Archive for February, 2014

Close to Chuck Close: A DMA DIY

After attending the Philip Glass and Tim Fein concert at the Winspear Opera House this past Monday night, I was excited to discover that the DMA’s collection includes a lithograph of the composer, completed by his long-time friend Chuck Close. Close is known for his innovative approaches to representing the human face. All of his works explore this theme, depicting his subjects, generally friends and family members, in intimate, large-scale portraits of their shoulders and head. His portraits begin as photographs, which he then carefully transfers to a canvas. Close has experimented with various techniques and materials, including finger-painting, graphite, conté-crayon, pastel, oil and watercolor.

Chuck Close, Phil/Fingerprint, 1981, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon Fund

Chuck Close, Phil/Fingerprint, 1981, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon Fund, (c) Chuck Close

Over the course of their four-decade-long relationship, Phil has been the subject of many of Close’s most iconic works; in fact, his image has been used more than any other subject. According to an article published by W magazine in 2007, Close estimates that he has repurposed a 1968 photograph of Glass “150 times or something.” Glass returned the favor in 2005, unveiling a striking and beautiful composition entitled “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close,” intended to encapsulate the artist’s persona and work. The DMA’s Close work is a 50’’ by 38’’ lithograph of a fingerprint Close completed in 1981. I have always admired Chuck Close’s work, and I recently began to explore my own talents for photorealism. I decided to experiment with Close’s gridwork series, having read that Close used this approach “to break things down into a manageable and solvable problem.” For me, as an amateur artist, this statement provided the confidence I needed to begin my project. Follow my progress below to create your own Close-inspired work.

Step 1: Choose a photograph
As mentioned, all of Close’s portraits depict only the subject’s shoulders and head. This tight cropping helps to focus the piece and also encourages closer consideration of the subject’s individual features. I chose the photograph below for my image.
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Step 2: Crop your image
While this project works best with an up-close photograph, do not hesitate to crop or enlarge an existing photograph. Since I knew this artwork would be given as a gift, I chose an image with two subjects, rather than one. After cropping, however, my photograph becomes a manageable project.
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Step 3: Divide your image into a grid
Measure the length of your photograph. You want to make sure that the length and width of the photograph is evenly divisible by the size of each unit. For instance, my photograph is 14.5 cm by 10.5 cm so I chose to use 1/2 cm as my base unit. Use a ruler to divide your photograph into units of equal size. I recommend using a pencil so that you can correct a line if need be; graphite also shows up better than other mediums on glossy photograph paper.

Hint: The larger you make your squares, the less time your project will take. Larger squares will make for a more abstract image and smaller will create a more precise, accurate image.
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Step 4: Transfer your grid to your canvas or paper
To determine the size of your project, first decide on the size of your new base unit. For my project, I transferred the 1/2 cm units from my photograph to 1 cm on my drawing paper. In total, my final project will be approximately 8.5 by 11 inches. Be sure to consider your dimensions carefully, especially if you plan to frame your final composition.
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Step 4: Start your drawing!
I used colored pencil and drawing paper for my project. These materials are easy and user-friendly. If you are familiar with another medium, feel free to use it. After all, Chuck Close likes to experiment, too!

When selecting your colors, you can opt for accuracy or choose a unique theme or palette of your own. This decision may also affect the style of your portrait. You can use the lines to help you create an accurate, photorealistic transfer of your photograph; or you can use a more interpretive, abstract coloration (see Phil above). I chose the latter process. For this process, color each square as an individual unit, independent of the units around it. Don’t worry, it will all add up in the end!

It is easiest to begin in a corner and then work your way up, row by row. You may also want to start with something easy, like the shoulders or clothes before attempting to work on the face. Be patient. You do not want to rush and accidently transfer the wrong section of your photograph. If you get lost, count your square units to get you back on track.
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Step 5: Don’t give up
Depending on the number of squares in your artwork, this may be a long process. My picture took me about 16 hours to complete. If you are frustrated, step away and come back to your work tomorrow.

This activity can also be simplified for children. You can choose a simpler subject and/or divide the paper into larger squares. Either way, it is a good way to encourage “close-looking” and practice experimenting with colors.

Step 6: Step back, appreciate your work, and put a frame on it
Great work! I hope you enjoyed this project. If you made an artwork of your own or used this activity in your classroom, please share your creations with us below! Also, if you have suggestions on how we can improve this project, we would value your feedback.

Hint: Adding a frame or border to your artwork can really enhance the overall effect!

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Hayley Prihoda is the McDermott Education Intern, Gallery and Community Teaching, at the DMA.

Friday Photos: Connect the DMA Dots

As a lover of dots (also known as spots, polka dots, specks, periods, or decimal points), I am looking forward to next week’s First Tuesday program, Dot to Dot. First Tuesday, which features programming designed for children five and under, will celebrate the beloved dot on Tuesday, March 4, with dot themed games, performances, stories, art-making, and tours.

