What Did You Once Think Impossible That You Now Believe is Possible?

Winter 2020

When I reflect on the impossible and the possible, I think about technology. I think about the smartphone. The iPad. Alexa. Google glass. Drone delivery and self-driving cars. I think about 3D printed houses and missions to Mars.

I think about the first time I heard about The Internet. I remember what it was to learn about something for which there was no context. I didn’t know what “the Internet” meant or how it worked or even if the Internet was an “it” at all. I think about social media. I think about the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, #MeToo, and this president on Twitter. As recently as 10 years ago, I would hardly have believed these platforms and systems and realities possible, and yet they have changed society entirely.

And these changes are showing no signs of slowing. In these 72 pages alone I have read at least four things I would not have believed to be possible: that hallucinogenics might be a key to understanding what happens to us when we die (page 26); that we could memorialize our loved ones by integrating their DNA into organic material (page 23); that our architecture and space can and should respond to us (page 57); that a gender theorist would be a household name (page 20).

But technological and cultural evolution are not the only lessons in possibility I have taken away from this issue. Many of the essays in the pages that follow demonstrate how the aperture of possibility was opened with time. From reflections on lifelong friendships to essays on the evolved relationship to death to those that deal with our current political landscape to contributions on what art and age makes possible, the contributors in these pages go deep and illustrate how time can expand our imagination and develop our sense of possibility.

I hope you enjoy the read as much as I have enjoyed the ongoing conversations and connections the essays in this issue have inspired. If you have your own reflection or response, I invite you to share it with me by email or in an anonymous survey that will be distributed in January. And if you have not already had a contribution featured in our alumni-authored issues, I hope you’ll consider submitting a piece that responds to our next issue’s invitation to describe yourself.

With warmest wishes,

Briee Della Rocca
Editor & Art Director

red and gold art
"Under the Bodhi Tree"

Roshan Houshmand ’82 had Under the Bodhi Tree; Rituals included in the exhibitions Homenage a Julio Uruguay Alpuy por sus Discipulos at the Museum of Art History in Montevideo, Uruguay, in November and at Museo Mazzoni in Maldonado, Uruguay, in October.

Read more.

dancer in white in a very pink room
"Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Gold Edition"

Faculty member Jen Liu was included in the 2019 Singapore Biennale, Every Step In the Right Direction. Liu exhibited Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Gold Edition—a suite of live performances, video, set design, installation, and paintings that reflect on the value and nature of gold.

Read more.

colorful fiber art
Elevating Fiber Art

In August, faculty member J Blackwell ’95 discussed their Neveruses artworks with Phaidon.

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sepia textile art of human forms in rain
"Of Origins and Belonging"

Cosmo Whyte ’05 was featured in Of Origins and Belonging: Drawn from Atlanta, an exhibition that included work by six Georgia artists at the High Museum of Art.

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colorful painting
"Fractured Memories"

Fractured Memories: The Art of Philemona Williamson was exhibited at Hartwick College’s Foreman Gallery this winter.

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black and white architecture on album cover
"Concrète Jungle"

Concrète Jungle, a conversation between New York’s past and New York’s present, about New York’s future, is a work of sound art performed live by composer Dan Siegler ’84

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allen shawn in front of orchestra
Allen Shawn

Rutgers University premiered faculty member Allen Shawn’s “Concerto for clarinet, cello and orchestra (1983)” in September 2019.

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grey grainy photo of man with vapors obscuring face
"Three Vapors"

The latest EP from Michael Chinworth ’08Three Vapors, is now available. Seven Days VT wrote, “Three Vapors is a terse, raw but sonically complex EP that comes and goes in 20 minutes, yet leaves a strong emotional residue.”

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chair in a forest with shiny draped backdrop
"To Gallery a Cloud Ground"

To Gallery a Cloud Ground, a debut album by Ethan Koss Smith ’21, is available now. It was produced at Akin Studios in Hoosick Falls, NY with the help of Sam Clement ’08.

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woman against red background
The Gold Baton

In June 2019, composer Joan Tower ’61 was awarded the 2019 Gold Baton Prize—the League of American Orchestras’ highest honor.

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woman in white
Hunter Mountain Lifetime Achievement Award

Oscar winner Melissa Leo presented Betty Aberlin ’63 with the Hunter Mountain Lifetime Achievement Award in May 2019. Aberlin, who played Lady Aberlin for many years in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, was noted for her work with the PBS children’s series and also for the films Dogma and Jersey Girl.

Read more.

silhouette of man holding fiddle and banjo at dusk
"Translucent Borders"

Translucent Borders, a project developed at NYU by Andy Teirstein ’79, brought together artists from the United States, Cuba, Italy, Ghana, Israel, and Palestine in collaborative sessions in these countries last year.

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man and robot in a skirt
"Come Hither to Me!"

This past spring, Hannah Wolfe ’09 exhibited her robotic sculptures "Come Hither to Me!" at ACM’s Human Computer Interaction Conference (CHI) and Touching Affectivity at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME).

