Archive for the 'Installation' Category

Getting Interactive: A C3 Internship Recap

My name is Brisa Marie Smith Flores. I was born and raised in Texas, and after spending six years in Pennsylvania for my undergraduate and graduate study, I was beyond excited to move back to Texas and work at the Dallas Museum of Art!
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Working in the Center for Creative Connections (C3) at the DMA has truly been a valuable experience. What makes the C3 Summer Internship unique is the dynamic structure of the program that caters to its interns, as well as my supervisor’s dedication to my education and growth during the summer. As an applicant, I was passionate about applying my personal research on accessibility and inclusion to my summer project. My supervisor was supportive and encouraged me to explore what interests me. With her guidance, I was able to design my own evaluation metrics, install it in C3’s Testing Zone space, interact with visitors, and compile all the data into a report to present at a department-wide meeting at the end of my term.

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My project consisted of three major components. The first was an interactive graph that encouraged visitors to place colorful sticky dots on a grid to denote their age, favorite C3 location, and the amount of times they had visited. The second part was a series of feedback cards that presented two or three questions specific to the things we as a department care about, as well as one open-ended question to allow visitors to share anything they wanted with us. The third component focused on visitor interaction. The process consisted of me spending time in each of our C3 spaces, watching and recording how much time our visitors spent in each specific area, what activities they gravitated toward, and which age groups enjoyed the space most.

My responsibilities were not limited to just facilitating my own project; in fact, during my time working in the Center for Creative Connections, I was able to assist with gallery rotation planning, develop new activities, and train and manage volunteers, as well as prepare and lead group workshops. These were all exciting and useful new experiences that helped enhance my skill set, confidence, and résumé.

Now that my internship is over, I’m packing up and getting ready to move to sunny California! There I will be starting my first year as a PhD student at UCLA. My passions have always been people, culture, and inclusion, and because of that, I’m focusing my future research on ways museums can be more accessible and better support their communities. Having the opportunity to work at the DMA has been invaluable to my understanding of how museums function, adapt, and think about the communities they serve. I am so thankful for this experience and all the amazing friendships I have made!

Brisa Marie Smith Flores is a C3 Summer Intern at the DMA.

 

Who Are the Guerrilla Girls?

We’re excited to have selections from the Guerrilla Girls’ Portfolio Compleat on view through September 9, 2018, in the Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery. But you might be wondering “who are the Guerrilla Girls” . . .

In their own words:

The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. Over 55 people have been members over the years, some for weeks, some for decades. Our anonymity keeps the focus on the issues, and away from who we might be. We wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor, and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. We undermine the idea of a mainstream narrative by revealing the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. We believe in an intersectional feminism that fights discrimination and supports human rights for all people and all genders. We have done over 100 street projects, posters, and stickers all over the world. . . . We also do projects and exhibitions at museums, attacking them for their bad behavior and discriminatory practices right on their own walls. . . . We could be anyone. We are everywhere. (guerrillagirls.com)

The Portfolio Compleat is a new acquisition to the DMA’s collection. The works span more than two decades, but many of them are now as relevant as ever. Since they started, the Guerrilla Girls have been prolific, accumulating a large catalogue over time. We chose to display the works as you see them below, so that visitors can read a large number of the posters and see the wide reach of their artistic complaints.

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The videos in this space point to issues like the lack of non-male, non-white representation within specific institutions. As a large, encyclopedic museum, the DMA could be listed among the museums under critique. In recent years, our curators have sought to be more inclusive in the works we show and collect. Currently on view are many works and multiple exhibitions by women artists. But, of course, this is an ongoing conversation with a long road ahead.

In the central seating area, we have provided books created by the Guerrilla Girls that are reminiscent of zines. Zines are self-published magazines or artist books associated with niche subcultures that are usually produced via photocopier and distributed for low to no cost. They gained popularity in the US in the 1990s as an artistic expression, but the format has long existed as a method of political dissent.

Many of the Guerrilla Girls’ works and books are available for purchase on the group’s website. They try to make them accessible to typical museum visitors rather than art collectors. This allows their viewers, and anyone who is so inclined, to become an art collector instead of perpetuating a system where the same one percent decide the direction of the art world. According to the group’s website, “Everything you buy supports our efforts to expose discrimination and corruption!”

Zines, posters, and Guerrilla-style videos are something that anyone can create for a relatively low cost. The Guerrilla Girls’ message is all about breaking down barriers to art to show that it can be cheap to create, easy to disseminate, and indiscriminate in whose message is important. This is also why they use the style of street advertising and employ humor and pop culture to get their message across.

