Mott-Warsh Art Collection Offers New Pieces on View in Thompson Library

Four new pieces have arrived at Thompson Library — on loan from the Mott-Warsh Art Collection.

The art collection, owned by The Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh Collection, contains samples of some of the very best late 20th century works by African American artists.

The mission of the Mott-Warsh Collection is to present contemporary fine art to public audiences in non-traditional venues as well as educational and cultural institutions.   University of Michigan-Flint (with its strong historical ties to the Mott family of Flint, Michigan) and the Thompson Library in particular fit perfectly with the mission and vision statements established by Maryanne Mott and her late husband, Herman Warsh.

The entire Mott-Warsh Collection currently consists of works by over 125 artists, featuring 20th century masters such as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett to new and innovative artists of the early 21st century, and includes a broad array of work from the abstract to the representative.  Common to all pieces within the collection is the focus on unique cultural and social experiences of Africans and Americans of African descent living and working in western (American) society.

Maryanne and Herman begun collecting their art with the intent to assemble and preserve rare works of art endemic to the African community and make them available to the wider audience through its lending program with the intent to educate viewers in art appreciation, art making processes, art history, 20th century American history and the history of the African diaspora.

The Collection contains over four hundred works and is supported by the Mott-Warsh research library which has assembled monographs, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs and journals with subject concentrations in African American art as well as information on fine arts collection management.

Selected works from the Mott-Warsh Collection are currently on display at several locations around Flint, including the Flint Institute of Music, the Flint Public Library, the Ruth Mott Foundation, Mott Community College, Applewood, Kettering University Innovation Center and other locations.

Nationally, pieces are on loan at such renowned institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio State University), Walker Art Center, Denver Art Museum, Rudenstine Gallery (W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University), the Seattle Art Museum, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston) and many other museums and art galleries around the nation.

Thompson Library is proud to be numbered among such fine institutions in being selected as a location to display pieces from the Mott-Warsh Collection.

We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr. Michael Doyle — Mickey — who numbers among our reference librarians and serves as our Head of Access Services — for being instrumental in arranging our library’s participation as a display site for works from this esteemed collection.

Our first pieces were installed earlier in March of this year.   Those have been cycled out and the new pieces are now on display.  To view, enter the Thompson Library (3rd floor) and walk directly to the far wall.


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Picture5The first piece in the new series is by the Canadian-born artist Julie Moos (b. 1965) titled Domestic:  Earnestine and Gaynelle, a photograph from 2001.   Description of her work on display follows:

Ms. Moos uses photography to explore the complex relationships between human beings.  Using a 4 x 5 camera to make her large-scale color photographs, she usually shoots her subjects in pairs, straightforward and in a direct manner that charges the photo with tension.  Photographed in front of a neutral backdrop, the individuals show no interaction, making their connection to one another ambiguous.  The viewer is left to examine the sitters’ body language, facial expressions and styles of clothing and hair for clues.

In the series, Domestic, Moos examines the relationships that develop between domestic servants and their employers.  In all but one of the photographs in the series, Moos pairs a Caucasian with a person of African descent.  Sitting side by side in comparable attire, the class of each individual is not obvious, which forces us to guess whom the housekeeper and homeowner might be.  The conclusions drawn may say something of our assumptions about class as it relates to race.  In the case of Domestic:  Earnestine and Gaynelle, we are prompted to confront assumptions of a different sort, in considering the relationships between employer and employee of the same race.  The series also calls into question our assumptions about the type of bond shared by these individuals who spend a significant amount of time together in a domestic space.


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photo (4)The second piece in the new display is by Emma Amos (b. 1938), a lithograph titled Bootstraps (1997).  Description of this work follows:

An artist accomplished in several media, Emma Amos confronts and explores difficult issues concerning politics, gender, race and cultural history in her work.  In Bootstraps, Amos combines silhouetted portraits with text to provoke deeper consideration of a politically charged term.  The term alludes to the phrase, “pull oneself up by ones bootstrap,” which is a metaphor meaning to better oneself by one’s own unaided efforts.  It has been used by some politicians and officials who oppose affirmative action.  Here, Amos links the phrase to two such African Americans, political activist Ward Connerly and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Amos earned her undergraduate degrees from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and the Central School of Art in London, England.  She continued her education and pursued her master of fine arts degree at New York University, New York.  During the 1960s, she was invited to join Spiral, a group of prominent artists including Romare Bearden and Charles Alston, whose goal was to address African American issues through art.  Amos was the only female member.  A distinguished artist, Amos has received many awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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photo (3)Third in the new display items is a serigraph entitled Michelle O (2008) by the artist Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971).  Description of this piece follows:

This serigraph print of First Lady Michelle Obama might be considered a very subdued artwork for artist Mickalene Thomas, who is best known for her elaborate acrylic paintings accented with rhinestones, enamel, and other unconventional materials.  Typically, her subjects are African American women, presented in seductive poses and attire.  Thomas likes to explore notions of black female identity and challenge ideas about beauty, femininity, and power.

