Tag Archives: art

Nine New Courses Offered This Semester

The following is a complete list of new Bowdoin classes as they are described in the course catalog, plus comment from the faculty teaching the course.

(NOTE: Some courses are labeled ESD or VPA. These refer to Exploring Social Differences and Visual and Performing Arts, which are two of the five distribution requirements mandated by the College. More details here.)

Anthropology 2250 – ESD. The Anthropology of Media.

Examines the social and political life of media and how it makes a difference in the daily lives of people as a practice–in production, reception, and/or circulation. Introduces some key concepts in social theory which have been critical to the study of the media across disciplines, ranging historically, geographically, and methodologically; investigates the role of media in constituting and contesting national identities, forging alternative political visions, transforming religious practice, and in creating subcultures; examines diverse source materials such as early experiments in documentary film to the Internet, from news reporting to advertising.

April Strickland, Visiting Professor of Anthropology.


April Strickland

What excites you about this course?

“I’m excited about this course because students have the opportunity to critically investigate a variety of media and circulation practices from an anthropological perspective. These include the role of media in constituting and contesting national identities, in forging alternative political visions, in transforming religious practice, and in creating subcultures. The types of media forms we will examine range from commercially driven movie-making to small-scale video production, from early experiments in documentary film to the Internet, and from news reporting to advertising. We will read about media practices in diverse parts of the world, from New Zealand to Thailand, from India to Iran.”

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

“It is my hope that students will increase their critical understanding of mass media: that the media are produced differently according to specific social, cultural, political, economic, and historical conditions. Media technologies are not outside of culture, society, and history. Media forms are also interpreted according to local contexts. Social categories such as class, race, gender, and ethnicity shape media reception. Additionally, I want students to develop a more complex, critical, and nuanced understanding of this monolithic category, “The Media,” and to interrogate and recognize the assumptions about media production and consumption that dominate contemporary discussions in the popular press and broadcast media.”

Art History 3130 – VPA. Bosch

Enrollment restriction: No first-year students. Seminar. Examines the works of the famously idiosyncratic Netherlandish painter, Jheronimus Bosch (c. 1450-1516), investigating their artistic methods and cultural context. Also considers their reception by contemporary and subsequent generations of artists, scholars, and viewers.

Stephen G. Perkinson

Stephen G. Perkinson

Stephen Perkinson, Peter M. Small Associate Professor of Art History

What excites you about this course?

Bosch is a fascinating – and really bizarre – artist who worked in the Netherlands around the year 1500; he died exactly 500 years ago this year, and I’m running this seminar in part for that reason (that anniversary has generated a bunch of new scholarship that we’ll be exploring – a great chance for me to simply work through some of that as well). His paintings were enigmatic to many of his contemporaries, and have proven difficult for scholars to interpret – they simply don’t quite fit easily into any of the categories we’ve developed for understanding the themes and motivations of art-making in that time period. And yet he was extremely successful in his day, and he spawned nearly a century’s worth of imitators who riffed on his imagery in all sorts of interesting ways. So he clearly was tapping into something.


Detail of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights

But what was his appeal? And what was he like? Was he some sort of religious heretic, as some 20th-century scholars (rather improbably) claimed? Or was he something similar to others of his day – a stodgy moralist? A studious Humanist? A cunning satirist? A shrewd capitalist? Or was he, as one 16th-century source claimed, like someone who had “seen ghosts” – in other words, a wild-eyed lunatic? Working through these questions and possibilities should be really entertaining – however you understand his work, these are paintings that students always find really fun and intriguing!

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

Well, on one hand of course I hope those of us in the seminar will arrive at a better sense of who Bosch was, what he meant to his original audience, and why his work resonated within his culture for generations – in that way, we’ll come to know something substantive about the past. But I also want us to emerge with a clearer understanding of how Art Historians investigate their material – Bosch, who has prompted such diverse scholarship, is an ideal test case to explore the various approaches one can take to analyzing artworks. In that way, I hope we’ll all come to a sense of our own role in that analytical process – that we’ll have an awareness of what we’re looking for, and what in our own culture might make us want to go looking for certain types of answers. In short, I hope we’ll learn something of value about the past, but also about what the past means to us today.

