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Now everyone is an insider!

In order to provide an open forum for ALL of the museum’s collection and activities, the Paper + People blog is being renamed SCMA Insider. With its expanded focus, SCMA Insider will act as a go-to place for sharing information on the diverse collections and many voices and visions that shape SCMA.

If you want to contribute to the blog, please contact the Brown Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow, Shanice Bailey, at

  • Wednesday, January 29, 2014

    Tell your ART STORY

                 President McCartney views paintings in the permanent collection of the Museum of Art.

    This past semester, the Smith College community welcomed our new president, Kathleen McCartney, with open arms. The Museum celebrated her recent inauguration with ART STORIES, a special exhibition featuring art that has left a lasting impression on the widespread Smith community.

    We received stories from faculty and staff, alumnae and students. Highlighted here are select stories about works on paper, usually housed in the Cunningham Center.

    Andy Warhol – Vote McGovern

    Andy Warhol. American (1930 - 1987). Vote McGovern, 1972. 16-color screen print on Arches 88 paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1973:6

    From Jean K. Dudek, Smith College class of 1979: “‘Vote McGovern’ is a portrait of Richard Nixon. It is not, shall we say, flattering. His face is green. Julie Nixon is an alumna from the class of 1970, before this work was created. I wonder if any other father of a Smithie has his portrait in the Smith College Museum of Art.”

    “Monsters” exhibition

    From Haley Crockett, Smith College student, class of 2015: “This past January term I worked as a teacher's aide as part of a Hampshire course called K-12 Teaching Pre-practicum. I worked in 9th and 10th grade English and writing classrooms. The 9th grade students had an assignment to compare works of art, and the teacher I was working with, Ms. Strauss, allowed me to choose the works in the museum that the student would compare.”

    Justin Lieberman. American (1977 - ). Candles, 2012. Ink, watercolor, marker and collage on very thick, rough, white paper. Gift of Suzi Schiffer Parrasch, class of 1982, and Franklin Parrasch on the occassion of her 30th reunion. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2012:22

    “As soon as I saw the monster's exhibit I knew the students would love how vibrant and modern the works were. It was incredible to see students who were usually causing trouble in the classroom engaged and calling to their friends to look at the ‘super awesome’ paintings and pictures of monsters. The visit to the museum with the students was my favorite part of my teaching pre-practicum experience.”

    C.A. Lane - Lane's Telescopic View of Great Exhibition of 1851


    C.A. Lane, British. Lane's Telescopic View of Great Exhibition of 1851. Engraving printed in color on paper folded into a book-like object. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1951:136.

    From Janis Mink, Smith College class of 1977: “I loved my 19th century architecture class with Helen Searing. For her class I did a report on a large glass building constructed in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851. It turned out that the Smith Museum had a paper mock-up of the building, which I brought to class and showed.”

                      View through the viewfinder of “Lane's Telescopic View of Great Exhibition of 1851”

    “The Crystal Palace is an important work for the history of modern architecture, as it was an innovative work that used pre-fabrication and pushed glass production to the extreme. It was visionary, as well as environmentally sensitive and poetic, as its length was 1851 feet, corresponding to the year, it spanned the crowns of Hyde Park trees, including them in its interior space and preventing their felling, and it could be broken down and reassembled in another location after the temporary exhibit. And it was not built by an architect!”

    ART STORIES will be on view until February 9, 2014. You can find more personal accounts from the Smith community in the Nixon Gallery, second floor, and spread throughout the Smith College Museum of Art.


  • Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Objects in Limbo

    Guest blogger Saraphina Masters is a Smith College student and the 2013-2015 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    The concept of “limbo,” of objects existing without information in an art museum, is discordant with the casual observer’s perception of fine arts institutions. Don’t we live in an age of digital databases and intense organization, both of which ought to prevent the displacement of any work of art? A look behind the scenes, however, can show how easily human error or simple forgetfulness can lead a piece of art into limbo, into an existence without cataloging, captioning, or even a proper home.

    Since time is such a large factor in this concept, it makes sense to mention the evolution of collecting and cataloguing in museums. Early catalogue systems were simply note cards and filing cabinets, while today we use electronic databases and software. Additionally, the value of a piece can, and often does, change over time. That can affect the way it is catalogued and handled, which can in turn lead to its misplacement. These variables and more all contribute to the story of an object and how it ended up where it was when I found it.

