The de Menil Gallery Archive

It Ain't Necessarily So

by Margaret Bowland
Through November 12

From the artist's personal statement:

"I have long been fascinated, as a woman, at how much we must disguise ourselves to be attractive. Do we then have a clue as to what we really look like or who we really are?

When Velasquez painted his masterpiece, 'Las Meninas,' the center of the painting shows a blond child being offered a terra cotta vial by a lady in waiting prostrate at her feet. That vial contained a 'whitening solution.' Why was this the moment Velasquez chose to depict? He is painting a child who embodies the ambitions of other people’s projections in the royal court.

Painting on skin is by intent a metaphor to expose basic questions of self-identity, which all people undergo internally as a part of the maturation process.It is also reflective of the last five hundred years of global cultures, who sought to cover their women in make-up, powders, paints, even mud. This painting on skin dates from ancient times to the fashion houses of Paris, New York, and Los Angeles.

Psychologists have learned that at about the age of seven children become aware of the fact that they are not truly unconditionally loved. The lucky ones have known unconditional love from a parent but all must soon face this fact. So begins the time when looking into the face of a stranger, many ask: “Whom do you wish to see when you look at me? What does it take to earn your love?”

In many of my paintings I have depicted both Caucasian and African Americans involved in what I see as a struggle to express the 'self.' My subjects triumph. They look back at you through all the make-up, the costumes, the times in history in which they are placed, completely whole.

Their eyes hold their unique souls and stare you down. None of my subjects are ever victims."

Past Exhibits

List of 37 items.

  • "Icons" by Nelson Da Costa

    September 18–November 12, 2017
    Paintings by Nelson Da Costa
    Each piece in Da Costa’s oeuvre is linked to a larger narrative, derived from observations from his life in Angola as a child, his exodus to Cuba for his studies, and his immigration to the United States.
    His works are based on memories—Da Costa calls his creative process the door to “the spiritual world of my past.” Many of Da Costa¹s early works address the destruction, poverty, and despair wrought by war, based on his own survival of the Angolan civil war and the tragic loss of his family. More recently, he has begun to explore themes of the present and future, particularly his experiences and encounters with American culture. Drawing on the many influences from his tumultuous life, Nelson transmutes memory and strife into a stark allegory of subject and shape.
  • "In Light – In Shadow" by Bruce Cratsley

    Photographs by Bruce Cratsley    
    These seventy-two vintage gelatin silver photographs, carefully selected by gallery director Monika Andersson, reveal the varied interests of Bruce Cratsley and his mastery of light and shadow. Most of the images were selected from the estate of Cratsley, who died in 1998, and have not been on display before.

    Cratsley, often referred to as “the Master of Light and Shadow," captured urban scenes of New York, from store windows to graffiti to the streets of the city. His scenes from Paris and Venice, on the other hand, contain statuary and formal art. Other images, such as “New Year’s Day, 1987” and “A-Lone (Column and Shadow), Prince Street, NYC 1986” express dazzling light, while mystery emanates from “Rising Incense Smoke, Chez Moi, 1991” and “Burst Balloon, Midtown, NYC, 1990.” Cratsley’s great-niece, a current Fifth Former, assisted with cataloging the inventory.

    Whether expressing the ordinary or reflecting life’s complex emotions, all of Cratsley's photos display the range of his talent with what he called “a beat-up, early 1950s twin-lens Rolleiflex “ with which “I joyously participate in the light of love, the love of light, and yes, the refuge of shadows.”

    Photographs courtesy of the Estate of David Bruce Cratsley and the Gallery Kayafas in Boston
  • "Anatomy of a Small Universe" by Nancy Hayes

    Nancy Hayes’ large-format paintings are colorful landscapes of the artist’s imagination and invitations to explore your own.
    Paying reverence to design concepts—colors, lines, patterns—the artist creates characters in the abstract, engaging viewers in a mystical, physical world. “Just as a reader injects their own personal knowledge into a story, enriching the plot, my objective is to allow the viewer to explore their own visual narratives, enhancing the forms with their own imaginations,” Hayes says.
    A sculptor in clay for twenty-five years before taking up painting, Hayes says that, through painting, “I can be the designer, color theorist, and inventor, giving form to my creativity.” She also says that painting allows her to “express concepts beyond my understanding.”
    Powerful but subtle, gentle but tough, Hayes’ paintings can evoke visceral reactions. According to de Menil Gallery curator and photography teacher Monika Andersson, the work “summons something organic, and something tribal, through which the power of our physical world and the flow of cells get honored and seen. By proxy, the work speaks to life, ever in transition, and ultimately to the interconnectedness of self to all. And through this process of thought and visual exploration, we may find a representation of the innermost heart, where beauty is form, and meaning lies in the fact that the very delicate can be very strong.”
  • "Outspoken: Seven Women Photographers"

    Nadine Boughton
    Blake Fitch
    Nancy Grace Horton
    Marky Kauffmann
    Tira Khan
    Rania Matar
    Emily Schiffer

    Opening reception, open to the public: Wednesday, January 18 at 7:00 p.m.

    Do we hear the voices of women and girls?
    Curated by photographer and educator Marky Kauffmann, Outspoken: Seven Women Photographers captures those voices, challenging cultural assumptions and provoking viewers to ask what is right, fair, or possible for women and girls.
    The photographs span ages and cultures; they are intimate and revealing, often carrying powerful statements about gender and society.
    For example, Kauffmann’s large-scale portraits of older women, from her series, “Lost Beauty,” challenge viewers to question our cultural obsession with youth and beauty in spite of aging’s inevitability.
    The intimate portraits of Rania Matar capture the passage from girlhood to adulthood in both American and Middle Eastern cultures, focusing on the universality of growing up.
    Nancy Grace Horton’s photographs, from her “Ms. Behavior” series, hold a mirror up to society and to media’s influence on female roles.
    Emily Schiffer’s intimate portraits capture the frank expressions of Native American girls on a Cheyenne reservation in South Dakota.
    Tira Khan, a video producer and photographer at Sugarhouse Media, documents moments of family life through candid portraits of her daughters and others.
    Blake Fitch’s photos, from “Dress Rehearsal,” provide a glimpse of young girls, powerful, curious, defiant.
    Nadine Boughton’s images, from her “Fortune and the Feminine” series, deconstruct mid-century advertising and its messages about gender, power, beauty, and longing.
  • "The Insanity of Violence" by Gordon Chase

    September 18–November 11, 2016

    “Why do humans act so violently? Is this what it takes to survive, let alone to flourish and to thrive?

    “In the twenty-first century, how is possible that so many terrible conflicts still occur, that countless refugees have to run or swim for their lives, and that so many perish or suffer when deliberately targeted as the ‘other’? Does the human race possess an urge for self-destruction? Is patriarchy to blame? Why is it so difficult for us to understand that life is sacred?”

    Gordon Chase poses these questions in an artist’s statement, and tackles them in his artwork, on display this fall in both of Groton School’s galleries. Groton’s curators, Monika Andersson (de Menil) and Beth Van Gelder (Brodigan), cooperated to give as much attention as possible to Chase’s theme of non-violence—as Monika said, to “double up on this very important message.”

    Gordon taught art for forty years, including at Groton School from 1971 to 1978. His “art with a social conscience” continues to provoke viewers to think about violence, life, and identity, and to forcefully question ingrained assumptions.
  • "Every Border Can Be Crossed" by Ellen LeBow

    March 31–June 6, 2016

    Crowded with characters, Ellen LeBow’s works draw on influences that range from Asian images of the deities to Haitan Vodou symbols to the Irish Book of Kells. “My focus has been on the pure life and sensitivity of the drawn line unhindered by color, tonal changes, or surface texture,” she says.

