On May 9, the BCMA invites its members to a special presentation of select new acquisitions. Among the exciting recent additions is Terry Winter’s 1985 painting, Vessel, generously donated to Bowdoin by Agnes Gund H’12, in honor of John Studzinski ’78. One of the most important American artists of his generation, Terry Winters (born 1949) has forged a process-oriented practice that incorporates drawing, painting, and print-making, grappling with the philosophical implications of mark-making. In his work, which crosses boundaries between painting, drawing, and print-making, abstraction and figuration coalesce in the creation of works that flirt simultaneously with the architecture of life and the structure of information.
Vessel has special significance in the context of Bowdoin’s extant holdings. The piece was created shortly after the artist took up print-making after an invitation in 1982 to experiment with lithography at Universal Limited Art Editions. The artist’s first series, Morula, consisted of three multiples, of which the BCMA owns two, Morula I and Morula II (both 1983-84). These works explored the blossoming of cellular forms at the moment of conception, and would come, in turn, to cross-fertilize his painting, including works such as Vessel. As Winters recently explained about the development of his early painting: “My approach was structural. I was intrigued by forms that looked real, but were difficult to identify or whose identity was linked directly to their structure: crystals, shells, honeycombs. There was an architecture to the ‘morula’ forms, in terms of the cell development.” Thus, in Vessel, the viewer works to connect the protective, nurturing form of a vessel with forms that are difficult to associate with specific labels, but that call to mind the heart, skull, stomach. Yet it is not only imagery, but also Winters’s fascination with process and medium that link these works—the intense tactility of the Morula lithographs, and the thickly worked paint that defines form and ground in Vessel. Manipulating highly viscous pigment as it pushes against the surface that holds it, Winters gives physical and visual shape to the objects he fashions, and in so doing, creates a powerful universe that reflects the generative potential of the arts and the natural world.