Peruvian, Moche;Detail from Rattle-based cup in form of owl
Burnished gray ceramic, ca. 550-700 CE
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James F. Mathias (Barbara V. Lord, Class of 1934)

Transcending Boundaries

Apr 02, 2013 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Natalie Kulikowski, Research Assistant

“So much of both art and science tries to take the complexity of the world and represent it two-dimensionally,” said Mark Peterson, Professor of Physics and Mathematics, at the first of a 3-part series of interdisciplinary talks that began last week at the Art Museum.  Joined by Professor of Asian Studies Indira V. Peterson—yes, the two are married—the Petersons, with their inherently interdisciplinary backgrounds, are an especially fitting team to kick off a lecture series that illuminates the intersections of science and art.


Left to right: Ashley Kosa '15, Indira V. Peterson, and Mark Peterson

Titled “Transcending Boundaries,” the series grew from a student-driven initiative coordinated by Ashley Kosa ’15, art history major and co-chair of the Museum’s student group The Society of Art Goddesses. The talks, delivered by MHC faculty, will focus on works of art in the Museum’s collection and the many lenses through which we can begin to appreciate them across different disciplines.


Professor Indira V. Peterson recounts the history of India's astronomical observatories. 

Last week, the Professors Peterson co-delivered a lecture titled "The Art of Indian and Islamic Astrolabes and Sighting Instruments" in which Mark explained their role as astronomical instruments while Indira described their cultural and historical context, from their depiction in a 17th Indian painting to their monolithic cousins still standing at the Jantar Mantar observatory complex in Delhi.


Professor Mark Peterson lectures about  Islamic astrolabes from the Museum's collection

We hope you’ll join us for the rest!

Upcoming Events:

Wednesday, April 3rd at 4:30 p.m.
"Using Light to Investigate Paintings"
Maria A. Gomez, Associate Professor of Chemistry
RSVP required

Monday, April 15th at 4:30 p.m.
"Art and Science in Giambattista Nolli's Great Plan of Rome (1748)"
Jessica Maier, Assistant Professor of Art History

Brave New Perspectives: This World Through the Lens of New Media Art

Apr 01, 2013 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Natalie Kulikowski, Research Assistant                                                            

There’s something very new at the MHCAM this spring: a student-organized exhibition of digital art. Featuring works by four international artists, Brave New Perspectives: This World Through the Lens of New Media Art is the Museum’s first foray into digital media, coordinated by Maureen Millmore ’13. The works -- which are linked by their concern with modern technology’s relationship to nature and humanity--are borrowed from the artists via Streaming Museum, an institution devoted to digital media that, according to its website, exists “in cyberspace and public space on seven continents”. Millmore’s thoughtful curatorial choices are partly inspired by Aldous Huxley’s dystopic novel Brave New World and its themes, including advances in genetics and reproduction, the impacts of news, global data, and social media, and the effects of global warming on all residents of our planet.

In keeping with the digital theme, an iPad provides a virtual guestbook, offering visitors a place to log their comments and reactions in a dialogue with the layered questions posed by the exhibition: What do you think? What is your response to these works, and how do these artists’ views of the world compare to your own?

The reel begins with a piece by UAE-based artist Janet Bellotto. In Nile Blue, a digital animation of a nautilus shell in cross-section shows each inner compartment inhabited by a different endangered animal--a trumpeting elephant, a strutting egret--while ocean waves ebb against the shell’s aperture. 

Janet Bellotto (Canada/Dubai). Nile Blue, 2010. Digital video, color sound. On loan from the artist.

Within their niches, this collection of animals resembles a curio cabinet of disappearing species, or an encapsulating mini-Earth, a fractal in itself. Bellotto’s deliberate use of the nautilus, and the naturally-occurring golden mathematical ratio it epitomizes, is a further comment on the uncertain future of Earth’s ecosystems, a delicate balance jeopardized by global warming. 

French artist Maurice Benayoun’s piece, Emotion Forecast, draws real-time linguistic data from international websites to forecast the worldwide “emotional climate” in a nod to the stock ticker, likening the Internet to a digital nervous system that projects trends in global feelings. As adjectives and point values scroll across the screen, the viewer sees that some cities are having a better day than others, but the forecast (Happy: +3.1) looks bright.

