October 28, 2020.
"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"Through interviews with O'Keeffe's friends and acquaintances, by delving into the published an unpublished sources and letters...she gives a fine and poignant accounting of the relationship between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz...Above and beyond the personal portrait,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
|Photograph by Elena Rossini|
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, Cosmopolitan, Cobblestone, 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:
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.
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 Saber, Professor 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.
|Louise Nevelson with her cats, 1975, Pedro E. Guerrero, Vintage Silver Bromide Print|
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
|Simeone Solomon, Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, 1864 Watercolour on paper, Tate Britain|
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.”
|Beinecke Rare Books Library, Yale University|
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.
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
|John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872), View from Cozzens’ Hotel, near West Point, N.Y., 1863 [detail]|
Oil on canvas
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.
|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."―
|Richard Barnes, Murmur #23, Dec. 6, 2006, 2006|
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.
October 16, 2019.
Yvonne Elet, Associate Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Vassar College, discusses her article, co-authored with Virginia Duncan for Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (39:2, 2019) entitled: "Beatrix Farrand and campus landscape at Vassar: pedagogy and practice, 1925-29." Farrand, one of the great landscape architects of the 20th century and a path-breaking woman in the field, came to Vassar as Consulting Landscape Gardener in 1925. She is well known for her institutional designs (unusual for a woman at the time), notably at Princeton and Yale; Vassar was her one opportunity to work at a womens’ college. Farrand came to campus at a significant moment when the Chair of Botany and pioneering ecologist Edith Roberts was fostering progressive programs in native plant ecology and landscape architecture – efforts that reformed young women’s training and career prospects, and made Vassar an early center for women and landscape. Yvonne Elet discusses the challenges these women faced, and traces Farrand’s design projects, from the forecourt of Main Building to the so-called Euthenics quad around Blodgett Hall. Most significantly, Farrand established an arboretum, conceiving it to comprise the entire campus: she mixed formal and informal design elements, and native and foreign species, to create a beautiful setting that would serve the instructional needs of students and faculty –a notion that has come to be central to Vassar’s identity.
Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, discusses her essay "Religious Freedom and Architectural Ambition at Vassar College, 1945-1954," and Philip Johnson's unbuilt design for a modernist Vassar Chapel sited near Noyes Circle in the early 1950's.
|Thomas Cole. Detail from View on the Catskill--Early Autumn, 1836–37. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY|
Thomas Cole's Refrain shows how Cole's Catskill Creek paintings, while reflecting concepts such as the stages of life, opened a more capacious vision of experience than his narrative-driven series, such as The Voyage of Life. Relying on rich visual evidence provided by paintings, topographic maps, and contemporary photographs, Peck argues that human experience is conveyed through Cole's embedding into a stable, recurring landscape key motifs that tell stories of their own. The motifs include enigmatic human figures, mysterious architectural forms, and particular trees and plants. Peck finds significant continuities—personal and conceptual—running throughout the Catskill Creek paintings, continuities that cast new light on familiar works and bring significance to ones never before seen by many viewers.
|Edvard Munch, “Moonlight” (1896). Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Gift of Philip and Lynn Strauss, Class or 1946, 1995.20|
|Maya Lin. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C., 1982|
Using newly available archival material from the Nixon Presidential Library, Kissinger's personal papers, and material from the archives in Vietnam, Robert K. Brigham punctures the myth of Kissinger as an infallible mastermind. Instead, he constructs a portrait of a rash, opportunistic, and suggestible politician. It was personal political rivalries, the domestic political climate, and strategic confusion that drove Kissinger's actions. There was no great master plan or Bismarckian theory that supported how the US continued the war or conducted peace negotiations. Its length was doubled for nothing but the ego and poor judgment of a single figure.
This distant tragedy, perpetuated by Kissinger's actions, forever changed both countries. Now, perhaps for the first time, we can see the full scale of that tragedy and the machinations that fed it.
