Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Whiskered Deities

Cats are invading the DMA beginning this Sunday, October 9, when the Museum opens the nationally touring exhibition Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. The exhibition features 80 objects from the world-renowned Egyptian collection of the Brooklyn Museum depicting cats and lions in ancient Egyptian mythology, kingship, and everyday life (and a few dogs too).

Below is an interview with DMA curator and avid cat-lover Dr. Anne Bromberg that was first published in the DMA Member magazine Artifacts. Mark your calendars for a cat-tastic night on Friday, October 21, during a special Late Night celebrating all things cat and Egypt. Listen to the purrrfect soundtrack to understand why cats are the Furry Conquerors of Culture, and follow the DMA on Spotify.

What are you most excited to present in this exhibition?
The ancient Egyptians were superb artists. Or perhaps one should say they were wealthy enough that they could afford to pay artists generously. The other interesting aspect is that for the Egyptians, cats were very important as divinities, as well as fun and delightful in ordinary life. I’ve said this to practically everybody, but cats have the closest brains to primates, or us, monkeys!

Sphinx of King Sheshenq, c. 945–718 B.C.E., bronze, Brooklyn Museum. Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.586

Sphinx of King Sheshenq, Egypt, Third Intermediate Period, c. 945–718 B.C.E., bronze, Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.586

Many people associate the ancient Egyptians with death or funerary rituals.
That’s partly because tombs were substantially built, so they survived. It’s clear from tomb paintings that the homes of the ancient Egyptians were equally glamorous, but almost none of that has survived.

What did this glamorous life look like?
They had beautiful clothes and were well fed. Furnishings of the everyday, as well as ritual objects, were exquisitely made. I’m sure they had trashy junk (because everyone does) but the impression you have is that the objects people lived with were really beautiful. The Egyptians believed that after death you could live forever in the land of eternal life. Part of the appeal of all Egyptian art, and certainly of this show, is that you see art made by people who believed you could take it with you.

Cat's Head, 30 B.C.E. to 3rd century C.E., bronze, gold, Brooklyn Museum. Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

Cat’s Head, Egypt, Roman Period, 30 B.C.E.-3rd century C.E., bronze and gold, Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

It’s impressive that the ancient Egyptian civilization lasted so long.
They were isolated to some degree, and they had a foolproof source of food with the Nile River. They were also extremely literate. People who conquered Egypt knew they were taking over one of the most sophisticated cultures in their world, so they allowed that culture to continue. This many-thousand-year continuity of culture did not disappear until the coming of the Christians, who were opposed to traditional Egyptian religious ideas.

Does any part of that culture persist today?
Something that has continued unabated from prehistoric times and up until today is the passion for cats. It is still a very pro-cat civilization.

Figure of a Cat, 305 B.C.E.–1st century C.E., wood (sycamore fig), gilded gesso, bronze, copper, pigment, rock crystal, glass, Brooklyn Museum. Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund , 37.1945E

Figure of a Cat, Egypt, Ptolemaic Period-Roman Period, 305 B.C.E.–1st century C.E., wood (sycamore fig), gilded gesso, bronze,rock crystal, and glass, Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1945E

Kimberly Daniell is the Senior Manager of Communications, Public Affairs, and Social Media Strategy at the DMA.

Telling Stories

The DMA has enlisted the help of C3 Visiting Artist Ann Marie Newman to reimagine five Egyptian stories. Each story depicts Egyptian deities, many of which are represented in the upcoming exhibition Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. Newman’s take on these stories will be available at a listening kiosk in the educational space of the exhibition. Before you visit, learn a little more about Ann Marie Newman and her process.


Tell us a little about yourself in fifty words or less.
I am a creative dreamer, storyteller, and artist. Using various materials and techniques, my sensory-rich, interactive stories are a unique fusion of colorful characters, improvisation, and fine art–inspired visuals. My love for people, stories, and art is made manifest through my life’s calling to be a storyteller, a “story sharer”!

