Friday, September 25, 2009

Chester College holds an Open House

On October 3rd Chester College will host its first open house of the year from 10 AM to 2 PM. It is a great opportunity to explore the campus, see student work, learn about the degree programs offered, meet the faculty, and talk about financial aid opportunities. RSVP by going to and clicking the banner at the top of the page. Walk-ins are welcome but we do suggest that you RSVP.

Constructed Photographs: Darrell Matsumoto Exhibit

This October the Community College of Rhode Island will be hosting Constructed Photographs (1989 - 2009), an exhibition by Chester College faculty member Darrell Matsumoto. Matsumoto is both an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography, Media Arts and Design.

Matsumoto describes his work: “I attempt to make work that can engage and seduce, to report, to explicate. I am interested in making metaphors. I admire the elegance of haiku, however I am drawn to opera. If it were possible the synthesis of haiku and opera is the work I aspire to make.” This exhibition shows both elements, simplicity and color extravaganza through carefully constructed photographs.

Constructed Photographs opens on Thursday, October 1st, from 5 to 7 PM in the campus Art Gallery, with an artist talk to take place at 6 PM. The exhibition will be running through October 29th. For more information contact Viera Levitt,

Chester Fair Pictures

On September 12th members of the Chester College community helped the town of Chester celebrate their annual fair.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Poetic Connection: An Interview with Nancy Diessner

September 16 saw the opening of Nancy Diessner's gallery show Sabbatical Work, a series of prints exploring the connection between longing in man and nature. Diessner is faculty member at Chester College of New England, serving as a professor and the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies.

The series was started during Diessner's sabbatical and gradually developed into the series.
During that time she was able to work in studio without the pressures of teaching or business. By her own account Diessner has always worked slowly, especially with printmaking, in which the process isn't rapid. The slow approach, however, allows for a close eye on detail.

In the same way her work demands the viewer spend more time observing it. Sabbatical Work isn't a direct narrative, but that isn't to say the work is without meaning. Diessner described it as "poetic connection" and explained the difference by comparing the reading of poetry to the reading of a newspaper. "Poetry isn't simply about the face value of words," she said, "and oftentimes requires the audience to reread it to reveal different connections and meaning."

The connections in Sabbatical Work are layered as well; in a single frame images are paired, and pairs themselves make another set with a second frame, with the images also linked through various use of symbolism, color and other elements. They aren't intended to be straight forward or logical but rather to motivate interpretation.

Diessner said she is drawn to print making by the process of making the prints. Each step draws upon a different skill and experience, from photography, drawing and painting to the printing itself. She described the sensory experience and the combination of different art forms as a "major pull" into printmaking.

Sabbatical Work continues in Wadleigh Gallery through September 29.

--Ben Dennison

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Art of Abstraction: An Interview with Heidi Whitman

On September 22 painter Heidi Whitman spoke and presented her work in the Wadleigh conference room as part of Chester College of New England's Visiting Artist Symposium.

Most of the work presented was from her series Brain Terrain, a mixed-media project focusing on an abstraction of both the physical and the mental, presenting a literal map awash in surreal imagery. The combination of cartography and dreamscapes seemingly puts the very nature of the series at odds with itself: how do you map the intangible? But it's that very exploration of thought that Whitman uses to bring the viewer in.

Throughout Brain Terrain themes and images recur, but they share much of their space with undefined shapes. This abstraction, Whitman said, is important. She uses abstraction because to her, it's a purity and simplification of the everyday; a choosing to provoke ideas through color and shape over logic and reason.

The pieces in Brain Terrain serve to represent modern life, showcasing how technology bombards us with images and ideas at an impossible rate. Symbols of this are easily spotted in the paintings, whether it be a free-floating brain or an ominous airplane. But despite being busy, the pieces are made by traditional means. Whitman said she chooses to combine different papers, inks, paints and textures over any sort of digital manipulation.

