Archive for September, 2011

At the Texas State Fair

From 1936 to 1983 the Dallas Museum of Art was located in Fair Park and usually saw its highest attendance during the State Fair.

Here, with museum guard Teddy Farrell, are two of the more than 90,000 people who visited the Museum during  the 1953 Texas State Fair.

Hillary Bober is the Digital Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Guiding Us Along

The existing Dallas Museum of Art collections handbook was published in 1997. Considering all of the stellar acquisitions that have taken place in the last fifteen years, we felt the time was right to publish a new one. The process took months of preparation and many meetings to create the new guide, which will be available in the Museum Store early next year.

In a series of conversations, DMA curators and former DMA Director Bonnie Pitman came up with a timeline, and  agonized over the book’s structure (for example, does Romare Bearden’s Soul Three belong in the Contemporary or the Modern section? Should European and American art be combined?). The group also came up with an “A” and a “B” list of objects to be considered for inclusion in each of the sections.

The process for paring these lists down was grueling for all concerned. Sacrifices and compromises were made. As a biased participant, I had my own favorite objects, and anxiously awaited the outcome of each meeting. My beloved College of Animals by Cornelis Saftleven was out of the running early on, owing to urgent conservation needs, but I had the pleasure of seeing this work restored to the European and American section late in the process.

Cornelius Saftleven, "College of Animals," n.d., oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.32

I worked on the entries with the curators, interns, and freelance contributors. This catalogue has given me a newfound appreciation for the many works of art I had always admired in passing but never really focused on. Immersing myself in object files or staring at the objects in the galleries, I added many new discoveries to my list of personal favorites.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the process was the ordering and grouping of objects within their sections. We plastered the walls of our “Classroom B” conference room with color printouts of all four hundred-plus objects, taped or pinned in constantly migrating clusters. It was ultimately quite satisfying to see the groupings crystallize; every invidious or inept grouping eventually led us to the final fortuitous solution. This was a creative process, appealing to the artist in me.

Eric Zeidler is the Publications Manager at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Posting the Past: Our ECO Project

So you had a Behind the Scenes peek in the Archives last month. Curious about what’s actually in some of those boxes?  The Archives’ Exhibition Catalogs Online (ECO) project will allow you to see some of the most interesting things from the DMA’s exhibition archive online.

The ECO project is generously funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Access to Artistic Excellence program. Through the project, we are digitizing DMA-published exhibition catalogues and related unpublished material for exhibitions held between 1903 and 1983. The archives have partnered with the University of North Texas’s Digital Projects Unit to scan the published items and make them available on the Portal to Texas History. They will begin appearing in the Portal later this fall. The unpublished material is being scanned in-house and will also be added to the Portal.

All of the exhibition material digitized through the ECO project will be available on the DMA website beginning Fall 2012 via an interface that is being developed through another NEA grant-funded project, Access to Archival Exhibition Resources Online (AAERO). There will be more on AAERO to come, but you can read the press release now.

Below is just a sample of the kinds of things that will soon be available digitally.

Checklist – Texas Panorama, October 10–November 28, 1943

Advertisement – Famous American Paintings, October 9–November 7, 1948

Catalog Cover – Signposts of Twentieth Century Art, October 28–December 7, 1959 (DMCA)

Entry Requirements – 11th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, January 22–February 19, 1961

Poster – The Arts of Man, October 6–January 1, 1963

Invitation – Art of the Congo, October 5–November 3, 1968

Press release – Dallas Collects: Impressionist and Early Modern Masters, January 25–February 26, 1978

Installation diagram – Visions: James Surls, 1974–1984, December 2, 1984–January 13, 1985

Hillary Bober is the Digital Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Opening Up: A Staff Profile of Our Operations Manager

Uncrated tracked down Tara Eaden, the DMA’s Operations Manager, to talk about her job at the Museum.

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
As Operations Manager, my basic duties are to manage the Museum’s daily operations. These duties include, but are not limited to, coordinating with the operations supervisors to organize office moves, set up/break down special events, and to make sure that the museum remains pristine.

What might an average day entail?
There really is no average day for anyone in operations, however the basic portion of my day may consist of various meetings, scheduling for different activities/projects, problem solving and/or fulfilling certain needs of staff, visitors and vendors that fall within my jurisdiction.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is the daily knowledge I gain through departmental and peer interactions, as well as meeting the most influential and unique people—colleagues and visitors. I am very fortunate to work with a team of people who make the most challenging days seem effortless. I am doubly fortunate to work in an environment who embraces and caters to all cultures from all demographics.

