Reasons Why the Art World is Small

This morning, on my way back from the docent room, I stopped at the crossroads of the main drag of the Museum’s offices. About to turn right to my cubicle, I found myself suddenly stopped by this painting, which hangs at the end of the hallway next to our director’s office. I see this painting at least twice a day, but I’d never stopped to really look at it. And so, I decided to investigate.

Striding up to the painting, I stood at the coffee table. The paint strokes are thick, protruding from the canvas in swift gestures that make up a waft of cigarette smoke or a glistening ice cube. Truth be told, usually being able to spare no more than a couple of glances at it, I’d only thought “wow, this painting is so masculine.” But today I found more there, in the quietness of it, in the figures who seem lost in thought, not interacting with each other. In the early morning here, when none of us are running from office to cube to filing cabinet yet, I could hear only the murmuring white noise of the bar around these men, the clink of melting ice cubes against glass, and their deep inhalations as they smoke.

When a work of art is hung in the offices, it usually still has a label nearby, but I couldn’t find one. So I popped in to see Marilyn, the executive assistant (who had likely been glancing curiously at me as I was lost in the painting outside of her office area, which is attached to the director’s). Marilyn told me the painting was by Richard Bosman.

The name rang a bell. Searching our collections database, I found that two of his works live here at the Museum: one was the painting in the offices, called Bar Talk (ironic, right?), and the other a very well-known print called Man Overboard, which was most recently seen in Figurative Prints: 1980s Rewind on view here last fall. Suddenly it clicked. Richard Bosman is a professor of studio art at my college!

So here’s why the art world is small: Mr. Bosman is a painter and printmaker whose work in the 1980s is often classified as being part of a movement from abstraction back to incorporating the figure into works of art. He now lives in upstate New York and is a teaching artist at Vassar College, where I went to school. Although I never took a studio art class with him, I knew of Mr. Bosman and his work through Vassar’s museum, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. I studied and gave tours of his work in a couple of exhibitions throughout my time working at the Art Center. If you’re interested in his current work, check out his webpage.

After graduating and moving roughly 900 miles away to Wisconsin, I never would have guessed that one of the paintings in our collection would have been so coincidentally connected to my life. Even though I didn’t have many interactions with him, realizing this morning that this work lives right down the hall from me made me feel like I’d had a little piece of my college experience with me for the past year. No wonder I felt at home here right away (cue the warm and fuzzies).

Chelsea Emelie Kelly was the Museum’s Manager of Digital Learning. In addition to working on educational technology initiatives like the Kohl’s Art Generation Lab and this blog, she oversaw and taught teen programs.

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