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


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