More than Meets the Eye

In just over a week the DMA will host the acclaimed exhibition Laura Owens which is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The exhibition explores the career and whimsical world created by contemporary artist Laura Owens. Prior to the arrival of the exhibition, the DMA Member magazine Artifacts was able to talk with Amy Baumann, Owens’ Studio Manager, about the process of creating the unique and exceptionally beautiful exhibition catalogs:

This spring, visitors will encounter paintings on a monumental scale in the mid-career survey of American painter Laura Owens. Owens is also known for her work on a much more intimate scale, as a book artist. Her Los Angeles art space and studio even hosts Ooga Booga, an independent art bookseller. She shares this love of books through her gorgeously crafted catalogue, a deep dive into her life and career, containing memorabilia from her artistic formation and essays from experts in diverse cultural fields.

What is most surprising is that every catalogue contains a unique cover, screen printed by hand in the artist’s studio—a mammoth undertaking that involved a crew of five studio assistants working for over three months.

I talked with Amy Baumann, Owens’ Studio Manager, about the process of fabricating over 8,500 unique books, each one functioning as a work of art that visitors can take home with them.

Anna Katherine Brodbeck:
Can you speak about the genesis of this ambitious project?

Amy Baumann: Screen printing has been a big part of Laura’s work in the last five years. When she first approached us with the idea for the covers, we said, “Great! How do you want to do this?” This resulted in the book covers being created by the build-up of layers upon layers of images, much like her paintings.

AKB: What is the source material for the diverse imagery?

AB: Laura started by selecting patterns used in her paintings, such as a bitmap made from a scan of crumpled paper and vintage wallpaper overlays. She also chose some basic shapes that we printed as vectors, and more complex images that we printed using CMYK process. We made a chart listing the various elements to make sure we maxed out the possible combinations. They had to be random and not repeat. We came up with a system to put all the covers in production simultaneously, organizing them in piles at various stages of production. Laura wanted the print crew to choose the layers and how they were used in order to promote more randomness, but she would change the way the layers were used during the process, sometimes requesting a different scale or image, or shifting the color palette.

Anna Katherine Brodbeck is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Arturo’s Wrinkle in Time

Spring break at the DMA is not about WHERE you go—it’s WHEN you go! We’re creating a makeshift time travel machine, and you’re invited to take a ride. With four floors of art from across the globe and throughout time, it’s not too difficult to imagine a wrinkle in time that allows you to jump across continents and centuries. Arturo volunteered to take the maiden journey and show us just how easy it is!

From a quick stop in ancient Egypt…

To searching for animals in modern Nigeria…

To kicking up dust in Depression-era Texas…

To saying hello to Mr. President…

To hiking through the Andes for ancient royal treasure–the DMA is everyWHEN you wanna be!

Want to go on your own time travel adventure? Join us every day during the week of spring break, March 13-16 for free family fun. But remember to watch out for wormholes!

Leah Hanson is the Manager of Family and Early Learning Programs at the DMA

Pivotal Women Artists at the DMA

March is Women’s History Month—a designation that was nationally recognized in 1987 due to the hard work of five California-based women who started the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) initiative. Each year, there has been an annual theme, with this year’s being “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” This month is an opportune time to think about the pivotal women artists and movements that have affected my practice as an art historian and museum educator.

Throughout Western art history, women artists have been under- and misrepresented in the art canon. These problematic biases against women of all racial and class backgrounds have been discussed by artists, art historians, and activists alike. Through collectives like the Combahee River Collective, organized by black and queer feminists, and the Guerrilla Girls, who produce on-going campaigns against male-dominated exhibitions (and many more!), women have fought and continue to fight for their existence to be known in spaces that downplay their contributions to the art world. Though there has been great work done by curators, art historians, and museum institutions to revise history and work toward a more equal representation of artists, there is still a copious amount of work to be done.

The DMA’s collection boasts a number of women artists, such as Julie Mehretu, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Berthe Morisot, and others. Below are a few artists whose work is currently on view in the Museum who made innovative contributions to the art canon and the world at-large.

Bridget Riley, Rise 2, 1970, acrylic on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, 1976.52.FA,  © 1970 Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley is a foundational artist for Op-Art, a style that transformed geometric shapes into optical illusions in order to create a sense of movement. Riley’s name has become synonymous with Op-Art, as her original black-and-white works gained an incredible amount of followers and multiple art prizes in the early to mid-1960s. In the latter part of the decade, Riley explored using colors in her works of art, like Rise 2, to further add elements of instability and illusionistic movement.

Riley’s works of art inspired and infiltrated 1960s pop culture, most notably the fashion industry with the black-and-white houndstooth checkered print seen in the popular mod aesthetics of the time. Due to Riley’s captivating work and popularity, this fashion trend continues to hold weight, as Vogue highlighted Riley in a editorial titled “Why 60s Op-Art Painter Bridget Riley Is the Secret Muse of the Fall 2014 Runway.” Although her work influenced the style of the 1960s, Riley did not enjoy the commodification and commercialization of her art.