American software artist Scott Draves muses, Do androids dream of electric sheep? His underlying answer drives the hypnotic renderings in Generation 244. Derived from an algorithm shared with an international network of 450,000 computers, Draves’s spectacular “sheep” are produced when any computer in the network enters sleep mode, evoking haunting images the recall cosmic phenomena and deep-sea life forms in psychedelic colors.

The theme of technological anthropomorphism reaches its height in Hi, A Real Human Interface presented by the Spanish collaborative Multitouch Barcelona. Hi, also short for Human Interface, is an unlikely butler of sorts who resides within a larger-than-life computer, turning the cranks to physically drive the computer’s operations per the user’s instructions. However, Hi’s comic portrayal of how computers might react to their daily tasks reminds the viewer that our personal computers are much less personal—and personable—in reality. 

Scott Draves (American). Generation 244, 2011. Infinite animation made with collective internet intelligence, mathematics, and Darwinian evolution. On loan from the artist. 

Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)

Nov 14, 2012 by Jane Gronau

Recently acquired by the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the 15 images of Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) by Kara Walker are currently on view in an exhibition of the same name, now held over until 30 May 2013. Accompanying the exhibition is a new catalogue, just out this week. Containing all of the images together with the original Harper’s depictions, it also includes essays by Mount Holyoke College professors Elizabeth Young and Patricia Banks, and by John R. Stomberg, Florence Finch Abbott Director of the Museum.

Occurring 150 years ago, the American Civil War remains what author Robert Penn Warren called the "great single event of our history." Occurring in a period that saw the rise of mass media, Harper’s Weekly, a leading periodical of the time, intending to cover the war’s unfolding events for readers on both sides of the struggle, sent both reporters and artists onto the battlefield to capture news from the front as it happened. The articles and illustrations they produced became important documents of the war era. During and after the war, the editors Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden worked to compile and publish the war’s definitive history entitled Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War. Published in 1866, it combined original illustrations and content from magazine's wartime coverage with historical context and previously unpublished information. The Pictorial History featured over 1,000 illustrations by artists of renown including Thomas Nast and Winslow Homer.

Kara Walker: Exodus from AtlantaIn 2005, artist Kara Walker created Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), a stunning 15-image visual commentary on the original work, insisting that we reconsider the historical account and recognize the ghosts that haunt it. To insert African American experience into and onto the Civil War, Walker appropriates the silhouette, historically used to decorate 18th and 19th century middle-class homes, thus highlighting the similarities between this format and the nature of stereotypes, in which complex details of individuals are reduced or generalized into easily recognizable constructions. As she draws us into that recognition, her work demands of us investment, engagement, and participation.




Steven J. Tepper Speaks at Mount Holyoke

Feb 02, 2012 by Jane Gronau

Can creativity be taught? Colleges across the country – and around the world – acknowledge that to give students an edge as they prepare to become productive citizens of the 21st century, ways must be found to teach them creativity.

Recent research suggests that creativity isn't simply a product of personality or individual psychology, but rather is rooted in a set of teachable competencies. These skills not only lie at the heart of artistic endeavor, but also lead to innovation in engineering and technology, and science and medicine, separating leaders from followers.

On 3 February 2012, Steven J. Tepper, Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, will offer the feature lecture "Creative Work and the Work of Creativity: How Colleges and Universities Can Prepare Graduates to Reinvent Our World" at the opening of Mount Holyoke College Art Museum’s special exhibition, Artists and the Noble Profession: The 2012 Studio Art Faculty Exhibition. The lecture will take place in Gamble Auditorium at Mount Holyoke at 4:30 p.m. with a reception to follow the talk.

Check out Tepper's article Uncle Henry Is Wrong. There's A Lot You Can Do With That Degree.




10 Lessons the Arts Teach

Jul 11, 2011 by Jane Gronau

  mother and child1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.


SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of
Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale
University Press. Available from NAEA
Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons
with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.


Transported and Translated: Arts of the Ancient Americas

Jan 24, 2011 by Jane Gronau

From the diary of Albrecht Dürer...

 27 August 1520

"At Brussels is a very spledid Townhall, large and covered with beautiful carved stonework, and it has a noble, open tower....I Saw the things which have been brough to the King from the new land of gold, a sun all of gold...and a moon all of silver of the same size, also two rooms full of armor of the people there, and all manner of wondrous weapos of theirs, harness and darts, very strange clothing, beds, and all kinds of wonderful objects of human use, much better work theeing than prodigies  [myths, fairy tales].... All the days of my life I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things, for I saw amongst them wonder works of art, and I marvelled at the subtle Ingenia of men in foreign lands. Indeed I cannot express all that I thought there."

