Archive for the 'Arts & Letters Live' Category

Black Birders on What Humans Can Learn from Birds

Summer is a popular time for birding. Binoculars optional—all you really need to do is look and listen and you’ll see that birds are everywhere: working, singing, crafting. However, some birders know that they have to consider their own safety and security while viewing birds, not because of the dangers of wildlife but because of racism. With the recent viral video of the false police report made by a white woman against an African American man birding in Central Park, birding has become part of the national dialogue around race. Within 48 hours of the birder’s video post, which took place on the same day that George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, an enterprising group of nature enthusiasts, ecologists, and science educators joined forces to create the first ever Black Birders Week to bring awareness to issues of race and the outdoors. I spoke to three organizers of the group about the video, birds, art, and more.

From left: Nicole Jackson, Kassandra Ford, Ashley Gary

Nicole Jackson, Program Coordinator at The Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, told me that such incidents of racism directed at Black birders and outdoor enthusiasts “is something that happens more often than people realize.” Kassandra Ford, a PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, echoed this, saying, “I wish I could say I was surprised by [the video], but I wasn’t at all.” Ashley Gary, a freelance Science Communicator also known as The Wildlife Host, remarked, “It is exhausting to be a Black person because there are so many things you have to worry about.”

Although Black Birders Week was formed to address racial inequities, its aim is also to highlight the positive impacts of African Americans in birding, environmental work, and the STEM fields. I decided to ask these three founding members of Black Birders Week to weigh in on some works in the DMA’s collection depicting birds, since birds’ relationship to human society is nothing new, and in fact goes back millennia.

Pendant: bird-man, Tairona, 1200–1500, Tumbaga, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of Nora Wise, 1989.W.474

The first piece, a bird-man gold pendant, would have been worn around the neck by elite men in what is present-day Colombia. The piece may reflect the Tairona belief that religious leaders could temporarily leave their human form to embody animals and gain knowledge from them. This pendant shows a bird of prey in somewhat of a dual human-animal form as the bird wears earrings and perhaps a garment. I asked Kassandra for her insights on birds of prey. “Birds are just,” Kassandra then paused, “excuse my language—but they’re badass. They’re intense, they’re ferocious, especially birds of prey. They have an aura of pride and power in the way that they hold themselves, in the way that they dive-bomb prey. That kind of attitude is like a warrior.” Indeed the piece may very well have been worn with that same aplomb.

Dance headdress, Igbo peoples, mid-20th century, wood, paint, metal, and fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1975.27.McD

This dance headdress by an artist of the Igbo of present-day southeastern Nigeria would have been worn in dynamic display during a masquerade. The carving depicts a seat for the spirits, of which the birds may be indicative as messengers to the spirit world. Ashley found the bird figures in this piece to be observing the activity from all angles, suggesting omniscience. She compared it to Edgar Allan Poe’s infamous Raven, who silently watches and knows all, as the poem goes: “the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core.”

Double-spout strap-handle vessel depicting a falcon, Paracas, 500–400 BCE, ceramic and resin-suspended paint,
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, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.85

The double-spout vessel depicting a falcon is a funerary object from Peru’s Paracas peninsula. Many two-spouted vessels were musical devices that whistled when poured. Bird imagery is common in Paracas art, and music was also a crucial element of life, including in burial rituals, festivals, and ceremonial communications with ancestors. Since birds are among the most magisterial song makers in the animal kingdom, it seems fitting that a culture highly valuing music would also esteem an animal known for impressive sounds.

Bird calls play a major role in how birders learn to locate and learn about a bird’s life. Ashley noted that birds have the unique ability to sing two notes at once, since birds produce sounds from an organ called the syrinx, a two-sided voice box in their chest. According to author David Sibley, birds sing to communicate and mark territory. They can read their audience too, as they sing differently to mates than to rivals, and some species have over 200 songs in their repertoire. To find out more about bird behaviors, tune in to our Arts & Letters Live event with David Sibley, available now through July 28.

