Archive for April, 2013

Cindy Sherman: An Actor’s Perspective

The DMA has had several exciting opportunities to collaborate with the Dallas Theater Center in 2013. Last Monday, two of DTC’s fabulous actors joined our docents to share their perspectives on the Cindy Sherman exhibition. Hassan El-Amin and Christie Vela talked about the ways in which they transform themselves as they prepare to take on new roles. This also helped docents think about Cindy Sherman’s process, which includes using make-up, costumes, and props to alter her appearance for photographs.

Christie and Hassan both mentioned that sometimes it’s the little things that help them figure out who a character is. A pair of glasses, a silly vest, or a wig can make you act differently, and that may be just what’s needed to define a character. They also discussed how a costume can serve as a visual cue to the audience about a character’s personality. That costume tells us something about a character from the first moment we see it–Hassan described it as the “pop and sizzle.”

Actors Hassan El-Amin and Christie Vela lead training for the DMA's docents

Actors Hassan El-Amin and Christie Vela lead training for the DMA’s docents

The docents had a lot of questions about how Christie and Hassan mentally prepare for a new role. In a sense, they take on a new persona each time they prepare for a new production. They did say that they have fun inventing a back story for each character–they create little stories that help to explain a character’s personality traits or appearance. Christie described them as “little secrets” that she keeps for herself and maybe doesn’t tell the rest of the cast. The docents had an opportunity to explore this process while looking at Cindy Sherman’s Society Portraits, a series from 2008.

Inventing a persona for one of Cindy Sherman's Society Portraits

Inventing a persona for one of Cindy Sherman’s Society Portraits

Hassan led the docents through the galleries and asked them to describe the women in the series. Our best conversation was about Untitled #474. The group decided that this looked the most like a real society portrait. This woman has put forth a lot of effort with her outfit and makeup, so we know she cares about her appearance. Perhaps she is a woman who knows a lot of famous people, based on the wall of portraits behind her. They finally decided that she was an old-time movie starlet, and she had just had her third facelift in an effort to keep up her good looks. We were able to create a life for her just by looking deeper into what Cindy Sherman was presenting to us in the photograph.

Cindy Sherman. Untitled #474. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 7' 6 3/4" x 60" (230.5 x 152.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York © 2012 Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman. Untitled #474. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 7′ 6 3/4″ x 60″ (230.5 x 152.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York © 2012 Cindy Sherman

Christie then led the docents in a simple actor exercise. Each docent was asked to select one History Portrait and look at the details that Cindy Sherman has provided for us. Christie pointed out that in theater, everything actors need to know is in the text of a play. We can look at these photographs as a text as well–everything that we need to know is there, and everything has significance. Docents were then asked to think about how this person would walk. Would she lead with her nose, her chest, her hips? Docents walked around the gallery in character, and we tried to guess which photograph they were bringing to life. Once again, the emphasis was on slowing down and looking deeper to discover the hidden traits of these people.

Docents walking like figures from Cindy Sherman's History Portraits

Docents walking like characters from Cindy Sherman’s History Portraits

It was so interesting to hear Hassan and Christie talk about how important the audience is to a performance; I think that’s something a lot of us take for granted. They said as actors, they think of the audience as a partner and they’re interacting with us just as much as they are the other actors on the stage.  It’s interesting to think about how important the viewer is to Cindy Sherman’s photos, too.  Without our interpretations and invented narratives, the photos would just be untitled images in the gallery. Our relationships–either with photos or with actors on stage–help to complete the viewing process and make it fulfilling for everyone involved.

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs

Breaking Ground

We “broke ground” today on the Museum’s new paintings conservation studio! The conservation studio is located on the top level of the DMA, near the south entrance, and will include a gallery space and sculpture courtyard (accessible to you!) designed by Samuel Anderson Architects (SAA). For the first time at the DMA, visitors will be able to see behind the scenes on a daily basis, watching artwork actively being conserved by the DMA’s first Chief Conservator, Mark Leonard. Construction is scheduled for completion this fall.

Check the DMA’s social media and Uncrated throughout the summer for updates on the construction of the conservation studio. Below are photos from today’s official first day of construction.

