Celebrating the Wellin’s 10th Anniversary
By Miriam Lerner
The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art was founded in 2012 as a teaching museum, meant to encourage and provide access to its wideranging collection of art, artifacts, and objects. Throughout its ten years , the Wellin Museum has acquired 2,000 objects, hosted 31 visiting artists and curators, toured 528 Hamilton classes, and mounted 35 exhibitions. Though the number of objects is spectacular, each item was selected carefully as a teaching tool and as a meaningful addition to the permanent collection. In similar fashion, the Wellin both learns from and contributes to the visiting artists it hosts. Rather than serving simply a transactional role, the Wellin becomes a part of each artist’s story, “supporting, collaborating and growing their talent” (Interview with Tracy Adler, 09/20/22). The museum launched its student docent program in 2013, which provides the opportunity for Hamilton students to give tours, interact directly with visiting artists, plan events for their peers, and even develop new initiatives (including this magazine). Most fundamentally, it has provided a space for the Hamilton community to explore the world of art and its expansive possibilities.
This year’s exhibition: Dialogues Across Disciplines: Building a Teaching Collection at the Wellin Museum of Art serves as a multifaceted representation of the Wellin’s collection, its purpose, and its approach. All together, it highlights 146 works of art, including photography, prints, paintings, sculptures, and video, as well as works of art that incorporate multiple mediums. It also encompasses artworks from each of the past solo exhibitions, including works by Yashua Klos, Elias Sime, Julia Jacquette, Michael Rakowitz, and Yun-Fei Ji. In order to put together such an immense exhibition, Johnson-Pote Director Tracy Adler and Assistant Curator of Exhibitions and Academic Outreach Alexander Jarman worked tirelessly and collaboratively to assemble a cohesive selection of the Wellin’s permanent collection, taking into account the items frequently requested by students and faculty, as well as the artworks most significant to the Wellin’s story. Certain artworks chosen were donated or created by alumni, exemplifying the impact of the museum throughout its first ten years. The ensemble of artworks included in the exhibition were chosen to be representative of the collection as a whole. Overall, the exhibition displays the immense breadth of the Wellin’s perma nent collection, and exhibits the fundamental qualities of the museum’s mission.
The exhibition exemplifies the vast array of disciplines and interests found by Hamilton students and faculty, and encourages all members of the Hamilton community to engage and transform it. Following the Wellin’s roots as a teaching museum, many of the wall labels found in the exhibition have been, and will con tinue to be, written by Hamilton faculty and students. As Director Tracy Adler explains: “We’re looking for artworks that are multifaceted: that can be taught by different faculty, that will have different points of interest for students, that will talk about history, that will talk about science, that will talk about poli tics or the environment, but that have a lot of different access points.” In this way, visitors contribute their own knowledge and experience to the exhibition, constantly molding it to reflect the existing Hamilton Community. The exhibition showcases two artworks created through the Wellin’s Creative Commission series. Artists Donté K. Hayes and Akea Brionne both worked collaboratively with the Wellin, conducting research and speaking with Hamilton staff and faculty to ultimately produce two new artworks. Donté K. Hayes worked for several months sculpting in Hamilton’s ceramics studio, as well as studying the Wellin’s collection of Native American basketry, to produce a ceramic work entitled Protector. Akea Brionne explores her own heritage and experiences of freedom for Black women in America in her work: Long May She Wave; Lady Liberty, an archival inkjet print and cotton fabric panel. Through this series, new artists are encouraged to explore the possibilities of making art while working cooperatively alongside the Wellin museum, its staff, and Hamilton faculty.
This exhibition serves to remind visitors of the different exhibitions hosted throughout the years, as well as to provide an opportunity to understand and reflect on the role of the Wellin Museum. As Tracy Adler states: “It gives people real in sight into some of the things that aren’t as evident in solo shows.” This show connects and illuminates the many parts of the Wellin: from its collection, to the exhibitions it has mounted, to its architecture, and f finally to its educational mission and its community.
1. Francesca DiMattio. Head and Mask #13, 2009. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 23 × 17 7/8 in. (58.4 × 45.4 cm). Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Gift of Stephen Hanson. © Francesca DiMattio 2. William E. Williams. Untitled, 1979 (Published 1985). Gelatin silver print, 14 1/4 × 14 1/4 in. (36.2 × 36.2 cm). Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Gift of Tom Beck. ©William Earle Williams 3. Julia Jacquette. The Mouths of Four Gorgons, 2014. Oil on linen, 48 1/8 × 48 1/8 in. (122.2 × 122.2 cm). Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Purchase, William G. Roehrick ‘34 Art Acquisition and Preservation Fund. © Julia Jacquette
Photo by Janelle Rodriguez
By Sae Gleba
Br spanned the possibilities of the genre. He has worked with digital effects, created music videos with Be yonce and Britney Spears, produced skateboarding videos and documentaries and filmed the Wellin Mu seum’s exhibiting artists behind the scenes. His work has brought him all around the world, to 35 countries across six continents (Antarctica is next on his list). Along the way he has met hundreds of people, many of whom have become subjects of his films. Throughout his career and travels, Novak has honed the skill of storytelling through his entire process – filming, interviewing, and editing. He knows how to ask just the right questions to get the most honest answers, even across language barriers. His career, however, was ignited by an unlikely subject – his skateboard. Brett Novak grew up skateboarding around the west Chicago suburb where he was born and raised. Skate boarding and filmmaking naturally collided for him in his teenage years when he first picked up a film camera and started filming skateboarding. “It became my constant practice,” Novak recounts. “It’s like if you do self portraits or something else artistic and then through the years you come back and revisit the same idea, but you get better at it over time until you really focus on the big conceptual things you want. That ‘thing’ might still be that self portrait, but skateboarding was that thing for me. I just love shooting it.”
