Building Community Through Art

Growing up in a Puerto Rican-Panamanian household in Austin, the arts were one of the primary ways that my sister and I learned about our family’s cultural heritage. Our bedtime stories were folktales, vejigante masks and molas—not unlike the one currently on view in the Center for Creative Connections—hung on the walls, and in the evenings, Papi would teach us merengue while Mami would fry tostones

After my interview at the DMA last summer, I spent time in the Arts of the Americas Galleries, where I stumbled upon a case of golden pendants from Panamá. Despite being miles away from family, it felt like a piece of my mother and the generations that came before her were with me. It felt like a glittering sign that said, I see you, and you belong here

During national Welcoming Week, an annual event where communities “bring together immigrants and those born within their countries in a spirit of unity,” the DMA is proud to reaffirm our commitment to making the Museum a place where everyone feels valued and welcomed. 

Indeed, a core tenet of the DMA’s mission is placing art and diverse communities at the center from which everything radiates. Yet what does that look like in practice? Here are some of the ways: 

  • By recognizing that while museums are spaces of learning and engagement, they are also rooted in colonial structures and are complicated spaces. The Museum’s cross-departmental committee focusing on linguistic and cultural equity is grappling with this tension in earnest. How do we reckon with our institution’s past? What contributes to a sense of belonging? What kinds of internal and external transformations need to occur? What does that mean for our spaces, staff, programming, and exhibitions?
  • By inviting community members and leaders to help shape the 2020 My/gration C3 exhibition, which highlights the contributions of artists who immigrated to the United States, examines how the movement of people is expressed through art, and illuminates ways cross-cultural connections inform artistic production.
  • By introducing Estampas de la Memoria, a Go van Gogh® program designed by Teaching Specialist Bernardo Velez Rico and former C3 Visiting Artist Karla García to activate Spanish-speaking elementary students’ voices and experiences through collaborative story writing, theater, and art making inspired by retablos. Learn more about the program’s teaching approach, which reflects a desire to uplift and center the knowledge of immigrant communities.
Teaching Specialist Bernardo Velez Rico facilitates a Go van Gogh® program.
Heart House youth engage in an art-making activity during an after-school program.
  • By highlighting the creative bridging of cultures through programs like author Sri Rao’s September 20 Late Night talk about his book Bollywood Kitchen, a reflection on food, film, and his experience as a second generation Indian American.
A Dallas Public Library adult English language learning class explores the galleries.

As a museum of Dallas, we strive to celebrate and reflect the diversity of our city. As of 2017, approximately 611,400 of Dallas’s 2.5 million residents were immigrants. Until 2017 Dallas was a major resettlement location, with close to 2,500 refugees arriving annually. 

With an art collection that spans time and the globe, the Museum provides windows into other worlds and perspectives, which can promote connection, empathy, and cross-cultural understanding. But perhaps art is most powerful when it functions as a mirror, reflecting our own experiences back to us, saying I see you, and you belong here. On behalf of my colleagues, I extend to you all a warm invitation and welcome, and I hope to see you soon.

Mary Ann Bonet is the Director of Community Engagement at the DMA.

Examining “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness”

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness by Herri met de Bles after conservation treatment

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, a fantastical landscape by Herri met de Bles, is hanging in the newly reinstalled European art galleries after years in storage. Before it could be displayed, the 16th-century painting required careful conservation treatment in the DMA’s Paintings Conservation Studio. Treatment revealed a remarkably complex scene, with many tiny figures, hidden creatures, and microscopic details.

Little is known of Herri met de Bles, who was born around 1510 and died after 1550. Regardless of his life being shrouded in mystery, Bles was an important Flemish Mannerist landscape painter, known for knitting together realistic landscape scenes with fantastic imaginary elements. In Italy, where his art was popular, Bles was known as “Civetta” (“owl” in Italian), because he liked to paint little owls into his works, acting as a sort of playfully hidden signature. If you look closely in the tree behind St. Jerome, you will see the beak and eyes of a tiny owl peeking through a tree hollow.

