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.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
The Maximón is obviously a complex product of the mixture, at several levels and at various times, of Maya and Roman Catholic ritual and beliefs.– Michael Mendelson, Maximón: An Iconographical Introduction(1959)
Guatemalan saints, beatos(blessed people) and deities usually represent holiness, innocence and purity of heart, yet the enigmatic Maximón, with his taste for alcohol and tobacco, is an unorthodox figure among Guatemalan congregations. Despite his unsavory character, Guatemalans’ worship of Maximón increased after 1880, especially in the highlands.
This folk saint has been venerated in a range of forms and dressed in different costumes for public rituals, especially during Holy Week, by Ladinos (people with indigenous and Spanish heritage) and indigenous people. In Chauche’s photograph, however, Maximón is wearing a military uniform and newly polished combat boots. He is holding an elongated object which appears to be a rifle and a rustic tray, which contains his favorite offerings: agua ardiente(alcohol), soda and cigarettes. Chauche only reveals the lower half of Maximón’s body. It is here where Maximón Militar – a deity, a doll, a figure, a religious hybrid – not only embraces two different religious worlds, the Maya and the Spanish, but goes a step further into a new ritual, war.
Daniel Chauche, while avoiding capturing the face of Maximón, finds a way to depict the shame and fear of the Guatemalan people and perhaps, as long term resident, his own, as well as the consequences of a long civil war that plagued the country.
Guatemala, like the majority of the countries in Latin America, gained its independence from Spain in the 1820s yet, at least for the Guatemalans, independence from European tyranny did not assure economic prosperity or peace among its people. Moreover, after independence, Guatemala had been a victim of authoritarian governments, harmful foreign interventions, and an unprecedented military coup in 1954. The coup not only established the modus operandi of foreign and domestic policy aimed at any political party that sympathized with communist or socialist ideals, but it also destabilized the country and unleashed one of the bloodiest civil wars in Latin America lasting nearly forty years.
Daniel Chauche took Maximón Militarin 1989 during the civil war in Guatemala, seven years before the peace accord between the government and rebel groups was signed. The sense of shame and fear is clear, however, questions still are unanswered. What was the real reason why Chauche omitted the upper body of Maximón? Or is perhaps the man/figure wearing the military uniform and the shiny boots not Maximón at all but is instead a member of the military force and the Maximón is depicted only by the two pictures of San Simón/Maximón placed at the feet of the military figure?
Friday, September 28, 2012
It’s that time of year again! Here in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, we have been gearing up for the 2012-2013 Student Picks program for the last month. In case you aren’t familiar with Student Picks, this unique program offers seven Smith students per year the opportunity to organize their own one day art show using SCMA’s collection of 16,000 works on paper! It’s always amazing for us to see what students choose to show to their fellow students, friends, family, and professors.
For the month of September, students could enter the Student Picks lottery at ballot boxes around campus. This year, we received a whopping 629 ballots! From those entries, SCMA Director Jessica Nicoll drew the names of seven winners and two alternates. This year’s student curators are:
Nov. 2, 2012 - Leah Santorine '13
Dec. 7, 2012 - Camille Kulig '13
Feb. 1, 2013 - Yvonne Ho '16
Mar. 1, 2013 - Sharon Pamela Santana '14
April 5, 2013 - Suzu Sakai '16
April 26, 2013 - Amanda Garcia '16
Oct. 4, 2013 - Mina Zahin '15
Congratulations to this year’s Student Picks curators! The shows occur on the first Friday of every month from 12 – 4PM in the Cunningham Center. Student Picks shows are one of the few chances in which we can welcome visitors to view our collection of prints, drawings, and photographs without an appointment, so we hope you will stay tuned and come by!
Speaking of approaching Student Picks exhibitions, Laila Phillips ’15 is the student curator for October. Her show, “In Felinity: The Domestic Cat as a Subject, Symbol, and Character” will be on view on Friday, October 5, from 12 – 4PM in the Cunningham Center. Laila has chosen some wonderful works by artists including Francisco Goya, Sandy Skoglund, Philippe Halsman, Richard Billingham, and others. We hope you will join us! For information, visit the event Facebook page.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Guest blogger Laura Romeyn was a 2012 participant in the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS) at Smith College.
My summer as a SIAMS student provided me with a comprehensive and intensive education in museum studies. Both my time on the road and my days on campus afforded me unique opportunities to perfect my interpretive skills. Two art encounters in particular; the viewing of Robert Rauschenberg’s Canyon,and Title Sheetfrom Crackerjacksby artist Lorie Novak and an unidentified colleague, tested my ability to make connections between otherwise disparate works of art.
Earlier this summer I learned of the controversy surrounding Rauschenberg’s ‘combine’ work, Canyon.The term ‘combine’ describes a style of collage that incorporates found materials with two-dimensional paintings on canvas. Canyonis unique in that the stuffed bird atop the canvas happens to be an eagle. Under federal laws that prohibit the traffic in bald eagles (including their remains), Rauschenberg’s Canyoncannot be legally bought or sold. Yet the IRS is demanding that the heirs of the piece’s collector pay over $40 million in taxes.
I wasn’t aware that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was housing this ‘bald eagle-turned white elephant,’(as ART newsso aptly describes it), until I stumbled upon the controversial piece within the 20th-century galleries. Canyonis currently on long-term loan at the Metropolitan Museum, while my own subject of inquiry this summer, Title Sheetfrom Crackerjacks,permanently resides in the Smith College Museum of Art.
Title Sheetis the opening work from Crackerjacks,a 1977 graduate photography portfolio from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Title Sheetappears to be a flattened Cracker Jack box framed for the wall, but in reality is a painstaking reproduction of the familiar snack box. Although Title Sheetfeatures advertising slogans like “nobody loves a Cracker Jack box that’s empty,” the real surprise lies in the contents of the larger portfolio. The box that contains Title Sheethouses fifty-nine additional photographs. Images alluding to Sailor Jack and Bingo are presented through a pile of mangled dog fur and bone and in the photo of a woman with a buzzed head wearing a sailor suit. A single syringe taped to a sheet of white paper prefaces a Xerox color transfer of the jaunty sailor duo declaring, “gosh isn’t life fun.” This frank packaging of contemporary culture concludes with an image of a howling wolf.
Unfortunately, immediate viewers of Title Sheetdon’t have access to the accompanying works in the larger portfolio, and the implications of Title Sheetare enhanced by the additional contents. Yet situated as a single work, Title Sheetcommemorates how simple desires were once contained. By recreating the box though the labor-intensive process of photolithography—a printing method using plates made after a photograph—the artists render this everyday, throwaway Cracker Jack box one-of-a-kind.
Just as it can be said of Crackerjacks,the imagery in Canyonevokes nostalgia in the viewer. Large newspaper print letters and political posters are smeared and painted-over to create a dated effect. A rusty metal box has been opened, flattened, and then collaged, encouraging inquiry into the commonplace. Rauschenberg’s eagle extends into the space of the viewer while Title Sheettakes on a thematic space greater than the constraints of its framing.
On a purely aesthetic level, these two works of art have little in common. Viewers of our SIAMS exhibition, Outside the [Box]will view Title Sheetas the introduction to a discourse on consumerist culture, and knowledge of the accompanying portfolio isn’t requisite for enjoyment. Viewers of Canyonmay have no knowledge of the current tax debate surrounding this work, and perhaps that’s just as well. Both Canyonand Title Sheetposition contemporary art as an invitation to interpret, and a work’s immediate aesthetic impact is often just as powerful as its external implications.