Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

Weaving in the Andes

For thousands of years, artists in the Andean region of South America have been weaving beautiful and complex textiles—an extremely labor intensive process as well as an important form of artistic expression. Beyond serving as protection from the arduous cold of the highlands and the intense sun of the Andean coast, textiles played important roles in ritual, political, and social life and functioned as a marker of social identity for both the living and the dead. Because it took so much time and effort to produce a textile, wearing a highly decorative tunic, for example, conveyed the wearer’s social prestige. Today, we are surrounded by textiles—from the upholstery of our living room sofas to our clothes and bed sheets. But most of today’s textiles were created in mass and for the masses.


One of the goals of Inca: Conquests of the Andes—on view until November 15, 2015—is to emphasize that each of the textiles in the exhibition was laboriously and thoughtfully created by hand. So, we designed a space within its galleries to illustrate the step-by-step process of making a textile, from the shearing of a camelid for natural hair or the picking of raw cotton, to the many specific ways that fibers can be woven together to produce a textile.

We were thrilled to collaborate on this project with University of North Texas professor Lesli Robertson and the awesome students in her class Topics in Fiber: Community, Culture, and Art. To kick it off, the class visited the DMA’s textile storage and examined fragments representing a variety of weaving techniques for inspiration. Then, they returned to campus and got busy creating enlarged samples of the weaving techniques, using extra strong and thick cording and string so that visitors can touch and feel the nuanced differences between the various techniques. The students experimented with natural dyes like indigo and cochineal (a parasitic insect) to produce bright colors, mirroring the Andean artists in the exhibition. They also produced a backstrap loom—a small, portable loom popular in the Andes that is attached around the weaver’s back and anchored to a tree or other high post. Be sure to check out the students’ photodocumentation of their project on Instagram. They tagged all of their photos and video with #IncaConquestUNT.



Better yet, visit the Inca exhibition and explore the sample wall to learn about the intricate weaving processes used by the artists represented in the exhibition. When you enter, grab a Weaving Techniques guide from the holder. The colorful round icons on labels indicate the predominant weaving technique used for that artwork. Look for differences in the techniques in the artwork galleries, but try to feel the difference in the Weaving in the Andes space.



Andrea Severin Goins is the Interpretation Manager at the DMA.





A Soft Touch


This evening, in advance of our special DMA Arts & Letters Live event with Rebecca Alexander, who will discuss her memoir about losing her vision and hearing due to a rare genetic disease, we will host our first Touch Tour for adults in the Museum’s Sculpture Garden. Last summer, the DMA hosted a similar tour for a group of children with visual impairment; you can explore photos from the event below and learn more about the history here.

Tonight, artist John Bramblitt will lead participants to three works of art and then discuss his process as an artist who happens to be blind. The all-inclusive tour for those attending the Arts & Letters Live event (those with full vision will be given blindfolds for the tour) begins at 6:15 p.m. Visit for additional information about tonight’s program and to purchase tickets.

Amanda Blake is the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA. 

Off to Art Camp

The end of the school year marks the beginning of the DMA’s summer camp program, where each week campers make friends while exploring works of art in the collection and making their own art in the C3 studios. Yesterday we welcomed a fun and energetic group for our first two Summer Art Camps of 2015: New World Kids and Paint, Print, and Pattern.


On the first day of New World Kids, campers got to work with plants . . . and get their hands dirty while doing so!

It was a fun day, and the campers were excited to show their families the plants and other activities they had worked on.

Some of the campers were, admittedly, a little excited to see their families at pick-up…
Although all our camps are fully booked, if you would like to see a list of the types of summer camps we offer, for ages ranging from 4 to 19, visit our website,

Josh Rose is the Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs at the DMA.

Golden Glaze

Today is one of the tastiest holidays all year, National Doughnut Day. Last year, we had so much fun seeing one of our paintings transformed into a ring of delicious art that we teamed up with Hypnotic Donuts for round two. James, the owner of the popular North Texas doughnut shop, and his head designer, Chrysta, explored the four floors of art in the Museum and were drawn to our pre-Columbian gallery and the gold Sicán ceremonial mask.

donut pic

Chrysta sculpted the fondant by hand and made each individual piece of the ceremonial mask.The pieces were then assembled and painted gold, and darker color was added for shadowing. For the eyes, she died the fondant an emerald hue and rolled it in sprinkles. The “paint” was created by mixing food coloring, sprinkles, and sugars.