Saint Jerome before treatment

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, although striking, arrived at the conservation studio in need of treatment. Bles applied colorful, thin layers of paint over a prepared wooden support. The wood warped over time, causing cracks in the support and paint simultaneously. A darkened varnish further obscured the beautiful and precise details. Paint applied in a previous restoration campaign, which was likely undertaken in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, had also discolored, creating dissonance in the surface of the work and obscuring the overall harmony evoked by the artist in the landscape.

The painting was examined using various techniques—including microscopes, ultraviolet light radiation, infrared reflectography (IR), and x-radiography—to gain insight into the condition of the work and the artist’s techniques. Armed with this information, treatment began in preparation for the reinstallation of the European Galleries.

Saint Jerome during treatment

First, the dark and discolored varnish and areas of overpaint were removed. Cleaning revealed a world of detail previously unknown. Photomicrographs show details hardly perceptible without the aid of a microscope. Tiny creatures emerged in the wooded forest scene to the right of the central figure and in the mountains to the left, including a bear and cub family, stags, tiny figures hiking with a dog, and mountain goats. St. Jerome centers the composition and is accompanied by precisely painted attributes, including the skull and lion. He is surrounded by tiny, lively creatures such as squirrels, snails, lizards, mushrooms, and frogs. Bles also renders architectural features beautifully and goes so far as to depict not only microscopic decorative sculpture and architectural features but also decorative friezes noticeable only with magnification.

The IR images revealed especially interesting technical information. An elaborate underdrawing emerged when IR images were captured. Carbon-based materials absorb the infrared radiation and will appear black in IR images, while other materials that do not absorb the radiation will look transparent. Using this technique, underdrawing materials that contain carbon such as black inks, charcoal, and other carbon-containing black pigments become visible underneath overlying paint layers. Transfer marks, appearing as tiny black dots, were visible throughout the underdrawing, suggesting the use of prepared cartoon drawings. More free underdrawing was also observed, and can also be seen in the detail image. This type of underdrawing has been observed in other paintings attributed to Bles and serves as a fingerprint, in a way, of his working method.

After years of being stored away, this gorgeous painting by a mysterious artist is now on view for visitors to explore as part of free general admission. The landscape’s abundance of details will reward close looking, and the work serves as a dynamic addition to the newly reinstalled European Galleries.

Laura Hartman is the Associate Conservator at the DMA.

Image: Herri met de Bles, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, 16th century, oil on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.21

Globalization, Collaboration, and the Arts: Why PNC Proudly Presents Museum Exhibitions

In recent years, there has been an increased appetite for museum partnerships across the world. This unexpected effect of globalization has led to museums moving beyond loaning timeless pieces of art to museums loaning their staff, time, and resources to institutions halfway around the world. It has also resulted in more diverse, unique, and awe-inspiring art exhibitions and provided rich opportunities for the communities these institutions serve.

The Dallas Museum of Art’s current exhibition Dior: From Paris to the World is the perfect example of global partnership and close collaboration between institutions. The exhibition brought together three powerful organizations—the House of Dior, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Denver Art Museum—to share resources and best practices and, ultimately, build the iconic exhibition.

The exhibition features more than a hundred haute couture dresses, as well as accessories, photographs, original sketches, runway videos, and other archival material that trace the history of the iconic fashion house. And without global collaboration, this iconic exhibition would not be bringing thousands of visitors together in Dallas to see Dior designs that have rarely been seen outside of Europe.

At PNC, we have a national legacy of strategically supporting arts and culture organizations where we live and work because we understand the significant contributions they offer a successful economy. We’re thrilled to support this exhibition as the presenting sponsor and help expand worldviews by bringing “Paris to the World.”

©2019 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. All rights reserved


Brendan McGuire is Regional President and Head of Corporate Banking for North Texas at PNC.

Teen Ambassadors’ Summer in Review

From Pop-Up Art Spots to interactive story times, it’s been a great summer for family fun at the DMA! If you visited the Museum this summer to enjoy some of these activities, you’ve likely met one of our friendly and knowledgeable Teen Ambassadors. We checked in with three Teen Ambassadors—Martina D’Orso, Grace Ling, and Aditi Krishnan—to get a recap on how their summer at the DMA went. Grace and Aditi will be sophomores at the School for the Talented and Gifted at Townview Magnet Center this fall, and Martina will be a junior at Booker T. Washington High School.

