The Spirit of Afghanistan: Carpets of War and Hope

October 29-December 18, 2009

In traditional Afghani carpet-weaving, patterns tended to be geometric or floral, reflecting the Islamic rejection of anthropomorphic depictions. However, by the mid-1980s, in response to the 1979 Soviet invasion, Afghani weavers, principally women, were creating carpets that showed Russian tanks, helicopters and guns. The subtle geometric borders often contained rows of bullets and grenades. Most recently, these war carpets have included references to the American conflict and even to 9/11. Although many of the carpets have Arabic or Persian woven into their designs, the Afghani who created them found a market for these rugs in the West. In part this may be for their presumed anti-war sentiments but also, while the rugs are generally traditional in design and relatively inexpensive, they are nonetheless a contemporary artistic expression of a centuries-old craft.

In this exhibition of over fifty contemporary Afghan carpets showing both war and traditional designs, the rugs offer a commentary on modern Afghanistan history and, in their maintenance of a vibrant tradition, a measure of hope for the future.

This exhibition is funded in part by the University of Connecticut Human Rights Initiative.

Women’s Work, Women’s Dreams: A Century of Swedish Women’s Arts

September 24-December 18, 2009

A Lake in the Province of Dalarna, wool tapestry
A Lake in the Province of Dalarna, wool tapestry

“Work and dreamsthe two have long gone hand-in-hand for Swedish women artists as well as for women and men artists throughout the world,” Ann Charters writes in the introduction to Women’s Work, Women’s Dreams, the catalogue that accompanies the Benton’s exhibition of the same title.

But what were the dreams of the Swedish woman whose place was considered to be in the home or whose work was necessary to create a home for her family?

The works in this exhibition reflect the visions of Swedish women who broke from their traditional roles of women, mothers and homemakers to explore their creativity as textile designers, weavers, painters, sculptors and glass artists.

Their art resonates with dream-like images of free-flying birds evoking flight and escape from domestic confinement, year-round idyllic visions of midsummer blossoms, and spare Nordic landscapes filled with greenery, water, space and light.

Women’s Work, Women’s Dreams celebrates a remarkable legacy from a country whose art and artists are little known to American viewers. The Benton Museum is grateful to Samuel and Ann Charters for sharing their extraordinary collection of Swedish Art and Art Glass and for curating this exhibition.

The 44th Annual Art Department Faculty Exhibition

September 3-October 18, 2009

For artistic variety, contemporaneity and quality, the annual Art and Art History Department studio faculty exhibition excels. Painting, sculpture, illustration, graphic design, printmaking, photography and installation art are the dominant media. This year’s featured artists are Randall Hoyt, graphic design; Janet Pritchard, photography; and Mark Zurolo, graphic design.


Punch & Judy: Handpuppets, Politics & Humor

June 6 – August 9, 2009

George Cruikshank, illustration of a scene from Piccini's 1827 Punch and Judy show
George Cruikshank, illustration of a scene from Piccini’s 1827 Punch and Judy show

Punch and Judy have come to symbolize the world of puppet theater for many audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Known for their comic antics and Punch’s ever-present club, these puppets at first glance might appear to be benign and colorful entertainment for children. But a closer look at these twocharacters and their puppet brethren reveals a complex andoften contradictory world of comedy, mayhem, sex, violence, and politics.

Punch & Judy: Handpuppets, Politics & Humor explores the world of these classic characters and related realms of handpuppets and satire. It includes Punch and Judy handpuppet sets as well as Guignol and Kasperl puppets from France and Germany, and the Punch and Judy set used by the famed creator of queer theater, Charles Ludlam. In addition, there are handpuppets created by Rufus Rose to satirize Connecticut politicians, which Rose created while he was a Republican State Legislator and which he performed in the Connecticut State House.

This exhibition was curated by Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry director John Bell, with graduate assistants Stefano Brancato and Joseph Therrien.


