Archive for the 'Installation' Category

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

The Mother Load

Visit the Center for Creative Connections (C3) over the next few months to view The Mother Load, a collaborative project and interactive community installation created by artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio that explores the balance between being an artist while also being a mother. The project engages artists from all over the globe both on the Mother Load website and in person. You can attend a visual performance lecture, Hot Potato Called Motherby Israeli artist Shira Richter of The Mother Load project at the DMA tomorrow, October 2, at 7:00 p.m.

Natalie Macelleio (left) and Lesli Robertson (right)

Natalie Macellaio (left) and Lesli Robertson (right)

How has the Mother Load project affected your perspective on being a mother and an artist?

Natalie Macellaio (artist; co-creator of The Mother Load): I feel like I’ve become more interested in collaborating with other women and other artists in general. I’ve become more aware of people’s strengths and how they can best benefit from different things that are happening. I’ve tried to become a little more selfless and look for opportunities not just for myself but for other people I know.

Lesli Robertson (artist; co-creator of The Mother Load): I think one of the things it’s done is to encourage me to continue to dream big. Having children doesn’t mean we have to shut off any part of ourselves, but rather we imagine other possibilities. We can change our practice in a way that will help us move forward and accomplish the things we, as artists, want to do. You don’t have to step backwards, but step forwards.

Shira Richter

Shira Richter

Shira Richter (visiting artist with the Mother Load project): The Mother Load makes me very happy because it’s a non-subject, really, and Lesli and Natalie have helped it become more a subject in its own accord with this international dialogue. It’s extremely important: just the other day, I heard about an art student who couldn’t find a sitter, so she came to class with her baby and the professor basically kicked her out. The student has been trying to fight it, and she felt very alone, but a friend sent her to me, and now there’s this big international conversation going on. It gives us backing, it makes this issue more visible and that’s what we’re trying to do in general, make a connection between motherhood and being an artist. It’s like a worldwide guild. From what I know about it, the art world is extremely sexist, so having an international group of serious people talking about this as a serious subject makes me feel as though my chest is growing just as we speak.

How do you fit in time to be creative? 

LR: By working in collaboration with Natalie. That helps us find the time to be creative and work as artists. Since our children are young, it has been important to go to each other’s studios, and to designate that specific important time for that process to happen. I work at night, I work in the morning, and I also try to have time to think and dream.

Liam, Lesli's son, playing in her studio

Liam, Lesli’s son, playing in her studio

NM: I always try to keep things I’m working on with me. It could be a little project I can do in a few hours to something I work on for months. I always have it with me, at work or at home, so if I find an extra 30 minutes I can work on it. I’ve learned that the only way I can get anything done is to grab time when I can and when I have the energy. I’ve found that my best time is in the morning, so I get as much thinking and work done then as I can. Also, to have someone you’re accountable to when you work collaboratively forces you to stay on top of it and stay on your game, if you will.

Natalie's children, Milo and Fina

Natalie’s children, Milo and Fina

SR: First of all, I think it’s different according to the age of your kids, and it depends on context: do you have a partner who helps, do you have an extended group that helps such as friends, other artists, other mothers, helpers, grandmas, etc.? It really depends on that. Since my kids are older now (twelve), things have changed. At the beginning, I grabbed any minute I had. It’s why I shifted from being a filmmaker to an artist. I didn’t have time to make films anymore. I dissected the film into frames and became more of a photographer and artist in order to suit my new profession as a mother. I completely changed my medium and the way I work.

Shira installing a gallery show

Shira installing a gallery show

NM: Along those same lines, I also no longer create large-scale installations – I now create more intimate works and things I can get done in a reasonable amount of time.

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Visitors at the opening of The Mother Load at the DMA

What message would you like visitors to take home with them after visiting the DMA’s Mother Load installation?

NM: Lesli and I were just talking about it last night and thinking about the responses on the tiles. We are hoping that instead of running through the space, visitors will take a moment to reflect on their own lives and what they nurture. They don’t have to be an artist to relate to the idea of being a mother while also wanting to nurture something inside themselves. We hope that visitors take a few minutes to reflect on what they nurture and to figure out a good balance in their day-to-day activities.

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Visitors respond to the question “In your life right now, what do you nurture, and why?”

LR: To speak to another point, we also want visitors to discover new artists and the work they’re doing. We include QR codes because we want them to be a visual representation of the two sides of the artists, but also so visitors can find new artists that hopefully can be a great inspiration to them. The idea of art and motherhood and all these conversations aren’t in one culture, but are broader than that.

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A visitors scan one of the QR codes included in the installation

NM: Sometimes we feel we are so far away from other cultures and other people. We don’t feel like we have common ground, but we do, and it’s easier to find similarities between different countries, languages, and cultures than you realize. Lesli and I have had Skype conversations with women we’ve never met, and we find we have this common ground and can talk for an hour or two hours (that’s what happened the first time we talked with Shira). This is something extremely universal, and these conversations need to continue, maybe today more so than ever.

LR: Visitors to the DMA’s installation can read written responses on this topic from women all over the globe on the accompanying iPad in the installation or at themotherload.org.

