Party Time celebrates the act of celebration through works in the Carleton College Art Collection. Party scenes give us small glimpses into the lives and social worlds of people across cultures and time periods. Celebrations should be fun, but these images show that having a good time is not central to every social gathering.

Party pictures can serve many purposes, including documentary, entertainment, and even fundraising. Picasso’s mythological party picture, Fetes des Faunes or La Danse des Faunes, was created to fund the French Communist party. Did the happy scene connect directly to Picasso’s politics, or did the artist create a happy scene instead of a somber political image to ensure popularity and sales?

Hiroshige III documents a celebration at a famous gate in Tokyo where people beat drums and dance as they ask their deities for good fortune. The large barrels in the lower left-hand corner are full of sake, a common feature of Shinto festivals. Sake is intended to enhance the celebratory mood, and bring people closer to their gods.

Alcohol can be a prominent feature of social gatherings. Strassheim captures the quintessential college “bro” party in Beirut, Crack House, as part of Vantage Points, a photo series focusing on student life. Boys in beer stained shirts play Beirut, more commonly known as Beer Pong, in a messy corner of a living room decorated with worn posters and flags. Their faces display intense focus despite the abundant alcohol, indicating a competitive yet friendly environment.

Rivalry is a friendly aspect of some parties. In others, the burden of socializing for reasons other than pleasure can lead to awkwardness. In Sneer and Waitress, Los Angeles—January 1991, the challenge of eating while schmoozing leaves the participants distracted or disgusted.

In Fink’s Trixie’s, NYC—Woman Dancing for a Small Crowd—May 1990, everyone is in the grips of genuine enjoyment. The spotlights illuminate a singer pouring her heart and soul into the microphone. The audience is entranced, showing that music has the power to move and make a great party.

Description and image selection by Claire Coonrod ’15.