Despite promoting the importance of technology, Whitman said she believes that digital imaging will never completely overtake traditional art because there will always be a need for it, either as a consumer or a creator.

Whitman's work is perhaps best described as reactive; not just in how the viewer may interpret it but in how it is made. She discussed an instance in which a stray line is drawn and built upon, initially without sound reason, with the piece slowly coming together in layers.

She also spoke to how she adapts to her influences. For example, she described the work of another artist that involves cutting up prints with an Exacto knife. Then she showed her own work made with the same method, creating three-dimensional structures that, while expressing the same ideas as the paintings, now play off of literal space and shadow. To her that is inspiration: "the adaptation of past techniques to your own style."

--Ben Dennison

Friday, September 18, 2009

Heidi Whitman visits Chester College September 22

Heidi Whitman will visit Chester College on September 22 as the next artist in the Visiting Artist Symposium. Whitman is a painter and teaches painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She has also taught at MassArt and Simmons College. She holds her B.A. from the University of California Berkeley and a diploma from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She has had exhibits in Pierogi in Brooklyn, NY, the Southeastern Louisiana Contemporary Art Gallery, Harvard College, Laconia College, Clark University and Simmons College. Whitman also has collections in The McMullen Museum of Art, Boston University and The Boston Public Library.

The Visiting Artist Symposium lecture starts at 2:30 P.M. in the Wadleigh Library conference room. It is open to the public.

Michele Penhall Interview

Dr. Michele M. Penhall, Curator of Prints and Photographs at the University of New Mexico visited Chester College of New England on September 15 as part of the Visiting Artist Symposium Lecture Series. She has held the position of curator at UNM since 2004 and is in charge of the more than 13,000 prints, 1000 drawings and numerous photographs dating back to the dawn of photography in the mid-1800s. Her scholastic passion lies in the late 19th century photography of such South American photographers as Martín Chambi and the Vargas Brothers. She has dedicated much of her academic and professional career in studying and researching the photographs as well as the cultural context of these photographers and how it shaped their work. Recently, she took the time to elaborate on her career and cultural journey with So Good interviewer, Lisa Pike.

How did you first become interested in photography, especially that of indigenous peoples in the Southwestern United States and South America?

I have been interested in photography since my days as an undergraduate, but my interest in Latin and South American photography began at the University of New Mexico when as a new graduate student I had to give a public talk. Having just discovered the work of Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi, I gave my lecture on Chambi. My dissertation developed from that initial experience.

Was there a specific photographer or image which inspired you to enter the world of photography?

No. There are many images—too many to count—that stand out for me in terms of their iconic status or because they are very compelling, or were made in extraordinary circumstances.

I saw you attended the University of Hawaii for your undergraduate work, was that a decision made because of the culture of the islands and how it could contribute to your work? And if so, would you say that various cultures and locations have always had a large influence upon your work and interests?

The Air Force took our family to Hawaii, where I lived for 15 years before moving to the east coast. I completed high school, and my BFA there and the cultural diversity had a tremendous positive impact on me. The term “cultural diversity” had not really entered the lexicon yet, but it seemed completely natural to live and work among people of various different backgrounds and cultural distinctions. Hawaii is a very special place in that way.

How did you feel viewing photographs of Andean images that hadn't been seen for over a century while working on the Earthwatch Institute's project in Peru and Bolivia? Also, can you tell us a little about the Earthwatch Institute's mission and how one can get involved?

Earthwatch Institute is located in Maynard, MA. They have an excellent website ( and one can peruse their catalogue of projects and select subjects which interest them and receive more information. It was thrilling to see work, all these incredible portraits that had not been viewed for a very long time. There were many surprises. One volunteer, a young lawyer from New York, who was of Peruvian descent, although she had never been to Peru, joined our crew. While we were sorting negatives in one of the archives, she found an image of her grandmother, whom she had never met. It was a very dramatic moment, like finding a needle in a haystack when you weren’t even looking for a needle. Everyone was in tears.

