Archive for May, 2014



Conservation Time Travel

Uncrated recently caught up with the DMA’s  associate conservator, Fran Baas, who joined the Museum in November. This summer, you can find her working on the 1908 Viennese Wittgenstein silver cabinet, pictured below.

FranBaas

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
My title is Associate Conservator, and I oversee the activities involved in the long-term preservation of the DMA’s permanent collection of objects and textiles. This comprehensive approach includes treatment, research, and analysis, and the preventive care of the collection.

What might an average day entail?
Each day is very different and has me running around all over the Museum. I might be assessing objects as potential loan candidates, responding to e-mails, writing reports, and doing actual benchwork. 

For example, recently, over the course of two days, I treated three plaster “pears,” dehydrated a SCOBY (a colony of bacteria/yeast that is part of a contemporary piece), conditioned silica gel, cleaned a few inches of an intricate early 20th-century Viennese silver piece, discussed with curators and collections staff the “inherent vice” of an extremely fragile piece, helped identify materials in an African headdress, and assisted in the treatment of some large oversized paintings. My job keeps me hopping across decades, centuries, and millennia . . . not to mention across the world geographically!

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
 I absolutely love my job. It’s a huge responsibility, but a privilege that I do not take lightly. The biggest challenge is never having enough time!

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
For a long time, I struggled with where I fit. I am very “left-brained, right-brained,” as they say. Not only do I love working with my hands and looking at art, but I love science and the process of discovery. It took me awhile to find a profession that combines art and science. Conservation is a field where I get to do my favorite things in an effort to preserve art and artifacts for future generations to appreciate. I have the best job in the world.

Do you have a favorite work in the DMA’s collection yet?
As cliché as this sounds, I fall in love with whatever piece I am currently working on. Getting to work with a piece up close, in conjunction with the material analysis and background historical research, allows me to really “get to know” a piece . . . and as a result fall in love.

What are you looking forward to in your future here at the DMA?
I look forward to getting to know each and every object and textile in the DMA’s encyclopedic collection!

The Museum is History

This weekend, explore works from the Museum’s modern and contemporary collection in a new installation by the DMA’s new Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Gavin Delahunty. The Museum Is History: Modern and Contemporary Art from 1950-1990 installation, featuring work by Jackson Pollock, Atsuko Tanaka, John Chamberlain, and more, will be on view through November and it is included in the DMA’s free general admission.

 

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Artist Astrology: Taurus

This month’s astrological sign, Taurus (April 20 – May 21st), is typically defined as the most stubborn and obstinate of the signs. This trait can be both an asset and an obstacle. Many Taurus individuals are able to harness their obstinacy in order to pursue their personal objectives and goals, even if they are working against the odds. On the other side, however, this persistence can manifest itself as pride and they may neglect the good-intentioned advice of others. Taurus individuals are most successful when they are provided the opportunity to set their own destiny; they do not enjoy being managed and may consider external assertion stifling. Although they are focused on their goals, people born under the Taurus sign are also patient and practical about their decisions. They make wonderful life partners and friends because once they find someone they care about, they are loyal and faithful until the end. In fact, patience, perseverance, and honor are three of their traits most admired by others.

Today we are featuring one artist, J.M.W. Turner (April 23), whose personality and artworks perfectly epitomize the traits of a Taurus!

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Joseph Mallord William TurnerApril 23

Trained at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Turner followed the instruction of Sir Joshua Reynolds, first President of the Royal Academy, to “paint pendants to a number of masterpieces.” Turner, however, was not content with merely replicating the works of earlier masters; instead, he made it his personal mission to recreate and outdo past painters. In particular, Turner viewed landscape painter Claude Lorrain as his greatest competition. Throughout his career, he sought to surpass Lorrain by imbuing his works with superior light and atmospheric effects. In fact, in his will, Turner left two of his masterpieces to the National Gallery under the stipulation that they would hang next to a pair by Lorrain; thus presenting viewers the opportunity to witness his superior techniques. The four artworks still hang in Room 15 at the National Gallery today.

For more Taurus artists in the DMA collection, check out the works by Willem de Kooning (April 24), George Inness (May 1), Salvador Dali (May 11), Georges Braque (May 13), and Jasper Johns (May 19).

Tune in next month for a look at our gifted Gemini artists (May 22 – June 21)!

Artworks shown:

  • J.M.W. Turner, Bonneville, Savoy, 1903, 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.

