Ellie Ga: Artist in Residence (2020-22)

Still from Strophe showing messages in bottles

Still from Ellie Ga, Strophe, A Turning (2017) 2 channel video, loop (37:00)

In collaboration with the Center for Visual Culture, Special Collections welcomes artist Ellie Ga to campus virtually (during the current school year) and in person with a residency (as soon as that is possible). While in residence, Ga will “comb” Special Collections in the process of producing a new work of art, commissioned for the College. Before then, she wants to connect with us by sharing her work and conversing with community members as she gets to know Bryn Mawr. 

The first virtual event is a screening of her piece, Strophe, A Turning (2017, 37 min.), with a virtual studio visit and conversation between the artist and Bryn Mawr faculty members Lisa Saltzman (History of Art) and Madhavi Kale (History).

Please visit our related website to learn more about all Ellie Ga related events and activities at Bryn Mawr College as they are scheduled.

Please also view Sayed, a work by Ellie Ga, made available by the artist and her gallery through the Center for Visual Culture’s Virtual VIsual Culture event series.

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Ellie Ga (b. 1976) is an American artist living in Sweden. Her work is included in collections at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Bard College. Her most recent work, Gyres 1-3 (2019), was a commission for the Whitney Biennial and was reviewed in The New York Times and Artnews. Art historian Tom McDonough (SUNY-Binghamton) wrote about it for the fall 2019 issue of Osmos Magazine.

Ga works between memoir, travelogue, and visual essay connecting ideas and presenting them as multichannel videos or performances with live narration. Her recent film Gyres 1-3 (2019) looks at water as the site of political exile, religious pilgrimage, and forced migration across the Aegean Sea. Her working process is a kind of “beach-combing” that embraces chance encounter with artifacts and how they find their way to her. It involves extended periods of research, including conversations with people in roles, such as museum directors, scholars, or Arctic explorers. Her interests are interdisciplinary and cross-temporal. She speaks of her work as a collection of chance encounters, what is lost (and accrued) in translating between spoken and written words, and archaeological discovery.

Ga will be in residence at Bryn Mawr College twice during the 2021-22 academic year and virtually throughout the 2020-21 school year. Throughout this process, we hope you will join us in a collective note-keeping practice, responding to your own experience of Ga’s work and the chance encounters you collect along the way. 

Materials for the Friday Finds workshop “Sew, Snip, Tie: Early American Children’s Blank Books”

“Sew, Snip, Tie: Early American Children’s Blank Books” will take place on Friday, October 30, 2020 at noon, via Zoom. Register to attend at https://brynmawr.libcal.com/event/7204459.

This is a hands-on workshop, during which participants make a simple blank book in the stye of early 19th-century children’s homemade copy books.Campus community members will be able to pick up a kit of materials (first photo below). Off campus participants should gather materials before the event – see the second photo and list.

Campus community members who would like a kit of materials must register separately for the kit at https://brynmawr.libcal.com/event/7235349. You will be able to pick it up in Canaday Library from 9-4:30 Thursday,  October 29 or Friday morning before the workshop. We will send you an e-mail as soon as the kits are available (maybe a day or two early, depending on our suppliers).supplies provided for on-campus community membersThe kit includes:

2 sheets of 8 ½” x 11″ laid paper, for the pages

One half sheet of 8 ½” x 11″ heavy, handmade, decorated paper, for the cover

Needle to sew your book with. This will also be used to make holes in the paper for sewing

Bookbinder’s thread – 1 yard

Beeswax to wax thread

A popsicle stick to use as a folder

Pen and ink to practice your alphabet. The first ten on-campus students who want them may have the pen and ink shown in the photo as part of their kit. The rest of us will need a calligraphy pen or any fine tipped pen or marker

Pages to copy (Alphabet_smaller, Running_Hand_recto, Running_Hand_verso)

You supply your own scissors

 

Off-campus participants will need the following items:

materials needed for participants who are not using kits2 sheets of 8 ½ x 11 paper, for your pages.

One half sheet of 8 ½” x 11” heavier paper, for the cover (8 ½” x 5 ½”). shown here, a rectangle cut from a manila folder

Needle to sew your book with. This should be sharp and as heavy as possible. It is best if the eye is no wider than the main part of the needle

Thread for sewing. A heavy thread is ideal – buttonhole/carpet thread if possible. No more than a yard will be needed

Wax to smooth your thread with. Beeswax is traditional, but you can use any candle, or a  lip balm like ChapStick or Burt’s Bees

Folder – something to press down the edge of the folded paper. You can use a popsicle stick or the handle of your scissors

Pen and ink to practice your alphabet. If you have a calligraphy pen, choose that. If not, any fine tip pen will work.

