97. Wallace Barnes and Barbara Hackman Franklin Art Gallery

When Toplessness Goes Very, Very Wrong
(Google Maps Location)
April 8, 2009

97e.jpgContinuing my Winter/Spring 2009 spate of campus art galleries, I happened by this teeny tiny one during a writer’s event at Tunxis Community College. In fact, this gallery is so small, you can walk from the entrance to the exit before being able to finish saying the whole proper name of the place.

The gallery was named in honor of Wallace Barnes, chairman of the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission, and retired chairman and CEO of the Barnes Group, Inc. (Bristol), and his wife Barbara Hackman Franklin, a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and president and CEO of Barbara Franklin Enterprises, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

For fun, I just Googled the good Mrs. Franklin – My word, she’s impressive. But what about the little art gallery she helped fund?

97a.jpgWell, it’s little, that’s for sure. Fortuitously, the latest edition of the Tunxis CC paper was fresh off the presses and the lead cover story is “Our New Art Gallery: One Year Later.” The director, William Kluba emphatically states that the new gallery is a success.

Without delving into a tiny community college’s ups and downs regarding the recent (relatively) massive expansion, the article discusses how the space came to be and how it’s been received. “Its big glass doors, white walls, soft lighting and hardwood floors make it an enjoyable experience,” they say, “the gallery that we see today is a piece of artwork in and of itself.”

Hm. I don’t mean to rain on their parade but I hate to break it to them that pretty much every college’s little art gallery has big glass doors, white walls, soft lighting and hardwood floors. It’s sort of the required setting for an art gallery. (All one needs to do is peruse this very blog for confirmation of said decor.)

But the director has a vision, according to the article. “I look for diversity in the work. I look for people who do methods that are unorthodox.” They also feature artist talks from time to time as well. So… Did the exhibit on display during my visit fit the “unorthodox” bill?

97b.jpgYeah, I guess. Two photographers were featured; Arthur Simoes and Jessica Somers. Now that I’ve poked around the Interwebs, I’ve learned that both are instructors at the school. Which, I must admit, is kind of a letdown although that’s not really fair. For the record, this little gallery DOES show work of non-Tunxis related artists.

Both photographers offer up lengthy descriptions of their work. I shall try to condense their pontificating to a paragraph each. Up first: Jessica Somers…

Her portfolio on display is titled, “Bend So Not To Break.” It explores “the struggle and balance between the choices one makes and the uncontrollable circumstances that intervene with these choices. These photographs are an exploration of the self, a reflection on self-discovery. I construct each tableau using a range of individual prop-symbols illustrating the way life can lead us and my search for contentment and the ability to allow myself to be led.”

This is too good to stop… “With this rumination I find that even within moments of uncertainty lay happiness, abounding love and the achingly beautiufl realizations of sacred and finite human life.”

97c.jpgOkay, okay, I’ll stop. I love this stuff. Ms. Somers grew up in Wallingford and employs historic photographic techniques. Let’s move on to the slightly more adventurous Arthur Simoes.

Mr. Simoes’s work is titled “PhotoMerge” and is an homage to AdobePhotoshop. But yet, his “merges” are created using multiple exposures of the film while in the camera. Old school style. In his words, “There is a considerable amount of chance that enters this type of merging process. Well-planned and carefully constructed merges, which generate seamless and believable images are the exception, not the norm. Much can go wrong, although serendipity can also lead to unexpected and remarkable results.

Using a 4×5 View camera, the subject is the artist and his wife. Each took turns posing and manning the camera and again in his words, this joining “is at once understood on its face and also can be read as having a deeply metaphoric meaning. The union of a man and a woman takes on a completely new dimension with the viewing of this work.”

Once again I’m reminded how different artists are from myself. A few of the images are somewhat startling; full frontal nudes of half man, half woman. Another gallery visitor actually blurted out, “Ew!” Which ironically, the artist would probably enjoy knowing.


I usually really like photographic exhibits. This one was pretty good, and I always appreciate photographs created through historic, creative, and difficult means. (As opposed to my pathetic point, shoot, download, upload methodology.)

It seems as though the Wallace Barnes and Barbara Hackman Franklin Art Gallery is a welcome addition to Tunxis Community College and to CTMQ as well.


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Cost: Free
Hours: Mon-Thu, middle of the day (the hours are changeable it seems.)
Food & Drink? There’s a Five Guys across the street
Children? Depends. Would they be disturbed by this display?
You’ll like it if: You wear all black
You won’t like it if: You used to beat up the kids in all black
Freebies: None

For the Curious:

The Gallery
Arthur Simoes Photography (Some nice stuff)
Jessica Somers Photography (The whole exhibit is online here.)

One response to “97. Wallace Barnes and Barbara Hackman Franklin Art Gallery”

  1. Andy says:

    Another sterile gallery experience…I’m looking forward to your review of the Hillstead Museum, where paintings are displayed the way they were meant to be seen…Shall we hang the Degas by the settee or over the mantle?

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