Final Studies: Diana Harper

Undergraduate Student, Kent State University

Studio Art — Sculpture and Expanded media, and Textiles

Title of Exhibition: BoogieMation

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2 DownToFunk

As an artist, my goal is to describe my experience through color, form, and movement. This specific exhibition is inspired by my passion for dancing. My synesthetic brain conceptualizes emotion and memory very visually, so with these tools, I can best describe and share my experience.

For more of Diana’s work:

Instagram: @princess_diiii/

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Final Studies are in partnership with The University of Akron and are made possible with support from Fifth Third Bank and the Robert O. and Annamae Orr Family Foundation.

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What’s in a Label?

Ever wonder what information is included in a museum label? In this post, we’ll dissect the different parts of an object’s label to see what they can reveal about the artwork.

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Surf, Elliot Torrey, (East Hardwick, Vermont, 1867–1949, San Diego, California), c. 1920, Oil on canvas, 30 in. x 36 in. (76.2 cm x 91.44 cm), Gift of Mr. A. H. Marks, 1923.1

We’re going to use the very first object the Akron Art Museum acquired as an example. Elliot Torrey’s painting Surf evokes the sound of waves crashing against ocean rocks. Known for his seascapes, the artist selected varying shades of green, grey, and brown to add a moody tone to this scene, as if a storm is just starting to brew.

Now, let’s take a look at the label for this object.

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The first three lines of the label indicate the title of the artwork, the name of the artist, and the artist’s birth and death dates, if known. Some museums also include the artist’s nationality.

The fourth line records the date the object was created. In this case, we’re unsure of the exact date this painting was made, but we think it was sometime around 1920. So, we admit that uncertainty by saying “c.1920.” The “c.” stands for “circa” or, “around 1920.”

The next line lists the materials used in creating this artwork. This painting was made using oil paints on canvas.

Next up we have the dimensions of the work. The Akron Art Museum uses imperial system measurements first (inches and feet) followed by metric system measurements (centimeters and meters) in parentheses. It is often the reverse at other institutions.

The line following the dimensions is called the credit line. This reveals how the object came into the museum’s collection, whether by purchase, bequest, loan, or donation. In the case of Torrey’s painting, it was donated to the museum by Mr. A.H. Marks.

The last line displays the object’s accession number — 1923.1 “1923” denotes the year the museum acquired the object and the “.1” that follows reveals that it was the first object to enter the collection that year. Likewise, 1923.2 would be used for the second object that entered the collection in 1923, and so on. Most museums use this same accession number system or something similar, so if you’re ever curious about when an object was acquired by an institution, just look for the accession number!

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Final Studies: Catherine Lentini

Graduate Student, Kent State University


Title of Exhibition: Set

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My thesis combines my interests in color and shape in a project centered on an open-ended proposition of multiple answers to the same questions as opposed to one image with immutable properties. Color and shape work together to create a series of paintings based on the paradoxical nature of the grid as being both logical and the mysterious, the repeated image and its relationship to time in painting, and the experiential effects of color.

For more of Catherine’s work:

Instagram: @cthrnlntn

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Final Studies are in partnership with The University of Akron and are made possible with support from Fifth Third Bank and the Robert O. and Annamae Orr Family Foundation.

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Final Studies: Jake Baker

Graduate Student, Kent State University


Title of Exhibition: Index to Boundaries

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My work represents a sampling of events that spans ten years of my life, during which I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. These paintings narrate my memories of combat through a system that combines automatism with the parameters of ballistic probability and addresses the psychological effects of warfare through symbolism.

For more of Jake’s work:
Instagram: @jake_baker3321

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Final Studies are in partnership with The University of Akron and are made possible with support from Fifth Third Bank and the Robert O. and Annamae Orr Family Foundation.

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Research Mysteries from Quarantine: Part 1

By Jeff Katzin, Curatorial Fellow

COVID-19 has disrupted human life on every level, and museums are no exception. During these strange and difficult times, Akron Art Museum staff have ably adapted to all sorts of new roles while working remotely. One of our highest priorities has been to stay connected with our community, even if social distancing means that we have to lean on our online presence more than our physical galleries. To this end, we’ve rolled out a new website, debuted a podcast, sent out kits for at-home art-making, partnered with other museums to create games and puzzles, and more!

Here are just some of the AAM staff members who have shifted into new roles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, with our galleries closed, the pandemic has also given us an occasion to look inward and focus on our collection of artwork in new ways. That’s where I come in, along with my partner in this effort, Katie DiDomenico (Digital Content Creator). We’re slowly working our way through the museum’s holdings, conducting research on individual objects, and writing new labels that will eventually appear on our website. We’re starting with the works of art that are scheduled to come up in other programming so that our colleagues have plenty of background information at their disposal.