Wright windows removed Wright windows in storage  25 26

Friday Photos: Emotional Performances

Last month, Shannon Karol and I led a group of K-12 teachers through the Cindy Sherman exhibition.  The goal of this teacher workshop was to encourage educators to explore the artistry of both Cindy Sherman and photography by examining works of art spanning Sherman’s forty year career. We investigated themes of identity and performance as we considered Sherman’s role as photographer, model, art director, make-up artist, and stylist.

We concluded the workshop with a performance-based activity that shed light on Sherman’s artistic process.  Each teacher was given an emotion card and–without revealing their specific emotion–was asked to direct a partner to convey this emotion through facial expressions, body language and costumes. Everyone had a great time dressing up and playing director–take a look at the entertaining results!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

What I Learned from the Stark Museum

Last week, I traveled to Beaumont with Jessica Harden, the DMA’s Director of Exhibition Design, to present at the Texas Association of Museums Annual Conference.  Together, we presented on the topic of Building an Interactive Art Exhibition with two colleagues from the Stark Museum of Art: Allison Evans, Registrar, and Elena Ivanova, Chief Educator.

Hands-on spaces and interactive art exhibitions have been on the rise in art museums. In 2008, we launched the Center for Creative Connections (C3), a permanent space dedicated to providing interactive learning experiences for visitors of all ages. Our portion of the presentation addressed the changing nature of the C3.  Over the years, the space has evolved and transformed, bringing in new works of art and offering a variety of experiences. The Stark’s portion of the presentation spoke to their experience of developing a temporary interactive exhibition called Explore Art: Materials and Methods Revealed. From July-September 2012, this exhibition enabled visitors to “discover the techniques and tools artists use and have the opportunity to create their own art in hands-on areas.”

When gauging the success of these types of exhibitions, art museum educators are hoping visitors will slow down, spend time looking, and have a meaningful experience with works of art. On average, visitors to the Stark spent thirty minutes in the exhibition. 57% of visitors stopped and looked at works of art for a significant amount of time and 48% of visitors were able to mention a specific work of art that they remembered from the exhibition.

Being a smaller institution, the Stark cannot dedicate a permanent space like C3 within their museum. However, they have been able to implement some of these interactive aspects into their new exhibitions. Take a look at some of the recent interactives they have integrated below.

Many museums look to us at the DMA as an example of how to achieve this type of exhibition. We are fortunate to have supportive staff and donors who believe in the mission of C3, and enable us to continually offer these types of experiences to our visitors. What I learned from the Stark Museum was that small institutions are also prime places for similar initiatives, on a smaller scale.

Jessica Fuentes
C3 Gallery Coordinator

Exchange Student

SANDRA blogportrait

Sandra Buratti-Hasan, a Museum Curatorial student from Paris, France, has been the guest of the DMA for the past couple of months as the last step of her curatorial training. Uncrated recently caught up with her in the galleries to find out more about her visit to the U.S.

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you’re visiting the Dallas Museum of Art: I am currently finishing my training as a museum curator in Paris at the Institut National du Patrimoine (National Heritage Institute). Every curator in France has to go through an eighteen-month training after passing a competitive examination. I am a specialist in Western 19th-century art, especially the symbolist period and the links between literature, music, and visual arts. The training consists of lectures on museum management, exhibition coordination, law, budget management, and various trainings within museums, both in France and abroad. For my international training, I wanted to discover from the inside the U.S. museum system, and I thought it would be very interesting to be hosted by my former teacher at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris, Olivier Meslay, who is now the Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art at the DMA.

