Author Archives: David Winton Bell Gallery

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Chitra Ganesh
Cat Women Series, 2013
Mixed media collage on handmade paper, 12 x 12
Gift of Mr. Richard Rubin by exchange

Chitra Ganesh is a Brown Alum who focuses on topics of feminist power and sexuality. Her works draw upon historical and mythic roots, and she frequently employs collage and bold colors in her works. This piece from the Bell Gallery Collection is part of her 2013 Cat Women Series. I picked it because I think it encapsulates the chaotic and surreal time that we are currently living in. The swirling form and the rose starkly contrast with the muted colors elsewhere in the drawing, creating a constant feeling of movement. The bright white explosion behind the figure accentuates a certain desperation in her praying pose and lends violence to the nails in her back. There is a feeling of pained disembodiment and dissociation that has come to characterize the present day, and it feels very in tune with the themes of this piece.

-Tina Xinzhu Yang ’20

I chose the drawing Cat Women Series by Chitra Ganesh. I am really drawn to all the movement in this piece, and how dynamic it is. The central figure is very intriguing, and the use of color and line really moves the eye throughout the piece. I enjoy how free but natural it feels–it seems fragmented and random but at the same time comes/pulls together beautifully, and really stimulates my imagination to bring it all together. The different levels of opacity create a sense of depth and turn this image into a space. The washes of color in the background go a long way in that direction. I noticed also in the description that is is “mixed media and collage on handmade paper” which I think is so cool! I wonder how seeing this piece in person (it is 12 x 12) would affect my reactions. It would probably be more powerful!

-Hannah Bashkow ’23

This series features responses to the Bell’s collection by Brown undergraduate students.


Andrew and Taurin Drinking Raw Goat’s Milk, Tennessee, 2009
Digital chromogenic print, 19.5″ x 26″
Gift from the collection of Dr. & Mrs. Joseph A. Chazan

I am fascinated by Lucas Foglia’s series, A Natural Order, in the Bell Collection. The raw images, a narrative of the green culture to rethink ‘civility,’ really encapsulate the symbiotic relationship between human and nature. Especially now with the quarantine, there’s much to say about ‘modernity’ and its deterioration of the natural world. Now that humans are under lockdown, flora and fauna are reclaiming the spaces of their original habitat. There’s an earthy quality to one of the photos, Andrew and Taurin Drinking Raw Goat’s Milk, that I particularly enjoy; though crude to the ‘civil’ life, the image has warmth in its presentation of the closeness between human and child, human and nature, and human and wildlife.

-Gia Dao ’20

Untitled 1

Dieter Roth (Rot)
Swiss, 1930 – 1998
Banana, 1966
Mixed media, 23.5 x 8 x 1.125
Gift of Italo Scanga

Art and bananas have kept strange company lately. In December 2019, artist Maurizio Cattelan made headlines with a $120,000 banana taped to a wall at Art Basel Miami, titled Comedian. This same banana, whose merit as an art object was hotly debated by art critics[1] and lay audiences[2] alike, appeared in the news once again after performance artist David Datuna pulled it off the wall and ate it, in a performance art action he called Hungry Artist.

Can an ordinary banana be art? Can food be art? Or does food’s quotidian role in people’s lives, along with its rapidly-decaying nature of food, mean that it isn’t worthy of being considered art? Is it the various reactions to, and interactions with, Cattelan’s Comedian that constitute it as a work of art? The actual physical banana in Comedian was quickly replaced by the gallery, indicating, perhaps, that it is not the banana itself that is of utmost importance, but rather the spectacle of the audacity of treating a banana as art at a prestigious art fair.

The David Winton Bell Gallery has its own work of art in which a banana is a key component: Dieter Roth’s Banana, a mixed-media work dating from 1966. Unlike Cattelan’s fresh yellow sample, Banana’s central element likely lost its fruit decades ago. Now a husk of brown cellulose peel, it lies smeared within a glass frame marked off with masking tape. While the work is technically a sculpture due to its three-dimensional nature, it doesn’t seem off the mark to also classify it as time-based. But then again, works of art in more traditional materials—wood, oil, marble—face the danger of decay as well, albeit not in as dramatic a fashion as a banana rotting. So aside from its use of a seemingly ordinary banana that is now partially lost to time, Roth’s work also incorporates this plain masking tape—often used in packing and preparation but less often in a work of art itself. Banana seems to welcome our confusion, our inevitable, dumbfounded response: “why is this art?”

