Colby-Sawyer invites the public inside its new Center for Art + Design to view an extraordinary exhibition composed primarily of outsider art. Colby-Sawyer and the Fine and Performing Arts Department is proud to host “Inner Visions: Selections from the Collection of Beverly Stearns Bernson ’55” as the first exhibition in the center’s stunning Davidow Gallery. An opening reception will be held Friday, Oct. 13, at 4 p.m. during Homecoming.
According to the Sonja C. Davidow Endowed Chair in the Fine & Performing Arts and Gallery Director Bert Yarborough, “Over the past 30 or more years, outsider art has become more prominent in terms of its value, but artists have always valued this kind of work.” The work, he said, is created by people who make art for reasons other than fame or fortune. “They’re often creatively compelled in mysterious ways,” he adds. “It’s work that is utterly truthful.” Outsider artists exist outside the conventional boundaries of the art world. They are often untrained, self-taught visionaries.
The pieces in the exhibition are on loan from the private collection of Beverly Stearns Bernson ’55, a graduate of the college who began collecting outsider art in the mid-1980s. The exhibition will feature some of the most highly regarded outsider artists in the world, including Martin Ramirez (1895–1963), Bill Traylor (1853–1949) and Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982). Ramirez was a self-taught artist diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized at DeWitt State Hospital. Traylor was a homeless man who painted precociously modern representations of life in Montgomery, Ala., from his vantage point on the sidewalk. Rowe, a self-taught African-American artist known for her painting, photography, collage and sculpture, is one of America’s most important folk artists.
“It’s a great treat for me and my family for these works to be presented as the first show in the new Center for Art + Design,” said Bernson. “Thanks to everyone at Colby-Sawyer for honoring me in this way. It will be fun to share all my years of collecting.”
In keeping with Colby-Sawyer’s dedication to combining experiential learning with professional experience, students played instrumental roles in preparing for the exhibition. Graphic design major John Fownes ’17 oversaw the design of the show’s catalog, which includes artist biographies written by English major Matthew Nosal ’17. Gallery interns and students enrolled in ART 115: Exhibition Foundations helped install the artwork.
As well as providing opportunities for students to gain experience working in a gallery setting, the exhibition will allow community members to appreciate and enjoy artwork that, according to Professor Yarborough, has a power and a presence that is compelling and engaging.
“As an artist, educator and gallery director,” Professor Yarborough noted, “I thought it would be a great opportunity to show this kind of work in a region where it might not normally be seen.”
The Center for Art + Design
The Center for Art + Design is a 15,000-square-foot art facility that offers studios, a state-of-the-art black box theater, the Davidow Fine Art Gallery with views of Mount Kearsarge, as well as faculty offices, a box office and an outdoor sculpture garden.
Sustained fundraising efforts made the project possible, and an endowment created through an alumna’s gift will support the building’s operation.
The center was designed by the S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury, Conn., which also designed the Ware Student Center expansion in 2013.
The Arts at Colby-Sawyer
Studying the arts at Colby-Sawyer is a multidimensional experience that blends a student’s creative talent with professional preparation and opportunities to learn alongside talented faculty and guest artists. B.A. and B.F.A. programs are offered in studio art with concentrations in ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture, as well as in graphic design.