Computer Science 2330. Introduction to Systems

A broad introduction to how modern computer systems execute programs, store information, and communicate. Social Network on White Laptop Computer Examines the hardware and software components required to go from a program expressed in a high-level programming language like C to the computer actually running the program. Topics include concepts of program compilation and assembly, machine code, data representation and computer arithmetic, basic microarchitecture, the memory hierarchy, processes, and system-level I/O. Regular, programming-intensive projects provide hands-on experience with the key components of computer systems.


Sean Barker

Sean K. Barker, Visiting Assistant Professor, Computer Science

What excites you about this course?

This new course is an exciting opportunity for students to go ‘under the hood’ of how a computer actually runs a program, and understand the various underlying components that work together to provide a complete system.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

Through this course, students will gain hands-on experience and valuable insights into the low-level operation of computer systems, which will enable them to be more effective system designers and programmers.  These skills will serve students well in future courses and beyond in their professional careers.

Economics 3534. Behavioral Finance

Seminar. An extensive literature from psychology documents that decision-makers do not behave fully rationally. Behavioral economic theories that incorporate these insights have revolutionized the study of finance. Explores the implications of behavioral deviations from the standard model for financial markets and financial decision-making, including nonstandard preferences, nonstandard beliefs, and heuristics and biases. Emphasizes recent empirical research in the field. Topics may include: noise traders, news models of bubbles, predictability, the disposition effect, status-quo bias, investor inattention, overconfidence, managerial traits, learning from experience effects.


Matthew Bosch

Matthew Bosch, Assistant Professor of Economics

What excites you about this course?

This is a course that I’ve always wanted to teach. “Behavioral” economics is about importing evidence from the field of psychology, looking at how people actually behave and studying the implications for economic decision-making: in this case, for financial markets. The evidence is overwhelming that the standard microeconomic assumptions (time-consistent, forward-looking expected utility maximization) don’t provide an adequate description of real-world human behavior. The consequences of more realistic assumptions — that people procrastinate, that people are overconfident about their own abilities, that people rely on heuristics such as overweighting recent experiences when forming expectations — are really important in the context of financial decision-making. The insights from psychologically-informed models help us understand lots of “big” puzzles, including why people don’t save enough for retirement, how households make mistakes when buying and selling houses, and why most mergers between companies destroy rather than create value.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

The class is listed as a senior seminar, so I want this to be a capstone experience for the students. This is a class where we get to move to the frontier of a relatively young, rapidly evolving field. Lots of the papers that we will be reading haven’t been published yet, so there is a lot of space to read these critically. I hope this is a class that rekindles the excitement students felt when they took their first introductory economics class, where they feel like they are seeing the world with a fresh set of eyes again.

English 3027. Charles Dickens

Advanced seminar. An in-depth study of a few of Dickens’s major novels within the context of Victorian literature culture. Focus includes the work’s narrative structure and engagement with realist form, representations of nineteenth-century urban life, and their treatment of gender and class. Also examines Dickens’s position within current literary criticism.


Aviva Briefel

Aviva Briefel, Professor of English and Cinema Studies

What excites you about this course?

I’m excited to teach a class that focuses solely on Dickens, the author that often comes to people’s minds when they think of Victorian literature. In addition to reading a number of fantastic novels in a seminar context, I’m looking forward to examining how his narratives allow for the opportunity to think about various important aspects of Victorian culture, including class structure, urban life, and gender identity.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

Students will be exposed to wonderful works from different periods of Dickens’s career, and to think about what it means to immerse themselves in very long novels.


Charles Dickens

I hope to help them develop strategies for thinking about literary realism as a genre, including narrative form, the interplay of minor and major characters, and description. I also think students will get a lot from the experience of thinking about these narratives in a communal setting, as the collectivity of reading experience was central to Victorian culture.

