Archive for February, 2014

Close to Chuck Close: A DMA DIY

After attending the Philip Glass and Tim Fein concert at the Winspear Opera House this past Monday night, I was excited to discover that the DMA’s collection includes a lithograph of the composer, completed by his long-time friend Chuck Close. Close is known for his innovative approaches to representing the human face. All of his works explore this theme, depicting his subjects, generally friends and family members, in intimate, large-scale portraits of their shoulders and head. His portraits begin as photographs, which he then carefully transfers to a canvas. Close has experimented with various techniques and materials, including finger-painting, graphite, conté-crayon, pastel, oil and watercolor.

Chuck Close, Phil/Fingerprint, 1981, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon Fund

Chuck Close, Phil/Fingerprint, 1981, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon Fund, (c) Chuck Close

Over the course of their four-decade-long relationship, Phil has been the subject of many of Close’s most iconic works; in fact, his image has been used more than any other subject. According to an article published by W magazine in 2007, Close estimates that he has repurposed a 1968 photograph of Glass “150 times or something.” Glass returned the favor in 2005, unveiling a striking and beautiful composition entitled “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close,” intended to encapsulate the artist’s persona and work. The DMA’s Close work is a 50’’ by 38’’ lithograph of a fingerprint Close completed in 1981. I have always admired Chuck Close’s work, and I recently began to explore my own talents for photorealism. I decided to experiment with Close’s gridwork series, having read that Close used this approach “to break things down into a manageable and solvable problem.” For me, as an amateur artist, this statement provided the confidence I needed to begin my project. Follow my progress below to create your own Close-inspired work.

Step 1: Choose a photograph
As mentioned, all of Close’s portraits depict only the subject’s shoulders and head. This tight cropping helps to focus the piece and also encourages closer consideration of the subject’s individual features. I chose the photograph below for my image.
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Step 2: Crop your image
While this project works best with an up-close photograph, do not hesitate to crop or enlarge an existing photograph. Since I knew this artwork would be given as a gift, I chose an image with two subjects, rather than one. After cropping, however, my photograph becomes a manageable project.
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Step 3: Divide your image into a grid
Measure the length of your photograph. You want to make sure that the length and width of the photograph is evenly divisible by the size of each unit. For instance, my photograph is 14.5 cm by 10.5 cm so I chose to use 1/2 cm as my base unit. Use a ruler to divide your photograph into units of equal size. I recommend using a pencil so that you can correct a line if need be; graphite also shows up better than other mediums on glossy photograph paper.

Hint: The larger you make your squares, the less time your project will take. Larger squares will make for a more abstract image and smaller will create a more precise, accurate image.
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Step 4: Transfer your grid to your canvas or paper
To determine the size of your project, first decide on the size of your new base unit. For my project, I transferred the 1/2 cm units from my photograph to 1 cm on my drawing paper. In total, my final project will be approximately 8.5 by 11 inches. Be sure to consider your dimensions carefully, especially if you plan to frame your final composition.
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Step 4: Start your drawing!
I used colored pencil and drawing paper for my project. These materials are easy and user-friendly. If you are familiar with another medium, feel free to use it. After all, Chuck Close likes to experiment, too!

When selecting your colors, you can opt for accuracy or choose a unique theme or palette of your own. This decision may also affect the style of your portrait. You can use the lines to help you create an accurate, photorealistic transfer of your photograph; or you can use a more interpretive, abstract coloration (see Phil above). I chose the latter process. For this process, color each square as an individual unit, independent of the units around it. Don’t worry, it will all add up in the end!

It is easiest to begin in a corner and then work your way up, row by row. You may also want to start with something easy, like the shoulders or clothes before attempting to work on the face. Be patient. You do not want to rush and accidently transfer the wrong section of your photograph. If you get lost, count your square units to get you back on track.
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Step 5: Don’t give up
Depending on the number of squares in your artwork, this may be a long process. My picture took me about 16 hours to complete. If you are frustrated, step away and come back to your work tomorrow.

This activity can also be simplified for children. You can choose a simpler subject and/or divide the paper into larger squares. Either way, it is a good way to encourage “close-looking” and practice experimenting with colors.

Step 6: Step back, appreciate your work, and put a frame on it
Great work! I hope you enjoyed this project. If you made an artwork of your own or used this activity in your classroom, please share your creations with us below! Also, if you have suggestions on how we can improve this project, we would value your feedback.

Hint: Adding a frame or border to your artwork can really enhance the overall effect!

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Hayley Prihoda is the McDermott Education Intern, Gallery and Community Teaching, at the DMA.

Creating Connections with Writer Shay Youngblood

John Thomas Biggers, Starry Crown, 1987, acrylic and mixed media on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund

John Thomas Biggers, Starry Crown, 1987, acrylic and mixed media on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund

I began research on John Biggers’ Starry Crown, which is on view in the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections (C3), in order to create interactive elements in the gallery for visitors. When I began, it was clear that the symbols and imagery in the painting hold a lot of information that needed to be unpacked. I found that one of the overriding themes in this piece, and other works by Biggers, is the transfer of knowledge by women across generations. The three figures depicted here reference important women in Biggers’ life, and the string that connects them alludes to the sharing of knowledge, traditions and family history through dialogue.

wheniwas

As an art educator, I found it important to help visitors connect with this work of art by considering their own similar experiences. I started by posting prompts like “When I was _____ (age), ______ (an important woman in your life) taught me _________.” The responses were inspiring, sweet and at times comical. These snippets were interesting, but what I really wanted was the great stories that these sentences only hinted at.