Hayley Prihoda
McDermott Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching

Friday Photos: A Love Letter to Boston

Last weekend I fled the crazy North Texas weather and made my way to beautiful New England, for my first ever trip to Boston! I championed my role as a super tourist and tried to fit in as many new experiences as possible.  Lucky for me, I had a fantastic guide, Alex Vargo (former McDermott Intern for Gallery Teaching), to show me around this fantastic city!

First stop was Harvard Square, for a walking tour of the breathtaking university campus! We visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the highlight of which was the Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants. The collection represents 847 plant species painstakingly and accurately crafted in glass by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, father and son glassmakers from Germany. The duo worked over five decades (from 1886 through 1936) to create these 4,200 glass models for the museum’s collection. Amazing!

As a museum educator, visiting Boston’s exciting collection of art institutions was at the top of my list. First stop was the ICA Boston, where I attended a film screening hosted by the ICA’s Fast Forward program, a multi-year new media program for Boston teens. It was equally exciting to see the newest Dewey Square mural, an abstract seascape by British artist Matthew Ritchie, that will be up for the next 18 months as part of the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservency public art program.

I could have stayed all day at the MFA Boston. The eye-popping color of their Quilts and Color exhibition was amazing, and the selection of contemporary Latin American art displayed in Permission To Be Global/Prácticas Globales was powerful. However my favorite piece, by a mile, was the large-scale ceiling installation, Untitled 2003, by Tara Donovan. Made solely from thousands of Styrofoam cups and hot glue, this installation is quite the sight, sprouting from the ceiling of the MFA’s contemporary wing like a beautiful, translucent blob. Love it. (The DMA displayed our very own Tara Donovan sculpture in our Difference? show last year.)

It wouldn’t have been a proper trip to Boston without taking in some history. Luckily the Freedom Trail offers an easy way to visit some of the area’s most interesting historical sites. You just follow the red brick road, literally. We started in the Boston Common (America’s oldest public park), explored the Granary Burying Ground (which houses Benjamin Franklins’ parents), passed the Old Corner Bookstore (which is, unfortunately, a chain restaurant now), waved at the Old State House, and finished our tour with a cup of clam chowder at the Union Oyster House (America’s oldest continually running restaurant. Extra fun fact: The toothpick was first used in the United States at the Union Oyster House!)


These are only a fraction of the wonderful experiences I had while visiting Boston. But as you can see, I had an absolutely fantastic trip and cannot wait to return to beautiful Beantown.

In conclusion: Boston, I ❤ you.

Danielle Schulz
Teaching Specialist

Summer Reading Fun at the DMA

If you have or know any school-aged children, you know that the countdown to the end of school has begun! Dreams of afternoons at the pool, summer vacations to see grandparents, and lots of watermelon and ice cream are dancing through children’s heads. For me, one of the best parts of summer was the summer reading club at the library. I loved to read anyway, but getting rewards for reading? What a brilliant idea! (I just wish there was a summer reading club for grown-ups.) If reading by the pool isn’t your thing, why not bring a book to the DMA? Families are always welcome to read together in the galleries—on a bench or even on the floor.

To give you a jump start on your summer reading list, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite books along with suggestions for the perfect reading spot in the museum.

Clad in her swimsuit, cap and flippers, little Flora seems to be bursting with the need to move. Her muse? A pink flamingo who does not appreciate the little girl’s adoration! The two dance across the pages in this wordless book in a graceful ballet that reminds us that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery and perhaps a way to begin unlikely friendships. Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle is the perfect book for your little dancer, and would be a great choice to tote along to the DMA when the Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cezanne exhibition opens at the end of June. Several of the museum’s pieces by Degas will be on display, including these lovely dancers.

The push and pull of waves on the beach is irresistible at any age. In Wave by Suzy Lee, a little girl timidly approaches the edge of the water, then slowly gets wetter and wetter as she becomes more sure of herself. The wave takes on its own personality as it interacts with its little companion, and in a splash of watercolor resembling a Pollock painting, the two become the best of friends. Several views of the ocean are on display in the American galleries on Level 4. Perhaps the waves in Alfred Thompson Bricher’s Time and Tide can become your friends too!

