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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 19, 2013

    Student Picks Highlights

    The Student Picks Sweepstakes ends tomorrow, September 20, and soon six students will win the chance to curate their own exhibitions in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. To celebrate the new year of student exhibitions, we’re highlighting pictures and blog posts from past Student Picks shows.

    If you could get your hands on the art at the Museum, what would you do? For the past six years, Smith students have answered this question with one-day art exhibitions, through the Student Picks exhibition program. Each month, one student curator has the opportunity to organize an exhibition in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs,using art that intrigues, excites and inspires her.

    Visitors check out last year's show Between the Lines: Image and Prose in the 20th Century Avant-Garde,curated by Leah Santorine SC '13. Photography by Julie Warchol.

    A visitor looks closely at art from Between the Lines.Photography by Julie Warchol.

    Students from all majors and departments have become curators through Student Picks. Some have years of art history classes under their belts, while others have never set foot in a museum before. What all our student curators share is enthusiasm and a fresh perspective on the collection of over 13,000 works on paper in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

    Amanda Garcia SC '16 focused on French fashion in her show, From Tissot to Toulouse-Lautrec - Fashion Focus in 19th-century French Art.Photography by Julie Warchol.

    As Lori E. Harris SC AC '11, who curated the show Women, Woodblock Prints and Words,put it: “Student Picks is a unique and progressive concept. I would argue that it is one of the few programs on campus that brings together students from every discipline and gives them an opportunity to integrate their academic interest with art.”

    Suzu Sakai ’16 displayed her own handmade miniature kimonos alongside Japanese prints in her show Beauty by Design - The Art of Japanese Kimono.Photography by Julie Warchol.

    Japanese prints featuring kimonos from Beauty By Design.Photography by Julie Warchol.

    The lottery for Student Picks ends tomorrow, September 20. If you want to be one of the six student curators this year, it’s your last chance to enter your name in the ballot boxes found in Neilson Library, Young Library, Hillyer Library, the Museum Lobby and the lower level of the Campus Center.


  • Thursday, September 12, 2013

    A Look at SCMA's Digitization Project

    Guest blogger Kate Kearns is the Collections Management Imaging Project Coordinator for the recently finished digitization project at the Smith College Museum of Art.

    Stephen Petegorsky (right) digitally photographs each work of art. The image is then sent to Jim Gipe (left) who checks the image for color accuracy, makes adjustments as necessary, and creates the final master tiff file and jpeg access file. On the easel: Sarah Charlesworth. American, 1947-2013 Guerrilla Piece, June 4, 5, 1979,1979 Photostat, 24 x 16 in. Photo by Lynne Graves

    The Smith College Museum of Art has just completed a two-year digitization project, funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The ultimate goal of the project was to create a comprehensive and accessible digital image archive of the museum's collection. This entailed professionally photographing each work of art, color correcting each image, and creating an archival master file as well as access files. The images are made available for academic use to the Smith College community via the college's LUNA image database, and are also made available to scholars and the general public beyond Smith through ARTstor and the Five College Consortium's online collections portal.

    Every six weeks or throught the course of the project, photographers Stephen Petegorsky and Jim Gipe would set up shop in the Museum's collection storage area, where they photographed a few hundred works of art over the course of a five-day session. As Project Coordinator, my role was to compile a list of works to be photographed, gather the pieces in advance of each session, and keep everything running smoothly while the photographers were on site. When we needed to photograph works of art that are particularly fragile or unwieldy, or that had to be unframed, our installation team of Stephanie Sullivan and Bill Myers stepped in to help. 

    With digitization of painting and sculpture completed, we took over the Cunningham Center for our final photography session in June so that we could photograph drawings, prints, and photographs that are stored framed. Most of SCMA’s works on paper are stored unframed in archival boxes, and generally they are among the easiest objects to digitize. However nearly 200 pieces on our photography list were framed, and many of these are particularly fragile and/or oversized. This made them considerably more challenging to digitize. Wherever possible we try to unframe works of art for photography, so that we can get a clear, unobstructed view of the entire sheet or canvas. 