What has an average day been like for you while at the DMA? There was no average day—my stay at the DMA has been full of surprises! However it has been a good balance between attending meetings, especially the curatorial and the budget and management team meetings, having a thirty-minute interview with a member of staff (in every department: gallery attendants, Visitor Services Desk, IT, Museum Store, conservation, marketing, and so on). I also spent lots of time in the galleries and in the Center for Creative Connections participating in programs for various visitors (schoolchildren, people with special needs, etc.). And I should not forget the Friday Late Nights and Jazz in the Atrium on Thursdays. I also had the great opportunity to visit Texas museums, which are full of treasures.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges? There are several “best parts” in being a museum curator. One of the most exciting is to give life to works of art you find really important and that have been previously neglected. It fulfills one of a curator’s greatest challenges: to help people become involved with art, no matter what their educational background is. Another challenge is to find the balance between managing the collections, coordinating exhibitions, and having enough time for your scientific research, which needs to be constantly updated.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum? I had several dreams. I wanted to be a painter, an archaeologist, a judge, or a natural scientist. But I was always fascinated by art, especially paintings, and as a child I would consider Leonardo as a friendly figure from the past, a bit like an unknown grandfather (certainly because of portraits showing him with a white beard). So I think working in an art museum was a dream, but an unconscious one.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection? Definitely the Canaletto (San Cristoforo, San Michele, and Murano from the Fondamenta Nuove, Venice). I was fascinated by it as soon as I approached it on my first day at the Museum. It is a very striking piece, wide and uncommon in Canaletto’s work. He manages to capture the poetry of Venice, the gray sky, the mystery of the water; you feel as if the painting is going to swallow you. I would love for my soul to be likewise kidnapped by art. It is exactly for that feeling that I wanted to work among paintings.

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing? I remember a striking show in Amsterdam in 2006, Rembrandt-Caravaggio. The room was really dark, with bright highlights on the paintings. You felt like you were entering a marvelous cave, and indeed, treasures were hung on the walls. Seeing the two masters at the same time deeply touched me. I have never felt such a strength in the brushstrokes, such a depth in the layers of the paintings or the looks on the faces.

Collection Connections: Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman, the groundbreaking artist’s retrospective that spans her career from the mid-1970s to the present, is currently on view at the DMA through June 9, 2013. Her photographs derive inspiration from a myriad of sources, including television, film, art history, high society, and cultural stereotypes. These themes, influences, and connections that run throughout her work can also be explored in many seemingly unrelated artworks in the DMA’s permanent collection.

Like the work of many of her contemporaries, Sherman’s photographs operate in opposition to her modernist predeecssors, like Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and Ansel Adams, who elevated form over content. Sherman, on the other hand, is more interested in how photography and images shape and exist within contemporary society. In fact, instead of identifying as a photographer, she sees herself as an artist who uses photography.

  • Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #28, 1979, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Fredericka Hunter and Ian Glennie, Houston. (left)
  • Paul Strand, Abstraction, Porch Shadows Connecticut (1915), negative 1915, print 1976, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Joseph W. Gray, M.D. (right)

Female Contemporaries
Sherman cites several women artists, including Hannah Wilke, Lynda Benglis, Eleanor Antin, and Suzy Lake, as role models for bringing their own female bodies into their artistic practice. She also acknowledges the leading role that females, herself included, played in the formation of postmodernist work, observing: “In the later ’80s… what probably did increase the feeling of community was when more women began to get recognized for their work, most of them in photography: Sherrie [Levine], Laurie [Simmons], Sarah Charlesworth, Barbara Ess… There was a female solidarity.”

  • Sherrie Levine, After Man Ray (La Fortune): 6, 1990, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift. (left)
  • Lynda Benglis, Odalisque (Hey, Hey Frankenthaler), 1969, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund. (upper right)
  • Hannah Wilke, Pink Champagne, 1975, Collection of Marguerite Steed Hoffman. (lower right)

Portraits and Self-Portraits
Though Sherman serves as the model as well as the artist, director, and producer for all her photographs, she is adamant that none of her photographs are self-portraits. In fact, she feels rather detached from the characters she portrays: “It’s not like I’m method acting or anything. I don’t feel that I am that person… I don’t become her.” Along with the varied works below, Sherman tests the traditional definition of portraiture and self-portraiture.

Cindy Sherman - Untitled #89

  • Cindy Sherman, Untitled #89, 1981, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund.
  • Jackie Saccoccio, Portrait (Hermetic), 2012, Collection of Marguerite Steed Hoffman. (left)
  • Jackson Pollock, Portrait and a Dream, 1953, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated. (upper right)
  • Jim Dine, Self-Portrait Next to a Colored Window, 1964, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, Contemporary Arts Council Fund. (lower right)

Rococo Influences
Through her partnership with a Limoges porcelain house, Sherman produced a dinnerware and tea service set inspired by Madame de Pompadour. On the DMA’s soup tureen pictured below, Sherman appears dressed up as this famed and influential mistress of King Louis XV. The Museum’s Abduction of Europa was painted by Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre, the Rococo artist who was named First Painter to King Louis XV in 1770.

