Posts Tagged 'Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World'

Leaves of Light with Writer Kendra Greene

 

Kendra Greene, the DMA's current Writer-in-Residence

Kendra Greene, the DMA’s current Writer-in-Residence

Since July 2014, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) has worked closely with printer and essayist Kendra Greene. As our Writer-in-Residence, Kendra is assisting in the evaluation and re-purposing of thousands of visitor responses received in relation to a recent C3 installation.

Images (left to right): A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection; Visitors leaving responses at the C3's Tree of "LIGHT" interactive

Images (left to right): A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection; Visitors leaving responses at the C3’s Tree of “LIGHT” interactive

In the spring of 2014, in connection with Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, C3 asked visitors to respond to a painting of a Tuba tree with the 99 names of God written on its leaves. Nur is the Arabic word for “light,” so we asked visitors to write a characteristic of light on a gold leaf and hang it on our tree. Over three months, we received 4,394 contributions.

Uncrated sat down with Kendra and asked her a few questions:

Tell us a little about your background with museums.
In my first job, as a preparator, I used to put text on the museum wall—one vinyl letter at a time. As a curatorial assistant, I started writing those texts. I was managing a contemporary photography collection when I discovered the best day I could have was introducing a visitor to some remarkable thing they could never have known to ask for, which may or may not have led to volunteering at a natural history museum to costume their giant ground sloth.

What interested you in working with the Dallas Museum of Art?
Museums are storytelling institutions, and yet so many of those stories go unheard. There’s never enough room on the labels to say everything worth saying, and then there’s the internal stories, the fragile oral history of what it is to live with a museum, that almost never get recorded in the first place. I wanted to capture stories that might otherwise be lost, and I wanted to give voice to surprising things well worth hearing.

Describe your process of unpacking and making sense of the information in the leaves.
The prospect of coming to grips with thousands of discrete words and phrases was overwhelming. I started alphabetizing to organize the leaves, and doing so I found not just patterns of meaning but rhythms of language. I got really interested in the effect of proportion in the responses: the power of “Love” being repeated 242 times, and the power of “Flowers & Weeds” being said just once.

Kendra’s notebook documenting the Tuba tree responses

Kendra’s notebook documenting the Tuba tree responses

What are some of your favorite poems that you generated from the leaf responses?

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How does this kind of creative re-purposing support the process of meaning making?
I’m a writer and a maker essentially because I believe in conversation. It’s exciting whenever creating something generates a response, but when that response generates more making, the whole exchange grows that much richer. It was really important to me to listen to everything this collection of visitors chose to say, and then think about what those writings had to say both individually and en masse. I see a lot of my questions and interpretations in my compositions from the leaves, but mostly I see a portrait of a community that can only happen through collaboration.

Join Kendra Greene for an evening of discovering the galleries through language, unlocking the power of art to spark poetry and prose, Thursday, February 12, from 6:00 to 8:50 p.m., and experience Kendra’s assembled poetry at the February Late Night on Friday, February 20, in the C3 Theater at 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

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

Highlights of Light

It’s the final week to visit the DMA-co-organized exhibition Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, on view through Sunday, June 29. The acclaimed exhibition, which features more than 150 objects from ten centuries, highlights rare and beautiful examples of the rich heritage of the Islamic world and the influences and contributions it has made to cultures throughout history.

 

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Friday Photos: Hope, Happiness, and Love

Last week, I wrote a blog post for our Uncrated Blog about a community project we are currently hosting in C3. Any and all visitors who enter C3 are invited to contribute to a growing collection of words that relate in some way to the concept of light, inspired by our current exhibition Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World. Check out the post and see the work of art that inspired this project, as well as a time-lapse video of our tree slowly but steadily budding leaves with our visitors’ ideas.

Nur students

Many visitors stop to read the words that others have left behind, regardless of whether they add one of their own. Below is a just a sampling of the thousands of visitor contributions that have been added over the past two months. The size of the words is directly proportionate to how many times they appear on the tree.

Nur wordcloud

Visit Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World through Sunday, June 29, 2014. Visit C3 afterward and add your own idea related to the concept of light!

Melissa Gonzales
C3 Gallery Manager

 

How Many Words Are There for “Light”

How many words can you think of that describe light? Your list can include characteristics, opposite words, and metaphors for the concept of light.

A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection

A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection

The exhibition Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World explores the concept of light and the many ways it is captured, studied, and featured in works of art and scientific objects from Islamic culture (nur is the Arabic word for “light”). A work of art from the exhibition titled A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on Its Leaves is currently on view in the Center for Creative Connections (C3). This painting illustrates the concept that there can be many meanings associated with a single idea. Similarly, visitors are invited to add their ideas to a growing collection of light-related words in the accompanying community installation.

Leave your ideas on what light is through the run of the exhibition, which closes on June 29.

Melissa Nelson Gonzales is the C3 Gallery Manager at the DMA.

Culinary Canvas: Almond Cookies (Nan-e Badami)

This month’s recipe is inspired by our current exhibition Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, which explores Islamic art and science throughout the centuries and around the world. Several beautifully decorated pieces of pottery can be found in the exhibition, including this striking bowl from Kashan, located in modern Iran. The Persian Empire spanned this area during ancient times and its cultural thread has continued, influencing food in the region today. In fact, Persians were one of the first to produce sugar and create recipes for cookies–some dating back to the 12th century–and sweets remain an important part of Persian celebrations today. Try this simple Persian recipe to add an interesting new flavor to your cookie repertoire and then be sure to stop by the Museum before Nur closes next month!