A Touch of Humor

June 6 – August 9, 2009

A Touch of Humor explores the complex nature of humor. What amuses us? What roles do age, geography, cultural upbringing and personal experiences play in appreciating humor? While the exhibition includes works from the 19th century, it is the 20th century, particularly in American art, that encompasses a broad range of humorous expression. Adolf Dehn (1895-1968) is represented by several works, including his well-known satire of the scandalous 1912 painting September Morn. John Sloan’sReducing (1916) parodies the intentions of a young woman who exercises while her husband lies sleeping in bed. Norman Rockwell’s 1958 painting of a jockey Weighing In is featured. It and several other works were loaned to the Benton by the New Britain Museum of American Art.

It is hoped that A Touch of Humor will lift people’s spirits during these times and confirm that laughter is, indeed, the best medicine.

Philibert-Louis Debucourt, Le Coup de Vent, after C. Vernet, 1816, color etching and aquatint
Philibert-Louis Debucourt, Le Coup de Vent, after C. Vernet, 1816, color etching and aquatint
Adolf Dehn, Great God Pan, 1940, color silk screen. Gift of Andrew and Andrea Lowe
Adolf Dehn, Great God Pan, 1940, color silk screen. Gift of Andrew and Andrea Lowe


Apperceptions: Master of Fine Arts Exhibition 2009

April 4 – May 10, 2009

The William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut is pleased to present the works of the 2009 Master of Fine Arts degree candidates in an exhibition entitled apperceptions. The public is invited to meet the artists at a reception in their honor on Friday, April 3, 5-7:30 pm. The exhibition is on view April 4 through May 10.

Michael Donovan, a sculptor and printmaker, was born in Bridgeport, and currently resides in Naugatuck, Connecticut. In 2005 he received his Bachelor of Science degree in studio art with an emphasis in sculpture from Southern Connecticut State University where he received the Third Annual Olafs Zeidenbergs Award. Donovan’s work was included in “The Lasso Project” at Art Space in New Haven in 2007 and has appeared in several exhibitions in the New Haven and Storrs area.
Artist Statement: I create sculptural implements fixed in mid-function as absurd monuments. Using wood and steel, my work embodies both the structure and utility of a tool as it acts upon itself. The physical task that each piece performs creates tension and potential energy within the work that is never released. Each piece performs a designated task with no true purpose other than sustaining the level of energy generated within it. Interacting within each piece structural elements become dependent on one another, maintaining a senseless state of permanence. By perpetually engaging tool with task my sculptural objects become self- contained events.