Dürer had traveled to Brussels to secure the patronage of the Charles V and to paint the King's portrait. But while there, he had occasion to view the objects sent back from the conquest of "the new golden land" – Mexico.

The dominant discourse at the time portrayed the New World as an object of commercial exploitation, and its inhabitants as savages. Lacking any context to understand the cultures found there, Dürer nonetheless wrote that the works that he saw were, "more beautiful to me than miracles."

Transported and Translated: Arts of the Ancient Americas, on view at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum 8 February-12 June 2011, introduces the visitor to the visually rich cultures that occupied Mesoamerica and the Andean region of South America from roughly 300 BCE to the time of the Spanish conquest in the early 16th century.

Est! Est!! Est!!!

Nov 30, 2010 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Dawn Blume-Hawkes

Folklore has the unique capacity for revelation produced as it is in the stories of the common people, and told, interpreted, and retold over time. It contains a body of traditional, popular, often anecdotal knowledge about a particular subject. It is not difficult to conclude, that although much of folklore is enthralling, nobody knows for sure how much of any given tale is accurate.

One folkloric tale is particularly amusing. It’s peppered with curious incidents and eccentric characters, all against the backdrop of times long ago. What is unusual is that the entire story is woven around a single historic wine. The story is, of course, complete with some of those incredible conjectures that are lore “requisites.” but that’s good old quirky folklore for you.

There is a historic wine whose origin dates from the Middle Ages in Italy called Est! Est!! Est!!!   Est is Latin for "it is" or loosely translated as “it’s here!” What a curious name for a wine!

est est estEst! Est!! Est!!! is a wine created in Montefiascone, north of Rome around Lago di Bolsena (Lake Bolsena). This white wine is made from trebbiano and malvasia grapes, but that’s where the facts end and the folklore begins.

Around 1110 C.E., Bishop Johannes di Fugger was traveling from Augsburg to Rome for the coronation of Emperor Henry V. The German was a wine-lover and sent his quartermaster, Martin, a day’s journey ahead to find lodgings that would be suitable for the bishop and also served the best food and wine. Martin was instructed to write the word “Est” on the doors of the inns that measured up to these criteria, but primarily, those that had the finest wine. After arriving at the inn in Montefiascone, he inscribed it three times.

When the good bishop entered the small hilltop village of Montefiascone, overlooking Lake Bolsena, some sixty miles from Rome, he found Est! Est!! Est!!! written above the door of the establishment with the most outstanding wine. And it was true! The wine was so much to the bishop’s liking that he never made it to the coronation, staying in Montefiascone until the end of his days and drinking the fine wine of the town. And he is still there; his tomb can be seen in the Church of San Flaviano (built in1032 and enlarged in the 14th century), with Martin's (by some accounts) inscription.

Est. Est. Propter Nimium
Est Hic Jo. Defuk Dominus
Meus Mortuus Est'

On account of too much Est Est Est
my master Johannes di Fugger died here.

Who was the traveler? Was he a bishop, or as some accounts of the story identify him, a nobleman and epicurean by the name of Giovanni Defuk on his way to the coronation? Was the bishop (or nobleman) formerly a glutton and an alcoholic or did the wine so inspire and invigorate that it took him away from his duties in Rome?

It is understandable that Italian versions of names are inserted - di Fugger is Defuk and Giovanni replaces Johannes, (although keeping the original given names for each character might have prevented a lapse into “Dickensian” confusion). By some accounts, the name Johannes di Fugger is inscribed on his tombstone. Not having actually viewed the tombstone firsthand, I am not entirely convinced that “tombstones don’t lie.” Demonstrating this point is the disputed inscription: “Est Est Est/Died from too much Est/ May he rest in peace/My Lord Giovanni Defuk.” A bit different from a previous iteration: “On account of too much Est Est Est my master Johannes di Fugger died here’ and “Here lays my lord, as a result of too many Ests.”

