Archive for March, 2017

Bluebonnets in Bloom

With spring upon us, we can anticipate the sprouting of bluebonnets along Texas roads and highways. Bluebonnets can also be found in the DMA’s permanent collection. One of the best places to look is in the work of Julian Onderdonk, a San Antonio–born artist. Onderdonk is recognized for his portrayal of his home state’s landscape, in particular the Texas State Flower, the bluebonnet. Onderdonk so perfected the portrayal of bluebonnets that to this day his name is immediately linked to scenes of these blue and violet flowers carpeting expansive landscapes.

Onkerdonk in action. Image source http://nyti.ms/2nrmieC

After studying in New York at the Art Students League and William Merritt Chase’s Shinnecock Summer School, Onderdonk returned to Texas in 1909. Back in his home state, he found that he could combine the techniques he learned in New York with his environment in Texas. The bluebonnets were the perfect subject in which to manifest his interests. Appearing initially as subtle parts of his compositions, they dominated the artist’s work by the mid-1910s.

Field of Bluebonnets

Julian Onderdonk, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets), 1918–20, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Margaret M. Ferris, 1990.153

Although the bluebonnet became the state flower in 1901 and was represented by other artists prior to Onderdonk’s embracing them as a subject, his depictions of the flower increased their popularity and distinctive connection to the state of Texas. The bluebonnets also brought fame to the artist while defining Texas art as a regional school that paralleled other schools of regionalist art in America. The appeal of these paintings was twofold; on one hand, they played into Texas pride by giving importance to the state flower, and on the other hand, they highlighted Onderdonk’s painterly talents and ability to render nature.

Blue Bonnets

Bluebonnets in bloom.

For Onderdonk, these flowers were more than simply bluebonnets. They allowed him to find a balance between what he saw and a subject he knew well: in other words, a blending of his East Coast training and his connection to the Hill Country of Texas. Painted around 1918-1920, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets) is an example of Onderdonk’s dedication to the flower. Onderdonk learned from Chase the importance of painting outdoors because it allowed a closer observation of the light and shadows. Here Onderdonk responded to Chase’s emphasis on painting en plein air (outdoors before the motif) and capturing the changing effects of light and shadow in a field covered with the vividly colored blossoms. He paints the bluebonnets in rich blues and greens, making each bloom in the foreground individuated and then progressing into broad strokes of color to portray the pool of flowers.

Francesca Soriano is the McDermott Intern for American Art at the DMA. 

The Emperor’s New Groove: Llama Iconography and the Inca Empire

In his 1551 chronicle The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, Pedro de Cieza de Leon recalled the former glory of the great Inca temple known as the Qorikancha:

There is a garden in which the earth was of pieces of fine gold, and it was sown with corn of gold, stalks as well as leaves and ears . . . more than twenty golden sheep with their lambs, and shepherds, who guarded them, their staffs and slings, were made of this metal.

South American camelids at the archaeological site of Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

South American camelids at the archaeological site of Tiahuanaco, Bolivia. image source commons.wikimedia.org : http://bit.ly/2ov0wXl

What Cieza de Leon did not realize is that these “golden sheep” were not sheep at all (sheep were introduced to South America through Spanish imperialism), but rather the most important animal within the Inca Empire: the llama.

Domesticated 6,000 to 7,000 years ago in the dry puna grasslands of Argentina, Chile, and southern Peru, llamas provided an important source of meat and of fiber used for manufacturing rope and bags in several early Andean communities. Andean artisans shaped and repurposed llama bones as tools and weaving supplies, while llama dung provided a source of fuel to heat homes. Llamas also allowed disparate cultures to interact and create trading networks by serving as the primary beasts of burden within the Andes region. Occupying the modern nations of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, and Colombia, the Inca Empire (1438-1532) used llamas and llama imagery to unite their territory through trade and shared socially significant iconography.

