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Likenesses by Judith Aronson


When Design Professor Judith Aronson was asked to exhibit photographs from her new book Likenesses at one of the great Oxford Colleges, Christ Church, she met the request with stunned elation.

"The Christ Church gallery is where you find one of the most important private collections of art in the UK. When I was invited to show, I couldn't believe it," said Aronson.

She then paused briefly to consider any conflicts with the start of her semester at Simmons College, to which her husband said: "You must do it, Judith. When you are invited to show at Christ Church, there is no question."

Aronson was amazed when, in September, she arrived at Oxford to help hang the show and saw where her photographs would be shown. The curator, Jacqueline Thalmann, pointed at a famous Salvator Rosa and said that it was going to be replaced with two of Aronson's color photographs. She then watched as Thalmann directed gallery workers to move all of the Michelangelo and da Vinci works out of the drawing gallery to make room for her show.

She shouldn't have been so surprised. This remarkable debut book has caught the attention of critics, art lovers, and readers in the Boston area and internationally. Aronson's portrait of poets Geoffrey Hill and Alice Goodman, which appears on the book's cover, was featured as July's Photograph of the Month at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In addition, Likenesses was featured in a six-page spread in The Financial Times Weekend Magazine on July 10, 2010. The FT describes how Aronson compiled the photographs in the book, noting that while "many of her subjects were friends, others required some persuasion before they would sit. Robert Lowell agreed to be photographed only if Aronson would cut his hair." The story of the book's creation is as compelling as the many stories the book evokes.

Likenesses is a book of intimate portraits of writers and artists. It includes over 100 pages of photographs with commentary, much of it original, by the sitters. In the introduction, Aronson describes the thirty years of photography reflected in these pages. These photographs suggest whole worlds and whole lives in the moments before and after the shutter snapped. Aronson presents a community of academics, poets, artists, and actors whose words about each other will fascinate art and literary enthusiasts alike. The photos and essays feature some of the most prominent names in the twentieth century, including Sara Caldwell, Matthew Carter, Seamus Heaney, Norman Mailer, Robert Pinsky, Joan Plowright, Ralph Richardson, Salman Rushdie, Simon Schama, Diana Trilling, and Fredrick Wiseman.

In addition to writing more than a dozen essays and completing all the photography, Aronson also acted as the book designer and production manager. This brings together Aronson's two careers, her lifetime of photography and her full time position at Simmons College in Boston, teaching graphic design.

"Professor Aronson has cast a new and unique light on a generation of artistic greats, and her photographs welcome readers to enjoy a quick glimpse of their private lives. Her fantastic collection combines the typographic skills she teaches at Simmons and perceptive and engaging photography. We are so proud of her extraordinary achievement," said Simmons Communications Department Chair James Corcoran.

The Communications Department at Simmons College will hold a reception and book signing for Likenesses in the Trustman Art Gallery on November 3, 2010 at 5:45 p.m. to celebrate Judith Aronson's achievement. Light refreshments will be served.

The exhibition at Christ Church, Oxford runs from 18th September to 19th October 2010, a reception will be held on October 15, 2010.

Posted by Deirdre Yee on September 22, 2010 1:52 PM