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Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.

Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.

  • Wednesday, July 1, 2015

    A Spotlight on Jiha Moon

    Guest blogger Kayla A. Gaskin is a Smith College student, class of 2017, majoring in East Asian Languages and Literatures. She is a Student Assistant in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    Jiha Moon, Korean, lives and works in U.S. (born 1973). Impure Thoughts, 2008. Spit bite and lift ground aquatint etching with drypoint and chine-colle printed in color on paper. Gift of Jiha Moon through the Smith College Print Workshop. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2008:46

    Though the Cunningham Center owns only a small portion of South Korean works, what the Museum does own is truly striking. Among them is work by Jiha Moon. Jiha Moon, born 1973 in Daegu, South Korea, is a mixed-media artist currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. Moon uses often hanji paper and layers other materials on top: silk, fabric from clothing of loved ones, embroidery, etc., to forge her works. Historically, hanji paper comes from Paper Mulberry trees in Korea and was once used not only for art, but books, fans, artificial flowers, and household items. By using hanji paper, elements of contemporary Asian pop culture – for example anime characters – and Western art techniques, Moon’s pieces become a blend of East and West, reflecting her own background. Her complex marrying of physical materials and multicultural allusions create works with layered meaning.

    Jiha Moon, Korean, lives and works in U.S. (born 1973). Comfort Zone, 2007. Ink and acrylic on Hanji paper over canvas. Purchased with the Art Acquisition Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2008:55

    However, while Jiha Moon’s pieces are often bursting with bright color and pop cultural references, Comfort Zone’s bleak tones are a departure from the norm (image above). The 2007 work features somber shades of browns, blues and dollops of black in the background. The dulled coloring is reminiscent of ancient East Asian works. The faint outline of trees akin to Japanese scroll art, while the mountain rock formation resembles art of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. Comfort Zone’s background appears similar to a forest, on a cloudy, foggy day. However, on top of the work’s hazy thicket are streaks, splotches, smoke, string, and bubbles mostly in pinks, purples, and yellows with hints of green and blue as well. Therefore like Moon’s other pieces, Comfort Zone presents some familiar figures but for the most part remains very abstract.

    Detail of Comfort Zone, 2007

    It’s interesting that the work is titled “Comfort Zone” and yet the whole piece seems chaotic – showing a hodge-podge of varying elements scattered all over the place. The way the pieces of colorful detail float, lay strewn or rise into the sky evoke a dreamy feel. It seems like the morning after a carnival’s end, like a revisit to the past, where things lay abandoned, forgotten, and therefore adopt a quasi-existence. Perhaps it reveals an intermingling of earth and the spirit world, or reality and fantasy? The piece’s forlornness and desolation could also be an intentional ploy to evoke irony. Comfort Zone contradicts its title, and therefore may imply the artist’s comfort zone does not exist. Due to her mixed national background, perhaps Comfort Zone is a statement of Moon’s, asserting her lack of belonging entirely to one place. 


  • Monday, June 22, 2015

    Welcome, Colleen!

    Colleen McDermott inside the Cathedral of St. Denis

    Hello! I’m Colleen McDermott, and starting this week I’m taking over as the new Brown Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow. Our fellow for the past two years, Maggie Kurkoski, will be leaving to pursue a Ph.D. in Art History from Princeton in the fall.

    Maggie Kurkoski SC '12 in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Photography by Lynne Graves

    Maggie’s presence will certainly be missed at SCMA—and I certainly have big shoes to fill. I’ll be in charge of many of the same duties—organizing Student Picks shows, class visits to the Cunningham center, and posts to this very blog!

    I just graduated this spring from Yale University with a degree in History of Art; my primary area of focus was medieval art and architecture, so I’m looking forward to learning more about the wonderful collection of works on paper here at the Cunningham Center. As a junior curator and department assistant for the Yale University Art Gallery and Center for British Art, I became interested not only in art and art history, but also how they are presented and discussed in museum environments. The Smith College Museum of Art is an incredible resource not only to students and researchers, but to the public as a whole. I’m very excited to talk and write about the art here, and to help others do the same.  Keep in touch, everyone!


  • Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    Teaching with Paper

    Guest blogger Emma Cantrell is the 2014-2016 Brown Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in Museum Education at the Smith College Museum of Art.

    Photography by Lynne Graves

    This month, my colleague Gina Hall (Associate Educator for School and Family Programs) and I had the opportunity to teach a museum-based class as part of the Smith College Campus School’s June Session. Every afternoon for three weeks, sixteen enthusiastic 4th-6th graders come to the Museum to connect with art. Our students spend time in the galleries, investigate artists in the museum’s collection, and go behind-the-scenes with museum staff. Writing and art making are an important aspect of the course and the students have been exploring different media, including drawing, painting, and sculpture.

    Photography by Lynne Graves

    The goals for this short class were twofold. First, to engage our students with works of art in the Museum through participatory learning experiences intended to illuminate the stories of the works of art. Second, to foster the students’ sense of belonging at the Museum, to give them an increased connection to works of art, the galleries, and to Museum staff.

    Photography by Lynne Graves

    Because the lower level and first floor are closed for renovation, Gina and I have been challenged by a few parameters: our “wet” art studio space is under construction, limiting us to mostly in-gallery–and thus not too messy–activities, and most of the work currently on view is from before 1950. The SCCS audience is a sophisticated bunch of critical thinkers who (thanks to the proximity of their school on campus and a carefully cultivated museum-school partnership) are already fortunate to spend substantial time at the museum on guided and self-guided visits with their classroom and art teachers.

    We want to make each day of “camp”  feel exciting and special, exposing them to experiences that they might not have on an average school field trip. What is more, we are seeking to expose them to the breadth of works in the collection, despite limited works being on view. The Cunningham Center provided the perfect solution to this problem. With thousands of prints, drawings, and photographs to choose from, Gina and I sought the guidance of Henriette, the Cunningham Center Manager, in selecting 10 artworks to use for an activity we are calling “Start the Story.” She had great insight into images that might appeal to this audience, her daughter is one of the students’ enrolled in the program!

    Photography by Lynne Graves

    As the title “Start the Story” implies, our goal was for the students to use the artworks on view as a starting point for their own creative writing.The artworks we chose, ranging from Marc Chagall drawings to William Hogarth prints, are all playful, narrative works that we thought would appeal to our curious and thoughtful students.

    Photography by Lynne Graves

    When the time came to visit the Center, we knew we had chosen well because the students were instantly drawn in - asking questions, making up stories, and eager to get writing in their journals. We began by asking that the students come up with a question that they might have about each of the unusual works as a warm-up, then each student selected just one artwork and got busy writing the story they “read” in their image of choice.

    Photography by Lynne Graves

     Each student took their own approach, some writing prose, others poetry. As they wrote, the room was quiet apart from the sound of pencil scribbling against paper, reflecting the deep concentration of the students.  Some saw their image as the ending scene of a narrative, others developed a backstory to describe a character they saw. This open ended activity allowed each student to craft their own interpretation; to make their own meaning from our works on paper.

    “It was a gray dreary day in Brooklyn. The street was cast over by a vast shadow, the wind started slow and steady as the many passers-by held it to a soft whisper. A harsh blow from the pipe of a brand new Pontiac tickled my neck and I coughed from the sudden burst of fumes. My wheels spinned and I glided, avoiding the many cars that blocked my way, zig zag down the many streets and my hair tickles the back of my neck, flying out behind me with grace.”  - Belén, 5th grade

    Elliott Erwitt. American, b.1928. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Gelatin Silver Print. Gift of Lynn Hecht Schafran, class of 1962. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2001:21-9