Novak’s work quickly grew in popularity amongst skateboarding enthusiasts, many of whom praised his cinematography and style. Soon, he was getting funding to travel across the world and shoot skateboarding videos in addition to shooting commissioned work for organizations, speaking to and in terviewing people around the world for his projects. This eventually brought him to work with the Wellin Museum in 2015.
“I didn’t expect to be treated like an artist,” Novak shared. “I think that’s something that I really ap preciate with the Wellin, how they’re incredibly hands off in a very constructive way with the artist. Because my background is in working in movies and commercials where everybody is involved. And even if you are the person who knows what they’re doing, everybody questions it and they have to get involved. I didn’t really realize what the art industry is like… where they [the Wellin Museum curators] trust in the artist.”
Novak’s style is undeniably seen in the short films he produces for the Wellin. He uses some of the same artistic elements he incorporates in his skate films, from sweeping slow motion shots of artworks and per fectly incorporated music to his organic and vulnerable interviews with artists. “The process is extremely intimate because I don’t just show up, shoot interviews and leave. When I shoot these films, I spend like a week to two weeks with them. I come in and I don’t shoot the interview right away. I always push the interview towards the latter part of the process because I spend the week to two weeks getting to know them on a friendly basis. So that when I go into the interview, I have talking points that I’ve learned throughout my time there and stuff that really actually excites them and not just the same written articles about them again and again and again. The film you’re watching is also a process of me getting to know them, which is cool. I get to document my own learning experience.”
Novak’s most recent project for the Wellin commemorates the museum’s tenth anniversary. It incorporated interviews from over ten artists in addition to museum staff and cinematography from many recent exhibitions. The film is a true testament to the connections Novak has made with both the artists and the Wellin itself. Starting out, Novak had over thirteen hours of recorded interviews and hundreds of hours of footage from exhibitions, all to be cut down to a 35 minute premiere. How did he do it? “It was a lot of work.” Novak shares, “A huge portion of the film is archival because I wasn’t here. And so these shows, some of them are ten years old, and so I had to go through all of the Wellin’s files and try to find all these photos and download everything I could possibly find. At the start, I didn’t know how anything connected to each other.” Novak crafts a dialogue about the Wellin and how the museum engaged with each of the artists, revisiting the Wellin’s exhibiting artists today with new interviews “Of course I have my questions that I have for the interview… But again, it’s an organic conversation. It’s all over the place. So then I started to see in almost every interview… that they talked extensively about this experience [at the Wellin] and how it was so new to them.”
Like Novak normally does, we too had questions prepared for the interview. But quickly, our con versation shifted away from the cut-and-dry questions and answers we expected and into something far more open and natural than we expected. We joked about bad interview strategies, from reading straight from a script to writing down word for word everything said. We talked about music, a passion of Novak’s, about our favorite artists and musicians; Mac Miller, Arlo Parks, and Harry Styles being some we all love. We chatted about travel plans and past trips, but ultimately, we came away knowing more about Novak as a person. Interviewing the interviewer seems pretty stressful, yet gives us a new perspective and under standing of how an interview works. In the same way as Novak, we too were able to document our own learning experience through our conversation, coming away knowing Novak beyond his work.
Brett Novak’s Wellin Artists Reflect at 10 years can be seen one the Wellin Museum’s Youtube Channel and Website.
Photographs, paintings, posters, ticket stubs and per sonal memorabilia adorn the walls of Hamilton stu dents’ rooms, transforming sterile and empty dorms into colorful and individualized spaces. For many, choosing dorm decor is a form of self expression, mak ing their tiny space into their home for a year. We want ed to see how docents decorate their spaces, whether it be with art, pictures, trinkets, trash, anything! Like MTV’s Welcome to my Crib, we bring you What’s on My Wall! Hope you enjoy poking around as much as we did!
“I really feel at home with a lot of stuff going on,” says Surya, a senior at Hamilton and do cent and student liaison assistant at the Wellin Museum. Surya goes for a colorful minimalist look, one curated over the years, a collection of posters, letters, cards and art. In all, her room is full of memories, color, and expression.
“I would really define my style as a pack rat with access to paper tape.” Henry, a senior at Hamilton and docent at the Wellin Museum, was really inspired by both his roommate’s lack of decor and his work at the Letterpress studio on campus. “I save every scrap of paper,” says Henry, “then I decide if it’s ‘wall worthy’or not.”
