POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—As part of a campus-wide celebration of Vassar’s sesquicentennial anniversary, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center commissioned three photographers to create new work to highlight different aspects of campus life. The resulting photographs in the exhibition 150 Years Later: New Photography by Tina Barney, Tim Davis, and Katherine Newbegin focus on the people, environment, and the culture of Vassar today. The exhibition is curated by Mary-Kay Lombino, The Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and Assistant Director for Strategic Planning at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and will be on view from January 28 to March 27, 2011.
The approximately 40 new works created for this exhibition uncover a side of Vassar that is not often seen by the average visitor to campus. “Foregoing the typical view of architectural and natural beauty for which the college is known, Barney, Davis, and Newbegin instead focused on the idiosyncratic, the ironic, and the hidden aspects of campus life that lie beneath the surface,” explained Lombino. “They have pieced together a portrait of Vassar that reveals as much about the artists’ interests as it does about their subject.”
Each photographer’s work will be presented in one of three adjoining galleries. Lombino noted that each photographer chose to represent the college in different ways — Tina Barney with intimate close-up images of people, Katherine Newbegin’s focus on dark and dingy forgotten corners, and Tim Davis’s search to capture the absurdity in everyday life.
“Vassar is so pretty, so stately,” noted Tim Davis. “I chose ‘Move Out Day’ as a subject in order to see this ideally arranged place in a state of derangement. Cameras love chaos as much as they enjoy order and I felt privileged to be able examine this campus as it folded up and began its annual bivouac home.”
Katherine Newbegin remarked that it took her “several visits before I stumbled upon what I felt to be the hidden world of Vassar . . . I spent so much time wandering in basements and attics, and it was through this process that I eventually felt I was able to get under the skin of Vassar. Simultaneously, I was drawn to the student life happening on the surface, and the tension that lies between these two worlds, one silent and aging, the second so full of life.”
This commission follows a strong photographic legacy at Vassar that dates back to the early part of the 20th century. Throughout the history of the college photographers have been invited to campus to capture the architecture, people, and lifestyle. Two fine historical examples are Paul Strand who photographed several Vassar buildings in 1915 and Albert Eisenstadt who illustrated campus life for the February 1937 issue of LIFE magazine. Several of the original photographs from these earlier commissions are in the Art Center’s permanent collection and will be presented in a nearby gallery to compliment the new work by Barney, Davis, and Newbegin.
A catalogue will accompany this exhibition. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
About the photographers
Tina Barney was born in 1945 to a wealthy family in New York City. Her grandfather introduced her to photography when she was a little girl and at 26 she began collecting photographs, though she did not take up the practice herself until the 1970s. In 1973 she moved to Sun Valley Idaho with her husband and their two sons where she began her artistic training in photography. Although she was located in Idaho, she was drawn to the colors and sensibilities she left on the East Coast. In 1979 she began working in color, later using a large-format view camera to create highly detailed images on a massive scale. Barney began by photographing intimate moments among elite families of the east coast. Among her favorite subjects was her own family, including her sister Jill who appears in many of her works from this period. Barney’s style is part candid, part tableau; her subject matter raises in equal measure issues of privilege and the interaction of family members. While striving for the candidness of a snapshot, Barney became one of the first artists working in the 1980s to explore a “directorial” mode of making pictures. Her decision to direct her subjects stems in part from her choice to sacrifice the freedom of a 35 millimeter camera (with which she began her photographic career) for the large format camera’s ability to deliver a more detailed rendering of the trappings of wealth so integral to depicting her subjects and their environment. Her direction ranges from careful lighting and posing her subjects to simply asking them to repeat a spontaneous gesture. The effect is an unexpectedly intimate access to her subjects. In the course of a decade, Barney has brought her camera closer and closer to her subjects. Barney’s work continues to explore relationships between individuals, focusing on personal connection and disconnection, heritage, and self-presentation. Monographic publications on her work include: Friends and Relations: Photographs by Tina Barney (Smithsonian 1991), Tina Barney Photographs: Theater of Manners (Scalo 1997), Tina Barney: The Europeans (Steidl 2005). Barney’s newest book, Players, is due to come out in May 2010. Her