Recent Acquisitions: 2019

The Lunder Collection 

The scope of the Lunder Collection expanded and deepened in 2019. The addition of works by Cecilia Beaux, Elizabeth Catlett, Rebecca Salsbury Strand James, and Carrie Mae Weems continue to diversify the holdings. Issues of identity and race are addressed in Catlett’s sensitive green marble sculpture Sister (1971) and Weems’s probing silver print with text Magenta Colored Girl (1997). The Lunder Collection also welcomed the exquisite painting on glass New England Still Life (c. 1940) by James, an addition that complements the holdings in folk and modern art, and Beaux’s elegant society portrait Ethel Page as Undine (1885).

A number of notable prints entered the Lunder Collection last year. Three etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn, A Scholar in His Study (Faust) (1652), Christ Returning from The Temple with His Parents (1654), and Nude Woman Bathing Her Feet at a Brook (1658), exemplify the seventeenth-century Dutch artist’s naturalism and range of techniques and subject matter. The Old Master collection was further strengthened by an impression of Albrecht Dürer’s dramatic woodcut The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the 1511 Latin edition of the Apocalypse series. Katsushika Hokusai’s Poem by Kakinomoto Hitomaro (1835–36) is a woodblock print from One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse, a comical series of prints focused on the interplay of image and text and misinterpretations of classical Japanese poetry. The Whistler collection added Pickle Herring Wharf (1877), an etching depicting bustling commercial trade on London’s River Thames.

New Media Arts Consortium 

The Colby Museum along with several of its partners in the New Media Arts Consortium purchased two video artworks in 2019: An Ecstatic Experience (2015) by Ja’Tovia Gary, which features archival film footage transferred to video, and Lorna Simpson’s video projection Cloudscape (2004). These acquisitions exemplify our continued commitment to sharing with our audiences experimental film, interactive, and new media works that acknowledge a wide range of experiences including those represented by these contemporary Black women artists. Gary’s editing process weaves together the historical and the contemporary, reality and performance, to question how we respond to and understand interconnected moments in history. Viewers witness the contributions  of Alice Coltrane, Ruby Dee, Fannie Moore, Assata Shakur, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and experience emotional resonance in a variety of ways. In Cloudscape, the artist Terry Adkins stands in an empty room and whistles a tune as the space fills with fog. When the ditty is finished and his figure is entirely obscured, the clip begins to play backward: we see the clouds recede and hear the haunting melody in reverse. Played on a continuous loop, Cloudscape investigates familiarity, memory, and artifice by establishing a scene only to undo it, creating distance between a visual we can understand and an audio component that is rendered strange.

The Alex Katz Foundation

The Colby Museum acquired eleven works in 2019 through the generosity of the Alex Katz Foundation. A late Bob Thompson painting, St. John and the Island of Patmos (1965), will feature in the Colby-organized traveling retrospective Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine in summer 2021. Thompson, known for riotously colorful interpretations of Old Master paintings and biblical scenes, here uses simple lines to depict the author of the Book of Revelation.

The gift also includes an untitled 1940s painting by Alice Neel, a street scene showing people outside a market, likely in Neel’s neighborhood of Spanish Harlem. Neel was primarily a portrait artist, and the few urban landscapes she produced, when they feature people, often do so from a distance. This particular work is remarkable in that it is almost a group portrait, with each face and pose carefully rendered so as to reveal the subjects’ relationships.

Also acquired in 2019 is The Dakota from Just East of the Reservoir (1966) by Rackstraw Downes, an artist whose works—including Hathaway Shirts and Waterville Power & Light, on view during the 2019–20 academic year—have already catalyzed fruitful conversations about contemporary landscapes and changing definitions of the “natural.” The remainder of the paintings acquired through the Katz Foundation gift are New York Attic (1928), an early work by the modernist Stuart Davis, and works by Steve DiBenedetto, Emma McMillan, and Lauren Nickou.

Four sculptures acquired through the gift enhance the Museum’s holdings of Postminimalist and contemporary work. Alan Saret’s Nickel Network—100 Pair Span Measure (1979) exemplifies the artist’s attempts to draw in space with metal as he experimented in anti-form and process art. Lydia Benglis’s Sparkle Knot III (1972) represents another approach to abstraction from earlier in the decade; her colorful, glittering knot is corporeal and larger than life. The artist duo Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho created Orphaned in 2018 after observing children model for stock photos of bedroom furniture in Yiwu, China. The work, comprised of wooden stairs and rice paper drawing, interrogates the fleetingness of childhood and the surveillance networks that shape it. Rosebud (2016), a multimedia sculpture by Danish artist Peter Linde Busk, completes the group.