Late_ Night_04_19_2013_AG_72

For this, the Center for Creative Connections enlisted the help of DMA Writer-in-Residence Shay Youngblood. During Late Nights, Shay interviewed visitors about family traditions and lessons they learned from important women in their lives. We chose a handful of stories from the dozens collected, and then Shay reimagined them through the lens of a creative writer and presented them at the January 2014 Late Night. Visit DMA.mobi and enter stop number 125 to listen to our visitors’ stories.
Shay
ShayStarryCrown

Jessica Fuentes is the C3 gallery coordinator at the DMA.

Searching for Chanel at the DMA

When Wendy Reves donated a massive collection of over 1,400 objects to the DMA in 1985, it was already known that a few large furniture objects, like the dining table, originally belonged to Coco Chanel. Recently, we began a new quest to see what other objects might have belonged to Mlle Chanel that are currently in the DMA’s collection. To do so, we looked at old photographs from the 1930s and 40s, when the designer lived at Villa La Pausa, in southern France, and tried to match furniture in those photos to what we have today in the Reves Collection. When we found matches, we knew that the objects were left behind by Coco Chanel when she sold La Pausa to Emery and Wendy Reves in the early 1950s. Here are a few examples so you can go see for yourself.

The Entry:
entry

This chandelier was originally in Coco Chanel’s bedroom, hanging above her bed. Like most people who move, Mlle Chanel didn’t feel the need to take the light fixtures in her home with her. Wendy Reves, however, decided this could not stay in her new bedroom and moved it to the entryway of her home.

hanel’s Bedroom at La Pausa, with the chandelier now in the Reves entry and the desk at the right now serving as a buffet table in the Reves Dining Room.

Chanel’s bedroom at La Pausa, with the chandelier now in the Reves entry and the desk at the right, now serving as a buffet table in the Reves Dining Room

The Dining Room:
dining

This long table was originally used by Coco Chanel as a desk; however, Wendy decided that this could be useful in another way. She unfolded the leaves and moved it into her dining room to act as a buffet table.

The Grand Hall:
clock

Mlle Chanel had a set of two matching clocks, this one, which is now hanging in the Grand Hall, and another that hangs above the fireplace in the Reves Salon. When Wendy and Emery Reves moved in, they enjoyed these gold clocks and kept them in their original locations before donating them to the DMA.

Coco’s Great Hall, with the same sunburst clock on the wall.

Coco’s Great Hall, with the same sunburst clock on the wall.

The Library:
library

Possibly one of the coolest furniture items in the Reves Collection, this chair actually reclines using steel rods that come out of the handles. You can barely see them here, but pulling them out and pushing them in changes the recline of this chair. It is probably not as comfortable as our plush recliners today, but it was still the prototype. This early version of the recliner was originally in Mlle Chanel’s bedroom.

The Reclining Chair in the Library, shown with the rods pulled out

The reclining chair in the Library, shown with the rods pulled out

The Bedroom:
mirror

Originally in Mlle Chanel’s bedroom at La Pausa, this mirror didn’t travel far when Wendy and Emery Reves moved. They opted to keep it in their own bedroom. Interestingly, this is the only item that belonged to Coco Chanel that is in the Reves Bedroom.

The other side of Coco’s bedroom features the mirror now in the bedroom of the Reves collection as well as the reclining chair now in the library.

The other side of Coco’s bedroom features the mirror now in the Reves Bedroom as well as the reclining chair now in the Library.

The Salon:
salon

Of the many items in this room that belonged to Coco Chanel, we think that this yellow couch might have originally been covered in a darker fabric and left behind when she sold La Pausa. Wendy liked the color yellow and recovered the couch to fit her tastes. We can see the similarity between them when comparing the side views.

Chanel’s Salon at La Pausa, with the same couch seen from the side.

Chanel’s Salon at La Pausa, with the same couch seen from the side

Michael Hartman is the McDermott Intern for European Art at the DMA.

Rauschenberg’s President

In honor of Presidents’ Day, we’re  highlighting the one who watches over the Atrium and greets visitors as they enter the Museum. President John F. Kennedy is featured in the DMA’s Robert Rauschenberg painting Skyway, along with other elements of American history in the 1960s.

Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, oil and silkscreen on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund

Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, oil and silkscreen on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund, (c) Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA.