How did you become interested in writing and storytelling?
In a purely organic way! I’ve always loved stories, hearing them told orally when I was small, and later, reading them in books. Being an intensely curious person, I discovered that folktales, legends, myths, and personal tales illuminated and helped me better understand the world and its people. Writing came about naturally as I embraced my creative need to tell the stories and to share my joy, love, and respect for them with others.

Describe your process of reimagining the Egyptian stories for the Divine Felines educational space.
It starts with research: reading three or more versions of each myth, studying the images and descriptions of the gods and goddesses, looking at maps of Egypt, noting cultural details. I jot everything down in a mess of chaotic writing only I can decipher—LOL!

Then it’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, except I don’t have a picture on the box lid to use for a guide. Instead, I create a movie of the myth in my mind. I look at all the pieces and select a starting point, a dramatic statement that allows the story to unfold. During the movie, I note how I feel emotionally, how my body feels, what senses are awoken. If something doesn’t “feel” right, I go back and reimagine it until it does. The ability to daydream is huge for me, and I like best to do it in cozy little coffee shops for some reason. All these tales were written, except one, in a quaint little coffee shop along the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada.

Which story is your favorite and why?
Pick a favorite!?! I love them all. Under the surface of these myths lie deeply symbolic meanings and analogies about the human condition.

Take the myth of Sakhmet for instance. Sent by the gods to punish mankind, Sakhmet is the embodiment of the ferocious lioness on a hunt. Her destructive nature knows no constrain; she quickly begins exterminating mankind from the earth. She is eventually stopped, tricked by her own gluttony. She passes out cold. Upon awakening, she immediately falls in love with Ptah, a god whose name means Life and Stability. She forgets her past, marries Ptah, and they give birth to Nefertum, whose name means Mercy. Thus, Sakhmet’s destructive ferocity disappears when she embraces life and stability, and this brings mercy. The insightful wisdom in this myth makes it a favorite of mine.


What did you enjoy most about working on this project?
Discovering the powerful, protective, clever “superwomen” goddesses of ancient Egyptian mythology. I have been a storyteller for over twenty years, and somehow I’d missed these amazing myths about strong, heroic women. They deserve more attention, and I am a very happy storyteller who can do just that.

I should also mention a cat owns me. His name is Leonidas and he is king of our home. After working on the myths, I enjoyed becoming more appreciative of his cat characteristics. He is a male, but he inhabits all the good traits of the goddesses, and even a few of the not so good, but he is still simply divine.

Visit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, on view October 9, 2016, through January 8, 2017, to see more than eighty objects featuring domestic cats, feline deities, cat burial practices, and luxury items decorated with feline features, as well as a small section on dogs. Be sure to stop in and listen to Ann Marie Newman’s reimagined Egyptian stories in the educational space.

Stop by the October 21 cat-themed Late Night for lectures and programs related to Divine Felines. Ann Marie Newman will perform stories of Warrior Goddesses of Ancient Egypt at 7:30 p.m. in the C3 Theater.

And mark your calendars for the upcoming Divine Felines–themed Gallery Talks by Dr. Anne Bromberg, The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art; storyteller Ann Marie Newman; and Aditi Samarth, Professor of Humanities.

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

Connecting Fibers

Alexandria Clifton and Kyli Brook are two students of UNT professor Lesli Robertson and both recent grads from the college’s Fibers program. Earlier this year, they set off to research the process of making traditional batik on the island of Java. They were tasked with the challenge (and we are so glad they accepted!) with producing eight batik samples that illustrate the complex creative process of traditional batik makers. These samples will be installed in Waxed: Batik from Java, opening this weekend on Level 3. (Read a little more about the process and the installation in this post.)

Clifton and Brook’s journey began with a trip to the DMA’s textile storage with curator Roslyn Walker and preparator Mary Nicolett to examine some of the textiles up close and personal. These works are incredibly detailed, and photos alone do not do them justice!

