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Artist Interview: xtine and Sabrina

This fall the Center for Creative Connections invited C3 Visiting Artists xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman to design in-gallery activities inspired by unattributed works of art in the DMA’s collection. Meet xtine and Sabrina here and learn more about their thoughtful installation and activities designed to engage a larger conversation about labor.

Tell us about yourselves.
We met in fall 2016 at the University of Texas at Dallas, where we discovered a shared passion for embodiment, literature, and workers’ rights. We became fast friends and quickly set forth to merge xtine’s interventions on crowdsourcing platforms with Sabrina’s expertise in literature, history, and labor.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
xtine delivered a talk about her project, Mechanical Olympics, in the C3 Theater during Fall 2015. While at the DMA, she saw that the Center provided a space for connecting the Dallas community with local artists who could leverage the educational team at the Museum to bring engaging art to diverse audiences through interactive media formats. This was a good fit for the type of exhibition that she and Starnaman wanted to create for The Laboring Self.

Tell us how the idea of your project originated.
The Laboring Self grew out of a pilot project, Digital Korl Woman, that we developed in Sabrina’s class “Studies in Women’s Literature: Rebels and Reformers” at the University of Texas at Dallas in spring 2017. Sabrina was teaching Rebecca Harding Davis’s 1861 novella Life in the Iron Mills in class, a book about unregulated labor in a steel mill, and we saw the potential for parallels between critical issues in labor across the centuries.

We initiated an exploratory collaboration in which we asked Sabrina’s students to create a participatory project much like the one we present in the C3 space. First, students hired virtual workers to interpret a section of Life in the Iron Mills by submitting selfies to reflect the feelings that the steel worker character expressed in a sculpture he made out of waste products from the industrial processes. These pictures were then used as inspiration for  a 3-D cardboard sculpture. Finally, the students chose parts of Davis’s book that they found important and layered them on the sculpture.

We were invited to share this project and the process at a number of academic conferences, and now an article about it is forthcoming in Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy.

The Laboring Self, which centers on reproductions of human hands—workers are “hired hands” after all—grew naturally from our classroom experience and continues to evolve in ways we find exciting and will be working on for some time. We document our ongoing projects on our website, Visible Women.

What do you hope visitors will take away from your project?
We hope that visitors will see a connection between the detrimental impacts of unregulated labor in the 19th and the 21st centuries. While contemporary digital and crowdsourced work seems different from the industrial labor that became common in the 19th century, there are many parallels. For instance, workers who enter evolving industries have few protections. Laborers in the 19th century were ultimately able to address some of the exploitative and dangerous conditions in their workplace, but today’s crowdsourced laborers have few mechanisms to voice their concerns.

It is important to us that visitors to C3 have a chance to reflect on their own work experiences and how it affects their bodies. Those who are, have, or will work are as much a part of the project as the digital laborers who provided their hands and thoughts for the installation. Through the interactive aspects of our project—all of which involve using hands and words—we ask visitors to create their own “hired hands.”

hands

What have you enjoyed most about this experience?
We love the process! It is an honor to be able to realize our vision in a space that includes participants from so many different communities. While we are excited to bring our families to the tables, trace our hands, our kids’ and spouse’s hands, and make rock-rubbings of the literary quotes on a Sunday afternoon, the journey is the most enjoyable part of the experience. From the day we sat together struggling with how much we would pay the workers on the Mechanical Turk website to the day we created and hung strands of hands on the wall of the C3 space, we learned a lot about ourselves and the world we live in, while making something that engages the community where we live and work.

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Visit the Center for Creative Connections through December to participate in activities and contribute your own responses to xtine and Sabrina’s The Laboring Self installation.

Join us for a reception in the Center for Creative Connections on October 26 and mingle with C3 Visiting Artists xtine burrough and Sabrina Starnaman in C3 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Kerry Butcher is the Center for Creative Connections Coordinator at the DMA.

The Light and the Dark

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day and in recognition of this day which brings awareness to this disease, we are sharing a post by one of our DMA Meaningful Moments participants.

