The Art of Teen Leadership

If you’ve ever attended one of our free summer programs for families, you’ve probably met a Teen Ambassador. The Teen Ambassador Program has been around in some shape or form since 2001, providing fun and interactive experiences to thousands of visitors each summer.

Teen Ambassadors volunteer at the Museum for a short period of time, but they’re at the Museum a lot between June and August. Our 2018 class volunteered over 560 hours in 2018! In just two and a half months, participating teens get comfortable with their voice, learn how to be a good team member, and become experts in the DMA galleries. They truly embody what it means to be a leader—but what does leadership mean to a Teen Ambassador?

For participating teens, leadership is more than just having confidence. “A leader is not about someone in charge that you have to listen to,” one Teen Ambassador said. “It is about someone who takes initiative. If they find a problem they work with it. [They are] not afraid to make mistakes [and] learn from them.” Another Teen Ambassador described a leader as someone “who can take control of the situation and lead others onto a good path. A leader is always kind and has good integrity.”

Many Teen Ambassadors feel that a real leader is someone who listens to and respects others. While a Teen Ambassador can confidently stand up and give a tour to a large group without breaking a sweat, most find themselves learning how to communicate with others and be themselves. “I’ve learned how to make others feel welcome,” one Teen Ambassador reported at the end of last summer. “I was able to break out of my shell to connect with more people.”

Inspired by these teens’ experiences? Applications for the 2019 Teen Ambassador Program are now open! If you’re a teen who is at least 14 years old and interested in getting involved at the Museum, find out more by clicking here. Applications are due on Sunday, April 28.

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

Obscured Homes: Gee’s Bend Quilts and Overlooked Narratives in US Art History

America Will Be!: Surveying the Contemporary Landscape, the DMA’s new free exhibition on view April 6 through October 6, 2019, ends with “The Home.” One of six thematic galleries, “The Home” is the last in the exhibition and features one object in particular whose form is at once familiar and comforting—a worn and humble quilt, Amelia Bennett’s Bars and Strips. The quilt is included in the exhibition after a recent acquisition of seven artworks from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which collects and advocates for the work of self-taught African American artists from the Deep South. Amelia Bennett is one of over 100 women collectively referred to as the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers. These women are part of a rich tradition of quilt making in their shared community in Alabama, dating as far back as the mid-19th century. The story of how these quilts, made for intimate spaces of the home, have ended up on the walls of major museums asks viewers to consider the roles race and class play in the formation of art history.

Amelia Bennett
© Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The Souls Grown Deep Foundation advocates for works such as Bennett’s quilt to be considered on par with modernist paintings in the art historical canon. Incorporating what is considered craft or folk art into the larger framework of high art begins to historically correct for the absence of women, and more specifically, women of color, in the mainstream narrative of US art production; however, major efforts to introduce the quilts of Gee’s Bend to the larger art world have inadvertently reinforced harmful understandings about why we should value the art production of black women living in remote parts of the country.

In attempts to make them legible to art audiences, the quilts were introduced as reflecting the aesthetics of modernist art movements such as Abstract Expressionism. Valuing these quilts only as approximations of abstract painting diminishes the inherent creativity and worth of the quilts themselves when, in fact, the Gee’s Bend quilts are not derivative but a historical part of Abstract Expressionism’s development. Founders of Abstract Expressionism originally drew from sources such as folk and classical art to legitimize their art movement as one that spoke to a universal humanity. Barnett Newman, Robert Murray, and Roy Lichtenstein looked to quilts to develop a sense of home-grown American art aesthetics and identity unique to the nation. Discussing the quilts as attempts at modernist painting erases this history and does not validate their status as art objects produced by women of color without connecting them to a formal, masculine, and traditionally accepted art movement.

The second popular reading of the quilts was developed by Souls Grown Deep founder Will Arnett, who believed that the quilts and other assemblage works by Souls Grown Deep artists actually embodied a complex and private system of communication among black community members in the South. Other related readings connected the colors and patterns in Gee’s Bend quilts to those used in textiles in West Africa. Maude Southwell Wahlman, an African and African American art historian, believed these techniques were passed down from generation to generation, so that contemporary quilters were embedding codes into their works that even they no longer knew the significance of; however, textile historian Amelia Peck quickly sets straight that these readings, “about most African Americans being unaware of the symbols and signs in their quilts makes the concept both paternalistic and suspect.”

