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Process Meets Practice: Balancing Creating and Teaching


Museum of the White Mountains
On View January 25-February 26, 2022

Process Meets Practice shines a light on five women artists who have taught and led at Plymouth State University and the PSU Art Department. This exhibit explores how these artists created, instructed, and inspired hundreds of art students over the years in a traditionally male-dominated field. Process Meets Practice features drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, and stories that celebrate these women and their lasting impact on PSU.


Barbara Dearborn, Annette Mitchell, Mary Taylor, Sue Tucker, & Cynthia Worthen Vascak


Walk Through the Exhibition

Barbara Dearborn

Barbara Smith Dearborn was a tenured faculty member of the Plymouth State College Mathematics Department for over 35 years and resident of the town of Plymouth for over 47 years until her death in 1996. As a professor and an alumna, she was devoted to Plymouth State. In 1997, she was posthumously presented the PSC President’s Award for her “significant and lasting contributions to Plymouth State College.”

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Barbara was born in Long Island, New York. Her family moved to Plymouth during her teenage years, and she graduated from Plymouth High School in 1953. She met her husband Denny Dearborn at Plymouth State (then Plymouth Teachers College). Barbara majored in mathematics, and after receiving her B.Ed. degree from Plymouth State she was hired by Plymouth Teachers College. In 1962, she earned her masters degree from the University of New Hampshire.

In 1989, Barbara said, “I like to teach. I enjoy getting up in the morning and going to class. It is fun to teach, and I teach with enthusiasm. I really care about my students.” Her college students described her as “enthusiastic, helpful, entertaining, dedicated, encouraging, and one of the finest teachers.”

In addition to being a mathematics professor, Barbara was a passionate visual artist, an avid golfer, and was supportive of various community organizations and activities. Barbara was instrumental in creating the Karl Drerup Art Gallery that opened in Hyde Hall in 1986. Barbara studied art with zeal. She took her first oil painting lesson from a local artist Pat Giebotowski, and she completed over 20 art courses at the college.

Daughter Mitzi fondly remembers visiting the PSC Art Department painting studio in Hyde Hall on many different occasions to see her mother’s latest oil paintings. In 1997, the new painting studio on the third floor of the Draper & Maynard Building was named for her and dedicated in her memory. Barbara particularly enjoyed artistic design and oil painting on very large canvases: her largest “Freeways” triptych oil painting covers 34 square feet.

Freeways, Barbara S. Dearborn. Oil on Canvas. 1993. Copyright: Barbara S. Dearborn.

Barbara described Freeways as “reflecting life and travel paths. There are spiral and rhythmic lines, echoing highways, byways, cloverleafs, and patches of bright colors here and there.”

“On the Links” suite. Barbara S. Dearborn. Oil on Canvas. 1993. Copyright: Barbara S. Dearborn.

Paintings from left to right)

“A Hot Day on the Links”: This is one of a set of four abstract golf paintings, which designates fairways and greens by linking color, shapes, and rhythms. It creates a feeling of a hot lazy day with slow play, but it does contain two “birdies on the par three holes” near the center of the painting.

“A Perfect Day on the Links”: The second golf painting creates a feeling of euphoria with sunny skies, plushy fairways and greens, and smooth and easy sand traps. It contains a hidden “hole-in-one” near the center of the painting.

“A Windy Day on the Links”: The third golf painting gives a busy but happy feeling of flags and trees blowing in the wind with balls flying everywhere.

“A Cold Day on the Links”: The fourth in the series, this painting creates a “keep active to keep warm, to keep in control, and to win anyway” feeling.

Annette Mitchell

Annette Mitchell coordinated the Drawing Program at Plymouth State University for more than three decades before retiring Professor Emerita in 2013. During her tenure, she pioneered a printmaking process that used polystyrene foam plates. Her textbook on the subject Foam Is Where The Art Is—New Ways To Print  was published in Canada and has assisted studio artists and teachers worldwide. Annette has received many accolades including New Hampshire Art Educator of the Year.

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After retiring, Annette continued to teach nine-day workshops at Plymouth State University every January and July. When the COVID-19 pandemic discouraged large in-person classes, she was invited to teach via zoom for Artistic Roots Gallery in Plymouth, NH. Those classes continue.

In Annette’s words, “Coordinating Plymouth State’s Drawing Program and working with art majors was a delightful combination that supported and inspired my personal studio explorations. We as an art faculty believed that teaching by example was the most valuable route; however, my inspiration to always be creating art was in place from an early age.

“A Bachelor of Fine Art, Master of Art, and Master of Fine Art degree in painting and stone lithography provided a rich opportunity to interact with a wide variety of artists and scholars at the university level. I headed an art program at the University of West Alabama for eight years before joining Plymouth State.

“Students provided wonderful art ideas and lifestyles that offered both a rich environment for artistic inspiration and growth. Continuing my interest in art history, I served an art reviewer for Art New England Magazine. That required travel and critical thinking about the exhibitions across our state.”


Color of the Soul, Annette W. Mitchell. Art Quilt. 2018. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Of the 43 art quilts I have created, many involve my foam block printing process.  I print my designs on the cotton and then sew them together beginning in the center and adding to the image in an outward progression.”

Café Monte Alto, Annette W. Mitchell. Acrylic Painting on Arches Cover White Paper. 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Acrylic painting has always been a central medium for my art expression. I created a large series of Nightscape paintings that singled out significant locations in our area. The Café Monte Alto represents this series in that the Monte Alto continues to be a community magnet for fellowship.”

Dolley Madison Saving Gilbert Stuart’s Painting of George Washington, Annette W. Mitchel. Acrylic Painting on Arches Cover White Paper. 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

“A group of characters seem to be another integral part of my art expression. Called Snoofers, these big-nosed representatives populate many artworks. Dolley Madison Saved Gilbert Stuart’s Portrait of George Washington was one of the many paintings created to illustrate my father’s Woodson family history. This painting was awarded First Place in a national painting and sculpture competition sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and was exhibited at their national meeting in Washington, D C.  It is one of the images published in my second book Snoofer Chronicles.”

North of Stinson Lake, Annette W. Mitchell. Sumi Ink, Block Printing, and Acrylic Paint. 2018. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Drawing has always offered an excellent medium for my personal expression. Sumi ink was combined with my foam block process in a series that expressed New Hampshire’s lovely environment. When I observe landscape features, I draw a Sumi ink line that represents the underlying armature. Then I add foam block printed additions to complete the expression.”

Tara’s Gift, Annette W. Mitchell. Foam Block Print. 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

“The foam block printing process that I pioneered resulted from a variety of factors. I had worked for years with stone lithography. When asked to work with non-art majors and create fine art prints without a press, we experimented with this medium. Fellow art teachers requested more information about how we worked and eventually a textbook Foam Is Where The Art Is—New Ways To Print was published in Canada and a DVD was created.”

Portrait of Steve Sweedler, Annette W. Mitchell. Cotton Fabrics. 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

“When creating fabric portraits, I cut and pieced various bits of value and color together to express the overall look of my subject. Steve headed all of the botanical plantings and upkeep of Plymouth State’s campus during his tenure and was our resident tree expert.”

Mary Taylor

Mary C. Taylor assumed the Chairmanship of the Art Department at Plymouth State College in 1968. During her tenure, she grew the department from 4 to 9 faculty members and helped to increase student enrollment, which led to a need for new facilities. She worked closely with College and University officials to plan the design of new facilities in Hyde Hall. Former Plymouth colleague, Janice Gallinger said  of Mary: “She was a major figure not only in the development of the fine arts program but the entire school.”

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She was born Mary Rebecca Cashman in 1915 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mary attended Wilson College, then transferred to Carnegie Institute of Technology to major in painting and design, and obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1937. She served as art teacher and department chairperson for 10 years at Doane College in the small town of Crete, Nebraska.

After serving as Plymouth State’s Art Department’s Chair for 12 years, she retired Professor Emerita in 1980. In retirement, Mary continued painting the landscapes she loved, exhibiting regularly in New England, including many one-person shows.  Her paintings hang in many private and corporate collections throughout the country. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 89.

“She was a single mother and a career woman ahead of her time. She was steel clad in velvet, always proper, great sense of manners, but she was also very strong . . . . She traveled the world by herself. Even into her 80s she traveled to Japan to study art.” —  Derek Taylor, son

About her art, Mary said: “I turned to watercolors because I like the immediacy…With watercolor you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t you throw it away.  It’s more risky [than other mediums], and I haven’t begun to master it.”

After the Storm, Mary Taylor. Watercolor. 1991. PSU Campus Art Collection.

Winter, Mary Taylor. Watercolor. 1979. PSU Campus Art Collection.

“My paintings tend to be sort of chaotic the way that nature is chaotic. I don’t come out with very ordered symmetry. It just doesn’t look that way to me.”

Spring Sunshine, New Hampshire, Mary Taylor. Watercolor. 1992. Private Collection.


Ongunquit, ME, Mary Taylor. Watercolor. 1995. PSU Campus Art Collection.

Untitled Still Life, Mary Taylor. Watercolor. 1982. PSU Campus Art Collection.

“Painting in watercolor is like walking a tightrope; one must find a perfect balance between what the paint wants to do and what the artist wants to do or all is lost.”

Approaching Storm, Mary Taylor. Watercolor. 1991. PSU Campus Art Collection.

“I’ve painted this mountain I don’t know how many times. It really isn’t this mountain; I’m painting the effects that I see around it. There are seasonal and daily changes. I’m interested in atmosphere, and I think that watercolors are the best medium for that.”

Sue Tucker

Susan Bennett Tucker taught ceramics at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire from 1982 to 2009. She now works in her home studio, Falling Leaf Pottery, in Plymouth, NH. She is a state-juried member of  The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and a member of two area artists’ co-ops, Artistic Roots, in Plymouth, and Squam Lakes Artisans in Center Harbor, NH.

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“My formal studies in ceramics began at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where I studied hand-building, potter’s wheel and glaze chemistry, continuing to work with Georgia red clay. I then worked and taught pottery classes in a Charlottesville, Virginia studio for four years. In 1977, I completed a BFA degree in Ceramics at Augusta College, working with stoneware and porcelain clays and salt firing kilns. In 1980, I completed the MFA degree in Ceramics at University of North Texas, Denton, working with sculpture, pottery, smoke firing and wood firing kilns.

“While teaching full-time for many years, I continued my own artistic work in clay, cycling back and forth between functional pottery and sculpture. In 2009, I retired from 27 years of teaching ceramics at Plymouth State.

“My new studio at home (completed in 2009) accommodates my expanded pursuit of the functional forms of pottery in stoneware and porcelain. I make my own glazes and fire the glazed work in a gas-fired kiln.

“In this exhibition, I have included three of my favorite earlier works made in the summer of 2001, inspired by the materials and forms — sand and shells — found on the beach at Cape Cod. Three more recent works (2019-2021) are small free-form bowls with attached grapevine handles. Materials, process, form, inspiration, combination — the practice keeps me going.“

Yellow Bowl with Grapevine Handles, Sue Tucker. Stoneware Clay, Grapevine, Cane. 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Finding textures and materials that complement or repeat each other with pattern or color is a favorite pursuit for me. The exterior of this small oval bowl was impressed with part of a crocheted runner, providing a rhythmic pattern of bumpy texture The bowl was formed and the edges pierced for the crisscrossed cane edging and the added knotty vine handles. The creamy yellow satin finish glaze on the interior provides an inviting contrast to the rougher exterior and edges.”

Green Bowl with Grapevine Handles, Sue Tucker. Stoneware Clay, Grapevine, Cane. 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

“This longer oval bowl was formed after the clay slab was impressed with a frond from a bracken fern which grew on the edge of the stream near my studio. The Oribe green glaze recalls the lush green of the summer woodland.”

Dotted Bowl with Grapevine Handles, Sue Tucker. Stoneware Clay, Grapevine, Cane. 2019. Image courtesy of the artist.

“I always have been intrigued by the ability of clay to pick up textures, from natural to manmade. This small, whimsical bowl was formed from a flat disc of clay that I textured with a studded rolling pin and then shaped. An iron-bearing glaze has been inlayed in the texture. The grapevine handles were harvested from my annual pruning of my Concord grapes.”

Untitled I, Sue Tucker. Stoneware Base; Porcelain “Shell”. 2001. Image courtesy of the artist.

Untitled II, Sue Tucker. Stoneware Base; Porcelain “Shell”. 2001. Image courtesy of the artist.

