Call and Response: Keetje Kuipers

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JCSM called nine members of the university community to respond objectively and subjectively to art from JCSM’s growing collection of natural history prints. The resulting exhibition is an orchestrated chorus of diverse voices responding to the art, science, and wonder of representing the natural world.

To expand the conversation, Ralph Brown Draughon Library’s Special Collections Department loaned materials from their collections; JCSM appreciates their kind collaboration. We also thank the Auburn University Museum of Natural History in the College of Science and Mathematics for loaning materials from their ornithology collection.

The above video player provides audiences with a reading of the poem by the author. This recording is also available to hear in the gallery.

Keetje Kuipers

Hollow Haunts

A sculptural poem, Hollow Haunts explores questions of historicity: What is the work of time, and how are we at its mercy when
we attempt to negotiate our collective histories? Is historical authenticity at odds with the evolution of our collective humanity?

In responding to Walton Ford’s Scipio and the Bear, I turned to the text that inspired the painting, a section from Audubon, the Naturalist of the New World that first appeared in Audubon’s 1832 Ornithological Biography. Volume 1. The ornithologist recounts participating in a plantation bear hunt during which a slave, riding horseback, kills the largest of the bears by landing an axe in its skull. The man’s name is Scipio, a popular moniker for slaves displaying bravery, a reference to Scipio Africanus, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal. Though Audubon admires Scipio for his horsemanship and saddle-making skills, he remains an animal in Audubon’s eyes, a centaur at best, half- man and half-beast.

Rather than turning away from this difficult material, I wished to excavate the text. Making use of only the first two pages of the passage, the red line of correction cross-stitched on Hollow Haunts functions not as an erasure—though it takes the form of an erasure poem—but as a kind of bleeding through. The Scipio I see here was brave for insisting on his humanity, for declaring himself in a time when selfhood did not exist for black people in America. Hollow Haunts pits the slow march of time’s progress against the rightfully impatient hunger for personhood, recognition, and respect—the refusal to be captive to time’s constraints in the making of a self.

With thanks to Erin Curry and the Jentel Artist Residency Program.

AU Student Writing Competition Winner: Emma Hyche

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Based on the exhibitions featured at the museum during the 2015-2016 academic year and works from the permanent collection, students submitted written work responding to individual pieces of art experienced first-hand at JCSM. Entry was open to graduate and undergraduate students. Prizes of $500 were awarded for two academic essays and two creative submissions. For information on  the writing competition for the 2016-2017 academic year, contact Scott Bishop at 334-844-7014.

“On Applebee’s ‘Untitled (Landscape)'” a poem by Emma Hyche

“Frank W. Applebee enjoyed a career as an artist that spanned much of the twentieth century, producing work that ranged from American Scene imagery during the years of the Great Depression, through lyrical forms of representation and experiments with abstraction…”

If I enter that rectangle on the wall
I hear the sound of breathing.

If I am there in the disarray
the smell of soap is everywhere.
Squat black pot, bent black woman,
and everything else a parallelogram.

Panels of walls and shards of floor
slide crosswise in pink and green–

A house, or the concept of houses,
exploded. In the background, the woman

sweating and washing, strips of cloth
dripping with damp. Though I am not

there in disarray I feel water on my skin,
I see the man with the brushes.

The woman’s labor crystallized in paint by a man
whose hands never bled from lye.

Her work, or the concept of working,
holding the oil in place.

Call and Response: Rose McLarney

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JCSM called nine members of the university community to respond objectively and subjectively to art from JCSM’s growing collection of natural history prints. The resulting exhibition is an orchestrated chorus of diverse voices responding to the art, science, and wonder of representing the natural world.

To expand the conversation, Ralph Brown Draughon Library’s Special Collections Department loaned materials from their collections; JCSM appreciates their kind collaboration. We also thank the Auburn University Museum of Natural History in the College of Science and Mathematics for loaning materials from their ornithology collection.

Rose McLarney

Admiring Audubon’s “Carolina Parakeets”

Green and red and yellow and yammering,
Carolina Parakeets once flashed in the forests.
Flocks so big they blocked out the sun.
Flocks so faithful, when one was hurt, hundreds
would fly back to hover with her.

Which made it fast work to shoot them all.
Which was done, for feathers for hats.
And by farmers whose fields their appetites
had fallen upon. Splitting every apple, every pear,
looking for a kind of seed that wasn’t there, yet eating
none. None is how many survive extinction.

There is one print Audubon made of them, paper
tinted tropical colors, in a museum I can go to.
And often I do, seeking brightness, seeking birdsong.
But the image is a warning call, is about waste.
There’s a dwindling woodland beyond the window
turned away from, by me in my admiring, by art
finding its ending. Our tending to head back to the dead.

Rose McLarney is Assistant Professor teaching creative writing in the Auburn University Department of English.

AU Student Writing Competition Winner: Michelle Mandarino

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Based on the exhibitions featured at the museum during the 2015-2016 academic year and works from the permanent collection, students submitted written work responding to individual pieces of art experienced first-hand at JCSM. Entry was open to graduate and undergraduate students. Prizes of $500 were awarded for two academic essays and two creative submissions. For information on  the writing competition for the 2016-2017 academic year, contact Scott Bishop at 334-844-7014.