All three birders we interviewed spoke of the meditative aspect of birding, how it quiets the mind and fuels the spirit. The vast array of artistic depictions of birds, Nicole speculated, may reflect the dichotomy between the ubiquity of birds in our lives and their simultaneous mystery. “Birds are everywhere,” Nicole observed, “but there’s the dynamic that we don’t know everything about them. It’ll be a lifetime before you’re close to knowing everything about birds.” In a time when many people are aiming for social change, Nicole’s final observation struck me as a potent lesson to learn from the only surviving dinosaurs: “Birds are very resilient and very adaptable.” The intersection of nature and society also struck a note for me in one of Kassandra’s effusions about the pleasures of birding: “Birds can be unapologetically themselves without worrying about being judged.  We as humans can learn from them.”

Dr. Carolee Klimchock is a Program Manager for Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

Staff Picks: New Year, New Reading List

Do you have a New Year’s resolution to read more books? The Arts & Letters Live team is here to help you jump start your reading goal and keep you updated on exciting new releases. Check out the selections of authors and books we’re looking forward to hearing and reading in our upcoming 29th season. Take a moment to peruse Arts & Letters Live’s 2020 season and consider giving yourself or your favorite bookworms the memorable experience of hearing authors talk about their latest books and share insights about their creative process.

Carolyn Hartley, Administrative Coordinator
Erin Morgenstern, Tuesday, January 14
If you loved Morgenstern’s The Night Circus as much as I did, her highly anticipated second novel, The Starless Sea, will cast a spell on you from its very first page. An old book leads graduate student Zachary Ezra Rawlins on an epic quest to a vast underground library with the guidance of Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book will lead them on a path to a secret underground world with pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.  Things are never what they seem. Come to the event early to go on a mysterious tour to explore bees, keys, and swords in the DMA’s collection.

Carolyn Bess, Director, Arts & Letters Live
Tembi Locke, Tuesday, February 18
After hearing author, actor, and TEDx speaker Tembi Locke at the Texas Book Festival, I immediately invited her to share her poignant story of resilience with Arts & Letters Live audiences. Her new memoir is From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, both a New York Times bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick. It’s also being adapted into a Netflix series directed by Witherspoon. Locke’s story encompasses taking chances, finding love, and building a home away from home. She writes movingly and poetically about loss, grief, and the healing miracle of food, immersing readers in the beauty and simple pleasures of spending three summers in her husband’s hometown in Sicily.

Jennifer Krogsdale, Audience Relations Coordinator
Anne Enright, Tuesday, March 10
This season, one of the books I’m most excited to read is Anne Enright’s forthcoming novel Actress (to be released on March 3). According to the pre-publication publicity I’ve read, Enright’s latest book examines the delicate and intricate relationship between a mother and daughter. Norah is grappling with the long-kept secrets that shaped her once famous mother, Katherine, while also coming to terms with unnerving secrets about her own past and what she wants for her future. Intricate family dynamics, a passion for the arts, and a bizarrely committed crime—sounds like my cup of tea.

Lillie Burrow, McDermott Intern for Arts & Letters Live and Adult Programming
Erik Larson, Monday, March 30
This winter, DMA gallery attendants may report an intern lingering a little too often in the Winston Churchill gallery inside the Reves Collection, but the frequent visits will be in anticipation of Erik Larson’s newest nonfiction masterpiece, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. With a fastidiously researched narrative, Larson promises to deliver a fresh portrait of the famous leader, and I’m prepared to be bamboozled (again) into meticulously studying a significant historical event through the guise of an indulgent narrative. After re-binging two of my favorites, Devil in the White City and In the Garden of the Beasts, I’m eager for Larson to unveil Churchill’s secrets and to imagine myself as his confidante to the drama. So, spill the tea, Mr. Larson. I am ready to learn.

Michelle Witcher, Program Manager, Arts & Letters Live
Esther Safran Foer, Tuesday, April 14
I look forward to hearing Esther Safran Foer discuss her forthcoming memoir I Want You to Know We’re Still Here, a poignant account of growing up with parents who were Holocaust survivors, and how their unspoken anguish impacted her childhood. When Esther learns as an adult that her father had a previous wife and daughter who both perished during the Holocaust, she resolves to find out who they were. She travels to Ukraine armed with only an old photo and a hand-drawn map to re-create how her father managed to survive. Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum will be a promotional partner for this event, and touring their stunning new facility deeply affected me.