Untitled III, Sue Tucker. Stoneware Base; Porcelain “Shell”. 2001. Image courtesy of the artist.

“These three sculptures were inspired during a summer artists’ retreat on Cape Cod in 2001. I found many scallop shells on the beach near where we were staying. Wet sea shells have always lured me to pick them up, but the seductive gloss of wetness fades as they dry. I took some scallop shells home and pressed them into porcelain as I pinched out small bowls. A little Shino glaze on them recalls the fresh wetness of the shells when found on the beach. The raw, sand dune ”pedestals” for each shell bowl are stoneware clay with beach sand wedged into it before forming.”

Cynthia Worthen Vascak

Dr. Cynthia Worthen Vascak, PHD is Faculty Emerita of Art and Art education at Plymouth State University. Her teaching vocation at Plymouth State began in 1991. She served PSU as Professor of Art and Art Education, Chair of the Department of Art, and Coordinator of the Art Education degree programs prior to her being selected for the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. As a faculty member, she led many cross campus initiatives that included the creation of the first PSU Master of Arts in Teaching degree. In 2009, she was honored with PSU’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

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In addition to her work as a studio artist, art educator, and Dean, Dr. Vascak’s scholarly interests include mindfulness and contemplative practices. She has integrated mindfulness practices and the cultivation of communities of care throughout her work as an educator and artist. Currently, she is studying Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction with the Brown University Center for Mindfulness while further pursuing her training as a Mindfulness Educator.

As a studio artist, her work encompasses, drawing, printmaking, and egg tempera painting. The foundation of her work is drawing from direct observation. In her words, “I find that working directly and spontaneously from life is a constant source of spiritual and creative nourishment and inspiration. My works are all created with deep attention and care for the model, for the moment, and towards a gestalt of inner rhythms and harmonies.  Such attentive looking can inspire us each to stop and re-engage with our world and our relationships with a renewed sense of connection, wonder, compassion, and envisionment. Creativity begins with becoming fully present and offers the artist and the beholder the gift of insight and a gateway bridging the rational and the numinous”.


Contemplation: Lady with Magnolias, Cynthia Worthen Vascak. Egg Tempera on Gesso Panel. 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

“This panel is one of a series of contemplative figures set in various gardens. The figures are designed to be very allegorical as is the choice of flowers and gold leaf. It is up to the viewer to find their own story.”

Lady Hawk, Cynthia Worthen Vascak. Egg Tempera on Gesso Panel. 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

“This panel was inspired by my love for Arthurian Legends and tales of Camelot and Avalon. The Lady is quite archetypal and her story is yours to discover and create.”

Contemplation: Lady with Plum Blossoms, Cynthia Worthen Vascak. Egg Tempera on Gesso Panel. 2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Egg tempera is endlessly fascinating to me as a media – from the fine hand grinding of pigments to the gentle washing of the fragile fresh egg yolk, to the incredibly precise mixing of colors and values, to the delicate layering of strokes which slowly and meticulously build up the painting with luminosity and form. I feel a sense of stillness in motion and timelessness as the painting develops and fills with spirit. I draw upon both the traditions of Italian spiritual art and portraiture and Russian Iconography relative to technique and imagery working with traditional Icon writing and with the added element of personal romanticism, fantasy, and symbolism.”

Study, Cynthia Worthern Vascak. Conte Drawing on Paper. 2008.

“This is a study form the model drawn in approximately 30 minutes. My intent was to capture the flow of the pose or the innate fluidity of the gesture of the pose with the beautiful movement of the drapery . The drawing is very gestural and not overly detailed. The purpose was to use as a study for future works.”

Figure Study, Cynthia Worthern Vascak. Conte on Butcher Block Paper. 1986.

“This study of a model, was drawn with sepia and white conte on butcher paper. My intent was to explore the gesture and the structure of the figure bringing in some of the anatomical details. I chose this as an example of working with very basic materials such as butcher paper. This study became the inspiration for three different works.”

Gesture, Cynthia Worthern Vascak. Charcoal on Paper. 2000.

“I chose this as an example of the beauty of a purely gestural drawing. This approach to drawing is very quick, fluid, and spontaneous, focusing on rhythm and movement over detail and structure. Being loose is also a key part of being able to draw of paint within a tighter structure or style and for me, is essential to my process.”