Archive for April, 2012



Birds of a Feather

There is something in human nature that makes people want to show off. Whether it is a new pair of shoes, a nice watch, or a brand new car, we all enjoy the “oohs” and “ahhs” that stylish objects can provoke–and it has been that way for thousands of years. Ancient Peruvian cultures, for example, loved many exotic things, especially the flashy feathers of tropical birds. The collection of the Dallas Museum of Art contains fine examples of the ancient Peruvians’ fascination with birds and their plumage. Hundreds of tropical bird species live in the Amazon rainforest, miles away from the Peruvian coast. It took quite a bit of effort (and riches) to obtain these birds from so far away; therefore, they were considered extremely valuable. Feathers were used as decoration in the form of headdresses, designed collages, and pictorial mosaics.

Panel with rectangles of blue and yellow featherwork, Peru, far south coast, Ocoña Valley, Huari culture, c. A.D. 650-850, feathers (Blue and Gold Macaw), cotton cloth, and camelid fiber cloth, Dallas Museum of Art, Textile Purchase Fund, 2001.262

In this Huari piece, currently on view in Face to Face: International Art at the DMA, blue and yellow feathers are used to create a brilliant geometric composition. The Blue and Yellow Macaw, typically found in Panama and the northern part of South America, was probably the source of the materials, which were used over a thousand years ago. The feathers were individually wrapped in a cotton cord and then attached to a cloth panel, making this a very labor intensive composition. This piece was likely found along Peru’s south coast, in a site with many other textiles and feather pieces stored inside large, decorated ceramic jars. A featherwork like this was probably some kind of religious offering.

A demonstration of feather weaving from "Textiles of Ancient Peru and Their Techniques," Raoul d’Harcourt, 1962.

Featherwork neckpiece, Peru, north coast, Chimú culture, c. A.D. 1470-1528, cotton, feathers, and shell beads, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1972.23.1.McD

This brilliantly colored feather neckpiece comes from the Chimú culture, on Peru’s north coast. The meaning of the design is unclear, but there is a human figure with a large headdress, along with fish and sea birds known as cormorants. At the bottom are rows of beads made from spondylus shell, which comes from Ecuador. The bright turquoise feathers in this work probably came from the Spangled Cotinga or the Paradise Tanager, both of which are relatively small birds with vibrant plumage. The darker blue-purple details do not seem to be woven like the other feathers; it is possible that they are from a bird called the Purple Honeycreeper, which is found in several South American locations, but not on the Peruvian coast. This piece showcases materials collected hundreds of miles away from the Chimú area, which is an indication of the power and prestige of the owner of this piece, as well as the intricate trading system that was likely in place.

Spouted vessel with tubular handle: macaw effigy, Peru, north coast, Viru, 300-100 B.C., ceramic and slip, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.91

The DMA’s very own mascot, Arturo, provides yet another great example (although slightly less colorful) of just how much ancient American cultures treasured non-native birds. This macaw or parrot vessel was made by the Salinar, a very early culture from Peru’s north coast. Real macaws and parrots are of course brilliantly colored, but ceramics from the north coast were traditionally painted using only red and white, no matter what their subject. Macaws weren’t the only animals that were depicted in vessel form. Ceramics showing monkeys, jaguars, and even killer whales have been found at sites throughout Peru.

Youth and Beauty Artist Personality Quiz

Have you ever wondered if there was any artist who shared your likes and interests? Well, we’ve got a swell way for you to find out: take the Youth and Beauty Artist Personality Quiz! During Late Night this Friday, April 20, stop by the Artist Personality Quiz table in the Concourse, where you’ll find our nifty nod to some of the artists featured in Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties.

To whet your whistle, try this question on for size:

When I am vacationing, you can find me:

a. Soaking in the sun on a beach on the French Riviera.

b. Reveling in the desert landscape of Santa Fe.

c. Renting a lighthouse on Cape Cod and walking along the coast.

d. Getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of New York City.

e. Globetrotting from Bermuda to Berlin.

f. Road-tripping across America’s heartland.

Which letter did you pick?  Be sure to get dolled up in your flapper finest for Late Night this Friday and take the full quiz to discover which Twenties artist you are most like. Then, venture into the galleries for our Artist Personality Quiz Artist Talks, where you can hear more about your artist next to his or her work of art.

The whole evening will definitely be the bee’s knees!

