Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Recent Installation: Arrangement in Pink and Gray

Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea), 1894 Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862–1938) Gift of Howard Freeman, in honor of Esther Freeman, 1995.73
Right: Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea), 1894 Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862–1938) Gift of Howard Freeman, in honor of Esther Freeman, 1995.73

The Museum recently installed an important painting by Edmund Charles Tarbell in its American decorative arts gallery. Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea) was one of the artist’s most celebrated works, winning the Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy of Design in 1894, and the Temple Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1895.

Arrangement in Pink and Gray illustrates Tarbell’s preference for a limited palette of soft, muted colors. He greatly admired the paintings of James McNeill Whistler, who often titled his works as though they were musical compositions—calling them arrangements, nocturnes, symphonies—to draw attention to their harmonies of color and tone. (His Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, also in this gallery, is one such example.) Tarbell quite pointedly adopted these color concerns in his Arrangement in Pink and Gray, even borrowing Whistler’s titling strategy to highlight his aesthetic influence.

Browse the Worcester Art Museum collections online

- Elizabeth Athens, Assistant Curator of American Art

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wonder Woman in Knights!

Knights! explores the mythic dimension of the knight as a superhero, leading to our exciting inclusion of Batman in the exhibition. Batman, the Dark Knight, uses power for good, but we are still left with the dilemma that arms and armor—weapons—empower a patriarchal, often violent, culture, a fact that we have explored in the photojournalism displays within Knights!

This year we decided to present a female superhero by adding a Wonder Woman comic. We soon discovered in the recent bestseller by Jill Lepore, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, that Wonder Woman’s development was fascinating, including roots in the early 20th-century women’s movement. In the comic currently on view, Wonder Woman epitomizes the mythological struggle between Venus and Mars, the gods of love and war, and between women and men.

 Created by William Moulton Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman is the most popular woman superhero of all time, a feminist icon inspired by the women in Marston’s life. Marston collaborated with his wife Sadie Holloway in developing the lie detector test. Marston and Holloway lived in an extended relationship with Olive Byrne, collectively raising the children of both couples. Byrne was the niece of another influential woman in Marston’s world, Margaret Sanger, an early 20th-century proponent of free love and voluntary motherhood, and the founder of the modern birth control movement.

Like most superheroes, Wonder Woman has weapons, but they are mostly non-lethal, like her bracelets and her lasso (which compels truth telling, like Marston’s lie detector test!). Her Amazon bracelets bring to mind early suffragettes who shackled themselves to the railings of government buildings. In the comic currently on view in Knights!, Wonder Woman warns that “violence is a boomerang turning against you.”

Wonder Woman ties together various threads in our approach to arms and armor, encapsulating questions of gender and violence explored in the comic book and in the historic armor on display in Knights! She introduces a female point of view, opposing the militarism and violence of traditional patriarchy in ways that emphasize love and nonviolence. Additionally, Wonder Woman, like Batman, makes clear the connection to today’s pop culture, bridging centuries-old arms and armor to the contemporary imagination.

Learn more about the exhibition Knights!

- Marcia Lagerwey, Curator of Education

Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 Studio Classes Faculty Exhibition

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by faculty members of the Studio Class Programs department from April 8 – May 18, 2015. The 2015 Faculty Exhibition presents the work of 22 artists who currently teach at the Museum in the areas of painting, sculpture, graphic design, mixed media, printmaking, and photography. The exhibition features a wide range of visual practices, spanning many genres and media.

As working professional artists and educators who balance their own art making with teaching at WAM, the faculty exhibition allows students, the community, and the public the opportunity to experience the diversity of approaches each artist employ. WAM’s Class Programs faculty is a strong and diverse group, exploring a range of traditional and contemporary mediums and themes.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.
The Higgins Education Wing is open Sunday–Saturday, 9am–5pm.

Click here for more information about WAM faculty and classes

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Friday, April 3, 2015

On View: Abraham Lincoln Photograph

To mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War on April 9, 1865, the Museum has placed on display its only photograph of Abraham Lincoln, which shows the president posed with Union troops at Antietam.

The photographer of the plate, Alexander Gardner, was known for taking some of the most affecting images of the war. The realities of camp life and the carnage of the battlefield were among his many subjects, but he was perhaps most recognized for his portraits of Lincoln. The Museum’s plate was one of a hundred photographs included in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865–66), an illustrated, two-volume work intended as a history of the conflict and its aftermath. Curiously, Gardner made no mention in the book of the president’s assassination on April 14, 1865—less than a week after the war’s end—and instead portrayed him towering over his soldiers, still very much alive.

View the photograph on the second floor outside the Knights! gallery.

Browse the Worcester Art Museum collections online

- Elizabeth Athens, Assistant Curator of American Art

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