Read more.

man with glasses in front of leafy green background
Argonne Distinguished Fellow

Stephen Pratt ’77, senior chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, was recognized as an Argonne Distinguished Fellow.

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person in blue-lit room with art

Güvenç Özel ’02 was the keynote speaker at Turkey Innovation Week in Istanbul last summer where Cypher—his most recent cyber physical sculptural installation—was exhibited, and conference attendees had the chance to interact with it.

Read more.

white and black hexagram pattern, words Be Recorder
Carmen Giménez Smith, MFAw faculty member (Graywolf Press, August 2019)
White cover that says Dunce in black letters
Mary Ruefle ’74 (Wave Books, September 2019)
Blue sky and trees, the words America Was Hard to Find
Kathleen Alcott, MFAw Visiting Faculty (Ecco, May 2019)
A drawing of a black man seen from behind typing on a typewriter
Clifford Thompson, MFAw Faculty (Other Press, November 2019)
Pink cover that says What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence in yellow
Melissa Febos, MFAw Faculty (Simon & Schuster, April 2019)
blue background overlaid by a torn newspaper that says Dawson's Fall
Roxana Robinson ’68 (Sarah Crichton Books, May 2019)
orange and yellow pattern with a painting of a woman in profile in the right corner
Amy Gerstler MFA ’11; Didi Jackson MFA ’14; Camille Guthrie (Scribner Books, September 2019)
a white background with muticolored paint splashes
J Blackwell ’95, featured artist (Phaidon Press, April 2019)
a black background with a man's face at the bottom looking up
Stephen Nunns ’85 (Theatre Communications Group, July 2019)
a drawing of a dog with stars in the background
Kurt Caswell MFA ’04 (Trinity University Press, October 2018)
a tree-lined path in the woods in late summer
Denise Provost '71 (lulu.com; null edition, June 2019)
With an urgency propelled by largely unpunctuated language and nimble lines...Giménez Smith manages to frame a queer, Latinx, immigrants’ daughter, motherhood poetics that’s entirely her own.
The New York Times Book Review
In Dunce, her latest poetry collection, Ruefle confronts the extraordinary yet banal fact that all of us die.
The New York Times
Sprawling but absorbing.... Ambitious.... Shimmering, knife-sharp descriptions of small and often devastating moments of individual experience within those larger histories.
New York Times Book Review
Thompson opens a dialogue with fellow citizens who see the state of American racism differently than he does, and shares those conversations in his book.
At its broadest level, this book is about the soul-rattling realization that despite...having the best of intentions, our mothers still mess up—sometimes in life-altering ways.
Dawson’s Fall asks what truth means in an era when conviction matters more, and Roxana Robinson’s answer—that morality is friable—should make us sit up and tremble.
The New York Times Book Review
An essential purchase.
The Washington Post
....Fiber art, a medium the editors....say has historically been undervalued...receives its due here, in a catalog of more than 100 artists working in textiles.
The New York Times
Since the 1960s and 1970s, New York’s experimental-theatre scene has toned down its wild-man character, but Lee Breuer is the grand old man of the movement.
The New Yorker
In 1957 the Soviet Union sent its second satellite into orbit around Earth, this one carrying a dog named Laika. The book is meant as a testament to her experience.
Scientific American
Provost proves herself dialed into the subtleties and complexities of each season’s personality.... Her poems express an exuberant hurrah for the natural world around us.
The Boston Globe


Black background with sex at seventy written in pink neon Sex at 70

When I was in my teens, I thought that people in their 60s and 70s couldn’t possibly still be having sex. The very thought of geriatric sex gave me a frisson of disbelief. How could such a thing even be possible?

line drawing in black and white of two dancers overlaid with text: dance at 80 (in purple) Dance at 80

Although I arrived at Bennington holding a cello under one arm, the truth is my first love has always been dance. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina; at Bennington, I dreamed of modern dance.

a group of students sit on a lawn with white houses in the background We Were Seven

We were a seven-strong text group who kept in touch daily across continents.

a group of dancers perform outside, they are raising their arms and wearing bright colors What Art Makes Possible

In this collection Tenara Calem ’15, Nancy Harrow ’52, Teresa Booth Brown ’85, and Hope Clark ’87 contribute the ways in which art has helped to expand their notions of what is possible.

Headliners Making Change

Hollywood Headliners

man with dark hair wearing suit posing in front of red background All in the Family

Alumni were well represented at the Emmys this year, garnering nominations and wins.

Audrey Shulman: woman wearing scarf, coat, glasses and hat that says Ville smiles at camera Hallmark Movie Premiere

Alumni were well represented at the Emmys this year, garnering nominations and wins.

Asad Ayaz white shirt and glasses with a dark background Marketing Mastermind

Alumni were well represented at the Emmys this year, garnering nominations and wins.

Man with white hair grey suit on the red carpet by his hollywood star Walk of Fame

Alumni were well represented at the Emmys this year, garnering nominations and wins.

man with brown hair and beard holds emmy on the red carpet, purple background Dinklage Sets Emmy Record

Alumni were well represented at the Emmys this year, garnering nominations and wins.