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Shape of Light: Defining Photographs from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

LocationFrances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Shape of Light: Defining Photographs from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will be on view September 20 - December 15, 2019 at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, in the temporary exhibition galleries, the Hoene Hoy Photography Gallery, and a portion of the 20th-century galleries which will feature large-scale work. A reception will take place on Saturday, October 12, at 4:00pm followed by a lecture in Taylor Hall, Room 102 at 5:30pm.

The exhibition, curated by Mary-Kay Lombino, represents a survey of the Art Center’s renowned collection of nearly 4,500 photographs, and will be the centerpiece of the 2019 celebration of 20 years of commitment and generosity from the Loeb’s Advisory Council for Photography, which supports both acquisitions and programs.

Shape of Light, one of the first of its kind at the Art Center, will highlight Vassar College’s dedication to photography by uncovering fresh, intriguing perspectives on the collection’s unique character, depth, and diversity. Comprising 125 works throughout five galleries, the exhibition brings disparate images into conversation with one another. While most of the photographs in the exhibition are conceived as works of fine art, a selection of documentary and vernacular photographs allows for a striking point of comparison.

Based not on chronology or theme, the extensive exhibition instead seeks new insights into well-known artists’ work from the 19th-century genesis of photography through the present by featuring lesser-known images and recently acquired works never before exhibited in the Art Center’s galleries.

Spanning the history of the medium, the exhibition includes numerous types of photographic images from daguerreotypes and gelatin silver prints to large-scale Polaroids and color prints created digitally. Among the artists represented are Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marie Cosindas, Rineke Dijkstra, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Katy Grannan, Lewis Hine, Candida Höfer, Gertrude Käsebier, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt, Danny Lyon, Vivian Maier, Robert Mapplethorpe, Duane Michals, Gordon Parks, Lucas Samaras, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Stephen Shore, Malick Sidibé, Aaron Siskind, Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, and Garry Winogrand among many others.

Shape of Light is supported by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Charina Foundation, and the Hoene Hoy Photography Endowment with additional gifts from Michael and Joyce Axelrod, James Kloppenburg, Elizabeth Cabot Lyman, and Bryna Sweedler.


Opening reception and lecture
Saturday, October, 12

  • 4:00pm reception in Art Center Atrium and Galleries
  • 5:30pm lecture TBD, Taylor Hall, Room 102

Family Day
Sunday, October 13, 2:00-4:00pm

Children and their families can enjoy a range of ongoing hands-on art activities inspired by the works on view, and child-friendly interactive “mini-tours” of the galleries will be offered throughout the afternoon as well. Activities will make use of several different art mediums, including simple photographic techniques. Best suited for ages 5–10, the program is free and no reservations are required; participants can drop in at any time.

Photographing Appalachia 
Thursday, November 7, 5:30pm

Photographers have been drawn to document the Appalachian region's people and culture for well over a hundred years. While many images—particularly those taken by outsiders during President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" in the 1960s—cemented a visual idea of Appalachia as a place only of dire deprivation, the stories told through both historic and contemporary photographs of the region are much more diverse and nuanced. This program will explore several photographs of the region held in the permanent collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and is one of many programs coordinated by the Poughkeepsie Public Library District as part of the “Big Read” project. More information on the Big Read calendar of events, all related to Appalachia,

Curators Gallery Talk
Thursday, November 21, 5:00pm

In the first hour of Late Night at the Lehman Loeb, curator Mary-Kay Lombino will give a tour through the galleries and discuss individual works and themes in the Shape of Light exhibition.

About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with an art museum as a part of its original plans, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 21,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and ceramic wares.  Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters. 

Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible.  The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm.  Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion.  For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit