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An oriole tends to a nest.

Museum staff conserve Audubon collection

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With more than 100 prints, the Louise Hauss and David Brent Miller Audubon Collection is one of the southeast’s finest and a cornerstone of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University. Many of the works are hand-colored, and as works on paper, they are fragile and especially susceptible to light, whether from the sun or artificial sources.

To provide the utmost care and to extend the life of the pieces for as long as possible, museum staff implemented gallery improvements while closed. Now, a new motion-activated light sensor system leaves the gallery dark until someone walks in, and modified gallery doors limit further exposure. Preparators also are using an even higher value UV protective glazing in the framing process. These measures reflect the university’s stewardship responsibilities and allow curators to exhibit these and other Audubon prints on a more regular basis. A new exhibition, “Nurture: Audubon’s Nesting Imagery,” is now on view.

Underground Images

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This selection of posters, 1973–2018, is from the wide array conceived at the School of Visual Arts for display in the vast New York City subway system. As part of an ongoing promotional and social engagement initiative, they offer a glimpse of the history of the college and the collective talent of some of its acclaimed female design, illustration and photography faculty.

Considered chronologically, more than four decades of vivid graphic design emerge from the discrete lens of women creators. Many of the posters also reflect the artists’ interests and cultural backgrounds, as in Louise Fili’s 2011 and 2016 pieces, which are predominantly typographical, or Yuko Shimizu’s designs that overtly meld in her Japanese heritage. Eye-catching and often imbued with social messages, the works are marked by optimism and an invitation for creativity, encouraging the viewer to “Fly Higher” and “Make It Here.”

The School of Visual Arts in New York has been a leader in the education of artists, designers and creative professionals for seven decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, a dynamic curriculum and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. Comprising 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus and nearly 38,000 alumni in 75 countries, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world. SVA Executive Vice President Anthony P. Rhodes, creative director for the posters since 2007, curated a larger exhibition of these posters, and the museum is grateful to him and SVA for this collaborative project. Special thanks as well to Carlton Nell, professor in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design at Auburn University, for helping to bring this exhibition to the museum.

All posters © 2020 Visual Arts Press, LTD.

A woman sitting on a stoop gestures in this black and white photograph.

Collection Spotlight: Lisette Model

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Can a photograph capture a personality? Lisette Model’s “Lower East Side (woman), New York”  is on her stoop in mid-sentence, gesturing to the passersby below. Model found inspiration on the streets and in the faces of the city’s celebrities, entertainers and average citizens, which she captured candidly in their unguarded moments. To whom do you think she is talking? What kinds of things has she seen and heard?

Years later, Model learned more about her subject. Her granddaughter described her the woman as a loving, Romania-born widow with nine children. She worked day and night at a little store in front of her apartment. The photographer recounted in a 1979 interview how she gifted a copy to the family, who had a party to unveil the photo with family and friends. “People came in and said yes that’s her,” explained Model. “and you see that it is when the real people see it, not other people who will say what kind of a grotesque monster did you photograph here. That was not what I photographed. I knew that this woman was a great personality, and so were many others.”

A woman sitting on a stoop gestures in this black and white photograph.

ca. 1942
Consolidated Medium
Gelatin silver print
Museum purchase with funds provided by William Dunlop Family Foundation
2016.02

A woman takes a drink from a water fountain labeled "colored only."

Collection Spotlight: Gordon Parks

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A woman takes a drink from a water fountain labeled

In “Drinking Fountains” from our collection by the acclaimed Gordon Parks, who documented segregation in Alabama for Life in 1956, we observe history seemingly frozen in time as captured through a car window. The fountains with their segregated text, shocking in their own right, are juxtaposed against innocuously placed ice cream advertisements. Just as jarring, we also see a young Black woman leaning in for a drink of water from the fountain clearly labeled for her. A little girl, perhaps her daughter, is nearby with hand on hip, peering into the store windows.

Who did that little girl grow up to become? How did this moment and those fountains shape her life?

These are just two of a multitude of questions we should ask about what this image reflects, and while segregated drinking fountains are relics of the past, there can be no doubt that racism and bigotry remain.