One of the biggest challenges I might face would be the overlapping of events on the same day. There have been some days where the operations crew is spread thin because of the need to take care of their daily housekeeping needs, as well as multiple events scheduled for the same day at either the same time, or overlapping times. This puts a strain on the crew, thus placing me in the position to be creative with scheduling and employee placement so that the needs are met for not only the client, but for the best interest of the employee.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I always thought I would be a teacher growing up. Even though I do have the opportunity to teach now from time to time in other capacities, I always thought I’d be in a classroom filled with a group of tots eager to learn. I never thought I would work in an art museum. But now that I’m here, it has been one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever encountered.

What is your favorite work in the Museum’s collections?
While I have several favorite works in the museum, my favorite is by far the Untitled (big/small figure) by Tom Friedman. Works of art may say different things to different people, but this work speaks to me in a manner of symbolism. The big blue man (I’ll call him the blues) for me represents problems that we all face sometimes that seem so much bigger than we are. The small figure represents us. The big blue man is looking down on the small man as if he can defeat him or get the best of him. It is in that moment that we could either decide to allow our problems to give us the blues, or we can overtake them. Or simply stated, sometimes our problems seem bigger to us than they really are. My second favorite is The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church.

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
While we have had a number of beautiful and intriguing exhibits, such as Dale Chihuly (1994), Animals in African Art: From the Familiar to the Marvelous (1997), Splendors of China’s Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong (2004), Gordon Parks- Half Past Autumn (2005), my favorite by far is the Across Continents and Cultures: The Art of Henry Ossawa Tanner exhibition from 1995.

There’s a New Girl in Town

Earlier this year, the DMA was very fortunate to receive a lovely gift from SMU’s distinguished Art History professor emerita Dr. Alessandra Comini. She gave us a beautiful sculpture of Lady Godiva by one of 19th-century America’s premier female sculptors, Anne Whitney. Whitney’s work frequently reflects her commitment to social activism. In fact, before Whitney became an artist she often wrote essays and poems that were published in a contemporary periodical dedicated to women’s rights called Una. Soon she became notable for expressing her abolitionist and feminist views through both the written word and sculpture. Whitney’s sensibilities made Lady Godiva’s story particularly appealing.

Anne Whitney, Lady Godiva, c. 1861–64, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in memory of Dr. Eleanor Tufts, who discovered the Massachusetts-backyard whereabouts of this long-forgotten statue and brought it to Dallas.

Generally, we think of Lady Godiva on her legendary ride, but Whitney chose to depict a moment much earlier in the story. Godiva lived in Coventry England during the 11th century. As the story goes, she complained to her husband that the tax he levied against his subjects was excessively high. He agreed to lower them if in return she would ride naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry. Whitney depicts the moment when Godiva accepted her spouse’s challenge. Gazing heavenward, fully clothed and just starting to remove her girdle, she is about to begin protesting on behalf of Coventry’s vulnerable and oppressed.

It is especially unusual to own an artwork depicting the earlier, more poignant moment in the account of Lady Godiva’s famous ride. Moreover, owning a full-sized marble sculpture of a woman by a woman artist is quite rare. We are grateful to Dr. Comini for her generosity, and we encourage you to come see this exquisite sculpture in the DMA’s American Galleries on Level 4.

Join Dr. Alessandra Comini on Thursday, October 27 for a special lecture on women sculptors from America who descended upon the seven hills of Rome during the 1860s and beyond.  Click here for additional details.

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant in the European and American Art Department at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Dallas Museum of Art’s C3: A Space To Channel Your Creative Energy

The Dallas Museum of Art’s Center for Creative Connections is a unique, hands-on space for museum visitors of all age. C3 gives Dallas creatives of all ages a place to learn about art and develop their own creativity in a fun, interactive environment. Find out more about C3 in the video below.

Remembering September 11

Today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and in memory of that day we want to share a recent addition to the DMA’s collection, September, a print by Gerhard Richter.

Gerhard Richter, September, 2009, print between glass, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund

Richter was on a Lufthansa flight to New York from his home in Cologne when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked. He was traveling to New York for the September 13 opening of his exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery; his plane was forced to land in Halifax and he was able to return to Germany a couple of days later. Richter nearly witnessed the attacks, but in the end he only experienced them, as did the rest of the world, through images.

Throughout his long career, Richter has confronted in his work the most charged and painful issues of our day. His art has always suggested that imagery, photographic imagery in particular, carries an unbearable burden of how we perceive our world. This print of Richter’s September painting provides us with minimal information to register the subject, yet a further clue is given by the title.


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