Exhibit bridges gap between Art faculty, students, public
Maggie Libby's work has the theme of women at Colby and combines painting with other media and audience interaction. She encourages viewers to use the Scrabble board and write in a journal to interact with her art and the theme of her project (which is ongoing).
Each fall, the Colby College Museum of Art invites members of the Colby Studio Art faculty to exhibit their recent work. This year’s exhibition includes paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures and other works by Bevin Engman, Gary Green, Maggie Libby, Harriet Matthews, Abbott Meader, Nancy Meader, Garry Mitchell and Scott Reed.
The faculty exhibition opens dialogue between professors, students and members of the community through the art itself and through the gathering of community members in the Museum. Professor Emiritus Abbott Meader noted the faculty exhibit expedites, “everything a college seeks to do and to nurture involv[ing] communication, interaction, exchange and discourse.”
Maggie Libby however voiced concerns about fostering community dialogue through the faculty exhibition: “I…wonder how much of the community feels comfortable coming to the Museum. That is part of why I am trying to create interaction in the ‘sacred’ space of the Museum. It should be as much about the viewer as about the art itself.”
The faculty exhibition is also incredibly valuable to students of studio art. Associate Professor of Art Bevin Engman said, “I think it’s only fair to share your work with students and let them see what you do – that you are, so to speak, ‘holding up your end of the bargain’ as a working artist.”
She does not, however, seek to lead her students strictly in the direction she has chosen as an artist: “I would hope that students never feel an unspoken pressure to work in the manner of their professors rather than developing their own sense of aesthetic direction. The whole reason we’re here is to teach skills in the service of establishing that [unique] sense of direction.”
While the faculty members showcased a variety of pieces in their media, some faculty members chose to exhibit work created around a certain theme. Libby’s exhibit focuses on women at Colby. “I think women's images and women's voices need a larger place in public dialogue,” Libby explained. “My theme…was to present images of women who ‘speak truth to power’ who are from Colby, the state of Maine, and also internationally based, as I have included a portrait of Jestina Mukoko, the current Oak Fellow from Zimbabwe.”
Libby created images of women who have challenged the status quo at Colby and pushed for significant change, including Mary Low Carver, Colby’s first female student, and J. Nunez, the namesake for the Nunez Proposition, which banned discrimination in groups at Colby, particularly fraternities.
Libby’s piece also includes voices from the Colby community and encourages viewers’ participation. She created “a Scrabble board in the Museum which I hope people will play with, and…a blank journal with the question ‘If you could speak to anyone in power, past or present, to whom would you speak? What would you say?’”
Students seemed to frequently exclaim “That’s my teacher’s work!” at the exhibition’s opening. One student was excited to see Scott Reed’s crisp, whimsical black and white prints. Groups of students marveled at how the tiny swimmers in Bevin Engman’s painting could be so nuanced and shadowed, and at the power and detail of Harriet Matthews’s sculptures combining landscape with architecture.
Students discussed Gary Green’s photographs, which all shared a similar composition of an oblong structure, such as a tower or a tree, in the center, and so played off each other in the exhibition.
One student said she wished to learn the technique that made Nancy Meader’s pots look so “cool and shiny,” while another said she wished she could create playful, colorful monotypes like Garry Mitchell.
Students were excited to recognize many of the places in Abbott Meader’s paintings and collages as scenes from Maine. They seemed eager to draw on techniques they saw in the faculty show, and pleased to see what their teachers’ work on display.
Monica Albu ’12J, a Studio Art major, said that it is beneficial to see the work of professors she admires: “It is good to see their creative side, and not just hear their critical comments in class.” She also noted that Colby’s Studio Art faculty are truly artists, which students and community members too often forget.
The Fall Faculty Exhibit is currently on view and will be on display until January 2, 2011.