The portrait of Ms. Obama was the first individual portrait of the First Lady to be created.  Like Thomas’ other work, the print is far from conservative, using stark, bold, coloration and a reductive style as opposed to a traditional, detailed rendering of the sitter.  It as part of the exhibit, Americans Now at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC (August 2010 – June 2011).

Thomas received her B.F.A. from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY and her M.F.A. from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.  She has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions and her work is in notable permanent collections.  Currently she is an artist in residence at the Versailles Foundations Munn Artists Program in Giverny, France.

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Last of the four pieces currently on display is by artist Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976).  Titled Priceless (2004), it is a lightject photographic print.     Description of this final piece is as follows:

Priceless is part of the larger series, titled B(r)anded, that explores and subsequently appropriates the language of advertising.  The artist states,

By employing the ubiquitous language of advertising in my work< I am able to talk explicitly about race, class and history in a medium that almost everyone can decode.  What makes a corporate logo so alluring?  I am in awe of the fact that ad campaigns can embed a simple meaningless logo with enough meaning and legitimacy to fuel multi-billion dollar global industries.

Much of the work focuses on the use of African American male body in advertisements.  I am interested in the connection between this body type and the cotton and slave trade industries that brought this country so much wealth …  My goal with the work is to employ the familiar …  to draw connections and provide conversations about issues and histories that are often forgotten or avoided in our commerce-infused daily lives.

In Priceless, Thomas appropriates a popular marketing slogan used by MasterCard to draw attention to the cycle of violence prevalent in the African American community.  The photograph was taken by the artist at the funeral of his cousin, Songha Willis Thomas, who was the victim of a tragic and senseless murder in 2000.  Through this work, Thomas grapples with his own frustration and that shared by others who have suffered loss.

Hank Willis Thomas studied art and photography in New York University earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in late 1992.  He continued his education at California College of the Arts, earning his Master in Fine Arts in photography and a Master of Arts in Art Criticism.  He currently works and lives in New York City.


Please stop by soon to view this limited collection, and others that will be on display in our library in the future.


Thompson Library Hosts Bill Webb Retirement Reception

photo (10)With joy — and a little sadness — Thompson Library hosted the celebration of the life and career of Bill Webb on the University of Michigan-Flint campus.   Bill has served in both the Department of Human Resources and as assistant Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance for nearly three decades.

photo (5)During the ceremonies, Bill received a set of going away gifts, appropriately enough for the venue, bookends and books (all dealing with retirement, of course).

photo (7)Several people shared their remembrances of Bill’s high points and activities throughout the years.

photo (19)aProminent among them was our own Bob Houbeck, Director of Thompson Library.

Below are comments from Bob on his memories of their shared time at University of Michigan-Flint, and some of the high points of Bill’s career he remembers most vividly.


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Remarks on the Occasion of Bill Webb’s Retirement
Library Atrium, F. W. Thompson Library
30 September 2015

Bill and I came to UM-Flint nearly 25 years ago.   During those two-plus decades, we had lunch most every week.   At those weekly lunches, I learned a lot from Bill about business and finance. He learned a lot from me about Thucydides and the Peloponnesian Wars.
I also learned a lot of new words and expressions – Bill’s a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, you know.   That experience helped me better understand an etymological connection; that “Old Salts” often salt their conversation with “salty language.”
Whether you knew it or not, Bill had a direct hand in many of the most important projects and activities of the campus, noticed and unnoticed.   And I don’t just mean inclement weather closings and power outages  (I’m sure, Judy, that neither of you will miss those 3:30 am wake-ups to check out the latest weather pattern, and the subsequent phone consultations … )
To refresh memories, let’s go through the litany:

• the acquisition and initial operation of Northbank Center;

• the construction of the William S. White Building;

• renovations to French Hall and the Murchie Science Building;

• the relocation of the School of Management to Riverfront;

• the construction of First Street Housing;

• the reopening of Kearsley Street and the opening up of Wilson Park and its integration into campus;

• all the issues related to parking (including responding at Student Concern Forums), to space allocation, to campus landscaping, to food services;

• the campus Mass Transit Authority (MTA) shuttle as well as its recent expansion to East Village;

• as well as a host of environmental, safety & security initiatives, from improved campus lighting, installation of security cameras & phones, our All-Hazards Emergency Preparedness team, to the Student Update Information Team (S.U.I.T.), the precursor to the current Behavior Intervention Team (B.I.T.);

• right up to the new Zipcar service for students.

Bill had a direct hand, sometimes the lead hand, in all these major projects & expansions.

We’re a stronger and a better campus because of your work, Bill.