Pair of llama figures

Pair of llama figures, Peru, north coast, Inca (Inka), 1400–1550, shell, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1972.23.5.1-2.McD

Map of Inca Empire

Our collection of Inca visual arts features several examples of llamas. These reddish-orange llamas were originally found in a Late Horizon (1400-1532) ceremonial cache on the southern coast of modern-day Peru with a variety of northern coast Chimú and southern coast Ica style feather and metalwork objects. Containing a mixture of elite items related to Chimú and Inca cultures, this bundle represents the fusion of cultures through Inca imperial expansion and trade.

Carved from the shell of a thorny oyster, or Spondylus, a mollusk imported from the tropical marine waters off Ecuador, these llama figures likely possessed multiple layers of social significance among the populations who created them. Visually, they represent the beasts of burden that enabled the extensive trade networks necessary to transport raw materials from locations that were several hundred miles away. As the inclusion of carved Spondylus shell figures in ceremonial bundles was specifically an Inca practice, these llamas may also represent South Coast groups incorporating certain aspects of Inca identity or religion into their own system of belief.

Camelid-form vessel

Camelid-form vessel, Peru, Inca (Inka), 1400–1540, stone, Dallas Museum of Art, collection of Andrew D. Christensen, gift of J. D. Christensen, 1983.632

Carved from a green and black stone, this ceremonial llama effigy, or illa, was used to promote agricultural and pastoral fertility in Inca communities. Inca religious leaders likely inserted a mixture of llama fat, blood, and other ceremonial objects into the hole located at the top of this vessel during various fertility rituals throughout the year. Several Inca-related groups concluded these fertility rituals by placing the illa in a pasture. Modern-day highland communities in the Andes continue to use illa during their fertility rituals to ensure the prosperity of their camelid herds.

Continue reading ‘The Emperor’s New Groove: Llama Iconography and the Inca Empire’

NAEA 2017 Recap

At the beginning of March, Angela Medrano and I had the privilege to attend the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Annual Conference. While this conference is geared towards a variety of art educators, including elementary, middle, and high school teachers, professors and university students, and museum educators, the Museum Education Division holds a preconference on art museum education.

This year the preconference focused on Diversity and Inclusion in the field and the day was kicked off with a keynote presentation by Dr. Marit Dewhurst, Director of Art Education at City College of New York, and Keonna Hendrick, Cultural Strategist, Educator, and Consultant. Their talk gave an overview of issues of race and racism in the context of museums, defined shared terms to clarify meaning, and established structures for having conversations and creating brave spaces (as opposed to safe spaces) that promote dialogue and discussion.

Whether you are a museum educator, classroom teacher, or home school instructor, Dewhurst and Hendrick’s message is a relevant and important one. Want to hear more? Experience their whole presentation here.

Jessica Fuentes
Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections

Mexico at the DMA: A History

Last week the exhibition México 1900-1950 opened to big crowds, but it is just the most recent DMA exhibition to focus on the art and artists of Mexico. The first known exhibition to feature Mexican art was a solo exhibition in February 1933 of paintings and drawings by Roberto Montenegro. Work by Montenegro is included in the current exhibition and the DMA’s permanent collection.

Roberto (Nervo) Montenegro, Mexican Woman (Tehuana), n.d., lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Dallas Print Society in memory of Edwin B. Hopkins, 1941.5

Over the 114-year history of the DMA, with the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts (1957-1963) exhibition history included, 38 known exhibitions (including México 1900-1950) have featured Mexican art and artists, ranging from ancient and pre-Columbian to modern and contemporary. Of the 38, almost half included work by Mexican modernists who also have pieces in the current exhibition. The DMA held solo and group exhibitions for artists Carlos Merida, Roberto Montenegro, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Gunther Gerzso, Leonora Carrington, and Jose Posada, as well as numerous survey shows of work by Mexican modernists.

One of the largest exhibitions of the work of Mexican modernists was Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988.

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Like México 1900-1950, Images of Mexico was so large, that it needed to be installed in multiple galleries throughout the building. The main portion of the exhibition was located in the Level 2 European and American Galleries, with additional works in the Barrel Vault, Concourse, Focus I Gallery and the Print and Textile Gallery (now Focus II gallery).

