Aaron Sinift, Kahkashan Khan, Jitendra Kumar


December 8, 2021.

The Artist Aaron Sinift and project co-curators Kahkashan Khan and Jitendra Kumar discuss the artist book featured in the exhibition "OTHER IMAGININGS: Artist Collaborations with Gandhi Ashrams" on view in the Vassar College Art Library through March 4, 2022.

As western modes of advertising and television began to be adopted in India on a mass level in the early ’90s, there was a shift towards a generic global style in popular culture. The uniquely S. Asian styles of portrayal which flourished in the pre-digital era began to disappear as the imagination began to be more aggressively colonized. As vestiges of Gandhi ashram visual culture become rarer in public it is evident that we are nearing the end of a particular visual era that helped define a unique sense of Gandhian social purpose and national identity as popularly understood after Indian Independence.
The images in this book are traces of a world that exists even today and continues to provide a baseline means of self-sufficiency for tens of millions of people. Yet how we express ourselves is being transformed by our present circumstances and at this very moment is searching for its compelling voice. Perhaps this book is an opportunity to catch a glimpse before it’s gone of a more local sensibility that is unimpressed by glamour and worldliness, more focused on the ideals of communal harmony and love of country, particularly its rural pastoralist culture, what Gandhiji called “India’s heart and soul.”
As we reflect on these unique qualities (rasa), it is important as well to consider the present, the point from which we encounter the future, and from which we must find our voice. OTHER IMAGININGS is intended to create community (you included) and assert absolute equivalence among all participants so that no labor, no effort, no artist known or unknown is prized above any other. This artwork is an attempt to weave together stories rooted in community in order to create a primal resource for understanding and collaboration.


Changing Forms

Willem van Meiris, Portrait of Dina Margareta de Bye, 1705 o/c, The Leiden Collection, New York

November 17, 2021.

Elizabeth Nogrady (VC'99), Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar, Lara Yeager-Crasselt (VC'06) Curator of The Leiden Collection, and Ronald Patkus,  Associate Director of the Libraries for Special Collections and Associate Professor of History at Vassar on the Frederic Weyerhauser Chair, discuss the exhibition on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center entitled Changing Forms: Metamorphosis in Myth, Art, and Nature 1650-1700, on view September 28 - December 19, 2021 at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.

This Focus Gallery exhibition explores the rich concept of metamorphosis—with links to art, myth, science, and the exchange of knowledge—in the late seventeenth-century Netherlands. The paintings, drawings, prints, and illustrated books on view include artists’ renderings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses from around 1600 by Virgil Solis, Abraham Bloemaert, and Hendrick Goudt. This tradition contributed to a dynamic moment later in the 1600s, when painters such as Godefridus Schalcken, Willem van Mieris, and Samuel van Hoogstraten created their own mythological imagery. Meanwhile, the book market for Ovid kept pace and contemporaries explored biological metamorphosis in lavishly illustrated insect studies like those by Johannes Goedaert, Jan Swammerdam, and Maria Sibylla Merian. Works in the exhibition come from Vassar collections and include significant loans from Cornell University, Bard College, Lehigh University, and The Leiden Collection—the preeminent private collection of Dutch art in the United States.

Celebrating Dante at Vassar

October 27, 2021.

Nancy Bisaha, Simona Bondavalli, Alberto Gelmi, Emma Iadanza, Elizabeth Nogrady and Ronald D. Patkus discuss the teaching of Dante at Vassar through the College's history, and the opening of a series of three simultaneous exhibitions  on view through December 4, 2021 in the Thompson Memorial Library and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center under the collective title Celebrating Dante at Vassar, commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante Aligheri's death on September 14, 1321. 