Dot to Dot‘s programming was inspired by one of my favorite children’s books, The Dot by Peter Reynolds. In this story, a girl named Vashti struggles with drawing. Her teacher challenges her to make a single mark on her paper, unleashing Vashti’s creativity and inspiring a series of dotted artworks. At the end of the story, Vashti shares her newfound excitement for art making with a struggling peer, and the flow of creative inspiration comes full circle.

As an artist and arts educator, this book has a special place in my heart. I have experienced Vashti’s struggle and have also witnessed it in children I have worked with. The Dot’s encouragement to make that first mark of self expression, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, has positively influenced both my own art-making and my interactions with children.

In anticipation of next week, I’ve included some close-ups of four ‘dot-tastic’ artworks found in the DMA collection. Can you connect the dots to uncover the artworks?

Amelia Wood
McDermott Intern for Family and Access Teaching

Getting Schooled at the DMA

Over the next couple of months, as you’re wandering down the concourse of the DMA, you may notice an eclectic mixture of vibrantly colorful paintings, intricate sculptures, detailed music compositions, and even essays on display just outside the Center for Creative Connections. That’s because our 16th annual Young Masters exhibition is underway!

The Young Masters exhibition is the product of a collaboration between the Dallas Museum of Art, AP Arts Strategies and the O’Donnell Foundation, in which Dallas area high school students who are completing AP Art History, Music Theory or Studio Art courses are invited to submit work to be chosen for display. A whopping 732 works were submitted for this year’s exhibition and from those, 60 final works of art were chosen.

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Tuesday night marked the DMA’s annual Young Masters Reception and Award Ceremony in which members of the Dallas community came together to recognize and celebrate the talent of this year’s selected students. The night began with family, friends, students, and teachers crowding into the concourse to take photographs with the selected works of art.

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The celebratory photographs and mingling were followed by everyone making their way into Horchow Auditorium to recognize each individual student and reveal a selected nineteen students who received top honors in the exhibition. Ceremony attendees heard a reading of the top selected essay, listened to a beautiful performance of the top selected music composition, and learned more about the artistic process and inspiration behind the top selected works of studio art.

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Though most awards have been announced, there are still ways that you can get involved with the exhibition. During March and April Late Nights, be on the look out for staff or volunteers who will be handing out People’s Choice Award fliers for you to cast your vote in any of the three exhibition categories. You can also learn more about selected works from the exhibition at the March and April Late Nights when students are interviewed here at the DMA.

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Amy Elms
McDermott Intern for Visitor Engagement

Love is in the air….or in Hoffman

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If you are a frequent guest at DMA Late Nights on the third Friday of every month, you may be familiar with interesting riddles like this one:

Love is in the air or bitterness abounds, whatever you may be feeling there is healing in sound! Join us for this melodic Creativity Challenge about love and hate!

MVI 0450 from A Batson on Vimeo.

These kinds of poems and rhymes are all part of a program called Creativity Challenge which occurs throughout the year and during Late Nights. Visitors sign up to participate as part of a team–equipped with a team name, like The Flaming Chinchillas–to compete in an on-the-spot challenge to create something unique based on a work of art.

MVI 0458 from A Batson on Vimeo.

Many times the challenges engage a variety of learning styles in order to have visitors view art in a new and different way. Occasionally visitors will dance, sing, write, act, build, etc. within the challenge. They work with others in a team that allows them to build on each other’s strengths, resulting in a dynamic show at the end of their challenge.

MVI 0457 from A Batson on Vimeo.

This past Friday evening, February 21, 2014, ten teams of challengers faced off to create a musical instrument and original composition about a work of art in the DMA’s contemporary collection.  The teams then had to create and perform in front of the sixty people who attended! The composition was to be a love song or a song of complete disgust to an assigned work of art. Coming off the heels of Valentine’s day–I thought this challenge would be appropriate! Check out some of these incredible interpretations!

MVI 0448 from A Batson on Vimeo.

Creativity Challenge in the Hoffman Gallery

Creativity Challenge in the Hoffman Gallery

Are you up to the challenge? Join me and the other teams next Late Night on March 21st, 2014, for a Creativity Challenge that will be sure to entice your taste buds!

Amanda Batson
C3 Program Coordinator

Creating Connections with Writer Shay Youngblood

John Thomas Biggers, Starry Crown, 1987, acrylic and mixed media on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund

John Thomas Biggers, Starry Crown, 1987, acrylic and mixed media on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Fund

I began research on John Biggers’ Starry Crown, which is on view in the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections (C3), in order to create interactive elements in the gallery for visitors. When I began, it was clear that the symbols and imagery in the painting hold a lot of information that needed to be unpacked. I found that one of the overriding themes in this piece, and other works by Biggers, is the transfer of knowledge by women across generations. The three figures depicted here reference important women in Biggers’ life, and the string that connects them alludes to the sharing of knowledge, traditions and family history through dialogue.

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As an art educator, I found it important to help visitors connect with this work of art by considering their own similar experiences. I started by posting prompts like “When I was _____ (age), ______ (an important woman in your life) taught me _________.” The responses were inspiring, sweet and at times comical. These snippets were interesting, but what I really wanted was the great stories that these sentences only hinted at.