What is the process of becoming a specialized curator in the arts of photography and printmaking?

One generally needs to have an advanced degree or extensive research experience. Curating at the museum level means that you have to be able to mount original exhibitions based on original thoughts and ideas. And you have to be able to write about these exhibitions in a way that is accessible and comprehensible to a broad audience that includes many people who do have the specialized background of museum professionals or other teachers and academics. It has also helped me a great deal to know about photography from being a photographer. Some basic knowledge about the technical aspects of the medium provide insight into many pictures that otherwise would be lost.

How many exhibitions have you been involved with over your career and which would you say were your favorites?

I have curated just over 25 exhibitions, some small ones, and some large comprehensive ones and a few in collaboration with other colleagues. A few of my favorites were intimate ones that dealt with portraits from our collection. They were opportunities to present images from the 19th century up to the present, to illustrate an idea that one could trace throughout photography’s entire history. Another meaningful exhibition was one I co-curated with our curator of academic initiatives, Sara Otto-Diniz, in 2008 to celebrate democracy and the forthcoming presidential election. We began with two very early images of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas and ended with a striking life-size portrait of a female soldier from the Gulf War dressed in fatigues. It was a very high key image in which everything was covered in a thin layer of white paint. The only color came from hers eyes—it was haunting and quite moving.

Do you have any pending exhibitions on the horizon, personal or otherwise, and if so could you tell us a little about the installation?

I am working on a large retrospective exhibition on photographer Patrick Nagatani that will open next September at the UNM Art Museum. It will be both exciting and a challenge to design a dynamic installation that best speaks about each series of work in a unique and provocative way.

Do you have any advice for those who are looking into museum careers?

The first step is to volunteer at a gallery or museum just to get your foot into the door. In the process you will see bits and pieces and learn about all the different types of jobs involved in museum work, which will help give you a better overall view of the field and what direction you may want to take in your career.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Megan McNaught and Luke Buffenmyer to Exhibit in Boston

Chester College of New England Assistant Professors Megan McNaught (Fine Art) and Luke Buffenmyer (Graphic Design) will have collaborative works on view atLA GALERÍA at Villa Victoria Center for the Arts (formerly known as Casa de la Cultura/Center for Latino Arts) 85 West Newton Street, Boston, Massachusetts from September 17- October 31, The exhibition was organized by curator Evan J. Garza and curated by Jen Mergel, Associate Curator, The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. The exhibition opens with a gallery talk by Jen Mergel and Evan J. Garza, Thursday September 17 from 5-6PM, followed by the opening reception from 6-9pm. Refreshments will be served.

Rachelle Beaudoin Featured in Touring Video Festival

Plugged Art Collective is pleased to announce "Cheer Shorts" by Photography & Media Arts instructor Rachelle Beaudoin will be included in their touring "Her Shorts: Selections Of 2006-08 " festival. The next upcoming screening of Her Shorts "Selections of 2006-08" is at the Fishbowl Gallery, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology located in Nelson, New Zealand, this August 31st-Sept. 4th 2009.

Plugged is archiving three years of Her Shorts: International Women’s Video Festival to host individual artist’s videos on Plugged’s website. The online archive supports Plugged’s mission to make relevant artwork more accessible to the public. In addition the online library will act as host for a global community of artists. Ideally this platform will act as a meeting point for living artists to meet each other’s work and spawn further creativity.

Videos are continually being added and eventually a searchable database will be available. or view videos visit

Eric Pinder Speaking and Published

Eric Pinder will be speaking and reading at the Nashua Public Library in the NPL Theater on Sunday, November 15, from 2-3 pm. He will share photos and video footage from New England’s highest peak, where he once worked as a weather observer, while reading from his new children’s book Cat in the Clouds, in a program for ages 8 and up. An event calendar and directions to the Nashua Public Library can be found at: Information about Eric Pinder’s books are available at

A new, expanded edition of Eric Pinder’s book Life at the Top has been published by Hobblebush Books. The 2009 edition has a new subtitle, Weather, Wisdom & High Cuisine from the Mount Washington Observatory, and several new chapters including “Life at the Bottom,” which explores the Mount Washington-South Pole connection, with interviews with people who have worked in both locations.