Scissors

Pages to copy (Alphabet_smaller, Running_Hand_recto, Running_Hand_verso)

We hope you will join us for this workshop – see you there!

Indigenous Representation in Children’s Literature

I grew up knowing I wanted to write for kids because children’s literature is what made me fall in love with reading. I wanted to try to provide that experience for other people, but in particular I wanted to write the kind of books I wished I’d had as a kid—books about Indigenous characters who got to experience magic and adventure too.

That was one of my main goals in writing The Ghost Collector, which centers around a Cree girl, Shelly and her grandmother, who help lost souls transition to the next world by catching them in their hair. The version of the supernatural presented in The Ghost Collector is rooted to Cree culture. Shelly’s experience of the world around her is tied to and influenced by her Indigeneity. It is an attempt to address what was lacking in the novels I read as a kid.

Children’s literature is fraught territory for Indigenous people. Although many classic works in the genre include Indigenous characters, the ways in which we’re represented are often harmful and problematic. They frame Indigenous peoples as a vanishing race, or happy to assimilate to European ways as a means to justify settler colonialism. Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that seeks to replace the original population of a colonized territory with a settler society. The United States is a settler colonial nation.

You see this harmful depiction of Indigenous characters in Little House on the Prairie, where Native Americans are portrayed as violent and stereotypically “savage” in comparison to the “civilized” settlers; in Peter Pan stories, which positions Native Americans alongside fairies and mermaids; and in the Leatherstocking Tales, in which the white protagonist surpasses his Native guides in mastery of their own culture. These stories frame Indigenous characters as little more than props or set dressing for white protagonists. These works present us as violent and less than human, as mythical creatures, and as inherently inferior to European settlers.

This 1953 Garth Williams illustration for the Little House series depicts two stereotypical, shirtless Native American men stealing food and furs from the Ingalls’ cabin.

Even in the 90s, when I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of children’s books out there with good Indigenous representation and even fewer by Indigenous authors. My mother, who is a teacher-librarian in addition to being Cree, did her best, but the pickings were slim. This was especially true when it came to fantasy and sci-fi—my genres of choice. Science fiction in particular is notable for an emphasis on colonization narratives. For example, James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) is essentially just The Last of the Mohicans in space. When books did include Indigenous representation, it was mostly misrepresentation. Sometimes we didn’t exist as people at all, but as non-human characters (like the Na’vi in Avatar).

Either way, it was obvious the authors didn’t consider an Indigenous audience when writing their books. The effects of this go beyond the pages of books to the real world. These portrayals normalize our absence and create a fictional tale of peaceful, inevitable settlement in North America that means settlers never need to confront their complicity in the violent colonial history of the Americas. More often than not, when we pick up a book, we encounter a world we are not present in.

I have hope that this is beginning to change. In publishing—particularly in YA publishing—we’ve seen a push for greater diversity and more #OwnVoices books. People are becoming more aware of the need for better representation in children’s books. Novels like Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe, and Eden Robinson’s Trickster Drift all present worlds in which Indigenous characters take center stage. Readers have access to criticism and scholarship by Indigenous academics and writers through social media and sites like American Indians in Children’s Literature.

We’re on the precipice of a potential sea change, but it requires a sustained investment in treating diversity as more than a trend from publishers and readers alike. Indigenous readers are here—we have always been here—and we’re invested in making children’s literature more representative. I hope, for the sake of future Indigenous kids, that non-Indigenous readers are turning up for more diverse voices too.

Allison Mills, College Archivist. Author of The Ghost Collector.

https://allisonmillswrites.com

On Meeting Tania El Khoury…

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REFLECTION by Maya Stucky (Class of 2020)

I applied to intern with artist Tania El Khoury for both personal and academic reasons. As the daughter of a Lebanese immigrant, I feel deep-rooted connections to the country and what occurs within its borders. I make a conscious effort to be aware of its triumphs and of its downfalls, and the presence of refugees in Lebanon has, in my experience, caused controversy. Thus, my involvement in El Khoury’s work is my own personal way of combatting that controversy and being part of the exploration of Middle Eastern politics.

The first thing I noticed about El Khoury is that everyone in a room with her seems to be drawn to her – not only as an artist but also as a person. She has this fascinating energy to her that makes you want to learn more about her or just listen to her speak. She exudes authenticity and warmth. Originally, I could not tell if I felt this energy simply because I feel an innate connection to all Lebanese women because of my own Lebanese heritage, but as I observed the rest of the room and spoke to other interns, it seemed to me that everyone else was just as intrigued. Her presence is not stately and intense, as she truly is very humble and kind, but she radiates strength and knowledge in a way that has you hanging on to every word she says. Conversely, just as El Khoury’s interns attempt to get to know her better, she is doing the same with us. She cares deeply for her work, her subjects, and her audience and wants to ensure those who are representing her and guiding her audience can do so in the appropriate way.