Gender and Women’s Studies 2035 – ESD.Transgender Latina Immigration: Politics of Belonging and Labor in the United States

What happens to feminist theory and practice when we center the lives of transgender Latina immigrants in the U.S.? How does this academic practice shape the way we analyze the power of immigration policy, biological determinism, and nativism in our lives? Drawing from transgender studies, women of color feminisms, and sociology of labor migration, this course will use an interdisciplinary approach to critically examine the lives of transgender Latina immigrants in the U.S. Explores social difference along the lines of class, race, gender identity, and immigration status illuminating the various ways in which social and material borders have been constructed around gender and geographical terrains. Focuses on the current social conditions of Transgender Latinas in the U.S. and allow us to see the implications of socially constructed categories of gender and citizenship in the U.S.

Dr. Padrón Fall 2015 Bowdoin College

Karla Padrón

Karla Padrón, CFD Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender and Women’s Studies

What excites you about this course?

My excitement about this course is twofold. First, I am thrilled at having the opportunity to teach a course based on the research that I have conducted during the last eight years. I have developed strong working relationships with many members of the transgender Latina community and it is an honor to bring transgender Latina voices to the academic setting. Being a bridge is how I think about this aspect of my research and teaching interests. Second, what I find most exciting about teaching this course is the timing. We are currently witnessing a small but powerful amount of transgender women of color speaking out against transphobia/racism/anti-immigrant sentiment. The work that Laverne Cox, Bamby Salcedo, and Jennicet Gutierrez are doing to create visibility and justice in the lives of trans women of color/immigrants is inspiring.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

The students, I think, will be able to create an analysis of the ways in which difference is legally, socially, and medically constructed for transgender Latina immigrants. They will see the material consequences of these constructions. They will also learn about some of the ways in which transgender Latina immigrants contest and/or comply with these social constructions. The beauty of teaching this course at a time when Latin@ migration and transgender identity are so heavily discussed in public discourse is that students will be able to not only see the theoretical implications of gender autonomy but also the possibilities of its application in everyday life in the U.S. today.

Psychology 3052. Pschycopharmacology, Neuroscience, and Addiction

Introduction to psychopharmacology of recreationally abused drugs and their effects on the brain and behavior in human and non-human species. Natural and man-made substances including alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, opioids, stimulants, cannabinoids, hallucinogens, steroids, sedatives, and inhalants will be discussed. This seminar will cover basic structure and function of the nervous system, drug classification, basic principles of pharmacology, neurochemistry, structural and functional neuroimaging, neuropsychological assessment, pharmacogenomics, as well as the history and epidemiology of specific drugs of abuse and pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions to limit use.

Brian J. Piper, Visiting Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Brian Piper

Brian Piper

What excites you about this course?

I am very excited about the opportunity to explore how the brain works, how different misused and abused recreational drugs act on the brain, and evidence-based interventions for alcoholism and drug-addiction.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

Students will build upon their foundation in neuroscience and psychology, refine their skills at critically evaluating primary sources in the biomedical sciences, improve their public speaking skills, and enhance their written communication abilities.

Visual Arts 2002 – VPA. The Living Print
Prints, though often associated with traditional or ancient techniques, are a contemporary, innovative and ‘living’ art form. Silkscreen printing, woodcut, installation and text-based printmaking projects provide a post-digital technical and aesthetic framework for exploring visual communication elements and concepts in contemporary printmaking. Studio projects are supported by critical discussions, readings, lectures, museum visits, and field research about historic fine art prints, political zines and posters, artists’ books and installations.


Carrie Scanga

Carrie Scanga, Associate Professor of Art

What excites you about this course?

Printmaking as an artistic medium has always been about making and learning through technology. Artists working in print consider not only what is to be communicated through an art object but also the technical means of its production. Social media and digital interfaces are changing how we take in information. This course is a chance to study the “how” of information communication through artistic practice and problem solving.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

The answer to this question is threefold.


Breathe: The Emergent Colony, 2011 – 2013, by Carrie Scanga. Drypoint on gampi paper and folded tracing paper

1. I think it’s exciting to tackle assumptions about the definition of a book, a print, and a gallery space. In other Bowdoin printmaking courses we cover traditional printmaking and bookmaking. The Living Print will examine ink, paper, book, machine, and maker, all aspects of print communication that are familiar. Don’t be surprised to wake up and find that The Living Print students have silkscreened all of the napkins in the dining hall some morning as an art intervention.

