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Colby-Sawyer College Presents Retrospective of 50 Years of Art by Professor John Bott

The Colby-Sawyer College Department of Fine and Performing Arts is hosting a major art exhibition, a retrospective of 50 years of paintings, drawings, print and sculpture by John Bott this fall.

The exhibition opened with a celebratory reception on Friday, Sept. 28 in the Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery at the Sawyer Fine Arts Center. The exhibition continues through Oct. 26.

Bott, a professor of Colby-Sawyer's Fine and Performing Arts Department since 1977, draws on nature's aesthetics for his artistic inspiration. His more recent paintings are about—rather than direct representations of—some of Earth's most beautiful creations. His typical subjects include birds, butterflies, fish, flowers, shells and other miniatures of exquisite natural design. Bott invites the viewer to look at his paintings in the same way that one would contemplate flowers—as fragile forms that prove powerful in their ability to evoke human emotions and wonder.

Bott, who has taught at the junior high, high school, undergraduate and graduate levels, has a simple, sincere philosophy when it comes to teaching: “In teaching studio art, I believe it is important to have a one-on-one relationship with each student,” he says. “As an art teacher you're not transmitting a body of knowledge as much as you are helping students to develop and transmit their own ideas … I believe that all human beings have something worthwhile to express if they can develop the means to express it. It's important for students to start with the concept that they are valuable.”

Bott received his M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has exhibited works throughout the eastern United States and the Midwest, as well as in Germany and Japan. After 30 years at Colby-Sawyer, Bott's legacy is large and varied, and continues to grow even in his last semester on campus.

New student Kelsey Keith '11 of South Hamilton, Mass., feels lucky to be in Bott's drawing class, the last course he will teach before retirement. “Already, after having only a few classes with him, I have learned new methods in my drawing techniques,” Keith says. “He has taught us the meaning of empty space, the significance of a finished piece and his definition of art. He grabs our full attention when speaking. Colby-Sawyer has been lucky to have him for 30 years.”

Back in 1977, Bott was attracted to Colby-Sawyer because of the significant presence the Art department had within a small college.

“There was a long tradition of art being an area of study that mattered a great deal [here],” Bott explains. Colby-Sawyer's appreciation for the arts offered a space where Bott could pass on his own love for creating, and many of his students have gone on to graduate school and success in the art world. They often keep in touch with the professor who helped shape their artistic and professional lives, and show their appreciation for his work.

Thirty years after coming to New London, Bott is still painting prolifically and has many works in galleries, but he now sees the area's art community as the primary audience for his painting.

“I've come to not be as interested in what the rest of the world has to say about my work,” Bott says. “My greatest pleasure is showing my artwork here and listening to the very nice things that are said about it by people I know, and respect and care for…Put all the factors together, and this is home.”

Rebekah Tolley, director of the Mugar Art Gallery and assistant professor of Fine and Performing Arts at Colby-Sawyer, tells her own students to “listen to all [Bott's] stories and soak up whatever you can because he has lived in such an exciting time of art and the generation of important artists we look at, like Pollock. He has some wonderful ways of talking about art, really nice insights with so much to offer. He is a wealth of information.”

The Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery
The Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery, directed by Rebekah Tolley, hosts seven major exhibitions and related public events each academic year. The gallery is located on Seamans Road on the west side of campus in the Sawyer Fine Arts Center. Admission is free and events are open to the public. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday, Saturday from 10 to 2 p.m., and other times by appointment. The Mugar Gallery and Sawyer Fine Arts Center are fully handicapped accessible. For information, please call (603) 526-3000.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, New Hampshire 03257 (603) 526-3000 telephone/(603) 526-2135 fax