The quilts of Gee’s Bend are compelling on their own, unrelated to what these interpretations impose on them. Bennett’s Bars and Strips was made to captivate the viewer with its block patchwork composition and gradations of blues and grays. It wears its history, its over 90 years of age. The small tears, discolorations, patches, wrinkles, and uneven wear speak to the former lives of the fabric pieces, when they covered legs, soaked up sweat, and faded in the sun. The quilt moves beyond holding our aesthetic attention. Bennett’s work visually embodies the hard labor of her family and community members, and the poverty in their community that necessitated recycling every small bit of cloth. Its colors and patterns speak not to Mark Rothko’s color fields or to lost secret codes, but to the rich history of a multi-generational art practice and the ability to glean creativity and beauty out of hardship. While America Will Be! ends with “The Home,” contemporary understandings of US art history should begin in the domestic and creative sites of women and people of color so long overlooked.

Amelia Bennett, Bars and Strips, 1929, cotton, denim, and muslin, Dallas Museum of Art, Discretionary Decorative Arts Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Foundation, 2019.3.6

Read more about the Gee’s Bend Quilts as contemporary art objects:
Peck, Amelia. “Quilt/Art: Deconstructing the Gee’s Bend Quilt Phenomenon.” In My Soul Has Grown Deep: Black Art from the American South, edited by Kamilah Foreman. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018: 53-91.

Kimberly Yu is the McDermott Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Make!

Pancakes, music, Lego towers, clothing, art . . . what do all these things have in common? They are things you can MAKE! Whether you sew, bake, build, invent, tinker, or play, it’s hard to deny the thrill that comes when you can exclaim, “I made that!” Here at the DMA, we whole-heartedly believe in the beauty of creativity, from the visions of the artists whose works fill our galleries to the imagination of the visitors who make the museum come to life. So why not throw a party to make merry over the joy of creativity?

On Sunday, April 7th, we’ll be celebrating the power and delight of making in all its many forms at our FREE Family Festival: MAKE! with an exciting lineup of activities for the entire family. Drop in throughout the day to:

  • Climb inside the Artscream Truck’s mobile art gallery
  • Enjoy a performance by the L.V. Stockard Middle School Mariachi Pantera de Oro
  • Meet award-winning author and illustrator Yuyi Morales
  • Giggle and wiggle as ventriloquist Nancy Worcester performs with her furry friends Waco the Weasel and Larry the Crocodile
  • Watch artist Natalia Padilla transform the ABCs into extraordinary animal art
  • Work with your family and friends to create a community art piece
  • And so much more!

Activities are offered in both English and Spanish. Ver el calendario completo en español.

We hope you’ll make it a date and come celebrate with us!

Leah Hanson is the Director of Family, Youth, and School Programs at the DMA.

Breaking the Mold: Three Women Artists

A recent study surveying the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the United States (including the DMA) found that out of over 10,000 artists, 87% are male. Although history has produced fewer female artists than male, women artists have always existed, and their work is currently available on the art market.

In an effort to fix the gender discrepancy in the DMA’s collection, we continue to collect work produced by innovative women artists from past to present. In 2017–2018, for example, the DMA’s European Art Department acquired three masterworks by some of the most well known—yet still under-served—women artists in the history of French art: Adélaïde Labille Guiard (1749–1803), Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883), and Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899). All three works can be seen in the DMA’s current exhibition Women Artists in Europe from the Monarchy to Modernism alongside other works by women artists from the DMA’s permanent collection, private collectors, and nearby museums.

The show is free and open to the public through June 9, 2019. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to these newest arrivals!