    Large-scale black-and-white compositions cover hard boards with smooth coatings of kaolin clay. On the boards, LeBow paints broad areas of black ink, then with a small knife draws through the black to the white clay beneath. The artist finds the knife, like a brush or a pen, a responsive tool that enables spontaneous, expressive lines—crude or smooth, slashing or studied. With this technique, white lines become luminous and layered figures transparent.

    LeBow has described her works as “spiritual diagrams, teeming with the almost uncontainable and infinite rhythms of things entwined, going at each other, all caught up in a greater, bolder design.”
  • “Head On” by Sergei Isupov

    January 7–March 3, 2016

    Ceramist Sergei Isupov has returned to the form of the head throughout his career, using it both as physical object and a way to convey a narrative.

    The work acknowledges the enduring force of the head and its counterpart, the face, in art, from Renaissance portraits to today’s pop culture iconography. Isupov wants onlookers to contemplate the head and imagine the invisible body.

    The images he creates are literal and metaphorical. “The subject matter I address on the surface through painted images draws from multilateral information that passes out of our brains, our heads, as stories first experienced, then stored, and finally told,” says the artist, who has created heads miniature and colossal, two-dimensional and three-dimensional. “The viewer who considers these stories then completes the circle by making connections to these images and what they suggest based on their own knowledge and experiences.”
  • "We Shall," photographs by Paul D'Amato

    September 17– November 17, 2015

    In “We Shall,” Paul D’Amato uses large-format photography to paint the complex nuances within some of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods. Determined not to generalize or simplify, the photos defy glib media representations of the poor, of public housing, of urban decay.

    D’Amato earned his MFA at the Yale University School of Art and has received numerous awards and grants; his work has been published in a wide range of newspapers, magazines, and books and shown in museums and galleries around the world.

    The photographer recognizes how his own role intertwines with that of his subjects; he describes the relationship as “a kind of collaboration and performance on both sides of the camera. For it to work,” he says, “we both have to come to an accord on what will lead to the most emotionally resonant and believable picture . . . relationships are formed that allow us to try again, often as many as a dozen times over a period of years. The subjects perform enactments of themselves, which I shape into a photograph. You could say they write the lyric and I compose the melody.”

    D’Amato urges viewers to distinguish the photograph from the person depicted. “The people in the pictures move, talk, respond to one another, and their appearance is constantly changing,” he says. “These images, then, don’t represent the west side, this class, this race, even this time. All of that has an existence that is independent of this work and is beyond the scope of photography.

    “In the end, the work is about establishing and playing with a sequence of relationships: between myself and my subjects, between the formal elements in the pictures, between one image and another, and between the viewer and the photograph.”
  • "Black and White," photographs by Baldwin Lee

    September 11-November 17, 2014

    "Black and White” features photographs from two of Baldwin Lee’s photo collections: “Black Americans in the South” and “Comparative Studies in Black and White.”

    The large-format prints of “Black Americans in the South” offer intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of Southern blacks. They contrast starkly in content and style with the less traditional “Comparative Studies in Black and White,” which compares black and white people quite literally by digitally juxtaposing their faces.

    Lee, an art professor at the University of Tennessee, has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship twice as well as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. His photographs hang in the permanent collections of several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of the City of New York, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    The de Menil Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays (except Wednesdays) and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends (except school holidays). The de Menil Gallery is free and open to the public.
  • “Fragile Season” by Ilana Manolson

    “Fragile Season”
    Paintings by Ilana Manolson
    January 8 – March 3, 2015
    Our human contemplations on impermanence are expressed most often in private, quietly, and accompanied by feelings of helplessness or sadness. In her show, “Fragile Season,” Ilana Manolson uses her art to investigate the theme of impermanence through life cycles in nature.  From seed, to flower, to wilting, these stages reflect the basic nature of everything we know. Through her castings and paintings, Manolson transcribes this transitory process into a record of wonder and beauty.
    The works of Manolson—a painter, printmaker, and naturalist—use an abstract interplay of light, color, and shadow to pay tribute to the unspoiled beauty of natural landscapes, some inspired by locations in nearby Concord, Massachusetts, her home town.
    Manolson has been awarded the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship for Painting and has had residencies through the Ballinglen Arts Foundation, the Yaddo Artist Colony, and the Banff School of Fine Arts. Her art is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Danforth Museum, the De Cordova Museum, and the Boston Public Library.

    Please join us for a reception with the artist on January 21, 2015 at 7:15 p.m.
  • “Black and White,” photographs by Baldwin Lee

    September 11-November 17, 2014

    "Black and White” features photographs from two of Baldwin Lee’s photo collections: “Black Americans in the South” and “Comparative Studies in Black and White.”

    The large-format prints of “Black Americans in the South” offer intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of Southern blacks. They contrast starkly in content and style with the less traditional “Comparative Studies in Black and White,” which compares black and white people quite literally by digitally juxtaposing their faces.

    Lee, an art professor at the University of Tennessee, has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship twice as well as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. His photographs hang in the permanent collections of several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of the City of New York, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    The de Menil Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays (except Wednesdays) and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends (except school holidays). The de Menil Gallery is free and open to the public.
  • “Renewal and Metamorphosis: Russian Photographs from the Forbes Collection of the Navigator Foundation”

    “Renewal and Metamorphosis: Russian Photographs from the Forbes Collection of the Navigator Foundation” provides insight into Russian history and politics, through the photographer’s lens. In the early 20th century, Russian photography flourished along with the other arts and continued to show vitality through the turmoil of the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war. By the late '30s, Stalin had muzzled all the arts, although when Germany invaded Russia, he partially lifted photographic censorship in order to popularize the heroes of the Great War for the Fatherland. As the Khrushchev era melted into the Brezhnev years, private citizens were allowed to amuse themselves with amateur photography as a modest form of individual expression. With the advent of glasnost, photographers could display their work to larger audiences than friends and fellow camera club members. Indeed, Russian photography during the 1990s experimented with growing abstraction and more biting social content.
    Murray Forbes III, who graduated from Groton in 1958, assembled this remarkable group of photographs from artists and collectors during repeated visits to the Soviet Union over three decades. He founded the Navigator Foundation in order to promote international understanding through an appreciation of the various ways different cultures have employed the photographic medium to express their own experience. Mr. Forbes will give a gallery talk on Wednesday, April 16 at 7:15, to which the public is cordially invited.
    The de Menil Gallery is always free and open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be closed April 27-29. The Gallery is located in the Dillon Art Center at Groton School, 282 Farmers Row, one mile south of Groton Center on Route 111.
  • "Icons of the Civil Rights Movement" and "Staying Grounded"

    January 13-March 7, 2014

    ”Icons of the Civil Rights Movement” contains 25 images of heroes and martyrs of the 1950s and ’60s civil rights movement painted on wooden panels. Each is surrounded in a gilded frame reminiscent of a Renaissance altarpiece and is embellished with scriptural quotations and found objects. All are painted with a red underground that occasionally shows through the gold leaf, following the technique used in Greek Orthodox iconography. These works join artist PamelaChatterton-Purdy’s twin passions for oil paint and collage, while at the same time expressing her deep religious faith that the historical movement for equal justice was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Chronologically, the images begin with the death of Emmett Till in summer 1955 and culminate with the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009. Chatterton-Purdy’s creations remind us that the progress of the civil rights movement was all too often marked by the martyrdom of courageous men and women who died so that others might be free.
    Chatterton-Purdy and her husband, David Purdy, a Methodist minister, were married in 1963 and witnessed the March on Washington that summer. That fall, she began her first job as an art editor for Ebony magazine, a unique vantage point for watching the Civil Rights movement unfold. “Icons of the Civil Rights Movement” has been exhibited at more than 25 schools and colleges as well as the Massachusetts State House and at President Obama’s inauguration festivities.

