"His name is Paul Handler and he's my studio assistant," said artist Mara Sprafkin '02. "The only problem is he's fictitious."
The invention of Sprafkin's imagination, Handler manages his own blog, has his own Facebook and Twitter accounts, and handles the majority of her business. The character has functioned as a kind of alter-ego for Sprafkin but has also helped her build a larger clientele; potential buyers, she said, tend to think of her as more prolific for having an assistant and have contacted her after finding Handler's blog and Facebook page. Handler also currently has 117 Facebook friends and a number of followers on his blog. His tweets are all written from his perspective and refer back to the artist.
Of course, having an assistant is not what makes Sprafkin's art so outstanding, but it goes to show just one of the many innovative and clever ideas that Bowdoin alumnae are bringing to the world of contemporary art.
Sprafkin was one of four Bowdoin alumnae who formed a symposium entitled "Bowdoin Women in the Visual Arts" held yesterday afternoon in Kresge Auditorium. The talk was moderated by Associate Professor of Art History Pamela Fletcher.
The other three women included in the panel were Melanie Taylor '94, director of exhibition design at the Guggenheim Museum; Halley Harrisburg '90, director of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery; and Matilda McQuaid '79, deputy curatorial and head of textiles at the National Design Museum. All three are currently working in New York City.
From deciding how to display a multi-dimensional piece in one of the most famous art museums in the world, to dealing and handling paintings from some of the most renowned 20th-century artists, these alumnae have proudly represented Bowdoin in the arts.
Museum of Art Curator Joachim Homann, Associate Professor of Art History Linda Docherty, and Fletcher selected the women that comprised Thursday's gender-centric discussion, just one event in this semester's celebration of the 40th anniversary of coeducation at Bowdoin.
"Each of the women who are a part of this event is very accomplished in what they are doing. They are very creative and they are pushing the boundaries of their professions," said Homann. "For me, it was really amazing to have them here on campus and to bring them back to campus so we can hear their perspectives."
Each of the accomplished women had a unique perspective to bring to the table, regarding both her profession and her gender, some downplaying the importance of the latter.
"Gender hasn't been something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, luckily," said Taylor.
She said there are probably as many male exhibition designers as there are women like herself in the same profession.
Harrisburg said she felt it was a struggle to find men who would want to enter a career selling and dealing art.
Sprafkin claimed that since she switched from curatorial positions to become an artist, those she had known before treated her differently.
The symposium also gave sage advice to fledgling artists and students interested in professions in the field.
"For me, when students ask for advice about how to get into the art or design world, I always say you have to go out and do internships," McQuaid said. "That's the only way you're going to understand what it's like out there and what the possibilities are. There are so many possibilities and career paths that many don't think about when it comes to an art history degree."
According to Homann, Thursday's event was one of the first of many conversations and lectures the museum will be hosting this semester that reflect on issues external to the Departments of Art History and Visual Arts and their curricula.
"I hope this was an initiative that helps make apparent that the museum can serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas that really apply to other places across campus," Homann said.