The Museum also expanded its holdings of work by Alex Katz, thanks to the continued support of the artist. David (2018) is a monumental double portrait of the artist David Salle, Katz’s longtime friend. The painting is consistent with Katz’s practice of memorializing his peers through his art, and will join other double and oversize portraits by the artist in our collection. Katz also gifted a complete edition of his Shoppers portfolio (2015), eighteen silkscreens depicting fashionable women; the portfolio was showcased in the windows of Barney’s New York in 2015. He also donated two maquettes for large sculptures and a number of preparatory sketches for the multi-panel Pas de Deux (1983), all of which provide insight into his artistic process.

Wabanaki Art

In 2019, the Museum’s holdings of Indigenous artwork expanded significantly in anticipation of, and in response to, the groundbreaking exhibition Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry. This show, a survey of contemporary art by the First Nations people of what are now Maine and Maritime Canada, was organized by an external team of largely Wabanaki curators and advisors and opened at the Museum in July 2019. It featured selections from a recent gift of sixty Wabanaki baskets. Assembled over decades by an anonymous scholar, this collection represents more than a century of historical and contemporary basketmaking by the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Abenaki. 

To mark the importance of Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry, the Museum also commissioned a sizable woven vessel from Jeremy Frey, one of the foremost Passamaquoddy craftspeople of his generation. Purchased with funds from the Bruce C. Drouin ’74 and Janet L. Hansen ’75 Maine Art Endowed Fund and Friends of Art, Color in Winter exemplifies the virtuosity that Wabanaki artists apply to traditional materials such as sweetgrass, ash, and porcupine quills. In recognition of the enormous impact of the show, master Penobscot basketmaker Theresa Secord donated one of her exhibited baskets in honor of her great-grandmother, Philomene Saulis Nelson.

To further expand the scope of Wabanaki cultural production represented in the collection, the curators collaborated with Museum staff to identify other acquisitions from the exhibition. With additional funds from the Bruce C. Drouin ’74 and Janet L. Hansen ’75 Maine Art Endowed Fund and Friends of Art, the Museum procured Gathering of Clans by acclaimed Penobscot stone sculptor Tim Shay. The purchase of Lonecloud Assembling with Spirits (2010), a mixed-media photograph by Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy, was made possible through the generous support of Drs. Linda Levy Fagenholz ’68 and S. Allen Fagenholz and the Bruce C. Drouin ’74 and Janet L. Hansen ’75 Maine Art Endowed Fund. The Fagenholzes also graciously underwrote the acquisition of Syliboy’s Woman on the Island (2010), a stunning acrylic on canvas that will resonate with other contemporary paintings in the galleries.

Works on Paper

In addition to a variety of prints added to the Lunder Collection, the Museum strengthened its holdings in photography and other works on paper through numerous generous gifts. Nearly three hundred vernacular photographs were donated by Peter J. Cohen, the majority of which were selected in collaboration with Colby faculty. Additional photographs are anticipated to join this collection through further faculty input, for an anticipated total of roughly five hundred photographs representing the extraordinary diversity of popular photography in the twentieth century. Comparably transformational was Frank Born’s gift of works by four leading Chinese photographers: Hong Hao, Zhang Huan, Wang Jingsong, and Cang Xin. Also this year, donations facilitated by Michael Mattis significantly expanded the Museum’s holdings in twentieth-century European and American photographs. A selection of photographs from Ansel Adams’s series capturing majestic Drakes Bay, California, were acquired through a donation from Bernard and Barbro Osher.

Augmenting the Museum’s folk art collection is an exemplary nineteenth-century paper cutting, a gift of Philip Ashley in honor of Doris Ashley and Ethan Thomas Ashley ’19. The Museum also received the Käthe Kollwitz lithograph Reflecting Woman (1934) from Steve and Linda Weitz in honor of Ellerton M. and Edith K. Jette Professor of Art Ankeney Weitz. Through a gift of Two Palms Press, New York, for the Terry Winters print collection, the Museum received Sometimes times (2017), a suite of twenty silkscreens by Winters accompanied by poems by Mark Melnicove. And a group of drawings and prints by Frank Moore, donated by the Gesso Foundation, includes his visionary Untitled (Peace Tree with Blue Streak Sky) (c. 1993) and a powerful untitled study made for Day Without Art, an international day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis. Finally, a purchase by the Art Department with resources from the Jere Abbott Acquisitions Fund made possible the acquisition of Wendy Red Star’s print series Crow Peace Delegation (2014).

PLEASE NOTE: Not all works in the Colby Museum collection are on view at any given time. If you have a question about works on view, please call 207-859-5600 prior to visiting.