This semester, 13 art history students got up-close and personal with pieces of the permanent collection at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Under the guidance of Associate Professor Linda Docherty and curatorial intern Diana Tuite, the students of the appropriately termed "Art and Life" course will present 28 prints and photographs in an upcoming exhibition at the museum.
"Representing America: Ties that Bind and Lines that Divide" draws from the Museum's collection of Winslow Homer wood engravings, John Sloan etchings, and 20th century documentary photography. Linking these seemingly diverse categories, the installation traces the development of four themes: ways of seeing, the power of place, family, and community, and expanding vision.
The highlights of the exhibition include Lewis Hine's "Steelworkers on Top of the Empire State Mooring Mast," which shows the rapidly rising city at the beginning of the 20th century, and Kevin Bubriski's "Man with 'Fallen' Literature," a testament to America's shock and confrontation regarding the events of September 11, 2001.
This exhibition is the result of a semester-long process of research, writing, and planning. The course was conducted in the museum's Zuckert Seminar Room, working from original objects.
"What the students did is that they engaged in museum work at multiple levels, beginning with focused research on selected objects, then choosing from those objects works that could be put in an exhibition," Docherty said.
"The key thing is that we've learned about three great strengths of the collection?Homer engravings, Sloan etchings, and photographs," said Docherty. "We have done this in a very hands on kind of way, and we have selected works that go together to communicate our thoughts and discoveries about the representation of America [through art]."
Students praised the hands-on process of the course and the unique opportunities it has presented.
"Within the liberal arts curriculum, it is interesting to have a course that is based on experiential learning," said art history major Sean Sullivan '08.
Kaitlin Hammersley '08 agreed.
"Not a lot of courses at Bowdoin are focused like this," she said. "It is also going to be refreshing to have a cumulative opening instead of an exam or paper," she said.
The students have collectively curated the show, synthesizing their work and research into the gallery installation.
"They have really been learning by doing," said Docherty.
"This course has definitely changed the way I look at artwork in museums," added Becca Spiro '09.
Docherty also cited the class dynamic as a contributor to success.
"We've got people from three different class years and various majors and minors. This range brings so many different things to the project," she said. "To have this level of collaboration is extraordinary."
For the students, the opening will be the long-awaited culmination of a rewarding experience.
"We are using the museum to learn more, but we are also adding to the museum," said Ali Draudt '08. "It's unique in that we are able to make an imprint on the school."
Kate Herlihy '08 echoed the class' anticipation of the opening.
"I think the end of the show will be really rewarding to see because every step of the process was really homegrown," she said. "All the details were taken care of by the people in the class, right down to the invitations and the refreshments."
"We really have been students of art and life," said Docherty.
The exhibition will open Thursday, December 6, in the Zuckert Seminar Room at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. A reception will be held in the lobby of the museum from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.