What to Look for When You’re in a Museum

The Inspired City, planned by the DMA’s literary series Arts & Letters Live, connects art, people, books, and ideas in creative ways, ignites curiosity, and offers unique experiences for all ages. On June 1, hear acclaimed authors talk about their latest books, meet them personally at book signings, and experience the DMA in new ways through interactive workshops and gallery walks led by authors, activities with artists, and more! All programs are FREE.

Rob Walker, author of The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday, will host a talk and tour at the DMA during this event. In his new book, he highlights a numbers of tips for enjoying your surroundings and stimulating creative thinking at an art museum. Here are some highlights to think about at your next museum visit:

PLAY “BUY, BURN, OR STEAL”*

  • Challenge yourself to examine all the works in a particular space and decide which of the artworks you’d be willing to buy, which one you despise so much you’d like to burn it, and which one you love so much you’d steal it.

CONDUCT AN UNRELATED ACTIVITY

  • Maybe it’s worth playfully accepting the notion of a museum as mere background, an environment we inhabit incidentally, as we do other spaces. At the DMA, we suggest walking and meditating. Come up with your own suitable physical and mental health regimens.

DISCOVER THE BIG WITHIN THE SMALL

  • Look carefully and seek out the humanity and the humor and absurdity in things.
  • Always be very curious and always be looking around.
  • Find the joy in wondering about a toilet paper roll or a coffee cup lid.

MAKE IT ART

  • Grant yourself the superpower of making “art” wherever you go, and see how that changes what you perceive. Art is everywhere, if you say so.

CHANGE IS TO COULD BE

  • Try your hand at conditional thinking: prime yourself to think in conditionals instead of absolutes—see something not for what it is, but what it could be.
  • Look for an answer instead of the answer, and see how you can shift and broaden your vision.

DON’T PHOTOGRAPH—DRAW

  • Suppose the next time you’re tempted to capture a snapshot of an appealing or interesting scene, you draw it instead?
  • Many people believe that they “can’t draw,” meaning that they’re not terribly good at drawing, or find trying to draw either frustrating or embarrassing. Be heartened that you don’t need to show your drawing to anyone!
  • Get yourself a cheap little notebook and pull it out the next time you’re tempted to reach for your phone. Draw one thing—just one! Then do it again. Fill your notebook.

* “Buy, Burn, Steal” concept courtesy of Museum Hack

Adapted from Rob Walker’sThe Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everydayby Valerie Chang, McDermott Intern for Adult Programming and Arts & Letters Live.

Join the Club! A Moveable Feast Series Preview

Today is National Read a Book Day! Have you been wanting to join a book club or wishing someone would curate a list of “must reads” for you? This month the DMA’s acclaimed literary series, Arts & Letters Live, kicks off a new initiative intended to build community through conversation, offering you another opportunity to take a deeper dive into books featured in the series. A Moveable Feast Book Club will feature four books over the next three months, allowing you to select any (or all) you would like to attend. We hope that by reading and sharing insights together a week or so before hearing the author speak, your experience will be richer and even more meaningful. Book Club events will take place in the DMA’s Founders Room, where participants can enjoy lunch while engaging in conversation with fellow bibliophiles.

The series kicks off on September 13 with Dr. Jaina Sanga, author and fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, leading a conversation about Texas Literary Hall of Fame author Sarah Bird’s tenth novel. Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is a historical novel depicting the story of slave-turned-soldier Cathy Williams, who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Civil War with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

Photo credit: Sarah Wilson

On October 9, Dr. Jaina Sanga will lead a discussion of MacArthur “Genius” grant winner Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing,a road novel through Mississippi’s past and present that explores the bonds of a family tested by racism and poverty. Ward became the first woman and the first person of color to win two National Book Awards for Fiction, joining the ranks of William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Philip Roth, and John Updike.

Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan

Debut novelist Fatima Farheen Mirza’s A Place for Us will be the topic of discussion on October 23, again led by Dr. Jaina Sanga. The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us is a deeply moving and resonant story of love, identity, and belonging, and a powerful portrait of what it means to be a Muslim American family today. Reviewers have described it as “absolutely gorgeous” and “stunning.” 

Photo credit: Gregg Richards

The final gathering, on November 20, will feature a discussion of Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States, moderated by Dr. Andrew R. Graybill, professor and chair in the department of history at Southern Methodist University, and co-director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies. History buffs will have an opportunity to dissect award-winning historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore’s magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation, and the beauty and tragedy of American history.

Photo credit: Dari Pillsbury

Michelle Witcher is the Program Manager for Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

What a year!

What a year 2017 was at the DMA! Below is a brief look back on some of our memorable moments.

January
The launch of the C3 Visiting Artist Project.
The DMA Teen Advisory Council organized and debuted their Disconnect to Reconnect program.
The launch of Sensory Scouts, a monthly program designed for teens and tweens on the autism spectrum.
The 26th season of DMA Arts & Letters Live kicked off on January 14 with Zadie Smith.
The DMA welcomed Anna Katherine Brodbeck as The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art.

February
The DMA launches its first ever crowdfunding campaign, Destination Dallas: Bringing México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde to Dallas, bringing in more than $100,000.
The DMA’s Speakeasy was the bee’s knees, celebrating the Shaken, Stirred, Styled: The Art of the Cocktail exhibition.

March
México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde opens at the DMA on March 12, presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the greats of Mexican modernism in Dallas.
The first of a total of 12 DMA Family Days launched on Sunday, March 26, with a total of 39,778 visitors on those days, with almost half being first-time visitors.

April
The 52nd Art Ball raises more than $1.3 million.
The DMA is proud to be the recipient of the second annual Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition Program, which included the addition of work by Justin Adian, Katherine Bradford, Andrea Galvani, Matthews Wong, and Derek Fordjour.
The Keir Collection of Islamic Art Gallery opens to the public, marking the largest public presentation of the collection to date.

May
Aruto’s Nest got a new look.
Visions of America: Three Centuries of Prints from the National Gallery of Art and Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion open, kicking off our summer fun.

June
Works of art centered around the idea of communication went on view in C3.
Twenty-four DISD students with vision impairment participated in the DMA’s first indoor touch tour of the Museum’s European sculptures.
Six hundred and fifty sleuths help solve our sixth annual Museum Murder Mystery evening.
President and Mrs. Bush explored México 1900–1950 with DMA Director Agustín Arteaga.

July
More than 1,000 people participated in our Guinness World Record attempt on what would have been Frida Kahlo’s 110th birthday during the DMA’s Frida Fest, with almost 6,000 visitors in attendance.
México 1900–1950 welcomed 125,894 visitors before it closed on July 16.
Visitors went gaga for our Iris van Herpen-themed Late Night featuring a Lady Gaga costume contest.

August
Guerrilla Girl Käthe Kollwitz discussed the groups iconic work during the August Late Night
The Junior Associates celebrated the last days of summer during their August 25 Kickoff Party.

September
The DMA celebrated the first anniversary of Agustín Arteaga’s tenure as The Eugene McDermott Director.
DMA Members got to be the first to step into infinity during two weeks of preview days for Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.
More than $17,000 was gifted to the DMA during North Texas Giving Day.
The Dallas Cultural Plan held a kickoff event at the DMA to help shape the future of arts and culture in Dallas.

October
Yayoi Kusama officially opened and immediately became an Instagram sensation.
Truth: 24 frames per second, the DMA’s first time-based media exhibition, opened.
TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, benefiting amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art, raised over $7.3 million.
It was Potter-mania during a spellbinding Second Thursday with a Twist.

November
The second annual Rosenberg Fête featured an evening themed around François Lemoyne’s The Bather from the Rosenberg Collection.
More than 7,000 visitors took part in our three-day Islamic Art Festival: The Language of Exchange celebrating the Keir Collection of Islamic Art.

December
Asian Textiles: Art and Trade Along the Silk Road goes on view in the Museum’s Level 3 gallery.
We traveled to a gallery far, far away during the final Second Thursday with a Twist inspired by Star Wars
The DMA reflects upon a year of amazing art, events, and visitors!