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

Boogie-Woogie April – Jazz Appreciation Month

April celebrates one of the most joyous and “most American” music styles—jazz. In fact, jazz is such an important part of American culture that a whole decade in American history, the 1920s, has come to be known as the Jazz Age. In the DMA spaces, you can find connections between the visual arts and jazz every week on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. during Jazz in the Atrium.

In our newest exhibition, Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties, you can see the work of jazz admirer and Harlem Renaissance leader Aaron Douglas. In Charleston (which references Paul Morand’s novel Black Magic), Douglas depicts the jazz scene set within the African community, in which the genre has part of its roots. Commenting on a later work, Douglas equated the figures in the painting with different types of music, describing the saxophone player as a representation of jazz and “Songs of Joy and the Dance.”

Aaron Douglas, "Charleston," c. 1928, gouache and pencil on paper board, North Carolina Museum of Art

Douglas’s contemporary and fellow jazz enthusiast Stuart Davis is featured in the American galleries with a work that, although subtly, also reveals the rhythms of the Jazz Age. Not only do the bold colors and forms of Electric Blub reflect the energy of the time, but the subject speaks to the modernism and industrialization of 1920s America.

Stuart Davis, "Electric Bulb," 1924, oil on board, Dallas Museum of Art, Fine Arts Collectible Fund, 1988.59, © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Nearby, a stunning portrait sculpture of the jazz musician Huddy “Leadbelly” Ledbetter serves as an appropriate transition in our jazz-inspired tour between Davis’s painting and William Waldo Dodge’s Skyscraper cocktail shaker with cups. Developing rapidly in the 1920s, the skyscraper became, together with jazz, a symbol of a free, modern America, inspiring designers across the country.

Michael G. Owen, Jr., "Leadbelly," 1943, black serpentine, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Gooch Fund Purchase Prize, Twelfth Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1951, 1950.91

William Waldo Dodge, Jr., “Skyscraper” cocktail shaker with cups, c. 1928-1931, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, 2008.48.1-12

But if the connections we’ve made so far are too obvious or the works too representational for your taste, don’t worry; make your way toLevel 3, where you will find works by abstract artists and jazz lovers Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian.

With improvisation being a key feature of jazz music, some argue that the process in this genre is at least as important as (perhaps more than) the end result. The same can be said of Pollock’s and Mondrian’s work. Pollock moving around his canvas as he pours the paint can be compared to a jazz musician improvising during a performance; both represent similar artistic expressions and ultimate celebrations of their respective arts.

Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis, 1950.87 © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Piet Mondrian, "Place de la Concorde," 1938-1943, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation, 1982.22.FA © 2012 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International Washington DC

A big fan of boogie-woogie and a seeker of balance and equilibrium, Mondrian used his intuition to place and arrange the lines in works such as Place de la Concorde—much like a jazz musician would intuitively improvise on his instrument. In fact, Mondrian identified with jazz and boogie-woogie so much that he once said:

“True boogie woogie I conceive as homogeneous in intention with mine in painting: destruction of melody, which is the equivalent of destruction of natural appearance, and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm.”

As you can see, jazz can be a treat not only for your ears but also for your eyes! So come celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month any (or every) Thursday night in April at the DMA!

Vivian Barclay is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern for Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Mary Jordan is the McDermott Education Intern for Family Experiences and Access Programs at the Dallas Museum of Art.

"Ghost" Post: A Farewell to the DMA

If this post feels a little spooky, it’s because I am submitting this from beyond the walls of the Dallas Museum of Art (OOOooooOOO)! My last day as the McDermott Intern for Gallery Teaching was two days ago, but I will miss the DMA so much that I couldn’t leave without a proper farewell! Thinking back on these last seven months, I realized just how many wonderful art-filled experiences I’ve had, but since I am limited to this one post, I’ve decided to share my top five:

  • Mark Bradford’s exhibition was the first non-collection show that I learned about at the DMA. His huge works of art are overwhelming, innovative, and have wonderful background stories. It is for all of these reasons (and more!) that I loved looking at this exhibition with my fourth-grade tour groups.

  • My next favorite work of art is the ancient Egyptian coffin of Horankh. I really enjoyed speaking about ancient Egypt during our Intern Share Sessions for the Docents. I am also fond of talking to fourth-graders about the process of mummification and the Egyptian gods and goddesses.

  • One of my favorite spaces in the Museum is the American silver gallery, because the pieces have such wonderful decorations and designs. Having worked in a Victorian-era historic house full of objects from the Gilded Age, I enjoy sharing these with school groups because they really encourage close looking.

