The purpose of this exhibition is to highlight the varied interests of the Department of Art and Architecture and demonstrate the ties of the department to the collection. The essays of the members of the art department on their choices demonstrate an intellectual bent either personally or professionally. It is designed, in particular, for visitors to see a number of mini-exhibitions within an umbrella of the art collection. Think of it as a type of tiny biennale – with members of the department as the countries participating.
The significance of the context is the tenth anniversary of The Davis Gallery at Houghton House and this exhibition should be a fitting celebration of the gallery and the department as well as the art collection. The exhibition will determine what, if anything, is specifically poignant about the relationship of the Department of Art and Architecture and The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Members of the department chose artwork for various reasons from the personal to the professional: their work with students, their art, their writing, and intimate responses to the pieces chosen. Art is never created or appreciated within a vacuum. It is made and seen within a tradition with the techniques and resources available within that tradition. Social, historical and artistic contexts are all important for both the artist and the viewer.
For Professor Lara Blanchard, the works chosen combine her love of painting and writing as expressed in the calligraphy of the works she chose. “For an art historian, one of the great advantages of studying Chinese painting is the quantity of writing it inspires. This is the case with one of the Chinese paintings in the Colleges’ Art Collection, a vertically oriented landscape by the artist and art historian Chiang Chao-shen 江兆申 (1925–96), made in 1980, of a type that in earlier eras might have been mounted as a hanging scroll.”
“In my course on the ‘History of Modern Landscape Architecture,’ I lecture on themes that are embodied by my two choices for this exhibition: respectively, the Hudson River School of landscape painting and its relationship to the emerging urban parks movement in nineteenth century America, and how early Parisian modernists were actively representing the entire city as a landscape.” Professor Jeffrey Blankenship ties the works he chose directly to the courses he teaches at the Colleges.
Another reason for choosing particular works is the effect the artist and the artworks has had on the personal work such as that of Professor Michael Bogin. “Carl was a friend of mine, and once visiting my studio he gave me the painting advice to “throw it off.” He felt that some of my images were not active enough in the rectangular field of the painting. In the two of his works owned by the Colleges, we can see how subtly Carl followed his own advice. “
Professor Nicholas Ruth’s choices were intensely personal and aesthetic.
“My selections for this show are based on gut reaction. I tried to pick things that hit me, that move me to feel something and see things in a new way. As someone who by profession is constantly thinking and talking about art, I like to remind myself of the strange, direct, and deep power and pleasure of experiencing a work of art.” Professor Angelique Szymanek had a similar response to her choices. “The first time I referenced Kollwitz’s “Death, Woman, and Child” in a classroom, the emotional response that welled up inside me as I explained the content of the work to students took me by surprise.” “Spero and Golub’s work is one of my favorites in the Davis collection because it embodies the qualities that, for me, make a work of art great: the imperative to image that which we might prefer to ignore, and the call for art to engage and implicate its viewers in the atrocities that mark everyday life. “
Shengyuan Tong (William Smith 2018) selected a piece which combined what she learned as a student at the Colleges with her background. “I chose this piece of painting not only because of my personal preference of ukiyo-e but also due to the gap between western and eastern culture. Art pieces are always the best representation of cultural ideologies. Trying to understand a culture different from the one we grow up can always help us have a better understanding our own culture.”
As for me, I decided to make my chosen artwork reflect some of the many ideas and visions I have fostered throughout my time at the Colleges. “It was hard choosing these few works from the whole – I left out so many I know and love. I am also an introvert and it is hard for me to face you with my personal opinions. On the other hand, if not now, when? I am leaving the Colleges at the end of this year and so this is my farewell ‘speech’.”
All of us hope you will have as much enjoyment seeing these works and reading about them from the perspectives of the authors as we have had choosing them and writing about them.