Untitled Essay by Michelle Mandarino

A recent exhibition at the Jule Collins Smith Museum features fifty-five prints from Utagawa Hiroshige’s color woodblock print series, “Along the Eastern Road, Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido.” These prints, created between 1797 and 1858 during what is known as the Edo period in Japan, depict the “Tokaido,” or “Eastern Road Route,” which linked what is now Tokyo with the ancient capital of Japan. Hiroshige worked in the tradition of the “ukiyo-e,” or “pictures of the floating world” which depicted popular scenes of women, actors, and everyday people. Ukiyo, meaning floating world, was initially a pejorative term for the self-indulging lifestyle the newly wealthy merchant class could afford. For some time, the ideal citizen had been considered to be the farmer, who made product, while the merchant was in the lower class, and did not produce anything. This new resurgence of wealth brought about a cultural shift that is then reflected in the “ukiyo-e” prints.

The “ukiyo-e” prints by Hiroshige were not produced solely by Hiroshige. Hiroshige acted as the designer, and would design a sketch of how the print was to look, based on the proposed subject matter by the publisher, who would commission and distribute the final prints. Then, Hiroshige’s designs would be carved into woodblocks, one for each color desired on the print. These blocks would then be used by printers who would make impressions of the designs on paper, producing the final print.

The very deliberate choices made in this exhibition are used to both highlight the physical nature of the Tokaido and the historical context in which this style prevailed. The exhibit is organized in a very large gallery space with a small entrance space that displays various infographics, allowing the viewer to better understand the context before even stepping in the main space. The first infographic, titled “Along the Eastern Road” provides necessary historical and cultural background, describing both the complexity and cultural significance of the works. Accompanying this introduction is a second infographic, titled “Map of the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road”. This map provides a detailed explanation and a visual representation of the locations of the fifty-three stations along the Tokaido Road, allowing the viewer to better understand the path of the prints before he or she even begins to view the works.

Title wall of the

This gallery space also represents a developing convention in the arrangement of gallery spaces. Instead of having a vastly empty floor space, there are two clusters of furniture place diagonally from each other. They consist of three to four chairs, a rug, and a low table in the center of each clusters. These elements are in similarly neutral tones, but in a darker palette so as to not blend in with the rest of the gallery space. This encourages visitors to take their time within the gallery, to sit down and reflect on the space as a whole, and to read through the relevant books that have been placed on the tables.

The main space of the gallery is large and consists of a conventional four-wall space, with no temporary walls to disrupt the flow of the space. The wall color is a very neutral off-white, which is appropriate as it does not overwhelm the delicate coloring of the prints, as a darker or brighter color might. The lighting is intentionally muted in this gallery. As with all ink prints of paper, the Tokaido prints are very delicate and prone to fading. The age and inks used in these prints make them especially so. As such, the skylight that is normally present in this gallery has been closed off to allow for the regulation of lighting inside. The gallery lights have been adjusted to not shine directly onto the prints, but slightly above them. Additionally, the lights shine at an intensity of approximately five to seven foot-candles. To put this in perspective, ten foot-candles is generally the highest intensity recommended for delicate works, such as prints, drawings, and watercolors. The neutral tones of the space and the dim lighting allow a viewer to fully appreciate the delicate colorings and details of the prints, while at the same time being a space that a viewer does not feel overwhelmed with spending a significant amount of time in, which is necessary for an exhibition with this many works.

The prints, additionally, are hung following the progression of the stations on the Tokaido Road from Edo to Kyoto. This, accompanied with the map presented at the entrance of the gallery space, allows the viewer to better understand the progression of the route as someone who had traveled it would see the stations in that same order. Furthermore, some of the prints are intentionally hung in vertical pairs, seemingly disrupting the flow of side-by-side prints. However, this forces the viewer to stop and take in the prints that were being called attention to. In all, the prints were fairly close together. In general, they were not grouped but in the occasional pairs that were spread throughout to both call attention to individual prints and break up the monotony that otherwise would have occurred had all the prints been side-by-side instead.

Overall, the works have an interesting relationship. On one hand, they are each individual works of art that are able to stand separately of each other. However, on the other hand, the works all comprise one larger body of work: Hiroshige’s Tokaido prints. In this perspective, each individual print is simply an extension of the larger work.

One particular space I found of interest was towards the end of the progression of the prints. Here, four prints are placed in a square formation, with two sets of two vertically stacked prints side-by-side. This is the only time that this occurs in the entire gallery space, and indeed, the presence of vertically stacked prints occurs only occasionally in this space, making it all the more noticeable. The prints in this two-by-two layout are “46th Station: Kameyama,” “47th Station: Seki,” “48thStation: Sakashita” and “49th Station: Tsuchiyama.” These scenes depict a snow-covered mountain, a small market, a Cliffside, and a rainy forest-side path. While thematically, these prints are no more related to each other than any other prints in the collection, these prints all have similar implicit diagonal lines that are emphasized by this grouping. Not only does this draw attention to those four individual prints and their relationships to each other, but it also calls attention to the two previous prints and the prints following it. This is especially emphasized by the fact that there is a doorway two prints before the quartet, and a wall corner two prints after quartet. Because of this layout, this complete wall is particularly emphasized.