    Photographer Mark Person’s large-format images in “Staying Grounded” reflect his experience with faith, family, and growing up as an African-American in rural Georgia. “This exhibit is very personal to me,” he says, “because no matter how far one goes in life, it’s always about staying grounded. You have to go through things to get through things. The images in ‘Staying Grounded’ reflect that.” Person has previously exhibited with Chatterton-Purdy at the Zion Union Heritage Museum in Hyannis, Massachusetts. (Closed February 7-10, 2014)
  • Groton and the Boston School of Painting: Works by Edmund C. Tarbell, R. H. Ives Gammell, and Mary Minifie

    April 1 through June 2, 2013
    de Menil Gallery, Groton School
    Curated by Elizabeth Ives Hunter and John W. Tyler

    At a time when New York experimented with the gritty realism of the Ashcan School and flirted with European post-impressionism during the Armory Show of 1913, a group of men and women artists in Boston coalesced to develop their own distinctive style. According to one observer, “The Boston School became known for its use of vibrant color and attention to detail, utilizing light as a powerful emotive tool. Artists sought to evoke a sense of intimate space through illuminated landscapes and simple interior scenes, aided by soft, feathery brushstrokes.”

    Thoroughly trained in both the rigors of the French Academy and impressionist techniques by the painting department of the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, headed by Groton-born Edmund C. Tarbell from 1889-1913, they were known as the premier painters of the period. R. H. Ives Gammell, a Groton alumnus from the Form of 1911, studied at the Museum School and actually coined the phrase, The Boston School of Painting, which he defined in his book of the same name, published posthumously in 1986. In addition to painting continuously, Gammell taught in his own studio atelier from 1936 until his death in 1981. One of his most important students, Paul Ingbretson, continued to teach the lessons and methods he learned; it was at the Ingbretson studio that Groton resident Mary Minifie learned her craft.

    Although Tarbell spent most of his adult career in Boston or New Hampshire, his family ties to Groton remained strong, and a number of his paintings descended through the hands of his Groton relations. These have now been collected and restored under the auspices of the recently founded Tarbell Charitable Trust, which loaned several of the artist’s principal works for this exhibition.

    Gammell may be Groton School’s most distinguished painter-alumnus. It is safe to say that few Groton School boys of his day aspired to a career as a professional artist, but Sumner Welles, his formmate and the future assistant secretary of state, recalled that during rare idle moments he and Gammell used to wander the fields and hills around Groton dreaming about days filled with greater freedom when they would both be living the Bohemian life as art students in Paris.

    After finishing Groton, Gammell studied at the Museum School under both Tarbell and American impressionist William McGregor Paxton before realizing his adolescent dream by traveling to Paris and training at the Académie Julian. Before he could finish, however, the First World War stopped his ambitions. After the armistice, Gammell enjoyed considerable success as a portrait painter, but he always aspired to take on larger-scale paintings with more intellectual themes derived from his reading in religion and classical literature. The intellectual foundation of his allegorical work was laid at Groton.

    Gammell’s major allegory is a 23-panel series based on “The Hound of Heaven,” a poem by Francis Thompson that he had studied at Groton. Interpreted through the lens of the psychological writings of Carl Jung, this series incorporates the major intellectual themes that fascinated Gammell throughout his life.

    Groton School is fortunate to own some of Gammell’s rarest pre-War paintings. In addition, the gallery has secured a particularly comprehensive selection of paintings from later periods in his career, all generously loaned by private collectors.

    Mary Minifie (widow of Groton School faculty member Jonathan Minifie) was educated at Wellesley College and earned an M.F.A. from the Boston University School of Fine Arts. For the next 10 years she lived and worked abroad in Cairo, Oxford, and Vienna, exhibiting widely. In 1985, when she returned to the U.S., she began her study of portrait and the figure with Gammell’s former student, portrait painter Paul Ingbretson, and continued this study through 1997.

    As the works in this exhibition demonstrate, the traditions of the Boston School of Painting continue to flourish in the 21st century. Excellence in design and drawing coupled with sensitively observed and rendered variations of color provide a universally recognized standard in picturemaking. Whether working directly from nature, as in a portrait, landscape, or still life, or giving pictorial representation to an intellectual concept, these skills provide the painter with a visual vocabulary which allows the finished painting to communicate with the viewer and to express the full range and impact of the painter’s intent.

    The de Menil Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, except Wednesdays, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Closed April 28-30, 2013. Admission is always free.

    Elizabeth Ives Hunter, Gammell’s goddaughter and co-curator of this exhibition, will deliver a gallery talk on April 17.
  • The Commonwealth’s Attic: Curious Treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society

    de Menil Gallery, Groton School
    January 7 through March 4, 2013

    What is the meaning of historical objects? Why are they preserved, and why have they survived? Are they valued for their associations, aesthetic appeal, oddity, or simply the stories that they tell? Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is the oldest organization of its type in the United States. Thus, its members began to assemble documents and objects long before other museums began to gather their own collections. The understanding about what objects are truly museum-worthy has changed over time. Thus, objects once viewed as great treasures have been relegated to the basement and are now rarely displayed.

    The winter exhibition at the de Menil Gallery contains more than 50 objects from the Society’s collections. The items are as varied as birds shot by Theodore Roosevelt on vacation in the Adirondacks, tea allegedly gathered from the shore of Dorchester Neck after the Boston Tea Party, an elmwood burl bowl removed from King Philip’s tent after he was slain in 1676, a cane made from a charred timber of the White House after the British burned it in the War of 1812, and bullets fired in the Boston Massacre. The exhibition also includes military hardware from the 17th century, handsome silver teapots and cutlery, and 18th-century cloaks and waistcoats. And what gathering of New England artifacts would be complete without some object associated with Paul Revere? In this case, his tin lantern. The show even includes some fakes, as well as objects that are not at all what they were assumed to be, on which visitors can test their sixth sense for fraud. Of particular interest for Grotonians may be the death mask of Philips Brooks, who chaired the School’s first Board of Trustees.

    The de Menil Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays except Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Closed February 8 -11, 2013. Admission is free.
  • “‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’: Reflections from Shakespeare” by Rosamond Purcell

    de Menil Gallery
    September 13 through November 18, 2012

    For more than three decades, Rosamond Purcell has photographed natural history collections around the world. In 1987, she collaborated with Stephen Jay Gould to produce Illuminations: A Bestiary. More recently because of her status as “dean of natural-object, natural-light photographers,” she was commissioned by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia to document its 200-year-old cabinet of extraordinary zoological specimens. From photographing objects in glass jars of formaldehyde, it was but a small leap for Purcell to construct her own wunderkammern of bizarre and decaying objects for the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1989. During one of her foraging expeditions through wayside antique stores and open-air rummage sales, she spotted some antique mercury-glass jars, attracted by their reflective yet rough-textured surfaces.

