Archive for March, 2011

Teaching with Art from the Himalayas and Southeast Asia

Fellow Teaching Programs Intern Ashley Bruckbauer and I, recently led a docent training session that highlighted six objects from the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.  We wanted to familiarize docents with objects from these areas, discuss teaching strategies for works with religious significance, as well as consider overarching themes within the Asian collection that would encourage students to make connections within their own lives.          

Ashley started the training session talking about the Silk Road Trade Route and how it introduced Buddhism into different regions of Asia. Buddhism originated in India and is based on the teachings of Prince Siddhartha, who became known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. He taught that all life is suffering, but renouncing desires and the self can lead to a state of enlightenment beyond both suffering and existence. Buddhism is no longer as widely practiced in India but has spread to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Far East through missionary activity. Today, it is one of the world’s largest religions.         

We then had docents look at and discuss the six works of art. These objects inspired the two themes for our docent training: Opulent Buddhas and Ferocious Protectors.

 1. Opulent Buddhas
The objects presented under this theme were the Buddha Sakyamuni, Manjusri, and the Buddha Muchalinda. These objects represented three examples of Buddha figures heavily adorned with lavish materials.  What can we learn from these objects, sculpted in opulent materials? Buddhists consider gold the supreme color, which is why many of their images are gilded. Bronze figures are sometimes coated with another metal before gilding. Gem-encrusted, gilded statues would have been created to inspire meditation among the monks in a Buddhist monastery. It also symbolizes the spiritual wealth of the Buddha.

  • The Buddha Sakyamuni is shown standing in his princely clothing. He is wearing a robe or Sanghati, with a jeweled belt, collar and crown. He also has a jeweled inlay urna or third eye, on his forehead as well.  His hand gesture, or mudra, symbolizes protection, meaning “fear not.”
  • Manjusri is the bodhisattva of divine wisdom. He is considered to be the founder of Buddhist culture. He is always shown as a youthful crowned prince. He carries traditional emblems: the Buddhist scriptures on a lotus flower and the sword that cuts ignorance.  His left hand is raised in a gesture of teaching. His sweet and placid character embodies peaceful consolation.
  • The Buddha Muchalinda represents a moment in the Buddha’s enlightenment. The Buddha was sitting under a tree in deep meditation, when rising waters were sent by a demon to drown him. The Naga or serpent king, came from beneath the earth, raised the Buddha above the rising waters on his snake coils and protected him with his seven cobra heads.

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 2. Ferocious Protectors
The second group of objects discussed were the Guardian Snow Lions, Rearing Lion, and the Dharmapala Lhamo.  Ferocious animals and wrathful deities have symbolic significance and are an important decorative element in Buddhist art. Why might it have been necessary for these objects to appear frightening? Fierce sculptures such as these are made to adorn  the Buddha’s throne and protect the Buddhist law and scriptures.

  • These Guardian Snow Lions are shown heavily ornamented with a jeweled crown and decorative chains as well as elaboration of bodily features, such as the curls in the mane, tail and leg fur. Flames of wisdom, which represent light or transformation, flare up from the shoulders and the head. Their ferocity is shown by their large sharp fangs, powerful claws and brawny build. The lions would have guarded entrances of temples and demarcated sacred grounds. They also protect against evil spirits and are depicted in Buddhist art supporting the Buddha’s throne.
  • A figure like the Rearing Lion would have supported the exterior base of temples, lintels, thrones, pedestals or platforms. The details of the face, such as the squared mouth and the treatment of the eyebrows with a relief-design between eyes, are associated with the royal temple of Koh Ker. Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer Empire during the 10th century. The Khmer Empire is now present-day Cambodia.
  • The Dharmapala Lhamo is one of eight Dharmapalas or Great Protectors of the Buddhist law and scriptures. She is typically illustrated as a bloodthirsty and terrifying character riding a mule or donkey and adorned with a crown of skulls, garland of decapitated heads, and a human skin worn as a cape. She also has flaming hair, bulging eyes and a corpse in her mouth. The goddess rides through a sea of blood accompanied by two hybrid female deities.  She would be used by monks for meditation, helping to transform anger and energy into creative energy needed to achieve enlightenment.

Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

Buddha Sakyamuni, Khmer Empire (Thailand), 13th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund
Manjusri, Nepal or Tibet, 18th century, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. E.R. Brown
Buddha Muchalinda, Khmer Empire (Cambodia), Dallas Museum of Art, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund
Guardian Snow Lions, Nepal, Kathmandu Valley, 1875, Gift of David T. Owsley via Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation
Rearing Lion, Cambodia: Koh Ker period, 10th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, The Museum League Fund
Dharmapala Lhamo, Tibet, 18th century AD, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley through Alconda-Owsley Foundation

Ask @MoRocca

Last week we asked you to tweet us your questions for Mo Rocca. We picked three at random and below are his answers. Mo Rocca will appear at the Charles W. Eisemann Center tonight at 7:30 p.m. as part of Arts & Letters Live’s 20th season. Purchase Mo Rocca tickets from the Eisemann Center online or call 972-744-4650. Don’t forget that university students, faculty, and staff receive a 40% discount off any price level by entering the code “student” at checkout.


@llkays What is your dream meal where, with whom (from any time or place), and what would you eat?

I’d like to eat Chinese food with Barbra Streisand. She used to work at a Chinese restaurant. Plus she’s Jewish. She could explain to me why Jewish people love Chinese foodin song.

@smallcapsitalic You make me laugh, so what makes YOU crack up?

Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn in Young Frankenstein. The Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont. David Sedaris.

@kimbaway What is your favorite type of art?

Modigliani. I like long necks.

What does art smell like?

This past Wednesday my colleague Hadly Clark and I took advantage of our great Spring Break crowds and tried an impromptu gallery experiment.   We spent time in Re-Seeing the Contemporary: Selected from the Collection exhibition, asking visitors to look at four artworks with us and to think deeply…with their noses!

For part one of our experiment, we asked participants:  If this artwork had a scent, what do you think it would smell like?  Why?   As someone who likes thinking with her nose, I had fun hearing visitor responses and considering how their creative associations helped me see familiar artworks in fresh ways.  Below are responses inspired by one of our stops, Robert Irwin’s Untitled:

Robert Irwin, Untitled, 1968-69, Fractional gift of The Rachofsky Collection, 2001.345

  • Coconut & banana, because it’s round
  • Money
  • Disinfectant, something very clean.  It reminds me of adventures of Buck Rogers.
  • Nothing!
  • Mint or toothpaste; it’s clear and transparent
  • It smells really clean, like clean linen or spring lilies

The slideshow below includes all four featured artworks, images of participants, and a few responses for another one of our stops, Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red and Red.   After the slideshow, Hadly explains part two of the experiment and some great opportunities to join in on other experiment-like experiences here at the DMA…

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The second half of our sensory experiment encouraged participants to actively engage their sense of smell.  We provided nine samples of scents tucked secretively inside cardboard boxes with conveniently located holes for ventilation.  Boxes held a variety of scents such as Ivory soap, leather, and cinnamon.  After smelling each box, participants selected their own “scent match” or a scent they associated closest with the work of art, and shared why that scent was evocative of the work.   Here are some scent matches inspired by John Chamberlain’s Dancing Duke:

John Chamberlain, Dancing Duke, 1974, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harold J. Joseph in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Max Walen, 1975.69

  • Scent match #3 (peach tea) because, it smells bad! (This visitor thought of sweat and things that smell bad when he looked at the artwork, so he picked the scent he liked least).
  • Scent match #8 (leather) because it reminded me of my car
  • Scent match #9 (Clorox wipe) because it smells like paint
  • Scent match #4 (grass) because it smells green

Each week, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) hosts similar experimental, hands-on, artist-led workshops for adults. From 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. every Thursday evening, join C3 staff and a guest artist to explore what inspires them, play with new unexpected materials, or learn different techniques that can be applied to your work during a C3 Artist Encounter.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you smell when you look at Untitled or Dancing Duke.