Further examples of Roth’s use of food as an artistic medium, including sausage,[3] chocolate,[4] and various “foodstuffs,”[5] can be found in museum and gallery collections around the world. Indeed, Roth is known for his use of incredibly varied—and often non-traditional—media in his artistic practice. Born in 1930 in Switzerland, Roth began his formal training as an apprentice to a commercial artist and graphic designer, Friedrich Wüthrich, later studying engraving, drypoint, and lithography with Eugen Jordi at the Gewerbeschule in Bern. After completing his education, he worked as a graphic designer and sculptor in Bern before moving to Reykjavik in 1957, where he began creating artists’ books, jewelry, and furniture.

In 1961, Roth developed his first collaboration between art and food: the Literaturwurst, or “literature sausage,” choosing only “books that he did not like or that were written by authors whose success he envied.”[6] In 1963, Roth created a portrait of Carl Laszlo, an art dealer and collector, in which he used chocolate and cheese, along with the more expected elements of pigment and canvas. In 1964 Roth came to the United States, originally working in Philadelphia before moving to Providence to teach at the Rhode Island School of Design between 1965-1967. It was during this time that Roth created Banana; his incorporation of food in art was in full bloom. Banana, and other works created during Roth’s time in Providence were later described by Roth as “decay objects and pictures.”[7] Roth returned to Reykjavik in 1967, and would spend the rest of his life in Europe, experimenting with an increasing array of media until his death in 1998.

Banana likely arrived at the Bell Gallery in the 1970s as a gift from the artist Italo Scanga (1939-2001). Scanga taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1960s, and became friends with Roth. According to Scanga’s daughter Katherine, Roth likely gave Scanga the work as a gift; Scanga then donated the work to the Bell Gallery.

-Deborah Krieger, Public Humanities MA ’21





[5] See Roth Time, 100-101 and 109-111 in particular.

[6] Roth Time, 74

[7] Interview with Roth from 1972, quoted in Roth Time, 95

Works Cited:

Cascone, Sarah. “How the Unhinged Reaction to Maurizio Cattelan’s Banana Revealed the Thin Line Between the Art World and Total Anarchy.” Artnet. December 9, 2019.

Farago, Jason. “A (Grudging) Defense of the $120,000 Banana.” The New York Times. December 8, 2019.

“Dieter Roth: Chocolate Lion (Self-Portrait) as a Lion.” Harvard Art Museums.

“Dieter Roth: Literature Sausage (Literaturwurst.” Museum of Modern Art.

Roth Time: A Dieter Roth Retrospective. Museum of Modern Art. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2003. Catalogue accompanying the exhibition of the same name, which ran from March 12–June 7, 2004.


Sue Coe
English, born 1951
Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die, 1997
Lithograph on grey paper, 20 x 15
Gift of Jo-Ann Conklin

Sue Coe’s Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die (1997) is startling and almost gothic in construction, steeped in a sense of foreboding and dread. A poster of a splayed dead goat, its sliced-open belly facing us, dominates the scene, welcoming us into a darkened room of macabre terrors and animal slaughter. In the lower foreground, a dead rabbit and pig are tied to a metallic table littered with scissors and sharp implements while at left, a pair of human figures in scrubs and masks prop up a slender chimpanzee, leading it from a blinding-white ether into this den of death. Meanwhile, another chimpanzee huddles under the table, curled into a ball, as if wondering when its turn on the table will inevitably come.

This work is a classic example of Coe’s strident animal advocacy translated into a riveting visual image of medical animal testing. Coe’s moralizing, sometimes witty approach to the subject matter of animal rights and welfare has been compared to William Hogarth’s fable-like tales of woe, viciousness, and corruption. Compositionally, Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die most recalls the Third Stage of Hogarth’s famous Four Stages of Cruelty cycle, in which a child’s violence towards animals culminates in violence towards his fellow man.[1] Stylistically, Coe’s prints draw from the graphic tradition of social realism, bringing to mind the intensely political output of the Mexican Taller de Gráfica Popular, Käthe Kollwitz, and Gan Kolski.[2] Instead of focusing on the suffering of the farmer and the manual laborer, however, Coe takes the abused animal, stripped of its dignity and life for fur, meat, or scientific inquiry, as her tragic protagonist. The fright and pain of her pigs and goats—arguably two of her most common subjects—come across as downright human.

