Tag Archives: art

Students Bring Discussion of ‘Black Art’ to Bowdoin

Panelists, from left to right: Professor Elizabeth Muther Professor Judith Casselberry Symone Howard '15 Golden Owens '15 Fatoumata Bah '17 Lydia Godo-Solo '17 Dominique Wein '15 Ashley Bomboka '16

Panelists, from left to right: Faculty members Elizabeth Muther and Judith Casselberry; Students Symone Howard ’15, Golden Owens ’15, Fatoumata Bah ’17, Lydia Godo-Solo ’17, Dominique Wein ’15, Ashley Bomboka ’16

After being inspired by Yale University’s recent 19th-Annual Black Solidarity Conference, “Rooted: An Odyssey of Black Art,” student members of Bowdoin’s African-American Society decided to bring a taste of the convention back to campus.

To do this, Ashley Bomboka ’16 organized a recent panel discussion on black art, inviting the students who attended the Yale conference to participate: Symone Howard ’15, Golden Owens ’15, Fatoumata Bah ’17, Lydia Godo-Solo ’17 and Dominique Wein ’15. Two faculty members, Judith Casselberry and Elizabeth Muther, also contributed to the conversation.

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Judith Casselberry and Symone Howard ’15

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Judith Casselberry and Symone Howard ’15

The panel led off with a discussion on the definition of black art. What constitutes black art? Does the artist simply have to identify as black? Or is there something in the content of the art or a responsibility to the black community that earns it that title?

While the panelists agreed that defining black art is highly subjective, Howard offered her own definition: black art is “art inspired by the African diaspora or Africa itself, and the people and cultures resulting from that.”

Muther, an associate professor of English, offered a historical take, emphasizing the importance of social movements in the development. She argued that black art is the “cultural arm of the black power movement,” and thus has a specific role and origin to be considered.

Dominique Wein ’15

Dominique Wein ’15

The panel also touched on the concept of cultural appropriation, and the way that black art, specifically music, has been embraced by mainstream culture. Casselberry, a performing musician in addition to her career as an assistant professor of Africana studies, said that cultural appropriation is not always a negative practice, citing the frequency of sharing and co-opting in the musical world. However, she asserted that appropriation of black art becomes a problem in the context of access to resources and power inequality. Many black musicians and artists who are “foundational in creating art forms become invisible,” due to imbalances of power, expressed Casselberry.

The panel’s long-term goal for these kinds of conversations is for Bowdoin to more fully embrace black art, Bomboka explained. “I hope that Bowdoin is able to incorporate art from the African/Black diaspora into its museums and other public spaces,” she said.

by Erica Hummel '16

Professor of Art Wethli Curates NYC Gallery Show

Left: John Bisbee, Cyclonaut #1 (2014), Heated, hammered, and bent 12" spikes, 11 feet 9 inches in diameter. Right: Cassie Jones, From the Brink (2014), Sand on panel, 24 x 24 inches

Left: John Bisbee, Cyclonaut #1 (2014), Heated, hammered, and bent 12″ spikes, 11 feet 9 inches in diameter. Right: Cassie Jones, From the Brink (2014), Sand on panel, 24 x 24 inches

Mark Wethli, Bowdoin’s A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art, is curating the first show of a new gallery in New York City. The Curator Gallery, founded by former Time Inc. chairman and CEO Ann Moore, will differ from other commercial galleries by inviting guest curators to organize its exhibition.

The Curator Gallery wanted to open with a show of Maine art that focuses on mid-career artists doing “important work that deserves wider exposure in the city,” according to Wethli. The inaugural exhibition, called “Second Nature,” will include work by John Bisbee, Meghan Brady, Clint Fulkerson, Cassie Jones ’01, Joe Kievitt and Andrea Sulzer. In addition to Bisbee’s and Jones’s Bowdoin connections, Brady has taught at the College and Andrea Sulzer is a former lab instructor in biology here.

