Institutional News, Local Impact

Museum Connections

Bennington College connections abound in the Bennington Museum's exhibition Works on Paper: A Decade of Collecting, which highlights a disparate body of works, from historic to contemporary and self-taught works, to creations by Bennington Modernists. The exhibition is on view through May 5. 

"About half the works in the show have some tie to Bennington College," said curator Jamie Franklin. 

Martha Graham at the end of the world
Martha Graham, c. 1936 - Herta Moselsio (1892-1978) - Gift of Rose Bitensky, 2008  

A Bennington College icon in a quintessentially Bennington location: the End of the World. Herta Moselsio taught ceramics at Bennington College from 1934-1960. She practiced photography and videography in addition to her work as a ceramicist and sculptor. She used these skills to document Martha Graham, one of the great pioneers of modern dance, when Graham was teaching at the Bennington School of Dance (summers, 1934-1941) at the College.

Photo of dancer on commons lawn Photo of dancer with tambourine
Bennington School of Dance Scrapbook, 1936 - Rose Bitensky (1912-2008)

Rose Bitensky worked in the kitchen at Bennington College during the summer of 1936. She was an amateur photographer who loved modern dance and created a photo album of dancers during their residency. The image of Martha Graham by Herta Moselsio was loosely in the back of the album.

In 2008, curator Jamie Franklin met with Rose and spent an afternoon chatting about her time at the college, her love of dance, and going through the album, which she donated to the museum’s collection. Rose passed away two months later.

“Clearly, this album meant a lot to Rose, and she wanted to make sure the community had access to those images,” said Franklin. “However, it’s also a fabulous historic document that provides a personal look into the activities of the school.”

In addition to photos, Rose’s album includes her own hand-typed captions, performance programs, and newspaper articles clipped from that summer.

(L) A Letter from New England—by Emily Dickinson, as danced by Martha Graham, c.1985
Lucy Doane
Gift of Barbara Roan, 2013

“One of the underlying themes of this exhibition is the complex web of interconnections among objects that may not be directly related,” said Franklin.

This painting by Lucy Doane, a North Bennington resident, was inspired by Martha Graham’s dance Letter to the World, itself inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem “This is my letter to the World.” It was donated to the museum by Barbara Roan, a longtime dance teacher at Bennington College.

(R) Untitled, c. 1967
Miriam Kellogg Fredenthal (1917-2016)
Gift of Ruth Ann Fredenthal in memory of Miriam Kellogg Fredenthal, 2016

Miriam Kellogg Fredenthal had a prominent career in textile design and weaving. Her daughter, Ruth Ann Fredenthal ’60, donated a number of pieces from Miriam’s archives to the museum’s collection. Much of these archives are textile samples, weaving samples, letters, photographs, and other items documenting her career as a weaver, designer, and artist. They also include paper weavings that combine Miriam’s mastery of textile techniques with the visual language of Pop Art, which was widely popular in the late 1960s.

(L) Proclamation, 1949
Dan Shapiro (1920-1982)
Gift of the Shapiro Family, 2018

(R) Untitled, c. 1963
Paul Feeley (1910-1966)
Museum purchase, 2013

“Bennington College is renowned for its contribution to the visual arts, and in the 1960s, there was a concentration of faculty, alumni, and other artists in the community who were at the forefront of American painting and sculpture,” said Franklin.

This exhibition includes a hand-painted lithograph and monoprint by Phillip Wofford (faculty 1968-1995), a watercolor by Paul Feeley (faculty 1939-44, 1946-1965), and prints by Dan Shapiro (faculty 1947-1962) and Vincent Longo (faculty 1957-1967). The grouping demonstrates the variety of formal and experimental approaches artists at Bennington College used during this period to explore the possibilities of abstraction on paper.

Image of Sally Gils painting See Vermont
See Vermont ’66, 2012 - Sally Gil (b. 1959) - Gift of the artist in loving memory of Jane Gil (1955-2016), 2017

Sally Gil is the daughter of David and Gloria Gil ’52, founders of Bennington Potters. Though Sally has gone on to become a widely recognized contemporary artist in New York City, she still has deep ties to Vermont. Much of her work relates to her growing up in and connecting to Vermont. She draws on collage imagery from popular Vermont magazines to create complex painted collage images that reference memories and associations of Vermont both past and present.

A Legacy of Collaboration

In recent years, Bennington College and Bennington Museum have increasingly collaborated on institutional programming.

"Our resources are unique, so together, we can do more than we can do individually," said Franklin. "Both [past Bennington College President] Mariko Silver and [Bennington Museum Executive Director] Robert Wolterstoff have been influential to formalizing that longstanding relationship. Bennington Museum has a mission to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of Bennington, and Bennington College has been integral to shaping the cultural history of the region in the 20th and 21st centuries."

Bennington Museum often works with and welcomes students from the College. "Jonathan Kline has led a number of classes that curated shows for this gallery space, and Thorsten Dennerline often brings students to come and look at our print collections," said Franklin.

Recent collaborative events between Bennington College and Bennington Museum have included Collage #3571 1/2: A Schonbeck Experience, an instrument building workshop led by faculty member Nick Brooke and Webb Crawford '18 inspired by former faculty member Gunnar Schonbeck's festive musical legacy; and American Eccentricities, an artist talk with Sarah Peters, whose work is currently included in The Body Stops Here: Keiko Narahashi and Sarah Peters at Usdan Gallery