Posts Tagged 'Shiva Nataraja'

The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas

On February 28, the DMA will celebrate the publication of the first catalogue dedicated to exploring the Museum’s collection of South and Southeast Asian art. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art was written by Dr. Anne R. Bromberg, the DMA’s Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art.

DMA_SAsian_Jacket

The catalogue examines over 140 sculptures, architectural pieces, and other works of art that represent the many cultures and religions of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas. Both visually and intellectually compelling, the catalogue celebrates the beauty and diversity of art from the region, as well as its social and historic significance.

The DMA’s South Asian collection has been growing since the first statue from the region was acquired in 1955. Since then, several exhibitions have led to the expansion of the collection, including the groundbreaking exhibition The Arts of Man in 1962 and the 1993 exhibition East Meets West: Selections from the David T. Owsley Collection. Following that exhibition, Mr. Owsley agreed to donate the exhibited works to the Museum, providing the core of the new Asian galleries that opened in 1996. He is also leaving his personal collection to the Museum in his estate.

We invite you to visit the Asian galleries to see (for free!) works from the catalogue that are currently on view, including the following and many others.

Shiva Nataraja, Chola dynasty, 11th century, bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

Shiva Nataraja, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 11th century, bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

This bronze sculpture of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, shows him in his form as the Lord of the Dance. His dancing obliterates ignorance, signified by the dwarf beneath him. On special occasions, metal images such as this one were taken on procession both within the temple and in the surrounding area.

Vishnu as Varaha, 10th century, sandstone, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, E.E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Wendover Fund, and gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen

Vishnu as Varaha, Central India, Madhya Pradesh, 10th century, sandstone, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, E. E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Wendover Fund, and gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen

This sculpture portrays Vishnu, the Hindu preservation deity, as his incarnation of Varaha, with the head of a boar and the body of a human. He is shown triumphantly rising up from the ocean with the earth goddess, whom he has just rescued from the sea-demon that tried to drown her. Large figures of Varaha such as this one were often used to commemorate a king’s victory in battle, drawing an analogy between the righteousness of Varaha and the monarch.

Shrine, late 18th-19th century, silver over wood, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation

Shrine, India, Gujarat, late 18th-19th century, silver over wood, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation

This magnificent shrine is covered with a silver veneer and represents a miniature version of the universe; imagery evolves from the earthly realm of human activity to the heavenly realm with celestial dancers and birds near the dome. The eclectic imagery makes it difficult to identify as either Jain or Hindu without the holy figure that would have been seated in the middle. Shrines such as this one were used in private homes as well as in devotional chapels in larger temple complexes.

Buddha Sakyamuni, Khmer, c. 13th century, gilded bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund

Standing Buddha, Thailand, Lopburi style, 13th-14th century, gilt bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund

This gilt bronze statue of the Buddha stands with his hands out in a gesture meant to drive back floodwaters. The Buddha’s spiritual wealth is reflected in the lavish material of his clothing and intricate decoration of his crown and jewelry. The artistic style is named after the central Thai city of Lopburi, which was both the political and artistic center of the region.

Bust of a bodhisattva, Kushan, 2nd-3rd century, gray schist, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Margaret J. and George V. Charlton

Bust of a bodhisattva, India, Gandhara, Kushan period, 2nd-early 4th century, gray schist, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Margaret J. and George V. Charlton

This terracotta sculpture represents the last of the bodhisattvas that preceded the historical Buddha. This bodhisattva will be reborn as Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Here, he is meditating on that reincarnation.

Please join us on Thursday, February 28, for a discussion led by Dr. Bromberg with fellow contributing authors to the book: Frederick M. Asher, Chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota; Robert Warren Clark, Coordinator of the Tibetan Language Program at Stanford University; and Nancy Tingley, an independent curator of Southeast Asian art. During this insightful program, they will discuss the history of the South and Southeast Asian collection at the DMA, as well as the process of creating the catalogue and what they found most interesting from the experience.

Andrea Lesovsky is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern in Ancient and Asian Art at the DMA.

Longtime Curator “Travels” DMA’s Silk Road

Following her new installation in the third-floor galleries of objects that reflect transport along Eurasia’s  Silk Road, “seasoned” curator Dr. Anne Bromberg sat down with us to discuss her fascinating career. A lifelong Dallasite—except for her years at Harvard getting her B.A. in anthropology and M.A. and Ph.D. in classical art and archaeology—Dr. Bromberg has been on the staff of the Dallas Museum of Art for more than forty years, first as a lecturer and docent trainer beginning in 1962, then as head of the education department, and currently as The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art. What’s more, she has led an inspired life, traveling extensively to little-known locales, researching and experiencing the cultures within her discipline.

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Q: How would you describe your job at the DMA?

AB: Most curatorial jobs involve trying to acquire art for the museum, organizing exhibitions and/or working on exhibitions that come to us from elsewhere, publishing, lecturing, working with volunteers, [and] cultivating donors. In terms of legwork, it’s going around and seeing dealers and other collections, visiting other museums, going to conferences, and giving lectures outside the museum.