In terms of discussing her work, El Khoury is incredibly particular and precise about every detail about her pieces and the acquisition of her material. Where she falls short, especially in terms of accessibility, she recognizes and seems to be making a conscious effort to create a sensorium that attempts to include all audiences. Accessibility at Bryn Mawr is something that is constantly being brought up, and I think El Khoury was impressed by the students’ advocacy for the utmost amount of inclusion possible. Although she is incredibly particular in her work, I believe she appreciates that her works lose effect the less accessible they become.

I truly am so excited to work with El Khoury in the fall. I know that she has much to teach us about her work, her inspiration, and all the various factors that go into the production of live art. Through her work I hope to grow and witness the growth of her audience through such cathartic and important stories.

Creative Dissent: Art of the Arab World Uprisings.

Exhibition opening at Bryn Mawr College January 22nd

The creative vitality of the continually evolving uprisings commonly referred to as the Arab Spring is captured in this immersive multimedia exhibition on loan from the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  The exhibition’s curator, Christiane Gruber, Associate Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Michigan, will give the exhibition’s opening talk Thursday evening, January 22nd. Professor Gruber has published widely on contemporary issues in Islamic art, including a recent piece in Newsweek on the history of images of Mohammed in Islamic art

Along with the exhibition, Bryn Mawr is welcoming Ganzeer, one of the artists whose work figured prominently in the uprisings against the Mubarak and military governments in Egypt. Ganzeer will be meeting with classes and informal groups during the last week of January, and will give a public talk Monday evening, January 26, and participate in a public conversation on Tuesday, January 27th. The College has just acquired Ganzeer’s new set of silkscreen prints, “Of Course,” that recognize demonstrators who were brutalized by the military. The prints will be featured in the exhibition. Ganzeer has also just opened a new show at the Leila Heller Gallery in New York City that was featured in an article in The Nation.

See the exhibition’s website for additional information about the programs and speakers:

http://www.brynmawr.edu/library/exhibitions.html

See an article in The Nation about Ganzeer’s current exhibition in New York:
http://www.newsweek.com/koran-does-not-forbid-images-prophet-298298

See a recent Newsweek article on Images of Mohammed:
http://www.newsweek.com/koran-does-not-forbid-images-prophe…

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Ganzeer. “Of Course, Blue Bra Lady” Silkscreen print, 2014. (2015.6.5)

 

Field Trip to the Cooper Hewitt Museum

Look out, New York City! A piece from our very own Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections has already been carefully packaged and placed on a truck bound for the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

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Bed. ca. 1885-1887. Designed by Lockwood De Forest. Manufactured by Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company. Chased brass over teak core, perforated copper. Gift of Mary Patterson McPherson, President of Bryn Mawr College, 1978-1997. Bryn Mawr College Collections. Photographed by Karen Mauch. (Deanery.454)

Our bronze nineteenth-century Indian headboard will be featured in one of the new exhibitions at the December 12, 2014 grand reopening of the Cooper Hewitt Museum, Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church.

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Opening Exhibitions at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in December 2014. From http://www.cooperhewitt.org/events/opening-exhibitions/. Accessed 23 October 2014.

 

The headboard is part of a set of two that were designed by American artist, Lockwood de Forest. De Forest is probably best known for his introduction of East Indian art to the American and European aesthetic in his role of a designer and importer of exotic goods. The headboard is one example of the many pieces created by the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company in India and exported to New York for de Forest’s business. The headboard is made of chased brass and perforated copper panels decorated with East Indian floral and animal motifs over a teak wood frame.

The headboard made its way to Bryn Mawr College by way of Mary Elizabeth Garrett, who purchased the headboard from de Forest for her Baltimore home. In 1904 Garrett left Baltimore to live with her partner, M. Carey Thomas, at Bryn Mawr College. Garrett brought a large quantity of her furniture with her, including the headboard. The headboard is just one of many examples of de Forest at Bryn Mawr College, as he worked closely with Garrett and Thomas from 1894-1909 decorating and furnishing a large portion of their campus home in the College Deanery. While the College Deanery no longer stands, de Forest’s work remains part of the college’s collections and can be viewed online on TriArte, the art and artifacts database of Bryn Mawr’s special collections.

