There is something new, and splendid, on view at the Hood Museum of Art.
Through May, two second-floor galleries will be awash in color—golds and blues and crimsons shimmering across canvases, some as large as 6 feet tall—in an exhibition of new work by Colleen Randall, a professor of studio art who has taught at Dartmouth for 30 years.
The show, titled "In the Midst of Something Splendid" (after a phrase from a prose poem by Russell Edson), is the first exhibition of faculty work to appear at the Hood since the renovated and expanded museum reopened a year ago.
Randall's abstract oils draw the viewer in with their shifting textures and shades and light, which together create a mesmerizing sense of motion that is sometimes meditative and sometimes roiling with energy. The more you look, the more there is to see.
"They are about joy and about color," says Kathy Hart, senior curator of collections and the Barbara C. and Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming, who co-curated the exhibition with John Stomberg, the Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director of the Hood. "What I love about them is that they create this sense of walking into a different world that is embodied by color."
The paintings "give up their gifts slowly, but they reward patience," Stomberg says. "If you look at her work quickly, you might miss a lot of the depth, the complexity of the color relationships. There's so much going on."
For Randall, the process of painting—the selection of her palette, the physical act of applying oils to canvas, the textural changes as she adds new layers—is as important as the finished image hanging on the gallery walls. "The work is revealed through the process of making the painting," she says.
For this collection, she worked on several canvases at once for months at a time in her studio in Lebanon, N.H.
"I usually start by capturing a kind of color or atmosphere or light, and try to individuate each painting. Then I'll let them sit," she says.
"Sometimes I go back to them when they're wet, and sometimes I wait for them to dry. I reflect on the whole group in relationship to one another. As they each start taking on a personality, I tend to stick with one painting until it's finished. I try to release my expectations for where I expect it's going, to stay in the moment and leave evidence of the experience of painting that day. I want the work to be as complex as a person is—to have deep dimension."
"Colleen is a painter's painter—somebody who really loves the quality of paint and what paint can do," says Hart. "So it's exciting to have her work representing painting as we reopen the first series of exhibitions at the museum."
Randall is married to the poet Jeff Friedman, and often titles her paintings after lines of poetry, which she says helps "embody the character of the work and aid the viewer to another level of experience or insight into it."
Randall's paintings will be on view this winter at the same time as three new photography installations—Will Wilson and Kali Spitzer's collaborative Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX) project; School Photos and Their Afterlives, which recontextualizes a ubiquitous genre; and Reconstitution, which explores how contemporary artists are grappling with issues of representation.
"I think that a museum benefits when you can go from one very different experience to another that takes you to a different place," Hart says. "It enriches your time in the museum."
Hart says that it's part of the Hood's mission to invite senior or emeritus art faculty to show work in the museum.
"This is a larger exhibition and you can really see the scope of their work. We are honoring what they've contributed during their lives here at the College," she says. "It's an opportunity for students to see what their professors do and appreciate their creative endeavors."
"When the Hood reopened, we wanted to make sure that the museum would be a place where artists like to show their own work or to see others' work. We are consciously artist-centric," says Stomberg.
Hannah Silverstein can be reached at [email protected].