In all, I believe the organization of the gallery to be very intuitive. The literal arrangement of the prints following the Tokaido Road stations make it very accessible to the viewers. Had there been more space in the gallery, I would have possibly spread out the prints or clustered them in groups, so that viewers could periodically stop and reflect upon the prints instead of having to walk the perimeter of the gallery, paying attention to the entire time to the closely-arranged prints. I believe the absence of temporary walls in the space to be a positive aspect, as they would have interrupted the flow of the room. I believe that among the gallery’s strengths are the clustered seating arrangement and the introduction at the beginning of the gallery space. The clustered seating arrangement demonstrates a progression towards a discussion-oriented space rather than a perception-oriented space. The infographics also foster the space as a cohesive learning experience for those without the prior knowledge of Japanese woodblock prints to also enjoy the exhibition.

AU Student Writing Competition Winner: Kate McCollum

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Based on the exhibitions featured at the museum during the 2015-2016 academic year and works from the permanent collection, students submitted written work responding to individual pieces of art experienced first-hand at JCSM. Entry was open to graduate and undergraduate students. Prizes of $500 were awarded for two academic essays and two creative submissions. For information on  the writing competition for the 2016-2017 academic year, contact Scott Bishop at 334-844-7014.

“The Surinam Daw” a short story by Kate McCollum

Peter Jansen stood on the deck of a ship, looking down on the cobbled streets in the port town of Paramaribo. The palm-lined wharves were bustling as sailors stacked crates and barrels, threw sheets of white canvas over the cargo, and heaved it onboard the ships that nosed their way toward the sea, anxious to cast themselves onto the blue horizon. Shouts rang out all over the dusty street, and the Atlantic wind whipped them away to join the seagulls that swooped overhead.

“Mr. Jansen?” The boy, a sandy-haired boy of about fourteen, dressed in old clothes that had once been very fine, tailored for him or someone just his size, waited at the end of the gangplank.

“I’m coming, Kip,” Peter said. “Let’s go hire a crew, shall we?”

They went together, a tall man from London and a skinny Dutch boy, down the street, and after making a few inquiries, they found a man with boats ready to go down the river to the heart of the jungle, where Peter would make engravings for his first book — his own book, not the university’s or some biologist’s — his book. He had been working on it for years now, working on it secretly. It wasn’t that it was so different from his other work, but it was his. Naturalists in stifling black coats weren’t stooping down, pointing to a weed and spouting Latin names while hovering over Peter’s shoulder, making sure he got all the details down right.

Kip had been the first to see his book, and Peter could have killed him for it. The boy had picked the book up out of a broken crate — it had fallen moments before — and opened its first hand-sewn page and smiled. “These are very good,” he’d said in a broken Dutch accent that Peter’s parents spoke. “Even better than Cradle’s.”

Peter had loomed up over him, his own sandy hair graying around the temples. Kip had looked up at him, and as Peter took the book from him, brushing it off with one hand, he’d said, “You know Thomas Cradle’s work?”

“Yes, sir, I’ve seen it.” Kip had hesitated. “You’re going to Surinam, aren’t you, Mr. Jansen?” Peter nodded. “You wouldn’t… you wouldn’t need an assistant, would you, sir?”

“You mean you?” Peter had looked him up and down — an urchin child on the stained docks of London — and shook his head. “I’m sorry, boy. No assistant is better than an untrained one.”

“I’m a fast learner. And besides,” he’d called after Peter, “I know about something you might like to draw!”

Peter turned, ready to be rid of the boy. “And what’s that?”

Kip had held up a sketch — obviously an old one, torn on one side like it had been ripped out of a sketchbook, but the emerald beauty remained untouched by time and rough handling. It was the daw, legs bent with tension, wings extended for flight, golden eye raised to the sky… it fascinated him.

“Where did you get that?”

“It was my father’s… he went to Surinam twelve years ago and brought this back for me. He’s dead now… I’d like to see it in person, go where he went… meet an old friend or two.”

Peter was captivated by the daw, and looking at the boy again, he liked the frank openness on the boy’s face, the simple smile, the thoughts he suspected were trapped underneath the overgrown thatch of hair. He had brought him on, and over the course of the voyage, Peter had begun to discover things about him.

Kip had said he was a novice at art, but Peter had seen him preparing paints in the soft light belowdeck on the ship, pinching dry pigments and mixing them with linseed oil, milk, or water with casual precision. He dipped his fingers in the paint, rubbed them together, closed his eyes… and added more liquid. He’d had training before… he was probably an aristocrat, yet he was passing himself off as an assistant. It was none of his business, but for the rest of the voyage, he had wondered. Who had Kip trained with? Joseph Emerson? Jean Belmont?

