Archive for the 'works of art' Category

One Way of Looking at a Mola

The Guna people live in an autonomous region of coastal Panama. The molaa blouse with appliqué panels on the front and back—is one of the most recognizable Guna art forms.  Guna women devote hours daily to making molas together while they converse about their craft. This social context of production reinforces a shared set of aesthetic principles, including symmetry, contrast, and evenly distributed detail.[1] Well-made molas are admired and copied by others.

This brightly colored mola features birdlike figures rowing boats. Velvety sleeves and rick-rack trim elevate the sumptuous detail of the appliqué panels. There are many ways—cultural, historical, and economic—to approach these intricate works. For now, let’s look closer at this mola to understand its key aesthetic attributes.

Symmetry: Imagine drawing a line from the center of one side of either panel straight across to the other side. The top half and the bottom half of the panel would mirror each other—with minor variations on either side. You would discover the same effect if you drew a line down the center of the blouse. This mola is symmetrical in quarters.

Duality: This blouse features near identical panels on the front and back. Guna women often make molas in pairs. This practice, along with the symmetry that governs individual panels, relates to the Guna belief that every living being has a double.[2] However, Guna women are not wedded to cosmology. They are artists who explore aesthetic convention and respond to market conditions. Women sometimes tear apart blouses to sell individual molas, thus interrupting the ability of their objects to reflect the cultural value of duality.

Stitches: Small, evenly spaced concealed stitches are also a hallmark of prized molas. While some stitches are visible in a close-up of this blouse, they are light in color, small, and evenly spaced and do not detract from the quality of the mola.

Contrast: Pay attention to the range of colors in this detail. Notice the red shapes over an area of blue and an area of green. Layers of bright contrasting colors articulate the shapes of this mola.

Filler motif: Guna women aim to create molas with little empty space. This technique leads to a cohesive composition while highlighting technical expertise. Guna artists have developed varieties of “filler motif”—small, simple repeated shapes—to cover spaces between main compositional elements. Filler motifs can be made from small circles, triangles, or, as we see here, slits called tas-tas.[3] The slits extend over the boats and figures to create an especially cohesive composition.

It can be tempting to interpret unattributed Indigenous art as a direct transmission of a unique—often exoticized— culture. While a cultural framework is key to interpreting Guna art forms, close looking reveals how women’s aesthetic choices also inform the production of molas.


[1] Mari Lyn Salvador  and Vernon Salvador, Yer dailege! Kuna women’s art. (Albuquerque, NM: Maxwell  Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, 1978)

[2] Michel Perrin and Deke Dusinberre. Magnificent Molas: the Art of the Kuna Indians (Paris: Flammarion, 1999), 45.

[3] Diana Marks, Molas Dress, Identity, Culture ( Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2016)

Madeleine Aquilina, Michigan Summer Intern for Latin American Art, PhD Candidate in History of Art at University of Michigan

It’s All in the Family: The Earles in “Spirit Lodge”

For over a thousand years, Caddo peoples lived, traded goods, made art, and grew crops in communities clustered around rivers in present-day Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. They, like other Mississippian peoples, constructed earthen mounds that marked and shaped their landscape for political and ceremonial purposes. You can visit and learn more about three of those mounds at the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in East Texas.

Colonization and colonialism dealt blow after blow to the Caddo, with epidemic diseases, forced removals to reservations, and the boarding school system all threatening the continuation of knowledge within Caddo communities. Many traditions survived through the concerted efforts of Caddo knowledge keepers, and others, though disrupted, have now been revived and revitalized through the work of contemporary artists and other cultural practitioners.

Among those artists are brothers Chad “Nish” Earles and Chase Kahwinhut Earles and their father, Wayne “Tay Sha” Earles, all of whom have artworks featured in Spirit Lodge: Mississippian Art from Spiro (on view through August 7, 2022).

Tah-nah-hah “Buffalo,” Chad “Nish” Earles, Caddo, 2018. Acrylic on maple skateboard deck

Academic and professional experience in art and graphic design, a background in graffiti art, and deep engagement with Caddo history and traditions have all shaped Chad’s art. These varied influences are visible in his piece in Spirit Lodge, Tah-Nah-Hah “Buffalo, a hand-painted skateboard deck featuring his characteristic bold lines and creative use of negative space.