 Bruce Myren, photographer and sculptor, has had his landscape photography featured in solo shows at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, MA and Gallery Kayafas, in Boston. His solo exhibition “The 40th Parallel and Other Adventures” will appear at the Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography in summer 2009. He has shown in group exhibitions at the Lillian Immig Gallery at Emmanuel College, the University of Connecticut’s William Benton Museum of Art, and the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design. An artist in the Art in Embassies Program and an instructor at the New England Institute of Art in Boston, he has presented at College Art Association and Society of Photographic Education conferences. Myren earned his Bachelor of Fine Art with Departmental Honors from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Artist Statement : In my photographic work, I document a variety of arbitrary points of human measurement and the landscapes found at their intersections. I often create rules whether geographical, mathematical, historical, or memory-basedgoverning my choice of or approach to a site in order to make a series of photographs. This method stems from my interest in maps and mapping, and takes inspiration from earlier photographic and conceptually-based practices. By measuring, coordinating, and locating myself within the world, my work has naturally progressed from documenting universally recognized notions associated with location to addressing more intimate connections with place and home.
Jacob Saunders, printmaker, was born in Muncie, Indiana in 1984. A visual storyteller working in a variety of two-dimensional media, Jake harkens back to narrative conventions of rural America to tell true-life tales of contemporary tragedy. He received his Bachelor of Fine Art and a Master of Arts degree in printmaking from Ball State University. He has exhibited in a variety of venues in the Midwest and Northeast and internationally in London and India. Jake currently lives in harmony among small predatory mammals in Ashford, Connecticut.
Artist Statement: My work is storytelling. Narrative and musical traditions of the Ozarks, Appalachians, English broadside ballads and Delta blues all inform my work. I communicate tragic narratives while exploring the nature of narrative itself, such as the qualities that emerge through repetition. The threads prevalent in these traditions are passed on without a sense of authorship, and no two versions of the same story are identical. Retelling an original story, whether it is based in fact or fiction, simultaneously expands and focuses its meanings and implications. My work emulates tendencies inherent in narrative’s history of repetition; I use printmaking’s unique capacity for seriality and multiplicity to compose a set of elements and create several versions of the same account that, like the story on which they are based, originate in reality. In this way, I explore the grey area between fact and fiction that every chronicle occupies.
Elizabeth Talbot was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Arlington Virginia. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2006 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond where she received the Anderson Ranch Brooks Fellowship Award. She has exhibited in numerous shows in the Richmond and Connecticut area, including Plant Zero and at the Dakshina Chitra Gallery in Panjim, India.
Artist Statement: Through my paintings and installations, I search for new realities that turn ideas on their heads and break down preconceived notions. I picture my own fantastical land, mixing media and methods. Emulating children’s play, I learn by way of exploration. I paint, print, and sculpt, often combining approaches to discover new synergies. Collaging elements in my work allows for changing contexts. Recently, deep-sea animal imagery appears as a metaphor for that which has yet to be explored. My fish and other characters live in a land with its own language that offers expansive interpretations of existence.
Elizabeth Talbot, "Squid Falling on Language" Acrylic on paper 72"x55" 2009
Elizabeth Talbot, “Squid Falling on Language” Acrylic on paper 72″x55″ 2009
Erin Wiersma was born in Somerville, New Jersey. She received her Bachelor of Art degree from Messiah College with concentrations in Painting and Drawing. She also studied at Instituto Lodovico in Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Wiersma’s work was recently exhibited in New England and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as internationally in the Coast to Coast exhibit at Dakshina Chitra Gallery, Chennai, India and Ruchika’s Art Gallery, Panjim, India. In 2007, she exhibited her work in a solo show at Hampden Gallery, Amherst, Massachusetts.
Artist Statement: Figuration is the foundation of my paintings. Having begun with observed form, my current work seeks the transcendent and intangible aspects of what makes up the human being, using myself as point of reference. When I paint, I seek to maintain a meditative-like state in which I’m present and in the moment, experiencing what T.S. Eliot calls “a still point of the turning world.” Freed from ordinary time, I give myself a place to ask questions and search for assurance; painting on large surfaces, engaging the scale of my whole body, I use my physical energy and materials to catch a glimmer of something ineffable beyond myself. Tracing my body’s movements, I generate a language of marks across a ground, leaving physical evidence of my presence, residues of energy transcribed over time as lyrical passages. In the sum of these marks, I discover a confluence of the spiritual and the material.

The Heywood Legacy: Twenty Years of Costumes for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre

March 17 – May 10, 2009

talbotIn England, they call Judy Heywood’s job “Costume Interpretation,” a term that aptly describes what she has done for the Connecticut Repertory Theatre for more than twenty years. She has taken two-dimensional drawings by MFA Costume Design students and turned them into three-dimensional sculptures, filling the gaps between reality and renderings, helping to choose the correct fabric to achieve the right drape, and creating the most appropriate style lines for the period and the performer’s physique while respecting the role each costume plays in a production.

Anatomically Correct: Medical Illustrations, 1543-2008

March 17 – May 10, 2009

The Benton’s contribution to the University-wide “Year of Science 2009” celebration is an exhibition that chronicles the history of medical illustration through a selection of prints, drawings, computer graphics and animation from the 16th century to the present. Each piece articulates a unique union of art, anatomy and medicine, the works together reflecting the ways that union has evolved over the centuries and continues to thrive in an era of digital photography and 3-D imaging.