Thomas Cradle?

He remembered hearing about Cradle’s death in London. It had shocked him. Cradle had been a good artist with a good eye, and they had worked together when they were both young men in English gardens, pulling water lilies and newts up in nets to sketch them. It was a pity, what had happened to him. He’d had such a way of seeing things… There was something of that vision in Kip, too, and Peter saw it in the way Kip drew boldly with a bit charcoal, making dark slashes that outlined sea gulls while squinting up at them against the blue of the sky, or the way he dashed up the rigging, hooked a leg in the ropes, and looked out over the ocean.

One day, Peter glanced up from a sketch he was making of a sea bird resting on a barrel. “When we first met, you spoke of Thomas Cradle. What do you know about him?”

Kip shrugged. “I saw some of his work once in a scientific journal,” he said. “It was about snakes. They were from somewhere far away, I think in… it wasn’t New Guinea… it was —“

“Australia,” Peter said, tapping the charcoal dust off of his sketchbook. “He died in Australia last year.”

“Oh,” Kip said. “ I didn’t know… did you know him, sir?”

“That I did. He was a friend of mine. We worked together…” He shot a glance at Kip, who waited with his shoulders hunched forward over the rails, his shirt whipping in the stiff sea breeze. “Are you interested in my private affairs, Kip? Because I’m becoming interested in yours.”

“Mine, sir?”

“I’m not an idiot, boy. I can see you’ve had some training. Come on, tell me something about yourself. Give me some context.”

“Yes, sir,” Kip said, frowning. He hesitated. “I told you my father went to Surinam several years ago. He was an officer in the navy — a captain. He died a few months ago.”

Peter softened a bit. He glanced up from his sketchbook. “I’m sorry, boy.”

Kip nodded. “Before he died, he gave me the sketch he made of the daw. He was an artist — not professionally, but he liked to make sketches, whole books of them, and when he’d come back from a trip, he’d give them to me. Except for a few…” Kip stopped and stood up a bit straighter. “Anyway, my mother died a long time ago, so I’m alone.”

“Don’t you have any relatives?”

“I have a grandfather. But he had a disagreement with my father over something my father did a few years ago, and I haven’t seen him since. I sent word that father had died, but he never responded. I don’t have anyone anymore, so… I’m going to go to Surinam, where my father went. And when I heard you were going there, I jumped at the chance to go with you.”

“You want to be an artist, do you?” Peter smiled.

“Of course.”


“Why?” Kip raised his eyebrows. He looked away, thinking. “After my father died, I realized how sheltered I’d been. I’d never realized how hard life could be, or how I’ve treated others. His sketchbooks, the ones he gave me when he died, they showed me just how wrong I’ve been, how little I cared about others. I was blind, and his sketchbooks helped me to see.” He paused. “I want to do something of that effect with my work.

Peter chuckled. “So you think you can save the world with a few paintings? I’m sorry to say that you’re sadly mistaken, Kip. I wish it could have that kind of effect on people, but more often than not, people don’t really look at our work — not that way.”

Kip frowned. “Is that why you don’t paint people?”

Peter looked up. “No,” he said. “I don’t paint people because I’m a naturalist.” He brushed away some charcoal dust and nodded. “I think that’ll do.” He handed the sketch to Kip. “What do you think?”

Kip nodded. “It’s wonderful.” They inspected it together, compared it to the quick, gestural drawing Kip had made of it earlier and compared the two.

“You see, you want to tighten up your strokes,” Peter said, “If you want it to look professional. “But I like the confidence.”

“Thank you,” Kip said. He took a breath and held it… then he let it out with a whoosh and took another. Then he turned to Peter again. “Sir, you said you knew Thomas Cradle.”

“What about him?”

“How did you know him?”

Peter stood up, uncomfortable with where the conversation had gone. Why did the boy ask so many questions? “He was a friend,” he said. “I’m going below.”

They had sailed from the cold, littered waters of the Thames to this warm, inviting sea that sent its heart beat onto the sunlit wharves of Paramaribo, an ocean away from home, and Peter had to admit to himself that he liked Kip. After they engaged a crew to take them down the river, they got a room at the inn. That night, they slept with the lizards crawling over the wooden beams above their heads and sailors singing in the tavern across the street, and the next day, they set out on the river and began their way into the heart of Surinam.

They stopped by the plantation just outside of Paramaribo. Kip insisted.

“Father stopped there many times when he was in Surinam,” he said. “He said it’s beautiful there. And the man who owns it is interested in art. He has a collection.”

Peter had been intrigued. They’d stopped at a dock in the river bend and walked up a path through the dense trees and orchids to a house. It looked a bit out of place, that house, as though it had floated across the sea from London and washed up here. The plantation itself was beautiful, just as Kip had said, and the owner was indeed interested in art. He was a rotund, balding Dutchman who had seen Peter’s exhibition at the Royal Academy and was duly impressed. Peter didn’t like the man. He spoke too quickly, asked too many questions about Peter’s work, his methods, his techniques, wanted to see too many of Peter’s paintings and wanted to buy all of Peter’s future work on the spot. Peter assured him that nothing was for sale just yet.