Why were you interested in volunteering at the DMA?

Grace: My mom first took me to the DMA when I was a toddler to attend an art workshop. As I grew up I continued to attend the art programs the Museum offers for different ages and visit the traveling exhibits as well as the permanent ones. I thought that volunteering at a place I often went to as a kid would be a good way to give back and experience the Museum from a different perspective.

Martina: Since I am in the visual arts conservatory at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, I am interested in the arts. I wanted to see what it was like to work in a museum leading tours and helping out during events.

Aditi: I actually became interested in volunteering at the DMA because of a previous Teen Ambassador. Five or six years ago, I came to the DMA with my mom and our first stop was the Center for Creative Connections (C3). The activity we were doing had something to do with recycled materials, and a Teen Ambassador helped me pick my materials and complete my project. She explained the volunteer program to me and encouraged me to join when I was old enough. Since I was pretty young, I forgot that conversation for a while, but when my friend Grace mentioned her position as a Teen Ambassador to me, I remembered my excitement from that day and decided to apply.

What does a day in the life of a Teen Ambassador look like?

Aditi: Because each day will have different shifts and schedules, each day in the life of a Teen Ambassador is a little different. I tend to sign up for multiple shifts in the same day, so my day starts in C3. Before the Museum opens, I mostly prepare art materials for the visitors. Once the Museum opens, I typically help children with the activities and straighten out any messy stations. I usually get lunch in Klyde Warren Park with my friend and come back to do a Family Tour or Pop-Up Art Spot. My favorite shift is the tour because I get to talk directly to kids and teach them about a work of art in a fun and interesting way!

Grace: My favorite shift is Family Story Time. I love seeing the kids’ reactions to the story, which can range from humor to bewilderment. We conclude each story time with an art discussion and drawing activity where they make their own art inspired by what they learned. It’s cool how reading a children’s book can help make that connection and take art appreciation to the next level, where they use their creative imaginations and think deeper.

Do you have any stories or stand-out moments that have happened to you while volunteering?

Grace: When I was volunteering for the Late Night Pop-Up Art Spot, a lady came to try out a coloring activity and we started talking. She talked about how she used to sew wedding dresses and loved making art. It is interesting to listen to other people tell their stories and share experiences.

Martina: A stand-out moment that happened to me was on a Family Tour. The kids on the tour were so excited and they decided they were going to become friends after about 15 minutes of knowing each other. It was just so sweet how the kids are so nice and friendly to each other no matter what.

Aditi: When my friend and I were hosting a Pop-Up Art Spot in the Jonas Wood exhibition, a group of around 15 kids and a few chaperones came in looking pretty upset. The chaperones told us that they were supposed to attend a Family Tour, but they had gotten the dates wrong, so they had been waiting near C3 with nothing to do. We gave each child a coloring sheet and some colored pencils from the Pop-Up Art Spot and after they finished coloring, we let them take some coloring sheets home. The kids were overjoyed! I especially enjoyed this moment since coloring was all it took to make the kids happy.

Why should someone be a Teen Ambassador?

Grace: It is a great opportunity to practice communication skills, meet new people, learn about art, have fun, and contribute to the museum visitor experience.

Martina: It is an enriching experience that helps you understand how life in a museum works. You learn facts about artworks that you wouldn’t have known just by walking around the Museum alone. Additionally, you are able to learn how to talk and interact with people, which is a great skill to learn if you are a bit more introverted.

Aditi: I think one should be a Teen Ambassador because of the fun you have. You get to enjoy and appreciate the art around the DMA and help other children do so too! Teen Ambassadors also get to teach little kids about art in an exciting and entertaining manner, as opposed to just spitting out facts. You also get to meet new people and make friends with others who are interested in art as well. Lastly, the communication and collaboration skills you develop as a Teen Ambassador are essential for almost every career.