"Celebrating Dante at Vassar represents one way that the college is taking part in Dante activities this year. It is not meant to be a comprehensive study of interactions with Dante at the college; instead it aims to present essays that investigate key moments and aspects, written from several perspectives. Simona Bondavalli discusses the Dante Pilgrimage of 1921 and the early history of teaching Italian. Nancy Bisaha reflects on the interest in Dante among historians at Vassar and beyond. Ron Patkus presents highlights of the rare book collection in the Archives & Special Collections Library that relate to Dante, and Elizabeth Nogrady shares some resources in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center." -- Andrew Ashton, Director of Libraries, Vassar College


Dora Apel

Vienna: Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, Rachel Whiteread, 2000

October 13, 2021.

The acclaimed art historian and cultural critic, Dora Apel, W. Hawkins Ferry Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University, talks about her recent monograph, Calling Memory Into Place (Rutgers UP, 2020). Her many books include Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob;  Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing; and Beautiful, Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline.

"In this deeply personal work, acclaimed art historian Dora Apel examines how memorials, photographs, artworks, and autobiographical stories can be used to fuel a process of “unforgetting”—reinterpreting the past by recalling the events, people, perspectives, and feelings that get excluded from conventional histories. The ten essays in Calling Memory into Place feature explorations of the controversy over a painting of Emmett Till in the Whitney Biennial and the debates about a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. They also include personal accounts of Apel’s return to the Polish town where her Holocaust survivor parents grew up, as well as the ways she found strength in her inherited trauma while enduring treatment for breast cancer.  
"These essays shift between the scholarly, the personal, and the visual as different modes of knowing, and explore the intersections between racism, antisemitism, and sexism, while suggesting how awareness of historical trauma is deeply inscribed on the body. By investigating the relations among place, memory, and identity, this study shines a light on the dynamic nature of memory as it crosses geography and generations."  


Suzanne Preston Blier


      Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. 1907. Oil on canvas, 8' x 7' 8" New York: Museum of Modern Art. 

September 21, 2021.

Suzanne Preston Blier, Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, discusses her award-winning book, Picasso's Demoiselles: The Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece (Duke UP, 2019).

“It is a condition of masterworks that they attract, even demand, interpretation and reinterpretation. Picasso's Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is a case in point. In 1946, Alfred Barr called it ‘a battlefield of trial and experiment’ marking ‘the beginning of a new period in the history of modern art.’ Twenty-six years later, Leo Steinberg argued that its psychic and pictorial ‘violence’ resides in its power of displacement, in ‘the startled consciousness of a viewer who sees himself seen.’ Others have examined its ‘primitivism’ and l’art negre as central to its power and originality. Now, Suzanne Blier, through a close textual and visual analysis of an astonishing range of references, argues that Picasso’s creativity ‘involved both drawing on and subverting the past’ while reimagining the present and creating the future anew. Blier's study rewards close reading, just as the painting rewards close and sustained looking.” — James Cuno, President and CEO, The J. Paul Getty Trust

“Combining the specialized skills of an art historian with the zeal of a detective, Suzanne Preston Blier offers a bold and transformative re-reading of the Demoiselles. She startlingly shifts the interpretive foundations of Picasso and the Demoiselles: she shows us a Picasso not as bombastic egotist but as capacious globalist; not as masculine master fixated on female sexuality and its attendant anxieties, but as explorer of the power and presence of women and their generative capacities. This provocative and pathbreaking book scrambles the logic of modernism, primitivism, and feminism in the discipline of art history.” — Debora Silverman, author of Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art


Robert Kipniss

SEASON OPENER September 15, 2021.

The painter, printmaker, and writer Robert Kipniss talks about his memoir Robert Kipniss: A Working Artist's Life (University Press of New England, 2011).

"A painter's life is a solitary one, alone in the studio, combining intelligence and imagination with technical skills to create a unique vision. Robert Kipniss's elegiac and mysterious landscapes and still lifes convey none of this process of invention. Few great painters are great writers, but Kipniss is an exception. In his sensitive and personal memoir we discover his passionate struggle to achieve his artistic goals, balancing the obligations of his personal life with the great demands of his art."  -- E.John Bullard, Director Emeritus, New Orleans Museum of Art

Robert Kipniss’s A Working Artist’s Life is the rarest of literary achievements: a personal memoir, cultural history, and textbook of craft and market. I was enlightened, entertained, and frequently moved by this portrait of the artist composed with a touch of the poet.” -- Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie’s Son; curator emeritus, George Polk Journalism Awards; and president, Authors Guild Foundation.