    It was not long before Purcell’s artist’s imagination found a use for her new acquisitions: photographs of scenes reflected in the bottle’s surface produced a surreal image of the original scene. When her friend, Michael Witmore, the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, proposed a collaborative book on Shakespeare, these shadowy, almost surreal reflected images seemed the ideal way to illustrate Shakespeare’s allusive language. The poet’s verbal images, according to Witmore, produce a “script within a script.” Since Shakespeare worked in a theatrical medium that relied primarily on the actors’ bodies and voices, he had to rely on this “second script of images” to supply “the cinematic flashbacks, the digital animation, and luxurious soundtrack” that modern storytellers employ. Purcell’s photographs, once printed on soft-textured paper, can be enjoyed either as abstract compositions or as a more literal response to the Shakespearean texts that accompany each print. They depend on the mind’s eye and the imaginations just as much as the poet’s words to create a mood or dramatic scene.

    A number of the images appearing in the Groton exhibition also appeared in “Very Like a Whale” at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where the curators said it opened “a door into allegory, metaphor, and shifts of perspective.”

    The de Menil Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays except Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free.
  • Works of Passion

    by Nancy Ellen Craig
    April 2 - June 1, 2012

    Nancy Ellen Craig began her long career as a portraitist. Among her many subjects have been artists (Hans Hofmann, Paul Cadmus), writers (Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw), architects (Frank Lloyd Wright), and film stars (Cliff Robertson, Angelica Huston), as well as members of European royal families. Her careful technique and acute psychological insight have prompted comparison with that supreme American portrait painter, Thomas Eakins.

    During the 1960s, she left New York to live with her poet husband in remote seclusion in Truro on Cape Cod.  When she wasn't away on a portrait commission, she began doing larger paintings—mural-size canvases—in her barn-studio. The inspiration for these canvasses comes from mythology, the Bible, political subjects, and her own imagination.
  • Tools in Motion: Works from the Hechinger Collection

    de Menil Gallery
    January 11-March 2, 2012
    Tools in Motion celebrates repetition and motion in common everyday tools and hardware, magically transforming utilitarian objects into fanciful works of beauty, surprise, and wit.

    The exhibit, chosen from International Arts and Artists’ Tools as Art: The Hechinger Collection, features 47 highlights from the holdings of hardware-industry pioneer John Hechinger, including works by Arman, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenberg, Jacob Lawrence, and other artists.

    The Hechinger Collection includes more than 375 works in a variety of media—sculpture, painting, craft, photography, drawing, prints, and digital art. Some of the works in Tools in Motion confound the barrier between art and life by transforming actual tools into artwork or by demonstrating the illusionistic properties of tool materials. Others, more metaphorically, reference labor and production. The Groton community and the public are invited to enjoy the exuberant creativity, consummate craftsmanship, and sheer fun of the exhibition.

    All shows at the de Menil Gallery are free. Tools in Motion will be at the de Menil Gallery from January 12 through March 2. The gallery is open from 9 to 3 on weekdays (except Wednesdays) and 11 to 4 on weekends (except holiday weekends.)
  • Masculinity: Rites of Passage, Photographs by David Hilliard

    de Menil Gallery, Groton School
    January 10 ---March 6, 2011
    Born in nearby Lowell, Massachusetts, David Hilliard has exhibited his multi-panel photographic tableaux in Barcelona, Atlanta, Frankfurt, Kansas City, and Santa Monica. He has taught photography at Harvard University and the Yale School of Art and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. The lush color of his images transforms ordinary back streets and interiors of working-class Lowell into a rich visual feast, stimulating both the eye and the imagination, since so much of Hillliard’s work draws the viewer into the realm of his own interior life.
    Hilliard works in a large format (usually 20 x 40) and characteristically arranges his photographs in three related panels. Because the panels employ different depths of field and focal points, they are rarely just multi-part panorama shots of a single subject, but instead resemble medieval triptychs where the side panels either amplify or comment on the principal image of the central panel.
    One of the central themes of Hilliard’s work has been to explore the meaning of masculinity in contemporary culture from childhood and coming of age on into adulthood and the closing decades of life. The images chosen for the winter show in the de Menil Gallery highlight this strain in Hilliard’s work and document many familiar waypoints along the road to manhood. Viewers will soon learn to recognize the artist’s father, whose robust personality and signature Hawaiian shirts dominate many of the photographs. Yet the images also document a particularly intense and loving relationship between a father and his gay son.
    Hilliard’s images are never didactic and often ambiguous, inviting the viewer to supply his or her own backstory for the mysterious scene they depict.
    All shows at the de Menil Gallery are free and open to the public. The gallery is open from 9 to 3 on weekdays (except Wednesdays) and 11 to 4 on weekends (except holiday weekends.)
    The de Menil Gallery is located in the Dillon Art Center at Groton School a mile and half south of Groton Center on Rte. 111. Please enter by the gate marked “athletics” and look for a silver-roofed building, which is the Art Center.
  • Ars Memorativa

    September 20– November 23, 2010
    What happens when two accomplished artists just happen to be married to one another? How does it affect their art? Do they share common concerns? Or do they each go their separate ways. The fall exhibition explores this tension in the work of husband and wife artists Randal Thurston and Alyson Schultz.
    Thurston creates evocative gallery and museum installations using cut black paper silhouettes, while Schultz is an oil painter. They live and work in Somerville, Massachusetts. Thurston has exhibited at the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts; the Allston Skirt Gallery, Allston, Massachusetts; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Massachusetts; and the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts. Concerning his installation, “Wunderkammer,” at the Fuller Craft Museum, a reviewer from the Boston Globe wrote, “Nobody wields scissors like cut-paper artist Randal Thurston, whose baroquely intricate wall installations investigate mythology, history, and science.” Another reviewer called his installation at the De Cordova “creepy but oddly exhilarating.”
    Alyson Schultz writes about her large abstract paintings, “I am involved with creating emotive landscape. . . . Although I start with specific sites and images in mind. . . the paintings evolve . . . to a more personal, evocative terrain. Central to the work are apocalyptic stories and contemporary parallels. Since medieval times, Babylon with the vision of “handwriting on the wall,” Lot’s wife, and the tower of Babel have been sources for artists. For me they have a contemporary echo in a world abounding in recurring images of violence and destruction.”
  • Deliquescence and Other Transformations

    Large-scale botanical prints by photographer Robert Creamer

    The de Menil Gallery
    April 6th through June 6th

    Robert Creamer has a deep respect for change—its subtle palette and patterns, the surprising structure of decay, and the integrity that graces every stage of life. In a Creamer photograph a browning petal becomes as glorious as the newly opened bloom. The numbered museum specimen transforms into contemporary sculpture. The arresting detail and Baroque luminosity of these photographs are the result of a lifetime behind a camera and a recently discovered technique—the flatbed scanner. Creamer’s careful use of rich blacks or negative space helps emphasize the light of the subjects and allude to the mystery of an ever-present dark.

    -----From the exhibit hosted in 2006-07 by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. The works now are on display at the de Menil Gallery as part of the Smithsonian’s Traveling Exhibition Service.

    The Artist’s Comments
    “Photography has been very good to me. Photography most of all has given me the opportunity to explore, be curious, and allowed me an avenue to interpret the world around me as an artist, a teacher and as a professional architectural photographer.
    “This new work, which is on tour as a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition, concentrates on a blend of interests in technology and the aging process. These images were captured using a scanner as a camera. The work began as ‘look what technology can reveal’ to my present command over technique to have it work for me and reflect my intentions. Digital technology is a vital and integral part of this process but is not what interests me most. The scanner is a tool that enhances my ability to observe. These images are about time, transformation and transitions. The new beauty of my subject twists its way out of the familiar. The expansive surrounding deep black becomes graphic shapes that isolate yet allow the subject to merge towards the viewer. It is that, teamed with my imagination that allows me to search, analyze, observe, speculate, and capture the true essence of my interpretations. Working with a flat bed scanner is not without limitations. New procedures and techniques push the artwork and demands growth as an artist. My imagination and determination in conjunction with a new understanding of patience constantly gives birth to new ideas. Concepts of composition and the decisive moment provide new rules to break.”

