Artists’ relationships on display at Sweet Briar

| January 24, 2014

A new exhibition at Sweet Briar College reveals the sometimes hidden connections between visual artists of different cultural backgrounds, genres or eras. In conjunction with the College’s four-day Fringe Festival, an opening reception for “Student, Teacher, Mentor, Friend: The Impact of Artists’ Relationships” takes place at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, in Pannell Gallery. The event is non-ticketed and open to the public.

Diane Arbus, “Lady Bartender at Home with Souvenir Dog, New Orleans,” gelatin silver print, 1964. Purchase made possible by the Friends of Art.

Focusing an entire exhibit on artists’ relationships is something Sweet Briar galleries director Karol Lawson wanted to do for years. What fascinates her, she says, is that “[artists] are connected to each other in many ways, some more apparent than others.”

Photographer Diane Arbus, for example, taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, where Yvonne Jacquette studied. Both Arbus’ 1964 photograph “Lady Bartender at Home with Souvenir Dog, New Orleans” and Jacquette’s 1998 woodcut “Nightscapes” are part of the show.

Other artist pairs in the exhibit may belong to the same organizations or share personal ties — as friends or lovers; or as parent and child. In some cases, they might be inspired by the same sources, or involved with the same projects and exhibition venues, or simply collected by the same patrons.

While curators and scholars notice these connections all the time, they’re often obscured by other considerations when an exhibit is put together, Lawson says. Consequently, it may take some extra work to present such “hidden” links between artworks in a way that makes sense to the average art lover, while retaining overall aesthetics and “moving your thesis forward,” she explains.

In close collaboration with registrarial assistant Nancy McDearmon and art history major Lindsay Profenno ’15, who assisted in the art gallery last fall and conducted much of the research, Lawson selected 33 artworks by 33 different artists. The collection represents a wide range of media — from Medieval manuscripts to contemporary photography, prints and sculpture — and is arranged chronologically, beginning with a circa 850 A.D. Carolingian miniscule and ending with a 2005 photograph by Lalla Essaydi.

Yvonne Jacquette, “Nightscape,” woodcut, 1998. Gift of Catherine Caldwell Cabaniss ’61.

Presenting all of the artwork in a cohesive fashion rather than grouping different pieces together was a bold choice by Profenno, Lawson says, adding that “[her] confidence throughout the project was impressive. This is a great instance of the hands-on experience a small college makes possible, and it is also a terrific example of the three-dimensional thinking a liberal arts education elicits, even in an untested young scholar trying her hand at something for the first time.”

Profenno, who is currently sailing the Pacific Ocean with the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea, is grateful for the opportunity.

“Dr. Lawson … let me select many of the pieces in the show and really allowed me to experience what it is like to put a show together from the ground up,” she says.

The exhibit draws entirely from Sweet Briar’s permanent collection, which is available as a teaching resource to students, professors and the general public.

“Student, Teacher, Mentor, Friend” will be on view through April 6. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The gallery closes when the College is not in session; it is recommended that visitors call ahead to confirm hours. For more information, contact Karol Lawson at (434) 381-6248 or klawson@sbc.edu.

Janika Carey

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Category: Art Galleries