Have you ever wondered where imaginary friends live before they join your family? In Dan Santat’s charming book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, we discover the answer to this mystery. A little marshmallow-like creature patiently waits on an island far away for a child to imagine him into the world. But when no one chooses him, he bravely ventures forth on an adventure to find his person himself. Across the vast ocean, through crowded city streets, and finally perched high in a tree’s branches, our hero discovers a perfect friend waiting for him and learns that she has been thinking of him all along. Santat turns the idea of an imaginary friend on its head, and his color-saturated illustrations will make you wish you could have Beekle as your own unimaginary friend. Bring Beekle along for a visit to the Reves collection on Level 3 and search for Maurice de Vlaminck’s Bougival. The vibrant colors of this painting remind me of Beekle’s birthplace, and I can imagine him and his new friend tramping through these woods!

Beep, beep! Look out—fun is on the way! If your child loves everything that goes, Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis & Douglas Florian should be tops on your list. Douglas Florian has written some of my favorite poetry collections for children, and for this high speed volume, he’s teamed up with U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. As soon as you open up to the first page, you know you are in for a wild ride. The table of contents looks like a bunch of blueprints, and the list of vehicles is sure to get some giggles. From “The Dragonwagon” to the “Eel-ectric Car,” these crazy car poems will ride their way right into your imagination. The rhythm and flow of the language is just right for kids, and Jeremy Holmes’ illustrations are so involved, you’ll get lost in the pictures. Tow this book straight to the Hoffman galleries later this month and find John Chamberlain’s Dancing Duke. Chamberlain uses car parts and materials found in junkyards to create his fantastical sculptures.

If you can’t get enough of stories in the galleries, join us for story time this summer! Each Tuesday in June and July at 1:00 p.m. Education staff will lead story time, DMA-style. We’ll read stories, look at art in the galleries, and do hands-on activities. Story time is free and open to all ages.

Artworks shown:

  • Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers on the Stage, 1883, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow
  • Alfred Thompson Bricher, Time and Tide, c. 1873, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Mayer
  • Maurice de Vlaminck, Bougival, c. 1905, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
  • John Chamberlain, Dancing Duke, 1974, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harold J. Joseph in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Max Walen

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning

The Forecast Calls for Stars

Before there were Xboxes and smartphones, TVs and radios, and even theater and literature, people sought entertainment in other ways. Among those activities was the experience of star gazing. The endeavor was a social one, often involving conversation and the creation of folklore around oddly shaped objects that observers conjured up in the stars above.

Though the same stars hang above us today, those interpretive experiences are few and far between. But a group of graduate students from the University of Texas at Dallas are working to change that. Their interactive activity, the Constellation Game, brings back the experience of campfire conversation and celestial storytelling. Visitors, or “players” of the game, are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild as they use a motion controller to “draw” their own constellations in a projected night sky. They can even invent their own myths around their creations.

Constellation1

This Friday, we’re excited to have the Constellation Game set up on our Ross Avenue Plaza for our monthly Late Night. In preparation for Friday night’s activities, we took the opportunity to ask Spencer Evans, the lead programmer behind the experience, a few questions about the Constellation Game.   

How did you come up with the idea for the Constellation Game?

SE: In many ways, the idea we initially came up with is actually far off from what we have now. It was a very vague idea that evolved organically, and was refined based on players’ impressions and our realized goals. We are big fans of games that fit in the play space between arcade, art gallery, and museum exhibition pieces, and we wanted to create something in that same space. We are also very passionate about storytelling and mythology, and we wanted to revive that act of storytelling around shapes perceived in the stars, which seems a bit lost and forgotten today. To that end, it was also important to us to create an accessible interface and interaction that people today can understand.

How does the experience work?

SE: The core player experience is to create and draw constellations in an almost connect-the-dots like way in a shared space. Players do this with a motion controller while lying down, looking up at the stars of our night sky projected onto the ceiling, and discussing with others the meaning of the shapes created. Our design was focused on storytelling, social interaction, and creative expression. And, we strove to create an experience that closely resembles the relatable, perhaps nostalgic, real-world act of lying down outside and pointing up at the stars. We feel this is something that comes through in the way players interact with it, and the immersive atmosphere we try to create.

Constellation2

What have you learned by watching visitors interact with the installation?

SE: We have learned that it is very much a group experience, not just the one or two players currently interacting with it. It is the audience participating as well. Everyone tends to explain or argue about the shapes they are seeing, and share their personal interpretations that they, and others, have made. We have learned that players tend to enjoy exploring the star-field—the space in which they can draw constellations—before they create their own. They want to see what others have created first, and see which star clusters or historical constellations they recognize.

Constellation3

If you want to make your own constellations, you can play the Constellation Game between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. this Friday. We’ll also have numerous other activities, performances, tours, lectures, and more! Find the full schedule here.