Weatherwise Magazine praised the first edition of Life at the Top for its “wry New England humor” and its tales of hapless hikers, curious summit cats, and mischievous meteorologists. The revised, updated edition describes the joys and terrors of living at a mountaintop observatory famously nicknamed “the home of the world’s worst weather.” Details at:

Dr. Monica O'Brien to Chair Pannel & Present Paper

Writing & Literature professor Dr Monica O'Brien will be Chairing a Film Studies panel at the annual Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association conference in Boston, Nov. 5-7. She will also be presenting a paper inspired by Chester student Ben Dennison's original idea of a comparative study of Samuel Beckett's Endgame to David Lynch's Eraserhead."

Dr. Nanette Thrush to Present Paper

Art History professor Dr. Nanette Thrush will present her paper, "Setting the Table: Domestic Politics and Historical Desire in the Early Victorian Era," at the annual conference of the Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies Association of the Western United States in October. This paper, on historical images in middle-class dinnerware, represents work on her manuscript in process, entitled Caveat Emptor.

Jenn Monroe Published and Reading

Two of Writing & Literature professor Jenn Monroe's poems, "The Trouble with Dream Interpretation" and "Words for This," have been published by the online magazine Sunsets and Silencers. She will also be participating in a public reading by several New England College MFA in Poetry alumni at the Forbes Library in Northampton, MA on Saturday, September 26, from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Tim Horvath Published and Reading

On Sept. 14th, Writing & Literature instructor Tim Horvath will read at Four Stories in Cambridge, along with three others. The theme will be "The Long Goodbye: Tales of Endings and Loss." In addition, on Oct. 6th He will read at Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth, as part of Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2009 Anthology, for which his story "A Box of One's Own" was an honorable mention.

This November, his story "The Discipline of Shadows" will appear in the journal Conjunctions, and another story, "The Quality of Air," will appear in the Montana-based magazine Drummlummon Views. Finally, his essay "First Do Not Bore" will be released as a chapter in the debut of the Evolutionary Review, a new journal to be published by SUNY Press.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Renee Mallet Interview

Currently showing in the Equine Beauty: Art of the Field, Trail, and Paddock exhibit at the Gallery Della-Piana, Wenham MA, Chester College of New England junior Renee Mallet is enjoying a new level of notoriety for her photographic output.

A dedicated student, wife, and mother of three, Mallett is better known for her variety of contributions to the literary world. Poetry, short fiction, magazine articles, books and a graphic novel are just a few of her many publications. She currently is a creative writing major at Chester College and took some time recently to chat with the staff of SO Good.

SO Good: Do you find inspiration from your children? Do you write with them in mind?

Renee Mallett: I think the biggest change in my writing since coming to Chester is writing about my family, thanks mostly to Eric Pinder’s Nature Writing class and Jenn Monroe’s Memoir class.

I used to think that writing about one’s family was the literary equivalent of doing watercolor paintings of your grandkids on the weekends! In addition to the these influential classes, I also came across this quote from experimental film maker Su Friedrich, “You get to something universal by being very specific . . . I think you have to start at home.”

I have since adopted that as kind of like my artistic motto. Since giving myself permission to ‘start at home’, so to speak, my writing has taken a whole new direction.

SG: What is your favorite form of expression, i.e. writing, photography? Do you have one, or a combination?

RM: I am a writer first and foremost; although having been heavily influenced by comic books, and being an active cine-phile, I am constantly exploring new ways to join words and images to create something more.

