hands. Still groomed, still intricately arranged and planted, it is not wild. But is it boundless? I would argue yes, and rightfully so.
The SIAMS participants have given way to nature of the gallery-creating process. Their exhibit holds a respect for the erection of these five pillars: Curation, Education, and Design and Public Presentation; which uphold the institution of formalized human aestheticism. With ripe and ever vigorous professionalism, depth has been given to the notion, "out of the box".
For this, I offer the utmost esteem and gratitude for Ms. Kendyll Gross and the rest of the SIAMS class of 2012.
Your work will and should be remembered. Good luck with your future endeavors, though from here they appear very bright.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Did you know...?
The Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs is an incredible resource for groups and individuals interested in viewing works on paper in an intimate environment. Housed within the Smith College Museum of Art, the Cunningham Center allows visitors to experience direct, close encounters with prints, drawings, and photographs. Our collectionincludes over 16,000 works on paper dating anywhere from the 15th century to the present, and the number is constantly growing as we acquire new works! Visiting the Museum is just seeing the tip of the iceberg; prints, drawings, and photographs comprise over 70% of the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection.
This blog is our virtual tool with which we can share highlights from our collection of works on paper, as well as behind-the-scenes experiences of those who work in or visit the Cunningham Center. The best way to access our extraordinary collection is, however, to come visit us in person! We strongly encourage allvisitors – individuals or groups; art enthusiasts; families; students, scholars, and classes of any level or discipline.
The Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs is open by appointment Tuesday-Friday from 10 AM – 4 PM, year-round. You are invited schedule a time to view specific prints, drawings, and photographs of your choosing which can be found using our online database(make sure you specify that you are searching the Smith College collection in the drop-down menu). To make an appointment, or for further information, please call 413.585.2764 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We, the staff of the Cunningham Center, hope you will take this amazing opportunity to discover, explore, and personally engage with our collection!
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Japan and Photography in the 19th-Century
When American Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed in Yokohama, Japan in 1854, the country had been in a state of isolation for over 200 years. Wary of the influences of Western civilizations, the island nation sought to preserve its culture and autonomy by shutting out the rest of the world, beginning in 1635. This era of Japanese history is known as the Edo or Tokugawa Period, when Japan was a feudal society, ruled by daimyo(lords), shoguns(generals), and samurai(aristocratic warriors). In 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate was overthrown and a traditional monarchy was reinstated, beginning the period known as the Meiji Restoration, after the ruling Emperor Meiji. After re-opening its gates to the world, Japan was in a state of rapid modernization and Westernization, which were considered synonymous at times.
Photography, a modern invention, was introduced to Japan in the 1850s. (The first datable photographs taken in Japan were shot in 1854 by daguerreotypist Eliphalet Brown, Jr., who accompanied Commodore Perry on his expedition.) Originally met with widespread hostility and resistance, it was not until the 1860s that photography grew in popularity. The Japanese word for “photograph” is shashin,meaning “reproducing reality” – a translation that is only partially true. There was a significant Western market for tourist photographs of Japan, particularly since no foreigners were previously able to enter the country for hundreds of years. These photographs were often contrived, exoticized images of feudal Japan, sold as both landscapes and studio portraits of “native types.” However realistic or not they actually were, these photographs are fascinating documents of an antiquated, romantic view into a culture that was changing at breakneck speed.
Felice A. Beato. British, born Italy, ca. 1825 – ca. 1904. Samurai of the Satsuma Clan,ca. 1868. Albumen print with hand coloring. Purchased with the 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. SC 1982:38-2 (31)
The most well-known and influential photographer in 19th-century Japan was actually not Japanese at all. Felice Beato was an Italian-British photographer who worked in Japan from 1863 until 1884. His photographic albums are unique visual documents of the last years of the country’s feudal period, 1865-68. His work was hugely influential to all subsequent 19th-century Japanese photography, particularly with his albumen prints which were hand-colored by Japanese artists. Many of these artists were formerly employed by coloring woodblocks for the production of ukiyo-eprints; Beato photographed one such painter from his studio (see below). (Click hereto see Amanda Shubert’s discussion of this popular art form, which photography supplanted in popularity in the second half of the 19th-century.) Beato’s work is closely related to the ukiyo-etradition in production and aesthetics; his studio portraits of geisha and tradespeople are quite unlike the picturesque and sentimentalized commercial photographs of his time.
Felice A. Beato. British, born Italy, ca. 1825 – ca. 1904. The Belle of the Period,ca. 1868. Albumen print with hand coloring mounted on cream colored paperboard. Purchased with the 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. SC 1982:38-2 (13)
Felice A. Beato. British, born Italy, ca. 1825 – ca. 1904. Our Painter,ca. 1868. Albumen print with hand coloring. Purchased with the 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. SC 1982:38-2 (45)
Baron Raimund von Stillfried
Felice Beato’s legacy was carried on by his contemporary competitor, Baron Raimund von Stillfried, an Austrian nobleman. From 1871 until 1885, Stillfried lived and worked in Yokohama, the largest city for exporting photographs, where Beato also had his studio. He was the first European photographer to use Japanese apprentices. Stillfried’s most famous photographic album, Views and Costumes of Japan,includes the last depictions of samurai warriors taken before they were no longer allowed by law to wear their topknot hairstyle or carry swords, symbols of their aristocratic status which was dismantled with demise of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Baron R. von Stillfried. Austrian, 1839 – 1911. Three Japanese ladies with hands entwined,1875-1885. Albumen print with hand coloring. Purchased with the 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. SC 1982:38-1014
Baron R. von Stillfried. Austrian, 1839 – 1911. Portrait: Old Beggar,1875-1885. Albumen print with hand coloring. Purchased with the 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. SC 1982:38-1016
One of Stillfried’s Japanese apprentices was Kusakabe Kimbei, who became a commercial photographer with his own studio in Yokohama. His and Stillfried’s photographs are instilled with a psychological sense of their subjects that is lacking in the work of Beato. While he worked in relative obscurity during his lifetime, Kimbei is now one of the most renowned Japanese photographers of the 19th-century. Pictured below are works by Kimbei which the Smith College Museum of Art acquired recently.
Kusakabe Kimbei. Japanese, 1841 – 1934. Umbrella Maker,1880s. Albumen print with hand coloring. Purchased with the fund in honor of Charles Chetham. SC 2011:31-1
Kusakabe Kimbei. Japanese, 1841 – 1934. Vegetable Pedler,1890. Albumen print with hand coloring. Purchased with the fund in honor of Charles Chetham. SC 2011:31-2
I am grateful to Smith College Museum and the Cunningham Center for the inspiration to recognize the value of this work and to pursue purchase of it.