Archive for December, 2009

Gather Round Ya'll…

My colleague, Holly Harrison, Administrative Assistant for European and American Art, recently reinstalled the 4th floor Texas landing, bringing together artworks about cowpokes, gunslingers, and a cowgirl or two for Cowboys: On the Range Between Art and Life. The installation, which includes paintings, photographs, and works on paper, invites us to imagine life on the range and to consider our often-romantic ideas about cowboys.  Featured are photographs by Geoff Winningham, Laura Wilson, and Erwin E. Smith, and paintings by Frank Reaugh and Perry Nichols.

Erwin E. Smith, Four Cowpunchers Shooting Craps on a Saddle Blanket in Roundup Camp, JA Ranch, Texas, 1908

Bank Langmore, Portrait of Old Cowboy Vern Torrance, Padlocks Ranch, Montana, 1974

One of my favorite works is Clara McDonald Williamson’s Get Along Little Dogies.  Williamson’s painting is a childhood memory of growing up in Iredell, Texas—a stopover on the Chisholm Trail.  The artist, in a white dress and blue bonnet, watches from a distance as cowboys drive a herd of longhorns across the Bosque River, heading north to Kansas.   

Clara McDonald Williamson, Get Along Little Dogies, 1945

Get Along Little Dogies is one of four paintings featured in the Go van Gogh outreach program for 4th graders, Art of the Lone Star State.  The program highlights the diverse landscape of Texas and key events in its history— from the devastation of a Dust Bowl-ravaged Panhandle in the 1930s to the lush beauty of fields of Hill Country bluebonnets.  After discussing these places, students create mixed media collages of their favorite Texas place. 

Below is a collage example I made, inspired by a favorite Texas memory–the week I spent on ranchland just outside Mexia, Texas with some real cowboys.  I didn’t quite earn my spurs on that trip (cows are a tough bunch to reason with!), but I did appreciate the hard-work and beauty of life on the range—something you definitely take away from the new installation…

Make a resolution to come see it, and have a Happy New Year, ya’ll!

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Learning Partnerships with Schools and the Community

on the range!

Thank you, Medrano Elementary Fourth Graders!

Every once in a while, a teacher will take advantage of our Go van Gogh programs and schedule everything that is possible for his/her students.  This is the case with the fourth grade teachers at Esperanza “Hope” Medrano Elementary, a Dallas ISD school. 

Over a three month period, we visited Medrano Elementary fourth graders four times with four different Go van Gogh programs.  As a result, Go van Gogh volunteers and staff established a unique relationship with a mixture of people at Medrano Elementary.  Their front staff recognized us and welcomed us warmly when we arrived at the school.  We looked forward to our visits, because the students are bright, engaged, and enthusiastic.  The teachers are always prepared and helpful as well.  Because of our familiarity with the school, we piloted a new program with one of the fourth grade classrooms, during which we received great feedback from both the teacher and the students.

Our final visit to the Medrano Elementary fourth graders was in mid-November.  Last week, we were surprised and delighted by an envelope full of thank-you letters written and illustrated by the students.  Below are a few highlights. 

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community


Let It Snow…

With the holidays right around the corner, I find myself feeling nostalgic for the winters of my childhood.  I grew up in Michigan, so I’m used to having lots of snow and a “white Christmas.”  Living in Dallas, where it’s 60 degrees in December, I sometimes forget that this is actually winter!  To get myself into the holiday spirit, I set out to explore images of snowy fun in our collection.*  Happy Holidays!

In front of Francis Guy's Winter Scene in Brooklyn, c. 1817-1820

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, The Owlkill, 1950

Detail of The Owlkill. I want to go sledding!

Detail of Berthe Morisot's Winter (Woman with a Muff). I had a muff when I was little and loved it.

*My colleagues in the Family Programs department are also getting into the holiday spirit.  Be sure to check out the DMA Family Blog, We Art Family, to read their version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Thursday Evening Program for Teachers: DIY@DMA

Our Thursday Evening Program for Teachers this month was DIY@DMA, a program offered through the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections.  We joined artist Lizzy Wetzel to learn about felting wool, a process she uses in her own artwork.

