Please Note:   The Library Cafe will not be on the air for the 2023-24 Academic Year while the host takes a sabbatical leave.  

Beauty out of the Ashes

Aaron Douglas. Cover Illustration for Fire!!  Devoted to Younger Negro Artists, ed. Wallace Thurman. New York, 1926..

March 1, 2023.

Professors Ronald D. Patkus, Eve Dunbar, and Caroline Culp discuss their current exhibition in the Thompson Memorial Library, Beauty out of the Ashes: Printed Works of the Harlem Renaissance, 1923-1936, on view through June 15, 2023.

A key focus of the exhibition is the literary production of the Harlem Renaissance. Works of thirteen different authors are presented. Together they provide a window into some of the key aspects of authorship during the Harlem Renaissance. At the same time, it’s also important to note that the exhibition considers not only texts, but also art, since the first editions of these works often included artwork on the dust jackets or within the book itself. By studying not just texts but also physical books, we gain a sense of the visual nature of published works, and thus a wider understanding for how works of the Harlem Renaissance were presented to their reading audience.



Haohao Lu

February 8, 2023. 

Haohao Lu, Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, talks about her article in the December issue of Ludica: Annali di storia e civiltà del gioco, entitled: “Games, Flirtation, and the Use of Interpretive Risk: Jan Sanders van Hemessen’s Portrait of Husband and Wife Playing Tables.

Anne Gaud Tinker

December 14, 2022. 

Anne Gaud Tinker (VC '67) discusses the book she co-authored with Dwight McInvaill and Caroline Palmer, Alice: Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Charleston Renaissance Artist, published in 2021 in Charleston by the Middleton Place Foundation and Evening Post Books.

A lifelong Charleston resident with limited professional training, Alice Smith forged her style from a wide range of sources—her French teacher at the local Carolina Art Association, mentors who introduced her to Tonalism and Japanese woodblock prints, and extensive fieldwork. In a career of sixty years, she defied gender expectations and gained national acclaim.

Descended from prominent rice planters, Alice’s work reflects a reverence for nature and nostalgia for an idealized past. She helped spark Charleston’s historic preservation movement, depicted the waning days of rice planting, and captured the mystical spirit of the Lowcountry’s coast, marshes, and woodlands in luminous watercolors.

Alice was one of the principal guiding lights of an invigorating cultural change that flourished between the twentieth century’s two world wars called the Charleston Renaissance. In recent years, this artistic and cultural movement has been reexamined for its elitist perspective and romanticized view of Charleston and the city’s fraught history. Alice’s story raises important questions about historical memory and the forces that shaped Charleston into the city it is today.

Middleton Place Museum Shop Books


Dora Apel

 October 5, 2022.

Dora ApelW. Hawkins Ferry Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University, returns to the program to talk about her book Beautiful, Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline, published by Rutgers University Press in 2015.

"In Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline, Dora Apel goes on the offensive against the myriad myths and delusions peddled about the Motor City; not only that, she rebuffs the blame and shame that have traditionally been directed at the Detroit citizenry, and redirects our attention to the corporations and bureaucrats who have abandoned it. The result is a work that seems to invigorate a depressed debate and ask timely questions about social values in America and the world it influences." ― Los Angeles Review of Books

"In the early twentieth century, Detroit was defined by Charles Sheeler's photos of the River Rouge plant and Diego Rivera's murals of work. Today, the hulking ruins of old industrial buildings and empty skyscrapers symbolize the city. In this provocative analysis, informed by urban geography, political economy, and art history, Dora Apel reflects on what images of ruined Detroit teach us about the city,  popular culture, and American capitalism." -- Thomas J. Sugrue ― The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit



Jessica D. Brier

September 21, 2022.

Jessica D. Brier, Deknatel Curatorial Fellow in Photography at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, talks about her exhibition and takes us on a tour through the galleries of On the Grid: Ways of Seeing in Print, on view at the Center from August 20 through December 22, 2022.

The grid often hides in plain sight, from notepads and spreadsheets to halftone photographic reproductions. It dominates the organization, perception, and representation of the modern world, especially in print. Deeply embedded in a Western worldview, the grid visualizes control, mastery, and order. As an invisible framing device, it has become so pervasive that we habitually ignore it. Yet when artists call our attention to the grid, its layered meanings come fully into view. On the Grid: Ways of Seeing in Print surveys photographs, prints, artist’s books, and printed sculptures from the dynamic permanent collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. From 19th-century scientific and portrait photography to avant-garde and conceptual photography; from mid- 20th-century Minimalist, Pop Art, and Op Art printmaking to experimental bookmaking and photography in the 21st century, this richly illustrated volume explores how artists have embraced, rejected, and reclaimed the grid. By altering and challenging perception, they offer new ways of seeing the world. 