“Decorating my room feels like scrapbooking,” says Anna, a junior at Hamilton and docent at the Wellin museum. Anna’s room is filled with letters her mom sends her, artworks by Georgia O’Keeffe and Hilma
Af Klint, prints she made at the Wellin opening of Our Labour last semester and more. “I like hanging things I love looking at on my walls,” Anna shares, “and I love when the light comes in through my shades and makes the whole room fill with crazy shadows.”
Jason Stopa. A New Harmony, 2021. Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm). Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Purchased with funds donated by Peter B. Fischer ‘63.
New York City and Washington, D.C. based artist Nate Lewis describes his work as exploring “history through patterns, textures, and rhythm.” Lewis, who trained and worked for many years as a nurse, is interested in the relationship between the layers of human existence and between the human “seen and unseen.” He represents the complexities of human existence and identity through his use of many textures, colors, and mediums. Each unique difference adds a layer to the portrayal of humanity. Lewis describes his medium, paper, as an “organism itself,” which embodies human experiences of love, life, music, and movement. In addition, he challenges the role of photography, incorporating what is normally understood as a static me dium into a movemented artwork. He also plays with the idea of what is unseen in his process and technique. Not only the subject, but also the medium itself is layered; a representation of the multiplicity of identity.
Orchestra in the Valley explores the complexities that link music, dance, and human connection, while also engaging with the history and meaning of capoeira. Capoeira is a traditional kind of mar tial arts developed by enslaved people in Brazil. It was created as a means to disguise martial arts (fighting) with dance, thus combining the two ele ments. Both an artistic inspiration and a tradition Lewis practices himself, capoeira allows for a rep resentation of Black bodies that is both beautiful and meaningful. Through his artwork, he aims to give more to Black people to compensate for what he was able to give while working in a racially prejudiced medical system. This work also exper iments with the viewing experience to provide a multifaceted understanding of human perception. While observing the work, different angles will illuminate various elements, including otherwise unseen colors and textures. These elements and the added elements of dance and music create the sense that the print itself follows the motion of its subjects. The viewer adds their own interpretation to the work by drawing from their own unique and personal experiences.
By Miriam Lerner
Nate Lewis. Orchestra in the Valley, 2021. Hand sculpted inkjet print, ink, frottage, graphite, colored pencil sticks, 69 3/4 in. × 43 in. Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Purchase, William G. Roehrick ’34 Art Acquisition and Preservation Fund. © Nate Lewis, courtesy of the artist and Fridman Gallery.
Collage Kit 1. Cut out the artworks from the Wellin collection on the back of this page 2. Arrange them- get creative! Think about colors, patterns, or shapes that you like together 3. Paste on the back cover or on your own piece of paper 4. Hang on your wall and share with us! @wellinmuseum on Instagram All works of art listed below are in the collection of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. 1. Elliott Erwitt. Hippie Couple, from the series Corning, New York, Unknown date. 19 7/8 x 16 in. (50.5 x 40.6 cm ). Gift of Richard Harris. © Elliott Erwitt 2. Unknown artist. Model of the surviving columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, likely late 19th century. Bronze, 4 1/2 × 2 × 1/2 in. (11.4 × 5.1 × 1.3 cm). Gift of Charles E. Allison, Class of 1870. Copyright estate of the artist or assignee. 3. Unknown artist. Constance Moore, cover page for Sunday News,1941. Color rotogravure, 15 1/2 × 11 3/4 in. (39.4 × 29.8 cm). 4. Unknown Artist. Fragment of a statue of Aphrodite Anadyomené, c. 200-30 BCE. Parian marble, 4 1/2 in. × 1 3/4 in. × 1 in. (11.4 × 4.4 × 2.5 cm). Bequest of Edward S. Burgess, Class of 1879, H1904. This artwork is in the public domain. 5. Henry Stubble. James Baillie Esq., 1860. Oil on canvas, 13 5/8 × 11 5/8 in. (34.6 × 29.5 cm). Transfer from Hamilton College Special Collections. This artwork is in the public domain. 6. Emily Mason. Soft the Sun, 1989. Color liftground and softground etching with aquatint, 27 1/4 x 22 1/4 in (69.2 x 56.5 cm.) © Emily Mason/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. 7. André Masson, Dame au Tournesol, 1970. Lithograph, 23 in. × 17 1/2 in. (58.4 × 44.5 cm). Gift of Elbert Lenrow, Class of 1923. © Estate of the Artist c/o Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), 536 Broad way, Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10002. 8. J. S. G. Boggs. Bill from Kinetic Century Concept, 1987. Dollar bill with ink, 2 9/16 × 6 1/8 in. (6.5 × 15.6 cm). Gift of Professor Franklin A. Sciacca. 9. Harry De Maine. Beginning of Fall, Oriskany Creek, Unknown date. Watercolor on paper, 10 x 12 1/2 in. (25.4 x 31.8 cm). Gift of Robert B. Demaine © Harry De Maine.