After hearing Lizzy talk about her art-making, we went to the All the World’s a Stage exhibition to see Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit (Filzanzug), which is made of felt.  We returned to the Studio and tried our hand at turning merino wool roving into felt.

Our Thursday Evening Program for Teachers features a different program each month and is included in general admission.  I hope that you will join us on January 14 at 6:30 p.m. for the Tech Lab: Open Lab program, led by artist Kevin Todora, during which we will experiment with making collages using digital photography and Adobe Photoshop software.

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs

Ordinary –> Extraordinary

Last Friday, Go van Gogh outreach volunteers found artistic inspiration in everyday objects.  Volunteers were being trained for the Go van Gogh Creative Connections program Ordinary –> Extraordinary, which asks participants to look at familiar objects with fresh eyes, using the ordinary to construct something extraordinary.  Volunteers combined band-aids, drinking straws, paper plates and dryer sheets in creative ways to make small chair sculptures. The program is inspired by two Rachofsky-owned sculptures made by Tom Friedman—one made of straws, the other made of sugar cubes.  Check out the volunteer’s extraordinary creations below!

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Learning Partnerships with Schools and the Community

Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture

On December 6, Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture opened at the DMA (on view through May 23, 2010).  This exhibition of fifteen silkscreen prints illustrates scenes from the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture, a man who played an important role in the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804).  Born a slave, Toussaint learned to read and write and worked his way up through the ranks to become commander in chief of the revolutionary army.   The prints in the exhibition chronicle not only Toussaint’s rise to power, but also the events that led to Haiti becoming the first free black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

Jacob Lawrence, General Toussaint L'Ouverture, 1987

Jacob Lawrence began creating this series of prints in 1986, but they were based on a series of paintings that he completed in 1938 when he was just 21 years old.  It’s fascinating to me that an artist living and working in the 20th century would be interested in a little-known leader of a revolution that happened in the early 19th century.  There is a great quote from Jacob Lawrence that explains why Toussaint was such an important figure to him:

 “I’ve always been interested in history, but they never taught Negro history in public schools…I don’t see how a history of the United States can be written honestly without including the Negro.  I didn’t do it just as a historical thing, but because I believe these things tie up with the Negro today.  We don’t have a physical slavery, but an economic slavery.  If these people, who were so much worse off than the people today, could conquer their slavery, we certainly can do the same thing.” (quoted in Jacob Lawrence: The Complete Prints, 1963-2000: a catalog raisonné, edited by Peter T. Nesbitt, p. 16.)

Jacob Lawrence, The Opener, 1997

We are offering a variety of programs for students and teachers focusing on this exhibition, including a Teacher Workshop on February 6, 2010.  We are also offering docent-guided tours of the exhibition; because it is a small focus exhibition, docents will be using three themes–narrative and biography, commemoration, and leaders–to make connections between the screen prints in the exhibition and works of art in our African and American galleries.  I hope that you’ll join us to explore The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture!

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

Community Connection: Contemporary Art and a Beluga Whale

Thomas Feulmer is the Director of Educational Programming at The Rachofsky House and is a regular collaborator with the DMA.  We always look forward to his fresh ideas and perceptive insights related to works of art and artists.

Describe your work at The Rachofsky House.  What is your favorite part of your job?

As Director of Educational Programming, I do anything involving schools or the public having any interaction with the Rachofsky House.  My favorite part of my job is being around the works of art and being around original objects.  I also like the creative element of having to improvise in front of groups and having to think on your feet.

Thomas talks about a work of art at the 2009 Museum Forum for Teachers.

 Tell us about your relationship with the DMA.