SR: First of all, I haven’t been to the installation yet, but I am excited to see it. There’s so much on this subject that belongs not only to women artists but belongs to culture at large because we are creative beings. I think we in the Western world divide creativity and nurturing. Women artists who are mothers are trying to figure out how to connect these two and bring them back together. We find that, as we become mothers, it is so intense and that’s where the tear occurs; you’re using creativity to bring up this amazing human being but you also think “What about my career, my work?” We’re trying to bring these two elements back together and figure out a way to inspire ourselves and others.

Join us tomorrow for what is sure to be a unique performance-lecture experience.

Melissa Gonzales is the C3 Gallery Manager at the DMA.

 

Getting Ready to Give More

We have just under two weeks until we open the U.S. premiere of a major traveling exhibition, Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take . The exhibition is an exciting one not only because it is the first comprehensive retrospective of Hodge’s career in the U.S. but also because it is co-organized by the Museum and the DMA’s senior curator of special projects & research, Jeffrey Grove.

The nearly eighty works on display in the exhibition consist of hundreds of items, from brass chains to denim, from napkins to head scarves, from silk flowers to light bulbs. If you passed by the DMA’s Barrel Vault during a recent visit, you may have seen some of the detailed installation, which began in early September. Get an up-close look at the installation below, and mark your calendars to meet Jim Hodges on October 3 during a special Artist Talk at the DMA!

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Installing Chagall

We have less than a week until the opening of Chagall: Beyond Color here at the Dallas Museum of Art. The DMA is the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, which features Marc Chagall’s sculptures, ceramics, collages, paintings, and costumes. To tide you over until the opening on Sunday, February 17, below are a few installation shots from the past week.

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Seldom Scene: Karla Black at the DMA

Scottish artist Karla Black will open her first solo project at a U.S. museum this Friday at the DMA. For Karla Black: Concentrations 55, the artist has created two sculptures for the DMA’s Hoffman Gallery and South Concourse. See images from the installation process below, and meet Black and see her work at our Late Night this Friday. She will discuss her exhibition at 7:00 p.m. in the Hoffman Gallery.

Seldom Scene: Load Three Tons and What Do You Get?

We have been receiving and unpacking crates for a couple of weeks in preparation for the opening of The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico on Sunday, July 29. This exhibition contains a number of works weighing hundreds of pounds, including a sculpture of sandaled feet weighing more than three tons, so we brought in some extra equipment and helping hands to assist in the installation process, which you can see below. Join us this Saturday, July 28, for a free sneak peek of the exhibition (normally $14) during the WFAA Family First Day from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, Administrative Assistant for Marketing and Communications

Picasso and African Art

Our Picasso masterwork Bust is normally considered in the context of early 20th-century modernism. Its home is in the European galleries alongside the works of Picasso’s cohorts like Matisse, Braque, and Léger; however, a recent installation in our European Galleries offers up a new reading of the painting—that it has footings not only in European modernism but also in African art.

Picasso is known to have been captivated by African art. He frequented the Trocadéro, Paris’s famed ethnographic museum, to study its holdings. He was also an avid collector of African objects and amassed over one hundred statuettes, textiles, and masks, all of which he stored in his studio.

Picasso in his studio at the Bateau-Lavoir, Paris, 1908, Musée Picasso, Paris,
Photo Credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Although these so-called “primitive arts” held little monetary value—most were seen as mere trinkets and lined the shelves of curio shops, flea markets, and bistro tablescapes—their alien forms and dramatic abstractions were invaluable inspirations for Picasso. He carefully studied African works, mimicked them, and even openly copied them. He found them to be complex, conceptually sophisticated, and emotionally charged because their abstractions expressed the “unseen” and “unuterrable” in visual and quantifiable terms. Throughout his career, Picasso struggled with trying to represent the unknown or unrepresentable, and African abstract forms gave him a clear visual language to express what he couldn’t before.

In the case of our painting Bust, he appears to have lifted the entire compositional makeup of a kifwebe mask and translated it into a two-dimensional painted form:

Pablo Picasso, “Bust,” 1907-08, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Joshua L. Logan, Loula D. Lasker, Ruth and Nathan Cummings Art Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Marcus, Sarah Dorsey Hudson, Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, Henry Jacobus and an anonymous donor, by exchange, 1987.399.FA, © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye or Luba Peoples, Helmet mask (“kifwebe”) and costume, late 19th to early 20th century, wood, paint, fiber, cane, and gut, Dallas Museum of Art, The Gustave and Franyo Schindler Collection of African Sculpture, gift of the McDermott Foundation in honor of Eugene McDermott, 1974.Sc.42

The stylistic resonances between the two works are truly striking. Both have the same facial configuration—a convex forehead contrasted by a concave facial plane—and the same facial features, from the almond-shaped downcast eyes, to the broad band bisecting the foreheads, to the fine-lined surface relief.

Through painting a female subject in the likeness of an abstract kifwebe mask, Picasso saw himself as able to visually articulate the invisible aspects of her nature—a feat not possible through a mere depiction of a human form. Moreover, he saw this abstract representation as a “real” representation of a person; for him, reality was something beyond our eyes, so representing someone’s internalized and invisible nature meant he was representing who someone really is. Through abstraction, Picasso was able to make the female figure’s spirit not only visible but real, living, and tangible; through African art, Picasso was able to eclipse old modes of representation and was, in his words, “freed.”


Andrew Sears is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for European and American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.



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