Coe hails from the United Kingdom and now resides in New York. She grew up in a working-class community near a local slaughterhouse, which alerted her early on to what she has railed against through art: the horrors of the meat industry. As she wrote of her childhood in her 1996 monograph Dead Meat: “the smell of hogs seeped into everything—clothes and hair […] there was the heavy smell of blood, which hung in the air for two days. As a child, I thought they would slaughter all the pigs they had, then stop. I didn’t understand the regularity of it.[3] One of her most striking paintings, My Mother and I Watch a Pig Escape from the Slaughterhouse (2006), recounts the day Coe and her mother observed a pig attempt to save its own life by running out into the street, chased by slaughterhouse workers in bloody clothes and surrounded by laughing pedestrians. Of that day, she recalled: “maybe this was the first time I saw all was not right with the world.”[4]

Since then, Coe has used her artistic practice to call attention to not only the abuse of animals in the meat industry, but also to the society-wide mindset that permits the designation of nonhuman animals (a preferred term of the animal rights movement[5] ) as less deserving of rights. Dead Meat traces her journey with a sketchpad through various slaughterhouses in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. While cameras would never have been allowed inside these institutions, managers underestimated the power of Coe’s drawings and readily allowed her access.[6] A more recent monograph, The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto (2017), almost wordlessly depicts the uprising of formerly caged animals as they escape their shackles, clip the barbed-wire fences, and seek freedom in a glorious vegan world. Coe has also addressed other political topics in her work, including the arms industry, the administration of George W. Bush, the life of Malcolm X, and sexual violence against women. As Coe stated in a recent interview, “the enormity of the crime against other animals, against the poor, can only be described by art.”[7]

-Deborah Krieger, Public Humanities MA ’21

[1] “Hogarth: Hogarth’s Modern Moral Series, The Four Stages of Cruelty,” Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom,

[2] “Gan Kolski,” Ackland Museum of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

[3] Sue Coe, Dead Meat (New York and London: Four Walls Eight Windows), 1995, pp. 38-39.

[4] Sue Coe, Dead Meat, 40.

[5] David Nibert, “Introduction,” in Animal Oppression and Capitalism, Volume 1: The Oppression of Nonhuman Animals as Sources of Food, edited by David Nibert (Santa Barbara, California: Praeger), 2017, xviii.

[6] Sue Coe, “Acknowledgements,” in Dead Meat, v.

[7] Sue Coe, “Rendering Cruelty in Art and Politics: A Conversation with Sue Coe,” interview with Michael John Addario, Animal Liberation Currents, July 10, 2017,

Further reading/bibliography:

Baker, Steve. Artist Animal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

Clyne, Catherine. “At Home with Sue Coe.” Satya, June 1999.

Coe, Sue. Dead Meat. New York and London: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995.

Coe, Sue. “Rendering Cruelty in Art and Politics: A Conversation with Sue Coe.” Interview with Michael John Addario. Published in Animal Liberation Currents, July 10, 2017.

Coe, Sue. The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto. New York and London: OR Books, 2017.

Eisenmann, Stephen F. The Ghosts of Our Meat—Sue Coe. Carlisle, PA: The Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, 2013. Catalogue accompanying the exhibition The Ghosts of Our Meat—Sue Coe at the Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, which ran from November 1, 2013–February 8, 2014.

Francione, Garl L. Introduction to Animal Rights. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.

Francione, Gary L., and Robert Garner. The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Kunizar, Alice. “Where is the Animal after Post-Humanism? Sue Coe and the Art of Quivering Life.” The New Centennial Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, Animals . . . In Theory (fall 2011), pp. 17-40.

McCoy, Ann. “Sue Coe: Graphic Resistance.” The Brooklyn Rail, August 2018. Accessed via

Meyer, Jerry D. “Profane and Sacred: Religious Imagery and Prophetic Expression in Postmodern Art.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 65, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), pp. 19-46.

Milotes, Diane. What May Come: The Taller de Gráfica Popular and the Mexican Political Print. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2014. Catalogue accompanying the exhibition What May Come: The Taller de Gráfica Popular and the Mexican Political Print at the Art Institute of Chicago, which ran from July 4–October 12, 2014.

Ed. Nibert, David. Animal Oppression and Capitalism, Volume 1: The Oppression of Nonhuman Animals as Sources of Food. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2017.

Wye, Deborah. Committed to Print: Social and Political Themes in Recent American Printed Art. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1998. Catalogue accompanying the exhibition Committed to Print at the Museum of Modern Art, which ran from January 31–April 19, 1988.

“Gan Kolski.” Ackland Museum of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Hogarth: Hogarth’s Modern Moral Series, The Four Stages of Cruelty.” Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom.

