Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed April 6, 1999
Contact: Glenn Hare

The art of Maggie Poor to be showcased at Bell Gallery April 17-May 30

The drawings and sculptures of Maggie Poor, a New York artist and 1976 Brown graduate, will be shown in the David Winton Bell Gallery starting Saturday, April 17. The show, which contains more than 40 pieces, will continue through May 30.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University will exhibit drawings and sculptures by Maggie Poor, a New York artist and Brown graduate. The show opens Saturday, April 17, 1999, and continues through Monday, May 30. An opening reception will take place Friday, April 16, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Gallery is located on the first floor of the List Art Center, 64 College Street, and is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.

Born in New York City, Poor attended Brown in the '70s and graduated with a degree in visual art in 1976. She returned to New York where she continued to create art and supported herself by working as a graphic designer and proofreader. Poor was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer in 1986. She lived with the disease for several years, traveling, sculpting and writing. Poor died in 1995 at her parent's home in Princeton, Mass.

Since her death, several exhibitions of Poor's work have been mounted, but this show differs because it concentrates on her drawings. "Poor considered herself a sculptor first," said Jo-Ann Conklin, curator of the exhibit and director of the Bell Gallery, "but it was in her drawings that her ideas took shape, through a process of repetition and reworking that at times seemed based on free association."

The exhibition comprises more than 40 finished drawings, several sketches and studies of three-dimensional work and a small number of related sculptures. It begins with drawings from 1989 that function equally well as studies of three-dimensional forms (sculpture) and as abstract depictions (drawings). "These works mark a point of transition. The drawings made after this time exist as separate works. Elements drawn from the sculpture are sometimes included in the drawings, but as part of complex compositions," said Conklin. Poor used a mixture of media, including oil paint, litho crayon, pencil, pastel, oil stick transfers and collage on handmade and translucent colored paper. "The drawings are ephemeral and evocative. The viewer is drawn in to discover the hidden and half-hidden elements within them."

By the early '90s, Poor had accumulated a vocabulary of symbolic elements that she used in both drawing and sculpture. Many were forms derived from nature. "There is, for example," said Conklin, "a bean pod shaped like a kidney bean with a truncated stem that takes on aspects of a head with a particularly long nose, like the trunk of an elephant, which Poor referred to as the `Pinocchio Head.' At other times the bean pod looks like a human organ - a heart or uterus."

She also created more than a dozen sculptures and drawings based on a boat shape, including a series of small wall sculptures entitled Sotto Voce. The title is taken from a musical term meaning "under the voice" and according to Conklin may refer to a time when Poor temporarily lost her voice following surgery.

To document the exhibition, the Gallery is publishing an illustrated catalog. It will contain excerpts of Poor's writings. When sculpting became physically challenging, she turned her creative energies to writing. She approached writing in much the same manner as she had visual art, using similar methods of reworking and recombining the elements. And as in her drawings, her subjects remained life's beauty and pain, and connections with friends, family and nature.