Renee Stout, Fetish #1, 1987, monkey hair, nails, beads, cowrie shells, and coins, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Roslyn and Brooks Fitch, Gary Houston, Pamela Ice, Sharon and Lazette Jackson, Maureen McKenna, Aaronetta and Joseph Pierce, Matilda and Hugh Robinson, and Rosalyn Story in honor of Virginia Wardlaw, 1989.128, © Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

Renee Stout’s move to Washington, DC, in 1985 had a monumental affect on her artistic practice as she sought to understand her identity as a Black-American woman. Her time in DC exposed her to the arts of Western and Central Africa, particularly the Kongo peoples’ nkisi nkondi power figures, an example of which is on view in our African galleries. Through these healing power figures, Stout explores the ritualistic and spiritualistic sides of a possible ancestral tie to the African continent, as seen in Fetish #1. Within this object there are many additive and textural components, as there are with nkisi nkondi figures; however, Stout’s object lacks facial features, adding a mysterious quality that mirrors her feelings toward her personal ancestral past. Click here to learn more about Stout and this work of art in one of the DMA’s Gallery Talks.

Raquel Forner, Apocalypsis, 1955, oil on composition board, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1959.47

Although born in Buenos Aires, Raquel Forner spent a majority of her childhood in Spain due to her father’s Spanish heritage. During this time, Forner became interested in the arts and began training back in her birth city. While briefly teaching at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, she exhibited across the city, with her first solo show in 1928. After traveling back and forth between Europe and South America in the 1930s, she started to borrow ideas from the Surrealism movement, such as distorted perspectives and figures; however, Forner was not interested in interpreting her dreams like Surrealist artists—she wanted to apply these distorted forms to real world situations such as the 1936 Spanish Civil War and the 1955 Argentine social uprisings. The latter event influenced her Apocalypse painting, where she created abstract land forms and overlapping movement of figures to highlight the confusion and negative aspects human conflict creates. This painting was exhibited in the landmark 1959 exhibition South American Art Today at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the predecessor of the DMA. Fifteen works of art from the exhibition were later purchased by the DMA, and nine of those works can currently be seen in the Latin American Gallery, including Forner’s Apocalypse.

Yohanna Tesfai is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching.

Flower Power

Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers is in bloom until May 13, so while we still have these colorful, one-of-a-kind murals on our walls, we hosted a workshop all about florals. The program began with a tour in the exhibition where the group learned more about Steichen’s social scene and the friends that he immortalized in this artwork. Participants saw how Steichen used flowers as symbols for the different people in the murals and how his passion for horticulture lent itself to extremely realistic depictions. After the tour, everyone chose their own flowers to create their personal still life. The group then learned watercolor techniques from local artist Carol Ivey, who paints minutely detailed still lifes. By the end of the workshop, everyone had bloomed into new watercolor painters and departed with their finished work and brushes to continue practicing.

If you missed the workshop but want to learn more about Edward Steichen, his murals, and his love of flowers, join us on Thursday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m. for an exhibition talk by Jessica Murphy, Manager of Digital Engagement, Brooklyn Museum.


Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA. 


Artistic Equations

Mathematics and art, two subjects that are often thought of as an unlikely combination; however, for American artist Alfred Jensen these two subjects fit together exactly. One of Jensen’s geometric, mathematical paintings could be seen if you peeked into the Conservation Studioab this past fall. This painting may appear simple in design, but the process and the surface are very complicated and interesting. Jensen was fascinated by the Maya calendar, philosophy, mathematics, color theory, pre-Columbian culture, and Asian culture. All of these things influence the compositions he creates, and in this particular painting there is very likely a specific reason for the number and placement of each dot of paint throughout the work.

Jensen combines mathematical and philosophical theory with artistic practice in his works similar to the way the field of conservation combines science with art. This perfect comparison makes it all the more exciting to perform a conservation treatment on this painting. In this work, it appears that Jensen applied the paint straight from the tube by dotting it directly onto a primed canvas. The dots were clearly not added at random, but were planned out, as is evidenced by a grid applied in pencil that can be seen in the reserves between the dots, below the paint.

Due to the high impasto of each little dot of paint, little cups and horizontal platforms are created that are perfectly positioned for catching and gathering dust. The dust detracts from and changes the way the colors interact with each other, affecting the color theory aspect of Jensen’s technique. Additionally, since the surface is unvarnished, the dust has started to attach itself to the paint, which will make it increasingly difficult to remove in the future.

Removing the dust from the surface is no easy task. Each little dot of paint has pointed ends that are extremely fragile and sometimes very small and difficult to see without magnification. As the DMA’s conservation intern, I began cleaning this painting in September 2017. In the image below, I’m using an optivisor to be able to see the very tiny, vulnerable peaks of paint and a small, soft brush to carefully dust each daub of paint to reveal the intended color below without disturbing the peaks. A HEPA vacuum gathers the dust so it doesn’t settle back onto the paint below.

