Past professor donates papers to college


Award-winning artist and Hartwick College Professor Emerita Roberta Griffith recently donated commemorative material from her career to Hartwick College.

The 81-year-old mixed media artist’s work has appeared in the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii; Yixing City Museum in Yixing, China; Yingge Ceramics Museum in New Tapei City, Taiwan and more.

Though Griffith lives and works in Hawaii, she spends her summer months in Otego, which she said will always be a special place to her. Griffith raised her children in Otego and one of her sons graduated from Hartwick College. 

“I’m in Hawaii because I’m an artist, and I’m in Otego because it’s my home,” she said.

Griffith joined the Hartwick faculty in 1966 and became chair of the Department of Art in 1974. She reached full professor status a year later and was the Arkell Hall Endowed Chair and professor of art from 1979 until she retired in 2008.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to leave my papers,” Griffith said. “I had many choices, but that was my first choice. I like the college, I worked there for 42 years and helped build up an incredible art department.”

Griffith received a full-tuition scholarship in painting at the Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende in 1957. In 1962, she used her Fulbright Research Grant to study in Barcelona, Spain where she studied ceramics with Spanish artist Josep Lloréns Artigas. Artigas, at the time, was collaborating with Spanish artist Joan Miró, who was one of the leading artists of the Surrealism movement.

Since the 1970s, according to her biography, the majority of Griffith’s ceramic series and installations have had underlying themes of mortality, universal shortcomings and natural and man-made disasters. An example is her installation “Hung Out To Die,” which touches on human mortality with suspended ceramic baseballs and ghostly looking ceramic doll remnants. 

The papers Griffith donated to the college’s archive include her sabbatical report “Around the World in 90 Days,” documentation of her scholarship to Instituto Allende, biographies and bibliographies and publications and information from her Hartwick College career.

Hartwick College Archivist Shelley Wallace compiled the materials. She said students visit the archive for research on projects ranging from a short English composition paper to a senior thesis.

Wallace said students may be particularly interested in Griffith’s time in Barcelona working with Artigas or her documentation of traveling the world. At the archive, students research primary sources — sources like art, historical and legal documents and results of experiments that provide direct evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art, according to Ithaca College Library’s website.

“Rather than showing her artwork, which people are used to seeing,” Wallace said, “this is showing her life.”

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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