A new exhibition of the recent work of Sally Spofford not only honors a talented artist, but recognizes the efforts of a significant member of the Hunterdon Art Museum’s community.
“She was amazing, smart, witty and fearless,” said Ingrid Renard, who has curated and installed numerous shows at the Museum after being recruited by Spofford years ago.
Spofford passed away in July 2014. The Museum, which has shown her art previously, is presenting an exhibition, titled Sally Spofford (1929-2014): Late Work, highlighting her final efforts. The exhibition opens Sunday, Sept. 27 with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. that’s open to all. Refreshments will be served.
“This was the last work that she did, and like her earlier work, it is beautiful and worthy of being shown,” said Marjorie Frankel-Nathanson, executive director of the Museum.
The art of ancient civilizations was a major influence and their uses of iconic imagery are core components in Spofford’s art. She became fascinated with Mayan art and that became her gateway into the iconography of other civilizations.
“She was very taken by Mayan aesthetics — the buildings and the iconography – and you can really see that in her work in this exhibition,” Renard said.
Spofford’s interest in early civilizations later spread to Turkey, Persia and China.
“During the search for archetypes, my head became jammed with fragments and details,” Spofford said before she died. “Eventually insights began to lead to assimilation and fusion.”
At the age of seven, Spofford realized she wanted to spend her life making art. “I was in second grade attending an outdoor art class. I can remember sketching the patterns on the bark of a sycamore tree and being lost in the process. I felt like I was using all parts of my brain. This was the first time I knew that doing art was going to be the direction much of my life would take,” Spofford said.
She attended Swarthmore College as a fine arts major and studied at the Arts Student League and the China Institute in New York City. Her paintings and sculptures have been displayed in exhibitions and galleries. She also lectured widely in museums and universities throughout New Jersey.
Spofford served on the Museum’s Arts Advisory Council (a forerunner to the Museum’s current Exhibitions Committee) and Board of Trustees for many years. She installed and curated exhibitions at HAM. She was featured in a solo show in 2003.
“Sally was a unique and talented person who is missed. It will be good to have her work at the Museum,” Nathanson said.
Spofford once summed up her work in an artist’s statement. “We’ve all been asked the same questions: who are we and where do we come from? We all know the same stories and use similar images in our art. Shapes, rhythms and patterns appear again and again, and these are the stock of symbols we’ve preserved within ourselves through time.”
Image credit: Sally Spofford, Alphabet Soup 8, 2009, 11.75 X 11.75 in., Collection of Leslie Spofford Russell.