Franklin & Marshall college admitted the first class of female students in the fall of 1969. One hundred and twenty-five women joined the 1,850 enrolled male students on campus. Marking the 50th anniversary of co-education, the Phillips Museum of Art is celebrating by highlighting two alumnae artists from each decade since that historical day in F&M’s history.
The exhibit showcases a wealth of perspectives and purpose ranging from every day use to political activism and social awareness and includes the work of Christy Batta '09, Cindy Cuba Clements '85, Michèle Colburn '76, Jennie de Mello e Souza '92, Rebecca Frantz '13, Stephanie Lifshutz '13, Conrad Nelson '81, Beverly Ryan '73, Rachael Scharf '09, and Frances Donnelly Wolf '96. These 10 artists were selected for their noted achievements in the fields of art and design, careers rooted in each artist's time at F&M.
Curated by Janie Kreines, Curator of Academic Affairs and Community Engagement of the Phillips Museum of Art at Franklin & Marshall College.
Stephanie Lifshutz ‘13
We are often conditioned to hide our emotions from others unless they are positive—and also to dismiss the ordinary unless it is considered extraordinary. I prefer to meditate on the seemingly insignificant repetitions of everyday routines and to appreciate them for what they are, the truest experiences of our lives without premeditation for presentation.
Through the use of neon and text I communicate "suggested commands,” playing off the history of signage as a direct instruction to the viewer and inviting those who read my signs to act of their own volition.
The work is directly related to my identity as a feminist Jewish woman and the verbiage I have been conditioned and often expected to use as a form of politeness in order to phrase questions and appeals as nonthreatening requests.
Jennie de Mello e Souza ‘92
After graduating from Franklin & Marshall College with a degree in art history, I studied botanical illustration in Rio de Janeiro with Dulce Nascimento, an internationally acclaimed artist, for two years, and ultimately, concluded my studies at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, with a certificate in natural science illustration.
Having created art for an extended period of time in an exacting environment, I changed focus to work in a loose, organic way, and experimented with moving watercolor across the paper. Spontaneity and immutability became intrinsic parts of my process.
Conrad Nelson ‘81
I have worked in multiple media and techniques, but my primary focus is in mixed media or collage. My collages are an assembly of past artwork, fabric, paper, photographs, and miscellaneous embellishments. I then may add texture, pencil, or sewing. I endeavor to tell a visual story, make an ethical statement, and often include aspects of my past and my family history.
I was a continuing education student when I entered Franklin & Marshall College to major in sociology. All courses were requirements except for one elective. I took art and it was that course that changed my direction. I continued to earn a second degree in fine arts. I credit F&M for that successful change.
Rachael Scharf ‘09
Form versus function is a dichotomy much discussed in the realm of pottery. Where should the emphasis be placed? If function wins out, is a piece still considered art? At what point does form take over function? I approach my work as a studio potter with a function-first frame of mind—form is a result of its object’s function. This does not cancel out consideration of form or shape. Rather, I find that a pot is most truly beautiful when it has achieved its utmost functionality. A mug that feels good in the hand is, by extension, a mug that is pleasing to look at. I use simple undecorated forms to achieve this in my work.
My studio work has become a meditation on repetition and practice. Creating the same object in multiples requires discipline. Early on in my studio practice, this kind of work helped to develop the skills I needed to feel free with my material. At this point in my journey, the “work” of throwing has disappeared. I feel able to push my material past what it actually is: my mugs are fully realized objects, materials notwithstanding.
Beverly Ryan ‘73
My work is about discovery. I gather inspiration from everywhere. Sometimes the work starts from ideas and sometimes from an exploration of materials. Experimentation and the attempt to find new ways of expression motivate my practice. I work in series, but also create “one-offs” as I try new things.
Linear and structural visual elements are often what pull the compositions together. Subject matter creeps in causing series about social, environmental, and political topics. My interest in the human condition finds a way into the work, especially in the narrative series. The plasticity and luminosity of oil paint calls my name and fuels my painterly approach. I want to see what paint can do. These multiple strands of interest mix together and lead me to new combinations, new insights, and fresh work.
Rebecca Frantz ‘13
The exploration of personal experiences and the body’s ability to express narrative have always shaped my artistic practice. In my current series, the distortion of human figures serves as a platform to showcase the individuality of each piece as well as promote the viewer’s personal introspection. Realism and abstraction intermingle, as do varying scales and proportions that, in turn, create a shift in perception. Figurative elements are intended to trigger memory and provide the opportunity to discover stories that could be alive within each piece; in this way, highlighting the impact the body could have on memory.