"Kipniss’ compulsion to express and communicate what he sees carries him over the decades through economic hardship and added instances of the occasional cruelties of the world to further successes with the New York gallery establishment, through marriage and fatherhood, a stint in the army, and later in life through his further creative development as a consummate printmaker and to his present life with his second wife, the author Laurie Lisle. This is recounted in the book with an informative and clear-eyed recollection, often tinged with irony, in the urbane and genial voice of a human being who has, within the precincts of the city that fostered and challenged him, molded himself into a profoundly eloquent, perceptive, and charismatic individual. As a visual artist and poet whose art might be described as the rendering of perceived reality into worlds reflected on the surface of a tranquil and attentive eye, Kipniss’ mindful recollection of a life in which nothing is held back introduces us in this book to his path to a visionary and intelligent apprehension of the whole of the world that dreams of itself through our senses." -- T. E. Hill, Vassar College.


Laurie Lisle

May 12, 2021.

The author and biographer Laurie Lisle returns to the program to talk about her new memoir, Word for Word: A Writer's Life, newly published by Artemis Editions.

"With Word for Word, Laurie Lisle enters the pantheon of great memoirists . . . Bolstered by exquisite, evocative observations of the physical world that inform her prose, past and present, she threads a fine line between revelation and reticence, generously exposing her most intimate feelings about the conflicts and sacrifices inherent in the need for both love and freedom, as a woman and a writer. If ever there is a book that will trigger a desire to pen one's own memoir, this is it." --Marnie Mueller, author of My Mother's Island


"Word for Word is a perfect title for a memoir about the hard-earned creation of a writer's life that is wrested out of the honest self-examination of a woman who faces the personal, family, class, and social forces that shaped—but did not determine—the person and writer she would become. A richly rewarding read."--Lois Rudnick, author of Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds


"Word for Word is a beautifully told story about the growth of a woman writer of the second-wave generation, whose intellectual and spiritual debts are to women writers, feminism, and, more generally, strong women." -- Carol Ascher, author of Afterimages: A Family Memoir


Patricia Phagan

Hilda Belcher (American, 1881–1963). The Checkered Dress (Portrait of O’Keeffe), 1907, watercolor and gouache. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College. Bequest of Mary S. Bedell, class of 1873, 1932.1.5

April 7, 2021.

Patricia Phagan, Philip and Lynn Strauss Curator at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, will discuss her exhibition Women Picturing Women: From Personal Spaces to Public Ventures, on view through June 13, 2021.

"Women Picturing WomenFrom Personal Spaces to Public Ventures studies the key themes that emerged when selecting works by women depicting women. In different media, female artists from the seventeenth century to the 1960s—the eras studied—frequently communicated the idea of an intimate or sheltered enclosure such as a room, studio, or garden, even though these women participated in a more public arena to show or even make their work. In this exhibition from a collection of 22,000 objects, portraits and domestic scenes appeared often, with family, friends, colleagues, models, and oneself playing major roles. Home-centered settings and situations, including views of mothers and children, proliferated from the nineteenth century onwards. Idyllic, invented landscapes, mostly of the here and now, appeared, too, from the late 1700s where female artists placed their women (and sometimes men) in a harmonious or even fantastic natural world. On the other hand, some female artists relayed the idea of venturing into an outright public place such as a street or an office, or into the more public, intellectual world of a narrative found in religion, history, or social critique. These images appeared less often, while documentary photography spurred a veritable movement among women artists in the twentieth century."

Link to a virtual 3-d tour of the exhibition  here.

Buzz Spector

March 31, 2021.