    You can see some of Mr. Creamer’s work at
  • A Primer of Empire

    January 12, 2010 - March 2, 2010
    On display from January 12 through March 2, 2010, the de Menil winter show, “A Primer of Empire,” features work by New York artist Esteban Chavez. Large-scale prints and artist books explore ideas of living in a global empire in a dark and decadent age, where the underlying hope is that young people can change the world. Below is a brief autobiography of the artist:
    I have always been interested in books and libraries and civilization and human history. The
    contradiction of being a light-skinned Mexican, part European and part indigenous, shapes my
    worldview. Most of humanity is mixed race. I am from pre-America and post-America. I do not
    really want to fit in.
    I grew up in the suburbs of North Denver. The Anglos said we didn’t belong in Colorado, but we
    were there 400 years before them. We were descendants of the first Spanish conquistadors, dirt poor
    but smart enough to know that the land we stole from the first people was now taken from us.
    There was a contradiction in my life; I hated Gringos, and I did not speak Spanish. Growing up
    we were referred to as “dirty Mexican.” My father was a construction worker. He hated it. Worse
    he hated supporting eight children. He was passionate about great art. He drew a lot of animals in
    the style of the French Romantics. My mother said if I liked to read, I should do that. So she bought
    me a set of encyclopedias, and I read them at the age of six.
    I went to a Catholic boarding school in Southern Colorado on scholarship. Prep school really set
    up my worldview. It was 1969-72. America was in turmoil. I had the run of the art building, and
    I ended up at Stanford as a Chicano artist-in-residence at the ripe age of 21.
    I spend a lot of time making artist books, convinced that there is a cultural resistance to all
    the superficial nonsense that is considered culture and civilization. That is why I spend my time
    in a creative space. Great art changes the quality of human existence, and it is always open for
    discussion. I would say I am an intellectual who makes art. I share the view that a better world is
    possible (if we just can get through today).
    Esteban Chavez has lived in New York City since graduating from the Yale University School of Art in 1985. He is deeply affected by injustices, corruption and greed. For more than thirty years, he has poured his life energy into art making. He is a master printmaker, artist bookbinder, bronze and wood sculptor, and realist oil painter. He believes in the transformative power of art. In 1993, Mr. Chavez won the grand prize at the International Printmaking Biennale in Wakayama, Japan. He also has works in the Smithsonian Collection, the Library of Congress, El Museo del Barrio in New York City, and the Schomburg Center in the New York Public Library.
  • Masters in the Making and Masters Made: The Art of Collaboration in Printmaking

    September 24 to November 24, 2009
    The Fall 2009 exhibition in the de Menil Gallery features forty prints resulting from the collaboration of master printmaker Curlee Raven Holton, founding director of the Experimental Printmaking Institute at Lafayette College, and leading African-American artists: Benny Andrews, David C. Driskell, Melvin Edwards, Sam Gilliam, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Al Loving, Faith Ringgold and many others.
    Viewers will gain insight into the relationship between the printmaker and the artist. In this collaborative effort, possibilities of learning and creation expand in a dynamic way. The printmaker brings special skills to the process, which the artist might not necessarily envision before the project begins. The printer serves as a facilitator in developing the print, and the artist must let go of some of the autonomy typically associated with making art. Because of this unique relationship, the final product is often a surprise to both artist and printmaker. Thus, art making is broadened and enriched.
    Established in 1996, the Experimental Printmaking Institute promotes research and experimentation in the printmaking medium. Since its inception the EPI has hosted over 75 visiting artists and artists in residence.
  • Another China - Recent Art from the Ethnic Southwest

    Spring Show April 2, June 2, 2009

    The spring show at the de Menil Gallery features contemporary artworks from China’s ethnic minority provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou. Nine artists are showcased in the exhibition, seven of whom recently had work added to the collection of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. Most of the works featured at the exhibition are reduction woodcuts, along with some more innovative works.
    • Yongsheng Yang’s “Process III” is a monochrome accordion album of reduction woodcut process. This is a pioneering work based on the Chinese traditions of the accordion album book and multi-point perspective literati painting.
    • Yuhui Wang’s dramatic forthcoming oil painting memorializing New York City’s Twin Towers is created with pigments he has developed that change colors with the application of heat.
    • Jianshan Wang’s reduction woodcut “Miao (Hmong) Women in Bright Moon” employs a combination of symbolist approaches and allegorical and representational forms to build a mural-like ensemble of Guizhou`s Miao (Hmong) women in festival mood. This work was added to the collection of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum in 2008.
    • Artist Qingxue Zhang, of the Tujia ethnicity, shows the reduction woodcut “Heavenly Bath”, which plays with the concepts of Greek and Chinese mythologies. He created it by weaving and lacing rich fabric patterns of Guizhou’s ethnic minority peoples over his matrix. This work was added to the collection of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum in 2008.
    • Jianghua Zhao is of the Miao (Hmong) ethnicity. His reduction woodcut “The Impression of a Miao (Hmong) Village” is a landscape of the largest and most famous village of China’s Miao (Hmong) ethnicity.
    • Xiaochun Zhang’s reduction woodcut series poignantly narrates his struggles with the four political mottos that dominated his life during China’s Cultural Revolution.
    • Artist Haiping Li of the Hani ethnicity shows a couple of works from his reduction woodcut series “Daily Life”, which features luscious female lips appropriated from the increasingly common roadside billboards. They emit youthful pop-culture vitality while conferring a comment on the division between the haves and the have-nots, and the regression of women’s roles in China’s new capitalist economy.
    With this exhibition, the de Menil Gallery introduces unique art from some of China’s and, indeed, the world’s most culturally rich and visually spectacular ethnic regions.

    The spring exhibit at the de Menil Gallery runs from the beginning of April 2 - June 2 2009. The gallery is open Weekdays except Wednesday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, weekends 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Uncovering Ancient Greece: 50 Years of Discoveries by Hugh Sackett