The works in Anatomically Correct come out of a pictorial tradition that was set in motion by the Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564). He conducted his dissections firsthand, breaking away from the longstanding authority of classical texts by relying on direct observation. He similarly reformed scientific illustration by insisting upon anatomical accuracy and precision for the plates in his pivotal work, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) of 1543. These illustrations by the artist John Van Calcar divided the field of scientific illustration into “pre-Vesalian” and “post-Vesalian” periods. With Vesalius’s brilliant integration of image and text, illustration began to serve a crucial function in the communication of scientific information, initiating the role of scientific illustration as a record of the progress of science in general.

Along with Vesalius’s contributions, Anatomically Correct highlights significant post-Vesalian developments that carried his vision into the present. Illustrations from William Hunter’s The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus (1774) played a vital role in establishing obstetrics as a field of medicine rather than a practice of midwives. A major advancement in print technology is represented by color lithography in Jean Marc Bourgery’s Atlas of Anatomy (1831–1854). A shift in the role of illustration from works of art in themselves to didactic tools can be seen in Henry Gray’s Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical (1858), and the increased role of the computer in contemporary illustration is evidenced in the 3-D animation of the Connecticut-based XVIVO studio.

In a discipline we associate with objectivity and empiricism, the works in the exhibition consistently reveal themselves to be products of their respective social climates. Ideological and social conventions inevitably come through in the illustrations as anatomists and artist catered to their audience’s desire to see the body represented morally, socially, theologically.

Anatomically Correct commemorates the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. The exhibition is particularly relevant to this moment of celebration as a reflection on the advancement in the field of anatomy as a basis for the theory of evolution and as an acknowledgement of the role of art as critical to the way these advancements were visualized.

Exhibition curated by Eve Perry, M.A. candidate, Art History, 2009.


The Form of the Thorax..., color lithograph from Joseph Maclise, Surgical Anatomy, Philadelphia, 1851. Hartford Medical Library.
The Form of the Thorax…, color lithograph from Joseph Maclise, Surgical Anatomy, Philadelphia, 1851. Hartford Medical Library.


Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), Skeleton Contemplating a Skull from De Humani Corporis Fabrica, 1543. Lent by the Hartford Medical Society.
Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), Skeleton Contemplating a Skull from De Humani Corporis Fabrica, 1543. Lent by the Hartford Medical Society.


¡Merengue! Visual Rhythms / Ritmos Visuales

January 20–March 6, 2009

Jacinto Domnguez, Perico Ripiao, ca. 1980-1985, oil on canvas
Jacinto Domnguez, Perico Ripiao, ca. 1980-1985, oil on canvas
Jos Morillo, Viva el Merengue, 2003. Oil on canvas. 39.4' x 29.4' Coleccin Juan Julio Bodden, Santo Domingo
Jos Morillo, Viva el Merengue, 2003. Oil on canvas. 39.4′ x 29.4′ Coleccin Juan Julio Bodden, Santo Domingo

¡Merengue! Visual Rhythms is the first exhibition to explore the historical role merengue has played as a fundamental cultural axis, a form of communication and a symbol in the visual arts of the Dominican Republic.

These forty works include paintings, works on paper, photographs, sculpture, video, and popular graphics that span the 20th century and examine the evolving artistic styles practiced by Dominican artists to celebrate the island’s most important musical and dance form.

Tracing the tradition of merengue and its intersections with the visual arts, this exhibition translates the energy and festivity of the beloved national music through depictions of both traditional rural celebrations and more contemporary scenes. Ultimately, merengue is seen as a central element in the life and culture of the island. An illustrated timeline relates the featured art to important events in Dominican history.

This exhibition was organized by Centro Cultural Eduardo León Jimenes in Santiago, Dominican Republic, curated by Sara Hermann, and organized for tour by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.