Organized by the Clarence A. Davis ’48 Visual Arts Curator Anna Wager, “Art and Labor: Works from the Collection” is an exhibit that depicts labor in various contexts by artists including Arthur Dove, Käthe Kollwitz, Stacey Robinson, Frank Romero, Alison Saar, and Kara Walker, as well as works by unnamed communities of artists. The exhibit is on display in the Davis Gallery at Houghton House through March 1.
“Art and Labor” is Wager’s first curated collection since joining the HWS community as the visual arts curator in 2018. The exhibition aims to place emotional labor and intellectual labor in dialogue with physical labor. Audiences are able to explore the relationship between labor and “madeness,” with works where the act of artistic labor is particularly visible.
Wall labels were written by Wager, and students Shannon Smith ’20, Rachel Geiogamah ’19, Ethan Leon ’19, Sarah MacKechnie ’19, and Dylan Bennett ’19, with installation design by Leslie Colunga ‘19. Further research was provided by Archives staff Brandon Moblo and Tricia McEldowney.
Wager says she is excited by the wide range of pieces in the collection, and the intellectual challenge and dialogue found in bringing them together. For example, Kara Walker’s large linocut Boo Hoo (2000) draws on a history of 19th-century shadowbox art, and comments on the pain of “seeing oneself in stereotypical imagery” and the weaponization of such imagery, as Geiogamah writes. Alison Saar’s Inheritance (2003) also draws on a historical accumulations, and “is a tribute to Saar’s mother, Betye, while it also speaks to both an inherited weight and an inherited strength from mother to daughter, and more broadly for women within the African diaspora,” Wager says.
Place is especially important for two works by Arthur Dove, Switch Engine and Happy Clamshell, which Dove painted while living in Geneva in the 1930s. Wager “loves their immediacy and sketch-like qualities, and the idea that they’ve returned to their home, thanks to their donation by Richard Scudamore ’55.”
Dove, member of the Hobart class of 1903, is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th century. In his honor, the Arthur Dove ’03 Award was established in 1980 at the Colleges, and is used annually to buy a work of art created by a student at the Colleges.