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait of a Man, c. 1795, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 2017.18

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was one of four women artists accepted to the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in the latter half of the 18th century. Women were banned from training as students in the Royal Academy at the time, but were occasionally accepted as members (somewhat akin to modern-day professors) with limited privileges if they could demonstrate exceptional talent. After her acceptance as a portrait painter in 1783, Labille-Guiard exhibited consistently at the Academy’s Salon for the next nine years, received prestigious commissions, and was named the official painter of the “Mesdames de France” (King Louis XV’s daughters) in 1787.

During the French Revolution of 1789–99—a time when many members of the royal family fled France or were guillotined by revolutionaries—Labille-Guiard managed to distance herself from her aristocratic patrons. She adopted the revolutionary cause by exhibiting portraits of political leaders and government officials that featured the sober style associated with republican ideals. Portrait of a Man is from this period of Labille-Guiard’s artistic output. The stark background, lack of props or accessories, and the sitter’s expressive demeanor emphasize the man’s individuality and psychology over material wealth.

Eva Gonzalès

Eva Gonzalès, Afternoon Tea, c. 1874, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2018.5.McD

Like many of the artists in this exhibition, Eva Gonzalès came from an affluent family who could afford the cost of private education. The state-sponsored fine art school in Paris would not accept female students until 1897, so the precociously talented Gonzalès enrolled in Charles Chaplin’s private studio for women in 1866. Three years later, she became the only official student of avant-garde artist Edouard Manet. Eventually, she developed her own Impressionistic style characterized by a bright palette, broken brushwork, and the depiction of everyday subjects.

Like Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt—two of Gonzalès’s contemporaries, whose work also appears in this exhibition—Gonzalès was restricted by her sex and elevated social class from depicting most modern urban sites. She instead presented bourgeois femininity and family life, which were cutting-edge subjects in the second half of the 19th century. In this unfinished painting, a woman (likely a nanny) prepares an afternoon meal for the young girl in the foreground. Gonzalès’s use of oil paint—traditionally reserved for male artists—elevated her domestic subject matter to the level of high art.

Gonzalès’s life was tragically cut short in 1883 when she died from complications of childbirth at the age of 34, leaving behind only 124 paintings and pastels. Afternoon Tea is thus a rare example from the oeuvre of a young professional female artist who, though much admired by her contemporaries, remains relatively unknown in the history of art.

Rosa Bonheur

Rosa Bonheur, Ewe in the Field, second half of the 19th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Alessandra Comini in honor of Charlotte Whaley, 2018.44

There are few artists, regardless of gender, who achieved the celebrity status and financial success of Rosa Bonheur. As a young girl, Bonheur was encouraged by her father, an artist, to sketch directly from life. She soon developed a profound talent and passion for the realistic portrayal of animals. This was a highly unconventional subject for women, who, like Labille-Guiard and Gonzalès before her, were encouraged to focus on portraiture, domestic genre scenes, or still lifes.

To further develop her talent for rendering the texture and movement of animal fur, Bonheur petitioned the police to allow her to wear pants in order to visit stockyards, horse fairs, and slaughterhouses. These locales were generally off limits to women, or at least difficult to traverse with the billowing skirts women wore in the 19th century. Bonheur eventually achieved great acclaim for her best-known work, The Horse Fair (Metropolitan Museum of Art), which was exhibited at the 1853 Salon. Her notoriety skyrocketed due to her unconventional lifestyle, which included cross-dressing, cigarette smoking, and speaking her mind.

Kelsey Martin is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Graduate Intern for European Art at the DMA.

Get to Know C3 Visiting Artist Karla Garcia

The C3 Visiting Artist Project is back again for 2019 with three artists from across North Texas: Karla Garcia, Spencer Evans, and the Denton-based artist collective Spiderweb Salon. Over the course of the year, we’ll be chatting with the artists to dive into the process and methodologies behind their projects presented in the Center for Creative Connections.

Our first artist of the year is Karla Garcia. Garcia’s project for C3, Carrito de Memorias (Cart of Memories), utilizes an interactive “food” cart, designed and constructed by the artist with resources at the University of North Texas Fabrication Lab. Using handmade papers, Karla invites visitors to consider our memories associated with identity, roles, and traditions when making and sharing food. We interviewed Garcia to learn more about her practice and processes as an artist. Check it out below, and visit her project in the Center for Creative Connections through the end of April!

