April 2, 2003
ART AT EVERY TURN
In Smith College's Newly
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Even the Restrooms Are Works of Art
Editor's note: Images of the
artist-designed restrooms are available. Contact Laurie Fenlason
at (413) 585-2190 or firstname.lastname@example.org. An online press kit
about the Brown Fine Arts Center, which includes the Smith College
Museum of Art, can be found at www.smith.edu/bfac.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- When the Smith
College Museum of Art reopens to the public on April 27, after
a two-year renovation and expansion, staff members expect "Where
are the restrooms?" -- one of the most commonly asked question
at museums -- to take on even greater significance, thanks to
a new pair of artist-designed and -installed restrooms that are
attracting wide attention.
"We're already receiving inquiries about these unusual works
of art and are exploring how to allow access to both the women's
and men's rooms," explains Curator of Paintings and Sculpture
The men's and women's rooms, created by noted artists Sandy Skoglund
and Ellen Driscoll, respectively, intentionally blur the boundaries
between form and function as well as personal and public space.
Located on the museum's lower level off an exhibition gallery,
the restrooms are permanent art installations that are part of
the museum's collection.
The Women's Room: "Catching
Driscoll's women's room, titled
"Catching the Drift," is a serene immersion in an underwater
world. With a predominant palette of shades of blue, the room
includes imagery drawn from Smith's distinguished art collection.
Set into the blue-tiled walls are glass panels finely etched
with images of protozoa, nets, waves and works of art. Fabricated
in Germany by the firm that created Driscoll's noted glass mosaic
murals for Grand Central Station in New York, the glass panels
are "translucent optical windows or doors into the watery
world beyond the architecture," Driscoll explains. The underwater
imagery is also echoed in the sinks and other fixtures.
The Men's Room: "Liquid Origins,
In contrast to Driscoll's blue
world of water, Skoglund's men's restroom is a visual blizzard
of black and white that Skoglund, who graduated from Smith in
1968, hopes will intrigue startled visitors into a closer look
at the images on each tile. Titled "Liquid Origins, Fluid
Dreams," the work features ten detailed drawings of stories
of transformation and creation from folklore from different cultures.
The tiles with these narrative images are repeated in a specific
pattern with other tiles containing drawings of large, tear-like
drops. The droplets are continued in the restroom fixtures, where
they enclose tiny human forms, a reference to a creation theme
from Egyptian mythology.
The Smith restroom project was inspired by the artist-designed
restrooms at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan,
Wis., directed by Ruth DeYoung Kohler, a 1963 Smith graduate
and recipient of the Smith Medal. Skoglund and Driscoll both
held residencies at the Kohler's Arts/Industry program, which
enabled them to have their unique designs fired onto restroom
fixtures in the large, industrial kilns at the Kohler Co. factory.
The museum restrooms are underwritten by a grant from the Kohler
Trust for the Arts and Education. In addition, Kohler Co. donated
all of the plumbing fixtures and fittings for the museum, art
department and art library, which jointly occupy the college's
new Brown Fine Arts Center.
In the fall, the museum's restrooms will be highlighted in an
exhibition about domestic spaces titled "Undomesticated
Interiors." This exhibition, which includes sculpture and
room-sized installations, will be accompanied by a second exhibition
titled "Photographing Undomesticated Interiors." The
shows will center on the theme of domestic interiors and implements,
as interpreted and imagined by a host of contemporary artists.
Featured in the "Undomesticated Interiors" show is
Sandy Skoglund's "Revenge of the Goldfish" installation,
a blue bedroom dream scene overrun by ceramic goldfish, which
was purchased by the museum after the artist's retrospective
at Smith in 1998.
When the museum reopens, the restrooms will not be the only new
works of functional art. A group of 11 commissioned fine-art
benches, primarily made of wood, by outstanding New England artists,
will be used in the galleries for seating. They will also be
featured in a special summer exhibition titled "Sit Up &
Take Notice! A Gathering of Artist Benches."
The renovation of the college's former art facilities began in
the fall of 2000, under the direction of Polshek Partnership
Architects of New York City. The $35-million renovation project
upgraded the entire 1972 building, including its art department,
art library and museum.
Following a grand reopening on April 27, the museum will be open
every day except Mondays and major holidays. The museum's hours
through May 25, 2003, are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9-5;
Wednesday, 9-9; Saturday, 9-5; Sunday, noon-5. For summer hours,
group tours, school tours or general information, call (413)
585-2760. Admission is free and open to the public. The Brown
Fine Arts Center is located at Elm Street and Bedford Terrace.
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Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the country.