Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

Appily Ever After

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Once upon a time, in a kingdom called the Dallas Museum of Art, a group of talented young wizards from the nearby land of Pariveda decided to create an enchanted portal. Far better than your run of the mill magic mirror, the portal gave all, far and wide, a glimpse into 5,000 years of the realm’s riches. Royalty and peasants alike could go behind castle lines with specially curated content like audio tours and insider guides, all without fear of being thrown into the dungeon. Word of mouth and carrier pigeons became practically obsolete with the portal’s interactive map, filterable calendar, favorites queue, and instant social media sharing. If that weren’t enough,  with a mere shake of their scrolls a random treasure would pop up to explore!

The wizards saw how much joy the portal brought the kingdom and decided to share it with all. They named their creation the DMA app and made it available on iOS devices!

And they all lived APPily ever after . . . Download today to experience the wonder.

Meet the Wizards:

Reed Correa
Texas A&M University, Management Information Systems
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Hey there! In building the DMA app, I worked to pull back artwork in the permanent collection, displaying details about that artwork, and displaying tour media information. My favorite work in the Museum is probably the Sporting Cup designed by Ashbee. I came across it while testing the search function. There are a number of cups and they became my favorite search. I love the turquoise color on it!

Philip Gai
Baylor University, Computer Science
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Hi! My central tasks in building the DMA app were developing the home page, the exploration guide pages, and the shake for a random art piece feature. After working with so much art information for the guides, I definitely came to appreciate art in a new way. The Wittgenstein Vitrine is definitely my favorite artwork at the DMA!

Nick Graham
University of Oklahoma, Computer Science
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Hi! I created the “At the Museum” page, which gives an overview of events on the DMA calendar. Additionally, I worked to make audio-video tour content accessible from the app. I enjoyed the opportunity to work in this unique environment with so many beautiful works of art. During this summer, I have grown to especially like the Wittgenstein Vitrine and Piet Mondrian’s Windmill.

Derik Hasvold
Brigham Young University, Provo, Information Systems
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Hi! Helping build the DMA’s mobile app was fantastic. One thing I worked on is the ability to filter through the Museum’s art collection to find artwork you are interested in. This feature helped me realize one thing: I love sculptures! There are some sweet sculptures in the Sculpture Garden; some of my favorites are Willy and Dallas Snake. If it weren’t for this amazing app, this is something I might never have discovered.

Mary Kate Nawalaniec
University of Notre Dame, Electrical Engineering
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Hey! I primarily worked on the Map features for the app. During our time at the DMA, Samantha Robinson was gracious enough to give us the history behind the Wittgenstein Vitrine. She provided interesting insight into the process of acquiring and restoring art pieces. I have a greater appreciation for the work curators do to track down pieces like the vitrine. It’ll be hard to top having the DMA as office space!

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

Silver Rush

Changes are taking place in the Museum’s Conservation Gallery, and those changes include the move of the impressive Wittgenstein Vitrine. Though it only took up residence down the hall, numerous hours and many hands were required to move the turn-of-the-19th-century masterpiece. Watch how 200 pounds of silver and semiprecious stones travels.

 

 

 

Fashion in Vogue

Even though Irving Penn’s work in the exhibition at the DMA encompasses several subject areas (e.g., still life, portraiture, travel, and commercial photography), he is most widely known for his work in the fashion industry. His fame in this arena is well deserved, both for how he revolutionized the practice of the fashion shoot itself and for the simplified, bold, and elegant sophistication of the images he captured.

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Prior to Penn’s arrival at Vogue magazine in the 1940s, fashion shoots were organized around a contextual approach—meaning he had to design a “set” that provided a context or narrative for the clothes the model would be wearing. It was theatrical as well as being a lot of work. It didn’t take long before Penn abandoned that practice and adopted instead a stripped-down approach that peeled away all extraneous and distracting details. By using plain backgrounds, all the emphasis shifted to the models and the haute couture designs they wore. The designers loved it!