“Everything’s for sale!” The planter insisted.

After a few minutes of that, Peter broke away and joined Kip outside. Kip had been giving himself a tour of the plantation.

“Looking for inspiration?” Peter said, shielding his eyes from the noonday sun with his hand.

“What?” Kip said. “Oh, no… It’s just, I…” he didn’t finish. His eyes locked on something before them in the field. “God, help them!” he choked out.

Peter stared at the scene. A slave girl a little older than Kip and a boy a little younger were being trundled past them. Peter saw the boy duck his head to miss a blow from an overseer. He was hit anyway, and Peter heard the force of it from where he stood observing. The slave girl cried out, reaching for what could only be her brother. Kip started to bolt forward, but Peter’s hand shot out and held him back.

“Steady, boy.”

Kip shrugged him off, eyes blazing, but he remained there — because the overseers were dragging the siblings toward them. Peter began to move out of the way, but suddenly the slave girl stumbled and fell against him.

It had been different before. He’d been in crowds before, and crowds lent him a sea of faces to hide behind, a hundred other targets, people who were surely more capable than he was of helping someone in need. But she was here, and she was looking at him — only him — and it was as though she’d pulled him down beneath the waves in the bay, down to the depths of the sea. She clung to him as though she were drowning, clove-brown fingers digging into coat. He tried to escape, tried to shake her off, but she clung, and he couldn’t reach the surface. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see anything but those sinewy hands and those eyes, green eyes… why… why did she have green eyes… they were burning him all over with the terror he saw there, as though she carried the sun on her back like a child and had handed it to him.

“I-I… I don’t…” he said, gaping at her.

She didn’t say anything. She couldn’t have held him long — perhaps she’d only bumped into him and caught at his shirt to steady herself — could that have been it? — but she let him go, and turned without a word. She took her sun-burden with her, and held her brother in front of her, clutching his arms with the same intensity with which she’d held Peter. She left, and Peter felt himself rising to the surface again. He was breathing heavily, chest working like a bellows as he looked around him. He felt like the fields and the jungle were new, foreign, like he’d never seen them before. There were the palms, waving and green, and the river, churning placidly in the cool depths.

The blood was pooling in the dust of the tree-shaded field. Peter studied it — cadmium red oil paint, with a touch of linseed oil for viscosity — and without quite realizing it, he crouched, one knee setting down onto the warm, hard dirt, and reached out a finger toward the blood. What did it feel like? Was it like his oils, thick and lovely, or more like gouache, smooth like milk? Did it… he drew his finger away, so close to the red pool.

It was disappearing… seeping into the path, as though the earth was sipping it, slowly, with great satisfaction. He stared at it until he realized that he was looking at blood, not paint. It terrified him. He was a naturalist… he was a naturalist, and this was ridiculous. But he continued to stare, watched as the dust swirled in the blood. An ant approached cautiously. It sank into the dark stain.

“Mr. Jansen,” Kip said, facing the slave children and the overseers. “We have to do something.”

Peter lifted himself from the crouch and stood, holding his coat in his hands. He beat the dust off his trousers from where he’d knelt and glanced at Kip out of the corner of his eye. “It’s not our place to interfere,” he said. “Get your things and let’s go.”

He picked up Kip’s carpetbag for him and held it out to the boy, raising his eyes reluctantly. Kip was still turned toward the passing group, but his head had jerked around to face Peter, and there was shock in his eyes, and a slowly ebbing light that made Peter cringe to see.

The jungle was alive with sounds. Birds called overhead in the vast green canopies, and the river churned over sprawling tree roots and rocks on its way to the Brokopondo Reservoir. A green bird swooped over the river toward the camp, its calls piercing the warm forest mist.

Under the shade of his tent, Peter removed the lid of a wooden crate and took out a cold, wax-coated metal plate. He checked the wax for imperfections, grabbed one of his engraving tools, sharp like a bird’s talons, and walked to his chair. He seated himself in front of a cloth-draped box, and then, when he was ready, he removed the cloth.

He saw its feet first, leathery talons curled around the mossy stump the men from the village had put in the cage. They rested lightly, their hold on the branch relaxed… but then, as the stained canvas went up, they clutched the branch in terror and the legs that followed them tensed. Emerald wings were next, and they began beating against the sides of the cage with a fury, filling the air with the whoosh of air pushing past those green wings and the crash of metal as the cage rocked on the table. The light caught Peter’s eye as it sifted through the feathers and he reached out a hand to steady the cage. The cloth was up — now he could see the eyes, bright yellow like a candle’s flame that seemed to take in its entire surroundings at once, looking for an escape, and yet kept the man in sight at all times, watching for a threat.

Peter Jansen, British naturalist, explorer, and illustrator of everyone’s books but his own, settled back in his chair, wadded the cloth up in his hands, placed it on the table next to him, and waited for the daw to calm down.