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Go van Gogh Outreach

Hadly Clark
Center for Creative Connections Coordinator

Dallas Activities Get a Splash of Color with Late Nights

As you know, our Late Nights are a staple for Dallas activities in the Metroplex. For our second YouTube video, we chose to feature what makes this program so special. If you know anyone who has not experienced Late Nights, share the video with them and plan your visit!

Photo Post: St. Patrick's Day

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Saint Patrick’s Day was named after Saint Patrick, one of the most recognized patron saints of Ireland. Originally, the color associated with Saint Patrick was blue. Over time, the color green and its association with Saint Patrick’s Day grew. Green shamrocks and hats were worn in Saint Patrick’s Day festivities as early as the seventeenth century and continue to be used today. To celebrate Saint Patty’s Day, I included works from across the DMA’s  Collection with the color green.  Enjoy!

Amy Wolf
Coordinator of Gallery Teaching

Working the Runway

Photo by James Edward Photography

On Saturday, March 5, the Dallas Museum of Art played host to nearly five hundred guests at An Affair of the Art, the annual black-tie fundraising gala hosted by the Museum’s Junior Associates Circle. For nearly twenty years, the funds raised by this event have supported the acquisition and exhibition programs of the DMA. The theme for 2011 was Maison de la Mode: House of Fashion, and the funds raised will support the Museum’s presentation of  The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, opening for the first time in the U.S. at the DMA on November 13.

Photo Booth.Foto Favor Rebecca Lorrine Photography

The “Juniors” certainly know how to throw a party, and here are some interesting insights from last weekend’s “fête”:

# of underwriters: 113
# of raffle tickets: 515
# of committee members: 103
# of months spent planning: 9
# of bottles of wine: 237
# of bottles of vodka: 33
# of vendors: 10
# of appetizers: 2,670 pieces
# of rented glasses (March 5 only): 2,400
# of postage stamps used: 2,794
# of gift bags for all events: 530
# of pieces of furniture rented: 103
# of waitstaff/bartenders (March 5 only): 43
# of cupcakes donated by Sprinkles: 550
# of events leading up to AoA: 4
# of bottles of donated water: 600
# of airline tickets donated by American Airlines: 4
# of pre-event media mentions: 7
average # of items in each gift bag: 14
# of gold mailing tubes used for event invitations: 650
# of awards won for printed materials: 1

Money raised: $164,000

Ordinary to Extraordinary: A Short Story about Chairs

“Success in your career begins in an ordinary classroom, in an ordinary chair.”
— Diana Maldonado, grade 11, Skyline High School (DISD)


Standard-issue classroom chairs

It is a good thing to see the world from a different point of view every now and then.  We can stand and walk in someone else’s shoes, but what is it like to sit in someone else’s chair? What if the seat of this chair rises only fourteen inches above the ground?  I recently had the opportunity to take a seat in these small-size chairs while visiting pre-K and kindergarten classrooms at Dealey Montessori, Medrano Elementary, and Urban Park Elementary in DISD. Two 11th grade students from Skyline High School, Yvonne and Lauren, joined me during the visits to interview several young students who sit in fourteen-inch chairs every day at school.

For me, sitting in one of these chairs is a little bit magical.  The world is scaled down and tiny – chalkboards hang at a lower level, tables are shorter, and objects on the lowest bookshelf (which seem to require a further reach) are more colorful and interesting.  The chair-sitting experience  may also be magical for the students who sit in these small chairs every day as they get used to going to school, learn to write, and make new friends. Chairs are an important part of the school day.  They are a place to sit and rest, but also a place to participate in important and creative work.  Students shared with Lauren, Yvonne, and me various examples of the work they do in their chairs:

  • learning to read books
  • making a lion mask
  • practicing writing letters and words
  • drawing butterflies, ice cream cones, and hearts
  • singing with friends
  • painting
  • counting numbers

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Our visits to schools are part of a larger partnership project between the Dallas Museum of Art and the Architecture Cluster at Skyline High School.  Lauren and Yvonne are just two among more than eighty Skyline Architecture Cluster students who created an amazing installation now on view in the Center for Creative Connections.  The installation, Sculpting Space: 299 Chairs, features fourteen-inch, standard-issue classroom chairs in all colors as the primary material.  The Skyline students have transformed ordinary chairs into extraordinary chair assemblages that sculpt the space of one gallery.  Museum visitors move through the space, walking under and around clusters of chairs.  Look for more information in the coming weeks about Skyline’s unique installation on the blog Uncrated.