In his curatorial statement, Wethli writes, “If depictions of the natural world are Maine’s primary reputation, this is a show about Maine’s ‘second nature’ — a group of abstract artists whose work aligns itself to one degree or another with natural processes rather than outward appearances.”

The show, at 520 W. 23rd St. at 10th Ave., will open March 6 from 6-8 p.m. with a reception, and run through April 19.

While his art is not in the “Second Nature” show, Wethli will include two new works in the gallery in his role as curator. He also has a solo show of new work in New York’s The Painting Center, which opens March 27 and closes April 19.

Mark Wethli, Fell in Love With a Girl (2014), Flashé acrylic on woven Jaipur paper, 10 x 8 inches

Mark Wethli, Fell in Love With a Girl (2014), Flashé acrylic on woven Jaipur paper, 10 x 8 inches

by Rebecca Goldfine

Museums: Myths, Memories and Meaning

Reported by Raleigh McElvery ’16

A glittering blue gemstone the size of a walnut, the Hope Diamond is an object of beauty and a marvel of nature. But the real reason it’s in the Smithsonian Museum, said Professor of Anthropology Susan Kaplan, is the story of its supposed curse – a legend that probably arose as a marketing ploy.

This past semester Kaplan has been urging students to ponder why some objects slip into obscurity while others, like the Hope Diamond, become museum-worthy. “We are surrounded by stuff that has meaning to us,” Kaplan said. “Sometimes we convey that meaning to others, and these things become heirlooms or treasures.”

As part of her course Who Owns the Past? The Roles of Museums in Preserving and Presenting Culture, Kaplan – who also directs The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin – challenged her students to grapple with connections between object history, personal meaning, and society’s attachment to material artifacts. The fruits of their labor were displayed in two exhibits on the first and second floors of Hubbard Hall in early December.

The first exhibit, Objects Have Stories and Provoke Memories, focused on the narratives behind material goods – stories that sometimes hold more significance than the item itself, as with the Hope Diamond. Kaplan frequented thrift shops and flea markets last summer in search of unique paraphernalia, and asked each of her students to choose one object to describe in detail. Students invented two-page histories for their objects and then boiled those stories down into exhibit labels.

In the second project, teams of students explored the nuances of presentation and audience by creating their own miniature museum exhibits within cardboard box frames. For five weeks in a row this fall, two mini-museums popped up in locations all over campus each week; they were then consolidated into Hubbard Hall at the end of the semester. The project allowed students to practice arranging objects, creating labels, and even choosing locations – for example, “You’ve Got Mail” originally appeared across from the mail center, “Manufacturing Ingenuity” was first installed in Searles Science Building alongside Hamlin Engine, and “Baby Tube” popped up in the computer lab.

“When looking at museums, we are looking at all the techniques people use to convey a message,” Kaplan said. This semester’s projects gave her students firsthand experience with the ways museum curators and exhibit designers can ascribe value and significance to objects, and even alter our perception of the past – a lesson that reinforces the importance of being a skeptical viewer.

by Bowdoin
Space and Time, Garret English ’16

Student Photographs Show the World Anew

Framework, Sarah Haimes ’15

Framework, Sarah Haimes ’15

This semester, the nine students in Associate Professor of Art Michael Kolster‘s photography seminar pursued independent projects based on the concept of exploring with their cameras. The final projects, which the students recently presented to the public, displayed a range of ideas and objects. Yet they all shared a common theme — photography’s power to allow us to see the world anew.

The students present their work Pecha Kucha style, which allows speakers 20 seconds to show each of 20 images. Each project incorporated layers of stories and angles. Sophomore Garrett English created panoramas of cars along Maine Street in Brunswick, which at first glance seem to display a single moment in time. But looking at them carefully, viewers realize that the bodies of cars do not match up, showing a manipulation of space and time.

Alana Menendez ’15 spent her semester making re-photographed constructions. She initially focused on the aesthetics of lines, creating quiet and organized photographs, and later began to cut forms within images. Menendez is currently taking a GIS course, and her engagement with maps and geology played distinctive roles in her project. She pointed out that maps are similar to photographs in that they are interpretations of spaces we hold to be true.