Mary Anna Barbey

September 14, 2022: SEASON OPENER

Mary Anna Barbey (VC 58, 73) discusses her life as a journalist and novelist in Switzerland and her new English translation of her 2004 French novel Prosperity Mill (Independently published 2022).

Susannah Marshall was fourteen when the strike broke out at Prosperity Mill. For months, her small town in North Carolina would be shaken by scenes of conflict, terror and even murder.

Sixty-five years later, a renowned historian, Susannah returns to her hometown in a final attempt to understand the world-famous walkout led by the communists. Will she discover some clue, some piece of information that will put her mind at rest? What role did her own family play in the tragic events? And if she finds the truth, will anyone want to hear her story?

Based on the history of the 1929 textile strike in Gastonia, North Carolina, this work of fiction explores the way historical conflict can impact individual lives. By reviving events almost forgotten, Susannah's quest also reaffirms the importance of passing on stories from one generation to the next.

Mary Anna Pope Barbey was born in Durham, North Carolina. She grew up in Connecticut, then married and moved to Switzerland where she has lived for over sixty years. She has published twelve books in French. Her translation of Prosperity Mill is her first publication in English.


Yvonne Elet

Art Library Exhibit Case Showing Matthew Vassar's Shovel, Photo T. Hill, May 18, 2022

Edith Roberts' native plantings  along the Fonteyn Kill, Vassar College, Photo T. Hill, May 6, 2017

May 18, 2022.

Vassar Professor of Art Yvonne Elet discusses the exhibition she curated with Vassar art major and Ford Scholar Caleb Mitchell entitled The Campus Green: The Olmsted Firm's Designs for Vassar College, celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, on view in the Vassar College Art Library, April 11 - June 6.

There have long been unsubstantiated reports that Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture, designed Vassar’s bucolic campus, although the source of Vassar’s early designs remains unclear. Drawing on new archival research, this exhibition presents the contributions by three generations of the Olmsted firm to the Vassar campus. Together with a brochure and an article in press, this exhibition marks the bicentennial of F. L. Olmsted’s birth on April 26, 2022. It is also the inaugural exhibition in a series about the history, preservation, and planning of the Vassar campus, organized by the Vassar Art Department. 

Vassar Campus History website: A digital repository for research  on the history of the architecture, landscape, and soundscape of the Vassar College campus


Franc Palaia

 May 11, 2022.

Rhinebeck artist Franc Palaia talks about his catalogue raisonné : Wall Works: Frescoes, Photo-Sculpture and Mixed Media 1973-2021. The discussion will help to introduce a restrospective exhibit that will be on view of Palaia's "Large scale frescoes and photo-sculptures installed to simulate a contemporary archeological site"at the Hudson Beach Glass Gallery on view May 14 - June 5, 2022 in Beacon, New York.

"I have been photographing walls, murals, signs, graffiti, street art, architecture and billboards since 1976. In my travels of 26 countries, I have compiled thousands of urban wall images that I use as reference for my wall works. I am a multi-disciplinary artist and work in photography, painting, sculpture and murals where I incorporate all four mediums into mixed media flat wall pieces and 3-dimensional floor sculptures. I have a saying: `walls are drop cloths of a society', whatever you seen on a city's walls gives you a sense of  what is happening in that particular city or country. They signal the current state of their economy, politics and social condition." -- from  Franc Palaia, "Artist Statement."

copies of the catalog are obtainable by emailing Franc Palaia at


Katherine Hite

April 13, 2022.

Katherine Hite, Professor of Political Science on the Fredrick Ferris Thompson Chair and Director of Research and Development at Vassar College, talks about her recent research on Texas history, published in her articles "Texas, Monuments, and the Politics of Self-Reckoning in Texas," (Memory Studies Special Issue 14:6, 2021) and "A Monumental Battle for the Story of Texas," (Revista: The Harvard Journal of Latin Amerian Studies, 20:23, 2021), as well as about her books on monuments and the politics of memory in Latin America and Spain: The Politics and the Art of Commemoration: Memorials to Struggle in Latin America and Spain (Routledge, 2013) and Memory in Chile from Pinochet to Bachelet (First Forum, 2013). 


Elizabeth Nogrady and Jill Schneiderman

 Joseph Tairraz. Traversing a Crevice on Mt. Blanc 1870 Albumen print from glass plate negative.

April 6, 2022.

Elizabeth Nogrady (VC'99), Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and Jill Schneiderman, Professor of Earth Science at Vassar College, discuss their exhibition, Cryosphere: Humans and Climate in Art from The Loeb, on view January 18 - May 22 in the Focus Gallery of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar.