In these works, the physical sculpture suggests an unspoken dialogue between the piece and the viewer. Intense colors shout at the viewer and pull their attention by providing an inviting window. This simultaneously jarring and somewhat skewed air of fun adds to what is otherwise a serious piece. Cut outs aim to disarm the viewer, creating negative space that forces them to finish the sculptures in their minds. Moreover, the placement of the carved areas presents a warped and fluid concept of sexuality. These sculptures are neither male nor female.
Cindy Cuba Clements ‘85
As an abstract artist, my work reflects an intersection of discovery and expression. Discovery is the fun part: it is the playing and experimenting with materials and process. The essence of my work, however, is about communicating my emotions through gesture, line, and color. Sometimes the expression is raw and palatable, exposing my inner core like an open book. Other times it is more contained, packaged tidily in geometric abstractions or meditative blocks of color. My paintings respond to the evolution of family, the passage of time and seasons, as well as tragedy and great moments of joy. Most recently, the politics of the day have affected my work profoundly.
Frances Donnelly Wolf ‘96
I begin with words. I collect phrases and segments of sentences from both poetry and prose as points of reference for my paintings. I collect what appeals to me upon a first read. I collect what makes me catch my breath.
My art is the obverse of the written word. In contrast to the poet or essayist who recasts and describes an image through the metaphor of words, mine is a qualified reverse ekphrasis. Rather than describe an image, one already created by another visual artist or of nature's own, in word form, I transcribe my response to, and understanding of, a segment of text into my own image.
Inspired by the concepts offered by the excerpts I collect, I think of my pictures as semantic spaces where I work to capture what I sense of each subject's character, its ineffable quality that distinguishes it from others. Or as the poet Kay Ryan writes concerning the genre of still life, “[I want] to paint...as though / they [the subjects] were grace...each / the reliquary / of itself”.
Christy Batta ‘09
I am a graphic designer who serves nonprofits and businesses that promote good work for others. I collaborated with Locavino—a new wine café in Silver Spring, Maryland focusing on both local beverages and community—to create a core logo mark as well as a recognizable and trustworthy visual voice made of memorable fonts and colors.
Christy Batta. Slideshow, 2017–2018. Still images from Locavino branding design process and branding design in use. For Locavino: A Wine Café in Silver Spring, Maryland. Courtesy of the artist.
From the beginning, our guiding light in the design process was to make Locavino feel warm, inviting, and relatable so that visitors will understand that this wine café is not here to pass judgement on customers, but rather to share the passion its employees have for the craftsmanship behind great wines and beers.
Christy Batta. Logo in wood and Locavino logo sign, 2019. Laser engraved wood, 24 x 24". For Locavino: A Wine Café in Silver Spring, Maryland. Laser engraving by Eric Lantzer, The Reclaimed Nation. Courtesy of the artist.
Michèle Colburn ‘76
My work is socio-political and influenced by our nation’s 18-year involvement in war with Iraq and Afghanistan and by growing up during the Vietnam War era. I am a multi-disciplinary artist with a strong interest in materiality and I continue to produce object-based works, with forays into performance and endurance-based projects.
I began The Trip Wire Project in 2014 during an artist's residency at the Vermont Studio Center and it continues to this day. It is my way of documenting and memorializing the losses incurred since the United States entered into conflict with Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each panel represents a grouping of people and one stitch represents one life. Green panels represent U.S. ground troops wounded and deceased in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I continue to update these losses for Afghanistan. The yellow panels represent non-combatant civilians wounded and killed in these countries.
I continue to visually document the wounded noncombatants of Iraq which is well over a quarter million people at this point. I keep track of all stitches by logging rows. The tallies are maintained in small sketchbooks for each panel.
Michèle Colburn. The Trip Wire Project, 2014–Ongoing. Documentary stills on location where the artist knitted in public as performance. Images courtesy of the artist.
Michèle Colburn. Tally Books, 2014–Ongoing. Notebooks and ink, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.
Colburn knitting onsite in the Rothman Gallery, Fall 2019. Video by Gina Erdyneeva '20.
The Trip Wire Project is partially funded by a grant from The Puffin Foundation.
Thank you! We hope you enjoyed this exhibition!