Horse tripod vessel (Deé-Tumbah Kah’-Wis), Chase Kahwinhut Earles, Caddo, 2015. Ceramic. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 2018.12

Chase’s Batah Kuhuh alligator gar fish effigy bottle, acquired by the DMA in 2020, welcomes visitors into the exhibition. After its acquisition, Chase and Dr. Michelle Rich, the DMA’s Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas, had a conversation about his ceramic practice, which can be found here.

When you enter Spirit Lodge’s galleries, you’ll find not one, not two, but three additional works by Chase—two more of his ceramic vessels and one collaboration with Muscogee painter Starr Hardridge. The intricately incised designs on many of Chase’s pieces, as seen on Deé-Tumbah Kah’-Wis above, reflect his own spin on motifs used by pre-contact Caddo potters. Jeri Redcorn, the Caddo pottery revivalist, helped him start working in uniquely Caddo styles.

Inspiration isn’t only flowing from the older generations to the younger though—while Wayne had loved art since he was a child, his interest in stone carving was sparked by going to art shows with his sons (and some encouragement from Chase and Chad!). The stunning ceremonial weaponry featured in the exhibition is a testament to his rapid mastery of the art form. And there’s an extra layer of family connections—Wayne’s ceremonial mace shares a title with Chad’s skateboard deck, and his monolithic axe—like Chase’s effigy bottle—is in the shape of a gar fish.

Left: Ceremonial mace (Tah’-nah-ha—Buffalo), Wayne “Tay Sha” Earles, Caddo, 2018. Stone. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 2019.34.1
Right: Monolithic axe (P-i-ta-u-ni-wan’-ha—To Have Power), Wayne “Tay Sha” Earles, Caddo, 2018. Stone. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 2019.34.2

Join us for the Late Night event on March 25 to see Chad along with the Caddo Culture Club exhibiting traditional Caddo dances, Chase demonstrating his potting, and many other artists and knowledge keepers sharing their expertise. And of course, come experience the Earles family’s incredible art in person in Spirit Lodge: Mississippian Art from Spiro!

Becca Merriman-Goldring is the McDermott Intern for Arts of the Americas at the DMA.

Behind the Scenes: Installing Senga Nengudi’s “Water Composition I”

Influenced by Black cultural traditions and Japanese Gutai, artist Senga Nengudi’s work synthesizes multiple ideas circulating in the 1960s and 1970s: feminist practice, the role of materiality, and the relationship between activation, viewership, and performance. In her sculpture Water Composition I, currently on view in Slip Zone, Nengudi encloses colored water in plastic, creating a body-like form.

Senga Nengudi, Water Composition I, 1969-1970/2019, heat-sealed vinyl and colored water, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund

We asked Senior Preparator and IPM Coordinator Mary Nicolett what stood out to her about her experience installing this abstract work. Here’s what she had to say:

First priority upon being approached to work with Fran Baas, Interim Chief Conservator, on the Nengudi was sourcing two 2-gallon jugs for filling the piece. 

Once that had been done, we set about opening the contents of the packing tube. There I found a beautiful rope, tubing and funnels, pre-filled dye containers with pre-measured amounts, and of course the plastic “bags.” Also included, and very important, was the template for placement! We were able to figure out exactly where on the platform the piece would go, and it detailed the exact pinpointed location of each PVC bag including position of the heat-sealed-seam. 

It took a while to truly understand the tubing and funnel system. What I wasn’t prepared for was how exquisitely this PVC bags where packed, in order of installation, one by one. Preparators often wish for things to be packed better, but this was a thing of beauty! 

Fran and I set about the morning hooking the tubes into each bag and filling with the prescribed amount of dye mixed with the prescribed ionized distilled water. It was “slow and steady wins the race” and we did not spill a drop! Each funnel was marked with tape on the wall, as to which bag the tube went to, just to avoid any possible confusion. 

After all the bags were filled, Fran and I began removing bubbles in the bags by gently thumping each bag until the bubbles moved to the top. 

A bit of tape removal, sweeping, touch-up paint, and we were done! And it looks marvelous!

Come see this work for yourself in the free exhibition Slip Zone: A New Look at Postwar Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia, on view now through July 10, 2022.

Mary Nicolett is the Senior Preparator and IPM Coordinator at the DMA.