In 1914, literary naturalist and Hudson Valley resident John Burroughs wrote, “In the snow-storm: we are admitted into Nature’s oldest laboratory.” This laboratory is part of the cryosphere, the term given to places on Earth where water is in solid, rather than liquid, form. Describing the fleeting and varied forms of the cryosphere—ice and snow in particular—is a challenge shared by artists and scientists alike. This Focus Gallery exhibition applies the approach and knowledge of an earth scientist to art that focuses on the cryosphere, with the aim of enhancing viewers’ understanding of not only the works themselves, but also the planet we inhabit. It features paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture from the nineteenth century to the present day, including works by Sanford Robinson Gifford, Taguchi Beisaku, Doris Lee, and Oshutsiak Pudlat. This exhibition is co-organized by the Loeb and Jill Schniederman, professor of Earth Science.


Hester Blum

March 30, 2022.

Hester Blum, Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, discusses her book, The News at the Ends of the Earth: The Print Culture of Polar Exploration (Duke UP, 2019). 

"From Sir John Franklin's doomed 1845 search for the Northwest Passage to early twentieth-century sprints to the South Pole, polar expeditions produced an extravagant archive of documents that are as varied as they are engaging. As the polar ice sheets melt, fragments of this archive are newly emergent. In The News at the Ends of the Earth Hester Blum examines the rich, offbeat collection of printed ephemera created by polar explorers. Ranging from ship newspapers and messages left in bottles to menus and playbills, polar writing reveals the seamen wrestling with questions of time, space, community, and the environment. Whether chronicling weather patterns or satirically reporting on penguin mischief, this writing provided expedition members with a set of practices to help them survive the perpetual darkness and harshness of polar winters. The extreme climates these explorers experienced is continuous with climate change today. Polar exploration writing, Blum contends, offers strategies for confronting and reckoning with the extreme environment of the present."


Stella Beratlis

 March 23, 2022.

Modesto poet Stella Beratlis returns to the program to talk about her new collection, Dust Bowl Venus: Poems, just out from Sixteen Rivers Press.

"Sometimes the ground shifts under our feet and leaves us stumbling; our world changed. DUST BOWL VENUS documents that stumbling; that changed world; and also the regaining of a footing that; if not what we had hoped for; is what we live with. In her second powerful collection of poetry; framed by the lyrics of Modesto-based country-bluegrass songwriter; Hazel Houser; Stella Beratlis explores the landscapes of California's Great Central Valley; the landscapes of fear and hope in the cancer diagnosis of her daughter; and the landscape of regret--what we have let go and what we have gained from letting go. Beratlis pays her characteristic attention to detail; invoking; for example; Louis Armstrong's blue kitchen and the hinges squeaking on an ice chest lid; in order to create her complex; lyrical images. She writes that "ghosts / have always been walking / through the spaces of our home;" and she has listened to these ghosts. This book is filled with imagery and emotion that builds and curves and accumulates; leaving the reader breathless; glad for the shifting of the earth that gave us these poems."


Julia Bolton Holloway

February 2, 2022.

The scholar, librarian, and Catholic Hermit Julia Bolton Holloway, Custodian of the English Cemetery in Florence, talks about her scholarship, her role as keeper of an historic cemetery, about cemeteries and libraries as vital mirrors of memory, and her project to develop a cultural heritage library documenting the Cemetery's many notable residents and their histories. 

"Julia Bolton Holloway was born in London, grew up in Sussex, went to America at 16, studied at San Jose State University for the BA, and at the University of California, Berkeley, for the doctorate. Her Comparative Literature dissertation was published in three editions as The Pilgrim and the Book: A Study of Dante, Langland and Chaucer. She next published books on Brunetto Latino, a bibliography and an edition of Il Tesoretto, later a full length study of his life and writings as Twice Told Tales: Brunetto Latino and Dante Alighieri, and is currently editing Brunetto Latino's Latin and Italian Opera.  She edited and translated Birgitta of Sweden's Revelations, in Saint Bride and her Book. That work led to research on Julian of Norwich, resulting in the definitive edition of the extant manuscripts in France and England with Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., and published by SISMEL, Anchoress and Cardinal: Julian of Norwich and Adam Easton, O.S.B., published by Analecta Cartusiana, ed. James Hogg, Julian among the Books: Julian of Norwich's Theological Library, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and Mary's Dowry: Contemplative and Pilgrim Women's Writings, Analecta Cartusiana, ed. James Hogg. She completed her father's work on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and published editions of Aurora Leigh and Other Poems, Penguin, and Casa Guidi Windows (in English and Italian), Aureo Anello Books. She raised three sons, taught at Quincy University, Princeton University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she was Director of Medieval Studies. She took early retirement to enter an Anglican convent, is now a Catholic hermit in Florence, Italy, where she directs an ecumenical polyglot library and is custodian of the Swiss-owned 'English' Cemetery where Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Walter Savage Landor, Frances Trollope and many famous others, particularly slavery Abolitionists, are buried."


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, 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