  • Cindy Sherman, “Madame de Pompadour (née Poisson)” soup tureen with platter, 1990, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund. (left)
  • Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre, The Abduction of Europa, 1750, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund.

Sherman states: “Film has always been more influential to me than the art world.” In fact, her seminal body of work–the Untitled Film Stills produced from 1977 to 1980–visually recalls 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, B-movies, and works by directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Douglas Sirk. The two artists whose works are shown below found a similar inspiration in film.

  • Marlo Pascual, Untitled, 2009, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund. (left)
  • Luc Tuymans, The Man from Wiels II, 2008, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAr Benefit Auction Fund. (right)

Alex Vargo
McDermott Intern for Gallery Teaching

What’s in a Badge?

One of the many ways to earn points in the DMA Friends program is by completing badges. Badges can also give you ideas on how to use the DMA in ways you might not have thought of. You not only earn points with the activities needed to achieve a badge—like checking into the Africa, Asia, and Pacific galleries to earn the Globe Trekker Badge—you also get bonus points for completing all of the badge steps!

Some badges are only offered for a limited time, so make sure you don’t miss an exclusive badge opportunity. In fact, we are announcing a new badge, Super Fan: Cindy Sherman, today on Uncrated! Check out the two steps required to earn the badge below, and start channeling your inner Cindy Sherman:
Super Fan: Cindy Sherman
Visit the Cindy Sherman exhibition and be inspired by the artist’s work. Transform yourself into another character through costume, makeup, and environment, and then photograph yourself. Be one of the first ten DMA Friends to share your Cindy Sherman-inspired photo via Twitter with the hashtag #DMASuperFan to receive the Super Fan: Cindy Sherman Badge.

Artist Cindy Sherman transforms herself through hair, makeup, and costume for her photographic work. Visit the DMA’s exhibition Cindy Sherman, on view March 17-June 9, 2013.

Badges enable you to earn extra points, and they’re fun to collect. You can review your badges at the DMA Friends kiosk or from your computer at home, and they enable you to earn extra points. Before you know it, you will be packing your bag to spend the night at the DMA when you redeem your points for the Overnight at the DMA reward. If you have questions about DMA Friends, including how to earn badges, e-mail

Kimberly Daniell is the Public Relations Manager at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Friday Photos: Science + Art

Using science to take a closer look at nature

Using science to take a closer look at nature

We usually think of scientists and artists as working in completely different spaces: a white coat-clad researcher gazes into a microscope in a sterile lab while a painter wearing a paint-smeared apron brushes color onto a canvas in a cluttered studio.

But this past First Tuesday, families tried their hand at becoming science-artists and investigating nature through both a scientific and artistic lens. In the art studio, children used celery, bell peppers, zucchini, apples, and oranges as their art tools to create one-of-a-kind nature prints. The unique patterns and shapes of the food we eat everyday make surprisingly beautiful images.

Using natural materials to create art

Using natural materials to create art

Meanwhile in the tech lab, aspiring scientists used magnifying glasses to take a closer look at shells, rocks, flowers, and leaves. Looking at nature samples on the light box was illuminating in more ways than one!

Investigating nature samples on a light box

Investigating nature samples on a light box

Spring is the perfect time to head outside with your sketch pad and magnifying glass to explore nature as a science-artist!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

Art and Access at the DMA

April is Autism Awareness Month and autism-focused events, fundraisers, walks, and lectures abound all over the country. While most people have likely heard of autism, Autism Awareness Month highlights the growing need for awareness and promotes ways to support and accept people on the autism spectrum. Chances are that you know of someone with autism, since an autism spectrum disorder occurs in about 1 in 88 individuals.

Autism is different for everyone. Symptoms may include mild challenges for those who are high functioning, while others may have more severe symptoms affecting their daily life. Because it’s difficult to predict the behavior of children with autism, parents can feel intimidated bringing their child to an art museum and tend to be more comfortable participating in specifically designed activities alongside other similar families.