Foulkes P_1988.9

Llyn Foulkes
American, born 1934
To Paul, 1973
Acrylic and photo collage on board, 16 x 12
Gift of Kenneth A. Cohen

A mysterious, faceless figure smeared with blood is depicted at bust-length in a suit, presented against a pale blue ground. Only the forehead, ear, chin, neck, partial cheek, bottom lip, and brows are visible—the eyes, nose, and top lip are replaced with a sepia-hued photograph of a pair of legs moving on tiptoe, as if in the middle of a dance step. Meanwhile, there are traces of thinly-applied red paint on the chin, lower lip, and elsewhere on the pockmarked peachy skin of the figure’s face. This painting, To Paul, is part of Llyn Foulkes’ “Bloody Head” series of the 1970s and 1980s, apocryphally inspired by Foulkes’ viewing of a cadaver with a detached scalp.[1]

In other “Bloody Head” works, the blood is depicted more viscerally, often surrounded by mauled, Bacon-esque flesh, or even obscuring the facial features with violent spray.[2] In To Paul, however, the blood is subtle, appearing on the chin, cheeks, and in trace amounts elsewhere on the head as if gently applied with a makeup blotter. The connection of the legs in the photograph to the figure’s brow line is elegant, especially in the way the curve of the eyebrow on the left seems to dip seamlessly into the line of the dancer’s extended leg. This same leg dynamically breaches the white boundary of the photograph, as if it is pushing past the picture plane, mimicking the three-dimensional thrust of the nose it covers (or replaces). Foulkes achieves a similar effect by blending the colors of the figure’s forehead to match the sepia-toned skirt at the top of the photograph, miming a jutting brow line and bridge of the nose.

In another departure from similar “Bloody Head” painting-collages, Foulkes has included a handwritten inscription at the left and top sides of the painting: “This painting is dedicated to Paul This painting is dedicated to Paul painting is [sic].” Foulkes’ For Father W.B., in the collection of the Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art, also features a dedication within the composition, albeit a far less cryptic one.[3] According to Foulkes’ studio assistant Stephanie Loyce Farr, To Paul refers to the Los Angeles-based artist Paul Sarkisian (1928–2019). Foulkes and Sarkisian’s artistic paths crossed several times. They were both included in the 1969 Whitney Annual Survey of Contemporary American Painting, and both participated in the representational painting exhibition Separate Realities, which was organized at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery the year To Paul was made.[4] Both artists were affiliated with Ferus during their careers and participated in the 1976 show The Last Time I Saw Ferus at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, which commemorated the iconic gallery after its closing ten years prior.[5] However, according to Farr, the painting was not ultimately given to Sarksian. Instead, the work passed to the David Stuart Gallery, which represented Foulkes roughly from 1969 to the mid-1970s and held a solo show of his work in 1974. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure if To Paul was displayed in the 1974 show, but the painting’s inclusion is possible.

Aside from the “Bloody Head” series, Llyn Foulkes (born 1934) is known for his mixed-media practice, and especially for his satirical paintings of American icons, both of the historical and commercial varieties.[6] (Mickey Mouse is a recurring motif.) Born in Yakima, Washington, he attended the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) from 1957–1959 after being drafted into the United States Army and serving in Germany. After leaving Chouinard, Foulkes quickly made an impact in his adopted city with his dark, moody mixed-media paintings, such as the disturbingly tactile Flanders (1961–62, from the collection of Ernest and Eunice White). Ferus Gallery, which represented Los Angeles’ most prominent rising artists (such as Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, and Edward Kienholz), held the first solo show of Foulkes work in 1961. Foulkes went on to become a mainstay of the Los Angeles-area art scene. He participated in multiple group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art (2010 and 2011), the Laguna Art Museum (1981, 1992, 2001, 2004, 2009) and the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, CA (1999, 2001, 2002, 2004), among others, and exhibiting his work in solo shows at the Laguna Art Museum (1995) and Craig Krull Gallery (2006), among others.[7]

Despite his inclusion in well-known group shows, including 2011’s L.A. Raw: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles, 1945–1980, from Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy at the Pasadena Museum of California Art and 2011–2012’s Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in LA Paintings and Sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Foulkes is only recently truly receiving his due. A retrospective exhibition of his work was mounted at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, CA in 2013, which later traveled to the New Museum in NYC and the Museum Kurhaus Kleve in Kleve, Germany. Foulkes’ works are included in the collections of MOCA, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney, among other institutions.

-Deborah Krieger, Public Humanities MA ’21




[4] See Elise Emery, “Reality is subject of artists,” Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram, September 16, 1973



[7] For a more comprehensive exhibition history, see or

Further reading/bibliography:

Ed. Barron, Stephanie, Sheri Bernstein, and Susan Fort. Reading California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2000. Exhibition catalogue.

Drohojowska-Phlip, Hunter. Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2011.