This pastry fit for the gallery walls will be “on view only” at Hypnotic Donuts today during business hours. Head to Hypnotic Donuts in East Dallas to see the artistic doughnut, and stop by the DMA to see the work that inspired this year’s sweet masterpiece.

Kimberly Daniell is the Manager of Communications and Public Affairs at the DMA.

The Creative Spiral

The creative process is often described as cyclical, and sometimes, when I’m in it, I feel like I am going around in circles, ending up where I started. I always hope that when I come back around in that circular process, my ideas have evolved so that even though I may be in a familiar place, I am truly somewhere new. Perhaps the creative process is more like a spiral, repetitious yet constantly moving forward. This concept not only illustrates an important artistic process that we want to share with visitors to the Center for Creative Connections (C3) but also describes the methods we employ as our space evolves. The creative process is an inspirational component of C3, and it is exemplified through the Art Spot, a hands-on art-making area.

A Brief History


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In 2008, the hands-on art-making area within the C3 exhibition Materials and Meanings was called the Materials Bar, which provided a hands-on experience of the creative process, engaging visitors with an inspiration wheel, videos that modeled techniques, materials that encouraged play, and a reflective label writing component. In 2010, C3 presented its second exhibition, Encountering Space, which involved a complete redesign of the entire C3 and transformed the Materials Bar into the Space Bar, which included prompts for the hands-on art-making experience. In 2012, the hands-on area was renamed the Art Spot: Anytime art-making for everyone, and it focuses on rotating works in the C3 galleries or the idea of creativity.

Commonalities and Spiraling Forward
For me, the creative process can be simplified to four steps: inspiration, exploration, creation, and reflection. With each iteration of the making area in C3, we come full circle. We start with an idea—a theme like materials, space, creativity, or a work of art; next we explore the possibilities of that idea and play with what it might look like; then we construct it for visitors to experience; and finally we reflect on the actual visitor experience. Over the years, the various iterations are in many ways similar, but with each new endeavor we learn and revise.

Martin Delabano's Family Portrait behind sea of visitors

Martin Delabano’s Family Portrait behind a sea of visitors

In the past, we strived to inspire participants with the art on view in C3, though we found this can be difficult when the works of art are not directly adjacent to the making area. In the upcoming redesign, we are installing more works of art in the Art Spot and are strategically placing them near the tables where participants will be creating. The cases housing these works will have prompts directly on the glass to provoke thought and discussion about the materials, design, and process. These kinds of prompts can help visitors get into the making mindset, a way of critically looking at and exploring materials.

Also, our approach to choosing works of art has shifted. In the past, we chose works of art that exemplified a concept and might inspire visitors to create. This time we are taking our inspiration from our visitors. Over the past few years, we have documented the kinds of creations made at the Art Spot. We know that regardless of the theme or materials, there are common items that are made: rings, animals, flowers, hats, and woven objects. So we started with those observations and chose works of art, such as those featured below, that visitors might more easily relate to and that had some evidence of both the materials and the method of making.

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Finally, we will continue to encourage the creation of three-dimensional objects, but rather than having one set of materials, we will offer different materials at different stations that relate to the nearby works of art. This will offer some variety and give visitors more options.

Looking Ahead
When the Art Spot reopens next week, we will continue to ask for visitor input, because being an experimental space means that we are constantly evolving through the creative process. We will document the creations visitors make, read the reflective statements they write, talk with them about the works of art, the materials, their creations, and their overall experience to get a sense of what aspects of the new design are working and what we might revise. Stop by the Center for Creative Connections this summer to see the redesigned Art Spot, be inspired by the newly installed works of art, make a creation, and give us your feedback!

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

Communicating in Quechua


Months. It took literally months during the summer of 2014 to decide on the orthography (the correct spelling/writing) for the exhibition Inca: Conquests of the Andes/Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes, which opened Friday. For example, should the Museum use “Inca” or “Inka,” among other spelling differences that would emerge in the exhibition texts. Many factors weighed into my decision, from popular recognition to modern linguistics, from consistency in labels to proper pronunciation. For the first few months of the exhibition project, I solicited the opinions of many individuals about the issue—from leading pre-Columbian linguists to Inca archaeologists to fellow curators, and even friends and family. I read the most recent publications, edited volumes, scholarly monographs, and online blogs to ascertain the most current opinions. Indeed, I researched, inquired, and deliberated so long that there was general confusion around the DMA itself about the final decision for months after I had finally settled on a position. Mea culpa; thank you to everyone for their kind patience. And I appreciate the generous input from many colleagues on an issue that elicits deep passion and strong opinions from scholars across disciplines.