SG: Tell me more about your current show; what were some of the events that lead to showing your photography?

RM: My photography is being shown, for the first time ever, at the award winning Gallery Della-Piana, located in Wenham MA, along with fifteen other artists from around the world as part of their Equine Beauty: Art of the Field, Trail, and Paddock exhibit. The show will be up through October 17.

The gallery is owned and operated by Elissa Della-Piana, who teaches illustration at Montserrat College of art. Friends recommended that I submit some pieces to at least receive critique on my work.

SG: What are some of your long-term goals for your writing, and your art?

RM: My goal is to keep on experimenting and producing all kinds of different work. I like to make something, send it off into the world, see what becomes of it and see where I’m led to next. I’m definitely more interested in the journey than a destination.

SG: Whom do you look to as an artistic role model? Who influences your work?

RM: My writing has always been more influenced by movies than by books. John Waters, Almodovar, Otto Preminger, and Sam Peckinpah are the directors who I take the most inspiration from.

SG: What should we look for next?

RM: My next big project is a story for an anthology of short zombie comics being published by Terminal Press. I will just be writing on this one, I’m definitely not up to the task of drawing an entire comic!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interview with Frank Soos

Writer Frank Soos visited Chester College of New England in early September as part of the Visiting Artist Symposium Lecture Series and the Visiting Writers Series. He took some time to sit down the SO Good to talk about his work.

SO Good: What made you start writing? Why?

Frank Soos: I believed I started writing because I had things I wanted to say that no one would say. I guess where I grew up had an impact. It is not immediately eminent in my work but it is where I started.

SG: Where do you get you inspiration?

FS: I think Chuck Close summed it up best “inspiration is for amateurs, professionals work.” I wait for things to happen. Not all events are complete so they leave room for questions. For instance, Margo’s sister’s purse was stolen but was later found. The guy was caught after using her credit card at McDonalds and a 7-11. I used this moment to write a story about the guy. There was room to speculate, to see what events trigger others. For non-fiction pieces I just pay attention to questions and wonder about things that will not be known in first glance.

SG: Are there any authors/artists that have shaped your work?

FS: Oh yeah, Allison Drove. She is a technical model short fiction writer. Lee Smith, an essayist, grew up not too far from me. I think she does a good job capturing the mountain gold.

SG: What is your biggest accomplishment?

FS: I don’t know. It does mean much to me to win the Flannery O’Connor award but I find it dangerous to dwell on such accomplishments. It can end up getting in the way and actually take away from your work.

SG: Do you think your work has a bigger impact by itself or paired with Margo’s work?

FS: My stuff with Margo by design does profit from the collaboration. I am not sure how strong my stuff is without Margo’s. Margo’s work, on the other hand, can stand by itself. My normal writing does hold up because it has to.

SG: What comes more naturally to you essays or fiction?

FS: I honestly want to say neither but if I have to choose I guess fiction. Fiction is easier for me because it is more controllable hence the attraction. Essays on the other hand need a lot more attention. If left unwatched it can get out of hand.

SG: Do you prefer writing or teaching?

FS: I just retired from teaching. But for me teaching has a here and now gratification. It became hard for me to draw the lines when I was working with creative people. When I was teaching I would never read an incomplete draft of something. I feel it interferes with the author’s work. It causes the author to lose their voice and the piece ends up sounding like two different people. I also think that reading an incomplete draft can discourage the author. When I was teaching I found it difficult to go back to my own work at the end of the day because all of my creative juices were being used on the students. Now that I am retired I do plan on writing more pieces; I don’t think I have given all I can just yet.

SG: Do you have any advice for upcoming writers/artists?

FS: Work is not about talent. Stubbornly stick with your work. I find it encouraging seeing former students succeed and discouraging to see gifted students give up too easily on themselves. I think they need to stop using the rejected letter from the publisher as an excuse to give up. I guess I’m just saying don’t give up.