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Installed under the direction of the artists who designed them, two new restrooms in the Smith College Museum of Art blur the boundaries between form and function as well as personal and public space. The public restrooms, located on the lower level directly adjacent to the exhibition gallery, are permanent works of art created separately by noted artists Ellen Driscoll and Sandy Skoglund.

     View images of the completed restrooms >

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, works of art, nets, and waves. Fabricated in Germany by the firm that created Driscoll’s 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,” explains Driscoll. The imagery is also continued in the sinks and other fixtures in the room.

In contrast to Driscoll’s blue world of water, Skoglund men’s restroom is a visual blizzard of black and white that Skoglund, a Smith alumna (Class of 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 that Skoglund took from myths and 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 bathroom fixtures, where they enclose tiny human forms, a reference to a creation theme from Egyptian mythology.

The idea for the unusual restrooms was inspired by the artist-designed restrooms at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, Wisconsin), directed by Smith alumna and Smith Medal recipient Ruth DeYoung Kohler (class of 1963). Driscoll and Skoglund held residencies at the Kohler Company’s Arts/Industry program in the spring of 2001, which enabled them to have their unique designs fired onto bathroom fixtures in the giant kilns of the Kohler Company’s factory.

Because of the curiosity and excitement already generated by the restrooms, the museum has promised to set aside a daily “viewing hour” (in addition to open use hours) so that visitors will be able to see both rooms.

The SCMA restrooms are underwritten by a grant from the Kohler Trust for Arts and Education. The fixtures and fittings for the entire Brown Fine Arts Center were donated by Kohler Company.

New Features of the
Renovated Museum

Museum Restrooms
as Functional Art

Images of the Artist Restrooms

Museum Benches
Celebrate New
England Artistry

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