  • Hannah and I noticed this little lady as soon as we started at the DMA, and she has been one of our “favorites” ever since. I think she is funny. Hannah thinks she is scary. Either way, she will be gracing the cover of the Me & My World docent guide that I revised as my internship project.

  • Last, but certainly not least, I must include the lovely ladies that I worked with during my time at the DMA. This is one of the most friendly, creative, and fun-loving group of people I have ever had the privilege to work with.  I knew that I could always count on them to provide me with words of  encouragement, whether we were discussing an upcoming project or belting out songs during a karaoke outing. I will miss them immensely. (Unfortunately, Nicole isn’t in this group photo, but I’m talking about her too!)

Thank you for making my time here so wonderful!

Jessica Kennedy
McDermott Intern for Gallery Teaching

Wanted: Teen Docents

Each summer, we recruit and train a group of dedicated volunteers known as Teen Docents.  Initiated in the summer of 2001, the DMA Teen Docent program provides opportunities for high school students to deepen their relationship with the Museum.  Our Teen Docents not only lead tours for young visitors, but also volunteer to help with First Tuesdays and Late Nights.  They really are an integral part of summer programming at the DMA.

Teen Docents Leah and Abby lead a tour during last year's BooksmART Festival

One of the perks of being a Teen Docent is learning more about the DMA’s collection and our summer exhibitions.  Teen Docent training will occur in early June, and shortly after that the teens will begin leading tours in our galleries.  Our tours this summer include Animal Safari, which allows students to search for animals in works of art, and Summer Vacation, which asks students to make connections between their favorite summer activities and those they see in works of art.

The 2011 DMA Teen Docents

We will begin accepting applications for the Teen Docent program next week.  If you have any students who love art, teaching, or might even be thinking about a career in a Museum, have them email me at SKarol@DallasMuseumofArt.org.  We would love to have them spend their summer with us as a Teen Docent at the DMA!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Our Quest for a Player Piano

Our upcoming Late Night on Friday, April 20, will celebrate our exhibition Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties. As we were planning for this event, we learned that Chilton Gallery I would be empty during this time, as staff prepares the space for a new installation, so we inquired about using it for one of our programs. Once we got the green light, we immediately thought: Speakeasy!

The Speakeasy will feature 1920s-inspired cocktails and live music, with an area where visitors can “cut a rug.” But we also wanted to have music playing in-between the live acts, and what speakeasy would be complete without a player piano!

We believed the easiest thing to do would be to rent one from a local piano company, but after placing a few calls we found that they didn’t have any “older-looking” player pianos, and even if they did, it would cost a lot of money to rent one for a night. We thought we were out of luck until one of the companies suggested that it would be cheaper if we just bought one online.

Surprisingly (to us at least), there were quite a few to choose from.

Welcome to Carrollton

After examining all of the listings for pianos for sale we picked our favorite four. We heard back from a couple who was selling a Rubenstein player piano that fit the feel of the 1920s. So we headed to Carrollton to take a look, make sure the player part did indeed work, and check out the instrument’s overall condition.

Checking out the inner workings of the piano.

A box of music rolls for the player piano.

Once we agreed to buy the piano we then had to work out transport to the Museum. After a few more calls, and the brief thought of moving it ourselves with a U-Haul, we ended up working with Piano Movers of Texas.

Bringing the piano into the Museum via our loading dock.

Two weeks after beginning our quest for a player piano we finally have one on-site, where it is waiting in our auditorium greenroom for its move next Friday to the Speakeasy.

Stop by during the Late Night and take a look at the newest addition to the DMA piano family, which also includes a 9-foot Steinway Concert Grand piano and a 6-foot Yamaha G Series Baby Grand white piano.

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services.
Denise Helbing is Manager of Partner Programs.

Educator Resources: Teaching the Twenties

During my reading about and google-ing of the “Jazz Age” for the Dallas Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties, I discovered some very thoughtful and useful resources for teachers that delve into this fascinating decade. Here are some of my favorites.

1. The University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center: Teaching the American Twenties

This K-12 online resource explores connections between the art, literature, and culture of the 1920s (not unlike our recent teacher workshop). What I find most fantastic about this resource are the high-resolution images of primary source documents from the decade in the Ransom’s collection. Created in conjunction with The Harry Ransom Center’s exhibit The American Twenties in 2007, this resource includes contextual information organized in rich and unique themes, and an assortment of lesson plans that could be adapted to various classroom settings.