Emery, Elise. “Reality is subject of artists.” Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram. September 16, 1973.

Fallon, Michael. Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2014.

Karlstrom, Paul. Oral history interview with Llyn Foulkes. Smithsonian Archives of American Art, June 25, 1997 and December 2, 1998.

McKenna, Kristine. “He’s an Angry Man, but It Isn’t Personal[:] The fire that still drives the work of Llyn Foulkes has changed directions–to politics, the art world and life itself.” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 1995.

Selz, Peter. Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2006.

Stefans, Brian Kim. “Object Man: On Llyn Foulkes at the Hammer.” Los Angeles Review of Books, May 5, 2013.

Subotnick, Ali. Llyn Foulkes. New York/London/Munich: Prestel Publishing, 2013. Exhibition catalogue.

Wilson, William. “‘Realities’ Mirrors a Tragic Flaw.” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1973.

“The Gallery That Launched the L.A. ‘Cool School’.” NPR. June 10, 2008.

The Last Time I Saw Ferus, 1957-1966. Newport Harbor Art Museum, March 7-April 17, 1976. Exhibition catalogue.

The Kitchen Table Series, first shown in 1990, brought Carrie Mae Weems to the forefront of the contemporary art lexicon with its unflinching, intentionally crafted depictions of its protagonist’s many social roles: mother, lover, intellectual, African American, woman, and friend. In this series, Weem centers the kitchen as a space straddling the domestic and public sphere and calls into question the social roles associated with the kitchen table. In this piece, I’d like to further examine her evocation of the kitchen, by placing her series into dialogue with other artists who have focused on the kitchen table in their work.


Carrie Mae Weems
Untitled, from the Kitchen Table Series, 1990-2003
Gelatin silver print, 40″ x 40″
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY


Norman Rockwell
Freedom from Want, 1942
Oil on canvas
Norman Rockwell Studio Collection/Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust

One of the most recognizable images of the kitchen table from 20th century Western visual culture is Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want. In this portrayal of the kitchen table, three generations of a white American family are gathered around a table with a bountiful selection of food. A depiction of the ideal American family and American abundance. Freedom from Want was created in 1942 as a response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, an aim to boost patriotism following decades of war and conflict. Opposed to the complexities and variety of characters and relationships surrounding Weems’ table, Rockwell’s painting aims to capture a fixed nuclear family and a symbolic image of cohesive national prosperity. Weems’ work challenges this simplistic portrayal of the individual, the family, and the nation.


James Karales
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with his daughter, Yolanda, 1962
Vintage gelatin silver print
Image © Courtesy of the Estate of James Karales

Echoing themes of parental relationships, political activism, and racial identity displayed in Weems’ Kitchen Table Series, I am also drawn to this photo titled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with his daughter Yolanda. In this image Dr. King is seated in mid-conversation with his young daughter Yolanda who is grabbing cookies from the kitchen table. The photograph, captured by photographer James Karales, reflects the intimacy found in Weems’ images of the kitchen table. Its candid nature, however, acts in contrast with Weems’ deliberately staged images. Here, the kitchen table serves as a stage for a challenging conversation, as King explains to his daughter why she cannot go to the segregated amusement park in their town. The heartbreaking reality of this scene exemplifies the many dimensions of the kitchen table: a space of nourishment and replenishment, as well of as a space of exhaustion and reckoning.  

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Henri Fantin-Latour, French, 1836 – 1904
Le Coin de Table (Corner of the Table), 19th century
Etching, engraved by Le Rat, 3.75 x 5.25
David Winton Bell Gallery, Gift of Kermit Champa

Finally, I looked for images in the David Winton Bell Gallery collection. I came across an etching engraved by the French artist Henri Fantin-Latour. This engraving is a precursor to the artist’s painting Le Coin de Table, one of four group portraits in a series paying tribute to the artist’s contemporaries. The men in this painting, huddled around the corner of a table, appear to be calm and in harmony with one another. In reality this table was a setting for discourse and disagreement. The diners at this table belong to Le Parnasse, a 19th century French poetical revival movement. Here, the table is a space for various poetical disputes that would occasionally devolve into physical brawls. This piece reminds me of the emotional discussions that occur at the kitchen table, and I am left reflecting on the ways Kitchen Table Series explores varied emotions and feelings in relation to the space the table occupies.

