New exhibition explores the world of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay through photographs

The new exhibition at Vassar College’s James W. Palmer Gallery celebrates acclaimed poet and notable Vassar alumna, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Edna at Steepletop is comprised of images by photographer Julie McCarthy.  The show is on view June 9-July 28.

McCarthy calls the exhibition “a portrait in absentia.” The works were made over a two-year period and all of the photos feature personal objects in situ at Steepletop, Millay’s home in Austerlitz, New York, which is now a museum.  

“Books were piled under and on her baby grand piano in her living room; logs were piled by the fireplace waiting to be lit,” says McCarthy. “I was struck by the immediacy of her presence and also by the dichotomy of such a renowned woman living so far from the public eye. The rooms with their low ceilings and dim light created a sense of claustrophobia. The house, filled with evidences of her accomplishments and passions also contained a sense of melancholy and unease. It was that duality that I was interested in capturing.”

Edna at Steepletop is just one example of McCarthy’s work, which explores themes of home and portraiture. By photographing the personal objects, clothing and other artifacts that have been left behind when someone has died, she creates a psychological portrait of that person. She has exhibited throughout the United States.

The Palmer Gallery is open Monday-Friday 11:00am-4:00pm but calling ahead to the Office of Campus Activities is recommended. 

Situated between the North Atrium and the Retreat cafeteria, the James W. Palmer III Gallery is at the heart of the College Center addition to Vassar’s Main Building. Constructed in 1996, the gallery was named and endowed by the Palmer family in 2000 in memory of their son James, a member of the class of 1990. Serving as an exhibition space for artwork created within and beyond the Vassar community, the gallery displays art of diverse mediums, themes, and origins. 

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (


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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, June 16, 2017

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