As part of our celebration of our 20th year, we are highlighting some of the key features, services and collections of Snell Library. One of these features, which we sometimes take for granted, is the collection of paintings that grace our walls. If you stop by 421 in Snell Library and walk around the halls on the fourth floor, you will see a collection of paintings that came from Northeastern alumnus, Arthur S. Goldberg, MEd ’65, a Boston-area businessman who has been an avid collector for more than 30 years. Now you can enjoy his collection anywhere, anytime, by viewing an online exhibit, designed by Steven Olimpio, a former graphic design co-op student at the library: The Arthur S. Goldberg Collection at Northeastern.
The Arthur S. Goldberg art collection lives on the fourth floor. I am not an art critic. But I still found a few things to appreciate in this collection. What struck me about the artworks in general was not so much the diversity of style and subject matter, but they way in which they utilized, echoed and sometimes paid direct homage to artists and artistic styles throughout history. Below I will write about two that I particularly liked. Take DeWitt Hardy’s Woman and Chair. This painting oddly depicts a woman sitting on the floor beside a wooden chair, rather than in it. This deliberate non-conformity to the standards of portraiture is interesting because it suggests that portraits can possibly be of two things at once, or draw relationships between objects first and people second, rather than the other way around. Purely in terms of subject, the painting can be seen as being about the ideal non-conformist; this pale, thin, spacey-looking woman smoking a cigarette, refusing to sit in the chair inches away from her, or to look beautiful for her portrait. This subject matter along makes the painting DeWitt’s own, but the first– an perhaps most superficial– thing that I thought of when looking at the painting, was the work of Andrew Wyeth. I guarantee everybody that they have seen an Andrew Wyeth painting; Christine’s World, of a girl lying in the middle of a wheat field, gazing at a farmhouse, is his most famous. With its faded colors and lines that emphasize sketching, as well as the subject of a girl, I feel Hardy was consciously influenced by Wyeth in this piece. Another painting with its foot firmly in the history of American painting styles is Robert Cottingham’s series of Barrera- Rosa’s. Each of the three paintings is a nearly photographic (just what Goldberg was looking for, apparently) reproduction of a city block of stores, including a restaurant called Barrera Rosa’s. The first painting, on the left, is a black and white sketch of the scene, giving the impression of a photograph from the late 19th or early 20th century. The second is a sketch of the same scene in brown tones, giving the impression of a negative image. The third and final scene is in color, and suddenly both the scene looks stunningly modern; this “photograph” could have been taken yesterday. In fact, not a single object has changed, and there are only two objects that suggest this could not have been envisioned prior to the 1990’s; a digital crosswalk signal and a store advertising a payphone outside. The intention, though, is to give an impression of progressing through both photographic history and real history, even though neither history exists in the context of Cottingham’s work. It is a clever trick to play, and in its repetition and deceptive blandness reminds me of Andy Warhol’s various art experiments. But I’ll take this one over anything he created. (Robert Cottingham’s Barrera-Rosa) These works and many others can be found on the fourth floor of the library. It is my hope that Arthur Goldberg someday donates more works; his collection is impressive and a pleasure to have here.