2. Digital design and fabrication will be used in tandem with hand engraving and hand printing.

3. These students are going to have some memorable collaborative experiences with visiting professional artists and poets that I’ve invited to join us throughout the semester.

Visual Arts 2403. Documentary Photography

Sustained photographic exploration of situations that appear unfamiliar or foreign to the student’s experience. A consideration of connections between the different moments encountered and described by the camera are stressed and followed with written and further visual articulation of discoveries made from these insights. Narrative strategies, viewer expectations, and the role of the image in the dissemination of knowledge are central concerns of critiques, discussions, and readings. Photographic prints to be produced only through the exposure of black-and-white film and traditional darkroom techniques. Final project consists of a book, exhibit, or publishable article employing both text and photographs. Course has corequisite of Writing Through Photography (English 2856), and students must enroll in both courses.

Michael Kolster, Associate Professor of Art

What excites you about this course?


Michael Kolster

I am particularly excited that our two classes, corequisites sharing the same roster of students, will simultaneously involve students in the production of creative work in two different, complementary modes: writing and photography.

What do you hope the students will get out of it?

We are asking students to write pieces of non-fiction and create photo essays on a range of topics, including profiles of community members and studies of places in and around Brunswick, as well as to develop a long-term final project of writing and photography based on their own interests and desires. The experience should be transformative as they extend themselves beyond the campus to develop relationships with and describe concerns of the people and places beyond Bowdoin.

by Tom Porter
The landing page of the on-line catalogue, "Art Treasures, Gracefully Drawn."

Bowdoin College Museum of Art Launches its First Digital Catalogue

This scholarly resource, the first of its kind created by an academic art museum, examines 141 Old Master Drawings bequeathed by James Bowdoin III, one of the earliest collegiate collections in the country.

The landing page of the on-line catalogue, "Art Treasures, Gracefully Drawn."

The landing page of the online catalogue, “Art Treasures, Gracefully Drawn.”

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is pleased to announce the launch of the Museum’s first online scholarly catalogue, Art Treasures, Gracefully Drawn: James Bowdoin III and America’s Earliest Drawing Collection. The catalogue, made possible by generous funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and an anonymous donor, highlights the 141 Old Master drawings assembled by the founder of Bowdoin College, James Bowdoin III, whose bequest to the College in 1811 established one of the earliest collegiate collections in the country.

The fully-illustrated digital catalogue provides a scholarly introduction to the collection and detailed entries on each of the drawings. The entries may be searched and sorted by title, artist, or nationality. The catalogue delivers five categories of information for each drawing: Marks and Inscriptions, Provenance, Exhibition History, Bibliography, and Commentary, which includes curatorial insights about each work. In addition, each entry is accompanied by a high-resolution reproduction downloadable at no charge, which allows viewers to examine any section of the drawing in vivid detail. Unlike a traditional publication, the online catalogue will be updated continually with new curatorial information.

Art Treasures, Gracefully Drawn: James Bowdoin III and America’s Earliest Drawing Collection was made possible by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. This external funding enabled the Museum invite scholar Sarah Cantor, Adjunct Assistant Professor at University of Maryland University College, to the Museum during the summer of 2015. Cantor built on the research conducted by the late David P. Becker, a member of Bowdoin’s Class of 1970, who published his Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College in 1985. Cantor’s expertise in European old master drawing and in developing and maintaining digital tools for art history made her an ideal collaborator with museum staff, art history faculty, and information technology specialists at Bowdoin College in realizing this project.

“This online catalogue represents an extraordinary interdisciplinary accomplishment, combining many areas of expertise,” observes Anne Collins Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. “It both highlights and renders more accessible one of the foundational art collections for the museum and the nation, and it also demonstrates the ability of a small institution to create a robust and engaging digital resource which extends the reach of its resources around the globe, inviting new interpretations of its holdings.”