But we in the University are better off not only because Bill did his UM-Flint job well.

Though he lives in East Lansing, Bill was consistently active at a personal level in the Flint community.   He was to Flint a genuine good neighbor.   Thus, Bill served for many years, for example, in the downtown Flint Rotary Club (including each year spending a weekend driving young people to an annual Rotary youth leadership retreat in Canada, and then shepherding them back home across the border – I helped with this worthwhile but harrowing Rotary service project once, Bill did it year after year).   Bill spent two years helping the Flint Community Schools develop a long-term plan for school buildings.   And he served on a number of City of Flint civic initiatives, including helping create the Safe Homes-Safe Neighborhoods-Safe Community project.

It’s hard to walk around downtown Flint with Bill and not run into some civic, or business, or educational leader who doesn’t know him and want to chat.

Both the campus and the city will miss you, Bill.

But, on the bright side, Bill’s involvement in all these projects means that, I figure for at least the next two years, the rest of us have a ready-made excuse:   “Ah, that – that’s Bill’s fault.”

Speaking personally, Bill, I’m going to miss our weekly lunches.

Speaking as a librarian, I’m very much looking forward to your memoirs.   At those lunches, Bill didn’t tell even me everything. We’ve got a spot reserved on our Archives bookshelf.   Put us down, Bill, for an advance copy.

Finally, despite his 25 years with this University of Michigan campus, Bill, I’m saddened to report, has remained an incorrigible Michigan State fan.  (It’s very humbling.   I’m not nearly as persuasive as I like to think I am … )

Never mind.

In our hearts, Bill, you will always be one of the true  Leaders and Best.


Robert L. Houbeck, Jr.
Director, F. W. Thompson Library

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We’ll miss you, Bill.

Enjoy your retirement — and think of us sometimes.    Especially on cold winter mornings when the wind is howling and the snow is 3 feet deep, and still coming down.




Office of Admissions & Honors Program Team for Recruitment Event in Library Atrium

Thompson Library is dedicated to linking people with ideas — it’s right there in our logo.

Sydney Spielmaker
Sydney Spielmaker, UM-Flint Honors Student Sharing her experience with guests at Honors Program Recruitment Reception, October 2015

One way we are able to encourage scholarly activities is to host events dedicated to scholarly achievement and the advancement of our campus, especially those that showcase our students.  Such an event is the annual Honors Program Autumn Reception.

During September, the Office of Admissions sponsored a series of events held in Atrium of the Thompson Library to recruit high-achieving high school students to University of Michigan-Flint and to tell them about the Honors Program and the many benefits it offers our students.

photo (4)cOf the select group invited, approximately 20 to 25 young people (and their parents) attended each presentation over two separate evenings.  In attendance were guests from as far away as Gaylord, Grand Rapids and the Upper Peninsula.

The library Atrium provided a perfect setting to display our campus at its finest, with 3 stories of windows providing natural lighting while overlooking the Flint River and the White Building on the far bank.  Catered by Fandangles as a sit-down buffet, the evening was both elegant and energized.

photo (3)cCurrent UM-Flint Honors Program students were on hand to share their experiences as a student.  Students spoke of the type of studies they were involved in — ranging from computer science through medicine and more — the research projects they participated in with leading members of their field of interest, and of course, the semester spent abroad (Off-Campus Experience), which is a highlight of the Honors Program.

photo (4)aProgram Director, Maureen Thum, spoke of the exciting opportunities and experiences of students in the program.  She also talked about the many successes of Honors Program  graduates in their application to professional and graduate schools, and to professional positions.

Jon Davidson
John Davidson, Director of Admissions, UM-Flint Discussing Honors Program during recruitment reception. October 2015

Admissions Director Jon Davidson and his staff were on hand to assist parents with questions regarding enrollment applications, dorm options and other practical matters.

Honors students were available for one-on-one consultations with guests who had questions regarding specific areas of studies and the opportunities and experiences opened to them as students of the Program.

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Honors Student-Admissions
UM-Flint Honors Student shares his experience with guests at the Honors Program Recruitment Reception hosted by Office of Admissions, October 2015.

Our students were enthusiastic regarding their experiences working side-by-side with leading experts from around the world, conducting original research in a variety of fields, and presenting papers at conferences — experiences rarely available to undergrad students, but common among the University of Michigan-Flint Honors students.

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When speaking to guests, the students did not sugar-coat their involvement in the Honors Program; the work is hard, but the rewards are both gratifying — and amazing.   Graduates of the Program have had opportunities open to them they would otherwise never have imagined.

Many of the guests and their families left with applications.

Hopefully, events such as these will ensure we will have many years of outstanding Honors Program students graduating from UM-Flint to go out into the world and demonstrate in a very positive way why they are among “The Leaders and the Best!”

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