A catalogue that stays close to home
During her three years of studying art history at UMass, Carson was struck by the departments family-like atmosphere.
There was a real sense of community and support for each other among the students and faculty, she says, now seated in her dining room in Washington, DC, and surrounded by the trappings of real family life toys piled in a corner, tiny socks and T-shirts neatly folded on the table.
That UMass camaraderie is also evident in Selections from the American Collection which includes contributions by Carsons classmates Stephen Fisher 89G, former registrar at the Springfield Museums and now curator at Amherst Colleges Mead Art Museum; Mary Kinnecome 90G, also a former curatorial intern at the Springfield Museums; and Springfield Museums director Heather Haskell 87G, who also wrote the foreword. Other contributors include Mount Holyoke College art professor Paul Staiti 74G; Gloria Russell 81G, art critic for the Springfield Union-News and Sunday Republican; and UMass art history professor Bill Oedel.
The catalogue contains 100 photographs of paintings, works on paper, sculpture, and decorative arts with a natural emphasis on New England artists, including local names such as Leverett native Erastus Salisbury Field (1805-1900). Staiti describes Fields narrative painting, Historical Monument of the American Republic: This kind of twisting historical spiral resembles a form of religious rhetoric known in orthodox Calvinist churches as a jeremiad . . . which Field would have known from listening to sermons at the North Amherst Congregational Church . . . . Also included in the catalogue is the late Northampton artist Leonard Baskins bronze sculpture Prophet (Homage to Rico Lebrun) and UMass professor Richard Yardes painting Johnnys Gone.
Carsons research of the Springfield Museums American collection helped earn her a Ph.D. from the City University of New York where she enrolled in 1990 and focused her study on nineteenth-century American art. And, as if researching the Springfield collection and pursuing a doctorate werent enough, Carson was also curator at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Historic House Museum in Hadley from 1990 to 1992, where she became fascinated by the historical connection between the house, its family and the valley.
Im really interested in cultural history, she says with a slight trace of the soft, rounded southern accent that remains from her youth in Louisiana. Thats my slant.
Carsons doctoral thesis on American painter Benjamin West completed her CUNY degree last February, and shes now an adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, while raising three young children with the help of husband Steven 92G.
The following excerpt is taken from her description of New England Scenery, the 1851 oil painting by Frederic Edwin Church of the Hudson River School, a detail from which adorns the catalogues cover.