The electronic resource has significance that stretches well beyond the museum. “The BCMA digital Old Master Drawings catalogue demonstrates the great potential of curatorial publishing beyond the confines of print,” notes Crystal Hall, co-director, Digital and Computational Studies Initiative and associate professor of digital humanities at Bowdoin College. “The team has established an impressive critical, bibliographic, and archival resource.”

James Bowdoin’s gift, upon his death in 1811, of 141 drawings, 68 paintings, and 11 prints to the institution he founded in 1794 was groundbreaking, making Bowdoin College only the second educational institution in the country, after Dartmouth, to develop a collegiate collection. While the drawings have long been celebrated by curators and art historians at Bowdoin, and cherished by a small circle of experts, they are less well-known amongst the general public. The online catalogue will give new visibility to James Bowdoin III’s drawing collection and to highlight the important role played by Bowdoin as a pioneering collector of the fine arts in the United States.

by Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Special Collections Director Urges Students, Others to ‘Come Visit the Reading Room.’


Kat Stefko

The special collections room of a library can sometimes seem like an intimidating place, admits Kat Stefko. An inner sanctum, cocooned from the rest of the establishment, home to ancient tomes, manuscripts and other artifacts which need to be protected from the general public.

But Stefko wants to dispel that perception. She’s the new director of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives at the Bowdoin college library.

‘We exist to be used,” she says, “and our goal is to be a welcoming place where people – including those from outside the college – can come not just for scholarly pursuits, but also for enjoyment. We have collections that appeal pretty much to everyone.”

Special Collections is indeed growing in popularity. “Last semester, we had more students than ever come in and use the collection, but it’s an area we want to continue to grow, making our collections as broadly available as possible,” says Stefko, who arrived at Bowdoin in October from Duke University, where she helped run the David M. Rubinstein Rare Book and Special Collections Library.

She says this will help the department achieve its primary purpose, which is to support the academic mission of the college.

“Having reviewed the course offerings for the spring, we found more than 60 courses that might have some connection with our collections, and we are in the process of contacting individual faculty to suggest possible connections and invite further discussions.”

MIchell archives 2Here at Bowdoin, Stefko says Special Collections has recently taken on its first full-time, albeit temporary, outreach coordinator.
Set behind glass doors, up on the third floor in the only climate-controlled part of the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library,Special Collections is worth a visit.

“Especially during the hotter months,” says Stefko, “as we have to keep the conditions cool and dry – particularly dry: humidity is more important than temperature when it comes to preserving manuscripts.”

The collection’s holdings include some 50,000 rare books, about 6,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives, including medieval documents dating back to the 1200s,

Says Stefko, “we have the official records of the College since its founding in 1794 to the present day, as well as extensive collections of photographs, maps, architectural drawings, audiovisual recordings, and increasingly electronic records.”

She says the department is particularly well known for collections in certain subjects, including Arctic exploration, the anti-slavery and abolitionist movements in the U.S., the Civil War, and the book arts, including fine printing and artists’ books.

Among the key challenges facing Stefko going forward, she says, is to make the collection more user-friendly.
“Our website has a tremendous amount of important and useful information, but can be difficult to go through, especially for those unfamiliar with archival research.”

Mitchell archives 3She says there is a lot of descriptive work to be done as well. “Like nearly every special collections, we have some things that are not described at all, or are under-described. For example quite a few early pamphlets printed here in Maine fall into this category. How can we make items like this more ‘findable?’ If you don’t know something exists, how to do you use it?”

Another problem facing Stefko – indeed facing all archivists in the 21st century – is the storage of digital data. “That’s a very serious point. Records are being generated digitally at the college and never printed”, she says. “The archival profession has been considering these issues for at least 10 years, and I don’t think we have any great solutions yet.  However, some clear paths forward are starting to emerge and I am excited to work with the Bowdoin community to move our own digital preservation efforts forward.”

A related issue, she says, is how to capture the student experience on campus. “Historically we used scrapbooks, journals and letters. But journals are now blogs and people communicate via twitter, Facebook and Instagram rather than letters.”