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When you look at Penn’s fashion photography, two strong characteristics dominate: an emphasis on form, or the silhouette, that is quite sculptural in its effect; and, the powerful sense of feminine independence of the modern woman. The latter was no accident. In Penn’s eyes, models weren’t just clothes hangers but rather intelligent and perceptive individuals for whom he had a great deal of respect. Consequently, these images come off as portraits, which is what Penn considered them to be, thus explaining why he always included their names in the titles.
The model for whom he likely had the greatest respect was the Swedish-born Lisa Fonssagrives, who is today considered to be the world’s first supermodel. The rapport and connection between them is palpable whenever she is looking into the lens of the camera. She was not just his muse; she also became his wife in 1950, just before they left New York to shoot the Paris collections.

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When Penn arrived in Paris in 1950, he set up on the top floor of a photography school. It was a daylight studio—meaning he used only the natural light that poured through the bank of north-facing windows. An abandoned theater curtain provided the softly mottled background for the shots. The studio and the stairwell up to it became a buzzing hive of activity as couriers arrived and departed. By bicycle, they ferried elaborate ensembles from the fashion houses of Dior, Balenciaga, Rochas, and Molyneux. Once the shoot was complete, they furiously pedaled their way back across town with their precious cargo.

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The photographs from that iconic Paris shoot are stunning for their simplicity and originality. Rochas’ curve-hugging mermaid dress and Dior’s wonderful nipped-waist black suit were all about the silhouette. Penn’s idea to concentrate on details of other designs was equally brilliant. His close-up shots of the gorgeous gathered sleeve of Balenciaga’s coat, or the distinctive pocket on a coat by Molyneux, drew attention to the superior design as well as the craftsmanship of the individuals who made them.

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Penn’s contribution to fashion photography set a standard that shaped not only the practice but also the industry itself. Many would adopt a simplified approach to the fashion shoot. Even today, other photographers, aspiring or established, stand in the long shadow of Penn’s legacy, borrowing his ideas or even re-creating some of his most innovative shots, like a nod of admiration to the creative genius of one of the 20th century’s greatest masters.

Celebrate Penn’s birthday tomorrow evening with the launch of our summer Thursdays and enjoy buy-one-get-one-free tickets to Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty. Strike a pose from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and take home your favorite Penn-inspired memories with free prints made onsite from your Instagram account.

Sue Canterbury is The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA.

Frida in Fresco

In March the Level 4 galleries overlooking the Atrium warmly welcomed a familiar face: Frida Kahlo. The DMA is lucky to have on loan two self-portraits of the famed Mexican artist, but there is something that makes one of these portraits unique in the artist’s oeuvre and a rare treasure on view at the Museum. Self-Portrait Very Ugly, as Kahlo lovingly titled her work, is a fresco—one of just two prepared by the artist during her career, and the only fresco on view at the DMA.

Traditionally, fresco painting is done on wall surfaces; however, the 20th-century movement of Mexican muralism revolutionized the medium to allow for smaller, portable murals made up of plaster panels just like Kahlo’s. The fresco painter uses water-based pigments on a freshly plastered wall, painting only what can be completed in a work day, or giornata. The binding of the pigment with the surface of the wall results in a monumental, durable image. While Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, used the fresco technique in his practice as a muralist, Kahlo was unaccustomed to the speed and spontaneity required to complete a fresco. A slow, meditative process in oil painting better suited the artist, whose work is deeply introspective. The multilingual insults surrounding her face give us a hint of her displeasure with both her image and the technique, which she abandoned immediately.

The damaged fresco panel from 1933 presents a rare opportunity for visitors to see an underrepresented medium at the DMA, and an incredibly rare work by the well-known Mexican artist. See the loaned fresco work, and an accompanying Kahlo self-portrait, Itzicuintli Dog with Me, 1938, at the DMA for a limited time.

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Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Very Ugly, 1933, fresco on plasterboard, private collection

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Photograph of the fresco taken shortly after its completion in 1933 and before its damage.

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Color copy of the fresco painted by a friend of Kahlo and assistant to Diego Rivera, Lucienne Bloch. Notice her initials “LB” in the lower left-hand corner, above Kahlo’s shoulder. This color copy and the black-and-white photograph give us an idea of what the completed fresco looked like.

 

Erin Piñon is the Early Texas Art Research Associate for the DMA 

Interpreting Batiks

We are looking forward to Waxed: Batiks from Java, which will highlight the DMA’s fabulous collection of Javanese batik textiles later this fall. These works will continue the thread (pun absolutely intended!) of displaying textiles on Level 3; previously, Add to, Take Away: Artistry and Innovation in African Textiles explored textiles across Africa.