Betsy Glickman is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA.

 

Make This: Etching with Cola

Coke Etching

Example of a “coke” etching

Printmaking is one of my favorite mediums. There’s something satisfying and magical about transferring an image you created onto another surface. Plus, there are so many fun and experimental ways to do it that make learning new techniques a joy and not a chore. I especially love finding alternative methods to techniques that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive for the at-home printmaker–namely, intaglio and lithography.

This idea of alternative processes was the basis of April’s Urban Armor workshop for teens. One of the techniques I taught was a version of lithography appropriately dubbed “kitchen lithography” because most of the supplies can be found in your pantry. Popularized by Emilie Aizier, there are lots of tutorials on how to do it on various internet sites. Finding a perfect guide is hard because the process is finicky and everyone does it in a slightly different way. It’s definitely something to experiment with on your own, but I’ll share what gave me the most consistent results.

If you’ve never tried lithography before, it basically consists of creating a master image on a plate (usually metal or stone); in this case, cola is used to etch the image into aluminum foil (it contains phosphoric acid–yum!). Printing from the plate works on the principle that water and oil repel each other: the plate is first coated with water, which doesn’t stick to the etched image because of the gum arabic in the cola. Oil-based ink is then rolled onto the plate, which sticks to the image but is repelled everywhere else by the water.

Several months back, the DMA hosted the wonderful exhibition Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries that not only featured fantastic lithograph posters from the late 1800s, but highlighted many of the tools and steps involved in lithography.

What you need:

  • Small sheet of plexiglas
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • Sharpie permanent marker
  • Scrubber pad/steel wool
  • Vegetable oil
  • White vinegar
  • Cola (I used Coke)
  • Sponge and bowl of water
  • Lithography ink (NOT water-based)
  • Latex gloves
  • Printing brayer
  • Printing baren or large spoon
  • Heavy drawing paper
  • Spray bottle
  • LOTS of paper towels

Steps:

Prepare your plate

  • Cut a piece of foil slightly larger than your sheet of plexi. Carefully smooth it down so it’s nice and flat; try to avoid creating any folds or wrinkles.
  • Fold the edges of the foil around the plexiglas and tape them down to the back.
  • Use your sponge to wet the surface of the foil with a little water, then sand it lightly with your scrubber until it’s dull and no longer super shiny.
  • Wipe the surface down with white vinegar to clean off the plate.
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Sharpie image on plate

Draw and etch your image

  • When the surface of your plate is dry, draw an image on it with a Sharpie permanent marker. If you are adding text, remember to write backwards (your print will be a mirror image of your plate).
  • After you’re finished with your drawing, make a cola bath for your plate: fill a shallow pan (big enough to accommodate the plate) with about 1/4″ of soda. Then place your plate in the cola drawing-side down.
  • Let your plate soak in the cola bath for 10 minutes or longer.
  • Remove the plate and rinse it in the sink, gently trying to remove as much of the Sharpie drawing as you can.
  • Dry off your plate, then buff the surface using a small amount of vegetable oil and a paper towel. This should help remove the last bits of marker. Even though you may not be able to “see” your drawing any more, don’t panic!  The cola should have etched it into the foil, creating a “ghost” image.

Ink your plate and print

  • Load your brayer with ink: spread a small amount of ink on a paper plate, then roll it out with your brayer until the entire surface is coated evenly with ink. Set the brayer aside.
  • Set your plate face-up on the counter. Wipe down the entire surface with a wet sponge.
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Inking

  • Roll the brayer across your plate. You should notice the ink start to stick to your ghost drawing. It may take a few passes of alternating between wiping your plate with water and inking it to ink the entire plate.
  • Spray your drawing paper evenly with water and place it on top of your plate. Rub the back of your paper with a baren or the back of a spoon. If you have access to a printing press, that would be ideal.
  • Carefully peel back the paper and leave it to dry.
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Printing

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Printing

Coke Etching 2

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Finished print side-by-side with original plate

As I said earlier, there are many variations on this technique that you can experiment with. People have drawn their image into the foil with grease/litho crayons, touche, even Murphy’s Oil Soap! Each of these options would be fun to try out and should give you different results.

To me, the trickiest part is inking the plate–I ruined the first two that I tried to print during that stage. I found that I didn’t use enough water when I was wetting my plate and the ink ended up sticking to everything instead of just my drawing. The nice thing is that it’s really easy to make a new one–just crumple up the old one and try again!

JC Bigornia
C3 Program Coordinator


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