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Davidson Collects: 100 Writers Respond to Art (Davidson College, 2012)
Davidson Collects: 100 Writers Respond to Art (Davidson College, 2012)

100 CRITICS FROM DAVIDSON COLLEGE

Mar. 15, 2012

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One hundred art critics all in one place might sound like an artist’s nightmare. But Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., is taking the plunge. The school has enlisted 100 of its students to contribute to Davidson Collects: 100 Writers Respond to Art, the first-ever publication on Davidson’s permanent collection of 3,200 works of art. The 280-page book, loaded with color plates, was officially released in a campus-hosted event on Jan. 18, 2012, and can be purchased through the school for $30.

Conceived and organized by Davidson curator Brad Thomas, Davidson Collects is no traditional production. The writers on the 100 artworks, undergraduate students from all disciplines, were selected by lottery. And their subjects are diverse, ranging from a 16th-century engraving by Hieronymus Hopfer to a Thomas Hart Benton ink drawing and an Antony Gormley sculptural self-portrait. The styles of writing vary just as wildly, though theory and jargon are in short supply. Use of the first person abounds -- “I wish I could see this man’s eyes,” says one young man about Wendy Ewald print -- as does poetic description. “Bereft of possessions, both imagined and material, the traveler rests in a barren room after wandering in a strange land,” writes another, about a drawing by David Hockney.

Davidson College, which is consistently ranked among the top-ten liberal arts schools in the U.S. and has graduated 23 Rhodes scholars. Davidson Collects was designed to offer enthusiastic ideas about art by young writers, and the result, in the words of Van E. Hillard, director of the college writing program, is “the sound of. . . citizen critics responding to art.”

It’s a nice conceit -- that “art belongs to everyone,” as declares Thomas in his Introduction. Whether we’ll come across these names again, years from now, in the vast world of art publications, is yet to be seen.

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