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For this, the Center for Creative Connections enlisted the help of DMA Writer-in-Residence Shay Youngblood. During Late Nights, Shay interviewed visitors about family traditions and lessons they learned from important women in their lives. We chose a handful of stories from the dozens collected, and then Shay reimagined them through the lens of a creative writer and presented them at the January 2014 Late Night. Visit DMA.mobi and enter stop number 125 to listen to our visitors’ stories.
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Jessica Fuentes is the C3 gallery coordinator at the DMA.

Friday Photos: Adventures in Chicago

Thanks to the support of the DMA and the Eugene McDermott Foundation, this past week two of my fellow McDermott Interns and I had the opportunity to attend the College Art Association Conference in Chicago. Having never before attended a conference of this magnitude, I was not sure what to expect when we arrived at the Hilton Chicago early Wednesday morning. The pictures below capture a few of my favorite moments from the conference, including the architecture of the Hilton, my favorite lecture series, and the Chicago skyline covered in a soft, white snow. Enjoy!

The hotel was packed with art historians, museum educators, professors, and curators rushing to attend their first session of the conference. I was immediately impressed with the variety of attendees, diversity of the sessions offered, and the grandeur of our location. The Hilton Chicago was breathtaking and I was happy to wander the halls of this beautiful building, originally opened in 1927. The lobby featured Roman columns, a vaulted ceiling, and a grand staircase.

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I took this photograph during the question and answer session that followed one of my favorite presentations, called “Finding Common Ground: Academics, Artists, and Museums.” It included presentations by colleagues from various academic and cultural institutions across the country.

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Just outside the Art Institute of Chicago, someone had decided to help a few statues stay warm with winter vests and scarves. It was a great example of the Chicago community interacting with the city’s public art installations.

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Millennium Park in downtown Chicago features fantastic public art like Cloud Gate, aka the Bean. No matter how many times I visit this sculpture, I always enjoy the experience. Fun fact: when you stand in the center, your image is reversed on the ceiling and your reflection can be found all around the interior. Next time you visit, try to count how many times you can find your reflection!

As a native Chicagoan, it was wonderful to go home and explore the city through the eyes of a tourist! At the end of the week, however, I was ready to return to the sunny, 70 degree weather here in Dallas. 🙂

Hayley Prihoda
McDermott Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching

Bringing Artworks into Focus in the Most Delightful Way

I like to think of our Go van Gogh volunteers as the Mary Poppinses of Dallas elementary schools. They’re the special guest bearing a big bag full of magical things (art supplies! stories of Museum treasures!) that promise fun, adventure, and, when you least expect it, a lesson or two. Our volunteers also happen to have cheery dispositions, so the comparison works well on several levels. In a perfectly Poppins world, we could reach into our magical outreach bags during programs and pull out real DMA artworks, large and small, bringing the Museum right into the classroom. Until we figure out how to work that final bit of enchantment, we travel to classrooms with the next best thing—reproductions of artworks and the masterful storytelling needed to bring these artworks to life.

Over the years, our bags have been filled with reproductions of all kinds. First there were large posters of artworks to roll up and carry, then we traveled with the heavy hum and whir of slide projectors, and more recently we slipped sets of bright, colorful overhead transparencies into our bags. These reproductions came in all shapes and sizes, but each allowed us to show with clarity and accuracy, the beauty of our Museum’s treasures to students who had never seen them before.

Our latest method of magic involves paper images of artworks that we project using document cameras available in classrooms. When the quirks and glitches of this classroom technology left us projecting artworks in the least delightful way, we decided it was time to fill our bags with newer things—iPads and projectors. With the great ideas and lots of hard work, DMA colleagues Danielle, Amanda, Nicole, Ted, and our friends, Emily, Shannon, Bernardo, and I spent last summer writing a proposal for the Sprint Local Grant Program and pouring our best ideas into a video to convince The Sprint Foundation that all we needed was some wind in our kite (and the help of a generous Mr. Banks) to leap into the 21st century and get back our classroom magic.

The storyboard for our video submission

The storyboard for our video submission

Late last year, Sprint gave us the happy ending we were hoping for (we’re your biggest fans, Sprint!), and we are in the process of purchasing iPads for our outreach programs. This means that the next time we teach our Arts of Mexico curriculum, we can point to a well-projected, sharply-focused image of the Mask of Tlaloc and explore precious, tiny pieces of turquoise that form a delicate mosaic. We can zoom in and in and in again on the sixty foot mural, Genesis, The Gift of Life, discussing fine details usually reserved for Museum visits and having much richer discussions for it.

We’ll finally have the tools to unpack the best quality artwork images from our magical outreach bags—images that will spark great conversation and moments of wonder, like museum experiences with real artworks do. We’ll be as close to the real Mary Poppins as we can get (I draw the line at flying into classrooms!!), and that’s pretty exciting.

Amy Copeland
Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs


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