    Kate Kearns (left) and Stephanie Sullivan (right) un-frame works on paper for digitization. Photo by Lynne Graves.

    Unframing and then reframing works on paper is an incredibly time consuming process, and must be done with great care to avoid damaging the artwork. Stephanie and I spent many hours in the weeks leading up to the photography session reviewing our list, examining each piece, trying to anticipate where we might run into trouble. In some cases, with particularly large and fragile pieces, we decided that it was simply too risky to try to unframe them. This meant having to photograph the pieces through Plexiglas, which can be pretty tricky, but Stephen and Jim were up to the task.

    The usually quiet and peaceful Cunningham Center was upended for the better part of two weeks, as photography equipment was wheeled in and frames were laid out on every available surface. I have a feeling the Cunningham Center staff didn't quite realize what they were getting into when they agreed to let us take over their space. However they did enjoy the chance to see some of the pieces outside of their frames for the first time, and we managed to unearth a few things that they’d never seen before. With over 16,000 works on paper in the collection, only a tiny fraction can ever be on view at any given time. Making digital images of these pieces available will go a long way toward making the collection more accessible, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see some of these long-hidden treasures making an appearance in the galleries some time soon!

    For another peek into what past digitization efforts have revealed, read photographer Jim Gipe's blog post about the Salvador Dali playing cardsthat he found deep in storage.


  • Thursday, September 5, 2013

    Native American Tribe Culture in Psychedelic Art

    Guest blogger Emma Casey is a Smith College student, class of 2015, majoring in Spanish. She is the 2011-2013 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    Alton Kelley; Stanley Mouse. American, Kelley, 1940 – 2008; Mouse, born 1940. Second Tribal Stomp Annual,1967. Screenprint printed in color on paper. Purchased. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:38-17

    In my research for the current exhibition Summer of Love: Psychedelic Posters from the SCMA Collection,I came across an interesting undertone motivating counterculturists in 1960s America: tribe culture. The disaffection of these typically white, affluent youth was evident in hostility towards organization, industrial-era technology, and the monotonous suburban lives of their parents’ generation. They tended to embody their rebellion by means of an imagined traditional Native American tribe society. They started communes and adopted a tribal identity that was in a sense falsely honorary and misleading. The 1960s communes glorified Native American life and negated their long history of societal discrimination and racism.

    Rick Griffin. American, 1944 – 1991. PowWow: A Gathering of the Tribes,1967. Screenprint printed in color on paper. Purchased. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:38-47

    Native imagery was also adopted into the art world, and is used in several posters in the collection, promoting human be-ins and rock concerts. These elements are explicitly represented in Rick Griffin’s 1967 poster PowWow: A Gathering of the Tribes(pictured above), advertising the ‘Human Be-In’ held in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco on January 14th, 1967, which attracted over 20,000 attendees. This event fused literary figures (Allen Ginsberg), advocates of consciousness-expanding drugs (Timothy Leary), and popular musicians with the general public to take a stand against recently implemented drug legislation and discontent with US involvement in the Vietnam War. The scale of organization required of this event showed a shared commitment to consciousness both at a personal and larger, political level. I’m not sure how well the Native American man riding the horse illustrates this goal of reclaiming America for the collective good, as it excludes the population it’s portraying.

    The graphic posters are eye-catching, and encourage an impressive level of spiritual collectivism, but I think that the images’ socio-historical implications should be kept in mind.

    Rick Griffin. American, 1944 – 1991. Untitled,1967. Screenprint printed in black on paper. Purchased. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2011:38-46

    Want to learn more about Summer of Love before it closes on September 15th? Come to SCMA's Second Friday event tomorrow to hear a Gallery talk by Steve Waksman, Associate Professor of Music and American Studies at Smith College and dedicated scholar of rock and pop.