Beyond “México 1900–1950”

The DMA is thrilled to host México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, opening March 12. I was fortunate to be able to view this exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais, and was captivated by the works’ color, scale, and diversity of subject matter. This exhibition is coming to Dallas already chock-full of the heavy hitters of Mexican modernism, but the DMA is taking the opportunity to highlight and include some of our own Mexican greats. Look for the following DMA-owned works in the Dallas presentation:

Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA

A Deeper Look: John Thomas Biggers

As the McDermott Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching at the DMA, every Friday morning I am lucky enough to lead Go van Gogh® outreach programs in elementary school classrooms across Dallas. Each lesson is rooted in the DMA’s collection, and one of the works of art that I have grown particularly fond of teaching is a painting called Starry Crown by John Biggers.

John Thomas Biggers, Starry Crown, 1987, acrylic and mixed media on masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund 1989.13, Art © Estate of John Biggers / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

John Thomas Biggers, Starry Crown, 1987, acrylic and mixed media on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund, 1989.13, Art © Estate of John Biggers/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The patterns of Starry Crown reflect images and symbols from African life and culture. The string held within the mouth of the three women represents the spoken word that passes tradition, knowledge, and history from one generation to another.

It is Biggers’ own history—his story—that, to me, makes this painting all the more significant.

John Biggers’ story begins in Gastonia, North Carolina, in 1924. Growing up as a black child during a racially segregated time in the southern United States deeply influenced his perspective of the world. According to Olive J. Theisen’s A Life on Paper: The Drawings and Lithographs of John Thomas Biggers (2006), individuals with darker skin tones were allowed to enter art museums only one day of the week. Although there were talented and skilled black artists at the time, recognition, and thus financial success, was often denied to artists of color.

When Biggers entered college at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in 1941, he registered with the intention of learning a more practical trade, like plumbing; however, Biggers’ intentions dramatically changed within his first year when an art course taught by Viktor Lowenfeld empowered him to take ownership of the culture and creativity of his own heritage through the arts.

Image via Hampton University Archives

Image via Hampton University Archives

With Lowenfeld’s encouragement, in 1946 Biggers left Hampton Institute as a dedicated artist with a clear mission: to tell the honest story of the black American through art—to make the once invisible known and respected.

Flash forward to 1952: Biggers submits one of his finest drawings, Sleeping Boy, to the fifth Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, sponsored by the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the precursor to the DMA.

Biggers describes how Sleeping Boy came to be:

Sleeping Boy was drawn in the doctor’s office on a scrap of paper. I had carried my mama to the doctor’s office, was waiting there, saw a little child asleep on a chair, sketched him on a scrap of paper. When we got home, I immediately transferred the sketch to a large sheet.

(from A Life on Paper: The Drawings and Lithographs of John Thomas Biggers, by Olive Jensen Theisen)

John Thomas Biggers, Sleeping Boy, 1950, conte crayon, Dallas Museum of Art, Neiman-Marcus Company Prize for Drawing, Fifth Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, 1952 1952.1

John Thomas Biggers, Sleeping Boy, 1950, conte crayon, Dallas Museum of Art, Neiman-Marcus Company Prize for Drawing, Fifth Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, 1952, 1952.1

Biggers did in fact win the Neiman-Marcus Prize for drawing and was invited to the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts for the awards presentation; however, as noted by former DMA staff member curator Philip Collins, once the committee discovered that Biggers was black, his prize was handed to him without ceremony at the Museum’s door. This was Biggers’ first experience with the Museum. Thirty-seven years after this incident, his painting, Starry Crown, was shown as part of the Black Art, Ancestral Legacy exhibition in 1989. During the opening, Biggers not only received red carpet treatment, but he also gave a talk—a talk that was prefaced with his very first experience at the DMA.

The knowledge of Biggers’ history with the DMA makes presenting Starry Crown to students that much more meaningful to me. By teaching this work of art with the artist’s story in mind, I encourage tolerance and acceptance for individuals of all backgrounds within the students in Dallas.