    My work with a box of loose prints, which I refer to as Box B2, led me down multiple rabbit holes of research and intrigue. My task was to gather as much information on each piece as possible. This collection of seemingly random prints came with varied levels of information. Some were clearly and helpfully labeled, while others came with nothing at all. My first steps were translating captions in other languages, deciphering antiquated handwriting, and making educated guesses about origin and style.

    Then, the unexpectedly intense research process comes in. Simply googling the words on a print can produce some results, if the piece is relatively well known or unique. However, many of the prints were too obscure or unforthcoming for such an easy solution. This is where databases such as that of the Five College Museums and the Getty Research Institute’s searchable list of artists’ names, ULAN, can be useful. These resources, in addition to auction results and historical websites, make the investigatory task of information gathering possible.

    One particular print that required quite a bit of research was a Goya etching that upon first examination seemed to be called Una Reïna Del Circo. Translated as The Queen of the Circus from Catalan, I assumed the caption of the piece to be the title. However, I went to Hillyer Art Library to find out more about the etching and after looking in quite a few books on Goya, I recognized the image of the etching under a different name.

    This piece is actually called Disparate puntualor, or Precise/Sure Folly, and is part of Francisco de Goya’s 18 piece series called Los Proverbios; in English, the Proverbs or the Follies. From there I was able to move forward with my research, trying to find out more about its origin and how it came to the museum. The confusing labels, as well as the multiple translations, made this story layered and complex. Uncovering information about this print took more than simple observation. Like much art historical research, multiple sources, including auction sites, textbooks, and the Cunningham Center itself, were used to learn more. This Goya print has quite a story, only a fraction of which played out in my examination of it.

    Each work has a narrative as engaging and complicated as the Goya print, and there is a whole box of them, in addition to other unidentified prints in museum. Perhaps that provides an idea of the scope and quantity of suspended objects that are unknown in origin. In Box B2 there was an entire sheaf of prints that was labeled “The following were found in a closet in a campus security office in 1989”. We may never know how those works of art came to be in that closet, and who put them there. What matters is that we have them now, and can do our best to find out what we can about them. Little by little, we can pick away at the indeterminate “limbo” of objects, and through research bring the histories of lost pieces to light.


  • Thursday, January 16, 2014

    Brice Marden: The Grid and the Sea

    Brice Marden; printed by Kathan Brown. Marden, American, born 1938. Untitled from the Adriatics portfolio, 1973. Etching printed in black on Rives BFK paper. Gift of Angela Westwater, class of 1964. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1978:10-2.

    Brice Marden; printed by Kathan Brown. Marden, American, born 1938. Untitled from the Adriatics portfolio, 1973. Etching printed in black on Rives BFK paper. Gift of Angela Westwater, class of 1964. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1978:10-3.

    Among my favorite works in the SCMA collection are these two prints by Brice Marden which merge chance expression with methodical control. Known as a “Romantic Minimalist,” his extremely reductive visual language of monochromes, lines, and grids may at first appear similar to that of his Minimalist contemporaries of the 1960s and ‘70s, but Marden never completely abandoned the accidental or idiosyncratic gesture characteristic of Abstract Expressionists.

    In the 1970s, Marden discovered his affinity for the etching process through several brilliant collaborations with the master printer Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press in Oakland, CA. Marden found that etching allowed him to make intricate, serial investigations of linear and expressive mark-making, often through the manipulation of a grid composition.

    In his second collaboration with Brown in 1973, Marden made the two Untitled prints from the Adriatics series pictured above, named after the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Greece. Divided laterally into two different grids which are reminiscent of nautical charts, these prints are intended to evoke the variation of weight and density of the sky and sea. They display Marden’s characteristic anxious lines, which are especially tense where his etching needle slipped or his sweater was imprinted on the plate (see details below). I have found that my eye is drawn into these works by these miniscule imperfections, wandering aimlessly around and around the image, finding new details with each viewing. Marden skillfully balances these subtle instances of chance expression with the grid’s semblance of perfection. The result is an overall quietude which invites patient viewers into a hypnotic, meditative state similar to that induced by gazing out into the vastness of the sea.

    Details of Marden’s two Untitled prints from the Adriatics portfolio, SC 1978:10-2 (left) and SC 1978: 10-3 (right). Details show marks made by a slipped etching needle (left) and an imprint of Marden’s sweater on the etching place (right).