Tell us about yourself.
I am an artist, an educator, a mother, and an MFA candidate at the University of North Texas (UNT). I am originally from the border city of Juarez, Chihuahua, where I spent my formative years before moving to El Paso, Texas. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Graphic Design from the University of Texas in El Paso, and later moved to Dallas, where I currently reside. My current practice explores the concept of home and is based on the years when I moved from Mexico to the United States.

Tell us a little about past projects that led you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project.
After being accepted into the Museum Education program at UNT, part of our curriculum was to research and collaborate with fellow classmates to create education programs for various audiences at museums. I was able to do my internship at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, where I worked with the Interpretation and Public Programs fields of the Education Department. One of my responsibilities was to set up an art cart for a few hours on Fridays. I talked to visitors about the processes of art making that were relevant to the exhibitions on display and assisted in an interactive activity for the Gabriel Dawe piece Plexus #34. My supervisor and mentor Peggy Speir was invaluable in this experience as she designed a type of loom that was used for visitors to explore the same technique that Dawe used for his large-scale artworks. I enjoyed that type of interaction, where I got to learn about the visitors’ personal lives through conversation as they learned about the artist, the museum’s collection, and processes of art making. This led me to create an art cart activity for a Louise Nevelson piece, Lunar Landscape, by painting blocks of wood black to be used to form compositions and explore the artist’s creative process. These activities inspired me to design my own art cart titled Carrito de Memorias (Cart of Memories), where I explore ways of creating an engaging activity to enable the public to connect to artworks from the DMA’s collection and connect to other people through the display of the community’s personal experiences.

Tell us about the installation you’ve created in the Center for Creative Connections.
I wanted to create an art cart inspired by the history of ancient Mexico and the food carts I visited when growing up in Juarez. To me, a food cart is not only a place where food is easily accessible, but also a type of neutral space where people from all social backgrounds gather. I wanted to create this same inviting feeling for the C3 space, but rather than offering food, we are asking visitors questions that relate to the DMA’s collection regarding tradition, identity, and roles. It is a difficult thing to ask people you don’t know about their personal views, or asking them to share a memory. In my research, I have found that street food is an extension of our kitchen space. We form our traditions around food, and our families’ oral histories are passed on to us during holidays and personal celebrations, and even through daily routines. The cart became this extension of our personal spaces in our homes where everyone is welcome to share their stories. The menu on the tables around the cart have three options relating to gender roles, identity, and traditions. There are three artworks from the collection with a description that matches these categories. I’m thrilled to read everyone’s answers and see their drawings. With these, I will create sculptures that embody the public’s collective memories.

Join Karla Garcia for a Gallery Talk on Wednesday, March 20, from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. Gallery Talks are included in free general admission. You can participate in an art-making activity related to the Carrito de Memorias installation in C3 at the FREE 2019 AVANCE Latino Street Fest / DMA Family Festival at Klyde Warren Park on Sunday, April 7, beginning at noon.

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

The Making of “Teen Renaissance”

When the DMA Teen Advisory Council (TAC) re-convened for this year’s session, we started our first brainstorming exercise with the question we ask ourselves every year: what do we want the Dallas Museum of Art to be for teens? While the answer we ultimately arrive at takes a different form, the teens always think of inventive new ways to create a space for their peers.

A Teen Advisory Council meeting in session

This year, the conversation revolved around teen artists. Council members know that young people in DFW have a lot to say, and use their talents to express their ideas. To give these talented artists a space to be heard and recognized, TAC decided to launch Teen Renaissance, a new student art exhibition inspired by the innovation and unique perspectives of their generation.

In developing the open call, TAC settled on the theme of “Your Personal Lens,” inviting teens to submit artworks that shared their interpretations of the world. A whopping 195 students submitted their artwork for consideration, representing more than 15 different schools around the Metroplex.

TAC members making curatorial decisions for the Teen Renaissance art installation

While narrowing down so many submissions was difficult, TAC specifically looked for artworks that could speak to each other. We looked at all the submissions together, finding common themes and works that would be cohesive when viewed together. The council went through three rounds of elimination before deciding on the final 15 works on view at the Museum.


