Critical gaze

By William Sweet

Visitors at the faculty art show in the fall

Art students preparing honors projects for their professors’ scrutiny recently had the opportunity to reverse the direction of that critical gaze. For three weeks in November, Fayerweather Hall’s Eli Marsh Gallery exhibited works by nine Amherst art professors, resident artists and visiting lecturers and artists.

“We know that people can’t often go to our exhibitions elsewhere, so this ensures that we are reaching our community,” says Robert T. Sweeney, the William R. Mead Professor of Art and head of the department’s studio concentration. He hopes to arrange similar exhibitions every three years, so that all art students will be able to see their professors’ work at some point during their four years at Amherst.

The show featured works in fabric, ink, metal and paint, among other media. Professor Carol Keller, who primarily teaches sculpture, submitted a collage mounted on large birch panels. Sculptures on display included Start, a piece in wood with inset glass and copper by Douglas Culhane, a visiting lecturer. Sweeney’s contribution was San Gimignano, an oil painting of medieval towers in Tuscany.

A show like this every three years is about the best the department can do, Sweeney says, noting the gallery’s tight schedule. In fact, within a month of the dismantling of the faculty exhibition, the gallery hosted two more shows: December saw the Five College Advanced Drawing Seminar Exhibition and the honors thesis exhibition of Oscar Bedford ’12E.

Robert T. Sweeney’s San Gimignano

Another senior honors exhibition goes on display in the gallery on April 24. It will include the work of about a half-dozen graduating artists, who, as Sweeney puts it, will have created ambitious works with a consistent and unique vision. For some, this exhibition may be the launchpad for professional artistic careers; for others, the experience will enrich them even as their jobs take them elsewhere.

“We have some students who come here with no [artistic] background whatsoever and no expectations, and they take a course, ‘Basic Drawing’ perhaps, and discover that there’s something going on there that is intriguing. Other students come with serious expectations and work behind them,” Sweeney says. “Many of them do not go on as professional artists, but they tell us it has been immensely useful in terms of their various professions, especially science and medicine.”

See for yourself
The senior honors exhibition runs from April 24 to May 20, with an opening reception on April 26 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Eli Marsh Gallery is on campus in Fayerweather Hall.

Photos by Rob Mattson