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Beds in Mary E. Garrett’s Bedroom, Deanery, Bryn Mawr College. February 9, 1968. Photographed by Karl A. Dimler. (PAB_Deanery_072)

De Forest’s East Indian aesthetic designs, as well as the work of his former teacher Frederic Church, are the subject of the exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt museum. The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to view our headboard alongside other pieces designed by de Forest. In addition, the Cooper Hewitt Museum is located in the former residence of Andrew Carnegie, who commissioned de Forest to decorate his library in his signature East Indian style, which remains part of the museum’s collection today.

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Family Library in the Andrew Carnegie House, New York, 1898-1901. Designed by Lockwood De Forest. Image from the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York and the Museum of the City of New York, New York. Published in Roberta A. Mayer, Lockwood de Forest: Furnishing the Gilded Age with a Passion for India (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008) p. 168, fig. 148.

This exhibition will provide an exciting opportunity to see a piece of Bryn Mawr College history embedded in a broader narrative of international design.

The Cooper Hewitt Museum has announced December 12, 2014 as the date of their grand re-opening.

Friday Finds on Halloween – spooky books, costume contest, and treats!

eerieBookOctober is upon us, and this can mean only one thing: Halloween celebrations beckon! For our part, the staff in Special Collections has brought together a spooky selection of books and art objects to thrill and delight in the Halloween edition of Friday Finds. This eerie assortment will be open to view and handle on Friday, October 31st, from 3:00-4:00 pm in Room 205 of Canaday Library. You’ll see books that we’ve organized into four categories: Masks and Fancy Dress; Witchcraft and Demons; the Living, the Dead, and the Undead; and Monsters! There will be a costume contest (details forthcoming) and a small selection of treats to follow.

As a teaser, one of the books that you will be able to look through is Fancy Dresses Described: or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls, by Ardern Holt, published in 1884. It is a detailed, illustrated handbook on fancy dress for the discerning Victorian woman. Alphabetized and cross-referenced for easy reference, this book outlines what exactly a society dame would need, for example, to assemble a costume representing an aquarium:

Fashionable evening dress of blue and green tulle, trimmed with marine plants and ornamented with fish and shells, the octopus on one side of the skirt; veil of green tulle; hair floating on shoulders. (p. 16)

Hornet costume pictureThose readers who need more than mere description will be delighted to find colored lithographs, such as this depiction of a Hornet costume (which is much akin to the Spelling Bee costume), and monochrome line drawings. These illustrations are liberally scattered among costumes which range from the abstract (Harvest) to the deeply specific (Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III of England). We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.

Keep a look out in the upcoming weeks for sneak peeks of a few more of the items you’ll be able to peruse at the event and more details on the event itself.

Patrick Crowley, Rare Books Catalog Librarian

Recent Donation of Prints

This semester, John and Joanne Payson rounded off a year of exceptional generosity by donating a collection of twentieth-century prints and print portfolios to Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections.

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Teddo, Paul Cadmus, 1985, Lithograph, 9 7/8” x 10 ½” (2014.11.6)

The donation followed a substantial loan of American art used to form the student-curated exhibition, “A Century of Self-Expression: Modern American Art in the Collection of John and Joanne Payson,” which will hang in the Class of 1912 Rare Book Room of Canaday Library until June 1, 2014. The students, members of the 360° course cluster “Exhibiting Modern Art,” had the opportunity to work closely with the Paysons on the exhibition and accompanying publications, programs, and special events. The course cluster blog at http://modernart360.blogs.brynmawr.edu/ tells the story of this amazing year in the voices — and with the images — of the students.

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Lion of Prague, Jack Levine, 1982, Etching and Aquatint, 11 1/8” x 9” (2014.11.10)

The recent donation includes work by Jack Levine, Isabel Bishop and Paul Cadmus, who are all featured prominently in “A Century of Self-Expression,” as well as by Doris Rosenthal, Ben Shahn, and Bernarda Bryson Shahn. Like many of the works in the exhibition, the prints appeal largely to a realistic style of representation that persisted alongside more radical and experimental visual trends that are often thought to characterize twentieth-century art. The prints cover a wide range of subjects, including portraits, political, mythological, and biblical stories, and scenes of modern city life.

It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with  Paysons and especially to catch up with Joanne, who received both her AB and MA from Bryn Mawr College. The new prints will serve as a source of interest and inspiration for students involved in the recent exhibition and for future generations of Bryn Mawr scholars.

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Pygmalion, Jack Levine, 1977, Lithograph, 19 1/2” x 12 1/2” (2014.11.1)

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Portfolio of Eight Etching 1927-1934, Isabel Bishop, 1989, Etching 14 ½” x 11 ½” (2014.11.11.a-j)