Since our work usually happens behind the scenes, I thought it would be fun to share some of it more broadly by highlighting a couple of the more exciting research mysteries that I’ve had a chance to solve.

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Main Street, Cleveland, Ora Coltman, (Shelby, Ohio, 1858–1940, Cleveland, Ohio), c. 1937, Woodcut on paper, 9 in. x 11 in. (22.86 cm x 27.94 cm), Gift of the Art Department, Akron Board of Education, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration Commissioned through the New, Deal art projects, 1948.5

I started looking into this print by Ora Coltman when Seema Rao, our deputy director, emailed Katie and I with a seemingly simple question: “What location is shown in this picture?” I found that exciting right off the bat. Sometimes art research is about fleeting emotions, nebulous ideas, and invisible histories — I love all of those things, and that’s what I usually work on. Still, pinning down some cold hard facts with a bit of detective work can be a great change of pace.

The first thing that struck me about the print was its title: Main Street, Cleveland. Having grown up on Cleveland’s east side, I knew already that there is no “Main Street” in Cleveland. Since the title was no help (and the files that I have electronic access to were no better), I’d have to use the picture itself as a guide. Luckily, it has some distinctive features. First, it’s set on a hill that slopes upward evenly and gently from left to right. Second, it features a church with a distinctive bit of architecture: a square tower with a crenellated top (like a medieval castle wall) and a particular arrangement of windows, located in the middle of a roof that slopes down evenly on both sides. The church is also behind a row of buildings, so it’s on a different street, and one that doesn’t quite seem to be parallel to the main street depicted in this Main Street print. I decided my best bet was to track down a matching church on or near a hill in Cleveland.

Even art historians like me rely on Google all the time, and Google Maps was my first stop. How long can it take to look through all of the churches in Cleveland, I thought? All morning, it turned out. I never realized that there were quite so many until I had to look up all of them and line up a street view of every single one!

After this lengthy search, I had found three decent possibilities, but none of them seemed to match properly.

All three of them had square and centrally-located towers and generally the right sort of slanting roof, but none had the right arrangement of windows or a crenellated top. And, crucially, none of them were anywhere near a hill. At this point I considered giving up and concluding that Coltman had most likely invented parts of his scene without entirely basing it on a real place, but I thought I’d try one more possibility. I once worked for the Cleveland Public Library, and I knew that they have an extensive database of historic photographs that’s pretty easy to search. After typing in “church” and looking through a couple hundred pictures, I hit upon this one.

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St. Malachi Catholic Church on Washington Avenue in Ohio City

St. Malachi Catholic Church has everything! The square-shaped and centrally-located tower, the slanted roof, and the arrangement of windows. It’s even located right near the top of a steadily sloping hill that leads up from the West Bank of the Flats and into Ohio City. And there was one more detail that really sealed it as a match for Coltman’s picture…

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Just north of the church’s location — on an unusual angle that matches Coltman’s print — is a road not named “Main Street,” but rather Main Avenue! St. Malachi, then, even provides an explanation for the seemingly incongruous name of Coltman’s picture — someone must have written it down incorrectly. So, if it’s such a perfect fit, why hadn’t I managed to find this key to my mystery sooner?

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Fire at St. Malachi Catholic Church, 1943

The Cleveland Public Library’s archive of historic photographs managed to provide an answer to this question too: The original St. Malachi Catholic Church was lost in a fire in 1943, less than a decade after Coltman included it in his print. That’s why, when I had come across the current St. Malachi, I didn’t stop to consider it — a new church was built soon after the fire, with a totally different architectural arrangement.

Coltman’s print, then, provides a glimpse of a very different place than the one found in the present day. Just about every building that he depicted seems to be gone — this includes the church, but also the colorful row of houses, which have since been replaced by small industrial and construction workshops. Main Street, Cleveland thus has much to tell us about the past, and it can tell even more now that we know the exact spot that it describes.

Check back July 20th for another intriguing research mystery — the next one involves a case of mistaken identity, an impressive amount of foreign travel, and one of the most amazing art-historical websites that I’ve ever seen!

Coffee with the Collection is made possible with support from the Henry V. and Frances W. Christenson Foundation and the Samuel Reese Willis Foundation.

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Final Studies: Brian Tom

Undergraduate Student, Oberlin College

Visual Art and Psychology

Title of Exhibition: The Rest In Pieces

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All You Have is Your Name

Death is inherently funny. It is not humorous like a joke, but the ways in which we express our feelings of death and the process of grieving are ironic. When we experience an irreversible loss, we grieve by constructing a “permanent” monument to represent and honor the dead. This comfort in the permanence, some form of legacy, is what drives the appeal of a tombstone or a donation in the name of the deceased. Thus, there is simultaneously a fear and a desire derived from this idea of the irreversible.