    by Hugh Sackett
    with Objects Loaned by the Metropolitan Museum, New York
    January 12, 2009 - March 3
    The current exhibition at the de Menil Gallery celebrates the long and fruitful career of Hugh Sackett, one of the school’s most distinguished faculty members. Though known to many Grotonians as a respected Latin teacher and a beloved dorm master, not all members of the Groton family are aware of his international reputation as an authority on Bronze Age Greece. Principally associated throughout his career with the British School in Athens, Mr. Sackett is best known for his work at five important archaeological digs that are the focus of the winter exhibition: the Dema and Vari Houses near Athens, the Unexplored Mansion at Knossos in Crete, the town of Lefkandi on the island of Euboea, and a previously unknown Minoan palace complex at Palaikastro in eastern Crete.
    In addition to being respected for his meticulous scholarship and long list of publications, Mr. Sackett enjoys a reputation among his colleagues as an archaeological divining rod. Long before there were infrared aerial photographs, Mr Sackett’s uncanny instinct for identifying locations that would appeal to ancient peoples, would prompt him to say “dig here,” and, sure enough, artifacts and stone foundations would begin to appear, long hidden beneath the surface of the earth. His finds would be the envy of any archaeologist.
    At Lefkandi, Mr. Sackett and his colleague Mervyn Popham uncovered an intact clay centaur of remarkable craftsmanship and design. Indeed, Lefkandi was supposed to have been a Dark Age site, its dates (ca. 1150-900 BC?) belonging to a period when the peoples then inhabiting Greece were presumed to have lost the ability to write, while contact with other parts of the ancient world diminished. Yet Lefkandi, controlling a key point on the Strait of Euboea, proved just the opposite to be true: evidence of trade with places as far away as Cyprus and Egypt were unearthed there, together with locally made pottery and jewelry fashioned by artisans of great skill. The objects found at Lefkandi forced textbook authors to rewrite their chapters on the Greek Dark Ages. The dig, begun by Popham and Sackett in the early 1960s and continues today under the direction of Dr Irene Lemos, who had been trained by them both. It is no exaggeration to say that the Lefkandi excavation is probably the most important excavation in the Greek world by any archaeological team after the Second World War.
    More mystery and romance surrounded the excavation at Lefkandi when Sackett and Popham discovered an ancient heroon, or hero’s tomb. The structure itself was a prototype that would eventually evolve into the well-known peripteral Greek temple architecture]. Inside, an elaborate urn contained the ashes of the warrior chieftain, and nearby his urn were the remains of a chariot and the skeletons of horses sacrificed in his honor, as well as the corpse of a female found ominously with a knife at her neck.
    Since 1983 much of Mr. Sackett’s attention has been focused on the British School excavation at Palaikastro, amidst the olive groves and beaches of a yet unspoiled section of the coastline of Eastern Crete. Here earlier surveys had suggested the remains of a partially submerged Minoan palace complex. During the final days of one summer’s digging at Palaikastro, Mr. Sackett’s team found some pieces of carved ivory of rare beauty, clearly parts of a kouros, a young male figure, perhaps an image of the young Zeus, since tradition held he was born in a nearby mountain cave. Fortunately, when the team returned the next year they were able to gather up the remaining pieces of what turned out to be the largest chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statuette yet recovered from the antique world. It is now the crown jewel of the state museum in Sitea.
    Greek law forbids any of the objects discovered in Mr. Sackett’s various excavations from leaving the country, but Sean Hemingway of the Form of 1985, now a Curator of the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, has arranged for a small selection of objects from the Met’s study collection to be on display in the de Menil Gallery. In addition, a replica of the Palaikastro kouros, made by Prof. Mark Moak of Rocky Mountain College, will also be on display, and visitors will have the opportunity to see one of the most important recent finds in Minoan culture as it might have originally appeared.
  • The Crucible of American Modernism: The Provincetown Art Colony in the 20th Century

    Crucible of American Modernism:
    The Provincetown Art Colony in the 20th Century

    September 15 – November 23, 2008
    The de Menil Gallery gratefully acknowledges that the short history (below) of the Provincetown Art Colony first appeared in article written by William Morgan in the Hartford Courant on April 6, 2006 as part of a review of the new additions to the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and appears with his permission.
    For many, Provincetown is best known as a gay resort - New England's answer to Key West, another sand spit at a tag end of the continent. The Pilgrims made landfall at the tip of Cape Cod before moving on to Plymouth, but until the early 20th century, Provincetown was an isolated fishing village. Its picturesque poverty made it appealing to writers and artists who transformed it into a major art colony. It is this artistic legacy that the Provincetown Art Commission seeks to preserve and bring before the public.

    Charles Hawthorne opened the first of many summer art academies in 1899, and he and a few friends founded the art association in 1914. American expatriate painters including Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth and Mardsen Hartley fled the war in Europe and headed for the outer Cape. Hartley recalled 1916 as "the remarkable and never repeated summer," because much of New York's Greenwich Village seemed to have migrated to Provincetown. Literary luminaries such as Eugene O'Neill, e.e. cummings and Edna St. Vincent Millay came, too, followed later by Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer.
    But painting is the soul of Provincetown, although its history has been a constant sibling squabble between traditionalists and modernists. Hans Hofmann founded his own school in 1934 and he became the magnet for leading Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler. Regardless of
    their styles, some 600 artists have worked in Provincetown, and the Town of Provincetown owns nearly 300 works by many of them - a who's who of 20th-century American art, given either by the artists themselves or collectors. The Provincetown Arts Commission has generously made available over 30 highlights from its collection for this exhibition.

    Gallery Hours: Open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily except Wednesdays and on weekends 11:00am to 4:00pm. The de Menil Gallery is free and open to the public.

    For more information please call 978-448-7ART or Groton School at 978-448-3363.
  • A Place for Everything: The Art of Peter Madden

    The spring exhibition in the de Menil Gallery will be on view from April 7 to June 2. Madden is perhaps best known for his one-of-a-kind artist’s books. Using hand-made papers and specially crafted bindings he incorporates text and imagery that explore particular moments in his life. In addition to displaying a selection of books, this show will also include prints and photographs. Some of these are included in projects where the artist has sewn together sheets of waxed paper imprinted with pictures and text into paper “quilts,” revealing personal narratives in a less linear fashion. An inveterate collector of found objects, Madden has assembled a studio full of discarded treasures, which he assembles into patterns and then photographs and prints into cyanotypes, like the one shown illustrated. A special aspect of the spring show illustrates the artistic process, following the creative steps by which the ordinary detritus of daily life is transformed into art.

    Born and raised in Greenwich Village, Peter Madden lives in Provincetown and Boston, where he teaches book arts and alternative photography at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He leads workshops throughout the United States and around Europe, including the Guild of Bookworkers, Massachusetts College of Art, Bennington College, the Center for Book Arts in New York City, the San Francisco Center for the Book, the Greek Island of Skopelos, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Madden studied at Pratt Institute, Parson's School of Design, and Massachusetts College of Art.
    His work is exhibited in the collections of some of America’s leading museums and educational institutions, including Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Harvard's Houghton Library, and the Center for Book Arts in New York City. In addition, he shows at galleries throughout the United States. Peter is the recipient of an Artists' Foundation Fellowship, a Saint Botolph Foundation Grant, and most recently, a Massachusetts Cultural Council award.
  • Place and Time

    Photographs from the collection of Arlette and Gus Kayafas
    September 24 - November 11

    In this survey exhibit, 43 images showcase some of the most renowned fine arts photographers of the 20th century, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, August Sander, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Nick Nixon.

    A gallery talk will be given by Mr. Gus Kayafas on Thursday October 18, 7:15 p m. A noted collector and photographic publisher, Mr. Kayafas will discuss the art of photography and collecting.
  • The Art and Mind of Peter Schwarzburg

    Spring Show:  April 2 to June 3, 2007

    The current exhibit at the De Menil Gallery features work by New York painter Peter Schwarzburg. 37 canvases show colorful landscapes and expressive figures in a style that blends modernist and expressionist traditions.
    A gallery talk entitled "Pure Genius" will be given by Neil Chassman on Wednesday, April 18, 7 pm, followed by a reception.
  • The Mountain and I