Stefko says there’s a need to partner with students and student organizations to try and preserve some of this digital data.

by Tom Porter
"Portrait of Mrs. Thomas C. Upham (née Phoebe Lord)," ca. 1823, oil on canvas, by Gilbert Stuart. Gift of Edward D. Jameson. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“Gilbert Stuart: From Boston to Brunswick” Closes Soon

"Portrait of Mrs. Thomas C. Upham (née Phoebe Lord)," ca. 1823, oil on canvas, by Gilbert Stuart. Gift of Edward D. Jameson. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“Portrait of Mrs. Thomas C. Upham (née Phoebe Lord),” ca. 1823, oil on canvas, by Gilbert Stuart. Gift of Edward D. Jameson. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

This past fall the Museum has featured its eight paintings by Gilbert Stuart in a special exhibition, Gilbert Stuart: From Boston to Brunswick. In addition to these remarkable portraits, the exhibition includes five early lithographs based on his presidential portraits and other related works by Stuart’s contemporaries. The Museum has also borrowed Stuart’s palette and his box of drawing instruments from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition explores Stuart’s time in Boston, where he would spend the last twenty-three years of his life. Born in Rhode Island and mentored by Benjamin West in London, Stuart built a reputation as the preeminent portraitist of the early republic. His likenesses of the period’s political, military, and civic leaders set the standard for dignity and elegance. At the time of his move from Washington, D.C. to Boston in 1805, he was in the midst of completing portraits of President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison, a commission from James Bowdoin III, the College’s first benefactor. Bowdoin bequeathed these portraits to the College in 1811, and they have served as a centerpiece of its art collection ever since. Though Stuart rarely traveled during his Boston years, he journeyed to Brunswick in 1821 to make painted copies of his famous portraits for an exhibition in Boston. This installation explores Stuart’s work during this period, his trip to Maine, and his relationship with other artists in Boston. It also argues for his centrality in constructing a pantheon of American likeness and achievement. Please be sure to see the exhibition before it closes on January 3.


by Bowdoin College Museum of Art
"The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XI," 2015, chalk on asphalt paper, by Titus Kaphar. Museum Purchase, Barbara Cooney Porter Fund. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Recent Acquisitions in “To Count Art an Intimate Friend”

"The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XI," 2015, chalk on asphalt paper, by Titus Kaphar. Museum Purchase, Barbara Cooney Porter Fund. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XI,” 2015, chalk on asphalt paper, by Titus Kaphar. Museum Purchase, Barbara Cooney Porter Fund. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

To Count Art an Intimate Friend contains a number of recent Museum acquisitions, two of which anchor a conversation about race and social justice.

Jerry (ca.1945) by Charles White is an etching of an African American man with geometrically rendered features and a pensive gaze. This portrait hangs only feet away from The Jerome Project (Asphalt and Chalk) XI (2015) by Titus Kaphar, a large-scale drawing of chalk on asphalt-coated paper featuring three overlaid portraits of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.

Charles White was a renowned American social realist artist whose commitment to social change through art began with his experience in the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. White became a renowned artist and teacher who inspired generations of African American artists at a time when there were very few nationally renowned artists of color.

Kaphar shares White’s commitment to draughtsmanship, but his work takes on the related issues of racial profiling and mass incarceration through portraiture. The work is part of The Jerome Project (2001-present), a project that began with Kaphar’s investigation of his incarcerated father and that developed into a research-based series about policing and the criminal justice system. The unconventional portraits of African American men in this gallery share a high level of artistic craftsmanship and invite a dialogue about art’s engagement with social activism.

The Museum welcomes questions via Twitter @bowdoinmuseum #jeromeproject. Titus Kaphar will be on campus for a lecture on April 14, 2016.


by Bowdoin College Museum of Art
"Storks Fighting Snakes," ca. 1596-1602, pen and dark brown ink, brown wash, by Jan van der Straet called Stradanus. Gift of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Upcoming Exhibition Curated by Bowdoin Students

"Storks Fighting Snakes," ca. 1596-1602, pen and dark brown ink, brown wash, by Jan van der Straet called Stradanus. Gift of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“Storks Fighting Snakes,” ca. 1596-1602, pen and dark brown ink, brown wash, by Jan van der Straet called Stradanus. Gift of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Mannerism is “very, very complicated. It can be a secret language if you’re not initiated into it […] even to the point of being obscure,” warned Susan Wegner, associate professor of art history, during a recent conversation in Bowdoin’s Visual Arts Center. Luckily for Museum visitors, Professor Wegner and her fall “Mannerism” class are creating a guide to this complex period with their exhibition, Beautiful Monstrosities, Elegant Distortions: The Artifice of Sixteenth-Century Mannerism, which will be on view in the Becker Gallery from April 12 through June 5, 2016.