To learn more about John Biggers and his work:

  • A Life on Paper: The Drawings and Lithographs of John Thomas Biggers (2006) by Olive Jensen Theisen
  • Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa (1996) by John Thomas Biggers
  • Black Art in Houston: The Texas Southern University Experience (1978) by John Thomas Biggers, Carroll Simms, and John Edwards Weems
  • John Biggers: My America (2004) by Michael Rosenfield
  • Black Art-Ancestral Legacy: The African Impulse in African-American Art (1989), Editors: Robert V. Rozelle, Alvia Wardlaw, and Maureen A. McKenna
  • DMA mobile resources: Link

Angela Medrano is the McDermott Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching at the DMA.

Artist Interview: Janeil Engelstad

Last month, Janeil Engelstad, our first C3 Visiting Artist of 2017, embarked on a journey of exploring the collection and creating an in-gallery experience for our visitors. Meet Janeil and learn about her project, which will debut in March 2017.

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Tell us about yourself.
The ocean and trees ground my Spirit. New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Sun Valley, and Bratislava—I carry the experiences of the places I have lived within and they continue to feed my work. My foundation is Gratitude. My practice is Kindness.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
Much of my professional practice is devoted to producing projects in collaboration through my organization Make Art with Purpose (MAP), teaching, writing or curating other people’s work into exhibitions. Currently, one of the projects that I’m working on is directing the website for the documentary film Angel Wagenstein: Art Is a Weapon, which premiered at the New York Jewish Film Center. While all of this work is rewarding and expands my creativity, every once in a while I want to dip into a project or create a body of work that is completely my own. This residency is, for me, going back into “the studio.”

Geoff Winningham, publisher: The Cronin Gallery, Sunday, February 26, Birdhouse Vendor, Interstate 45, negative 1973, print 1976, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Prestonwood National Bank, 1981.36.8

Geoff Winningham, publisher: The Cronin Gallery, Sunday, February 26, Birdhouse Vendor, Interstate 45, negative 1973, print 1976, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Prestonwood National Bank, 1981.36.8

Tell us about the project you’re working on.
Inspired by Geoff Winningham’s photographs currently on view in the Center for Creative Connections (C3), I am developing a project that investigates and positions narratives that the viewer might not think of when looking at a work of art. For example, there is a photograph of birdhouses on a car. What can this tell us about housing or migration? How can either one of these topics then inform an investigation of another work of art in the DMA’s collection? And how can questions that I pose through a tour, or a set of postcards developed in response to these investigations, inspire the viewer to think more broadly about the world?

What did you enjoy most about this experience?
The process is enjoyable—moving from one idea to another, thinking about the material aspects of the project. Also, I literally looked at every work of art in the permanent collection that is currently on view. My knowledge expanded and my curiosity led me to research many different things. One time I was in the Museum’s library for an entire afternoon. That was a wonderful luxury, as I haven’t made time to be in a library for so many hours in several years. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my school libraries and in our neighborhood library in Seattle. In college and in graduate school, I spent many hours in the various libraries on each campus. I love the quiet, vibrant energy of a library—all the wisdom and knowledge contained on those shelves. When I can, I will take that over researching on-line any day.

Learn about the upcoming programs that Janeil will be hosting in February and March:
Late Night Tour: More Than a PhotographFriday, February 17, 6:30 p.m.
C3 Visiting Artist Workshop: Mapping Your EnvironmentFriday, February 17, 8:00–10:00 p.m.
Teen Workshop: Telling Stories Through ArtSaturday, February 25, 1:00–3:00 p.m.
First Tuesday: StorytimeTuesday, March 7, 11:30 a.m.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

LOVEY-DOVEY

”For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day’
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate” – Geoffrey Chaucer

foul

In France and England during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that birds’ mating season began on February 14. This notion led to Valentine’s Day being celebrated as a day of love and romance. It is even widely believed that the first Valentine’s card was sent during medieval times! Fourteenth- and 15th-century poets linked Valentine’s Day with amorous love through passionate verses, so sweethearts began exchanging sweet notes and flowers on this now well known day. Puts a whole new spin on the saying LOVEY-DOVEY, doesn’t it?

