Karin Stack (American, b. 1966); Forsythia, 2007; archival inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist. x1200
WCMA Blog

Art of the Month Club: Stephen Edidin

The Art of the Month Club is a regular feature of the WCMA blog. Each month we invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Club member. Today, please welcome Stephen R. Edidin, Chief Curator at the New-York Historical Society in Manhattan and Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, Class of 1978.

Grant Wood (American, 1892-1942), Death on the Ridge Road, 1935, oil on masonite. Gift of Cole Porter.  © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY._x600

Grant Wood (American, 1892-1942), Death on the Ridge Road, 1935, oil on masonite. Gift of Cole Porter. © Figge Art Museum, successors to the Estate of Nan Wood Graham/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

In the spring of 1976, I went up to Williamstown during the process of deciding where I would go for graduate school in art history.  The new Williams College Museum of Art wing hadn’t been built. It was pretty much the rotunda and adjacent galleries. Grant Wood’s Death on the Ridge Road had pride of place. It was impossible to ignore.  I thought it was an extraordinary work—Looney Tunes on the dark side—very pop, very cool, and a gift of Cole Porter.  I loved the Clark, but now I began to develop a real affection for WCMA.  When I entered the graduate program in the fall, I got a museum assistantship there and curated two exhibitions.  One was elaborately entitled The Photographs of James Wallace Black: Views of the Ruins of The Great Fire in Boston, November 1872 From the Collection of The Library of the Boston Athenaeum.  Another was on the great dance photographer Barbara Morgan. We acquired a print of her masterpiece Martha Graham – Letter to the World (1940, gelatin silver print, Museum Purchase, Miscellaneous Gifts Fund) directly from her as a result.  An ancillary show was devoted to the visit of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and included the draping of the rotunda with Robert Rauschenberg’s sailcloth set for Travelogue (1977).  I’d like to think what I learned from Death on the Ridge Road, my time at Williams, and my career since then is that great works of art have strong points of view but move us in many directions.  Exhibitions, when successful, do the same.

—Stephen R. Edidin

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