Arts & Letters Live Announces its 27th Season

Arts & Letters Live, the DMA’s signature literary and performing arts series, is excited to announce its 27th season of 25 events from January through June 2018! Ignite your curiosity and secure your seats now to hear award winners and icons in the fields of literature, music, visual art, poetry, happiness, and food.

Some of the headliners for the 2018 season include:

▪ Creator-producer-screenwriter of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, Daisy Goodwin

▪ Happiness researcher and bestselling author Shawn Achor, whose TED Talk has more than 16 million views

▪ Grammy Award–winning vocal ensemble Conspirare’s Dallas premiere performance of Considering Matthew Shepard

▪ Emmy Award–winning journalist and producer Maria Shriver

▪ Award-winning poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye, who will debut a new poem inspired by a work of her choice in the DMA’s collection and will juxtapose works from the collection with a live reading of her poetry

Two authors who have been on Arts & Letters Live’s wish list for years, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri and Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, will take part in the Distinguished Writers series. Jhumpa Lahiri will talk about her experience moving to Rome with her family, seeking full immersion in the Italian language—“a trial by fire, a sort of baptism.” Imagine being soaked in the art, language, and culture of Rome for an extended period of time, enjoying beautiful vistas of the Colosseum as seen here in Jean-Achille Benouville’s painting.

Jean-Achille Benouville, Colosseum Viewed from the Palatine, 1844, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt, Dr. and Mrs. George N. Aldredge, Jr., the Societe Generale, 1984.63

Many opportunities exist this season to connect art in the DMA’s collection with authors and books featured at Arts & Letters Live, both through pre-event tours and short story, poetry, and illustration workshops, often using works of art as inspiration for writing and drawing. On February 7, author Denise Kiernan will talk about her new nonfiction book The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, which explores the drama and tragic struggles of the famous Vanderbilt family inside the Biltmore House. This story features a captivating cast of real-life characters, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The pre-event tour will spotlight a beautiful console table that was once housed in the Vanderbilt mansion in New York City and other paintings and decorative arts of that era.

Vanderbilt Console, Herter Brothers, c. 1881–82, oak, marble, silverplate, and bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of an anonymous donor and the Friends of the Decorative Arts, 1996.213.a-e

Bestselling cookbook author, Emmy Award–winning television personality, and successful restaurateur Lidia Bastianich will talk about her heartwarming memoir My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food. Bastianich spent two years in a refugee camp before moving to the United States—a hugely formative experience in her life. You can enjoy a dinner featuring some of her favorite recipes before the event and hear her share stories about those dishes. Her vibrant personality and love of food call to mind one of my favorite still lifes in the DMA’s collection by Paul Cézanne.

Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Apples on a Sideboard, 1900–06, watercolor over pencil on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.12

Arts & Letters Live will delve further into the theme of immigration with a dynamic pairing of two award-winning authors, Luis Alberto Urrea and Francisco Cantú, who will explore the United States–Mexico border in fact and fiction. Cantú served for years as a US Border Patrol guard, and Urrea’s forthcoming novel, The House of Broken Angels, paints a vivid portrait of a complex family and reminds us what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. Dallas Nine artist William Lester’s painting The Three Crosses evokes for me the often tragic aspects of border crossings. The stark landscape with barbed wire is not Golgotha, but is recognizably Texas.

William Lester, The Three Crosses, 1935–36, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the New York World’s Fair Department of Contemporary Art, 1937.24, © The Estate of William L. Lester

 

To see a complete roster of the Arts & Letters Live 2018 season from January through June, visit DMA.org/all.

Carolyn Bess is the Director of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

 

Homer for the Holidays

They say there’s no place like home for the holidays, and here at the Museum, we’ve been excited about one of the oldest stories about going home: The Odyssey. On Wednesday, November 29, DMA Arts & Letters Live will host award-winning author Daniel Mendelsohn as he talks about his book An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic. Mendelsohn’s memoir shares what he learned from teaching his dad in a university course on Homer’s The Odyssey, reading and reliving this epic.