    Alpine photography of Vittorio Sella and Bradford Washburn

    From September 21 to November 14, 2006, the DeMenil Gallery at Groton School will exhibit 38 black and white photographs by Bradford Washburn and Vittorio Sella. Dramatic vistas from the Matterhorn and Alpine glaciers to Alaskan peaks and snow covered expanses, represent the life and work of two extraordinary men, and reflect the power of their creative visions along with the grandeur of the places they explored.
    Vittorio Sella (1859-1943), Italian pioneer Alpinist and photographer, has been largely forgotten in the history of photography, yet at one time he enjoyed international acclaim for his beautiful and scientifically significant photographs. Now we get a chance to see his pristine mountain landscapes, photographed at the beginning of modern Alpinism.
    Bradford Washburn, born two generations later in 1910, had an equally strong instinct for exploration as Sella, who was one of Washburn's early influences. Preeminent alpinist, 41 year director of the Boston Museum of Science, writer, cartographer, and 1929 Groton School alumnus, Washburn is a renowned photographer, who often used survey planes to capture birds' eye views of uncharted territories.
    When we see photographs of icy expanses and inaccessible craggy peaks, it is easy to forget the exceptional effort it took to capture these images. Braving thin air, treacherous terrain, freezing temperatures and the burden of heavy and cumbersome equipment, Washburn and Sella both proved themselves to possess a resilience and sense of purpose far beyond that of most men. This is in itself a stunning testament to each man's dedication and indomitable spirit. The difference in viewpoint between these two bodies of work make for an interesting comparison, and also mirrors the technological age within which each man worked.
    While very few of us will attempt such treacherous expeditions ourselves, Sella and Washburn's images offer a visual journey from snowy summits to deep crevices. Photographs depicting the majesty of rock and sky, the scale of man against nature, can make us feel both mortal and eternal, and speak to our connection with the land.
    A third component of this exhibit includes four photographs by photographer and journalist David Arnold, who, in 2005, revisited and re-photographed four of Bradford Washburn's landscapes. Using photographs as scientific documents, Arnold explores the physical changes in these remote areas over time. When compared side-by-side with Washburn's earlier work, these images showcase signs of global warming and glacial melt, raising environmental debate about our changing earth.
  • Brave Art

    Winter Show:  January 9- March 5, 2006

    "Brave Art" demonstrates the emergence of distinct tribal styles in the art of Plains warriors from the 1840s through the1880s, the Golden Age of Plains Indian Art. The exhibition consists of more than 40 pieces, ranging from tomahawks and war shirts to spoons and blankets. With highlights such as a rare Crow lance case, a Mandan war shirt, and a First Phase chief's blanket fragment, the show seeks to bring to a new audience the beauty of part of America's past through leading examples of Northern, Central, and Southern Plains artistry.
    Lenders to the exhibition include the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard; the Millicent Rogers Museum of Taos, New Mexico; and the Splendid Heritage Foundation; as well as private collectors throughout the country. "Brave Art's" curator, Thomas Cleary, Groton '06, aged 18, spent almost two years assembling this exhibition and researching and preparing the accompanying catalogue. As the first student-curator in the school's history, Cleary said his intention in organizing this exhibition was to "remove dust from forgotten chapters of American history and revive understanding of a great culture."
    John W. Tyler, Director of the de Menil Gallery, who has oversight for Groton School exhibitions and served as advisor to "Brave Art," remarked, "Even those who have little experience with this particular art form can easily feel the power and beauty inherent in each piece."
  • Ambiguous Mechanics: The Kinetic Sculpture of Arthur Ganson

    The de Menil Gallery at Groton School is excited to present the whimsical kinetic sculptures of Boston artist Arthur Ganson in Ambiguous Mechanics: The Kinetic Sculpture of Arthur Ganson. The exhibition will be on display from April 3 to June 4, 2006.
    Ganson's creations compel viewers to rethink boundaries between art, engineering, and play. Humorous, fanciful, and meditative, his contraptions include a walking wishbone, waving scraps of paper, an exploding chair that reassembles itself, a machine that bathes itself in grease, and an artichoke petal that strolls like a monk in prayer.
    Self-described as a cross between a mechanical engineer and a choreographer, Ganson produces mechanisms that not only spin, whir, click, and glide, but also seem to live and breathe. Heavy steel and hand-welded wire sprockets are imbued with fluid movement and expressive personality. The sense of life is especially potent when the motion is activated by the viewer's own curious hand. Informed by his direct observations of human nature, his inventive intuition, and his creative joy, Ganson builds machines that somehow seem more than mechanized. As one observer has put it, anyone can build a machine that waves, but "Arthur can build a machine that waves good-bye."
    In Machine with Wishbone, a chicken wishbone seems to be towing the very mechanism that propels it. A quieter mood is evoked from the measured flapping of petal-like paper scraps in Machine with 11 Scraps of Paper. Margot's Other Cat sends a velvet chair infinitely spinning in space; its weightlessness tried again and again by a menacing cat below.
    Ganson's work recalls that of Swiss kinetic sculptor Jean Tinguely, Bauhaus painter Paul Klee, and the Dada and Surrealist movements, yet the viewer need not spend too much time with art theory and history. "I feel strongly that the pieces need to stand on their own," says Ganson. "I am not interested in intellectual sculpture that needs to be explained to be understood."
    In a Smithsonian Magazine article on Ganson, author David Sims describes the sculptor's work as "retrotechnology with a nineteenth century quality...No lasers, no subminiaturized computer wizardry. What you see is what you get." Sims goes on to explain: "People generally get what they see because there are so many different points of entry, and end result of the playful Ganson mind...Kids love Machine with Wishbone because its funny, odd and ingenious. Many adults, on the other hand, see pathos and tragedy as the enslaved little bone drags the clanking contraption behind it."
    With his studio in Somerville, Massachusetts, Ganson is an artist-in-residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where many of his machines can be seen in his ongoing exhibition, Gestural Engineering. His interest in kinetic sculpture goes back twenty years. In that time he has collaborated with the Studebaker Movement Theater, and had solo exhibitions at Harvard's Carpenter Center, the DeCordova Museum, and the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York. Ganson also invented the popular children's constructive toy called Tubers and Zots.
  • Venice and the Printmaker's Art

    100 Years of Master Etching by British and American Artists
    From the David and Patricia Cleveland Collection of American Art
    The challenge of representing Venice's many moods and its shimmering light has drawn artists to that Queen of Cities for centuries. Whereas eighteenth-century painters like Antonio Canaletto portrayed the city's pageantry and most famous monuments for their Grand Tour patrons, the American painter and etcher, James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903) changed forever the way the city would be represented by seeking out for his subject matter the "Venice of the Venetians." In contrast to the elegant facades of the Piazza San Marco and the palazzi along the Grand Canal, Whistler worked in the poorer parts of the city, drawn by the special effects of light and dark created by its narrow passageways and back canals. The etchings he produced there marked a new stylistic departure for Whistler and caused him to be ranked together with Rembrandt as one of the master etchers of all time.
    Driven from London by bankruptcy and adverse publicity, Whistler left for Venice in September 1879, on a three-month commission from the Fine Art Society to produce 12 etchings. Extending his stay to 15 months and producing over 50 etchings and numerous pastels, Whistler soon became the center of a group of younger American and British artists attracted by his innovative style and masterful technique. Long after Whistler departed, his students continued to produce prints of Venice that reflected both the technique and choice of subject matter of their more famous teacher, an influence that persists even to the present day.
    Whistler worked on plates direct from nature, allowing the printmaking process to reverse the image, thus enabling his audience to perceive familiar scenes from an unfamiliar point of view. His Venice prints left some areas of the plate incomplete, eliminating extraneous details and creating a new, allusive, more "impressionistic" style. Whistler also proofed and printed his own prints, using ink washes to create dramatic chiaroscuro effects.
    The 61 prints in the fall exhibition at the de Menil Gallery, on loan from the David and Patricia Cleveland Collection of American Art, include six by Whistler himself, including his famous "Nocturne," arguably one of the best etchings of the nineteenth century. The prints by American artists Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) and John Henry Twachtman (1833-1902), both of whom preceded Whistler in Venice, are also included in the show, while the persistence of Whistler's legacy is well documented in etchings by his students: John Marin (1872-1953), Clifford Addams (1876-1942), Joseph Pennell (1860-1926), Otto Bacher (1856-1909), Mortimer Menpes (1859-1938), and Walter Sickert (1860-1942). One of the unique aspects of this particular exhibition of Venetian prints is that it includes 15 etchings by John Marin, perhaps better known for his modernist watercolors of early twentieth-century New York and the Maine coast.
    Whistler's particular way of representing Venice affected other artists in addition to his own students. Among those included in the exhibition are: John Taylor Arms (1887-1953), Donald McLaughlin (1876-1938), D. Y. Cameron (1865-1945), Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), Muirhead Bone (1876-1953), Ernest Roth (1879-1964) and Abel Corwin (1857-1938). Three images by Wilfred Fairclough (1907-1996) bring the exhibition down to the present day.
    Photo credit: "Nocturne," Courtesy of the David and Patricia Cleveland Collection of American Art.

