Your Museum Time
Thanks again for being part of the Your Museum Time program, which debuted this fall. This week's prompt was created by two of our Student Guides, Julia Pfau and Blythe Romano.

Please note that this is the last prompt of the semester, but we'll be back for the Spring 2021 semester. Please share your feedback about the program with a short survey. We'll use this feedback to make improvements.

In addition, please be on the lookout for a larger survey in early December from the Museum, asking about all of the programs we've been doing during the pandemic. We've been trying a lot of new things as we've transitioned to virtual and self-guided experiences, and we'd really appreciate your thoughts on what you have found relevant and engaging during these challenging times.

Please know that if you have questions, ideas for prompts, or any suggestions, I would love to hear from you at

All the best,

Kris Bergquist
Mirken Curator of Education and Engagement
Prompt #11

"The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art." – Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an American abstract expressionist painter who worked in the mid-twentieth century. He is widely known for his abstract paintings and his technique of dripping and pouring paint onto a canvas that was placed on the floor. Composition with Masked Forms, however, was painted in an earlier period of his career and features more recognizable shapes; nevertheless, it is a prime example of Pollock’s active style.

Grab a stool at the Welcome Desk and enter the Museum. Head to the Sally and Michael Gordon Gallery and take a seat in front of Jackson Pollock's Composition with Masked Forms
Settle in front of the work of art. Gently wiggle your fingers and do some neck stretches to release tension. Clear your mind and begin to study the artwork, taking everything in.
Consider the painting as a whole. What emotions, if any, does it immediately evoke?

Pollock was well-known for his ability to convey thoughts, ideas, and feelings through his unique style and techniques. This painting utilizes color, movement, and rhythm, all of which may evoke certain emotions in the viewer. Try to name your emotions—come up with a list of five descriptive words and write them in your notebook.

Take some time to sketch the composition, focusing on the shapes. What do you notice about the interconnectedness of the forms?

The organization of the lines and shapes together suggest representational forms, though it is difficult to discern exactly what is shown. How did you decide which parts to focus on in your drawing?

Do you see any identifiable shapes in Pollock’s Composition with Masked Forms?

Unlike Pollock’s famous drip paintings which were completely abstract, Composition with Masked Forms features some recognizable shapes. As indicated by the title, some of the forms composed by Pollock in this work seem to have been inspired by masks, particularly those from the Inuit and Tlingit cultures. With today's understanding of racial bias and white privilege, Pollock's use of imagery from a culture other than his own is something to consider as you look at this work and think about its meaning. What questions are surfacing for you?

Consider the texture of the paint. 

Many areas of Composition with Masked Forms feature large clumps of paint. Some art reviewers have described these textured areas as demonstrating Pollock’s “force” and “ability” when creating this work, and that they help “propel the energy” of the piece. Do you agree with this statement? How do the different textures of paint affect your thoughts about the work?

BANNER: Colby College Museum of Art; photo © trentbellphotography.
Artwork: Jackson Pollock, Composition with Masked Forms, 1941, oil on canvas, 27 3/4 x 49 3/4 in. (70 x 126 cm), Gift of the Barsalona Family, Museum purchase from the Jere Abbott Acquisition Fund, and gift of Peter and Paula Lunder, The Lunder Collection, Accession Number: 2018.084

Copyright © 2020 Colby College Museum of Art, All rights reserved.


Colby College Museum of Art
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