He was finally making his own book, full of etchings of exotic creatures — mostly birds, like this one. All the same… this one had a gaze that reminded him of the slave girl he’d seen on the plantation. He’d though of her when the village boys pounced on this bird and shoved it in a sack, but the girl and her brother were none of his business, and the bird would soon be free.

He etched it as he’d found it — standing in a clearing, on the low branch of a tree stump, its ragged lip still pointing skyward, as the cutters had left it. The huts of the villagers were small in the distance, near the mountains. They’d left their farming to help him for the day, to catch live birds so he could etch their likenesses in wax and metal and show them to people across the sea. He etched it, washed the plate in acid, under the light of lanterns and from within the safety of his mosquito net, and studied its surface. He nodded, satisfied. It was a good image.

It was hot, and the men were singing outside over their fire. A lizard crawled on the outside of his mosquito netting. It was nothing like his studio back home.

Later, while mist curled from the wet forest floor and the deep smell of earth, smoke, and the chemicals in his tent swirled around him, he glared at his paints. Green water stood in a drinking glass on his table, caustic reflections being cast by the lantern through the glass, and he cast one baleful look at the bird. It had settled down, hunched its emerald shoulders and set its head down to rest in between the two frail bones, but the yellow eye still watched, half-cracked and wary. That eye… those feathers… the colors weren’t right.

AU Student Writing Competition Winner: Amanda Powell

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Based on the exhibitions featured at the museum during the 2015-2016 academic year and works from the permanent collection, students submitted written work responding to individual pieces of art experienced first-hand at JCSM. Entry was open to graduate and undergraduate students. Prizes of $500 were awarded for two academic essays and two creative submissions. For information on  the writing competition for the 2016-2017 academic year, contact Scott Bishop at 334-844-7014.

“Bank Night” by Amanda Powell

In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, the term bank night referred to a popular lottery game used to bring crowds to movie theatres. These lotteries, created by Charles Yaeger in 1931, promoted the film industry during a time when the country was its poorest and people could not afford such luxuries. The lotteries were free to the public and involved some type of monetary prize given to the person whose name was pulled. The great depression was such a controversial time for a lottery of this nature which did not go unnoticed by those who saw the problematic nature of these practices.

Brooklyn born Jewish artist Frank Kleinholz (1901-1987) depicts this event in his painting, also titled “Bank Night”. The bright reds and yellows are alarming as they highlight the various facial expressions of the people seen in the painting. The emotions on their faces portray concern, fear, indifference, and a solemnness that engages the audience at first glance. With the known history of bank nights, one can assume that the scene of people in Kleinholz’s painting are waiting outside of a theatre or are coming from a theatre after participating in the lottery. The facial expressions are revealing of the attitude that many held in regard to these events.

During a time of great suffering, many people had nothing else to lose. Since the lotteries were free, it is clear to see why people would want to attend bank nights with the hopes of winning some type of prize or money to help support their families. Of course the purpose of bank nights was not to help people provide for their families, but to bring publicity to the film industry. Some people actually purchased movie tickets even though the lottery was free. This helped the film industry to have a source of monetary income through the latter years of the depression. Kleinholz’s painting shows us the controversial aspect of the bank night as well as the irony. With the given context of the cool blues in the painting’s background, which are buildings, it is appropriate that the setting of the painting is in the city, assumedly New York, where Kleinholz grew up.

Different scholars like Georg Simmel have analyzed the nature of the city which brings about the idea of the quantification of people through money. Money was scarce during the Great Depression, which meant people resulted to desperate means to obtain the money needed for their needs. This also meant that various industries resulted to equally desperate means to encourage people to spend the little money they did have. Georg Simmel discusses this quantification of people as money and their role in the city in his essay “The Metropolis and Mental Life”. According to Simmel, “[m]oney is concerned only with what is common to all, i.e. with the exchange value which reduces all quality and individuality to a purely quantitative level,” (12). Based on Simmel’s beliefs, individuals living in the city have a role that is strictly tied to wealth whether it be their own, a lack there of, or how they contribute to the wealth of another person, or the city itself. This idea suggests that the individuals seen in Kleinholz’s painting are more than just participants in a bank night, but are themselves quantities of the city. Each individual is merely a commodity in the city environment.

In the background of the “Bank Night” painting, the red strokes are representative of a crowd in the distance. The figures closer to the audience’s view possess body language in connection to the figures which are not as distinctly seen in the background. This relationship of figures enhances the dynamics of the facial expressions seen in the painting. One of the two red faces is a man looking back at the blurred figures. This suggests that the action that happens in the background in some way involves those who are distant from the other figures. As stated earlier, this could be that these people have left the lottery or are about to participate. The red faced man seems to embody a sense of longing as he is intrigued by the action in the background. This allows the assumption that Kleinholz suggests people during this time participated in bank nights out of curiosity or merely because they wanted to be a part of the relatively popular event. Noting the despairing looks of the yellow faces, there is also a suggestion of desperation. The depression put families out of their homes, men out of work, and ultimately annihilated many people’s life savings. This brought about a feeling of desperation, because people’s survival seemed to no longer be in their own hands.