In Defuk’s will, he left all his property to the town of Montefiascone with the stipulation that the local inhabitants, on the anniversary of his death, pour a barrel of Est! Est!! Est!!! wine over his tomb in celebration of the recognition he brought to their wine. This custom continued until the town’s bishop specified that instead of wasting the wine, it should go to the local seminary for the benefit of the young priests - which it does to this day.

Minus the original wine ritual, Defuk is still honored with a festival called Fiera del Vino. This festival takes place the first fifteen days of August. Hundreds of participants dress in traditional costume representing characters of the period including nobles, soldiers, public officials, pages, flag bearers, and of course, Giovanni Defuk and his servant Martino, aka Martin.

Some observations: While both the names Martin and Martino appear in different accounts of the legend, in the scheme of things, these translational differences are minor. More importantly, what happened to Martin? He seems to simply drop out of the story at some point. If Martin was so inspired to write Est three times, was he also so taken with the wine that he stayed on, as did the bishop? Was it duty or devotion that bound him to his master? Some tellings of the tale say that Martin abruptly left the inn. Some accounts seem to point to the fact that he willingly remained to the end of his days. A sense of duty combined with the extraordinary qualities of the wine may very likely have been too much to resist. In support of this thesis, Martin seems to have written Defuk’s epitaph, and who could have written a more accurate memorial? Then again, perhaps someone else stood in as ghost writer.

Regarding Montefiascone’s bishop ordering that the yearly celebratory wine be given to the local seminary for the benefit of the young priests instead of being poured over di Fugger’s tomb: what exactly was that benefit to those young men of the cloth? Was it the restorative effects of wine in moderation or was it confined to the symbolic use for Holy Communion?

This folk tale, with all its glorious imperfections, shines a bright light on the mysterious and wonderful wine and its extraordinary properties. The yearly festival, Fiera del Vino, gave the town a cherished social event, the travelers, a new life and many hours of enjoyment, and the seminary, a benefit for its functionaries.

A remarkable result for a wine that was a pleasant, crisp uncomplicated beverage enjoyed by all. In the 1970s, the label “Est! Est!! Est!!!” became the first wine to be registered under the Registro Nazionale (National Register) of white wines with the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) appellation.

The wine’s folklore has truly elevated it, branded by the catchy phrase, Est! Est!! Est!!! and indicating something that's really extraordinary.

Kylixes and Philosophy in Wine and Spirit

Nov 19, 2010 by Jane Gronau

Guest post by Don Lesser

The kylix was a flat drinking vessel used for drinking wine while reckylixlining at symposia -- men's after-dinner drinking parties -- in ancient Greece. The bottom on the interior was often decorated with images that appeared only when the wine was finished.  While a symposium today is a more stolid affair, apparently the originals were somewhat livelier, featuring a variety of entertainments. The conversations that took place, often about specified topics, and lubricated it seems, by the wine ("three bowls and no more"), are most famously recorded in Plato's Symposium.

The symposium depicted by Pietro Testa in 1648 shows a much more serious affair that has been interrupted by a drunken Alcibiades stealing Agathon's thunder. Still, for better or for worse, wine is an integral part of the process.   

Vessel with Two Feet

Oct 25, 2010 by Jane Gronau

Walking through the Wine and Spirit exhibition, this piece stopped me. A red clay wine vessel circa 1000 BCE, the piece stands there looking for all the world somewhat tipsy. WSacker imagehile the Symposia and the still lifes bring a more serious tone, I kept coming back to this piece, laughing each time. Though headless (terminating in the handles and spout), I saw the somewhat portly figure, swaying slightly, every time I looked. What better advertisement for the contents?

The Arts Journal Covers Wine and Spirit

Oct 22, 2010 by Jane Gronau

In the Rombouts A Drinker with a Flaskpost Matching Wine And Spirit, Scholarship And Popularity In The Academy, Judith Dobrzynski , in her Arts journal blog, Real Clear Arts, commented on Wine and Spirit: Rituals, Remedies, and Revelry. She seems fascinated that the exhibit ”marries scholarship with popular appeal in a way that many so-called populist shows … do not.” And wonders why something so “approachable and probably popular” took so long.

Welcome to the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum Weblog

Aug 26, 2010 by Jane Gronau

We're looking forward to sharing our comments, thoughts, and insights about our collection. We have two great exhibitions opening this fall: Wine and Spirit: Rituals, Remedies, and Revelry and Reconstructing Antiquity. Look for postings about these and related events. 

We welcome your comments, so have at it!