Q&A with Yonavea Hawkins, Caddo Beadwork Artist

Yonavea Hawkins is an artist who creates intricate beadwork for Native American and Caddo cultural items. We are delighted to have her participate in the upcoming Late Night celebrating the new exhibition Spirit Lodge: Mississippian Art from Spiro, during which she will showcase several of her pieces and talk about her process and the connection between traditional and contemporary beadworking. Read our special Q&A with her to learn more about her practice ahead of the event on March 25!

Yonavea Hawkins working on a belt on a loom during a “Live Bead” on stage at an event.

How did you begin creating art?
As a child I was always drawing and painting, with art class in school being my favorite subject, then to obtaining a fine arts degree from Oklahoma City University and started working as a graphic designer. Eventually my 8 to 5 creative jobs morphed into print quality control with organized paperwork of meeting deadlines and budgets. Then and now with a full-time job, evenings and weekends are my creative times. Working from a small desk, my present work evolved from learning to sew and bead to make Caddo regalia for myself, my children, and then Native American regalia for others. Now I create a variety of bead work, cultural items, or diverse art with different beading techniques for juried art markets with competitions. Changing from pencil and paint to beads and buckskin became new mediums to work in and another way to express myself creatively.

Hawkins completing beadwork on a commissioned piece while in her booth at an art market.

The words “contemporary” and “traditional” carry a lot of weight when describing Indigenous arts. Where do you situate your work?
For my work it’s a combination of contemporary and traditional because of the materials used and the design elements, to the construction of the finished work. Contemporary because of the use of the current Charlotte bead colors and todays materials to bead on. Traditional, when I find the materials online to buy as I am an urban Native American without access to harvest and collect traditional materials once used. The use of glass bead work starts from European contact as beads, wool and silk were trade goods to Indigenous peoples, and these trade goods became traditional for some Indigenous peoples. Beading techniques developed for using trade beads and used today holds the traditional look, but in contemporary colors and designs, unless you find a stash of antique beads.

Three of Hawkins’ bracelet cuffs

Tell us about some of the work you’re showing at DMA’s Late Night.
Several years back, a collector of my art told me that my beadwork was “Wearable Art”. As such a great deal of my work created for art markets are bracelet cuffs, contemporary beaded belts, belt buckles, hair barrettes, necklaces, and hatbands. After attending an art market, I never know what work will sell out and what I will be creating next, but I plan to show a variety of pieces mentioned earlier. I will also show cultural items that have won awards at art markets such as moccasins, turtle shell purses, bandolier bags, and pipe bags.

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You can find out more about Yonavea Hawkins in this recent artist interview. Don’t miss out on our Late Night celebration on March 25, featuring artist demonstrations, art making, performances, films, and talks about the exhibition Spirit Lodge: Mississippian Art from Spiro, and more! Get tickets here.

Connections Across Collections: Love is in the Art

Love is in the air—and in the art at the DMA! Take a look below to see our staff picks of art that we heART in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Wedding vase with butterflies, Mary Louise Eteeyan, Jemez Pueblo, 1975–2000. Ceramic. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert I. Kramer, 2014.43.18.

Becca Merriman-Goldring, McDermott Intern for Arts of the Americas
Each spout of a Pueblo wedding vase represents one spouse; the two are joined by a bridged handle to form a continuous whole. Mary Louise Eteeyan emphasizes that significance in the decoration of this vase, with two butterflies coming together over a single basket of corn.

Wedding ring, department of San Marcos, San Pedro Sacatepequez, Guatemala, Maya — Mam, probably 1930s or 1940s. Dallas Museum of Art, the Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Collection of Maya Textiles from Guatemala, gift of Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher, 1983.524.

Dr. Mark A. Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art
There are several wedding rings, like this one, in the Museum’s collection of Maya textiles from Guatemala. We don’t know if they were ever used, but perhaps they might bring you good luck if you’re popping the big question this Valentine’s Day!

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901–1902. Oil on canvas. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan, 2007.36.

Martha MacLeod, Senior Curatorial Administrator and Curatorial Assistant for American Art
John White Alexander painted Dorothy’s portrait shortly before she married Langdon Greer. It was possibly a gift for her soon-to-be husband. The composition includes her beloved Irish Setter, Shamrock. Artists often include dogs in paintings to symbolize fidelity and devotion.

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby’s Refrigerator, 2007. Gelatin silver print. Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, 2018.37.