Applications for the DMA’s summer Teen Ambassador program will open in March 2020. If you’re interested in staying involved with the Museum during the next school year, consider joining the Teen Advisory Council—applications are due by August 19!

Got questions about the volunteer opportunities for teens at the DMA? Email teens@DMA.org and we’ll get right back to you!

Jessica Thompson-Castillo is the Manager of Teen Programs at the DMA.

The Art World and Dior: Raf Simons

Andy Warhol walked the René Magritte cloud-inspired runway, but Raf Simons’ Fall 2013 collection borrowed its name, “The Persistence of Memory,” from Salvador Dalí. Simons, drawing on formative moments in his life and in the life of Christian Dior, nods here to their shared journey as art gallerists-turned-couturiers. Simons, Dior Creative Director from 2012 to 2015, was dedicated to continuing the bond between artists and Dior.

Dior closed his gallery in 1934 when the 1929 financial crisis adversely affected the art market. In 1945, Dior turned to Dalí as the inspiration for his Autumn/Winter collection, and in 1950 Dior and Dalí collaborated in Brazil to create the futuristic Costume of the year 2045.

Salvador Dalí, Costume of the year 2045, 1950, blue silk dress and red crutch, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand

In his debut Dior collection, Simons collaborated with contemporary artist Sterling Ruby. Simons used custom-made silks based on Ruby’s paintings, turning the canvases into haute couture. Ruby was a contemporary of Simons in the same way Dalí was a contemporary of Dior’s.

Looks from Christian Dior by Raf Simons’ Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2012 collection displayed alongside Sterling Ruby’s work SP115.

Throughout his tenure at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Simons revisited Dior’s personal history, weaving Dior’s love of art, and art connections, into the future.

A fortuneteller once told 14-year-old Dior:

“You’ll find yourself penniless, but women will always bring you luck and it is through them that you’ll be successful.”

Dior reportedly had his tarot cards read before every runway show. Pop artist Andy Warhol was also superstitious—and fascinated with Christian Dior. Like Dior, Andy Warhol’s first commission was a Glamour magazine sketch of a stylish woman sitting on the top rung of a ladder.

Simons connected Dior to Warhol through his career as a commercial artist and illustrator for department stores. For his Fall 2013 collection, created in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, he incorporated Warhol’s early illustrations into his designs.

A key work exploring the relationship between Warhol and Dior is a painted folding screen for the Miss Dior perfume. The screen was used as a display in the window of the Bonwit Teller department store.

The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc/ARS

Coming full circle, Warhol goes from creating the Miss Dior perfume ad to being featured on the Miss Dior bag in Simons’ Fall 2013 collection. You can see the Limited Edition Miss Dior handbag from the collection in Dior: From Paris to the World‘s “Total Look” gallery.

Simons also directly referenced Warhol’s 1966 work Silver Clouds as a nod to Warhol, Dior, and Simons’ own shared past. Models displayed reimagined Dior designs and Warhol sketches as they walked past giant silver sculptures; however, when the Fall 2013 collection walked, fashion magazines noted the sculptural resemblance to Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, better known as the “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Perhaps Simons references both—a fleeting reminder that history repeats itself.

______________________________________________________________________________

Visit DMA.org/Dior to reserve timed exhibition tickets in advance for Dior: From Paris to the World.

Clara Cobb is the Senior Marketing Manager at the DMA.

C3 Visiting Artist Interview: Spencer Evans

In My Image, an installation by C3 Visiting Artist Spencer Evans in the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections, explores notions of image and identity. For this project, Evans drew inspiration from Jacques Lacan’s “Mirror Stage” theory, which suggests that children base their identity on their environment before becoming aware of their own reflection. The final product is a collaborative installation of self-portraits started by Museum visitors and completed by the artist by referencing conversations and reflections shared about each participant’s unique identity. 

We sat down with Evans to learn more about what inspires him, how he describes his art, and what his experience has been like as a C3 Visiting Artist. Check it out:

Drop by the DMA through August 2019 to see In My Image. Visitors also have the opportunity to meet Spencer Evans and learn more about his installation at the closing reception on Thursday, August 1.

