In Brief

A woman floats in a dark green sea, eyes closed, apparently held aloft by two fragile umbrellas. Nearby, a fractured cubist medley shows artists painting chess sets and fruit bowls.  

It may sound like the National Gallery of Art, but it's actually a new exhibit at APA's headquarters, displaying cover art from the last 10 years of the American Psychologist (AP). The floating woman is a painting called "Advice To the Imperfect" by psychologist Tobi Zausner, PhD, and it appeared on the March 1998 cover; the cubist piece, from the June/July 2001 issue, is titled "Creative Therapy," and it's by Jacob Lawrence.

Most psychological journals stick with a "just the facts, ma'am" approach to their covers, but AP is different, thanks to former APA chief executive officer and AP editor, Raymond D. Fowler, PhD. In 1992, he began insisting that the covers display artwork, usually by unknown or lesser-known artists.

The cover art has been chosen by Fowler, AP's managing editor Melissa Warren, PhD, or Sandra Mumford Fowler, the journal's art consultant since 1999 and now its art editor. The exhibit is arranged thematically around 18 topics, such as landscapes, family, working and community, and it includes two of the original paintings from which the covers were drawn. Visitors can read a brochure that describes the themes and provides some background on each piece of artwork, and staff who worked on the exhibit are available for brief tours.

AP cover art varies in its connection to the issue contents, from the directly representational--an issue devoted to reflections on B.F. Skinner shows a shelf of his books--to the more abstract, exemplified by a striking spiral of pale dots against a background of blues and purples, titled "Milky Way Dreaming," by Janet Foster Nangala. There's even the occasional pun; for instance, the special issue called "Fifty Years After the Boulder Model" has on its cover a photograph of the Magritte sculpture "L'Anniversaire"--a large rock.

Sandra Fowler says a number of factors go into selecting the cover for each issue: "For instance, if it's a convention issue, then I look for something related to the convention. For Toronto, I'm looking for a Canadian artist."

Some of the art is sent in by psychologists who are artists themselves or know one, and Fowler says she's also very opportunistic, always on the lookout for possible cover art when she travels. "But it's amazing how many good pieces of art do not make for a good cover," she adds.

The exhibit--installed throughout the 6th floor executive office--opened on Dec. 14 with a reception during APA's Board of Directors meeting, and can be seen by building visitors through the end of the year.