In all of these images, I am struck by the positions each character occupies around their respective kitchen tables–A father, an activist, a family, a woman, a group of colleagues, a child, a lover, a friend, etc. The tables in the works act as loaded symbols for consumption, nourishment, communion, debate, excess, and depletion, depending on who surrounds the tables.  As I think about Carrie Mae Weems’ Kitchen Table Series, I not only think about the way the table functions, but how her character’s positioning gives the table its meaning. Through the images crafted, Weems explores her own multitude of identities and her position in these social roles. When thinking of other scenes surrounding the kitchen table in our visual culture, it becomes apparent that there are many seats at the table that different individuals inhabit. Perhaps the seats at the table are just as loaded in symbolism as the table itself. In my opinion, Weems uses the table to call the viewer to examine their own social roles, the ways they intersect, and the various seats they hold.

Selected works from Carrie Mae Weems’ seminal art series Kitchen Table Series will be on exhibit in the List Art Lobby of the David Winton Bell Gallery from November 11th to December 21st.

– Johanna Obenda
MA Public Humanities ’19

Before there were museums, there were Wunderkammer, or Wonder Cabinets. The collections they contained were eclectic—valued for exoticism and variety rather than continuity—and contained fragments of material culture juxtaposed with preserved flora and travel souvenirs. Each artifact was both a treasure in and of itself, and a kind of talisman evoking the distinctive culture and history from which it came, as well as the epic adventure of acquiring it.


Conceptual artist Mark Dion’s 2006 New England Digs triptych is precisely the kind of thing one might find in a Wunderkammer. It is a delicate collection of souvenirs created in memory of an epic undertaking four years prior, which unearthed a bevy of wondrous items and complex local histories through extensive cooperation between the David Winton Bell Gallery, the Fuller Museum of Art, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Gallery, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, RISD, and Brown University. Fittingly, this project culminated in a traveling display of these items encased in an assortment of Wonder Cabinets in a show bearing the same name. Dion has conducted similar digs in a Venetian Canal, along the banks of the Thames River, in the ash-pits around the Queens Museum, and in the former sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art.

In 2001, Dion broke ground on three archeological digs in Providence, RI; New Bedford, MA; and Brockton MA—but these were not ordinary research expeditions. Dion was only interested in sites that were “insignificant and disturbed,” those of no interest or use to archeologists.[1] In Providence, he chose a garbage heap on the edge of the Seekonk River and a site along Narragansett Bay, in New Bedford he chose a burned-down 19th-century waterfront tavern, and in Brockton he chose a dump on the edge of a cemetery. Employing a team of mostly art students, Dion embarked on an elaborate participatory pantomime of the rituals of natural science. In Providence, Brown and RISD students joined Dion in unearthing, cleaning, and categorizing a plethora of items and in the process, flipped the roles of the gallery and larger institution inside out. Instead of showcasing a pristine and illuminated final product, the gallery space was filled with the messier behind-the-scenes process of artists scrubbing and organizing piles of ambiguous artifacts.


However, despite his pseudo-scientific “play-acting,” Dion is not interested in undermining the professions of the archeologist, taxonomist, biologist, botanist, zoologist, historian, or curator.[2] Rather, it pays homage to the immensity of their work while critiquing their popular simplifications in unrefined institutional narratives. He reminds us of the inherent subjectivity of collection, organization, and interpretation of artifacts, and playfully deconstructs knowledge processes—like archeological excavation—we might otherwise take for granted. Aesthetic and conceptual decisions like this force participants in and viewers of Dion’s artwork to reassess the difference between elements of material culture we are told to value and those we are told to disregard.


The material culture unearthed in New England Digs yielded three unique yet related assemblages, pointing to regional legacies of economic vitality—New Bedford was once a major whaling hub, Providence was a booming trade center and producer of jewelry, and Brockton was the shoe capital of the world—as well as their decline. But in Dion’s quintessential style, historically significant finds are democratically mingled with refuse and it all looks stunning. “There is a long history of using trash in modern art,” Dion has stated, “but here objects are allowed to exist as what they are or were, without metaphor, noninterpretive, not even archaeological.”[3]


The New England Digs souvenir prints similarly memorialize these projects without metaphor or interpretation, soberly listing each city below an image of a ceramic shard found there. These prints are what they are but simultaneously refer to the vast history behind them. These simple compositions become the elegant and tender ambassadors to the overall group of unearthed minutia, the communities they belonged to, and Dion’s larger artistic process of uncovering culture and history in “the layer of material culture that separates us from the earth.”[4]


Check out Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston for a closer look at the New Bedford Cabinet, and the David Winton Bell Gallery collection for more information.

Rica Maestas
Public Human MA ’18

[1] Markonish, Denise, “Insignificant and Disturbed: 3 Digs,” Mark Dion: New England Digs (Brockton, MA: Fuller Museum of Art, 2001), 26.