Q: You are in charge of a very diverse area of the Museum’s collections. What is your particular area of expertise?

AB: Classical art, meaning the art of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and all Asian art, but I’m mainly working with South Asian art.

Q: How did you become interested in Asian art?

AB: One of the really outstanding teachers I had taught evolution in her biology courses, including historical geology, and I was really fascinated with historical geology and that got me into reading about archaeology. And I thought, this is what I want to do. A good teacher makes a difference. I’ve actually been interested in Asia for a long, long time. When I was an undergraduate, I was reading books on Zen Buddhism and haiku, the Ramayana, and things like that. Books stimulate your passion to go see these things in reality.

Q: What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled to?

AB:  I think both my husband, Alan, and I would say the single favorite place we’ve been is Isfahan in Persia. Italy, of all the European countries, is easily the most seductive, and everybody I know who has been to India is dying to get back. We’ve been there so many times, and you feel like you’ve just scratched the surface.”

Q: What is your favorite object within the ancient and Asian collections at the DMA? Within another collection?

AB: The Shiva Nataraja, because that image is the single most important iconic image in Hinduism generally, and many Hindus would agree with that. It is exceptionally beautiful both aesthetically and because it represents the loving quality of the god Shiva. South Indian Hindu poems describe worship as falling in love with the god, and our Shiva Nataraja is the embodiment of that Chola period poetry.

Brancusi’s Beginning of the World. because of my background, I personally have a strong response to pure geometric forms and classical idealism, and I’m certainly not alone in believing that the ancient Greeks would appreciate that classical, pure, and geometric vision of the beginning of the world.

Q: Do you personally collect art? What types of objects are you most drawn to?

AB: Primarily we’ve collected what I would call third-world contemporary art—things that at the time were being made wherever—New Guinea, India, South America, Mexico, etc.

Q: Why do you think it is important for people to study non-Western art?

AB: If you study non-Western art, you’ll learn what human beings create and why. If you stick only to your own civilization, you are much less likely to think about why these things are being made . . . or about a much more serious question to me, why do we call it art?

Q: Describe your current project, an installation of objects from the DMA’s collections focusing on the Silk Road.

AB: The Silk Road installation is something that has interested me for a long time. We do have a lot of artwork that really displays the meaning of the Silk Road, which tied Eurasia together for millennia. So I was delighted when I got a space where I could show the ties between the Mediterranean world and Asia.

The Silk Road is an ancient transcontinental network of trade routes that spread across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to China and Japan. The phenomenon of the Silk Road is constantly studied and has recently been featured in museum exhibitions around the world. The new installation, organized by Dr. Bromberg, addresses six themes related to the Silk Road, including the development of cities and trade, the importance of animals to early societies, and the spread of religions. The installation presents well-known DMA favorites, such as the Javanese Ganesha and the bust of a man from Palmyra, and new works from several local private collections. Opening this weekend, come see the new installation on Level 3 the next time you visit the DMA.

Ashley Bruckbauer is the McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers at the Dallas Museum of Art and Madelyn Strubelt is the McDermott Curatorial Intern of Ancient and Asian Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Q&A with a DMA Docent

We have a corps of over one hundred volunteer docents who lead tours for students K-12 as well as for our adult visitors. They play an important role at the DMA, introducing our collections to museum-goers and sharing their passion for the beauty and importance of art. We are proud of their hard work and dedication and would like to introduce you to several of them over the coming months.

First up, meet Tom Matthews. Who knows, you might even run into him the next time you’re in the galleries. Rumor has it that he and his fellow docents spend a lot of their free time enjoying the art.

Number of years as a docent at the DMA: 10

A little bit about me: When I was a boy, my father piqued my interest in art by taking me to the Art Institute of Chicago. Though not trained in art, my father – an attorney – had a keen eye and did much reading on his own. His comments about art and artists stirred a life-long fascination for me. In my adult years, this interest continued. On family vacations, we usually stopped – often despite the protest of our daughters – at museums. My understanding was deepened by a twenty-five-volume series the Met in New York did for the public on art history and appreciation. While I was serving as pastor of a church in the coal fields of western Pennsylvania, a highlight of the month would be the arrival of one of these volumes. My wife alerted me to the docent program by referring me to an article in the Dallas Morning News.

My favorite experience as a docent at the DMA: I feel I have succeeded as a docent when I have “opened” a piece of art for the viewer. What does it feel like to be a griever in Jacob Lawrence’s Visitors or to “walk” as one of the figures in Giacometti’s sculpture? Assisting others in engaging with a work of art brings me satisfaction.

My three favorite works of art to share with visitors at the DMA:


Shiva Nataraja, India, 11th century: The dancing figure, holding strange objects and surrounded by a ring of fire, mystifies and entices.


Oedipus at Colonus, Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust, 1788: The story of Oedipus always commands attention. Giroust captures the pathos of the final moments.


Genesis, the Gift of Life, Miguel Covarrubias, 1954: Viewers are fascinated by the colors, imagery, and technique of mosaic making.

If you would like more information on the docent program at the Dallas Museum of Art, click here.


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