The artist Buzz Spector talks about his retrospective exhibition at the St. Louis Art Museum on view through May 31, 2021: Buzz Spector: Alterations. Spector is a contemporary Conceptual artist who explores the aesthetic possibilities of language, paper, and books. The exhibition spans the artist’s career from the 1970s to the present and includes drawings, altered books, postcard assemblages, collages, and more. The artist also discusses the catalogue raisonée of his work just published by the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago and available through the SLAM bookstore. Spector has recently moved his  home and studio to the Hudson Valley.

"Taking cues from Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers—two influential 20th-century artists whose careers shaped the course of contemporary art—Spector draws from art historical precedents and adapts borrowed materials, injecting poetic humor and philosophical musings along the way. . . .

"Spector is internationally recognized for his contributions to the field of contemporary art. He taught painting, sculpture, and two-dimensional design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis for a decade before retiring in 2019. This is the first presentation of the artist’s work at a St. Louis museum."

The Rowland Atkinson skit we mention.

Art Speaks:  a 53 minute video on Buzz Spector: Alterations by SLAM

Miriam Cohen and Mark G. Seidl

November 4, 2020.

Miriam Cohen, Professor of History on the Evalyn Clark Chair at Vassar College, and Vassar Special Collections Librarian and Cataloger Mark G. Seidl will discuss the exhibition entitled Votes for Women: Vassar and the Politics of Women's Suffrage, sponsored by the Vassar College Libraries to celebrate the centenary of the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment in the United States.

Video of Robyn Muncy Lecture, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Laurie Lisle

Alfred Stieglitz, Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918.

 October 14, 2020. 

Author Laurie Lisle returns to the program to talk about another of her landmark artist biographies: Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe (Seaview 1980).

"Portrait of an Artist is a sensitive and beautifully documented biography. It moved me deeply--I can't remember when a book involved me so totally."
Patricia Bosworth, author, Diane Arbus: A Biography


"What a personality emerges from these pages!...Portrait of an Artist is filled with riches."

Joyce Carol Oates, Mademoiselle

"Through interviews with O'Keeffe's friends and acquaintances, by delving into the published an unpublished sources and letters...she gives a fine and poignant accounting of the relationship between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz...Above and beyond the personal portrait, Lisle's biography is a marvelous evocation of the American places that have been important in the development of O'Keeffe's character and her art."
James R. Mellow, The Saturday Review

David Tavárez

October 7, 2020

David Tavarez, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, talks about the exhibition Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States, on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center September 5 - December 13, 2020.

Usually commissioned from local artists working anonymously, retablos feature a narrative that is both written and pictorial. First-person vignettes, dated and inscribed with the supplicants’ names, draw on a traditional vocabulary such as “doy infinitas gracias” (I give infinite thanks). In the luminous illustrations above the inscriptions, earthly figures share space with holy images and a dreamlike representation of the miracle. As they accumulate on church walls, both in Mexico and the United States, these votives become public records of private faith, fears, and familial attachments.

Liza Donnelly

Photograph by Elena Rossini
September 30, 2020.

Cartoonist, activist, author, and frequent visiting Vassar professor Liza Donnelly visits to talk about cartooning and the retrospective exhibition of her work, Liza Donnelly: Comic Relief,  on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  Liza is a New Yorker staff cartoonist, a resident cartoonist for CBS News, and has published in a host of news and cultural outlets, including the New York Times, The Nation, CNN, CosmopolitanCobblestone, Habitat, the Daily Beast, Open Salon, Forbes, and the Huffington Post.   She is also a columnist on politics and global women's rights for the online journal Medium Magazine. Among her 17 published books are Funny Ladies: The New Yorker's Greatest Women Cartoonists and Their Cartoons, and a series of illustrated children's books.

Other links to Donnelly's work:

Bryan W. Van Norden

Kano Toshun Yoshinobo (1747-1797). The Three Laughers of Tiger Ravine, 1886 (Fenollosa-Weld Collection).

September 23, 2020.