Quipu (Khipu) fragment with subsidiary cords/Quipu (khipu) parcial con cuerdas afiliadas, Perú: Andean highlands or coast, Inca (Inka) culture, A.D. 1400–1570, cotton and indigo dye, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of John Wise, 1983.W.2174

Quipu (Khipu) fragment with subsidiary cords/Quipu (khipu) parcial con cuerdas afiliadas, Peru, Andean highlands or coast, Inca (Inka) culture, A.D. 1400–1570, cotton and indigo dye, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of John Wise, 1983.W.2174

The central issue is this: What is the ideal manner—in a US public exhibition context—for writing words from Runasimi, or Quechua, the language used as a lingua franca by the Inca state system and spoken today by many Andean peoples. Prior to the Spanish arrival in the 1530s, the Andean populations did not utilize a recognizable written script, one that the Spanish acknowledged and transcribed into a phonetic alphabet, as certain Spanish chroniclers attempted in New Spain. The Andean knotted cords, or quipu (khipu), that recorded information were documented by certain chroniclers in South America, who noted that the quipu were used to register taxes and census data, among other information. The individual Spanish chroniclers further documented Quechua words in the phonetic alphabet and according to Spanish pronunciation, with variant spellings. Certain spellings gained in pronunciation, popular recognition, and adoption into English.

Since the mid-20th century, there have been great efforts to revise the orthography of Andean languages, in particular Runasimi (Quechua), with laws passed in Peru during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The revised orthographies introduced changes such as the reduction from a five-vowel alphabet to a three-vowel system for Quechua. Modern linguists, such as the Peruvian scholar Ramon Cerrón-Palomino, have provided welcome standards for ongoing publication in Inca and Andean studies.

Four-cornered hat/Gorro de cuatro puntas, Peru: south-central highlands or coast, Huari (Wari) culture, A.D. 700–900, camelid fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.2013

Four-cornered hat/Gorro de cuatro puntas, Peru, south-central highlands or coast, Huari (Wari) culture, A.D. 700–900, camelid fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.2013

As an Andean scholar, I had actively used many revised spellings in teaching and coursework, as well as in a recent 2013 exhibition, Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes, at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. Upon joining the DMA, I had further standardized the terms within the Museum’s database, emphasizing the revised spellings of Wari (for Huari), Tiwanaku (for Tiahuanaco) and Inka (for Inca). With specialization in the cultures of the Formative Period and the north coast of Peru, I confess to addressing only superficially the issue of orthography prior to the DMA exhibition. The spellings of the Cupisnique, Moche, and Chimú—the successive north coast cultures—have remained relatively constant. So I had adopted the basic premise that to utilize the new Quechua spellings was to honor indigenous rights, which aligns well with my role as a researcher of Andean cultural heritage.

Through the months I spent researching, however, the issue became less black and white for this context; it came to include various factors regarding public recognition and spelling consistency through the exhibition design. In the end, the decision to maintain historical spellings as the primary terms in the Inca exhibition likewise presented the wonderful opportunity to introduce an audience to corresponding Quechua spellings. The exhibition Inca: Conquests of the Andes/Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes thus features not only English and Spanish text but also dual spellings for most Quechua terms. A wall panel explaining the chosen orthography opens the exhibition, providing viewers with an opportunity to consider the complex ways language records, reflects, and defines a historical culture.

Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, is The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas at the DMA.

Sound Waves

We have plenty in store to stimulate your senses during this Friday’s Late Night, and one program in particular is sure to hit the right note. As part of a special DMA Friends reward, DMA Friend Kyle West has created a soundtrack for our European collection on Level 2 that you’ll be able to enjoy that night. To whet your appetite, listen to this lively jig he paired with Seasickness on an English Corvette. We hope to see you Friday to hear the rest!

François Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette (Le mal de mer, au bal, abord d'une corvette Anglaise), 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.E.R. Chilton 2011.27

François Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette, 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J. E. R. Chilton, 2011.27

Sarah Coffey is the Education Coordinator at the DMA.

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