Through civil unrest and commitments from the university administration, our community is on record to support one another and work toward much-needed change. More broadly, cultural sectors also are looking inward critically at their practices to course-correct. All indications point to acknowledging that we have a responsibility to act and that we have much more work to do.

In 2019, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art embarked on strategic visioning. Meaningful discussions have centered on diversity, inclusion and accessibility, and a commitment to improving these organizational tenets. This critical work continues with urgency and mindfulness. As an academic museum, we resolve to do better in all that we do for everyone and, most importantly, to listen, learn, and be a part of the change needed in the world.

A construction worker sits on unfinished stairs.

Collection Spotlight: Chad States

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In June 2020, our collection spotlight explores permanent collection photography. As June is Pride Month, our first selection is a work by American photographer Chad States.

What do you first notice about this person? What details are provided, given the location? The subject met the artist through an online post, seeking people who identify as masculine for personal portraits.

In his series “Masculinities,” States photographed a variety of people in settings and poses that expressed their sense of this concept. One participant, Dex, commented, “I’d say I’m masculine because of how I feel inside, who I am, and how I carry myself. In a lot of ways my masculinity is tied to my male gender role and how I want to project that and be perceived by others.” A transgender man, Dex chose to be photographed in a stereotypically male setting related to construction.

How does this make you think differently about your view of others?

From the 2018 practicum, “Dignity and Diversity: Portraits from the Permanent Collection,” curated by Honors Introduction into Art History students.

A construction worker sits on unfinished stairs.

Dex, 2007
Archival pigment print
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University; William Dunlop Collection

Graduate students prepare an experiment in the museum pond.

Auburn Graduate Students Research Harmful Algal Blooms in Museum Pond

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What is happening in our pond? Is this a new art installation?

The museum and the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences are partnering to explore the best ways to control harmful algal blooms, which can negatively affect aquatic ecosystems and organisms by producing poisonous toxins. Even pets can become sick if they enter or drink the water!

The graduate student team, led by Professor Alan Wilson, will apply several chemical and biological methods to the floating greenhouse plastic enclosures to determine which one is most effective. They’ll use the results to identify the right ongoing treatment to manage the blooms in our pond and other water bodies to ensure they remain safe for all to enjoy.

Graduate students Angelea Belfiore, Riley Buley, Edna Fenandez-Figueroa and Matt Gladfelter prepare the experiment along with professor Alan Wilson.

People voting in segregated booths.

Museums for Equality: Bernice Sims

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Curators highlighted Bernice Sims in “From Her Innermost Self: Visionary Art of Southern Women.” As a non-traditional student, Bernice Sims visited the Montgomery Museum of Art for an art history class trip and regained her childhood passion for painting. There, she discovered the work of Moses Tolliver and visited with the artist in his Montgomery home. Her instructors encouraged her to follow her own painting style as she portrayed her extremely personal memories of the Civil Rights Movement.

Here Sims depicted voters at the polls. In an ever-increasing polarized climate, how are voters divided today? Is it still merely along the lines of race?

People voting in segregated booths.

Untitled (Segregated voting)
Acrylic on canvas
Lent by Micki Beth Stiller

Sims returned to the subject of “Bloody Sunday” often in her work, as she experienced the crossing first hand. What emotions does she convey for this event? Why do you think she painted this moment in history?

Protesters cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Selma Bridge
Acrylic on canvas
Lent by Micki Beth Stiller

Sims honored first responders of 9/11, recreating an iconic photograph of hope. Sims passed away in 2014; but what imagery might she have used to address other events, from #BlackLivesMatter to more recent ones like COVID-19?

Bernice Sims - New York Heroes, 2001

New York Heroes, 2001
Acrylic on canvas
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University; gift of Barb Bondy 2018.22

Bernice Sims - New York Heroes, 2001

#MuseumFromHome: Documenting Our Lives

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Bernice Sims - New York Heroes, 2001

Our #MuseumFromHome activity is inspired by our monthlong theme of diversity, inclusion and equity. Fitting, then, that we draw upon the work of Bernice Sims and the exhibition, “From Her Innermost Self: Visionary Art of Southern Women.”