Junior Sarah Haimes’ early works focused on black and white images that were controlled, abstract and confusing. She said she was interested in the idea of ridding the models of their identity, and instead using lines and contours of the bodies to create sculptural forms — blurring the line between familiarity and strangeness. Through her project she also challenged the concept of beauty, snapping pictures of the process of a woman getting ready for a night out.

by Sophia Cheng '15
Accra Shepp

Photographer Accra Shepp to Teach Learning by Looking

Accra Shepp

Accra Shepp

Reported by Raleigh McElvery ’16

Inviting people to learn with their eyes is a big part of Accra Shepp’s mission. A photographer, educator, social documentarian, and soon-to-be Visiting Artist In Residence at Bowdoin, Shepp records the natural and social phenomena that surround him, bringing those subjects into focus for others.

“One of the responsibilities that you have when you’re an artist is to see the world ‘officially,’” Shepp said during his Nov. 19 lecture in the Digital Media Lab of the Edwards Center, sponsored by the Visual Arts Department.

Shepp, a professor at Pratt Institute, will teach all of Bowdoin’s photography classes (two per semester) during Spring and Fall 2014, as a visiting replacement for Associate Professor of Art Michael Kolster, who will be on leave during that time while working on a Guggenheim-funded photography project.

Shepp has been affiliated with a wide range of prestigious institutions such as Princeton University and Rhode Island School of Design, and has worked with collections in world-class museums — including The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He has an impressive record of exhibitions, including an upcoming solo show at the Queens Museum in February 2014.

One of Shepp’s recent endeavors, he said, is a series of color images illustrating the islands of New York pre- and post-Hurricane Sandy. Shepp used sheets of film to portray this area’s lesser-known waterfronts, and to explore the fallibility of sight. By intentionally leaving breaches between film panels as he pieced together multiple images, Shepp mimicked the gaps in the visual cortex. “Human vision doesn’t need to be perfect,” he said. “[It] just needs to be good enough.”

In some cases, the camera allowed Shepp to show viewers realities that were not otherwise available to their unaided vision — panoramas greater than 180 degrees, or the merging of two disparate angles, for example. In his talk Shepp prompted audience members to continually look harder, using their eyes to discern subtle nuances of meaning. For instance, in several of his photographs the waterfront is distant and obscure — a reference to the historically negative attitudes of New Yorkers who regarded the water with disdain.

Though Shepp initially intended to chronicle New York’s geography so “we could all understand it better,” his project assumed a more solemn tone after Hurricane Sandy. The tragedy demonstrated to many the importance of seeing and understanding the landscape in which they live, he said. Harnessing the value of thorough vision, an idea Shepp said he adopted long ago, is one that he continues to advocate through his work.

Shepp visited the College not only to present a lecture but also to visit photography classes, meet with students as they registered for spring classes, and begin getting to know the community he will soon join.  “He will be an important member of the visual arts division of the art department,” Kolster said of Shepp, “and his presence will constitute a significant contribution to the artistic and intellectual dialogue at the College.”

by Bowdoin
Minnie Kim ’14 stands by her installation piece, "Molecules

Art Students Explore Time in New Edwards Center Show

 James Boeding '14 performs his piece, representing his time as a college sophomore in this photo

James Boeding ’14 performs his piece, which represents his time as a college student

Bowdoin art students traveled through notions of time this semester in the course “Art and Time” taught by Adjunct Lecturer in Art Julie Poitras Santos. On Nov. 16 they presented their work in the gallery opening of a new exhibition – Chronometry, The Art of Time – in the Edwards Center for Art and Dance.

Some of the student pieces are deeply personal, covering an artist’s progress through college or sharing memories of a beloved family member. Others are based on the artist’s direct interaction with the viewer. Some are performed; others installed.

“How do we understand the relationship between time and space? How might we challenge or reinvent cultural perspectives of time? How are rhythms evinced or created by works of art? These are some of the questions students asked in the process of creating their pieces,” Poitras Santos explained.

