Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

The Barrel Vault’s New Look

Haute couture heaven has arrived at the DMA, and it’s here for fashionistas to feast their eyes on throughout the summer. From the moment you enter Dior: From Paris to the World, there is no shortage of “wow” moments around every corner—luxurious vintage looks dating back to the 1940s, impeccably white toiles hanging high under a mirrored ceiling, a cathedral-like wall displaying dresses worn by iconic celebrities—all of which are made even more magnificent by the space in which they are presented.

If you’ve visited the Museum some months ago, you may remember the last presentation that was held in the Barrel Vault, An Enduring Legacy. From then to now, the space has completely transformed. See for yourself:

Installation photo of An Enduring Legacy: The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Collection of Impressionist and Modern Art
Installation photo of Dior: From Paris to the World, courtesy of James Florio

To gain some behind-the-scenes insights about the making of this exhibition, I asked Skye Malish-Olson, Exhibition Designer, and Jaclyn Le, Senior Graphic Designer, some questions about what it was like working on this show.

How does Dior compare to other DMA exhibitions you’ve worked on?
Skye: This was different from other exhibitions, where the whole team is DMA staff. In my role as designer, typically I work directly with representatives of each DMA department and with the curator to understand their vision in order to translate it to a physical exhibition presentation. In this case, designers from OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture) created the experience of the space in collaboration with Dior. OMA also designed the exhibition for the Denver Art Museum (DAM), the show’s previous venue, but they designed a very different experience for each institution because the architecture of the two museums is so different. One thing that was important was that visitors would move from one gallery to the next in a prescribed path, not the open-ended grid of galleries that our Barrel Vault and Quads typically provide. To create this pathway, while using the full height of the existing architecture, OMA totally changed the space with a full architectural intervention, re-imagining the physical possibilities of this gallery.

Jaclyn: I had to make sure that all environmental graphics and wayfinding were consistent throughout all locations of the exhibition. Dior is also different from other exhibitions I’ve worked on because I typically create the exhibition identity and environmental graphics for our exhibitions in collaboration with the curator and our internal team. In this case, I worked with Dior’s identity, OMA’s concept direction, and design assets from DAM, and many more stakeholders were involved in the approval of all the exhibition and interpretive graphics.

Were there any aspects of this exhibition that you worked on most?
Skye: I worked between OMA’s concept, our internal team, and external fabricators and contractors to help make this conceptual vision a physical reality. With our DMA team leading the planning process, it was a big challenge to pull this off with so many stakeholders in multiple locations. It was a truly ambitious design that required a lot of troubleshooting and multiple rounds of specifying materials.

Jaclyn: Following OMA’s concepts and some of the exhibition graphics from DAM, and working with our internal team, I was involved in all of the components of the exhibition environmental graphics and interpretation graphics. Everything from handling the Concourse mural of Christian Dior’s sketches, manipulating the façade design of Dior’s Atelier Design House to fit the arched entrance to our exhibition, and designing the headers for each gallery, the exhibition map, wayfinding, and labels and identification numbers. It took a lot of coordination between the various teams and vendors, and taking mock-ups of all the designs into the galleries to get a feel for how all the graphics would play in the space.

What was the biggest challenge in the exhibition graphic design or in transforming this space?
Skye: With all of the complex and impressive design elements, the biggest challenge actually turned out to be the lighting. Each piece needs to be properly lit from multiple angles, something that needed to be built in to the infrastructure, especially in places with high ceilings or in recessed areas.

Jaclyn: The biggest challenge was probably the Concourse mural of Christian Dior’s historic sketches. It was challenging because I was working with scans of his beautiful drawings, and I wanted to keep their organic quality when reproducing them as larger-than-life graphics. Our Concourse walls are long and angled, and I had to make sure that the layout of dresses fit nicely down the length of the Concourse.

Which is your favorite room or section of the show?
Jaclyn: I really love the Creative Director galleries. Each creative director had such a distinct vision and I enjoy seeing their inspirations, mood boards, sketches, and completed works all together and showcased in such a beautiful way.

Skye: My favorite space is the Office of Dreams. I love the simple, clean construction of the space, which mirrors the clean construction of the toiles. Seeing the handwork that designed these incredible garments in three dimensions creates such a direct connection to the artful process of their creation.

Images courtesy of James Florio

Any other hidden gems or interesting tidbits about this space?
Skye: The top 40 feet of mirror at the back of the Barrel Vault is actually a stretched mirror fabric that is incredibly lightweight.