The removal of the dust is a very slow, careful process because each little dot essentially becomes its own painting, requiring individual attention. From the viewing window of the Conservation Studio, it may seem as if the painting has not changed very much; however, below you can see the difference between a cleaned (green) and uncleaned area (blue) of the painting. The area in the green square is no longer dull and gray, and the colors show their intended vibrancy. The cleaning, while slow and detailed, is a very satisfying process.

Caroline Hoover is the Conservation Intern at the DMA.

Artist Interview: Timothy Harding

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Last month, our first C3 Visiting Artist of 2018, Timothy Harding, began his participatory installation in the Center for Creative Connections (C3). We’ve enjoyed watching the project grow as Harding adds new contributions to the installation biweekly. Learn more about the artist, his process, and his experiences at the DMA.

Tell us about yourself. (In 50 words or less)
I’m an artist based in Fort Worth, a die-hard Dallas Stars fan, and proud owner of a cat named Clyde. When not cheering on my team, I work in my studio and teach at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
Recently my practice has been confined to the studio with no outside collaboration. I was interested in coming up with a project that would allow me to collaborate with others and open the opportunity to explore methods that I have not previously used. This is the first project I’ve done that is almost entirely digital in execution and produced with people who I never directly interact with. I’m excited to see how this might impact my practice moving forward.


Tell us about the installation you’ve created in the Center for Creative Connections.
The installation is a site-specific line drawing made up of hundreds of individual marks. This ongoing work is produced from scribbles and gestures left by Museum visitors on an iPad. Visitors leave their mark in a program and send it to me over the creative cloud. From there I make a couple of slight alterations to the file and cut them out via laser cutter in varieties of gray, black, and white paper. After cutting, I visit the Museum and add to the installation. The marks are layered in a manner that allows each to be noticeable while working together to produce an intricate whole.


Do you have any favorite visitor contributions you’d like to share?
I can’t say I have any specific favorite marks that have been sent yet. What I have found most interesting about this project is the number of unique marks I receive on a daily basis. Earlier projects have used my own scribbles, which are very familiar to me. It’s refreshing to find new marks and think about the decision making of that viewer without knowing who they are or anything about them.

What have you enjoyed most about this experience so far?
I’ve enjoyed interacting with Museum-goers. I had the opportunity to give a presentation to an engaged group of people about my work and this project. That was a very rewarding experience. Other interactions have been more casual and occur during installation. People of various ages, from children to adults, seem curious about the project and what is happening. It has been fun to have casual conversations with them and solicit their contributions.

C3 Visiting Artist Timothy Harding will lead a Teen Tour and a Teen Homeschool Workshop in April. Learn more about upcoming Teen Programs here.

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

You can’t spell DART without art

Prior to moving to Dallas, I found myself doing a lot of research about how to navigate the city. As a person that doesn’t have a car or know how to drive, I knew without a doubt I would be depending on the DART system. As my bus moves down Ross Ave in morning traffic, I can take time to look out the windows and get glimpses of Dallas, soaking in the details that might be missed otherwise.

The study of public transportation can show how cities both shape and are shaped by these models. While public transportation attempts to create access for ever growing cities, the nature of this large scale building has seen its share of highs and lows throughout its long history. Although DART is fairly new to Dallas (1980s), we can see the way neighborhoods around stops have changed and developed as lines have been added. Trains and buses have been of interest to artists around the world, and the DMA has a number of works that explore their many facets.

Lothar Baumgarten, Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, Katy Yard, Continental Viaduct, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, negative 1989, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, 2004.41.2, © Lothar Baumgarten / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

In 1989, German artist Lothar Baumgarten dedicated six months to following America’s railroad tracks to create the series, Carbon. This image shows the Katy, also known as the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Today this railyard has been replaced by the American Airlines Center. The Katy was the first railroad to connect Texas to the rest of the United States in the late 1800s, and  it served as a way to transport goods such as cotton across the United States. Baumgarten addresses the irony of the beautiful landscapes that were made available for public consumption as tracks were laid across fields, but also the destruction that comes with it. In addition, he looks at the human accomplishment of settling the land that carried with it the cost of displacing communities. Finally, this work addresses the decline of the railroads themselves as they became industrial transportation.

Willard Watson, Untitled, 1985, drawings, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Friends of Willard Watson, 1985.181.4 © Estate of Willard Watson

Willard Watson, “The Texas Kid,” reminisces about when his family moved to Texas from Louisiana in his series of drawings, Life Story. Watson’s family were sharecroppers, a system where the landowner allows a tenant to use the land in exchange for a share of the crop. However, this system often kept tenant farm families severely indebted, with many laws in place to favor the landowners position. This particular image shows the way railroad travel could be empowering, as Watson writes at bottom, “when we were coming across this bridge going to Dallas, Daddy said we were home free.”

Just as these artists were inspired by their experiences with transportation, the DART Student Art Contest invites students to create works of art inspired by DART. Come visit the DMA to get inspiration for your DART contest submissions, which are due February 28. I can’t wait to see the Best of Show winner across the DART bus on my daily commute, along with all the other finalists on view at the DMA in April!

Olivia Feal is the McDermott Intern for Interpretation at the DMA

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