Bryan W. Van Norden, Professor of Philosophy on the James Monroe Taylor Chair at Vassar, talks about his recent monograph, Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (Columbia UP, 2017).

Are American colleges and universities failing their students by refusing to teach the philosophical traditions of China, India, Africa, and other non-Western cultures? This biting and provocative critique of American higher education says yes. Even though we live in an increasingly multicultural world, most philosophy departments stubbornly insist that only Western philosophy is real philosophy and denigrate everything outside the European canon. In Taking Back Philosophy, Bryan W. Van Norden lambastes academic philosophy for its Eurocentrism, insularity, and complicity with nationalism and issues a ringing call to make our educational institutions live up to their cosmopolitan ideals.


Lindsay Shepherd Cook

May 20, 2020.

Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, returns to discuss her English translation of a new monograph by former Vassar Professor of Art Andrew Tallon and Dany Sandron, University Professor at the University of the Sorbonne, entitled Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History(Penn State, 2020).

Since its construction, Notre Dame Cathedral has played a central role in French cultural identity. In the wake of the tragic fire of 2019, questions of how to restore the fabric of this quintessential French monument are once more at the forefront. This all-too-prescient book, first published in French in 2013, takes a central place in the conversation.
The Gothic cathedral par excellence, Notre Dame set the architectural bar in the competitive years of the third quarter of the twelfth century and dazzled the architects and aesthetes of the Enlightenment with its structural ingenuity. In the nineteenth century, the cathedral became the touchstone of a movement to restore medieval patrimony to its rightful place at the cultural heart of France: it was transformed into a colossal laboratory in which architects Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc anatomized structures, dismembered them, put them back, or built them anew—all the while documenting their work with scientific precision.
Taking as their point of departure a three-dimensional laser scan of the cathedral created in 2010, architectural historians Dany Sandron and the late Andrew Tallon tell the story of the construction and reconstruction of Notre Dame in visual terms. With over a billion points of data, the scan supplies a highly accurate spatial map of the building, which is anatomized and rebuilt virtually. Fourteen double-page images represent the cathedral at specific points in time, while the accompanying text sets out the history of the building, addressing key topics such as the fundraising campaign, the construction of the vaults, and the liturgical function of the choir.
Featuring 170 full-color illustrations and elegantly translated by Lindsay Cook, Notre Dame Cathedral is an enlightening history of one of the world’s most treasured architectural achievements.

Broadcasts During the Remainder of Spring Term

Dear Listeners,   Due to the restrictions placed on movement in the shadow of the CoVid-19 pandemic, we will only be broadcasting past episodes of the Library Cafe during our regularly scheduled air time on Wednesdays, noon to one p.m.  The current broadcast list of episodes follows below. These will be mostly interviews with Vassar College faculty about their research, or programs directly related to the College.  Of course you can also listen to these and former interviews going back to October 2006 here from our website / archive by scrolling through episodes below.  

I hope you are all well and will remain that way, and that despite our dearth of current interviews you will find enough material here to entertain and inform you through this period of isolation to help keep you distanced and healthy.  

Spring Schedule:

April 8:   Wendy Graham, Professor of English and Chair of  the Department of English at Vassar College, talks about her latest monograph, Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity (Columbia University Press, 2017.)

April 15: Michael Halpin McCarthy, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Vassar College, returns to talk about his recent book Toward a catholic Christianity: A Study in Critical Belonging (Lexington 2017).

April 22: Mardges Bacon, Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Art and Architecture Emerita, Northeastern University, discusses her book John McAndrew's Modernist Vision: From the Vassar College Art Library to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018).

April 29: Nicholas Adams discusses his biography of the 20th century architect whose work defined the built environment of corporate modernism: Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernism (Yale University Press 2019).

May 6: Holly Peppe, scholar, editor, and literary executor for the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, discusses Millay's life, her work, the new edition of Millay's Selected Poems (Yale, 2016), and the exhibition "Treasures from Steepletop" on view in the Main Library, Art Library, and Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center from January 22 through June 11, 2017, in celebration of the centennial of Millay's graduation from Vassar College.