work is in such collections as the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut; Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Katherine Newbegin explores “empty” spaces in her highly charged visual imagery. Born in 1976 in Portland, Oregon, Newbegin received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a concentration in Photography from Yale University in 1999 and her Master of Fine Arts in Photography from Hunter College in 2005. Newbegin is interested in what is behind the façade. Nothing is arranged in her works, nothing is specifically illuminated or staged. In her a 2003 series, she examined our notions of the ideal vacation and how it has shifted over time. She captured the The Sugar Maples Resort, an abandoned vacation getaway in the Catskill region of New York State that still shows vague evidence of the comforts once enjoyed by visitors. The American dream of enjoying the countryside at an unassuming, peaceful resort seems to have crumbled, as families have revised their notions of luxury and perfection. Newbegin captured the overall ruin of the resort in her views of the once majestic but now corroding buildings as well as individual rooms. After years of neglect the formerly extravagant curtains, wallpaper, and bedding are soiled and out of style. One of her most recent exhibitions, No Room Spaces: Behind the Scenes, at Galerie Open in Berlin explores the history of spaces. In her work rooms devoid of a human presence are endowed with meaning as the viewer is called upon to examine the space as it is captured in her photograph. Newbegin currently lives and works in New York and Berlin.
Born in 1969 in Blantyre, Malawi, Tim Davis is an American photographer and poet. Davis graduated from Bard College in 1991 with a bachelor of arts degree and in 2001 he received a master of fine arts degree from Yale University. In his most recent solo exhibition, The New Antiquity at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in 2009, Davis builds upon his work taken during his time at the American Academy in Rome as a Rome Prize Fellow in 2007 to 2008. In his work Davis explores the everyday oddities and details that make up our experience of the world. His photographic work delves into formal aspects of photography (light and abstraction) as well as socially engaged documentary. Davis’s publications include The New Antiquity (Damiani 2010), My Life in Politics (Aperture 2006), Permanent Collection (Nazraeli Press 2005) and Lots (Coromandel Design 2002). In addition, he has published several books of his poetry including American Whatever (Aerial/Edgebooks 2004). Davis currently teaches at Bard College while living and working in New York City and Tivoli, New York.
About the curator
Mary-Kay Lombino was appointed to the position of Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator in 2006 and, in fall 2009, appointed as Assistant Director for Strategic Planning of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. During her time at Vassar, she has curated several notable exhibitions, including Off the Shelf: New Form in Contemporary Artists’ Books; Out of Shape: Stylistic Distortions of the Human Form in Art from the Logan Collection; Facebook: Image of People in Photographs from the Permanent Collection; Excerpt: Selections from the Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn Collection; Faith and Fantasy; and Harry Roseman: Hole in the Wall. In 2009, Lombino was named a fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL); and in 2005, she received a Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship to study work by the late California Symbolist/Surrealist painter Dorr Bothwell.
Lombino received a BA in art history from the University of Richmond and an MA in art history and museum studies from the University of Southern California in 1995. She has organized solo shows for numerous artists including Phil Collins, Ken Price, Amy Myers, Gay Outlaw, Euan Macdonald, Alice Könitz, Candida Höfer, and Mungo Thomson.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 18,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th- century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections.
The Art Center will present four special exhibitions in 2011. From January 28 – March 27, 150 Years Later: New Photography by Tina Barney, Tim Davis, and Katherine Newbegin, curated by Mary-Kay Lombino, will be on view. Thomas Rowlandson: Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England, curated by Patricia Phagan, is the first major exhibition in the United States on this artist’s work in twenty years and will be on view at the Art Center from April 8 – June 12. From June 24 – September 4, gifts to the Art Center’s permanent collection from three Vassar alumnae will be highlighted in A Taste for the Modern: Gifts from Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller, Edna Bryner Schwab, and Virginia Herrick Deknatel, which will also be curated by Phagan. On view September 16 – December 11 at the Art Center, will be the exhibition A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. The Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu. [Please note that the Art Center will reopen in January 2011 (now temporarily closed for roof repairs).]
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.