Industries were well aware of this because they also struggled to maintain production and sales. People were still seen as commodities even though the economy drowned in debt. Industries had to be crafty in order to seduce the people of the cities into their money schemes: There needed to be a need. The one thing that people desperately needed is exactly what the film industry used for its own gain: money. Without money people could not hold on to their social status, which was of dire importance before and even during the Great Depression. Interestingly enough, this helped reduce the pressure brought upon by a society that revolved around social status. The depression created an equal opportunity for everyone to start over and rebuild their lives. Simmel explains this concept in terms of monetary value in the following quote: “They all rest on the same level and are distinguished only by their amounts. In individual cases this colouring of things, or rather this de-colouring of things, through their equation with money, may be imperceptibly small,” [sic] (14). Simmel places everyone on the same level with only their monetary value differentiating them. To some this may not have been a major issue, especially if they were already poor or lower class before the depression, or if they did not view money as a social necessity.

Simmel’s concept of coloring and de-coloring brings us back to Frank Kleinholz’s painting. Kleinholz uses primary colors throughout the entire painting with only a hint of orange to highlight the sign of the building attracting the blurred crowd and shades of a lighter yellow and green on the buildings in the background. Primary colors are the most basic colors outside of black and white on the color scale. More importantly, primary colors are needed in order to create any other shade of color. They are the base of all colors known to man. This is significant because during the Great Depression people within the city were just as important. Their labor and investments in the city is what caused the city to thrive and grow. Kleinholz could have used more secondary or tertiary colors, but instead he keeps a steady palate of primary colors that effectively create movement throughout the painting. Because of this color choice, no one area of the painting goes unnoticed, which indicates that every detail is important to the whole.

Furthermore, primary colors have the ability to create the color gray. Gray is the mixing of colors so that each component bends together to create a homogeneous shade. Gray is a dull color when compared to primary colors. If personified, the color gray could be categorized as passive, bland, or blasé. In his article, Simmel notes that people of the city maintain a blasé attitude that allows them to survive in a chaotic environment. Simmel says “[t]his incapacity to react to new stimulations with the required amount of energy constitutes in fact that blasé attitude which every child of a large city evinces when compared with the products of the more peaceful and more stable milieu,” (14). The children in the painting seen clinging to the woman, presumably the mother, have this same blasé demeanor that Simmel describes. This defense mechanism allows the blocking out of unwanted emotions and reactions. It is almost as if the children in the painting are unaware of what is happening although the facial expressions from the other figures reveal that something is indeed happening. This is mainly evident in the alarming red face of the woman in the center of the crowd of people. Simmel further defines this metropolitan blasé state in the following quote:

The essence of the blasé attitude is an indifference toward the distinctions between things. Not in the sense that they are not perceived, as of the mental dullness, but rather that the meaning and the value of the distinctions between things and therewith of the things themselves, are experienced as meaningless. They appear to the blasé person in a homogeneous, flat and grey colour…This psycic mood is the correct subjective reflection of a complete money economy to the extent that money takes the place of all the manifoldness of things and expresses all qualitative distinctions between them in the distinction of how much. [sic] (14)

“Bank Night” capitalizes on the importance of money and the despair that it brings. To the person of the city, all interactions are disregarded and only money accounts for a meaningful interaction. The people in the painting are grouped together in reaction to the monetary exchange or the lack there of in relation to the bank night. They are one group, yet they are not homogenous. Their facial expressions allow the differentiation of their individual reactions and attitudes to their surroundings. The equal use of warm and cool colors gives a balance to the group of people, which does not allow any one or more persons to dominate the eye of the viewer. The same is seen throughout the painting as a whole. The eyes are drawn to the light shading in the background and then moves downward towards the people. They are the focus of the painting yet each element is important in conveying Kleinholz’s message. The light shading in the background follows a line that allows the eyes to move to the left to notice the blurred group of people that are a part of the background. Every shade of color and detail in the painting are used to direct the eye to the appropriate places. The painting can be seen as a “many membered organism” (Simmel 13). Each aspect is essential to the function of the whole.

The medium of the painting is another important aspect that must not be overlooked. It is oil on Masonite, which is a type of hardboard. Kleinholz could have chosen to do the painting on another material, but the hardboard speaks to the struggle of the Great Depression. Each element of the painting adds to the disparity of the life of the individual living in the city during this time period. The bank night, though perceived as an outing on the town, was actually another means of reinforcing the individuals in terms of their monetary value. The reaction to this, which is so eloquently depicted by Frank Kleinholz, shows a realistic perspective of those affected.

As an artist, Kleinholz often depicted images of the city through his work. “He grew up in the environment of the city; it has permeated his aesthetic soul and comes out of his pictures” (Freundluch 67). His work speaks for those who are often overlooked by other artists. He has been known as a painter who did not confine to the norms, but it is his work that has created its own path with its use of color and simplistic style. “Bank Night” is a representation of one of Kleinholz’s city paintings. He allows the painting to speak for itself without forcing his own opinion or biases. He is simply a passerby who watches and notices his surroundings, which translates in his works. Just as the nameless faces of the “Bank Night” painting watch and observe their surroundings, Frank Kleinholz was an artist who observed his surroundings and translated them into the paintings that are admired around the world today.

