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A melon baller and bottle opener posed as people; a glove with two fingers walking

Collection Spotlight: Janet Nolan

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Everything from squashed aluminum cans to plastic packaging finds its way into the work of Janet Nolan (B.V.A., 1968). As a young girl in Montgomery, Alabama she absorbed the aesthetic of repurposing objects into new contexts from a beloved uncle who reconstructed ”everyday broken things into useful objects; like old metal coffee pots into lamps with colander shades.”

Inspired by Louise Bourgeois’ feminist perspective and Robert Rauschenberg’s assemblages, Nolan began sculpting with broken umbrellas she collected from Manhattan streets after a thunderstorm in 1976. Nolan’s art-colorful, playful and thought-provoking has been exhibited at universities, art centers, galleries, museums and corporate headquarters across the nation. Cheerfully, Nolan asks us to shift our expectations of redemption, recycling, rescue and revival.

A melon baller and bottle opener posed as people; a glove with two fingers walking

(L to R)

I Do, 1995
Kitchen utensils, glass case, painted wood
Gift of the artist’s estate

Cruella, 2000
Fur and suede glove, wood base,
glass dome
Gift of the artist’s estate

Installation of Apollo the Healer

Collection Spotlight: Nancy Grossman

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Nancy Grossman, a New York City native, created this life-size etching, “Apollo the Healer,” in 1995. The Olympian god is associated with medicine and healing, and in this piece, the artist focuses our attention on a contorted collage figure of him, pieced together and made anew.

Grossman considered collage—the cutting and pasting of visual elements into a new form—as “the only way to make the disparate and ill-fitting parts of a life, an identity, an elegantly seamless experience. It satisfies both the urgent and the substantive thirst.” The museum, joining the world-wide chorus, offers thanks to all providing medical assistance during the pandemic, with hopes that this art provides a path away from suffering and toward restoration.

Contributed by staff

Figure of Apollo the healer

Edition: 3/20
65 in x 39.5 sheet
Spit-bite color etching
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2018

#MuseumFromHome: Frank Myers Boggs

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After forging a successful career painting marine landscapes and exhibiting them as well as cityscapes in the Paris Salon, Frank Myers Boggs became a French citizen in 1923. Settling in Montmartre, a bohemian neighborhood in the north of Paris, he renders a lone figure walking up the winding Rue Lepic in this painting. The pronounced diagonal brushstrokes behind the walking figure and the directional lines on the street and clouds give his movements a sense of speed.

Boggs was connected with the neighborhood art world, including art dealer Theo Van Gogh, who lived in an apartment on this street with his brother for some time. Two of Boggs’s paintings are depicted on the wall in the background of Vincent’s portrait of Scottish art dealer Alexander Reid, reproduced here. Boggs inscribed one of these paintings to “my friend Vincent.”

Michael Harding, Class of ’20
Excerpt from “Impressionism: Translating the Modern World”

Frank Myers Boggs, (French, b. United States, 1855–1926), Paris, 1915, oil on wood panel, lent by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Montgomery, Alabama; bequest of William Pelzer Arrington in memory of his mother, Ethel Pelzer Arrington.

Portrait of art dealer Alexander-Reid sitting in an easy chair

Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait of Alexander Reid, ca. 1887, oil on canvas, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.

Portrait of a small Jack Russell Terrier

#MuseumFromHome: Color the Collection!

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San Francisco artist Beth Van Hoesen (American, 1926–2010) began a remarkable career in printmaking in the mid-1940s. Working alongside other Bay Area artists such as Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, and her teacher David Park, Van Hoesen was an integral figure among a group of Californians at mid-20th century who rebelled against the prevailing New York-based Abstract Expressionism. Although she remains less well known in the general public than her male colleagues, Van Hoesen’s work has long been admired and collected by fine print connoisseurs and important institutions.

Take a look at some of the works from our permanent collection. She explored these themes throughout her long career: portraits of friends, still life compositions (often treating unorthodox subjects), landscapes, and portraits of animals and pet companions.

Download and enjoy these coloring pages as a way to relax and pass the time (fun for the young or young-at-heart). Snap a picture and tag @JCSMAuburn. Let’s make a #MuseumFromHome.

Portrait of a small Jack Russell Terrier

Oka, 1991
Edition: 24/30
Color etching, aquatint, drypoint, and roulette

Two bowls of figs, with loose figs.

Figs, 1977
Edition: 17/50
Color lithograph on Rives BFK paper

Portrait of a happy bulldog.