Batik is a technique of textile decoration that involves applying wax to a fabric by hand with a canting (wax pen) or a stamp. The fabric is then dyed, but the wax resists dying and creates pattern and decoration in the negative. Although the earliest and most simple batiks involved applying only dots of wax, the process has evolved to yield incredibly detailed and complex designs.

Batik tools, like these wax pens, will also be on display in Waxed.  

Batik tools, like these wax pens, will also be on display in Waxed.

Making a batik requires serious creativity, skill, and time. It took several months to complete a design like this cloud motif. If you look closely, you will notice that each cloud form includes six concentric outlines that shift in tone from a deep blue (the innermost line) to white (the outermost line). In order to achieve the variations in color, the cloth had to be dyed and waxed six separate times.

Wraparound skirt, (kain panjang) [pointed-ends cloud motif (megamenlang), Indonesia: Java, c. 1910, Cotton, commercial dye (?), Textile Purchase Fund, 1991.58

Wraparound skirt (kain panjang) [pointed-ends cloud motif (megamenlang)], Indonesia, Java, c. 1910, cotton and commercial dye (?), Dallas Museum of Art, Textile Purchase Fund, 1991.58

The job of “interpreting” textiles—or presenting them to the public in a way that facilitates understanding, piques interest, invokes appreciation, or inspires curiosity (among other things)—is a unique one. Because textiles are everywhere in our day-to-day lives, from mattresses, to clothes, to carpet and upholstery, it becomes necessary to very clearly convey what makes certain textiles so special. For our Inca exhibition last year, we collaborated with University of North Texas professor Lesli Robertson and the students in her class “Topics in Fiber: Community, Culture, and Art.” They created samples of textiles that reflected the very specific weaving techniques of textiles in the exhibition. We discussed the project in this blog post. These samples were such a success in the exhibition that we wanted to collaborate with our UNT colleagues once again for Waxed.

This time, we will work not only with Lesli and two of her recently graduated students but also with Amie Adelman, UNT professor of fibers, and one of her fall classes. The students will collaborate with DMA staff to design and develop an educational display that presents the steps required to produce complex batik designs. Together, we will further explore batik production in 19th- and 20th-century Java, including specific techniques, tools, colorants, and even wax “recipes.” The students will also have opportunities to visit the Museum’s textile storage and view some of the batiks up close, before they are installed in the galleries. By the fall, the students will produce eight to ten batik samples, each illustrating a different step in the process. By breaking down each individual step, our goal is for visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the extensive time, creativity, and planning involved in producing batik. Visitors will be able to learn from looking at these samples, and also from feeling them and touching the wax applied to the fabric.

Sketch of preliminary ideas for educational display

Sketch of preliminary ideas for educational display

We look forward to working with our friends and colleagues at UNT this summer, and we cannot wait to see what they come up with! Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes pics of this exciting collaboration!

Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

Death Comes to the DMA

Portrait of a Gentleman, possibly a Member of the Deutz Family, Michael Sweerts, 1648–1649, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.25

Michael Sweerts, Portrait of a Gentleman, Possibly a Member of the Deutz Family, 1648–49, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.25

This Friday we will host our fifth Museum Murder Mystery Game—and the scuttlebutt going around the Museum is that Portrait of a Gentleman will be the unlucky victim.

It is unfortunate that this keeps happening at the DMA, but we are once again relying on our visitors to help bring a murderer to justice! For this one night only, the seven works of art suspected of the murder will be brought to life to answer questions about their relationship to the victim, possible motives, and their alibi for the time in question.

Without revealing who the suspects are, as they are innocent until proven guilty, these photos will give you a clue to their identities.

 

If  you solve who the murderer is, the weapon he or she used, and the room where the murder took place, you will be entered to win one of five great prize packs.

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the DMA.

Proud to Be an American

Today the DMA was honored to host 49 individuals from 21 countries as they became U.S. citizens in the Museum’s fourth annual Naturalization Ceremony. The always touching ceremony included performances of our national anthem and America the Beautiful by Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts student Brittany Hewitt, followed by a reception in the DMA Cafe and tours of the American art collection. Here are some images from today’s ceremony.

 


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