DMA Canvas

What is it about art that speaks to us so deeply? How does it tap into our soul and speak so loudly to us, sometimes even uncomfortably shouting our truths to other people? We spend all of our time hiding the deepest parts of our souls from others around us, sometimes even from the people closest in our lives. But art, this amazing living and breathing thing, shouts our truths back at us and makes us feel emotions that we were positive we had locked away deep in our hearts where they could not escape. Suddenly, there it is. That work of art that is so profound, so fierce, that it stops us in our tracks and we are taken aback. This seemingly unassuming piece vividly screaming out to us and all surrounding us.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here I was, a four decade veteran of…

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From Pickets to Picnics

The late 1800s were a pretty dismal time for the American worker. People often worked more than 12 hours a day just to get by! It was then, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, that the first “Labor Day” took place. On September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 fed-up employees took to the streets of New York to rally against poor conditions and unfair wages.

Men Working on West Lancaster


Blanche McVeigh, Men Working on West Lancaster, c. 1933–34, aquatint, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Public Works of Art Project

Since then, the “working man’s” holiday has been celebrated on the first Monday in September, although it did not become a federal holiday until 1894! Today, Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer and new beginnings for most Americans, but let us not forget those workers that came before us to fight for the safe and sanitary conditions we enjoy today.

newbeach

Lynn Lennon, Beach Party, Dallas City Hall, 1984, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Homer B. Jester Fund, © 1984 Lynn Lennon

The DMA is closed today, but you can enjoy free general admission every day during Museum hours (Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Thursday, 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; third Fridays, 11:00 a.m.–midnight). Have a safe and wonderful holiday!

Make This: Camera Obscura

Today is a big day for the moon, check out this post from 2016 to find our how you can make a camera obscura to watch the moon’s time in the lime light.

DMA Canvas

Johannes Vermeer, star of the eponymous Vermeer Suite: Music in 17th-Century Dutch Painting, is famous for his illusionism. Vermeer’s small, gem-like paintings are little windows into 17th century Dutch life. Instead of composing his images from naked-eye observation, however, some art historians believe that Vermeer used a device called a camera obscura.

A camera obscura, Latin for dark chamber, is the precursor to the modern camera, and has been known to artists, scientists, and philosophers since the time of Aristotle. At their most basic, they are made from light-tight boxes with a tiny hole on one side. Light enters the hole and casts an inverted image on a screen inside the box. Its earliest uses can be traced to astronomers, who used the camera obscura to safely view eclipses. However, it didn’t take long for artists to use it as a drawing tool. Camera…

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The Two Käthes

Join us for Late Night this Friday when we will host artist Käthe Kollwitz of the feminist activist art collective the Guerrilla Girls as part of a celebration of women artists featured in Visions of America. For more than thirty years, women artists from across the country have donned gorilla masks and joined the ranks of the Guerrilla Girls to produce public art campaigns that raise awareness about gender and ethnic discrimination in the art world and beyond. Having decided early on that the members of the Guerrilla Girls would remain anonymous, they took this opportunity to shine some limelight on great women artists of the past by assuming the names of pioneers like Käthe Kollwitz, Frida Kahlo, and Zubeida Agha.

Guerrilla Girls at the Abrons Art Center, 2015

In an interview for the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Oral History Program, Käthe explained the origin of their pseudonyms.

“Eventually we realized that we needed individual names within the Guerrilla Girls.  When we went places in a group or in pairs, we needed to be individuals in some way.  So this idea came up to have dead women artists as pseudonyms, and it was a useful idea because art historians were re-finding and representing the work of a lot of women artists from history.  Most of the pseudonyms that people took were artists they’d never heard of before they started and only discovered when they read up on women artists, looking for a name.”

Käthe’s own namesake, Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945), was a German printmaker and sculptor who also addressed social injustice in her work. She also happens to be well represented in the DMA’s collection

Kollwitz’s work is at times touching and heart-wrenching with intimate portraits of mothers with their children as well as genre scenes depicting the plight of the urban poor. Her subjects are often gaunt figures whose shadowy eyes and pained poses speak volumes about the dire circumstances under which they lived. Having endured multiple personal tragedies and both world wars, she was an artist who did not shy away from showing the realities of war, poverty, and loss.