May 13: Arielle SaberProfessor of Romance Languages & Literatures at Bowdoin College, discusses her book Measured Words:   Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy, winner of the 19th annual MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication and the Newberry Library's 2017  Weiss-Brown Publication Award (U Toronto, 2017).

May 20: Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, returns to discuss her English translation of a new monograph by former Vassar Professor of Art Andrew Tallon and Dany Sandron, University Professor at the University of the Sorbonne, entitled Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History(Penn State, 2020).  This will be a new broadcast.

Laurie Lisle

Louise Nevelson with her cats, 1975, Pedro E. Guerrero, Vintage Silver Bromide Print
March 25, 2020.

Author and biographer Laurie Lisle discusses her book Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life (Simon & Schuster 1990; Rev. Ed., Open Road, 2016.)

'From her birth in Russia, her girlhood in Maine, to her years as an artist in Manhattan, Nevelson's life was difficult, dramatic and, after years of struggle, finally triumphant. Her rich iconography expressed in black, white, and gold wooden assemblages is an enormous and extraordinary prize-winning body of work found in parks, plazas, and museums throughout the world. Lisle has conscientiously investigated the numerous bizarre events in Nevelson's long life" -Washington Post Book World 

"Lisle's book is impressive in its thoroughness . . . its eclectic introduction of psychological analysis" -Woman's Art Journal

Wendy Graham

Simeone Solomon, Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, 1864 Watercolour on paper, Tate Britain
February 19, 2020.

Wendy Graham, Professor of English and Chair of  the Department of English at Vassar College, talks about her latest monograph, Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity (Columbia University Press, 2017.)

Critics, Coteries, and Pre-Raphaelite Celebrity sheds new light on Victorian discourses on sexuality and masculinity through a thick description of literary bravado, the emotions of male bonding within cliques, and homoerotic frissons among the creators and reviewers of Pre-Raphaelitism. Graham threads together the qualities that made William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Gabriel Rossetti exemplary figures of aesthetic celebrity in the 1850s; Algernon Swinburne and Simeon Solomon in the 1860s; and Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Pater in the 1870s. The book documents the symbiotic relationship between periodical writers and the artists and poets they helped make famous, demonstrating that the origin myth of Bohemian artistic transcendence was connected with the rise of a professional class of journalists. Graham shows that the Pre-Raphaelites innovated many of the phenomena now associated with Oscar Wilde, arguing that they were foundational for him in forging an artistic and personal identity with a full-blown publicity apparatus. Wilde had models. This book is about them.

Patricia Phagan

February 12, 2020.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center curator Patricia Phagan talks about the exhibition Louise Bourgeois: Ode to Forgetting, From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, on view January 24 - April 5, 2020.

Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) is one of the most renowned artists of the twentieth and twenty- first centuries. She is perhaps best known for powerful sculptures, including monumental spiders, human figures, and anthropomorphic shapes. An enigmatic chronicler of her emotions, she confided in her diaries, made drawings daily, and returned regularly to printmaking. The exhibition focuses on prints she made in her eighties and nineties, with a few earlier examples and a massive spiral sculpture to give additional context. She made art because she had to, and described her practice as a means of survival, a lifelong managing of emotional vulnerabilities, traumas, and nightmares. As she put it, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.”

Nicholas Adams

Beinecke Rare Books Library, Yale University
February 5, 2020.

Nicholas Adams discusses his biography of the 20th century architect whose work defined the built environment of corporate modernism: Gordon Bunshaft and SOM: Building Corporate Modernism (Yale University Press 2019).

Gordon Bunshaft’s (1909–1990) landmark 1952 design for Lever House reshaped the Manhattan skyline and elevated the reputation of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the firm where he would spend more than 40 years as a partner. Although this enigmatic architect left behind few records, his legacy endures in the corporate headquarters, museums, and libraries that were built in his distinctive modernist style. Bunshaft’s career was marked by shifts in material. Glass and steel structures of the 1950s, such as New York’s Chase Manhattan Bank, gave way to revolutionary designs in concrete, such as the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University and the doughnut-shaped Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Bunshaft’s collaborations with artists, including Isamu Noguchi, Jean Dubuffet, and Henry Moore, were of paramount importance throughout his career.