Toppy, 1985
Edition: H.C.
Color etching, aquatint, drypoint, and roulette

A cluttered junk drawer full of combs, keys and other items.

Drawer, 1961–72
Edition: 16/35

Student worker Jean Gannett poses with one-half of "Self-Portrait as Bathers."

Behind-the-Scenes: Jean Gannett

By | Building Community, K-12 Education, News, Supporting Auburn | No Comments

Jean Gannett is one of our student staffers. She assists with all aspects of education programming, which includes prototyping art projects and working with K12, family, and community outreach groups. She also serves as a face of the museum by greeting visitors at the front desk. 

Student worker Jean Gannett poses with one-half of

My time here at Jule Collins has been such an amazing experience. Most days it doesn’t even feel like a job. The staff are all nothing but kind and welcoming, especially the people I work with the most, the wonderful ladies in the education department.

I have learned a variety of real-world and industry skills that I will carry with me to my next job, as well as really interesting behind-the-scenes museum things, like how they wash the bunny men! Other things that really impacted me working here have been the opportunity to truly learn about and connect with Auburn’s community, create real change in people’s lives, as well as spread the joy of art with others. I would not trade this experience for the world.

Collection Spotlight: Loren MacIver

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Native New Yorker Loren MacIver took Saturday painting classes at the Art Students League as a youth. After that, the then 10-year old refused to take any further training. Fast forward to 1935, when she became the first woman to enter the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. Primarily self-taught as an artist, McIver found success in a time when women faced extreme difficulty gaining notice among art critics and dealers. She was only one of three women included in Advancing American Art, a short-lived U.S. State Department-produced touring exhibition in support of American ideals and art.

“Finit” is inspired by the sights of Cape Cod. Delicate brushwork and a soft palette evoke early morning light at water’s edge. The rising sun begins to dry the atmosphere, and elements both near and far gradually emerge from the gauzy haze. MacIver is frequently compared to the artist Paul Klee. Like Klee and the Surrealists, MacIver seems to elicit revelations from the realm of the subconscious.

Loren MacIver
(American, 1909–1998)
Finit, 1939
Oil on canvas
21 x 34 ½ inches
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society, 2019

An abstract drawing of a seated woman

Collection Spotlight: Grace Hartigan

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Grace Hartigan is known as a “Second-Generation Abstract Expressionist,” but she did not exclusively tether herself to the movement. Her close friendship with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, as well as her immersion in the 1950s New York art scene, influenced her painting. However, Hartigan remained autonomous and forged her style that seamlessly melded together abstraction and figuration. She painted under the pseudonym “George” until 1953 in homage to 19th-century female writers: George Sand and George Eliot.

In “Seated Figure I”, Hartigan’s unique marriage of abstraction and figuration is present. The curving lines of the female figure gracefully flow diagonally across the canvas. Thick black lines establish a background yet abstract the composition as a whole. Marks that initially look random – an outburst of artistic expression – become a vital part of developing the figure. It appears that two opposed styles have come to rest upon Hartigan’s muted canvas.

By Leslie Schuneman, curatorial intern

An abstract drawing of a seated woman

Grace Hartigan
“Seated Figure I” (circa 1952)
Pen, brush, black ink, and ink wash on paper
Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1072 Society
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University

“If you’re an extraordinarily gifted woman, the door is open. What women are fighting for is the right to be as mediocre as men.”

Grace Hartigan
Three girls sit on a bed in a silver gelatin print.

Collection Spotlight: Diane Arbus

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By Leslie Schuneman, curatorial intern

Diane Arbus is known for her psychologically compelling portraits of socialites and outliers alike. Arbus began her photography career in fashion and advertising and was published in “Vogue” and “Harper’s Bazaar”; yet, feeling that her work was banal and repetitious, Arbus took to the streets. She photographed everything from high-class women donning fur coats with their lapdogs to a family casually lounging in their nudist camp. Regardless of subject matter, Arbus probes the identity of her subjects with a light of familiarity and foreignness.

In this famous photograph, the triplets confront us with an intense gaze, but there still remains a sense of intimacy. They are pictured in their personal space – three identical beds and repetitive diamond wallpaper that echo their own similarities. The triplets almost appear to become one person as their dark skirts and bright white shirts bleed together; yet, their individual personalities play across their faces. Arbus stated that triplets reflected herself as they presented three different identities tied into one.

“We’ve all got an identity. You can’t avoid it. It’s what is left when you take away everything else.”

Diane Arbus
Three girls sit on a bed in a silver gelatin print.