Käthe Kollwitz, Revolt (Sturm), 1897, Etching, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg, 2000.192.FA

Remarking on how she arrived at the pseudonym Käthe Kollwitz, the artist said, “It’s very personal for everybody.  Käthe Kollwitz is not my all-time favorite artist, but she’s a great role model.  She was an activist as well as an artist.  She didn’t believe in the expensive, fancy art system.  She did a lot of cheap prints that she gave and sold very cheaply.  She did a lot of work about working people, about women and children, even work about sex.  She was a fierce woman artist.”

Over 70 years after Kollwitz’s death the Guerrilla Girls are continuing the practice of using art to raise awareness. Reflecting on their own 30 year legacy, Käthe will speak about favorite projects and how the group has approached activism in their work. For more information about this and other Late Night programs, visit DMA.org.

Jessie Frazier is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Tomorrow night, July 13, we are celebrating Mexico of the past and present with our Second Thursday program, Off the Wall to kick off our closing weekend of Mexico: 1900-1950. Since this exhibition is all about telling the stories of Mexico and the artists who documented its history and people, we thought Once Upon a Time in Mexico would be the perfect way to encapsulate the evening. We have so much going on all evening, tours, music, crafts, and more and each activity connects back and tells a story about an artwork in the exhibition.

Murals are such a large portion (literally) that connects the exhibition together, so we wanted to highlight murals as an art form. All night you will be able to watch as the artist collective Sour Grapes create a mural inspired by the exhibition on Eagle Family Plaza. Sour Grapes has been around since 2005 and you can’t drive around Dallas without seeing their work on walls and buildings. Even though we have a few murals to choose from, this one was a visitor favorite and with its bold colors and the scale of the work, you can see why.

Diego Rivera, Juchitán River (Río Juchitán), 1953–1955, oil on canvas on wood, Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA, Mexico City Assigned to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes through the Sistema de Administración y Enajenación de Bienes of the Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público, 2015 © 2017 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New

Artists like, Gunther Gerzso, Leonora Carrington, and Alice Rahon, all featured in the exhibition, were important players in the Surrealist movement in Mexico. This movement encouraged artists to unlock their subconscious and use their imagination to create a new world on the canvas.  Spend a few minutes with friends putting yourself into the minds of the Surrealists with the game, Exquisite Corpse. In the game, a piece of paper is folded into sections and passed around; the challenge is that each artist must work on one particular segment without having seen the others. The results are sometimes crazy and monstrous but always hilarious.

Gunther Gerzso, The Days of Gabino Barreda Street, 1944, oil on canvas, Lent by private collection

On the Before Mexico, was Mexico tours, we have Dr. Kimberly Jones the DMA’s Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas speaking on our Pre-Columbian collection in English and Spanish. Pre-Columbian art was an enormous influence on many of the artists represented in the exhibition. Just one example is the mural by Saturnino Herrán entitled Our Gods, which shows a group of Aztec people during a ritual to the god, Coatlicue.

To finish up your night, don’t miss Mariachi de Oro performing the upbeat music of Western Mexico. Mariachi has been around since at least the 18th century and is a large part of Mexico’s cultural history. Around the 1920’s when the piece below was painted, Mariachi music was being broadcast on the radio for the first time, and instruments like the trumpet were being infused into the arrangements because of the growing popularity of jazz and Cuban music.

Don’t miss out on a fun filled evening celebrating the closing weekend of Mexico: 1900-1950. We are going to miss this exhibition once it is gone next Monday, but thankfully, we have a few pieces that are staying with us! These images below among others will still be in the DMA’s collection and can be enjoyed many times to come after Mexico is over.

Don’t forget to join us tomorrow from 5:00-9:00 p.m. for July Off the Wall: Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The cost is $5 for the public and free for DMA Members. An additional $10 ticket is required to see the exhibitions that evening.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

Party Like It’s 1776

Are you too cool for British rule? Then celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by exploring more than 150 outstanding prints from the colonial era to the present, drawn exclusively from the National Gallery of Art’s collection. Visiting Visions of America: Three Centuries of Prints from the National Gallery of Art is how you get Fourth of July HamilDONE right. Ain’t no party like a George Washington party, because a George Washington party don’t stop! See you Tuesday friends, the DMA is open on the Fourth of July from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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


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