[2] Markonish, op. cit., 21.

[3] Wilson Lloyd, Ann, “The Drama of Digging in New England’s Trash,” New York Times, Jan 6, 2002.

[4] Markonish, op. cit., 41.

The David Winton Bell Gallery is excited to announce our recent acquisition of three photos by Graciela Iturbide – Mujer Ángel, Procesión, and Prótesis. Widely considered to be one of the most important Mexican photographers working today, Iturbide’s work focuses on female, indigenous, and intersectional identities in Mexico. Best known for her work in Zapotec, Mixtec, and Seri Indian communities, her black and white images of rituals, festivals, death, and the ephemera of everyday life often depict the overlap of traditional practices and the contemporary world.

Perhaps the best example of this intersection occurs in her most famous work, Mujer Ángel. This wistful, iconic image depicts a Seri woman running through the Sonora desert along the Arizona / Mexico border. Though she is dressed in provincial garb and surrounded by a vast, open desert, Iturbide’s “angel woman” carries what appears to be a boom box. This playful subversion of viewer expectations of separation between the traditional and the modern becomes a subtle yet striking indication of the dynamism and hybridity of her subject.


A lifelong feminist, Iturbide depicts her female protagonists as bold, independent, and powerful—even when they are not physically present. Images in her El baño de Frida (Frida’s Bathroom) series demonstrate the posthumous yet larger than life persona of Frida Kahlo, simply by documenting her things. Iturbide’s only series to contain color photographs, El baño de Frida allows the intense pigments and intimate objects in Kahlo’s bathroom—kept locked for over fifty years following her death—to reanimate the artist. Specifically, the depiction of Kahlo’s festively painted leg brace in Prótesis (prosthesis) reminds a viewer of both the vibrant quality of Kahlo’s work and the great mental and physical pain she channeled into it. In this way, Iturbide not only documents the space but also pays homage to Kahlo’s life, death, and continued aesthetic influence in Mexican culture.


In seeking to understand Mexico in its totality—that is, composed of dynamic, diverse, and intersectional cultural practices—Iturbide embeds herself in the communities she depicts. As a result of the time and intimacy she devotes to her subjects, her images are empathetic and respectful, but also frequently bizarre, unexpected, or surreal. Procesión (procession) can be read as an allegory to this deeply relational process, in that the viewer and Iturbide herself seem to be swallowed up in an eerie throng of masked people. This sense of being immersed in a confusing yet amazing social gathering includes the viewer in the ritual yet reminds them of their need for greater interpersonal connection in order to understand it. In this way, works like Procesión resist simplification and stereotyping, and thusly demand a continued relationship with the subject matter.


Graciela Iturbide began her nearly fifty year long career under the mentorship of renowned photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo at la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She holds honorary degrees from Columbia College and San Francisco Art Institute and has been the recipient of the Lucie Award, the Hasselblad Foundation Photography Award, the Legacy Award from the Smithsonian Latino Center, and a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited in major exhibitions at Tate Modern, Museo Frida Kahlo, Museo de Arte Moderno, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, and is part of permanent collections at LACMA, the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, SFMoMA, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Centre Georges Pompidou. She currently lives and works in Coyoacán, Mexico.

– Rica Maestas
Public Human

March 23, 2017

We, the directors of the Northeast Small College Art Museum Association (NESCAMA), are deeply concerned about potential budget cuts that threaten funding so vital to us and to the good work that arts organizations do throughout the nation. We must continue to hold the line and to promote the arts energetically through the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

With small operational budgets, college and university art museums are particularly reliant on funding from the NEH, NEA, and IMLS. This funding preserves artistic, ethnographic, scientific, and historic collections, and creates access to cultural heritage unique to our respective diverse communities. This funding not only supports essential infrastructure, it enables us to pursue transformative programs that provide employment for emerging and young professionals. This funding ensures that our collections are interpreted, understood, and valued.

College and university art museums are uniquely — and importantly  — positioned to make connections beyond the fine arts, to include disciplines from science to business, and to foster engagement beyond campus and into our communities. Our work inspires scholarship and engenders innovation. Our museums provide opportunities for young scholars to explore ideas and worlds that are challenging, encouraging critical thinking that will be of use in any professional path they choose to follow after graduation.

During this era of increasing polarization, museums, through their collections and exhibitions, demonstrate that there are multiple points of view and that these points of view can coexist.

While the debate about federal funding for the arts is nothing new,  we encourage members of Congress to recognize that the resilience of the NEH, NEA, and IMLS, despite opposition over the years, is a testament to their enduring value.