Thanks to the DMA’s wonderful collection of classical art, visitors can view Greek artworks related to Homer’s The Odyssey before Mendelsohn’s talk. Here are a few of our favorites.

Heroes

The star of The Odyssey, Odysseus, is not your typical hero. As Mendelsohn’s dad points out, Odysseus “lost all his men . . . is a liar . . . cheated on his wife . . . and without the gods [is] helpless” (Mendelsohn). However, classical heroes are not necessarily moral, but merely impressive people who fought well and died for honor. The DMA’s  funerary sculpture of a young man shows the Greek idea of a hero: a great man who died bravely in battle. This idealized nude figure at the prime of his life is memorialized in a military stance.

Figure of a young man from a funerary relief, Greek, Attic, c. 330 B.C.E., marble, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Cecil H. Green, 1966.26

Frenemies

The real prototype for a Greek hero is Achilles, the famed warrior of Homer’s epic The Iliad. We find Achilles fighting on this DMA black-figure panel amphora. Looking back to The Iliad, the interactions between Achilles and Odysseus are strained, even while they fight for the same side. Achilles tells Odysseus, “I hate . . . like the very Gates of Death [that man] who stoops to peddling lies” (as translated by Fagles). Since Odysseus uses tricks constantly, it makes sense that the two don’t get along.

Black-figure panel amphora, Greek; Attic, last quarter of 6th century B.C.E., ceramic, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1965.29.M

Seduction and Violence

The Odyssey illustrates the dangers of two timeless powers: love and death. Look inside this DMA kylix, or drinking bowl, and you’ll find a familiar face: a siren. The enchanting sirens are one of Odysseus’s obstacles, and they combine the two dangers of seduction and physical violence. Placed on the interior of this bowl, the image of the siren was likely meant to ward off evil.

Black-figure kylix, Attic, c. 550-530 B.C.E., ceramic with slip, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Bill and Jean Booziotis and Wendover Fund in honor of Pepecha Zarafonetis Booziotis, 2004.19

Immortality

Gold olive-leaf wreaths typically crowned athletes, influential politicians, or individuals who had died. When crowning dead bodies, as this DMA wreath likely did, the undying gold may have symbolized the hope that the fame of the individual would triumph in immortality. The desire for immortality was a frequent theme in Greek mythology. However, Odysseus is unique in that, when offered immortality from the goddess Calypso, he refuses it. For him, reaching home is more important than eternal life.

Wreath, Greek, 4th century B.C.E., gold, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum League Purchase Funds, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., and Cecil H. and Ida M. Green in honor of Virginia Lucas Nick, 1991.75.55

In Greek, the word nostos refers to a return trip home (fun fact: nostos + algos, which means grief or pain, is the root of nostalgia). Only a small portion of The Odyssey is considered a true telling of nostos, but the prevalence of nostos ballads shows that the Greeks definitely recognized the value of returns. Mendelsohn and his father seem to agree: while reaching the end can be complicated, there is something important about a journey back. Wherever you might be heading this winter, safe travels!

Tickets are still available to see Daniel Mendelsohn at the DMA on November 29! Join me that night for a pre-event tour as we take a closer look at Homer’s themes in the DMA’s Greek collection.

Kathleen Alva, McDermott Intern for Adult Programming and Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

 

Fabulous Fall with Bestselling Authors

When publishers vet book tour locations for someone with the caliber of international bestselling author Ken Follett, the well-established reputation of Arts & Letters Live, the DMA’s 27-years strong literary and performing arts series, is a huge benefit. Dallas is one of only three stops on Follett’s US tour, the other two being Boston and New York. Ken Follett will kick off the Fall 2017 season on September 14 at First United Methodist Church with a discussion of A Column of Fire, the third novel in his enthralling Kingsbridge Series. The first two novels in the series, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, have sold 38 million copies worldwide!