Sims made art about important times in history that she experienced. In this work, she remembered the first responders during 9/11.

Like Bernice Sims, we can also make artwork about our experiences while we stay at home. Creating art can help you go through big feelings you may have or recognize people who change the world for the better. What is something that has happened in your lifetime?

What You’ll Need

Pencil

Paper

Eraser

Crayons, markers, colored pencils or other drawing material of your choice

Paper, pencil, eraser

Instructions

Before you begin, take a minute to think about some of the things you’ve seen or done that are really interesting to you. These can be things we are experiencing right now or another really important event in your life.

When you are finished, go ahead and use your pencil to sketch out your idea on paper. Bernice Sims’ style was very simple and clean, so try not to get too caught up in intricate details.

Finally, color in the picture.

Once you are done, share your work with others. Maybe even hang the work in your home or post to social media. We’d love to share your creation online @JCSMAuburn.

Collection Spotlight: Selections from the Catfish Press Exchange

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The Catfish Press Exchange folio vividly illustrates contemporary printmaking in the United States. The output of this collective usually remains in the private collections of the artists; but, JCSM greatly benefits from the generosity of donors Joe and Julie Sanders. These selections are striking examples of different printmaking techniques.

The word ”lithography” is derived from the Greek, litho meaning ”stone,” and graphy meaning ”writing.” This technique involves drawing with a greasy crayon on polished limestone or aluminum plates. A chemical solution is applied to bond the drawing to the stone, and then the surface is treated with water that only sticks to the non-greased areas. A special ink, which only adheres to the greased areas, is applied with a roller. The print is then run through a press.

Beauvais Lyons
Plate #345, 2003
Lithograph

The word ”intaglio” comes from the Italian intagliare which means ”to incise or carve.” In this method of printing, the areas that hold the ink are cut into the surface of a metal plate. After the plate is inked, paper is laid on the prepared plate and extreme pressure
is applied, forcing the paper into the incised lines to pick up the ink. There are several different types of intaglio prints such as etching, drypoint and aquatint.

Art Werger
Elements, 2003
Etching

Serigraphy, more commonly known as ”screen printing,” is a stencil-based technique, which uses screens made of fabric or fine mesh stretched over a frame. A chemical solution marks off the areas around the image, blocking the ink from going through the screen. A squeegee is then used to press ink through the open parts of the screen.

Lynwood Kreneck
Master Builder’s Attic, 2003
Serigraph

Relief printing is one of the oldest forms of printmaking dating back as far as c. 4000 BCE. To create a relief print, an artist carves into a material leaving raised areas that hold ink. Paper is laid on top, and pressure is applied with a ”baren,” transferring the image onto paper. Relief prints can be made from a wide range of materials, such as wood (woodcut, wood engraving), linoleum (linocut) and metal (letterpress).

Joe Sanders
The Sky is Falling, 2003
Woodcut

Digital is a general term used for any print that uses digital technology in image creation or printing.

Cima Katz
Reverberations, 2003
Digital collage on paper

Collection Spotlight: Auburn Oak Bowl

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Matt Moulthrop continues a legacy of innovation in woodturning, advancing techniques developed by his grandfather and father, artists Ed and Philip Moulthrop. In partnership with Auburn University, Moulthrop turned this bowl from the sizeable forked section of the Auburn Oaks at Toomer’s Corner. Do you notice the dramatic patterns from where the limbs intersected? He often works with trees that have a meaningful association in people’s minds or unique value to a community.

What significance does Toomer’s Corner hold for you? Does the work of art or woodturning process capture it in some way? What kind of item might you transform into art to preserve a memory or convey a story? Its history?

Auburn Oak Bowl, 2014
Turned wood (Live oak)
Ca. 15 x 26 ½ x 26 ½ inches
Gift of the artist, 2014

“Each tree has a story to tell. Wormholes convey past life, rings communicate growth and certain colors tell the story of death by lightning or blight. My job is to tell the story…lengthening the life of the tree rather than ending it.”

Matt Moulthrop

Welcome to the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

We welcome you to explore, experience and engage with the visual arts.