I work collaboratively with Molly Kysar on Programs for Teachers based on Contemporary Art. I’ve also worked with Nicole Stutzman on the Travis Academy Program.  The UT Southwestern Medical School class “The Art of Observation”, led by DMA docents Margaret Anne Cullum and Joanna Pistenmaa, visit The Rachofsky House once during the semester.  I also participate in the development of some programs and exhibitions, in part by talking about artists and artworks that are in both the Rachofsky Collection and the DMA collections or are on loan to the DMA. 

 If you could take home any work of art from the Rachofsky Collection, what would you choose?

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio, 1964

One of the first things that comes to mind is the Lucio Fontana piece Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio.  It’s one of the works that every time I stand in front of it, I think it’s incredible.  When I’m looking at that piece, I feel like I’m looking at a real, sincere thing that is about exploring and is about a rich and deep thinking on the artists’s part. 

 How would you describe your personal work as an artist?

Most of my work looks at relationships: relationships between people, and more recently, relationships between people and animals.  It is also about how intimacy is managed and expressed and how desire and attraction are managed and expressed.  One of the big themes in my recent show is about my relationship with a beluga whale.  I like the notion that most people have a desire to have a pure relationship with an animal and we project a lot of our purist ideas about love and desire onto animals because they seem so unguarded, I guess. I love that we project all those purist things onto animals, but, to have an experience with a beluga whale it had to happen at Sea World, which is a big place.  The whale is trained and follows commands, and ultimately the experience is all controlled – which, in a way, is how all interactions are.  See Thomas’s recent work at New Work by Rebecca Carter and Thomas Feulmer, open December 5-20, 2009 at 500X.

Does your job have an impact on your own work as an artist?

Yes, because I can come into contact with so much art and I feel like I get such a great sampling of contemporary ideas and contemporary culture.  It’s like constant research for how to create meaning or visual culture in the contemporary world.

Meet Thomas during our two-part January Teacher Workshop on Contemporary Art, which takes place at the Dallas Museum of Art and The Rachofsky House.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community

Teaching Programs goes to Houston

Last Saturday the Teaching Programs Department travelled to Houston to visit the Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Although we were unable to spend any time in the Rothko Chapel since a concert was in progress, we were fortunate enough to see the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall as well as the Cy Twombly Gallery (my personal favorite). Here are some snapshots from our trip.

Logan Acton
McDermott Intern in Teaching Programs

A view of the Menil Collection

Shannon and me outside the Menil

Cy Twombly Gallery

Molly and me outside the Twombly Gallery

A beautiful shot outside the Dan Flavin Installation

Molly, me and Amy walking to our next stop

Hoffman Galleries Reinstalled

Charlie Wylie, the Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art, recently completed his reinstallation of the Hoffman galleries on the first floor of the museum. The installation addresses narrative in contemporary art, specifically the “continuing ability of art in whatever form to express narratives of what it can feel like to be alive in the present moment,” as the wall text states. The reinstallation features such artists as Peter Doig and Marlene Dumas, both notable for their recent inclusion at TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, the annual charity auction held at The Rachofsky House benefiting amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) and the Dallas Museum of Art.

In addition to these painters and work by many other artists, the galleries currently contain installations by Tatsuo Miyajima and Erick Swenson, mixed media work by Vernon Fisher, and photographs by Matthew Barney and Gregory Crewdson. Both Barney and Crewdson also have work in All the World’s a Stage, another special exhibition on view at the DMA. Barney’s photographs (and other mixed media works) reference a series of five films of enormous scope called The Cremaster Cycle, quite specifically referencing narrative. Crewdson’s art, on the other hand, centers around the idea of open or false narratives but evokes similar feelings of theatricality. Crewdson himself says, “And what I’m very, very interested in is a moment that hovers between before and after, a moment that is unresolved, that remains a question…”

Untitled (House in the Road)

To achieve this suspended moment, clear in both Untitled (brief encounter) and Untitled (House in the Road), Crewdson literally constructs his scenes, utilizing stage crews and props to form the subject matter which he then photographs. Tension plays a large part in his artwork, both literally for the artist through his chaotic process of realizing these staged spectacles as well as for the viewer stepping into enormously detailed scenes with no frame of reference beyond the image itself.