We suggest that this year you and your beloved travel to a time where chivalry knew no bounds and romance ran rampant with a visit to Art and Nature in the Middle Ages. How idyllic, am I right? Nothing sets the mood better for a lovely evening than dim lighting, illuminated manuscripts, and scenes of TWUE WUV—you know, back before dating apps, social media stalking, and texting entered the picture. Y’all, these couples actually had to talk face to face—crazy I know.

tapestry

So tomorrow, restore your hope in romance by visiting Art and Nature in the Middle Ages and maybe you’ll make an acquaintance worth courting—or at the least you’ll see something magical!

P.S. Unicorns, dancing pigs, really cool stained glass, and awesome metalwork are also included in this exhibition if you hate all things mushy gushy—did I say unicorns?

P.P.S. There’s only one more month to love this exhibition, so don’t wait!

Julie Henley is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA. 

 

Listen Hear

The Center for Creative Connections (C3) has been working closely with our Manager of Access Programs, Emily Wiskera, to create new sensory activities at each of the Pop-Up Art Spots. This month we have added a new activity to our Pop-Up Art Spot in the 18th-Century European Gallery. The works of art on view in this gallery are so epic they feel like they are straight out of a movie. So, we invited local musicians Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko to compose one-minute “film scores” for four of the works of art on view. Here’s a sneak peek of two of them:

Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, 1775, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund 1983.41.FA

Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, 1775, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 1983.41.FA

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson, 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund 2015.10.FA

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson, 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2015.10.FA

Stop by the Pop-Up Art Spot on Saturdays between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. or on Late Night between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m., check out an iPod, and listen to these mesmerizing sounds as you look closely at these works of art.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Shot Through the Heart

Have you been caught in a bad romance? Had your heart broken? Then join us for Off the Wall on Thursday, February 9, to commiserate with all of us that have been Shot Through the Heart!

Forget finding your soul mate; instead find your perfect art match as you speed date through the Museum, completing fun activities at six different stops in our galleries. To give you a head start in finding your perfect art match, we can share that one of the stops will feature Two Truths and a Lie. For this activity, you will choose a work of art and receive three statements about the object. You will have to figure out which statement is the lie. Here is one example:

Engungun costume, Late 20th century, mixed media, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Pace Primitive Gallery, New York, 2008.99.1

Engungun costume, Republic of Benin, Yoruba peoples, late 20th century, mixed media, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Pace Primitive Gallery, New York, 2008.99.1

  1. The cowrie shell–embroidered face panel allows visibility, while “juju” elements attached beneath it provide supernatural protection during the performance.
  2. The chief priest of the Egungun masquerades invokes the spirit of the ancestors; when he does so, the rest of the worshippers’ dance movements and drums are possessed by the ancestral spirit.
  3. The Egungun festival is usually performed during the rainy months in Nigeria because it is believed that the rain helps the ancestors arrive more quickly.

Complete all six speed dating stops and you will receive a free beer or glass of wine in the DMA Cafe. While sipping your drink, learn that it could always be worse when you play a historical version of Marry, Date, Kill with portraits from our collection. Which one of these charmers would you want to keep forever?

Jean-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was an instrumental figure in the Reign of Terror who hated foreigners, especially Marie Antoinette.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Portrait of Jean-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, early 1790s, oil on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1961.105

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Portrait of Jean-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, early 1790s, oil on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1961.105

Edward Hyde was the worst governor of New Jersey and New York ever. EVER. He was also a cross-dresser, which had no impact on the quality of his governing.