Choosing Favorites

Young men voting for their favorite work in the exhibition "Portrait of America," September 30-November 5, 1945 (Photograph from the Studio of Wm. Langley)

Young men voting for their favorite work in the exhibition Portrait of America, September 30-November 5, 1945 (Photograph from the Studio of Wm. Langley)

In 1945 the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts was the seventh venue for the 150-painting traveling exhibition Portrait of America, sponsored by “Artists for Victory” and the Pepsi-Cola Company. The museum invited Dallasites to vote for their favorite work in the exhibition. The winner of the vote was Gladys Rockmore Davis’s Noel with Violin; she was awarded $100 by the manager of the local Pepsi-Cola Company bottling plant.

The DMA is once again asking you to pick your favorite, this time in the Museum’s first Art Madness tournament, inspired by the NCAA Championship game, which will take place in North Texas this April. DMA Friends are currently determining the Sweet Sixteen by participating in the DMA Friends Love a Work of Art activity. Once we have the 16 works determined in late February, the public can vote for their favorites online. Stay tuned for more information on how you can help pick the first DMA Art Madness Champion!

Hillary Bober is the digital archivist at the DMA.

Teenage Dream: Young Masters

The DMA’s Concourse is filled once again with art created by area AP high school students, and that means it is time for the annual Young Masters exhibition. Since 1994 North Texas art and music students have submitted their work to the O’Donnell Foundation’s AP Arts Incentive Program for a chance to be selected for the exhibition and earn scholarships. Check out this year’s selections, on view through April 27 at the DMA.

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ARTifacts: Our Own Monuments Man

Did you know that a former DMA director was a Monuments Man?

DMFA Director Richard Foster Howard (1935-1942)

DMFA Director Richard Foster Howard (1935-42)

Richard Foster Howard was director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts from December 1935 to May 1942. Howard arrived in Dallas to oversee the completion of the new museum in Fair Park and the grand Texas Centennial exhibition in 1936. He would go on to assemble the exhibition for the Pan-American Exposition in 1937 and start the Texas General, an annual juried exhibition of Texas artists.

Richard Foster Howard (standing) with jurors Xavier Gonzales, Donald Bear, and Frederick Browne judging the Texas section of the "Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition," 1937

Richard Foster Howard (standing) with jurors Xavier Gonzales, Donald Bear, and Frederick Browne judging the Texas section of the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition, 1937

Jurors for the 1941 Texas General exhibition: Richard Foster Howard, John McCrady, Boardman Robinson, and W. Whitzle (L to R)

Jurors for the 1941 Texas General exhibition: (L to R) Richard Foster Howard, John McCrady, Boardman Robinson, and W. Whitzle

Education was a major focus of his tenure as director. Howard started free Saturday classes for children in 1937, began the school tour program with the Dallas Independent School District in 1937-38, established the education department with the hiring of Mrs. Alexandre (Maggie Jo) Hogue as the first full-time supervisor of education in 1939, and founded the Museum’s library in 1940.

During World War II, Howard retired from the Museum to join the army and was made a captain in the Army Field Artillery. He served in the European theater with distinction and returned to Germany in July 1946 as deputy chief of monuments, fine arts, and archives for the Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.) He served as a Monuments Man until December 1948. For his service in returning works of art removed by Germans during the war, he was awarded the Order of the White Lion of Bohemia by the Czechoslovakian government and the Star of Italian Solidarity by the Italian government.

When Howard returned from Germany, he resumed his museum career, retiring as director of the Birmingham Museum of Art in 1975.

This Friday, learn even more about this special group of men and women with the opening of The Monuments Men movie.

Hillary Bober is the digital archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Olympics in the Galleries

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

No, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s ice skater is not executing a complicated triple lutz, soon to be witnessed by billions around the world during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He is permanently suspended in his upside-down state, having been painted on the verso of a canvas 17 years after the main painting on the other side, Four Wooden Sculptures, which depicts small primitive sculptures. Both sides of this expressionist artist’s painting can currently be seen (the skater requiring a bit of head tilting) in the DMA’s Behind the Scenes exhibition in the Conservation Gallery.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Kirchner’s interest in the movement and agility of the human body began early in his career with depictions of Berlin and Dresden cabarets and circuses. He later found inspiration in the bicyclists who practiced racing at Berlin’s Olympia stadium. The DMA’s skater was painted after the artist moved to the Swiss Alpine mountain town of Frauenkirch, near Davos, where he would spend the last 20 years of his life. The area remains a mecca for cold-weather athletics–Davos is now home to both the Kirchner Museum and the Winter Sports Museum.

In 1930, in his essay “On Life and Work,” Kirchner reflected: “Observation of movement has been for me a particularly fruitful source of creative inspiration. From that observation comes the increased awareness of life which is the source of all artistic works.” For Kirchner, most of his sports experience was only that–observation and then the subsequent depictions thereof. The skater and other works such as Ski-Jumpers (1927) and Ice-Hockey Players (1934) were executed after his physical and mental breakdown. Archery seems to be the one sport that the artist attempted himself. In 1933, he wrote to a friend, “My wife is quite a good shot, too. It is an educational sport which makes people take up beautiful attitudes.”

And here’s a view of Kirchner’s Ice Skater that doesn’t require turning the computer upside down.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30

Read more about the appearance of athletic activity in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s work here.

Reagan Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions at the DMA


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