Curating an exhibition with Professor Wegner this semester has been thrilling, according to Sarah Drumm ’18, “not only because of the chance to share my work with my peers but also to gain a greater familiarity with, and understanding of, the Museum’s fantastic collection.” Focusing on the work of artists employed in European courts during the 16th century, Beautiful Monstrosities is particularly exciting because it will provide access to a rarefied world. As Acadia Mezzofanti ’19 explains, “during the Mannerist period, [art] was really reserved for the people of the highest ranks of society to interpret.” Through her and her classmates’ research and preparation for the exhibition, Mezzofanti hopes to provide an opportunity for all visitors to gain an understanding of the Mannerist period. Beautiful Monstrosities, Elegant Distortions: The Artifice of Sixteenth-Century Mannerism opens April 12, 2016.


by Bowdoin College Museum of Art
"Captain's Pier," 1912-1914, by William J. Glackens. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“To Count Art an Intimate Friend” opens at BCMA on November 5

"Captain's Pier," 1912-1914, by William J. Glackens. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“Captain’s Pier,” 1912-1914, by William J. Glackens. Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

The diverse collections of the Museum offer myriad opportunities for research, learning, and teaching from a multitude of academic perspectives. A new installation in the entry level galleries further demonstrates the centrality of the collection for the academic life of the College. The show takes its cue from William DeWitt Hyde, President of the College 1885–1917, whose 1906 Offer of the College enumerates the values of a liberal arts education: “To be at home in all lands and all ages; to count Nature a familiar acquaintance, and Art an intimate friend…” Installed in four galleries on the Museum’s entrance level, the exhibition is dedicated to notions of place, the exploration and interpretation of nature, the value of critical thinking, as well as the exhilarating experience of sharing insights and serving the common good. These themes are illustrated with highlights from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s distinguished collection of paintings, photographs, and prints, and span the period from the College’s founding in 1794 to the present day. Artists represented include Martin Johnson Heade, William Glackens, Rockwell Kent, Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, and Alec Soth, among others. The unconventional hanging of some of the best known works of the collection with new acquisitions and lesser-known works in thought-provoking juxtapositions invites you to “lose yourself in generous enthusiasms,” ask new questions, and develop fresh perspectives.

by Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Debra Diamond, Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries

“The Visual Culture of Yoga”: A Presentation by Debra Diamond

Debra Diamond, Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries

Debra Diamond, Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries

With roots in Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions, yoga is a practice designed to strengthen and relax the body and the mind. Yoga has not only helped those who aspire to greater mindfulness and physical health, but it has also inspired a rich visual tradition. On November 8, Debra Diamond, curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, and curator of the 2013-2014 exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation, will discuss its history across visual media, from sculpture to film, and across Hindu, Sufi, and early modern arenas of practice. Regarding her interest in developing a major exhibition focused on the visual expression of yoga, Diamond explains: “I was inspired to create the exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation for several reasons. First: Yoga has inspired some of the most extraordinary artworks ever made on the Indian subcontinent. Second: Often, the yoga contexts of these artworks was unknown in the present day; uncovering those hidden histories helps us better understand the works – and more importantly, better understand the rich and protean manifestations and meanings of yoga in history and across so many communities.” Describing some of what she has learned by studying yoga from the vantage point of the history of art, Diamond speaks to the variability of systems now understood to be standard, such as the seven chakras or the different perceptions of yogis. Perhaps most significant, however, is what Diamond has most come to admire in the visual interpretations of the practice of yoga over many centuries: “the genius of Indian artists who transformed profound concepts into material form.”

by Bowdoin College Museum of Art