  • Sebastião Salgado's WORKERS: An Archeology of the Industrial Age

    January 16, 2005 through June 5, 2005

    Photographs from Sebastiao Salgado's WORKERS portfolio will be on display at Groton School's de Menil Gallery from January 16 to June 5. Internationally exhibited and acclaimed, Sebastiao Salgado is a Brazilian documentary photographer "whose images of the world's poor, more than those of any other living photographer, stand in tribute to the human condition." Salgado began his multi-year humanitarian missions in 1973 when he depicted on black and white film the struggles of the indigenous South American peasants. Since then his lens has touched multitudes: from refugees and migrants in South Vietnam to people living through the civil wars in Rwanda.
    Salgado's WORKERS portfolio offers "an archeological perspective of the activities that have defined hard work from the Stone Age through the Industrial Revolution to the present." With images from 26 different countries (taken from1986 to 1992) ranging from Brazilian gold miners and sugarcane harvesters to female Indian dam builders, "Salgado unearths the layers of ceaseless human activity at the core of modern civilization." Boston photographer Don West writes about this portfolio, "...the often gritty, grainy images and landscapes that Salgado lays out immerse you in the 'present' of the moment while connecting you to a history of colonial exploitation." As traditional concepts of production and efficiency are eroded by increasingly sophisticated technologies, WORKERS exists as an enduring tribute to those who still work with their hands.
    While his photographs reveal the enduring plight of the world, Salgado also delves deeply into the individuals he photographs. Unlike the Western press, Salgado's photographs transcend "journalistic shorthand," since he refuses to portray his subjects reductively. Salgado lets us see, or re-see, neglected and economically invisible people as dignified human beings whose lives deserve our attention. This visual conflict between the often tragic, inhumane circumstances and the formal, dignified beauty of the subject causes viewers both to want to look away and simultaneously to look more carefully. "The images are both repelling and magnetic," says de Menil Curator Lindsay Commons. This kind of kinetic tension and emotional struggle is exactly Salgado's aim. "It is at this point," Commons adds, "that we feel a noted shift in our responsibility as viewers: we are suddenly called not only to look, but to act."
  • Intimate Landscapes: Charles Warren Eaton and the Tonalist Movement in American Art, 1880-1920

    September 26, 2004 through December 14, 2004

    This fall, Groton School's de Menil Gallery features the work of Charles Warren Eaton: one of America's most innovative landscape painters in the early 20th century. Imbued with quiet nostalgia, many of Eaton's painterly canvases capture the New England landscape even as it was rapidly being transformed by an advancing tide of industrialization and urban sprawl. The 32 oils and watercolors from both private and public collections included in the show represent the first comprehensive review of Eaton's work in over a quarter of a century. On Friday, October 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be an opening reception at the gallery with remarks by Eaton scholar David A. Cleveland at 8 p.m. The community is cordially invited to participate in this event.
    Charles Warren Eaton began his career at a moment when American eyes had been long accustomed to the grand panoramas and precisely detailed foregrounds of the Hudson River School painters. While some of Eaton's contemporaries, like Childe Hassam, reinterpreted the landscape through a French Impressionist lens, other American painters known as Tonalists (of whom Eaton was a chief exponent), chose to follow the alternative example of the French Barbizon School, by painting smaller-scale, more intimate views of the countryside. Leaving their Impressionist colleagues far behind, the American Tonalists swiftly moved beyond their Barbizon roots into new territory where their striking palette of colors and greater tolerance for abstract forms made them the true forerunners of American modernism.
  • Treasures of Groton: 120 years of Glorious and Curious Gifts

    January 27, 2004 through March 12, 2004

    Founded in 1884 by a Board of Trustees that included such notables as J. P. Morgan, Phillips Brooks, Endicott Peabody, and Bishop William Lawrence, Groton School has received an extraordinary number of works of art as gifts during its 120-year history.
    Typical of many schools of its kind, Groton owns a number of portraits of former teachers and headmasters, but in Groton's case the artists of such portraits include painters of national and regional repute such as John Singer Sargent, R. H. Ives Gammel, and Ellen Emmett Rand. In addition, Philip Hofer, curator of the Fogg Museum and a former Groton Trustee, gave the School two paintings by Andrew Wyeth: Beached Dory and Woodland Scene.
    Perhaps Groton's greatest benefactor of works of art was one of its founding masters, William Amory Gardner, the nephew of Isabella Stewart Gardner. Raised by his aunt, Gardner grew into a collector with a fine eye and exquisite sensibility. His gifts to the School are represented in the show by an 18th century Boston bombe desk, a Renaissance cassone, a loving cup fashioned by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and a variety of fine 19th century bronze copies of Greek sculpture.
    Groton owns a large selection of hand-colored, elephant-folio engravings from John James Audubon's Birds of North America, as well as an extremely rare copper plate used in the book's production. In 1905, J.P Morgan commissioned photographer Edward Curtis to document rapidly vanishing Native American culture. Curtis made the effort a life-time project, producing 20 volumes of text and 348 photographs. In return for his patronage, Morgan received six complimentary copies of Curtis's monumental work. Morgan, in turn, presented Groton School with one of these copies. Nine Curtis photographs hang in the present exhibition.
  • Our Own Bright Land: Hudson River School Paintings

    January 12, 2003 through March 2, 2003

    The winter exhibition at the de Menil Gallery at Groton School features Hudson River School paintings from the permanent collection of Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts. The display of twenty-three paintings, opening January 12 and closing March 2, 2003, features such well known practitioners of nineteenth century American landscape painting as Frederic Church, Thomas Doughty, John Kensett, Sanford Gifford, and James F. Cropsey. This particular selection of paintings was chosen to represent both the breadth of the Fruitlands collection and the discerning eye of Clara Endicott Sears, the museum's founder and an early collector of the genre.
    In the early nineteenth century as the Romantic movement began to tighten its hold on the European imagination, American artists turned increasingly to depictions of this continent's untamed wilderness as a uniquely American response to the artistic concerns of the day. Such beauty spots as Niagara Falls, the White Mountains, and the Oxbow of the Connecticut as seen from Mount Holyoke (all represented in the Groton exhibition) appeared over and over again on the canvases of a variety of artists and helped to launch the first tourist boom in American history, as early Americans took to the railroads and steamboats to see these natural wonders for themselves. Reflecting the deep religious convictions of the times, many painters hoped their paintings would convey important moral lessons, as well as elevate the taste of the American public.
Groton School is a diverse and intimate community devoted to inspiring lives of character, learning, leadership, and service.
Groton School is recognized as one of America's top boarding schools. It prepares students in grades 8-12 for the "active work of life."