Colby Museum of Art brings together two extraordinary artists: Ashley Bryan and Paula Wilson

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Colby Museum of Art brings together two extraordinary artists: Ashley Bryan and Paula Wilson
Paula Wilson, Creatures of the Fire, 2020. Relief print, woodblock print, and monotype with acrylic and oil paint on muslin and canvas. 64 x 57 in. (162.6 x 144.8 cm). Colby College Museum of Art; museum purchase from the A.A. D’Amico Art Collection Fund.

WATERVILLE, ME.- The Colby College Museum of Art announced the recent opening of Ashley Bryan / Paula Wilson: Take the World into Your Arms. The exhibit, which will be on view through July 31, 2023, is the second show in the museum’s new Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville.

The exhibition brings together two extraordinary artists, Ashley Bryan (1923–2022) and Paula Wilson (born 1975), whose passionate and open embrace of the world unites their multifaceted creative endeavors.

This important show offers a new perspective on Bryan, an artist who was beloved for his children’s books but is insufficiently recognized for his contributions as a contemporary artist, and also introduces Wilson to New England audiences. Through their art, Bryan and Wilson channel the beauty and spirituality to be found in humanity and nature, using texture, color, and light to convey magical lyricism while also examining cultural history and tropes of identity and self-representation.

Revealing the symbiosis in their study of and response to people, nature, and still life, the exhibition includes paintings, large-scale collage, relief printing, bookmaking, video, prints, clothing, and puppets. The works affirm their makers’ shared commitment to innovation and play in response to materials.

“This extraordinary exhibition will celebrate two artists who share a holistic, all-encompassing dedication to creativity as a source of inspiration, hope, and a way of life.” said Beth Finch, head curator of the Colby Museum. “Bryan and Wilson are the ideal cultural guides for the groundbreaking, place-based community-arts collaboration that Schupf Arts represents.”

Bryan (1923–2022) was a celebrated teacher, author, and artist who created drawings, paintings, meticulous woodcuts, stained-glass windows, and puppets salvaged from materials found on his chosen home of Little Cranberry Island, Maine. Committed to filling the void of Black representation, Bryan illustrated more than fifty books of poems and stories. He was an art student at Cooper Union when he was drafted into the Army at the outset of World War II who later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and studied philosophy at Columbia University. He subsequently became a professor of art at Dartmouth College and received numerous awards and honors, including several Coretta Scott King awards.

Wilson (born 1975) is a mixed-media artist who enlists an extensive range of techniques to create hybrid works. Using sculpture, collage, painting, installation, and printmaking methods such as silkscreen, lithography, and woodblock, she explores perceptions of light, form, and the body in space. Born in Chicago, Wilson holds a bachelor of fine arts from Washington University and a master of fine arts from Columbia University. Since 2007, Wilson has made her home in Carrizozo, New Mexico, where she lives with her woodworking partner and collaborator, Mike Lagg. She is a 2022–23 senior fellow and Alfonso Ossorio Creative Production Grant recipient at the Colby Museum’s Lunder Institute for American Art.

Artworks by both artists are in the collection of the Colby College Museum of Art.

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