Photographic Gems at Wesleyan

Have you been to the Davison Art Gallery lately? Located in the Center for the Arts at the historic Alsop House, the Davison sponsors compelling art exhibitions with a focus on works on paper. For a few weeks still, you can see Tanya Marcuse’s powerful show, Phantom Bodies. Marcuse’s work challenges our perception of the body, and also of time, science and gender.


Tanya Marcuse’s photographs are on view through December 13.

We have an active collection at the Davison Gallery, ably curated by Clare Rogan. Recently she told me about a great new acquisition — a gift from Profs Andrew Szegedy-Maszak and Elizabeth Bobrick in honor of Peter and Laurie Frenzel. The picture, by Lewis Hine, (American, 1874-1940), is a portrait of a 10 year old tobacco picker working in Gildersleeve, Conn. (1917). This is just across the river in Portland. Hine’s pictures often documented child labor, and his work was instrumental in raising awareness about the exploitation of children.

Lewis Hine -- 10 year-old Picker on Gildersleeve Tobacco Farm
Lewis Hine — 10 year-old Picker on Gildersleeve Tobacco Farm

The gift of this stunning gelatin silver print is a wonderful complement to our photographic collection and honors friendship and commitment in our Wesleyan community. How fortunate we are!


Here Come the Spring Exhibitions!

Now that spring break has passed, it often feels like a mad rush to the end of the semester. My own progress has been stymied by a nasty flu, but I am hoping to be up and about tomorrow to see the first senior thesis art exhibition of 2015: Wednesday, March 25 at 4 p.m. at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The senior artists Luca Ameri, Raphael A. Leitz, Dat Vu, and Derrick Qi Wang will be at the reception, and you can check out the work through Sunday, March 29.

The Davison Art Center is holding an exhibition opening on Thursday, March 26, featuring works by Barbara Kruger, Kiki Smith, Sebastiao Salgado, and Eve Arnold. These are amazing artists, and we are so fortunate to have their pieces in our collection. On Thursday at 5:30 there will be a public conversation with the donors who made this possible, artist Jolie Stahl and photo editor, Robert Dannin. The exhibition will be up through May 24.

Personal Recollections

Wes Photography Collection: See it Now!

Did you know that Wesleyan has a marvelous photography collection to complement its first-rate collection of prints? From time to time I teach a seminar on Photography and Philosophy, and my students and I have the delightful opportunity to work with pictures in the Davison Art Center.

You still have a chance to get a glimpse into these treasures. Planes, Trains and Automobiles, an exhibition at Davison, is open through Thursday, March 6. The show is a gem, with images from famous artists alongside pictures that will knock your socks off by photographers you may never have heard of.



If you are interested in photography, check out this exhibition, and keep your eyes peeled for future shows at Davison.

Art Exhibitions on Our Creative Campus

Yesterday I visited the wonderful Alumni Show II at the Zilkha Gallery in the Center for the Arts. Curated by John Ravenal ’81 P’15, the exhibition offers a compelling look at the wide-ranging talents of Wes grads working in a variety of media. John began with over 150 artists and eventually pared the list back to 17 alumni whose work is displayed now on campus. From John Hatleberg’s ’79 Hope Diamond replica to Stephanie Calvert’s ’08 lush paintings, the art displayed at Zilkha delights, provokes…makes you pay attention and makes you think. It’s very cool.

At the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Tom Zetterstrom’s photographs from China are now on display. These pictures from 1981 promise to remind us of a key moment in China’s recent history. Next week the Davison Art Gallery will open an exhibition exploring seriality in American printmaking. The interplay of repetition and variation will figure prominently in the exhibition opening on September 19th.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the Center for the Arts this year, and there will be plenty of activities throughout the year. We began with the musical Mash, and plenty of groups were really shredding it on stages across the campus. (I learned this word from a first-year student at the campus BB-Q.)  Here’s a pic from the Smokin Lillies set:



Make art, make music, make Wesleyan as creative a campus as we possibly can!


Approaching the Finish Line

The last week has been a whirlwind of opportunities to see some of the best of student work at Wesleyan. I’ve enjoyed seeing the senior theses art exhibitions as they’ve gone up in the Zilkha Gallery (and there’s a greatest hits version now), and it is fun to see the work of this term’s drawing and painting students in their work spaces. Tula Telfair’s students will have work on display today, and the photography exhibition of work collected for Wesleyan by the late Puffin D’Oench continues in Davison Gallery through Commencement. The Davison collection is one of the jewels of our Center for the Arts, and we recently hosted the Friends of the Davison for a reception at the President’s House. The group raises money to acquire new works of art, and they have really helped keep the collection an important resource for the university. You can check out their blog.

I strolled over to Russell House last week to listen to the writing prize winners read from their work. It was a revelation, and I was deeply moved by the stories, essays and poems I heard. The pride and affection of the writing faculty for their students was so clear, as was the support of our ever-growing community of writing students!

There has been lots of film, music and dance across the campus over the last several days, and Kari, Sophie and I were fortunate to witness much of it. From Rent to African drumming and dance, from a cappella groups to Mark Slobin’s Yiddish theater production, I’ve been hearing and seeing some stunning performances.

Tomorrow our finals begin, and I think I’ll be hearing a lot of tapping on computer keyboards as students write and faculty grade exams and essays. Good luck to all!

Year’s End….. Looking Ahead

As we close out 2008 I find myself still dealing with ongoing projects from the fall while putting things in place for the beginning of next semester. Almost finished with my grading of my class on photography and representation, I am spending more time finalizing my syllabus for my spring course on movies and philosophy, The Past on Film. Although I have taught this class many times over the years (and as recently as last spring), I can’t help but rethink the readings and movies one more time.

As a historian interested in how people make sense of the past, I began teaching and writing about film and photography more than 15 years ago. In December I wrote a review for the LA Times on Annie Liebovitz’s most recent book:,0,6719282.story

Working with the photography collection in our Davison Art Center was a great treat this past semester, and I am looking forward to teaching again in our state of the art film facility. But first I have to finish this syllabus!

Once faculty and students return to campus we will resume work on our budget planning and curricular initiatives. There will be more difficult trade-offs, as we chart a course to keep Wesleyan on track during this economic crisis and beyond. I will continue to share information about the planning process on this blog and the Securing the Future website.

Maintaining access to a Wesleyan education through a robust financial aid program is an important value that guides our planning. Recently the political scientist Charles Murray has argued that we are encouraging too many people to pursue a college education. Yesterday I published on the Huffington Post a response to a recent op-ed piece by Dr. Murray:

It is still very quiet here at Wesleyan, but now varsity athletes have returned for practices before next week’s tournaments. Before too long the campus will be fully back to life. Meanwhile, I send out best wishes to the extended Wesleyan family for a great 2009.

[tags] classes, The Past on Film, photography, Los Angeles Times, Annie Liebovitz, Davison Art Center, economy, Securing the Future, financial aid, Charles Murray, Huffington Post [/tags]