Boundaries Imagined: Decoding the Legacy of Louisa Chase

Students examine a work by Louisa Chase inside The Trout Gallery. Photo by Riley Heffron '26.

Photo by Riley Heffron '26

Trout exhibition runs through April 6

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Throughout her four-decade career, Louisa Chase (1951-2016) pushed the boundaries of artistic conventions, embraced different media and themes and defied easy categorization. Now, seven years after the artist's passing, Dickinson students present an exhibition on campus representing Chase's quest to translate complex ideas, phenomena and associated emotions and identities into art that was uniquely her own. 

The Boundaries Imagined: Louisa Chase—Paintings, Drawings, Prints (1975-2003) is on view at the Trout Gallery through April 6. The 21-work exhibition is curated by senior art history majors Isabel Frangules, Ben Goodrum, Zander Holt and Xenia Makosky, under direction of Melinda Schlitt, professor of art history and William W. Edel Professor of Humanities.

Like all Dickinson art history majors, the students must present a joint public exhibition during the spring semester of their senior year. This includes selecting available works for exhibition, researching and writing an accompanying catalogue and designing the exhibition itself.

Art world connections

Chase earned a BFA from Syracuse University in 1973 and an MFA from Yale University in 1975. Soon after, she joined the NYC art scene, and she continued to create until shortly before her death. Over the course of her long career, Chase deployed a variety of media, including oil, wax, ink, graphite, watercolor, charcoal, woodcut, lithograph and etching. Each of these techniques is represented in the student-curated exhibition.

The works on view have been loaned to the Trout Gallery by the estate of Louisa Chase, courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, in New York. Eric Baumgartner ’79, Hirschl & Adler’s senior vice president and director of American paintings & sculpture, had suggested Chase as a subject for this exhibition. A former Dickinson art history major, Baumgartner also provided high-res photos of Chase’s works, met with the students over Zoom as they planned the show and facilitated transportation of the pieces to the Trout.

Also thanks to Dickinson connections with the art world, the student researchers were able to access Chase's personal journals, notebooks, letters and exhibition catalogues as they researched the artist and her works. The papers, archived at Syracuse University, include Chase's real-time musings about her artistic process, her inspirations and the creative challenges she encountered. Within Chase’s writings, they discovered the phrase “the boundaries imagined,” and an exhibition name was born.

It was a deeply challenging but satisfying experience, says Makosky, whose research focused on Chase’s experimentations with both representational and abstract imagery and the significance of these shifts. Leading up to the Feb. 26 opening, she said that after months of hard work, she was glad to finally open the gallery doors. “We have curated an exhibition and written a catalogue that we are all personally proud of and that reflects the skills we have acquired through the past four years of studying art history,” Makosky explained. “We’re excited to share it with the campus and local community.”


Published February 27, 2024