RSS Feed

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.

  • Tuesday, September 2, 2014

    YOUR art, YOUR vision

    Nan Goldin, American (1953 - ). CZ and Max on the Beach, Truro, Mass, 1976 negative; 1996 print. Cibachrome. Purchased with the Josephine A. Stein, class of 1927, Fund, in honor of the class of 1927. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2005:41

    It's time again for the Student Picks sweepstakes! Every year, the Smith College Museum of Art invites six Smithies to curate their own individual exhibition, using actual art from the real Museum collection. There's no application - the winners are chosen by lottery, entirely by chance. All you need to do to enter is submit your name into a Student Picks ballot box.

    Barbara Morgan, American (1900 - 1992). Martha Graham, Letter to the World, 1940 negative; 1976 print. Gelatin silver print. Purchased with the gift of the National Endowment for the Arts. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1977:28-19

    Do I have to be an art history major? Nope! In fact, you don't need any experience with art at all -- the Museum staff will help you every step of the way. 

    What art can I use? We will help you chose art from the Museum's collection of over 18,000 works on paper. It's a really diverse group: from Salvador Dali-designed Playing Cards to Japanese-inspired Mary Cassatt prints to probing contemporary photographs such as Cass Bird's I Look Just Like My Mommy. There are endless possibilities and themes to explore.

    Cass Bird. American, born 1974. I Look Just Like My Mommy,2005. C-print. Purchased. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe. © 2011 Cass Bird. SC 2011:41-1

    What does a Student Picks show look like? Last year, the Museum hosted a slew of exciting, engaging, very personal Student Picks shows, all organized by Smith students. Amelia Yeoh Jia Min '17 put on Human Connections - Manifestations of the Mundane, her exhibition about the way artists depict the ordinary and the personal. You can read more about her show here, in Amelia's own words.

    Visitors at "Human Connections," curated by Amelia Yeoh Jia Min '17

    For her show Soulful Rebellion, Kenny Clarke '17 showcased graffiti art, and graffiti-inspired art, in the Museum collection. An artist herself, she created spray-painted labels with psychedelic colors for each piece of art. You can read more about her show here, in Kenny's own words.

    Kenny Clarke '17 with her friends at "Soulful Rebellion"

    Feeling inspired? You can enter the sweepstakes yourself! Find ballot boxes in all the libraries on campus (that's Neilson, Hillyer, Young AND Josten) as well as the Campus Center, lower level, and the Museum Lobby! Any Smith student can put her name in as many times as she wants - until the sweepstakes ends on September 15, that is. We'll keep our fingers crossed for you!

    Ballot box in action


  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014


    “I’m not particularly interested in making paintings. I’m not particularly interested in making drawings or that whole dialogue. But the fact that I’m doing this with my hand, and that it’s a hand-drawn image, is very important to me. I love the act of drawing. Of course I love drawings and paintings. But in my current work I’m mostly interested in the people and the imagery, so that my drawings are more in service to the imagery than being about ‘drawing.’ I do gain a lot personally from examining those old photos. A lot of that comes from my background, and my father having been a self-taught photographer. Most of the earliest imagery that I looked at was of his photographs. He did a lot of family portraits.”

     – Whitfield Lovell [Source]

    Whitfield Lovell. American, b. 1959. Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind), 2008. Conté crayon on paper with  barbed wire. Purchased with the Dorothy C. Miller, class of 1925, Fund. SC 2008:58

    Seeing Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind) in person is so different than seeing it as an image on a computer. I wish I could take you into the Cunningham Center and show you this drawing right now. Since the work is three-dimensional, Lovell encased the entire piece in a black box frame; it takes up a lot of space, projecting out from the wall. When you look at it directly, you’re really looking into a box, and it takes up all your peripheral vision. There’s a sense of being absorbed, or surrounded.

    Shadow suddenly plays a major role when you look at Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind) in person, too. Not only does the box frame create its own shadow on the wall, increasing its physical presence, but it casts a shadow on the drawing of the woman’s face. Likewise, the barbed wire has its own shadow, making it seem larger than it is. On some level, the work changes at every location, based on the lighting in every different gallery.


    Detail from Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind)

    There are subtle details that are difficult to make out on a computer screen as well. When you look closely, you can see the light impression of a shirt color, fading into the blank background. Lovell has drawn delicate, light flyaway hairs emerging from the woman’s tightly coiffed hair. These small, meticulous additions speak to Lovell’s incredible skill and attention to detail.

    Detail from Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind)

    Detail from Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind)

    The barbed wire is rusted and old. Lovell doesn’t shy away from loaded symbolism, and so it immediately reminds me of the crown of thorns that biblical tradition says Jesus wore on the cross. Such an association conjures up suffering and sacrifice. In conjunction with her worried expression, the effect is disturbing. Does the barbed wire refer to some earth-shattering event in her life? Is it a reference to her personality somehow? Could it relate to the persistent pain of racism, both historical and present, which she faces as a black woman?

    The title, Kin XXXII (Run Like the Wind), only complicates these ideas. Kin implies connection and relationships, even family. As this work is part of a much larger series, it makes me wonder about the connection between each piece. The statement Run Like the Wind could be a command or a description. Typically, barbed wire is used to prevent people from entering or leaving a place, and it contrasts sharply with the freedom that running implies.

    Like all of Lovell’s works, this piece provokes more questions than it answers. This ambiguity, coupled with the sheer physicality of the work, creates a piece that sticks in your mind long after you see it. 


  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    I Hope You Learned Your Lesson

    William T. Wiley, American, b. 1937. I Hope You Learned Your Lesson, 1974. Intaglio on paper. Purchased. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1975:29-4

    In 1972, Jack Lemon invited artist William T. Wiley to Landfall Press in Chicago, where he was master printer, to collaborate on prints at the workshop. While Wiley was hesitant at first, he accepted the offer, and began to push what he knew about printing. Under the guidance of a master printer, he experimented with new methods, as seen in his work I Hope You Learned Your Lesson.

    Close-up of I Hope You Learned Your Lesson

    With the help of Lemon, Wiley used aquatint, a type of etching in which a powdered acid etches a wide area on a copper plate. After the plate has been run through the printing press, the result is an even tone of ink on the paper. For I Hope You Learned Your Lesson, Wiley used aquatint to create a smooth, black area. He created the appearance of chalk on the board by smoothing parts of the plate. The result, with strong white chalk lines over “erased” writing, creates a trompe l'oeil effect that tricks the eye into believing it is looking at a real chalkboard, not just an image of one.

    Detail of Wiley’s monogram and “erased” version

    The spirited, self-referential elements throughout the piece reveal Wiley’s sense of humor. He makes the frame appear worn, scratched, and covered with graffiti, presumably to mimic the hard use a student’s chalkboard would undergo. He includes the year he printed the piece, 1974, but when the viewer looks closer, the ghostly remnants of an earlier date, 1937, are present: the year he was born. The closer you look, the more there is to see.

    Detail of frame graffiti

    Detail of date and “erased” date

    Although many details are playful, there’s still an edge to this work. The phrase “I Hope You Learned Your Lesson” not only conjures up a boring, uncreative classroom, but also implies the aftermath of punishment. Its ambiguity is troubling, and invites closer contemplation.