TAC members discussing and planning for Teen Renaissance

So how do teens see the world? This year’s Teen Renaissance shows us that being a teen is a lot about what’s happening on the inside as young people start creating a place for themselves in the world. For many teens, their personal lens is their cultural heritage, and how multiple identities merge and balance to create a unique individual. For others, their personal lens is the complicated journey of growing up, finding a world view that’s authentic to them, and creating meaningful relationships with others.

Join the Teen Advisory Council on Saturday, March 16 for Your Personal Lens, an all-day celebration of the exhibition and teen talent throughout Dallas!

Teen Renaissance is now on view through March 28, 2019, on Mezzanine 2, next to the Mayer Library.

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

The Texas Kid and “True Stories”

One hour into David Byrne’s 1986 movie True Stories, John Goodman’s character, Louis Fyne, parks his car in front of the eccentric house of a voodoo practitioner. A sign reading “Invisible Hospital of Saint John the Baptist” is barely visible in the nighttime. That sign was hiding another sign that read “The Texas Kid.” The actual owner of the house with a fantastically decorated yard was Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson.

Filming the “Dinero” music video at The Texas Kid’s house in 1984. Top row, left to right: Charlene Dawkins, Lee Gonzalez, George Reiff, Dick Ross, Willard Watson, Kris Cummings, David Byrne, Joe “King” Carrasco. Seated on bottom row, left to right: Adelle Lutz, Georganne Deen. © Christina Patoski

Willard Watson, a.k.a. The Texas Kid, was a folk artist born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and raised in Dallas, Texas. He was a local celebrity, recognized for his customized cars, flashy outfits that he sewed himself, and the sculpture garden outside his home near Love Field Airport. Fourteen of his drawings are in the DMA’s collection. The first drawings were acquired just three months after the movie was filmed.

As Watson recalled in his autobiography, “That year, 1985, David Byrne, who had a famous band called Talking Heads, came by the house and asked if he could film part of his movie TRUE STORIES at my house.”

Christina Patoski, a journalist and photographer from Fort Worth, served as a special consultant for the movie. David Byrne called her in 1984, after a mutual friend recommended Patoski to be a point of contact in Texas, and said he was working on a film. In the summer of 1984, Byrne, Patoski, and some friends drove around for three days scouting locations in Dallas and surrounding counties that Byrne imagined as settings for the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. Patoski took photographs during the initial trip and throughout the filming of the movie.

Patoski suggested that Byrne come back in the fall during the State Fair. He returned in October and brought Jonathan Demme, the director of Stop Making Sense. At that time, Patoski was directing a music video for Joe “King” Carrasco staged in the The Kid’s yard. They visited her there and met Watson and saw his incredible yard and home. Byrne decided to use it as a location in True Stories. Demme purchased some of Watson’s drawings and later cast him in his feature film Something Wild.

Byrne and crew came back in August of 1985 and started filming in early September. Patoski says it was an intense six-week shoot. Watson recalled:

“Elnora and I said yes, but we had to give up the use of our home for almost two weeks. They would work all day and often until two or three in the morning. The crew was all over the place. . . . At night, the cast and crew liked to party at nightclubs, particularly Shannon’s club, Tango. . . . I even went to their wrap party at Sons of Herman[n Hall.]”

Watson in the “voodoo room,” built in the dining room of his house in 1985. © Andy Reisberg

While Watson himself doesn’t appear in the movie, his wife, Elnora, and one of their grandsons had roles as the wife and son of the shaman, played by Pops Staples. Patoski says they built the “voodoo room” for the movie, but the rest of the house, filled inside and out with Watson’s art, hardly had to be changed.

While True Stories was filming, a solo exhibition of Watson’s art was on view at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake. It was there that a curator from the DMA saw his Life Cycle drawings, and after showing them to the director of the DMA plans were made to acquire them. “I was really really proud for my work to be acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art,” wrote Watson.

Click images to expand.

Lillian Michel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the DMA.


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