In the first of a two part interview, Harry Roseman, Professor of Art on the Isabelle Hyman Chair at Vassar College, talks about his career as an artist and as a college teacher, beginning with a conversation about his photographic installation on the Worldwide Web: A Chronicle: Harry Roseman, A visual manifestation of shifting lines of Interconnectedness.
|Harry Roseman. Curtain Wall, 2001, photographed on site - JFK International Airport, Terminal 4|
April 24, 2019: Part 2
Download the exhibition catalogue (PDF)
March 13 & April 3 (repeat), 2019.
What is a library? Charles Henry, President of the Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) and former Director of Libraries at Vassar College, walks us through the door of that question as he is interviewed on February 27, 2019 for Radio New Zealand's popular program Nine to Noon by that program's host Kathryn Ryan. He goes on to discuss CLIR's role in organizing the creation of a truly global digital library, and the promise of this effort for preserving cultural memory from threats of war and climate change. He also speculates on the potential of digital technology to enable literal discovery through the uncovering of hidden information.
|Violet Oakley. The Great Wonder: Vision of the Apocalypse, Vassar College, Alumnae House, 1924. Oil on panel.|
February 20, 2019.
Bailey Van Hook, Professor of Art History and co-director of the MA Program in Material Culture and Public Humanities at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, discusses her biography Violet Oakley: An Artist's Life (University of Delaware Press, 2016).
"Violet Oakley: An Artist's Life is the first full-length biography of Violet Oakley (1874–1961), the only major female artist of the beaux-arts mural movement in the United States, as well as an illustrator, stained glass artist, portraitist and author. There is much human interest here: a pampered and spoiled young woman who suddenly finds herself in near poverty, forced to make a living in illustration to support her parents; a sensitive and idealistic young woman who, in a desperate attempt to save her neurasthenic father, embraces Christian Science, a religion derided by her family and friends; a 28 year old woman who receives one of the plum commissions of the era, a mural cycle in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, in a field dominated by much older and predominantly male artists; a woman in her forties who although professionally successful finds herself very much alone and bonds with her student, Edith Emerson; a friend of artists like dancer Ruth St. Denis and violinist Albert Spalding who nevertheless was supremely conscious of social mores, the “Miss Oakley” of the Social Register who preferred the company of upper class to bohemian society; the tireless self-promoter who traveled abroad to become the unofficial visual historian of the League of Nations yet who ironically was increasingly regarded as a local artist."
February 13, 2019.
Joan M. Ferrante and Robert W. Hanning, distinguished scholars who have long collaborated in translations and scholarship in comparative literature at Columbia University, discuss their new translation of the medieval roman d’antiquité, The Romance of Thebes (The French of England Translation Series: 11; Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2018).
"The romans d’antiquité, medieval re-makings in French of the stories of Troy, Thebes, Greece, and Rome, first appeared in the reign of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the twelfth century and continued to be read in England throughout the Middle Ages. Among them, the Romance of Thebes medievalizes the stories of Oedipus and Jocasta; Polynices and Etiocles; Antigone, Creon, and Theseus; and the Siege of Thebes. The medieval French re-working also complicates Trojan-based accounts of European identity by adding African and Muslim allies for Thebes to the narrative’s classical source in Statius’ Thebaid, thus suggesting that Europe is not forged simply in opposition to Islam.
"This new translation and introduction by two distinguished scholars of comparative literature is the first in English for thirty years. It is based on the late fourteenth-century manuscript text owned by ‘battling’ Bishop Henry Despenser, notorious for his harsh suppression of the 1381 rebels in Norwich and for his failed continental crusade. The translation can be read both for itself and to facilitate study of the original poem by scholars and students of the literary culture of England and North West Europe."
British Library record for the Manuscript: London, BL Additional 34114.
Joan M. Ferrante's Epistolae: Medeval Women's Letters (discussed in the interview).