2.  History by Era: The Roaring Twenties (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization that provides programs and resources for students, teachers, and lovers of history. History by Era, their newly renovated resource, takes an in-depth look at American history through timelines, explanations of people/places/events, essays by a variety of scholars, primary source documents and artworks, teaching ideas, and multimedia. This site provides rich contextual information not only for The Roaring Twenties, but for the entire span of American history.

3. History.com: The Roaring Twenties

For some rich multimedia tools for teaching the twenties, check out this resource. It includes videos and photo galleries on topics such as Prohibition, Al Capone, the Harlem Renaissance, and women’s suffrage. The supplementary text is concise and easy-to-digest. This site is an efficient snapshot of the cultural scene of the American twenties.

If you haven’t already, visit Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties at the DMA, which takes the cake as my favorite resource!

Andrea V. Severin
Coordinator of Teaching Programs

Friday Photos: Isms

Last month, our docents were trained on the various art historical “isms” of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Listening to that lecture reminded me what a great collection we have for examining the breadth of art history.  I encourage you to visit the Museum with your students to help bring their textbook to life in the galleries.

Here are some of my favorite examples of various isms from our collection.

Neo-Classicism: Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, Oedipus at Colonus, 1788

Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund, 1992.22.FA

Romanticism: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bonneville, Savoy, 1803

Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Nancy Hamon in memory of Jake L. Hamon with additional donations from Mrs. Eugene D. McDermott, Mrs. James H. Clark, Mrs. Edward Marcus and the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1985.97.FA

Realism: Gustave Courbet, Fox in the Snow, 1860

Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund, 1979.7.FA

Impressionism: Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1908

Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Meadows Foundation Incorporated, 1981.128

Post-Impressionism: Vincent van Gogh, River Bank in Springtime, 1887

Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott in memory of Arthur Berger, 1961.99

Fauvism: Maurice de Vlaminck, Bougival, c. 1905

Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.82

Cubism: Pablo Picasso, Bottle of Port and Glass, 1919

Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund, The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation, Deedie and Rusty Rose, The Pollock Foundation, Mary Noel Lamont and Bill Lamont, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas O. Hicks, Howard E. Rachofsky, an anonymous donor, Mrs. Charlene Marsh in honor of Tom F. Marsh, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt, Dr. Joanne Stroud Bilby, Mr. and Mrs. Barron U. Kidd, Natalie H. (Schatzie) and George T. Lee, Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy L. Halbreich, Dr. and Mrs. Bryan Williams, and Mr. and Mrs. William E. Rose, 1998.73

What other examples do you use to illustrate these art historical movements in your classroom?

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Community Connection: Ekphrastic Poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, April’s Community Connection is Kolby Kerr.  Kolby is an English teacher at New Tech High at Coppell who incorporates a DMA visit into his creative writing curriculum.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I teach AP English IV, regular English IV, and creative writing at New Tech High. It’s a unique school and school environment.  This is my fourth year teaching, and I teach all seniors.  I graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in English and got a Master of Fine Arts degree in Poetry from Seattle Pacific University.  I am interested in literature and creative writing and the intersection aesthetics and academics.

What drew you to New Tech High?

We are a public choice high school; students come here based on a lottery or a first-come, first-serve sign-up within Coppell ISD. We have a one-to-one technology pairing, so students have access to their own laptops and to the internet at all times.  Our curriculum is project-based; everything has to be invested in real-world, directly applicable projects.  Hopefully, that will increase students’ investment in their own intellectual curiosity.  They tell us what they need to know to complete their projects.  I have, more or less, autonomy to create my instruction around concepts and ways of life I’ve found helpful in engaging the world with the mind.

Tell us about your relationship with the DMA.

In my undergraduate degree program, a creative writing professor took us to The Art Institute.  He set us loose, told us to engage and interact with single work of art, and write an ekphrastic poem based on it.  I found the activity liberating and interesting; I don’t know much about art, but I really felt like I had an engagement with the artwork on a deeper level than I had experienced before.

When I knew I would teach creative writing, that was the first project I wanted to do.  I grew up going to the DMA with my grandmother, who was a big art-lover and always took us down there.  I came last year and this year with my students.  We started with an hour-long guided tour of highlights in the DMA collection, then I set them free.

How do you set up the assignment at the DMA?

