A living history
In 2010, Skowhegan began researching more than 200 artworks in our archive. Encompassing the entirety of our history, the archive is a survey of American art—its trends, concerns, materials, movements, and techniques. In summer 2012, Skowhegan opened two exhibitions, one on campus and one in downtown Skowhegan, advertised by the poster pictured below, and featuring a painting of Skowhegan’s original barn by John Udvardy (A ’57), completed when he was a participant. What follows is an email exchange between John and Sarah Workneh that illustrates the importance of the archive as a living history that both captures a moment in time, and has far reaching connections and a life beyond its moment.
On Sep 11, 2012, at 12:18 PM, Sarah Workneh wrote:
I am one of the co-Directors at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. I came to Skowhegan in 2010 and in my time there, we have spent considerable time going through the artworks on campus in Maine. We have identified a really beautiful painting of the old Fresco Barn that you made while on campus in 1957. Over the summer, while the program was in session, we curated a small show of works in the collection to show in the town of Skowhegan, as a way to demystify what we do on campus and to link our history to the area. We made the attached poster for the event, featuring your work. While the initial poster was used in town over the course of 2 days, we would now like to use an image of the poster in our upcoming newsletter (4,100 copies). Before we print on such a large scale I wanted to check with you to see if that is okay with you. It is such a remarkable piece, and a really amazing representation of such an important historical space on campus.
This summer I pulled the painting out of the racks to show two curators from the Colby College Museum of Art. Because it is so large and delicate, I didn’t want to put it back without help, so I left it leaning against the racks in the archive. The next day, I was touring Arlene Shechet, who had just arrived as a Visiting Faculty member, around campus. She stopped to look more closely at your piece which was still out from the day before, and was so excited and a little in shock that it was yours! Completely unexpected, and from what I understand you two had lost touch until fairly recently when you wrote a letter to her. Synchronicity!
Let me know what you think... and thank you!
On Sep 11, 2012, at 4:45 PM, John Udvardy wrote:
Dear Sarah Workneh,
What a wonderful surprise for me when I opened your letter! As soon as I saw even a small portion of this work—I said to myself OMG that looks exactly like something I might have done!
When I saw my name on it, the deja vu and the wonderful sweet memories of it all came flooding back in on me! Believe it or not, but I can almost remember every brush stoke that I made on that piece and recall the wonderful smells and air of that barn. What great times and memories I have of my mind opening experiences and training I encountered during that precious summer time at Skowhegan.
Sarah you need not even ask—Of course you may use the work however you wish.
I am touched and deeply honored that you wish to extend its life further in this important way, and thank you!
If you could be so kind, I would greatly appreciate it if you could please send me a couple of the posters which you had made, and I am on your mailing list. But a few extra Newsletters would be appreciated! Thank you.
If you see Arlene Shechet again please give her my love and best wishes and congratulations on being there. She is the best! In an interesting way, with Arlene being there it almost completes another circle for me.
Thank you very much Sarah, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am.
With warm regards,