Google Sketch-Up model for a chair assemblage that reflects the spatial concept, "fluent"

Early in the partnership project, Skyline students and their teachers, Peter Goldstein and Tom Cox, had the brilliant idea to get “used” chairs from three DISD elementary schools.  They were interested in chairs with stories to tell — marked-up with years of scratches and crayon scribbles.  The DMA purchased hundreds of new chairs, and then Skyline students swapped the new chairs for old chairs at Dealey, Medrano, and Urban Park.  As part of the process, the elementary school students were invited to draw their chairs, write about them, and think about all of the many things they do while seated in the classroom.  Video interviews with pre-K and kindergarten students about their chairs are included with the DMA installation.   Special thanks to the teachers, students, and staff at Dealey Montessori, Medrano Elementary, and Urban Park in DISD for being a part of this wonderful partnership!

“The one true connection we have made was with the chairs and when we were little kids.  They bring back memories of our childhood.  We also have a connection to the students who once sat in these chairs where they did their work, and colored and painted.”
Luis Garcia, grade 10, Skyline High School (DISD)

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships


Seldom Scene: Getting into Character

Our Late Night this Friday will celebrate the works of Dr. Suess. When we have such great characters to inspire us the staff at the Museum gets into character. Last March during our Alice in Wonderland themed Late Night appearances were made by Alice and the Mad Hatter. This Friday you may see Thing 1 and Thing 2 and be on the lookout for the Cat in the Hat!

Denise as Alice in Wonderland

Stacie as the Mad Hatter

Leah and Amanda as Thing 1 and Thing 2

Stacey Lizotte is the Head of Adult Programming and Mulitmedia Services at the Dallas Museum of Art

Friday Photo Post: Remember the Alamo!

For today’s Friday photo post, I am focusing on a  special subject- the Alamo. As an avid lover of Texas history, I traveled to San Antonio over the weekend to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. While inside the famous shrine, I viewed a painting of David Crockett, which made me think of related works of art in the DMA’s Collection. I included these below along with pictures of my travels. I hope you enjoy them!

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Amy Wolf
Coordinator of Gallery Teaching

Breaking in Spring

This just in – today’s weather is going to be cloudy with a chance of . . . art?! When we think about visiting an art museum with our families, we may not think about the weather (except  museums often have what feels like arctic air flowing through the galleries to keep the art “comfortable”  – so bring a sweater!). We have some exciting plans for family fun on the horizon, and there is a 100% chance of WFAA’s meteorologist Greg Fields in the forecast!

Don’t miss our free WFAA Family First Day on Saturday, March 12, that will kick off a week-long fiesta of fun family-friendly activities for spring break.

Join us in the galleries as Greg Fields forecasts the weather in works of art. You will even have the chance to search for rough spots, popping storms, and gray skies in paintings to create a weather forecast of your own.

One work of art we think may be on Greg’s radar is Claude-Joseph Vernet’s painting Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm, on view in the European Galleries. Skirt alert! Definitely umbrella weather – the atmosphere in this landscape is overcast, with strong whipping winds coming in from the west. Place your bets, because it looks like a drencher. Mother Nature is on the war path! The figures in this scene look like they are facing a giant blow dryer! Look closely as they scurry for cover before it begins to rain cats and dogs. Talk about atmospheric indigestion!

Claude-Joseph Vernet, Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm, 1775

Greg may forecast flash flood warnings, wind advisories, or even a tornado watch! Visitors will be invited to make a sound symphony of the weather in this scene, pose like the people fleeing for cover, and talk about their own scary storm experiences. It will be a rip-roaring good time!

Extend your Museum fun throughout the week of spring break. From March 13 through March 18 at 5:00 p.m., the DMA is offering $5 admission and $5 parking.  Check out the spring break schedule on our website for more information.

Amanda Blake is the Manager of Family Experiences and Access Programs at the Dallas Museum of Art


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