For those who yearn for the seemingly lost art of a well-crafted written letter in lieu of a quick email or text message, Seattle-based Letters Aloud presents an afternoon of real letters by real people, read by great actors with live musical accompaniment, on September 24. Letters Aloud’s mission is to connect audiences to famous (and infamous) historical figures through their intimate correspondence. As one fan said, “It’s like literary crack” and makes history come to life in surprising, inspiring, and hilarious ways. These dramatic readings will chart the course of celebrity through the correspondence of artistic luminaries like Stephen King, Jackson Pollock, Elvis Presley, Emily Dickinson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Vincent van Gogh, and Tom Hanks, to name a few.

Letters Aloud

Want the inside scoop on international bestselling author Dan Brown’s interest in codes, science, religion, and art and his creative process in writing chart-topping books and making blockbuster movies? On October 6 he takes the stage for the first time in Dallas to talk about all that and his newest novel, Origin, which has been hailed as his most brilliant and entertaining work to date. The novel opens with Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arriving at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” When the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, Langdon is forced to escape Bilbao. Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon uncovers clues that ultimately illuminate the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Bestselling author and acclaimed journalist Walter Isaacson joins us on October 26 to discuss Leonardo da Vinci, the biography of the famous artist that sets forth little known information about da Vinci’s life, connecting his art and science. Isaacson shows us how Leonardo’s genius stemmed from skills we can hone in ourselves—passionate curiosity, keen observation, a playful imagination, and being bold enough to think differently. Leonardo DiCaprio was recently slated to play the artist in the film adaptation after a heated bidding war between Paramount and Universal.

Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz landed on the DMA Arts & Letters Live roster after a Texas Book Festival colleague recommended that Arts & Letters Live have lunch with the national marketing director of Phaidon, who was in town for a conference. While chatting with our new Phaidon friends on the DMA’s Socca Cafe patio, we learned about the forthcoming book Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005–2016 and knew immediately that DMA audiences would adore hearing about this artist’s creative process and behind-the-scenes stories of all the famous people she has photographed. Leibovitz’s event with DMA Arts & Letters Live on November 14 is one of only five appearances slated worldwide.

To see the complete roster of Arts & Letters Live events and to purchase tickets, visit DMA.org/all

 

Carolyn Bess is Director of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.
Michelle Witcher is the Program Manager of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

Adventures with Stephen Tobolowsky

On April 18, Stephen Tobolowsky will return to the DMA Arts & Letters Live stage to celebrate the release of his second memoir, My Adventures with God. In preparation for his visit, I had the privilege of interviewing Stephen about his acting turned writing career and some of the things he learned along the way. His answers are insightful, relatable, and as always, humorous. From the aspiring artist to the admiring onlooker, Stephen offers advice, intentionally or not, for anyone interested in advancing his or her own path to success and level of self-awareness. So, what did I glean from our interchange, you might wonder? Well, as a young professional embarking on a long career ahead of me, this interview reminded me that I do not need to have all the answers, That I can trust my instincts, and that, even in times of doubt, I should cling to what gives me strength and a sense of what makes me, me. Below you can read just a snippet of our discussion and get a glimpse into what’s to come on the night of his much anticipated appearance at the DMA:

Sara: In this book, you continually return to Judaism as a kind of grounding force throughout the vicissitudes of your life. Can you speak broadly about how you understand the role of faith, religious or not, factoring into one’s lived experience?

Stephen: This is the question from which all questions come. We like to think that we are fixed quantities that move through time. We are not. We are equations with more than one unknown. I think this fundamental uncertainty about our existence is why we cling to things we feel are certain. Like science. Like art. It’s why people like cats. We are certain of their uncertainness.

The only protections we have from false prophets and the despair that grips us all at one time or another is beauty and in embracing a good philosophy. Judaism provides both.

We live in an age that popularly views religion as primitive and elevates science. I like science, even when it is wrong. I find the pursuit of answers inspirational. But for my money, I don’t care how smart Steven Hawking is or how interesting a black hole may be, if he doesn’t understand the Holiness code of Leviticus, not to curse the deaf nor put an obstacle before the blind, it doesn’t add up to much.

