Artist Mark Dion is renowned for his “cabinets of curiosities” that incorporate found objects from richly diverse sources. During a semester as an artist-in-residence at Vassar College, Dion co-taught a course and worked with students to create such a cabinet with objects curated from various collections at Vassar. The result is the site-specific installation Universal Collection: A Mark Dion Project.
Universal Collection will be on view in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center through December 11, 2016. The installation features a monumental (twenty-three feet tall) cabinet which houses hundreds of objects pulled from all corners of Vassar’s campus and history. The objects come from the collections of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the A. Scott Warthin Museum of Geology & Natural History, Special Collections, Athletics, the Music Department, Drama Department, Biology Department, and the Vassar College Artifacts Project. Some highlights include: nineteenth-century scientific instruments, paintings, botanical specimens, athletic equipment, taxidermy, sculpture, geological specimens, and Vassar memorabilia such as student handbooks and class rings.
“Dion spent countless hours digging through the campus’s disparate collections and archives, even exploring basements, to select objects for inclusion, “ says Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and Assistant Director for Strategic Planning at the Art Center. “The resulting installation offers an arresting visual array that will at once seduce and challenge viewers. His work challenges our assumptions of how things are meant to be selected, categorized, and displayed in a museum setting.”
For example, a well-worn field hockey stick hangs beside a Picasso still-life, a former dance student’s old ballet shoes hang near a fossil of a fish and an Indian oil painting on glass, and a Wedgwood vase is seen together with a contemporary ceramic pot made on a Native American reservation. These types of juxtapositions and many more begin to address the politics of display and upend traditional museum classification as well as visitor expectations.
Universal Collection is generously supported by the Creative Arts Across Disciplines initiative of Vassar College, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation; and the Friends of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Exhibition Fund. Additional support provided by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and by The Helen Forster Novy 1928 Fund.
Tuesday, June 7
Elizabeth Nogrady, coordinator of academic programs at the Art Center, will discuss the processes by which internationally renowned artist Mark Dion worked with students and faculty on the Vassar campus to create this thought-provoking installation.
About Creative Arts Across Disciplines (CAAD)
In 2014, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Vassar College a grant for this multi-year initiative to enhance integration of the creative arts across the college curriculum. CAAD utilizes artist residencies, thematic programming, faculty and curricular development initiatives and student creative projects to broaden collaboration across academic disciplines. Each academic year, CAAD has focused on one of the five senses. The theme for the 2015-16 year is hearing.
About Mark Dion
Based in New York and working internationally, Dion’s art investigates the role of public institutions in shaping our understanding of nature, history, and the boundaries between scientific methods and subjective experience. Recent solo exhibitions of Dion's work have been held at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Dresden; Musée Océanographique de Monaco; and Tate Gallery, London. Dion also works regularly within higher education, having completed projects at Johns Hopkins, Brown University, Columbia, and the University of Virginia.
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. 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's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 20,000 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.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. 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. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (http://www.vassar.edu).
Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.