Describe this space in three words.
Jaclyn: Innovative, magnificent, magical.
Skye: Transformed, complex, impressive.

Visitors can be dazzled by Dior: From Paris to the World at the DMA now through September 1. Timed tickets are required for all visitors and must be purchased or reserved in advance. Check out our FAQ page for more information, and we hope you enjoy the show!

Hayley Caldwell is the Copy and Content Marketing Writer at the DMA.

Get to Know C3 Visiting Artist Karla Garcia

The C3 Visiting Artist Project is back again for 2019 with three artists from across North Texas: Karla Garcia, Spencer Evans, and the Denton-based artist collective Spiderweb Salon. Over the course of the year, we’ll be chatting with the artists to dive into the process and methodologies behind their projects presented in the Center for Creative Connections.

Our first artist of the year is Karla Garcia. Garcia’s project for C3, Carrito de Memorias (Cart of Memories), utilizes an interactive “food” cart, designed and constructed by the artist with resources at the University of North Texas Fabrication Lab. Using handmade papers, Karla invites visitors to consider our memories associated with identity, roles, and traditions when making and sharing food. We interviewed Garcia to learn more about her practice and processes as an artist. Check it out below, and visit her project in the Center for Creative Connections through the end of April!

Tell us about yourself.
I am an artist, an educator, a mother, and an MFA candidate at the University of North Texas (UNT). I am originally from the border city of Juarez, Chihuahua, where I spent my formative years before moving to El Paso, Texas. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Graphic Design from the University of Texas in El Paso, and later moved to Dallas, where I currently reside. My current practice explores the concept of home and is based on the years when I moved from Mexico to the United States.

Tell us a little about past projects that led you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project.
After being accepted into the Museum Education program at UNT, part of our curriculum was to research and collaborate with fellow classmates to create education programs for various audiences at museums. I was able to do my internship at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, where I worked with the Interpretation and Public Programs fields of the Education Department. One of my responsibilities was to set up an art cart for a few hours on Fridays. I talked to visitors about the processes of art making that were relevant to the exhibitions on display and assisted in an interactive activity for the Gabriel Dawe piece Plexus #34. My supervisor and mentor Peggy Speir was invaluable in this experience as she designed a type of loom that was used for visitors to explore the same technique that Dawe used for his large-scale artworks. I enjoyed that type of interaction, where I got to learn about the visitors’ personal lives through conversation as they learned about the artist, the museum’s collection, and processes of art making. This led me to create an art cart activity for a Louise Nevelson piece, Lunar Landscape, by painting blocks of wood black to be used to form compositions and explore the artist’s creative process. These activities inspired me to design my own art cart titled Carrito de Memorias (Cart of Memories), where I explore ways of creating an engaging activity to enable the public to connect to artworks from the DMA’s collection and connect to other people through the display of the community’s personal experiences.

Tell us about the installation you’ve created in the Center for Creative Connections.
I wanted to create an art cart inspired by the history of ancient Mexico and the food carts I visited when growing up in Juarez. To me, a food cart is not only a place where food is easily accessible, but also a type of neutral space where people from all social backgrounds gather. I wanted to create this same inviting feeling for the C3 space, but rather than offering food, we are asking visitors questions that relate to the DMA’s collection regarding tradition, identity, and roles. It is a difficult thing to ask people you don’t know about their personal views, or asking them to share a memory. In my research, I have found that street food is an extension of our kitchen space. We form our traditions around food, and our families’ oral histories are passed on to us during holidays and personal celebrations, and even through daily routines. The cart became this extension of our personal spaces in our homes where everyone is welcome to share their stories. The menu on the tables around the cart have three options relating to gender roles, identity, and traditions. There are three artworks from the collection with a description that matches these categories. I’m thrilled to read everyone’s answers and see their drawings. With these, I will create sculptures that embody the public’s collective memories.

Join Karla Garcia for a Gallery Talk on Wednesday, March 20, from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. Gallery Talks are included in free general admission. You can participate in an art-making activity related to the Carrito de Memorias installation in C3 at the FREE 2019 AVANCE Latino Street Fest / DMA Family Festival at Klyde Warren Park on Sunday, April 7, beginning at noon.

Kerry Butcher is the Education Coordinator for the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

The Making of “Teen Renaissance”

When the DMA Teen Advisory Council (TAC) re-convened for this year’s session, we started our first brainstorming exercise with the question we ask ourselves every year: what do we want the Dallas Museum of Art to be for teens? While the answer we ultimately arrive at takes a different form, the teens always think of inventive new ways to create a space for their peers.