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The Guerrilla Girls are now internationally relevant and more active than ever. We are pleased to present this portfolio to the public and encourage its message of thoughtful and critical viewership.

Skye Malish-Olson is an Exhibition Designer at the DMA.

Holding Up a Mirror to Texas Icons

If you’ve visited the DMA lately, you likely noticed the large red mural created by Minerva Cuevas in our Concourse. For those unfamiliar with Cuevas’s art, she is known for her conceptual multi-media installations, and the way her images, language, found objects, and sculpture work together to create political critiques. Some of her projects reformat the visual language of advertisements, using it to harness advertising’s power to affect cultural narratives. For example, see Cuevas’s morbid reimagining of the Del Monte logo. What makes her work so interesting and accessible is the way it explores the relationships among socioeconomic systems, indigenous identity, and the environment with a sense of dark humor. Sometimes, as we see in Fine Lands, her work is downright playful.

Fine Lands, on view at the DMA through September 2, transforms the Museum’s central Concourse into a dystopian Texas landscape, rendered in a powerful comic-book style. Familiar silhouettes of oil wells become menacing, insectlike forms, while crude oil spewing from a derrick morphs into a cloud of bats filling the sky.

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Alongside cacti and desert scrub, a tortoise’s shell is reimagined as a backpack, a reference to the northward journeys of migrants. A tough, muscled armadillo and wide-eyed prairie dogs wear bulletproof vests. It’s easy to imagine these critters as comic book characters with individual personalities.

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Meanwhile, enormous ants represent industrial and agricultural labor. Echoes of the Texas State Fair’s midway evoke the quintessential cultural icons of Dallas. Framing the mural at one end of the Concourse are the words “LAND LIBERTY LIFE,” a message that is equally evocative of the American dream and of indigenous struggles for autonomy and food sovereignty.

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Fine Lands Press Preview, May 11, 2018

This imagery and its layers of associations allow us to imagine unfolding narratives, or to insert our own memories of the Texas landscape. Although the mural clearly references hot-button issues such as pollution, migrant labor, and the power of the fossil fuel industry, there is no single overarching message. Rather, Cuevas holds a mirror up to Texas culture, reflecting it back to us with the added insights that creative metaphor brings. For example, she treats oil in several ways: as a natural resource, as an element of our economy (for better or worse), and as a visually fascinating substance that oozes and seeps across the landscape. More than a simple warning about the dangers of oil as a pollutant, this imagery evokes the role of fossil fuels as the bedrock of Texas industry and an important component of our deep-rooted sense of independence.

Through its examination and reframing of common cultural stereotypes surrounding our state, Fine Lands offers a new way of seeing and understanding subjects such as immigration, the politics surrounding natural resources, and ideas about Texan identity. The presence of bright white crosshairs distributed throughout the mural lends an undertone of menace. The sight of these crosshairs hovering on the wall just ahead implies an immediate threat, lurking right behind us. How we understand that implied threat, and the extent to which we participate in Cuevas’s reflection on the Texas landscape, is up to each of us.

Chloë Courtney is a Digital Collections Content Coordinator at the DMA.

Open Office: Exhibition Planning

It has been said that the environment we create is a reflection of our state of mind. For Skye Olson, Exhibition Designer at the DMA, this sentiment could not be more true. Her office is crisp and organized with pops of color peeking through exhibition models and paper diagrams. She is in the business of aesthetics, choosing paint, finishes, and elements that will showcase art in the best possible light. The clean lines of her office reflect the detailed approach she takes in designing exhibition spaces. Sneak a peek inside Skye’s Museum office:

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Nesting

This week, we open the new and improved Arturo’s Nest in our Center for Creative Connections (C3)! The old play areas and design were so well loved that it was time to refresh and re-imagine this beloved play-learning space for our youngest visitors. The Exhibitions team and I had the pleasure of collaborating with the Education Department to come up with a fresh design that harmonizes with the updated Young Learner’s Gallery just around the corner in C3.

Some of the changes we made include installing new carpet (with giant polka-dots) to help with ambient sound, and applying a brand-new landscape to the walls, courtesy of our Exhibitions Graphic Designer, Kevin Parmer. We’ve added a nightscape to a previously plain wall, which adds to the calming and enveloping charm of this space. For our design team, this project was a playful departure from the many ongoing exhibition design projects in the Museum galleries.

Material samples used in the Arturo’s Nest redesign

There will be a new “nest” structure (coming soon) that will also function as a reading nook, and the daytime landscape will be dotted with interactives that engage our youngest visitors’ budding aesthetic sensibilities. We invite you to explore Arturo’s Nest upon its reopening!

Arturo’s Nest space before

Arturo’s Nest space after

Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer 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!
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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.

 


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