May 29, 2024

Before Retiring, Bruce Herman Goes Back to the Beginning  

McKenna Gregg 27'

Photo Courtesy of Bruce Herman

Upon entering the main gallery in Barrington, visitors are greeted with a host of detailed faces and figures. The traditionalist paintings lining the wall were created by artists Robert Armetta and Juliette Aristides. Their combined 61 paintings complete the “New Classical” exhibition curated by Bruce Herman, the Director of the Gallery at Barrington and beloved Gordon Art Professor. The gallery opened on March 14 and will be displayed through April 18, marking Herman’s last curation prior to his upcoming retirement. Through this display, he has chosen to emphasize the importance of past art traditions within the modern world. 

Herman first found Armetta’s work while visiting a friend. From that moment Herman tracked Armetta’s work and later found Aristide’s paintings. His curiosity in these artists sparked his interest in the Atelier movement, a movement based in training students in realist drawing and painting traditions from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century in Europe. “The past is not over with, we don’t need to cut ourselves off from the past in order to be modern, in order to be contemporary,” Herman said, describing the Atelier movement. There lies an importance to connect both the past traditions of art with contemporary ideas. “The past still has relevance,” he stated, which he hopes to highlight through this curation. 

The “New Classical” exhibit is a revisiting of Herman’s origins, a carefully curated body of work to conclude his 40 years at Gordon. “One of the very first shows that I curated was a show of Boston painters, who were for lack of a better term traditionalists,” recalled Herman. Since that first show in 1985, he has not done another traditionalist curation until this latest exhibition. “For me to retire, with this being my last show, it’s kind of a fun returning to where I started,” he reflected. 

Bruce Herman first began teaching at Gordon College in 1984. At the time, there was no art department or gallery attached to Gordon. Judd Carlberg, Gordon administrator and President from 1992-2011, challenged Herman to create an art department. By 1988, the art department was formed, and the gallery was fully functioning. This was Herman’s “attempt to educate the community, educate not just the students, but fellow faculty and administration at Gordon, and then local people that live in the area.” 

Beyond Herman’s achievements as an Art Professor and Gallery Director, he earned the Lothlorien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts. He also helped start the study abroad program in Orvieto. Though Herman’s time as a professor ended in 2022, and despite his recently announced retirement as gallery curator this year, his dedication towards the Art Department and Gordon as a whole remains his legacy. 

After 40 years at Gordon, he feels that he is ready to leave and that his time at Gordon is coming to a close. He remarked, “I really feel like I have a lot more to say, as an artist.” During his retirement, he plans to focus more on creating his own work and honing in on his artistic practice. “It’s time for younger faculty to have a chance.” 

Many of Herman’s fond memories of his time at Gordon include founding the Art department and the study abroad program in Orvieto. “The highlights have all centered on starting new things and welcoming younger artists into it.” Similarly, he enjoyed his ability to converse with students and learn from them. “The highlight of my tiny record is seeking wisdom alongside the younger minds, the younger hearts, the younger imaginations.” 

Art Major Bella Runcie ‘24 had the opportunity to work with Herman several times in one of her classes, and in Orvieto. She recalled the many lessons Herman taught her. Through demonstrations of gold leaf painting and learning valuable philosophy when drawing human figures, Runcie learned about Herman’s playfulness and encouragement when it comes to art.  She recalled meeting him for the first time: he gave her a personalized tour of the Art Department when she first visited Gordon with her dad four years ago. 

“Throughout my time at Gordon I have learned that his dedication to students and the community, which I saw on that admissions day, is very genuine,” Runcie said. Herman has deeply impacted both students and administrators through his teaching and genuine character. Though Herman will be spending more time in his studio and less time at Gordon, he plans to continue making appearances. “I’m still in relationship with former students and, you know, I keep getting invited back here to do guest lectures.” 

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