Dan Mills, Director
Bates Museum of Art, Bates College

Anne Collins Goodyear & Frank H. Goodyear, Co-Directors
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College

Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator
Colby College Museum of Art, Colby College

Jo-Ann Conklin, Director
David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University

Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director
Davis Museum at Wellesley College

Clare I. Rogan, Curator
Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University

James Mundy, The Anne Hendricks Bass Director
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College

Ian Berry, Dayton Director
The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College

Anja Chávez, Director of University Museums
Longyear Museum of Anthropology/Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University

David E. Little, Director & Chief Curator
Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Richard Saunders, Director
Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury College

Tricia Y. Paik, Florence Finch Abbott Director
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Mount Holyoke College

Kristina L. Durocher, Director
Museum of Art, University of New Hampshire

Janie Cohen, President, Board of Directors
New England Museum Association

Kristin Parker, Interim Director
The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University

Tracy L. Adler, Johnson-Pote Director
Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College

Jessica Nicoll, Director and Louise Ines Doyle ’34 Chief Curator
Smith College Museum of Art, Smith College

Christina Olsen, Class of 1956 Director
Williams College Museum of Art, Williams College

Lisa Parola

Politically motivated violence, the political use of violence, violence as agitation, precarious violence, wide-spread violence, subaltern violence. Stressing that there cannot be a single interpretation to any of these phenomena, Fatma Bucak creates works that require a timely ethic derived from the relationship between the political, the poetic, and those who watch. The artist’s recent works evokes themes such as oppression, censorship, grief of disappearances and political violence.

Considering the complex tangle of facts and narratives around issues of political violence, this ethic is particularly evident in Remains of what has not been said: a series of photographs chronicling the collecting and processing of Turkish newspapers over 84 days beginning on 7 February 2016. This date marks the Cizre basement killings in south-eastern Turkey, a moment of fear and contradiction that typifies emotions still present across Turkey and Europe. The newspapers collected over the course of 84 days are visualized first as a video performance entitled Scouring the press in which two women and the artist wash the newspaper pages until they are opaque and devoid of content. Accompanying this video performance is a photographic series in which the artist is seen holding 84 glass jars containing the resulting blackened, spoiled water.


Fatma Bucak, Detail of installation view of Remains of what has not been said, 2016. Eighty-four digital archival pigment prints. This work was made possible through the generous support of the Fondazione Sardi Per l’Arte, Torino.

Questions arise. How do you put art in conversation with current affairs, not just in Turkey, but across the world? And perhaps more pressingly what is the role of art and the artist in recent decades of violence and serious violations of human rights? In the first decade of the millennium, these topics have become the subject of much research by artists and curators who for various reasons have intervened on issues such as politics, communication, violence, and censorship. They approach political violence from specific cultural contexts that are increasingly market-oriented, investment-centric, and obviously embedded in spectacle, which diminishes the function of civil and political art and culture.

By contrast, Bucak’s recent work proposes artwork and the exhibition as a space for debate and reflection. In Europe and internationally, such interrogation has centered on two lines of research: the re-reading of parts of history and the documentation of facts looking forward. Bucak’s works engage both of these themes through a dialogue between art and current events. Her projects interrogate what is happening in Mediterranean countries and the surrounding region, poetically demand changes in perspectives, practices, and policies—exploring that fragile relationship full of gray areas between what has been, what is, and what will be.

The horizons in Remains of what has not been said gesture towards the boundaries and geographies that are increasingly difficult to define, and they challenge the rationalism of cartography. History has frayed, geographically speaking, and it is no longer possible to represent it as a closed geometry. Dismissing rhetoric and clichés that all too often accompany reflections on culture and art—especially regarding marginalized groups—Bucak deals with specific situations that bring out unexpected perspectives, suppressed facts, liminal places, inhabited borders, flexible time, and narrative geographies. Immersed in this tarnished landscape of political violence, her works do not merely present the public with a depiction of a temporary event, but they also provide a glimpse of what violence conceals. This prompts new interpretations and the opportunity to reexamine history, the present, and our place in it.

Bucak’s work reminds us that art and culture are transversal concepts that address memory, identity, testimonies and collective experience. Art can be a medium for questioning the past, but it must be able to establish a critical distance. Linear understandings of cultural identity promote simplicity at the expense of the very real complexity of what is happening around us. If we understand art as a space for political discussion, never before have images had so much potential as conceptual “resignification tools” to respond to crisis and failing paradigms of modernity. Art as political action during this global transition cannot simply represent what is. Art must also challenge reality and the power structures that underpin it, and ultimately art must challenge its own borders.

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