Judaism is a layer cake built over thousands of years. The different layers reflect that age’s relationship to truth. In some ages, it was popular to think that truth can be known. You end up with the Ten Commandments. In other ages, it was popular to think the truth was hidden. You end up with mystical works like the Zohar and the Midrash. There are very few creations of man that have existed through so many conflicting times and have survived so many hardships. The wisdom embodied in Judaism has endured. The philosophy in a nutshell? From Hillel over two thousand years ago: “What is hateful to you do not do unto your fellow man. The rest is commentary. Go and study.”

To read the entire interview, you can visit Stephen’s website, where he posted the exchange in two parts: Part I and Part II. The Museum is excited to welcome Stephen back to DMA Arts & Letters Live, so go grab a copy of My Adventures with God in the DMA Store and join us for an evening full of inquisitive minds, entertaining anecdotes, and rip-roaring laughter.

Sara Beth Greenberg is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Adult Programming and Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

Genre Bending

Walter De Maria

“Every good work of art should have at least ten meanings,” remarked Walter de Maria, one of the major figures in the history of Minimal, Conceptual, Installation, and Land, in 1974. One thing I admire about his work is how complex and multifaceted it is (literally and figuratively); it invites us as viewers to hold in mind a few ideas at once and to consider it from a variety of perspectives.

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, January 18 to do exactly that, and to celebrate the DMA’s recent co-acquisition with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art of Large Rod Series: Circle/Rectangle 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 by De Maria at a DMA Arts & Letters Live event.

Top: author Geoff Dyer Bottom: DMA curator Gavin Delahunty

Top: author Geoff Dyer
Bottom: DMA curator Gavin Delahunty

This Artful Musings event will feature senior curator Gavin Delahunty who organized the Walter De Maria: Counterpoint installation and will provide an overview of the artist, his work, and importance; award-winning author Geoff Dyer who has written about De Maria’s work in his newest book White Sands; and percussionist Stockton Helbing, who will perform some of the artist’s rare musical compositions.

After 5:00 p.m., you can linger in the installation before it goes off view on January 22 — it’s the perfect opportunity in a quieter setting to experience the artist’s work. As Caitlin Haskell notes in her catalogue essay, “it takes time to come to know them.” There is rich resonance between El Greco’s painting of Saint Francis Kneeling in Meditation (1605-1610, on loan from the Meadows Museum) and De Maria’s sculpture. The juxtaposition of these two works creates a rich meditation on the themes of minimalism, mathematics, progression, and sensory perception.

Walter De Maria, Counterpoint

Walter De Maria: Counterpoint, 2016

Shortly after 7:00 p.m., percussionist Stockton Helbing will perform of one of De Maria’s musical compositions, with Gavin Delahunty’s and Geoff Dyer’s insights and conversation kicking off at 7:30 p.m. Dyer will then sign copies of his books, and Delahunty will sign copies of the newly published exhibition catalogue.

demaria-jackets-05

Both artist and author defy easy classification or categorization in their respective fields. De Maria was a painter, sculptor, illustrator, and composer. The New Yorker calls Dyer “a restless polymath and an irresistibly funny storyteller. . . . adept at fiction, essay, and reportage, but happiest when twisting all three into something entirely his own.”

Dyer’s newest book, White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World, showcases his series of fascinating adventures and pilgrimages across the globe. They range from searching for Gauguin’s notion of exotic paradise in Tahiti to nearly freezing and being trampled by a dog sled on a quest to see the Northern Lights. Weaving stories about recent travels with images and memories from his childhood, Dyer tries to discern what a certain place and, like De Maria, what a certain way of marking a landscape, means; he explores the power and attraction that certain places hold and what we seek in them.

My favorite chapter in White Sands is the one in which Dyer, his wife, and friends experience De Maria’s The Lightning Field in western New Mexico, where the only way to visit is to reserve a cabin on the property and stay overnight, allowing you to experience the 400 rods in at various times of day and in varying degrees of sunlight.  Reading it made me want to prioritize this as my next road trip.

Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, Quemado, New Mexico

Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, Quemado, New Mexico

For those who want to delve further into this topic and artist, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Walter De Maria in his own words about his land art installations as part of a free film screening of The Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art on Saturday, January 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the DMA. Explore Arts & Letters Live’s lineup of more than 30 events over the next six months here.

Carolyn Bess is the Director of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.


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