By Andrew Lin
A look at some of the arts exhibits hanging around Harvard this week.
Art Brut: “The Female Figure: Idols and Shame” at the Mather Three Columns Gallery
The student visual artist at Harvard is amply represented in the hallowed halls of Harvard’s various houses. Public art spaces for students abound within the campus, both in the form of selected works hung permanently within the houses as well as dedicated House galleries. Among the largest of these in-house galleries is Mather’s very own Sandra Naddaff and Leigh Haffrey Three Columns Gallery, a triumph of brutalist public art in the tradition of Boston City Hall and other grand modernist public spaces. The gallery itself, however, is an altogether successful space: sun filters through floor-to-ceiling windows to bathe the spiral staircase and the eponymous three columns in warm, airy light. Within that promising space this week is a powerful Matherite-created exhibit on notions of feminist identity.
An exhibition of a unique series of oil on canvas works, “The Female Figure: Idols and Shame” presents an at once finely balanced and stridently powerful look at notions of female representation with reference to the female figure. The draughtsmanship (in reference to the classical drawing skill, not errant checkers-players) in each is skillfully deployed, stretching the limits of traditional representative art. Per the artist Serena Eggers ’17 in the accompanying commentary to the exhibit, her employment of oils on canvas attempts to “explore the relationships of the paint and the surface to the subject matter – texture, translucency, violence and smoothness of mark, and the emergence of distortion of images through layering.” And her works live up to the promise: oils are skillfully deployed to create stark and searing images of the female form. Whether in the dusky, sinister aura of her almost skeletally splayed Noir or the creeping domestic terror of the half-children in her Family Portrait, Eggers combines carefully measured and rigorously executed draughtsmanship with a flair for the dramatic in her exploration of the female form’s portrayal.
New Exhibits at the Harvard Libraries
In addition to their vital role as study spaces, the libraries at Harvard have always served as repositories of art for the Harvard community. Whether in the form of the grandeur of Widener’s fantastic rotunda or the Palladian splendor of the Houghton Library’s considerable repository of objets d’art, Harvard’s libraries offer a rich set of historically significant artworks – artworks that are free to view for the Harvard community. Although the decidedly modernist and un-opulent Pusey Library may not be able to offer the same splendor of its adjacent competitors, its internal collections and exhibits still offer much to the prospective visitor. The Indy has waxed poetic before about the merits of the Pusey Library’s permanent displays, including its grand Mercator globe. Two new exhibits, however, offer interesting perspectives on themes of exploration – albeit of very different spheres.
The Pusey Library’s Map Gallery Hall offers exhibits fittingly dedicated to the exploration of maps as historical objects, artistic curiosities, and cultural representations of the times in which they were originally crafted. And this time, the Map Gallery is exploring nothing – or more precisely, exploring just how cartographers grapple with the notion of uncharted nothingness in their maps. “Embellishing the Map: Empty Spaces and Treacherous Waters” offers a fascinating and at-times quite risible exploration (see what I did there?) of just how the mapmaker has grappled with the issue of unexplored land and sea. Whether through dragons and sea monsters or depictions of then-exotic animals such as jaguars and tapirs, the cartographer through the ages has certainly exhibited a great deal of creativity in dealing with the emptiness inherent to exploration – and it’s well worth a quick exploratory trip to the Pusey library to check them out.
“The Bull Moose and the China Cabinet: Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Women’s Suffrage Movement” is an AP US History throwback made altogether interesting. Theodore Roosevelt ’80, of course, was a Harvard grad and an editor of the Harvard Advocate who graduated Phi Beta Kappa before going on to live perhaps the single richest (in terms of diversity of activity) life of any Harvard alum before or since. This collection, hosted incidentally in the aptly-named Theodore Roosevelt Gallery, presents a slice of his life from his late-game political insurrection as a third-party progressive candidate rebelling against his former vice president William Howard Taft. It presents a small but pleasantly intimate collection of artifacts from Roosevelt’s life detailing his burgeoning exploration of the cause of female enfranchisement, including some first-class draughtsmanship in the form of contemporary political cartoons on the subject as well as his Harvard senior paper on women’s rights — and proof that that thesis you just finished may indeed come back to help you.
Andrew Lin ’17 (firstname.lastname@example.org) would be extremely grateful if someone would pay for his exploration of the world of television by subsidizing his Netflix subscription.