Artist unknown, Portrait of a Lady, Possibly Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury in a Dress, c. 1705-1750, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen, 1992.47

Artist unknown, Portrait of a Lady, Possibly Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury in a Dress, c. 1705-50, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen, 1992.47

Semiramis wanted to rule Assyria so badly that she kinda-sorta killed both of her husbands. #WhoRunTheWorld

William Wetmore Story, Semirarmis, designed 1872, carved 1873, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Morynne and Robert E. Motley in memory of Robert Earl Motley, Jr., 1972-1998

William Wetmore Story, Semiramis, designed 1872, carved 1873, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Morynne and Robert E. Motley in memory of Robert Earl Motley, Jr., 1972-1998

End your night with unlucky in love music classics like You Give Love a Bad Name, Shot Through the Heart, Bad Medicine, and other Bon Jovi classics performed by Blaze of Glory: the Bon Jovi Experience.

And if you’ve already found your soul mate, or you’re just starting to date that special someone, please also join us this Thursday, February 9, to prove that love does conquer all!

Stacey Lizotte is the Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the DMA.
Katie Cooke is the Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA.
Madeleine Fitzgerald is the Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming at the DMA.

Sounds of the Middle Ages

Take a walk through the DMA’s Art and Nature in the Middle Ages exhibition and you’ll see beautiful paintings and tapestries, pieces of architectural wonder, and some ancient oddities from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. But looking only gives a bit of the story. What would people back then not only see but hear?

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By way of introduction, let’s start with the architecture. Looking at the capitals that once sat atop soaring Gothic structures is a sight for the eyes. But what would the music be like inside, say, a great cathedral? Here’s a musical example from around the year 1200 that might have been heard inside Notre Dame in Paris one joyous Christmas night. The piece is by the composer Perotin.

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Coming around the corner to the right we see a vibrant painting from about the year 1500 called The Virgin of the Wheat.  The work comes from northern France around Amiens. The Virgin Mary has long been a favorite topic for composers. Here we have one of the most famous examples from this era, Ave Maria, virgo serena by the Franco-Flemish master Josquin des Prez.

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Secular music was an equally important part of life in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The tapestries in this exhibition show everyday scenes of love and romance. Chivalry and knighthood meant not only bravery and codes of conduct but also courtly love. One of the most popular instruments of the time was the lute.

Before the printing press, books were also works of art. Monks created illuminated manuscripts from which they would sing their daily prayers. Smaller versions called Books of Hours would be sold to wealthy people so that they could take part in monastic prayers in their own homes. Pages from the Litany of the Saints can be seen on the interactive tablet in our exhibition. This is what it might have sounded like.

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come into the next room and we see an odd wooden carving called a misericord, or, “act of mercy.” What’s funny about this piece is the carvings depicting, among other things, laughing pigs playing an organ. You’ll also notice a little shelf on top of the piece. So what’s going on here? This is actually from a section of choir stall where monks or choir singers would have to stand for hours at a time during church services. When the seats were flipped up for standing, the little shelf allowed them to discreetly rest their tired rear ends without anyone really noticing.

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Continuing on, we see a small 14th-century carving of the Virgin Mary, whose seat is covered with roses. The rose was a common metaphor for Mary, the rose without thorns. Here we have an English medieval carol, “There is no Rose of such virtue.”

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Finally, we see some interesting metal work. Tabernacles and monstrances were used to house the consecrated bread of the Mass, which Catholics consider to be the actual body of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it was kept in special vessels. One to take note of is the bird, which would have been understood to be the dove of the Holy Spirit. Here is some music from a Mass by the 15th-century composer Ockeghem.

Rather than being a “dark” period, the Middle Ages was actually a vibrant time of creation, both visual and aural. Don’t miss the DMA’s exhibition Art and Nature in the Middle Ages.

Dr. Alfred Calabrese is Director of Music at St. Rita Catholic Church in Dallas and Music Director of the Denton Bach Society.


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