Blue and White Bowl with Radial Design, 13th Century , Iran, Kashan, fritware, painted in cobalt blue under transparent glaze, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Brush, Brooklyn, USA

Blue and White Bowl with Radial Design, 13th Century , Iran, Kashan, fritware, painted in cobalt blue under transparent glaze, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Brush, Brooklyn, USA

Almond Cookies

Yields about 60 cookies
Level: Very Easy

5 egg yolks
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons rosewater (optional, can be purchased at Middle Eastern markets)
2 cups finely ground almonds or almond flour
2 teaspoons cardamom
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 250° F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat yolks and sugar at medium speed until light. Add rosewater if desired.

In a separate bowl, stir together almond flour, cardamom, and baking powder. Slowly add almond mixture to mixer, stirring on low speed and scraping down sides of bowl until fully incorporated. Resulting dough should be slightly sticky.

To form cookies, scoop off about a teaspoon of dough then roll between hands to shape into a ball. Flatten ball between palms and place on baking sheet. Bake about 25 minutes, watching closely to ensure cookies do not brown.

When removed from oven, cookies will look very soft and should remain so at room temperature. Allow to cool on baking sheet then transfer to metal rack to cool completely.


 
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Recipe adapted from Food of Life: A Book of Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

Educator Resources: Islamic Culture

Quran Bifolio, Tunisia, Qayrawan, late 9th – early 10th century , vellum, ink, gold, silver, and blue dye, Furusiyya Art Foundation, Vaduz, Photo © Noel Adams

Quran Bifolio, Tunisia, Qayrawan, late 9th – early 10th century , vellum, ink, gold, silver, and blue dye, Furusiyya Art Foundation, Vaduz, Photo © Noel Adams

We are thrilled to present Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World at the DMA through June 29. The exhibition explores light in Islamic culture–in the physical and metaphysical sense–through both secular and sacred works, produced in places from Spain to Asia, dating from the 7th century to the 21st. The Islamic world is vast, and the diversity of cultures embraced by Islam is rich. To assist you in teaching about Islamic culture, we’ve pulled together some useful online resources:

9th-10th century, Iraq, luster-painted, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., Brooklyn, USA

Bowl with bird, 9th-10th century, Iraq, luster-painted, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., Brooklyn, USA

Andrea Severin Goins
Interpretation Specialist

The Nur Dialogue Experience

As the senior advisor for Islamic art at the DMA, my responsibilities include engaging with institutions worldwide to create dialogue on behalf of the Museum. The most recent project involved curating the exhibition Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, which itself required many complex negotiations! The project started in Spain four years ago, when I was asked by the Fundación Focus-Abengoa in Seville to develop their first Islamic art exhibition. Seville is no stranger to Islamic history. Almost 800 years of Islamic rule in Spain resulted in a strong presence of Islamic culture, which survived beyond 1492, when Muslims lost Spain to Christian forces. As an Islamic art exhibition in Seville, Nur was particularly significant, being paradoxically a first of its kind, yet, naturally at home. In Dallas, the Nur exhibition holds another great significance, as it is the first major exhibition of Islamic art in the 111-year history of the DMA. So, there is a great deal to learn about Islamic culture. But first of all, there is a great deal to “unlearn.” For this reason, the exhibition journey starts with a white entrance space, which aims to give the visitor a sensation of light, and is also a white slate, which prepares us to see for the first time. White light holds the full spectrum of colors.
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The Nur exhibition is at the heart of the cultural exchange venture at the DMA. With Nur, the dialogue starts with the silence of a white space, suggesting that listening is key in any dialogue. There is dialogue between the objects themselves as they link different cultures living within one culture. An example of this is a Torah case from 16th-century Syria, which is made of copper and decorated in the typical Islamic style of silver inlaid arabesques.

There is a strong connection between these objects that come from places as far apart as Spain and Asia, brought together in a configuration that creates a dialogue with the visitor. Islamic art objects are often small and they require us to humbly come close and look. They are filled with details. In the exhibition space, these details are brought to the fore by virtual screens (I prefer to call them virtual screens rather than videos!), which create other planes. They are positioned in such a way in the exhibition space so as not to interfere with the objects, but they complement the display, attract attention to some of the key aspects within the objects, and invite us to look at the objects again and again. They reveal the immense world within, sometimes, the tiniest of objects. And sight becomes insight.

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The exhibition journey reflects content and container being one; without props, the exhibition provides an experience of a different way of seeing the world. Through aspects such as reflection and attention to minute detail, a harmonious musicality is created. The exhibition concepts and design were shaped closely together to create an experience of a multilayered reality. For example, this is suggested by the openings in the walls between sections that allow us a glimpse into the next space as we make an enjoyable journey of discovery through the exhibition. Passing one of these openings, we sense the presence of another world, suggesting that what see is only part of the whole.
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Sabiha Al Khemir is the senior advisor for Islamic art at the DMA.


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