It is fairly open-ended.  After the highlights tour, I suggest that students take an hour to narrow down four to five different works, take notes, snap a photo and journal.  Then, they spend a full hour with one piece, which forces their attention in one direction.  With constant distraction and consumer overload, writing forces you to produce something from yourself.  You can get at ekphrastic poetry from two angles – either read into the moment of the painting, which provides narrative or a character you see in painting, or take something from the painting and let it project into your own life and become a more lyrical expression.  Some poems are almost all image-driven, while some are story poems.  Either type of poem drives you back to the art and makes you want to see the art and compare the experience of the poem to the experience of the piece.

This partnership gives a sense of relevancy and authority to a field – creative writing – that sometimes feels too abstract.  Creative writing exists way off the beaten path and this assignment gives a kind of legitimacy to a culture that creative writing is not only hoping to sustain but helping to thrive and flourish into the 21st century.

How do you combine poetry and art in your assignments?

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Sacré Bleu! A Twisted Tale of the Ultramarine Hue

Recently I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of Christopher Moore’s newest book, Sacré Bleu. This auspicious event was followed by two days of ravenous reading, skipped meals, and neglected chores. Christopher Moore, the author who has brought us absurdly funny stories about Jesus Christ, vampires, and sassy whales, has cannonballed into the pool of art history–and has made a huge splash!

"Sacré Bleu" by Christopher Moore. On sale April 3, 2012.

When asked about the origin of his latest novel, Moore says, “I simply set out to write a novel about the color blue.” This desire brought him to Paris, London, and Italy, where “it turns out they keep a lot of the art discussed in this book.” The novel opens as the tragic news of Vincent van Gogh’s death reaches Paris. His friends, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Lucien Lessard, set out to solve the mystery of Vincent’s death after receiving this warning from him:

“P.S. If you see the Colorman, run. Run. You are too talented and too delicate of constitution to endure, I think. I am not mad. I promise.”
–Vincent

To solve the murder, Lucien and Henri will have to hunt down this twisted little Colorman who has a penchant for ultramarine blue. They will find love, heartbreak, forgotten memories, and, ahem, some girls in Moulin Rouge. Ultimately they will uncover the secret of the Colorman and the ordained powers he gets from Sacré Bleu, but not before having a little bit of fun with their impressionist friends.

Here are some examples of uses of Sacré Bleu from Christopher Moore’s novel. Throughout the story, each of these artists is visited by the manipulative Colorman.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “The Swing,” 1876, oil on canvas, Museé d’Orsay.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “Rousse dit aussi La Toilette,” 1889, oil on cardboard, Museé d’Orsay.

Claude Monet, “Camille Monet on Her Deathbed,” 1879, oil on canvas, Museé d’Orsay.

Georges Seurat, “Bathers at Asnières,” 1884, oil on canvas, National Gallery.

Sacré Bleu, the “sacred blue,” the truest blue, was at the time the most expensive paint in history. It was extremely difficult to obtain. First, colormen would need the gemstone lapis lazuli, which, for centuries, was more rare and more valuable than gold. On top of that, lapis lazuli is only found in one place in the world, the mountains of Afghanistan–a world away from Europe! Why go to all this trouble to make a little bit of blue paint? Because the pigment derived from lapis lazuli creates the most spectacular, everlasting, ultramarine blue. It does not fade over time or blacken with age like some other blue paints. This quality of ultramarine blue, as well as the significant sacrifice one had to make to obtain it, made it the perfect color to reserve for the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ. In many religious scenes, Mary is seen wearing a Sacré Bleu gown.

Michelangelo, “The Entombment,” c. 1500, tempera on panel, National Gallery.

Although he spends most of his time haunting the impressionists in Montmartre, the Colorman does make his way back to 16th-century Italy to visit the masters of the Renaissance. In this example, it appears as though Michelangelo’s The Entombment remains unfinished because he was unable to obtain the ultramarine paint he needed to finish the figure of the Virgin Mary. Of course in reality this is probably due to the high cost of the paint, but in Sacré Bleu, it is a mystery that is waiting to be solved by you!

Christopher Moore will discuss his new book as part of the Arts & Letters Live program at the Dallas Museum of Art on Tuesday, April 1o, at 7:30 p.m. For more information and tickets to this event, visit our website. The DMA’s Museum Store is selling first-edition copies of Sacre Bleu, with beautiful color illustrations of the art discussed in the novel.

Hayley Dyer is the Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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