A Teen Advisory Council meeting in session

This year, the conversation revolved around teen artists. Council members know that young people in DFW have a lot to say, and use their talents to express their ideas. To give these talented artists a space to be heard and recognized, TAC decided to launch Teen Renaissance, a new student art exhibition inspired by the innovation and unique perspectives of their generation.

In developing the open call, TAC settled on the theme of “Your Personal Lens,” inviting teens to submit artworks that shared their interpretations of the world. A whopping 195 students submitted their artwork for consideration, representing more than 15 different schools around the Metroplex.

TAC members making curatorial decisions for the Teen Renaissance art installation

While narrowing down so many submissions was difficult, TAC specifically looked for artworks that could speak to each other. We looked at all the submissions together, finding common themes and works that would be cohesive when viewed together. The council went through three rounds of elimination before deciding on the final 15 works on view at the Museum.


TAC members discussing and planning for Teen Renaissance

So how do teens see the world? This year’s Teen Renaissance shows us that being a teen is a lot about what’s happening on the inside as young people start creating a place for themselves in the world. For many teens, their personal lens is their cultural heritage, and how multiple identities merge and balance to create a unique individual. For others, their personal lens is the complicated journey of growing up, finding a world view that’s authentic to them, and creating meaningful relationships with others.

Join the Teen Advisory Council on Saturday, March 16 for Your Personal Lens, an all-day celebration of the exhibition and teen talent throughout Dallas!

Teen Renaissance is now on view through March 28, 2019, on Mezzanine 2, next to the Mayer Library.

Jessica Thompson-Castillo is the Manager of Teen Programs at the DMA.

Piecing Together “Ida O’Keeffe”

Too obscure to be acquired by major museums during the artist’s lifetime, Ida O’Keeffe’s artworks ended up in some interesting places. Sue Canterbury—curator of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow and The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art—spent more than four years tracking down information about Ida, Georgia O’Keeffe’s younger sister. She gleaned information from archives across the country and from passing mentions in Georgia’s biographies, but along the way big and small contributions from strangers provided key pieces to the puzzle.

Michael Stipe, the musician best known as the lead singer of R.E.M., approached a DMA curator at an event in New York City and said he heard the Museum was organizing an exhibition on Ida O’Keeffe. Well, he had a photograph of Ida by Alfred Stieglitz.

Alfred Stieglitz, Ida O’Keeffe, 1924, gelatin silver print, Collection of Michael Stipe

Whirl of Life (1936) is owned by a woman who lives in New Mexico, but her sister lives in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. She heard about the DMA’s plans, called her sister, and, according to Canterbury, said something along the lines of “Hey, you know that painting you have in your closet?”

The owners of Black Lilies (1945) and Portrait of a Banana Tree (c. 1942) are sisters from Whittier, California, where Ida spent the last 19 years of her life. One of the sisters took painting lessons from Ida, and the artist was a close friend of the family.

Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow, installation view, Dallas Museum of Art, on view November 18, 2018–February 24, 2019

Aside from finding paintings, it was also critical to gather biographical information in order to create a timeline of the artist’s life and get a sense of her personality. There wasn’t any anecdotal evidence of what Ida was like as a teenager. Then, one day, a man messaged Sue to share that his great aunts were Ida’s classmates at Chatham Hall in Virginia, where she went to high school, and he had letters that described what a popular girl she was—a member of the basketball team, tennis team, and glee club. Canterbury had no idea where Ida was during the 1937–38 academic year, until a woman called to say her mother rented out a bedroom in New York City that year to Ida O’Keeffe.

And then there are the lighthouses . . . 

In 2013 Canterbury was visiting the home of a collector in Dallas when she noticed an abstract painting of a lighthouse. She considered the work very strong but couldn’t identify the artist. She asked the collector, who replied, “Ida O’Keeffe,” and Canterbury was stunned. Thus began the five-year quest to collect information on an ignored O’Keeffe sister with the hope of mounting the museum exhibition that Ida never got in her lifetime.

Based on documents, Canterbury knew that Ida had completed seven paintings of the Highland Lighthouse in Massachusetts. By 2016 she had located five. The two missing lighthouses she only knew from descriptions: one, a realistic depiction, was the first one Ida executed, and the other was an abstracted depiction in red. Out of the blue, she got a call from celebrity jewelry designer Neil Lane. He had the red lighthouse painting, which he had purchased at a flea market in Los Angeles around 25 years ago.

Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme VI, c. 1931–32, oil on canvas, Collection of Neil Lane

Even though the exhibition has opened, new information is still trickling in. Canterbury expected that would happen and she encourages people to reach out, especially if they own an excellent painting of a certain Cape Cod lighthouse.

See Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow at the DMA through February 24, 2019.

Lillian Michel is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

DMA Online Collection: An Inside Look (Part I)

As the Dallas Museum of Art’s Digital Collections project comes to a close at the end of December, we’re taking a look back at the important work the Digital Collections Content Coordinators (D3Cs) have undertaken over the past three years, including writing, researching, gathering, compiling, and condensing information for over 5,000 individual objects. Their end result is an online collection that takes advantage of its digital format. Unlike the physical limitations of the DMA galleries, the online collection promotes three unique learning opportunities:

  1. Connecting the dots—linking objects and narratives across collections or disciplines.
  2. Deep dives—providing detailed information about one or more objects in texts that far exceed typical wall labels.
  3. Hidden gems—highlighting works that are rarely on view or risk being overlooked in the galleries.

We’ve asked each D3C to recount some of the insights she accumulated on the job.

Jennifer Bartsch-Allen, Decorative Arts and Design, 2016-2018

jennifer allen
Hidden gem:
Although I’ve researched a variety of works across the Decorative Arts and Design Collection, the bulk of my last two years was focused on the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. This enabled me to draw attention to furniture, including a Baroque cabinet by Pierre Gole. In the gallery, the cabinet remains closed and distant. Online, however, the high-res photos show the drawers in multiple positions and give close-ups of signatures and surfaces. Supplemental essays include biographies of the collectors and definitions of some of the specialized terms.

baroque cabinetCabinet on stand, Pierre Gole, Paris (?), France, 1660–80, wood, ivory, tortoiseshell, shell, and gilt bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.573.a-c

Deep dives:
One of my favorite eras is 20th-century design, so I thoroughly enjoyed exploring works featured in the Museum’s South Gallery. At first glance, Peter Muller-Munk’s relatively modest Normandie shape pitcher appears straightforward and functional. However, it becomes much more impressive and influential after reading about its context in American streamlined design.

pitcherNormandie shape pitcher, Peter Muller-Munk, Rome, New York, 1935, chrome-plated brass, Dallas Museum of Art, 20th Century Design Fund, 1996.27

Similarly, the historical references in René Jules Lalique’s glass vases become easier to identify once you recognize the popularity of neoclassical imagery at the time. Several, including the Denaides vase, rely on these mythological motifs while simultaneously embodying the early 20th century’s Art Deco movement.

vaseDanaides vase, René Jules Lalique, Lalique et Cie, Cristallerie, Wingen-sur-Moder, France, c. 1926, molded glass, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Steinberg, 2004.48.5

Heather Bowling, Classical Art, Contemporary Art, and Decorative Arts and Design, 2016-2018

heather

Deep dives:
Throughout the course of this project, I have enjoyed learning more about contemporary art and decorative arts and design, but it was fun to return to my classical roots and do some original research on a 2nd century CE portrait bust. The DMA’s Roman portrait head of a young woman joins an array of Roman portraits that reflect ideas about gender roles in the ancient world. Spoiler alert: portraits of modest, fertile, upper-class women were created largely to boost the public stature of the men in their lives. Additionally, elaborate hairstyles of wealthy Roman women imitated favored empresses and indicated the wearer’s high status, not unlike today’s celebrities.

roman headPortrait head of a young woman, Roman, 2nd century CE, marble,
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, 2016.36

Accessioned just three years after its creation, Cathedral is the cornerstone of contemporary art at the DMA and one of the first Pollock drip paintings to enter any museum collection in the world. Because this work is so prolific, I had to wade through a substantial amount of scholarship to create a concise description that answers the question you may be asking yourself: why is throwing paint on a canvas a big deal?

paint canvasJackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas,
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis, 1950.87, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Hidden gems:
In the galleries it would be easy to pass by this minuscule scarab beetle, but online you can zoom in and inspect each side. Although initially there was no information available about the inscription on its underside, extensive research of Egyptian amulets revealed exactly how it afforded the deceased special protection in the journey to the afterlife.

scarabScarab, Egyptian, 1785–1550 BCE, faience, Dallas Museum of Art, given in memory of Jerry L. Abramson by his estate, 2009.25.4

Connecting the dots:
Alongside my work in the Contemporary and Classical Art departments, researching modern design and postmodern design illuminated the intersection of ancient and contemporary objects, and gave me a new appreciation for how an encyclopedic museum collection can demonstrate the connections between different places and times.