Hilde Nelson, Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art
In her series The Notion of Family, Frazier centers three generations of women—herself, her mother, and her grandmother. Here, the artist honors her grandmother; the fridge covered with the proud matriarch’s family memorabilia conveys their loving bond.

Stretching Ed Clark’s “Intarsia”

Ed Clark is an American abstract expressionist and pivotal Black artist in the DMA’s collection who experimented with shaped canvases. His large-scale painting Intarsia is on view for free in the exhibition Slip Zone: A New Look at Postwar Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia. To create this work, he laid raw canvas on the floor, poured acrylic paint directly on the surface, and spread it across the canvas with a push broom in a performative process. The title of this painting refers to a knitting and metalworking technique used to create fields of different colors that appear to blend in and out of one another. Combined with the elliptical shape of the canvas, which Clark saw as evocative of the shape of an eye, the radiant colors give the overwhelming sense of an expanding, pulsating image. Find out how our team of art conservators and preparators worked to preserve this work’s thick layers of paint by stretching the canvas before displaying it.

From Laura Hartman, Paintings Conservator at the DMA:

It was a true team effort—the painting measures over 5 meters by 3.5 meters, and weighs over 200 pounds! This painting is unique in that the artist has applied so many layers of paint that the paint is in fact thicker than the canvas, which changes the entire physics of the work. It has also traditionally been shown pinned directly to the wall, which was possible in 1970 when it was painted, but now the work has aged and needs a new approach to ensure longevity.

We worked directly with a stretcher maker in New York to design a stretcher that would hold the weight of the piece while remaining thin, giving the appearance that the work is pinned to the wall.

I worked with our preparators to create edge extensions, or a strip lining, and attach these to the back of the work to be able to stretch it while retaining the illusion of pinning. We first stretched a loose lining, which is a giant piece of canvas that acts as an additional support, and then carefully stretched the work onto the prepared stretcher, slowly increasing tension over several days to allow the paint to relax and release into a comfortable position. The work is now secure for the long haul, while retaining the artist’s original intention.

It took a lot of hands but we got it done! It takes at least 8 people to safely move the work, so all hands were on deck for this one!

Eat Your Art Out: Fabulous Focaccia

Hungry for some art? Get creative in your kitchen! Master the art of making beautiful focaccia bread inspired by works in our collection. We recommend Samin Nosrat’s recipe for focaccia, which you can find here. Remember to plan ahead! This bread requires up to 14 hours to proof before baking.

Tips for making your focaccia:

  • When activating yeast, make sure water is lukewarm (between 105°–115°F).
  • After adding the brine, let it soak for at least 5 minutes before adding herbs and vegetables on top of the focaccia.
  • When creating your design, keep in mind that most vegetables will shrink during baking.
  • Practice re-creating your image on a piece of wax paper first. When you are happy with your design, transfer it to the focaccia dough just before baking.
Miniature Painting – A White-Eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus Leucogenys) Perched on a Rock Under a Slender Tree, 1671, work on paper, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, K.1.2014.775

Food used to re-create the artwork:

  • 2 baby yellow sweet peppers
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 baby purple carrots
  • 1 white radish
  • 1 pink radish
  • Half of a red onion
  • Half of a yellow bell pepper
  • Half a cup pitted green olives
  • Half a cup pitted kalamata olives
  • Scallions
  • Cilantro leaves
Manji Inoue, Amalmon Inaiz XIII, Vase, n.d., glazed porcelain, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Edward Mattil, 2012.28

Food used to re-create the artwork:

  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 baby yellow carrots
  • 3 baby purple carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Chives
Mughal, Textile Fragment, 18th century, silk and metal embroidery, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, K.1.2014.1282

Food used to re-create the artwork:

  • 1 beet, boiled, peeled, thinly sliced; cut with flower cookie cutter
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Sunflower kernels for garnish on top of beets
Paul Poiret, Carpet, c. 1930, wool, Dallas Museum of Art, the Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, bequest of Patsy Lacy Griffith, 2001.203

Food used to re-create the artwork:

  • Red cherry tomatoes
  • Yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • Minced garlic
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Optional: black olives

Highlights of “Pursuit of Beauty”

Museum exhibitions serve different purposes. Some do heavy lifting in the field of new scholarship about unknown or understudied artists or cultures. Others may capitalize on strengths in the museum’s collection and, thereby, present a richer, contextual understanding of an artistic movement. And yet others present to our visitors works by artists that address gaps in our own permanent collection—a role beautifully fulfilled by the present exhibition, Pursuit of Beauty: The May Family Collection. I would like to focus on a few works and what—besides their apparent beauty—makes them special to me.

