Finding the Unexpected at Colby Museum of Art

On Saturday, Clif and I went to Waterville, to Colby College’s fabulous Museum of Art.

We wanted to see two specific exhibits: Herman Bas: The Paper Crown Prince and Other Works, and City of Ambition: Photography from the Collection.

We did see The Paper Crown Prince, a small exhibit that included a few dreamy, exquisite paintings that symbolically explore the coming of age of teenage boys.

Here is The Paper Crown Prince.

And here is Fitting In.

But we never made it to City of Ambition because I was unexpectedly waylaid by Game Time: The Sports Photography of Walter Iooss. I used the word “unexpectedly” for a good reason. Full Disclosure: There are few people who are as disinterested in sports as I am. For me, watching people pursue, hit, or kick a ball is akin to watching paint dry. Baseball is the worst—do the players even build up a sweat?—but basketball, hockey, and soccer are only marginally better.

I will admit that sports such as skating, skiing, and snowboarding hold my attention longer, say, for five or ten minutes. But to paraphrase Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice—of some pleasures, I believe, a little goes a long way.

So imagine my surprise when Walter Iooss’s sports photographs reached out and pulled me in.Β  Not literally, of course—I was not, after all, in the middle of one of my own fantasy novels. However, when I intended to just pass through the gallery with his photos, I found that I couldn’t. Every one of Iooss’s photographs told a bright, vivid story, whether it was of someone famous, such as the tennis player Billie Jean King, or of children playing stickball in Havana, Cuba.

Here are a few of the photographs, taken with my wee wonder of a camera, that unfortunately did not do them justice. I had to crop in close to give some idea of the intensity of the pictures, and my reproductions are nowhere near as sharp as the originals. Still, I hope they give some idea of the power of Iooss’s work.

Here is Billie Jean King, Wimbledon, 1979:

Note how petite, almost waifish, Billie Jean King looks. Yet also note the look of intense determination on her face. Here is a woman who wants to win the game, and she has worked long and hard to acquire the necessary skills. Whoever is playing against her had better watch out.

Consider this astonishing shot of the diver Julia Cruz, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 1984.

There she is, in the gray wide open, and she is about to dive backward into water that is way below her. Cruz’s body is poised, muscular, ready. A leap of faith?

Finally, there is Havana Cuba, March 1969.

Iooss writes that the children’s “eyes [are] fixed on the pitch like it’s the only thing in this world. Nothing else matters. To me, that’s sports in one single frame.” Even the dog is sitting in stiff attention.

Yes. For the first time I understand how it is for people who love sports. It’s how I feel about art—in all its varieties—and nature.

Readers, if you live within driving distance of Waterville, Maine, go see this exhibit. Even if you don’t like sports. I expect that you will be illuminated, the way I was, by these terrific pictures.

Fortunately, Colby is close enough so that we can easily return to see City of Ambition. Also, there is no admission fee, which means we can stop in andΒ  just look at one exhibit. We don’t feel as though we have to hurry through the museum, when we are past the viewing point, to get our money’s worth.

The Colby Museum of Art is such a gift to central Maine.

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Finding the Unexpected at Colby Museum of Art”

    1. Glad you enjoyed his work. What an eye that man has. Plus, he’s coming to speak at Colby. Clif and I are going to try make it to his talk. Should be interesting.

    1. Yes, do check out Colby’s museum. You’ll be surprised at its size, I think. While it can’t, of course, compare with a big city museum, it is fairly large for a college museum. And what a collection!

    1. It certainly would be. But if an exhibit of Iooss’s work ever comes near to where you live, it would certainly be a worthwhile visit. Especially as you are so keen on photography.

  1. How exciting to be drawn into an exhibit that you would never normally have bothered going to see! I can see exactly why you admire Looss. He appears to wait for that split second when his subject is totally concentrating on what they are doing… He is more interested in the people than the sport.
    The paintings are lovely too – what a fabulous museum!

    1. Wow! What a terrific observation. And so great that you got the essence of his work from my photos, which were not the best quality. I had hoped they would show the power of his work, and for you, they did. Yay! As for the museum…we are incredibly lucky to have a museum of this quality in central Maine, which doesn’t have a large population. Over all, Maine has about 1.3 million people, and the city of Waterville has about 16,000 people. How lucky to live in a place that has both nature and culture. Both are my passions.

  2. I love sports, almost any of them, and the photos seem to give a good sense of why–there’s that drama, that intensity, that humans feel when they’re totally focused and ready. I’m not sure where else we see it on display so fully as in a sporting setting. “Drama in real life, ” as the saying goes . . .

    1. Good question! Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. We’ll have to keep our antennae raised. πŸ˜‰

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