Back in the studio on UNT’s campus, they mixed wax based on traditional Javanese recipes. The wax must be sufficiently durable to resist dye, but also removable. Their research determined that both hand-drawn and stamped batiks involve an initial application of a brittle but easily removable wax mix (klowong) followed by various applications of a stickier, more durable wax mix (templok). The ingredients for hand-drawn wax—their method of wax application—include paraffin, pine resin, beeswax, and fat. Wax for stamp application also includes eucalyptus gum. They used strips of fabric to test out the waxes.

Today in Central Java, indigo dye is generally made from indigo paste, lime, and ferrous sulfate mixed with water. A soga brown dye mixture includes bark from various trees and shrubs. In an effort to be as authentic to the process as possible, Clifton and Brook also used natural dyes for their project. (Learn about UNT’s cool Natural Dye Garden here.)

The design of their final eight samples is based on the motif of the red wraparound skirt (kain panjang) with blue clouds (megamenlang). Ultimately, the concentric outlines of this motif more clearly illustrate how to produce gradated hues with subsequent wax applications and dyeing; however, throughout their process the two tested a multitude of designs, all inspired by the DMA’s collection.

During their research Clifton and Brook compiled a robust binder of samples and experiments and shared it with us. I was particularly impressed because even their notes are lovely!

Not only are Clifton and Brook’s “finished” products on view in the exhibition, but visitors can actually touch and feel the samples. During the fall semester, we look forward to receiving a second set of batiks from Amie Adelman’s class. A HUGE thank you to our friends and colleagues from the UNT Fibers program for another wonderful collaboration!

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

Party in the DMA

Nicolas Party Pathway_artist Nicolas Party_August 2016_Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

On August 1, Nicolas Party hopped off the plane at DFW and ever since it has been a Party in the DMA. It only took the Swiss artist two weeks to transform the Museum’s Concourse into an enchantingly surreal landscape. Unconfined to a static sketch, each day the former graffiti artist added richly hued flora that simultaneously recalls forest floors and ocean depths. Visitors were entranced as he worked to bring his imaginative vision of a sanctuary for the people of Dallas to life. Check out the progression of the site-specific mural below.

And tomorrow, let the long weekend begin. Come experience the wonder of Nicolas Party: Pathway on Thursday evening and throw your hands up because we’ll be playing your song when DJ Wild in the Streets takes over the DMA patio. You’ll be nodding your head like yeah as we start the weekend early with 20% off crepes from Socca, fresh retro pop, funk, soul, and great company. See you there!


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





Freeze Frame

It’s hard to believe, but we’re in the final week of the celebrated exhibition Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty. Prior to the show’s opening in April of this year, Allison V. Smith, photographer and granddaughter of Stanley Marcus, shared with the DMA Member magazine, Artifacts, her first encounter with the work of Irving Penn and the impact of his legacy.  Read about her experience below, and discover the work of Irving Penn for the first time or for the hundredth time through Sunday with buy one get on free exhibition tickets offered every day.

One of the Real Greats
By Allison V. Smith
Original publish date: Artifacts Spring–Summer 2016

Irving Penn’s name is synonymous with beauty in fashion photography. So it’s no surprise that in 1990 my grandfather Stanley Marcus gave me, a young, passionate photographer, a signed copy of Issey Miyake’s catalogue photographed by Irving Penn. An enclosed handwritten Post-it note read:
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 11.05.25 AM
“Dear Allie— Penn, in my opinion, is the greatest of the fashion photographers and perhaps one of the real greats of the 20th century. Are you friends with him?”

I wasn’t, but I quickly took the time to educate myself.

Penn’s prolific photographic career spanned seventy years, and in this time he managed to merge the lines between fashion and fine art. His first cover for Vogue magazine was published in 1943, and he would shoot at least 150 more.