The DMA’s Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, which take place throughout the year, provide a safe, comfortable way for children with autism and their families to experience the Museum together. In the Center for Creative Connections, families can participate in gallery experiences, enjoy an interactive musical performance, explore hands-on activities in the courtyard, relax in a quiet sensory room run by occupational therapy students from Texas Women’s University, and create works of art in the C3 Studio – all before the Museum opens to the public.

We work closely with an autism specialist and Autism Speaks to plan programming for Autism Awareness Family Celebrations, taking into account the specific needs of the audience and the innovative tools available in C3. This invaluable partnership results in the creation of customized social stories about visiting the DMA, which are sent to parents in advance of each event so they can talk through the visit with their child at home.

Many parents note that after attending an Autism Awareness Family Celebration, they feel more comfortable with their child in a museum setting. One such mother, Jennifer Linde, had trouble finding opportunities for her family to be creative together and interact alongside other families. Her goal as a mom is to teach her son with autism, Alex, how to be as independent as possible. Jennifer never considered taking her two children to a museum because of Alex’s behavioral issues. After discovering the Autism Awareness Family Celebrations at the Dallas Museum of Art, Jennifer  now feels differently. The events give her family a wonderful opportunity to allow her son to develop his social skills and explore new interests while not worrying about the reactions of other people, something she says is often an issue for their family. The Linde family attends most Autism Awareness Family Celebrations and Alex has participated in our summer art camp for kids with autism for the past two years.

Alex loves to draw and usually draws machines and robots–never figures–in black and white. At the Autism Awareness Family Celebration in April 2011, Alex participated in sketching in the galleries and then went to our courtyard to experience music by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where he saw kids using streamers to move to the music. After the performance, Alex returned to sketching and created another drawing. His mother was overjoyed when she saw what he had drawn: figures all over the paper with streamers–in color! It was a magical morning for the Linde family. Check out photos of Alex below – including his colorful streamer drawing!

We are excited be in our fourth year of offering Autism Awareness Family Celebrations and our third year of offering a summer art camp for kids on the spectrum. Our next event happens this Saturday, April 6, and is themed around music and nature with a special performance by a violin duo from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. We look forward to seeing families connecting with one another and with works of art while having fun together at the DMA!

Amanda Blake
Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences

The Arc of Dallas at the DMA

Visitors may be unaware of a special program the Dallas Museum of Art provides for adults with developmental disabilities. For the past five years, the Museum has offered a private program for The Arc of Dallas. Clients visit the Museum monthly and participate in a gallery tour and studio art-making activity. Some clients have participated for all five years, and we have a group of regular attendees. Because of their ongoing attendance, many participants feel comfortable with the Museum’s staff and in the galleries.

The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup, Japan, c. 1600, ink and pigment on gold, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

The Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup, Japan, c. 1600, ink and pigment on gold, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

This past month we were joined by Susan Morgan, Senior Manager of Therapeutic Horticulture at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. We discussed the importance of how nature is depicted in Japanese art, particularly the lotus flower. Clients enjoyed learning the symbolism of different plants from Sharon. Later, they walked around the Asian galleries looking for lotus flowers in the art. Back in the studio, clients created their own Zen rock gardens.

image two

According to their website, The Arc of Dallas “promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.” The DMA is proud to include this audience in our programming. Sherry Wacasey, Executive Director for The Arc of Dallas, believes disability does not always affect creativity, and the DMA program meets the goals to empower this population. She argues that art is another form of communication and it can touch people who in other ways cannot communicate—art can close the gap.

I worked with this program in the fall of 2012 for my master’s thesis from the University of North Texas. One of my favorite aspects of working with The Arc of Dallas clients is observing the personal connections they make to the artworks. For example, when we toured the exhibition The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico, during the sketching portion one client identified with a ceramic figure because one arm was longer than the other, a trait that mirrored her own proportions.

Our staff enjoys The Arc of Dallas’s monthly visits and always appreciates their many hugs at the program’s conclusion. We visit different galleries every month, and next month’s visit to the exhibition Chagall: Beyond Color is certain to be a good one.
image one

Holly York is the McDermott Education Intern for Family Programs at the DMA.


Twitter Updates

Flickr Photo Stream