Martin-Mullen Art Gallery to feature “Cotton: The Soft Dangerous Beauty of the Past”

The latest exhibition at the Martin-Mullen Art Gallery will be John Dowell’s “Cotton: The Soft Dangerous Beauty of the Past.” The exhibit will run from Jan. 22 until March 16, with a public reception – including an artist gallery talk and dance performance – on Thursday, Jan. 25 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Dowell will display large-scale agricultural and urban landscapes enmeshed in cotton that question the social impact and history of this beautiful yet controversial crop. The “soft and dangerous beauty of the past” is captured in 23 digital color photographs ranging in size from 18 inches by 24 inches to 24 inches by 157 inches.

Dowell’s work presents several series of photographs, Harlem & Wall Street Cotton, Cotton Timetable, Cotton Compositions and Lost in the Cotton. There will be an installation of cotton, a Taffeta fabric photo banner maze and a dance performance in the gallery the evening of the public reception. 

With this project, I want the viewer to feel, remember, wonder, think and examine their consciousness, and still see the beauty of this plant that changed the world,” Dowell said. He chose to collaborate with Philadelphia choreographer, Kareem Goodwin, to create Cotton in Motion, a dance that introduces humane movement and interaction specific to the exhibition at Oneonta. Shannah Kane, dance instructor at Oneonta, will work with Goodwin and Oneonta students in staging the performance.

The exhibit is funded in part through the estate gift of Jean Parish, faculty emerita, Art, to the College at Oneonta Foundation, and in part from the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The Martin-Mullen Art Gallery and Project Space Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Center, are free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday when the college is in session and during special events. For more information about the gallery or upcoming exhibitions, contact Gallery Director Tim Sheesley at (607) 436-2445, (607) 436-3456 or visit