Colby-Sawyer Showcases Diverse Influences in 'The Faculty Curates'

Colby-Sawyer College will host “The Faculty Curates,” an art exhibition designed and organized by faculty in the Fine and Performing Arts Department, from Nov. 10 to Jan. 25 at the Marian Graves Mugar Gallery in the Sawyer Fine Arts Center with an opening reception Thursday, Nov. 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Each faculty member requested the work of an artist whom they admire or have been influenced by to be featured in the show. That artist’s work will be shown with one of the faculty member’s original pieces, a context that garners dialogue between the nationally recognized artists who appear in the show and the passionate artist-educators who teach at Colby-Sawyer.

The exhibition will include sculpture, painting, ceramics, printmaking and photography from Linda K. Ryder, curated by Professor Loretta Barnett; Donald Williams, curated by Associate Professor David Ernster; Brian Ulrich, curated by Assistant Professor Nick Gaffney; Gary Haven Smith, curated by Professor and Chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department Jon Keenan; Joanna Pinsky, curated by Assistant Professor Mike Lovell; Liz Shepherd, curated by Assistant Professor Mary Mead; Jessie Van der Laan, curated by Associate Professor Hilary Walrod; and James Stanley, curated by Professor Bert Yarborough, director of the gallery.

The Mugar Art Gallery holds an exhibition of faculty work every year. Using the faculty exhibition slot to showcase work from outside the college is an opportunity to bring the community a diverse collection of work while giving students a broader idea of how their professors have developed as artists. Mattie Hallett, the Sawyer Center’s Gallery Intern, noted that “it is interesting to see how stylistically similar many of the chosen artists are to the faculty members who curated them.”

Liz Shepherd is a printmaker and sculptor based in Boston. “Her work is never boring and always accessible, curious and never stagnant,” said Professor Mead. She added that Shepherd “does not rest on her laurels; she seems always hungry to move forward, on to the next idea.” Mead and Shepherd are members of the Boston Printmaker’s Society. Mead noted that the two of them are “interested in telling stories employing the metaphorical associations of a variety of found objects and materials.”

Jessie Van der Laan is a printmaker and fiber artist based in Knoxville, Tenn. “Stylistically, our work is very different,” noted Walrod, who curated Van der Laan and earned her M.F.A. in studio art, graphic design, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “However,” she added, “in terms of concept and creative practice, there are some parallels: we both draw inspiration from nature and we both work across and between media.” Walrod described Van der Laan’s work as “layered, nuanced, muted in color and evocative.”

James Stanley is a painter and the visual coordinator at the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC), an artist’s residency program in Provincetown, Mass. Yarborough, who curated Stanley, is a chair of the Visual Committee and a member of FAWC’s board of trustees. He said Stanley’s realist pieces are “compelling, beautifully done and powerful,” noting that his own style is more abstract and quite different. Yarbrough added that although many faculty members selected artists who produce work that is stylistically similar to their own, one of the aims of the exhibition is to show how artists are influenced by a diverse array of work, not just art that is similar to their own in terms of theme, medium or subject matter.

All of the artists showcased in the exhibition are educators and working professionals who have been recognized both nationally and internationally. The show follows “Breaking the Mold,” a collaborative ceramics exhibition with Japan’s Tokyo University of the Arts. “We wanted to continue to raise the level,” said Yarborough, “to bring interesting and diverse work into the program and show that even though we are in a small town, we have the ability to put on interesting and engaging exhibitions that stimulate both students at the college and the entire community.”

The opening reception will include pop-up performances by members of Colby-Sawyer’s Studio Acting class, directed by adjunct faculty member Amanda Rafuse, that will entice the audience with a taste of theater. “It will be exciting to showcase our students' classwork in this way,” Rafuse noted. “I’m thrilled by the opportunity for these young performers to surprise and delight an audience of art lovers at the reception.”