Diane Arbus
“Triplets in Their Bedroom, N.J.”, 1963
Silver gelatin print
The William Dunlop Collection
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University

Roger Brown, Navy Pier (detail), 1986, color lithograph and silkscreen, 12/50, Museum purchase and partial gift of the Brown family.

Exhibition Celebrating Alabama Roots of Brothers Roger and Greg Brown Opening May 2

By | News


John Seitz, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University (

AUBURN, Alabama — A new exhibition of contemporary artwork from two of Alabama’s favorite sons, artist brothers Roger and Greg Brown, is opening at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University on Thursday, May 2. Exhibiting through Nov. 3, “Creative Cadences: Works by Roger and Greg Brown” features a provocative, eclectic variety of paintings, prints, sketches and sculptures by prolific Chicago Imagist Roger Brown and the printmaking, drawing and papier-mâché works of Montgomery-based visual artist and author Greg Brown.

The Brown brothers, who were raised near Auburn in neighboring Opelika in the 1940s and 50s, both showed significant creativity at an early age. Their parents encouraged this inclination, supporting Roger and Greg with private art lessons during their formative years.

“We were both tutored by Loneta Mason, the wife of Sam Mason, who was the football coach at Opelika High School,” Greg Brown said. “We received lessons from grade school all the way into high school.”

Roger Brown, six years older than Greg Brown, is described by his brother as someone who was very outgoing, attracted many friends, and always seemed to be engaged in an artistic preoccupation, from model-making to photography to theater.

“Roger’s passions resonated with me strongly growing up,” said Greg Brown. “He influenced me by his desire to be an artist. I had great admiration for what he was doing.”

Roger Brown moved from Alabama after high school and attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where his career as a serious artist intensified. By the time of his death in 1997, Roger Brown had risen to international prominence as one of the leading artists to emerge from the Chicago Imagist school of the late 1960s.

Roger Brown’s distinctive style—vivid, simply composed images, that often feature shadowy, bold landscapes populated with silhouetted human figures—frequently expresses personal and political subject matter within the frame of dark, ironic humor. His images and sculptural objects included in “Creative Cadences” reveal the influences of folk art, pop culture, Early Renaissance painting and his Southern roots.

“Several of the pieces in this exhibition are informed by aspects of Alabama life and culture that Roger drew inspiration from,” said Cynthia B. Malinick, director and chief curator of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. “The 1990 oil on canvas portrait of Hank Williams is a fairly clear example.”

Along with a diverse sampling from Roger Brown’s oeuvre, more than 30 of Greg Brown’s charcoal and pastel drawings, linocut prints and a series of papier-mâché sculptures will be featured in the exhibition. An Auburn University alumnus, Greg Brown is a working artist and published author currently the midst of a second book on his family genealogy. Unlike the 2007 folk art exhibition at the museum that exhibited only Roger Brown’s artwork, this year’s show places him in the spotlight alongside his much-lauded sibling.

“We’re brothers that had shared influences and similarities in how we grew up,” said Greg Brown. “But at the same time, we are very different artists. At this exhibition, people will be able to compare one with the other.”

Greg Brown sees his style as more object-oriented—less abstract and political than his brother’s. Many of his works, like the charcoal and pastel hat drawings done from 1976–77 while studying for an M.F.A. at SAIC, are examinations of people’s relationships to everyday objects like clothing.

“You can tell the type of person or personality by observing the clothes they wear,” Greg Brown said. “For example, a hat can reveal the personality of its wearer without one ever having to see the person who wears it.”

Regarding the influence of Southern roots in their work, Greg Brown believes Alabama was fertile soil for nurturing the artistic growth of both Roger and himself. “There is a richness in the South that benefits an artist,” Greg Brown said. “The climate, the beauty and the relaxed, free, laid-back lifestyle—it fills you full of poetry.”

To celebrate the opening, the museum is holding an evening reception on Wednesday, May 1, that will allow attendees an exclusive preview of the exhibition and the opportunity to meet Greg Brown and discuss his work and Roger’s.

“This opening reception is an ideal place for students, faculty and the wider community to connect with a contemporary artist like Greg Brown,” said Malinick. “The museum is dedicated to creating unparalleled experiences for direct interaction with art and artists.”

The exhibition is presented in part with generous support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Bicentennial Commission as part of the museum’s ongoing celebration of the Alabama bicentennial.

The May 1 opening reception runs 5–7 p.m. and includes hosted beer and wine and light fare. Tickets are free to members; non-members pay $25. To register for the reception, visit “Creative Cadences: Works of Roger and Greg Brown” runs May 2–Nov. 3 and is free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated.

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