Interested in making your mark on the DMA and becoming a C3 Visiting Artist for 2020? Applications are still open through August 2! Learn more about the C3 Visiting Artist Project and apply here.

Dior and Dali: Maria Grazia Chiuri

Surrealism has had a major impact on both the art world and popular visual culture. Its influences are evident in Pop art, Abstract Expressionism, and time-based media installations, and in contemporary film, music, and advertising. In Dior: From Paris to the World, you can see Surrealism’s influence as a continuing inspiration in haute couture fashion.

Maria Grazia Chiuri explored Surrealist symbolism in her Spring–Summer 2018 show, where monochromatic black and white dresses were offset by a black-and-white chessboard runway “in a not-so-subtle nod to the world of games,” according to Dior, “conjuring an otherworldliness and constant optical illusion.”

© Bakas Algirdas

Chiuri explored Surrealism in her collection with a focus on American photographer Man Ray and female Surrealists Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini. It’s no coincidence that she found inspiration in Fini, as Christian Dior, an art gallerist turned couturier, organized Fini’s first solo exhibition in November 1932.

Fini, a young and audacious artist, was a celebrity in her time, in part thanks to Dior. She often wore his designs—although in a memorable 1936 episode she attended a party wearing only “knee-length white leatherette boots and a cape of white feathers.”

Look 19. Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Haute Couture Spring–Summer 2018. Courtesy of Dior.

Alchimiste, a checkerboard ensemble that includes a long dress made of organza inserts with a feather-embroidered short cape (Look 5, Maria Grazia Chiuri: The New Feminity), reimagines a representation of Fini’s famous party ensemble against the Surrealist chessboard.

Look 48. Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2018. Courtesy of Dior.

More literally, Chiuri’s dress Nude (Look 8, Maria Grazia Chiuri: The New Feminity), with its trompe l’oeil dress embroidered with metallic sequins, is a literal interpretation of Man Ray’s 1929 Nude. A copy of Man Ray’s work can be found on Chiuri’s mood board.

In a way, the dress also pays homage to René Magritte’s The Light of Coincidences, on view in the DMA’s European Galleries on Level 2. In creating Chiuri’s Nude, hand-embroidered silver metal sequins were specially placed so the results mimicked light reflecting on the body, similar to the candlelight against Magritte’s sculptural torso.

René Magritte, The Light of Coincidences, 1933, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, 1981.9, © C. Herscovici, Brussels/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Dior also debuted Salvador Dalí’s masterpiece The Persistence of Memory as part of a larger solo exhibition in 1931. The painting famously depicts Dalí’s melting clocks, which Dior presented when he worked at the Galérie Bonjean. Chiuri also displays Dalí’s 1944 Vogue cover on her mood board in the exhibition.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, 162.1934, © 2019 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” played over the last looks in the runway show—New York’s Newsday described the band as having “blurring effects [that] stretch and contract the music into the liquid surrealism of a Salvador Dalí painting.” Their 1992 Gravity Grave EP cover nods to The Persistence of Memory.

The Verve’s Gravity Grave EP cover

However, it was most likely Fini that Chiuri was channeling when she chose The Verve, using graphic masks to note literally Fini’s passion for grand balls, which allowed her to impersonate different characters. An extraordinary ball held at Venice’s Palazzo Labia on September 3, 1951, organized by Charles de Beistegui, would go down in posterity as “The Ball of the Century” and an unforgettable fusion of the arts. Dior, Fini, and Dalí were among the 1,500 guests.

Andre Ostier, Leonor Fini, 1951, gelatin silver print, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Mr. and Mrs. Harry B. Gordon, 80.22

And what is a ball without a mask? Is fashion not a daily mask we can use like a Surrealist to explore playing with reality?

As The Verve sang over Chiuri’s runway: “I’m a million different people from one day to the next, I can’t change my mold no, no, no, no.”

Explore these Surrealist connections and more in Dior: From Paris to the World through September 1. Visitors must purchase timed tickets in advance at DMA.org/Dior.

Clara Cobb is the Senior Marketing Manager at the DMA.


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