As part of their class the students also delved into the study of time by reading works by psychologists, theorists, novelists and artists, and by examining and discussing many different pieces of historical and contemporary art.

Ella Blanchon ’16, James Boeding ’14, Daniel Eloy ’15, Haley Gewandter ’14, Anna Reyes ’15, and Minnie Kim ’14 participated in the exhibition, which will be up until Dec. 3 in Edwards Room 116.

by Kiyomi Mino

Museum Professionals Offer Career Advice to Students

Students pose with Art Museum Co-Director Anne Goodyear (left), Career Planning's Dighton Spooner (third from left) and Laura Latman (center)

Students pose with Art Museum Co-Director Anne Goodyear (left), Career Planning’s Dighton Spooner (third from left) and Laura Latman (center)

Students aspiring to careers at art museums gathered on campus recently to hear professional stories and insights from the team at Bowdoin’s Museum of Art, as well as from invited guest Elizabeth Cartland ’99 from the Portland Museum of Art.

Along with Cartland, who is director of development at the Portland museum, the panelists included the Bowdoin museum’s co-directors, Anne and Frank Goodyear, curator Joachim Homann, registrar Laura Latman and preparator José Ribas ’76.

Because the panelists work in different divisions of the museums, students received a well-rounded overview of the multitude of job opportunities within one museum. Latman, for instance, described her museum job of registrar, which can be overshadowed by the better known job of curator.

“I wanted to work in the art museum world, but didn’t want to go back to school for it. There’s no school for registrars so you basically learn by doing it,” Latman said. “I pretty much do the nitty and gritty work of working out the logistics of getting the pieces to other locations.” She’s traveled to Spain and Italy for this work, she added.

The eclectic panelists also shared their views on museums as transformative spaces, and ones that help shape our understanding of the world. Homann noted the dynamism of museums, saying, “Today, the demands placed upon museums are constantly changing. They are receiving more and more attention in the press as places that reflect trends in society.”

Ribas expanded that view by reminding people, too, of the inherent timeless of museums. “Growing up in the Bronx, going to museums was a way to escape,” he said. “I grew up going to three or four museums a month. They are such interesting, beautiful and safe places.”

The career panel was a continuation of a series at Bowdoin, Career Conversations in the Visual Arts. Last semester, Dighton Spooner in Career Planning invited young alumni who work in auction houses and art galleries to speak about working in the commercial side of the art world. Spooner, senior associate director of Career Planning, advises students interested in film, advertising, public relations and the arts.



by Kiyomi Mino
Alexander Gardner, Ruins of the Arsenal, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, Albumen print. Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund.

This Mighty Scourge of War

Alexander Gardner, Ruins of the Arsenal, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, Albumen print. Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund.

Alexander Gardner, Ruins of the Arsenal, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, Albumen print. Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund.

The exhibition “This Mighty Scourge of War: Art of the American Civil War” brings together paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s collection, depicting the diversity of ways in which artists responded to the Civil War.

Curated by museum co-director Frank Goodyear, the exhibition features six of Winslow Homer’s many wood engravings, which became the dominant illustrations of the war through widely-read publications such as Harper’s Weekly. While Homer portrayed poignant scenes of daily life (both on the front lines and at home), other artists such as Martin Heade and Jervis McEntee infused the war into the their paintings metaphorically through storm-filled skies and other symbols of unrest.

Civil War art also took the form of photography, still a fledgling technology in the 1860s. Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan were among those pioneering photojournalism by recording the aftermaths of battles and scenes of wartime culture. Other photographers traveled west to capture images of idyllic landscapes as a point of contrast with the war-torn east.

With work from these and other Civil War artists, “This Mighty Scourge of War” showcases the rich artistic legacy of a troubled time. First unveiled on August 8 in conjunction with the 2013 Bowdoin Alumni College, the exhibition will remain open to visitors until January 5, 2014.

Check out the recent Fall 2013 issue of Bowdoin Magazine for a new inquiry into Bowdoin’s contributions to the Civil War.

by Bowdoin