AU Student Writing Competition Winner: Emma Kinsey

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Based on the exhibitions featured at the museum during the 2015-2016 academic year and works from the permanent collection, students submitted written work responding to individual pieces of art experienced first-hand at JCSM. Entry was open to graduate and undergraduate students. Prizes of $500 were awarded for two academic essays and two creative submissions. For information on  the writing competition for the 2016-2017 academic year, contact Scott Bishop at 334-844-7014. 


“The Cotton Load is Too Heavy” a poem by Emma Kinsey

Every morning, she rises
slow as a longneck bottle, plants
her heels in her worn house
slippers. Her scars are translucent

ribbons shredding the palms of her
hands—the soft underbellies of blue
crabs turning up at capture, reflecting
light in the still-dark room. Pad-footed,

she inches down a narrow
pine stairwell—the weight
of which gives beneath her
soles. This woman still feels

an old pulse of sunlight beneath her
skin, brown-freckled and muddied
by the tidewater. She was called
brackish water baby. As she tucks

the white wicker laundry basket
into her hip, the soft wood gives.
Darkness overwhelms her.
The load sweetens the dead air.

2015–2016 Broadsides are available in the Museum Shop

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Broadside Series

Individual poets featured in the 2015-2016 Third Thursday series are represented in a broadside series. Each broadside (8” x 13”) contains a poem on fine quality paper illustrated by a graphic designer affiliated with Auburn University.

The series has been printed in a limited edition set of 75. The cost of $70 (for a set of all 8 broadsides) includes a portfolio to keep them in. The museum store also sells individual broadsides for $10 each. The series can also be bought online, here.

This is a collaborative project among the Third Thursday Poetry Series, Auburn University College of Architecture, Design and Construction/School of Industrial + Graphic Design, and Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art.

2015–2016 Broadsides by graphic designer Marcelo Blanco

Third Thursday Poetry Series

On Thursday, January 21, the Third Thursday Poetry Series features poet Richie Hofmann. His first collection of poems, Second Empire (Alice James Books, 2015), was winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award. The broadside inspired by Hofmann’s Imperial City is shown above.

The poetry program will begin at 6:30 with a brief open mic segment, and Hofmann’s reading will follow.

JCSM Welcomes Poetry Series

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As a part of expanded evening programming, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University will host the Third Thursday Poetry Series. The next reading is Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm. The evening will begin with tapas, beer, wine, and cocktail menus in the Museum Café at 5:00 pm and a jazz performance by Patrick McCurry and Dan Mackowski at 6:00 pm. The March featured poets are Gabby Bates and Madison P. Jones IV. Galleries remain open until 8:00 pm on Thursdays, and admission is free courtesy of JCSM Business Partners.

third-thursday_webKen Autrey, who coordinates the series with Keetje Kuipers, said that the series is the only monthly poetry offering in the Auburn-Opelika area. “The Third Thursday Poetry series was started in early 2013 by Jason Crane, with readings held at the Gnu’s Room in Auburn,” said Autrey. “When Jason moved, and the Gnu’s Room moved to Opelika, Keetje and I revived the series at Bell + Bragg Gallery.” Autrey said that when that venue closed, he was able to partner with the museum to provide an outlet for the poetry written and published in the region.

“Strong attendance at the readings demonstrates that there is a loyal local audience for poetry,” he said. “Our cooperative arrangement with the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art affirms the general vitality and importance of the arts in our community—visual, musical, and literary. The mix of programming at the museum suggests that the various arts cannot only coexist but can enrich one another,” he said. “We begin our program with a 15 to 20-minute open mic reading, followed by our featured poet, but on March 20, we have two featured poets,” said Autrey.


Gabby Bates graduated from Auburn in December 2013 with a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Spanish and will pursue her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. She was accepted to the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets with publications in Broadsided, Redactions, andSouthern Humanities Review. She is also writing a young adult novel.

Madison P. Jones IV is a master’s student, studying literature at Auburn University. He is also founder and editor-in-chief of Kudzu Review, a southern journal of literature & environment. His recent work includes poetry in Harpur Palate, Portland Review, Tampa Review, and Canary Magazine. He is the recipient of the 2012 Robert Hughes Mount, Jr. Poetry Prize.


Keetje Kuipers is the author of a new book, “The Keys to the Jail,” which will be available for sale during the reading. Originally from the Northwest, Kuipers is an Assistant Professor at Auburn. Previously, she was the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. She holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College and M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University from 2009 to 2011. “The Keys to the Jail” follows Kuipers’ first collection “Beautiful in the Mouth.”

Charitable, tax-deductible gifts in support of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art or other programs at Auburn are made through the Auburn University Foundation, which receives such gifts on the university’s behalf. Donors, alumni, and friends can make a philanthropic gift in support of museum collections, programs, or exhibitions.

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