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988 in the Barrel Vault

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988; Concourse

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988 in Focus Gallery I

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988 in Focus Gallery II

At least two works in México 1900-1950 are making their second visit to Dallas. Both Olga Costa’s La vendedora de frutas, 1951, and Saturnino Herrán’s Nuestros dioses, 1918, were part of Images of Mexico.

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Another primary feature of the México 1900-1950 exhibition is that it includes exhibition text and labels in both English and Spanish. The first DMA exhibition to include labels in English and Spanish was Maya Miniatures and Other Textiles for the Saints, November 19, 1985-January 19, 1986. The exhibition displayed Maya textiles from Guatemala.

Installation of Maya Miniatures and Other Textiles for the Saints, November 19, 1985-January 19, 1986

Installation of Maya Miniatures and Other Textiles for the Saints, November 19, 1985-January 19, 1986

 

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

 

Spring Break Taking Shape!

Last week, spring breakers of all ages enjoyed exploring shapes at the DMA. Here’s a look at how the week shaped up!

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Emily Wiskera
Manager of Access Programs

Who Run the (Ancient) World?

In celebration of Women’s History Month, let’s look way back at a few leading ladies from the DMA’s collections who made their mark on the ancient world. Then join DMA curators Dr. Anne Bromberg, Dr. Kimberly L. Jones, and Dr. Roslyn A. Walker on Thursday, March 23 to hear more about Women of the Ancient World and the objects that tell their stories.

Red-figure column krater with Amazon, c. 470-460 B.C.E., ceramic with slip, Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2008.10

The Amazons were fierce group of women warriors who, until recently, were thought to be purely mythological figures. To the ancient Greeks, Amazons were barbarian man-haters and a formidable opponent for any would-be hero. They were an object of disgust for their rejection of traditional feminine roles, but they were also a source of fascination, often portrayed in art as beautiful and brave.

Altar depicting the first female ancestor, Indonesia, 19th century, wood and shell, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, 1999.181.McD

While this work of art was made fairly recently, it honors the founding female ancestor of this Indonesian society who is seen as the ultimate source of fertility. She is rising out of a boat, a symbol for the womb. Her arms are outspread, symbolizing the ancestral trunk of a tree and subsequent generations of branches.

Mummy and cartonnage, Egyptian, 19th Dynasty or later, wood and polychrome, Lent by Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, 20.2002.1.a-c

On this lid of this cartonnage, or coffin, we see an elaborately dressed woman and symbols of the deities that would protect her mummy inside. Although her identity is unknown, the quality of the coffin suggests that she was a person of wealth and social status.

Wall panel depicting Ix K’an Bolon, Mexico: state of Tabasco, Pomona, Maya culture, Late classic period, c. A.D. 790, Limestone, stucco, and paint, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James, H. Clark, 1968.39.FA

The royal woman depicted in this Mayan relief sculpture is Ix K’an Bolon or “Lady Precious Nine.” The text on the panel and the iconography of her ornate clothing tell us she is depicted as a goddess. It is possible that this relief would have been balanced by a second showing her husband in similar dress, shedding light on the power and prestige of ruling women in Maya society.

Jessie Frazier is Manager of Adult Programming

Once Upon a Time at the DMA

Portrait Party

“Once upon a time” is one of my favorite phrases—it almost always precedes a magical beginning, the possibility of slightly harrowing adventures, a lesson or two learned, new friends, and a “happily ever after.” I’m not afraid to admit, I’m a sucker for any ole fairy tale!

As we’ve been exploring Art and Nature in the Middle Ages over the past few months, I’ve found plenty of fairy tale inspiration in the art. From stained glass windows I imagine would have fit in just fine in Sleeping Beauty’s castle to beautifully illustrated manuscripts that Belle would surely be found reading in the library, this medieval art has the same fairy tale magic as the stories.

Are you a fairy tale fan too? Even after we say goodbye to Art and Nature, there are still plenty works of art in the DMA’s collection that speak to a fairy-tale loving heart. To find the perfect match for your inner fairy tale hero, take our quiz here!

And be sure to come to this Friday’s Late Night, which will be filled with medieval magic and fairy tale wonder!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Family and Early Learning Programs


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