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn’s assignments ranged from shooting striking models in designer dresses on location in Paris, to contemporary still lifes of familiar objects, to the simple “corner portraits” of artists that included Salvador Dalí and Truman Capote. These portraits were made sometime in 1948 in a constructed corner in his studio. The sitter embraced the corner, demonstrating his or her own personality and making the static background Penn chose into a private stage. Dalí fills the frame in a confident pose, with both arms placed firmly on his knees. Capote kneels on a chair, wearing an oversized tweed jacket and looking directly at the photographer. It’s hard to tell whether he’s feeling vulnerable or safe.

Irving Penn, Truman Capote, New York, 1979, printed 1983, silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Truman Capote, New York, 1979, printed 1983, silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn wrote in Passage: A Work Record about this process: “This confinement, surprisingly, seemed to comfort people, soothing them. The walls were a surface to lean on or push against. For me the picture possibilities were interesting; limiting the subjects’ movement seemed to relieve me of part of the problem of holding on to them.”

Working for Vogue, Penn had the dream job of traveling the world photographing portraits of everyday people—artisans and blue-collar workers in Paris and London, a gypsy community in Spain, and the tribes of New Guinea. Penn approached all of his portraits with the same respect and elegance as he did in posing a model in Paris or an Issey Miyake design.

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn’s photographs are subtle and sophisticated, often finding his subjects against a blank backdrop. His meticulous flowers are a study of visual rhythm. His nudes, whom he shot on countless rolls of film on his Rolleiflex camera between 1949 and 1950, went largely unseen until 1980. He closely examined the shapes of models of all sizes. The results were about form and less about nakedness.

A prolific photographer and a technical master, he made personal work throughout his life, including his early photographs of shop window displays, and later cigarette butts, smashed cups, and chewing gum. These simple photos of litter experimented with different photographic processes, such as platinum and palladium, giving them a rich quality—and also leaving an indelible mark on me.

Allison V. Smith is an editorial and fine art photographer based in Dallas. In 2008, the DMA presented “Reflection of a Man: The Photography of Stanley Marcus,” a retrospective of photographs taken by the department store magnate and produced by Smith and her mother, Jerrie Smith.


Penn v. Zoolander: It’s a Walk-Off!

Sometimes you need a little laughter and a trenta orange mocha Frappuccino to get you through the day. While the second is too difficult to deliver via screen, we are here to help with the first!

Fifteen years ago, Zoolander took pop culture by storm and instantly became a cult classic. And almost a century ago, one of the greatest American photographers renowned for fashion images was born. But what does a fictional model have in common with a distinguished shutterbug? A lot more than you might think!

Fashion aside, Irving Penn and Derek Zoolander were able to take something simple and make it a masterpiece. Be it a simple backdrop or a single pose, they created a phenomenon and neither one let societal norms dictate their art. It took time for their genius to be recognized, but in time all realized the beauty in their unique vision.

Okay, so their similarities may stop there, and we might have been reaching in the first place, but in the wise words of Hansel, “Don’t ask questions. Just give in to the power of the tea.” So if you like fashion and raucous amounts of fun, join us Wednesday night at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley for a special screening of Zoolander in celebration of Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty and get 10% off exhibition tickets using the code STUDIOMOVIEGRILL.

Cool Story.


Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Coal bunkers, 1978, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Carl, Elizabeth, Stahl, and Laura Urban, courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1981.191.9, © 2016 Hilla Becher


Mario Pascual, Untitled, 2009, digital c-print, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, 2010.11.1, © Marlo Pascual


Jerry Bywaters, Self-Portrait, 1920, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Estate of Jerry Bywaters, 1989.172


Petra Zimmermann, Woman with dog brooch, 2000, silver, plastic, gold leaf, and antique glass stones, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Edward W. and Deedie Potter Rose, formerly Inge Asenbaum collection, gallery Am Graben in Vienna, 2014.33.348, © Petra Zimmermann


Koloman Moser, Self-Portrait, 1902, black chalk and pencil on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alessandra Comini in honor of Adriana Comini, 2014.29

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

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.

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