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Left: Why So Blue? Right: These Are For You

In thinking about the passing of those close to me, I have been reflecting about the reality and consequences of this irony. It is true that a tombstone may last hundreds of years, but what is its value when those who knew the person no longer exist?

This same tension is hidden within the opposite event; our understanding of birth and childhood. The development of children within the first few years of life is outstanding, yet in our minds we imagine our youth as a fixed moment in time. We often keep these memories as if they were frozen in a glass case and forget about our rapid period of change. Once again, even in the beginning of our lives we find comfort in the illusion of a permanence.

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Left: And Many More. Middle: Tadp(old). Right: Bless You.

My sculptures challenge these notions of artificial permanence through the humor created by the contrast between formulaic gestures in a recontextualized setting. Yet, as I have gotten older, my own personal views and conversations around these subjects have changed and as a result, my artwork has acted as my diary for each stage of my life. In a way, these sculptures, a physical reminder of my past thoughts and actions, are my own fleeting attempt to create permanence by documenting the ephemeral.

For more of Brian’s work:

Instagram: @plan_brian

Final Studies are in partnership with The University of Akron and are made possible with support from Fifth Third Bank and the Robert O. and Annamae Orr Family Foundation.

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Final Studies: Julia Denlinger

Undergraduate Student, Oberlin

Visual Arts

Title of Exhibition: Love letters to the Land

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Artist Statement
I love spoons. I love to observe the connections and interactions between people, the land, and other people. I love to see the love in how we feed each other and how we feed the land. Often my practice manifests in the form of literal cooking using physical spoons. Serving, seeing, and eating food is an experience that lives between the senses and connected directly to the land and what we have grown. Through this, we have the ability to see touch smell and taste bits of earth and know through this sensory experience how it is treated. love celebrating these little bits of earth through serving them.

The food I make and serve exists in moments, however I love to continue the celebration of them long after they pass. It is beautiful how things wilt and change, and it is beautiful how pigments stay just about the same, such that a moment of color can be made to last longer than a memory. Using these stable artifacts of unstable memory, we can capture just a little bit of the beauty. Using bits and pieces of our unstable earth we can represent their larger contexts, their permanence here and impermanence there. It is not a battle between the impermanence of things and the want for permanent art and memory, but a celebration of the juxtaposition.

Removed from their little moments and love, I create simple objects that represent people and places. However, I love working with my hands, giving myself time to meditate on the beauty of what I am working with. The spoon as a symbol reminds me to notice the nourishment I receive from my surroundings and nourish back. At the core of my practice, I notice and I celebrate.

Should there be food?

Soup and bread.

Nourish and be nourished

For more of Julia’s work:

Instagram: @thedengingerarts

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I’m Broken

Final Studies are in partnership with The University of Akron and are made possible with support from Fifth Third Bank and the Robert O. and Annamae Orr Family Foundation.

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Final Studies: Patrick Bell

Graduate Student, Kent State University


Title of Exhibition: Frankly

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Cowboy Bill Rides Herd on the Range of Consciousness

Artist Statement
Bodies, flayed like frogs in a high school science class, are my exploration responses to my own anxieties and fears about my body and health. Physically embodying sharp, anomalous, and sporadic pain, my work exists between a measured scientific inquiry and a chaotic, manic probe of human anatomy.

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My current body of work dissects human forms, allowing me to further understand the bodily systems within them. By intervening on the congruity of figures, I reveal intestinal, arterial, and other biomorphic forms that exist in a state of tension and disorder. Bodies, flayed like frogs in a high school science class, are my exploration responses to my own anxieties and fears about my body and health. Physically embodying sharp, anomalous, and sporadic pain, my work exists between a measured scientific inquiry and a chaotic, manic probe of human anatomy. These bodies exist incompletely with their viscera missing or entirely separated, either discarded or selected for further survey.

For more of Patrick’s work:

Instagram: @patbellart
Facebook: @patrick.bell.7503

Final Studies are in partnership with The University of Akron and are made possible with support from Fifth Third Bank and the Robert O. and Annamae Orr Family Foundation.

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5 People on Your Zoom Call

A few months ago, you’d only ever seen co-workers at the office or for an occasional happy hour drink. Now, thanks to video calls, you’ve seen their bedrooms, their children, their quarantine facial hair, all of it. Here, we take a look at what your work video call might look like if your co-workers were artworks from the museum’s collection.

