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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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.

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.

Installing Light

Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World is opening this weekend and the DMA is the only venue outside of Europe to host this exhibition featuring rarely seen objects from around the world. We’ve been preparing for weeks for Sunday’s opening, as you can see in the photos below,

Learn more about the exhibition and the artistic techniques used to enhance the effect of light found in the objects on display in Nur from the DMA’s senior advisor for Islamic art, Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir. And on Thursday, April 3, your lecture ticket will also include admission to Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World!

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Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA

Indiana Jones in the Digital Age

Uncrated stopped by the IT Department and caught up with Jessica Heimberg, Senior Developer, to learn more about her role here at the DMA. She can typically be found hiding behind two large monitors on her desk.

Jessica Heimberg

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
I work in the Information Technology Department. My official title is Senior Developer, but I am more like the MacGyver of tech projects and all things IT. (For those of you who missed this TV series, MacGyver was a non-gun-toting secret agent who improvised gadgets to solve crimes.)

What might an average day entail?
It could start with an update meeting and nice espresso, courtesy of DMA Deputy Director Rob Stein, or it could start with a flooded closet and fried switches. Depending on the day, I may be writing code, managing a project, creating documentation, trouble-shooting software, (politely) arguing with a vendor, walking with the cable dudes through a dusty construction site, or trying to figure out why someone’s e-mail worked on their iPhone yesterday but not today. Actually, I think I just described my Tuesday a few weeks ago.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is that by helping create new programs, and supporting the DMA and its staff, I get to play a public service role in my city, and that makes me proud. I feel more than ever that people need art, music, playgrounds, and parks.

One of the more challenging and equally exciting effects of working in a small department is that we have to manage a lot of IT without a lot of staff. This definitely forces efficiencies, and we get to apply real creativity to problem solving. By nature and training, I tend to create schedules and plans. I like to maintain order and do my best to make working on projects as low stress as possible, but as anyone who’s ever worked on ANYTHING knows, even best-laid plans can get monkey-wrenched, and I have learned that some of the best ideas come out of the rubble of an initial plan.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I was going to be Indiana Jones—am I dating myself here? In a past life (yes, I am older), I worked in the fashion industry, and then in corporate settings, but always gravitated toward the arts, science, and nature to find balance and inspiration.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection?
Just one? Not possible to pick just one.

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Chanel 1 - "Fire," 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Channel 1 – “Fire,” 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose, (c) Bill Viola, Long Beach, California

I have always loved The Crossing, by Bill Viola. At my last job, at least once a week I would take lunch at the DMA and wander the galleries for an hour just to clear my head. I remember when the Viola was installed and how exciting it was to walk into this big, dark space and stand in front of the projection, watching. I visited the thing three or four times before realizing it had a whole other side! I fell in love with it a second time. I know it is a digital piece, but something about the scale and pace of it strikes me as very human, and it is comforting to me.

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Chanel 2 - "Water," 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Channel 2 – “Water,” 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose, (c) Bill Viola, Long Beach, California

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
Oh, gosh – so many! I thoroughly enjoyed the “blockbuster” exhibitions like Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs and especially The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, but most of my favorites have been mounted by our own curatorial staff. I loved Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea, The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, African Masks: The Art of Disguise, Omer Fast: 5000 Feet Is the Best, and the telling of a chunk of American history through Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design. I think Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, the Islamic art and culture exhibition opening in 2014, will be a stunner.

Jessica Heimberg is Senior Developer, Information Technology at the DMA.


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