Nicholas Adams explores the contested line between Bunshaft’s ambition for acclaim as a singular artistic genius and the collaborative structure of SOM’s architectural partnership. Bunshaft received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988 and remains the only SOM partner to have achieved this distinction. Adams counters Bunshaft’s maxim that “the building speaks for itself” with necessary critical context about this modernist moment at a time when the future of Bunshaft’s iconic works is very much in question.

Amitava Kumar

January 29, 2020.

Vassar Professor of English on the Helen D. Lockwood Chair Amitava Kumar returns to the program to talk about his acclaimed novel Immigrant, Montana (Knopf, 2018). The novel was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by the New Yorker, was on the New York Times 100 Most Notable Books list of 2018, and on President Obama's Favorite Books list of the same year.  

"This is a deeply American novel, one that delves into the messiness of love (and sex!), and the meeting point between identity, character, place, and the constant cultural stuff floating around. . . . Kumar's novel is uproariously funny and deeply moving."
—David Means, author of Hystopia

"Amitava Kumar's Immigrant, Montana is a beguiling meditation on memory and migration, sex and politics, ideas and art, and race and ambiguity. Part novel, part memoir, this book is as sly, charming, and deceptive as its passionate protagonist, a writer writing himself into being."
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer

Wendy N. E. Ikemoto

John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872), View from Cozzens’ Hotel, near West Point, N.Y., 1863 [detail]
Oil on canvas
November 27, 2019.

Wendy Ikemoto, Associate Curator of American Art at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, discusses her exhibition: Panoramas: The Big Picture, on view at the Society through December 8, 2019.

Panoramas: The Big Picture explores the history and continued impact of panoramas from the 17th to the 21st century, as they were used to create spatial illusions, map places, and tell stories. Highlights include John Trumbull’s sweeping double vistas of Niagara Falls (1808), sections of Richard Haas’ nearly 200-foot long trompe l’oeil panorama of Manhattan (1982), and Eadweard Muybridge’s 17-foot photographic panorama of San Francisco before the city’s devastating 1906 earthquake (1878). The exhibition examines and reveals the impact that these and other panoramas had on everything from mass entertainment to nationalism to imperial expansion.

Leah Price

Edward Laning, The Story of the Recorded Word, WPA Mural Panel, McGraw Rotunda, NYPL 1938-42.

October 30, 2019.

Leah Price, Distinguished Professor of English  at Rutgers University and Founder and Director of the Rutgers Initiative for the Book, returns to the program to talk about her book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (New York: Basic Books, 2019).

"Price's book-unlike other examples of what she calls 'autobibliography'-is funny and hopeful, rather than dour and pious...What We Talk About When We Talk About Books is an enjoyable tour, full of surprising byways into historical arcana."―Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

Mary-Kay Lombino

Richard Barnes, Murmur #23, Dec. 6, 2006, 2006
October 23, 2019. 

Mary-Kay Lombino, Curator of Collections at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar, discusses her exhibition Shape of Light: Defining Photographs from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, on view through December 15, 2019.

Shape of Light: Defining Photographs from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center presents a survey of Vassar’s renowned collection of close to 4,500 photographs. Spanning the history of the medium, the exhibition features numerous innovations in the history of photography including various types of photographic practices from daguerreotypes and gelatin silver prints to large-scale Polaroids and digital color prints as well as a wide range of styles and geographic focuses. This extensive exhibition, the first of its kind at the Art Center, aims to highlight the Art Center’s long interest and dedication to the photographic medium and present the unique character, depth, and diversity of the collection. Shape of Light also celebrates twenty years of commitment from the Advisory Council for Photography for supporting photography acquisitions.