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  1. The overachiever: This guy got up, got dressed, and gave a few thoughts to his backdrop. Good for you, bud. Are you wearing sweatpants with that blazer? None of our business.
  2. The proud parent: Does she want to show off the baby? Maybe. Does she have a choice? No. This little tot doesn’t care about your excel spreadsheet. He wants to be fed and he will not be kept waiting.
  3. The queen of filters: Listen, between late-night TV bingeing and news-induced anxiety, sleep has been hard to come by lately, so some of us need a little help to look human. This colleague is just softening the harsh edges before jumping into your brainstorming session.
  4. The Mr. Distracto: Sure, he’s there, but he’s not paying attention. His thoughts have wandered away from deadlines and shifted to worrying about his sourdough starter. He may also be watching a YouTube tutorial on how to cut his own hair.
  5. The Pet Owner: She’s been on mute this whole time because Rufus has been barking at the neighbors all morning. Truth be told, they’re both counting down the minutes until their lunchtime walk. Staring at a screen all day has them craving some outdoor time.

These are just some of the interesting characters hanging out on the walls and in storage at the museum. Get to know them all at www.akronartmuseum.org/collection.

Images: 1. Self-Portrait, Samuel Fosso, (Kumba, Cameroon, 1962 — ), Gelatin silver print, 20 in. x 20 in. (50.8 cm x 50.8 cm), Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media, 2006.31
2. Young Mother, Zoltan Sepeshy, (Kassa, Hungary, 1898–1974, Royal Oak, Michigan), Egg tempera on fiberboard, 36 1/4 in. x 30 in. (92.08 cm x 76.2 cm), Anonymous gift, 1952.2
3. Portrait of Woman — N, from Series 5, Robert Stivers, (Palo Alto, California, 1953 — ), Gelatin silver print, 20 in. x 16 in. (50.8 cm x 40.64 cm), Gift of George Stephanopoulos, 2006.314
4. Why, Butch Anthony, (Pensacola, Florida, 1963 — ), Acrylic, pastel, aluminum foil on found portrait, 24 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. (61.6 x 51.4 cm), Gift of the artist, 2015.52
5. Robert and his Watchdogs, Bedford Avenue Tire Shop, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Vincent Cianni, (Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1952 — ), Gelatin silver print, 18 1/2 in. x 15 1/2 in. (46.99 cm x 39.37 cm), Gift of the artist in honor of Barbara Tannenbaum, 2011.154

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Relief Podcast Episode 3: Motivation

This weekly podcast brings listeners joy and comfort for these uncertain times.

The Akron Art Museum’s staff shares insights from their own lives combined with conversations about the collection and interviews with regional artists and musicians.

Join us every Tuesday.


This week the topic is Motivation. Seema and Gina share some of their thoughts about how motivation looks different during quarantine and how artists get themselves motivated.

Deep Dive with Reggie: Mickalene Thomas

Girlfriends and Lovers, Mickalene Thomas, (Camden, New Jersey, 1971 — ), 2008, Acrylic, enamel and rhinestones on panel, 108 in. x 144 in. (274.32 cm x 365.76 cm), The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture, 2010.1

To hear Mickalene Thomas talk about what motivates her, click here.

Shop Talk with Arron Foster

Arron Foster is an artist and educator who works in a variety of media, including printmaking, book arts, video, and installation. Arron has exhibited both nationally and internationally, while also teaching university coursework in print media and book arts. This edition is especially fun since Katelyn had Arron as a professor at Kent State University. Hear Arron discuss Mickalene Thomas’s work, what drives his motivation, and his favorite (and very specific!) salty snack.

Website: https://arron-foster.squarespace.com
Instagram: @fosta1918
Zygote Exhibition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCp1S7V-ujA

Current & Forthcoming Exhibitions:
Virtual Exhibition: And the Band Played On- Failure, Catastrophe, and Absurdity. IN TOTO Gallery

  • 2020 Mid American Print Council Juried Members Exhibition hosted by Kent State University.
  • 2020 Screenprint Biennial- Hosted by Todd Gallery at Middle Tennessee State University.
  • Past Lives Collaborative Book project- published by Risolve Studios- Lancaster PA.
  • Cul-De-Sac Print Exchange (Exhibition)- Gathered Glassblowing- Toledo, OH.

Relief Podcast Music

Jordan King is a multi-instrumentalist based in Kent, Ohio. Through his music project, Swell Tides, he has worked with Akron Recording Company and Electric Company Records. His work has been featured in the Devil Strip, Cleveland Scene, Akron Recording Company’s Where the Hell is Akron, OH? Vol. 2. Find Swell Tides on Bandcamp and Spotify, and stay in tune with upcoming shows on Instagram @swelltides


Relief Podcast is made possible with support from the Ohio Arts Council.