Stay tuned for Part II, coming next week. Meet the other half of our D3C team and discover more insights into our collection!

Some Assembly Required

Have you ever wandered through the galleries at the DMA and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder how they got this huge sculpture up those steps?” or “Wow! I bet it was really hard to hang that giant painting!” If you have, this post is for you! In one of the DMA’s newest installations, Women + Design: New Works, there are several pieces that required significant effort on the part of the DMA’s Collections team to install. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos and fun facts from the installation process, and visit the Museum to see these works in person—and for FREE—now through Sunday, February 17, 2019, in the Mary Noel and Bill Lamont Gallery.

Iris 3Objects Conservator Fran Baas adjusts the laser-cut polyester lace on Iris van Herpen’s Voltage Dress.

Najla 1A team of preparators works on lowering the two pieces of Najla El Zein’s Seduction onto the platform. Each piece of the sculpture weighs approximately 1,500 pounds and needs to be moved with a gantry crane. The lower stone was placed first, and then the upper stone had to be carefully lowered onto it.

Mobile 1Fran Baas, Lance Lander, and Mike Hill review the instructions for assembling Faye Toogood’s Tools for Life Mobile 2. Because the components of the mobile are heavy, the team had to know exactly what to do to minimize unnecessary handling.

Mobile 2Mike Hill and John Lendvay work to assemble Tools for Life Mobile 2 as it hangs from the ceiling.

DougDoug Velek takes measurements for the two pieces of jewelry by Katie Collins. Prior to installing the work, the preparators made the wedges and lifts used to display the jewelry in the exhibition. After confirming that the necklaces were centered on the wedge, preparators used pins to secure them in place.

SS and RSCurator Sarah Schleuning and preparator Russell Sublette discuss the placement of the three stools by Faye Toogood.

Katie Province is an Assistant Registrar for Collections and Exhibitions at the DMA.

It’s in the Family: The Impact of a Handmade Dress

Working in an exciting place like the Center for Creative Connections (C3), I get to have conversations with visitors about how works of art can conjure specific memories that we pack away in our brains. So in May, when C3 had the idea for an open call for DMA staff to submit their own personal objects and accessories to be on view in the gallery, it felt like discovering buried treasures. What began as an employee’s small, digitally submitted story evolved into a captivating display of objects on view, many with rich family histories.

Jessica Kyle, who has worked at the DMA as the Donor Communications & Operations Specialist since January 2018, submitted several childhood dresses handmade by her grandmother Betty Jo Kyle in 1994. Jessica’s family flew her grandmother in from California a few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to chat with them about the dress and the lasting influence it has had on Jessica throughout her life.

001

Betty Jo Kyle and granddaughter Jessica Kyle

Betty Jo, by practice, is a cross-stitcher. The oldest of eight siblings, she refined her sewing practice by creating doll clothes from scrap fabrics—a skill she learned from her mother, although she admits she didn’t reach her level of skill. “Even in high school, we had sewing, but it was all basics,” she recalls. “So, by me sewing, the teacher would say, ‘Well, you just do what you want to do.’ She didn’t teach me anything else. I could have learned more if she had. She mostly just taught the kids who couldn’t get a stitch or hem in.”

Initially, Betty Jo’s grandchildren were all boys, so it didn’t lend much for clothing creation, particularly dresses. It wasn’t until Jessica was born that she had the desire to make dresses she would see in magazines. She even often made matching dresses for Jessica’s Barbie dolls. “I remember receiving the clothes that my grandma would make, and I would be so excited. I would be like, ‘Ooh, I have custom-made clothes in my closet!’ Even as a four year old, I can remember that.” Jessica says with a smile. “It’s funny, when you’re younger, you don’t realize how meaningful and important these types of things are to the family legacy. When you become an adult you really appreciate all these creations.”

These days, with her grandchildren grown up, Betty Jo focuses more on cross-stitching than dressmaking, but she still hangs on to her now-vintage sewing machine of decades past—an artwork in itself, as Jessica puts it. For Jessica, the summers she spent learning to cross-stitch with her grandmother in Compton, California, were transformative in how she sees herself as an artist and painter today. “It showed me that if you put the time in, and care for all those little details, you create a true work of art. It taught me to appreciate the whole process.”

See Jessica’s childhood dress and learn about other personal objects and accessories from DMA staff and the Museum’s collection on view until December 10 in the front gallery of the Center for Creative Connections.

Kerry Butcher is the Center for Creative Connections Education Coordinator at the DMA.


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