If you’d like to get a closer look at Gregory Crewdson’s artwork, in addition to the other works on view at the DMA and The Rachofsky House, sign up for our two-part January Teacher Workshop on Contemporary Art!

Logan Acton
McDermott Intern in Teaching Programs

Interview with a…Preparator!

There are many different positions here at the Dallas Museum of Art. Since there is always something exciting going on at the Museum, we thought it would be interesting to begin a series of staff interviews with members of other departments.

Installation of Semiramis, by Henry Wetmore Story, 1872-73

The below interview was conducted with Vince Jones, Head Preparator. He graciously answered questions related to his job.  I hope you find this as interesting as I do!

Amy Wolf
Teaching Programs Coordinator

1. Name and Title:  Vincent Jones……..Head Preparator

2. Years Employed at the Dallas Museum of Art:  14

3.  Describe your job as  a preparator in an art museum:  The essential job of a preparator is to safely handle the artworks that are permanently acquired and/or on loan to the Museum.  For obvious reasons, this job position is also referred to as an “art handler”.  The word “preparator” refers directly to the tasks of moving and installing (or “preparing”) artworks as part of an exhibition.  Subsequently, when an artwork is not on view, then it is placed (or “prepared”) in museum storage or returned to its lender.  Every day at the DMA, preparators like myself move artworks in and out of storage to be installed, photographed, or examined by other museum staff such as registrars and conservators.  It is the preparator’s job to know how to perform these duties patiently and with the utmost care to the objects. 

4.  What is your favorite part of your job?  A favorite part of my job is the opportunity to handle and closely inspect works of art that, for whatever reason, have some special meaning to me.  It feels like an honor in a way, and that is certainly a rewarding experience.  The Portrait Vase of Mme. Schuffenecker by Paul Gauguin is a piece in the DMA’s collection that comes to mind.  If I saw this artwork in another museum, I’d be thinking how weird and beautiful and odd it is; well, working here, I get the chance to pick it up occasionally.
Another favorite aspect is the opportunity to work with contemporary artists who come to the Museum to oversee or install their artwork.  Working with the artist Richard Tuttle several years ago is still a favorite highlight of mine.  I am a big fan of his art, so watching him handle and talk about his own work was a treat.

5. What is a challenge that you face in your job?  For me, one of the most interesting challenges of being a preparator is the continual re-thinking of how we move and install various heavy, complicated, or fragile artworks.  The large marble sculpture Semiramis by William Wetmore Story and Matthew Barney’s The Cloud Club are examples that have required this consideration.  We have successfully installed both works several times now, but inevitably we say to each other, “This technique works, but if we reconfigured the platform a bit or bought an additional piece of equipment next time, the installation would be even better”.  By better, I mean less stressful and safer for the object and the preparators.

6. How did you decide you wanted to work in a museum?  I can remember as a kid going to a museum in Wisconsin and seeing an installation entitled “Streets of Old Milwaukee” (or something to that effect).  It was essentially a life-sized (or at least to a kid) re-creation of a turn-of-the-century downtown “scene” at night.  It had real brick streets and wooden sidewalks that you walked on, and there were many shops to peer in and see fake people selling candy or cutting hair.  Anyhow, what struck me the most at the time were the trees.  They seemed very life-like and one was particularly huge, and I remember looking at these on several occasions and being fascinated by how they were made and how they came to be there.  Well, now I think I know the “how’s and why’s” of the artificial trees but that place and experience made a big impression.  I’ve always liked going to museums (mostly natural history), but once I became interested in making art myself and became educated about fine art, I liked those museums as well.  At one point I just thought, “Wow, this would be a cool place to work”.  I’ve worked at museums for 20 or so years now and have been very happy with that decision. 

7. If you weren’t working here at the Museum, what is something else you would be doing?  That’s a good question.  I guess I would try devoting more time to making my own artwork.  Also, I have secretly always wanted to drive one of those big bulldozers at a landfill.  Seriously.


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