William Merritt Chase, Weary, c. 1889, oil on panel, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr., 114.2019.17
Gertrude Fiske, Contemplation, before 1916, oil on canvas, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr.

Weary (1889), a small interior scene by William Merritt Chase is a quintessential example of the artist’s skills of observation that also provides us a peek into his well-appointed studio in Manhattan. Chase was not striving to make a narrative here. The subject is beauty alone—of a sitter placed within a beautiful setting full of patterns and textures. The large Japanese screen in the background, the plush velvet of the cushion beneath her feet, the sparkle of gilding on the armature of the chair, and the gleam of light on the large vase in the background at right, are all effects that lure and please the eye. A wonderful counterpoint to Chase’s creation is Contemplation (1915) by Gertrude Fiske, an artist trained in Boston. While it too presents a contemplative woman set in an interior, the artist is presenting to us a modern woman for the new age. Using complimentary colors of orange and green to frame the sitter, the crisp striped wallpaper effectively foregrounds her. Fiske further illuminates her with light flooding in from the upper left, which simultaneously bathes her face and torso in yellow that reflects off the material at the right edge.  

Theodore Robinson, Miss Motes and Her Dog Shep in a Boat, 1893, oil on canvas, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr.
John Henry Twachtman, Frozen Brook, 1893, oil on canvas, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr., 114.2019.12

American Impressionism is underrepresented at the DMA and two works within the May Family Collection created in the exact same year offer comparison of two artists whose means (light & brushwork), achieved different ends. Theodore Robinson’s small canvas of Miss Motes and Her Dog Shep in a Boat (1893) is an oil sketch by the first and most important of the American Impressionists to paint alongside Monet at Giverny between 1886 and 1892. Robinson’s intent was to capture an individual in a fleeting moment and his quick touches of brushwork fix her at a point in time as well as evoking the optical effect of forms blurred in reflection on the dappled surface of the water. In Frozen Brook (1893), John Twachtman also endeavored to capture a particular moment, but his motivation was to capture the atmospheric and emotive effects of a winter’s day. His brushwork is more varied, complex, and labor intensive (daubed, scumbled, and dragged) to conjure the optical effect of heavy, wet snow on the cusp of spring, when all is blanketed in contemplative silence. 

I do hope that you will come to the DMA to explore these five works for yourselves, along with the other twenty-three now on view. 

Sue Canterbury is The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art and Interim Allen and Kelli Questrom Curator of Works on Paper at the DMA.

The Views Are Tree-mendous

When you visit the DMA this fall, you’ll have the opportunity to see Van Gogh and the Olive Groves, the first exhibition dedicated to Vincent van Gogh’s series of olive grove paintings!  

These paintings capture the abundant olive trees around the asylum of Saint-Rémy, where Van Gogh spent the final year of his life. But he was not the only artist who took inspiration from nature. There are many depictions of trees in our collection; take some time to see how many you can find!  

To help you, I’ve put together a tour of trees featuring 11 of my favorites currently on view. Starting on Level 1 in the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, look for this 17th-century dish from Iran among the many ceramics displayed in this gallery. 

Dish, Iran, 17th century, fritware, underglaze-painted in black, blue, turquoise, and brown, with red and yellow slips, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, K.1.2014.653

Across from the Keir Collection, step outside into the Fleischner Courtyard, named after the artist Richard Fleischner, who designed this space for the DMA’s move to this location in 1983. These are not the original trees, as the courtyard has been refurbished twice since the 1980s—in 1993 and 2009.

Richard Fleischner, Courtyard Project for the Dallas Museum of Art, 1981–83; reconfigured by the artist for the Hamon addition, 1993; refurbished 2009, limestone, marble, wood, and plantings, Dallas Museum of Art, commissioned to honor Minnie and Albert Susman on the occasion of their 50th anniversary by their children Robert F. and Anna Marie Susman Shapiro, 1983.14, © Dallas Museum of Art, 

Next, head to Level 2 and our European Art Galleries to find the grove of oak trees in the Forest of Fontainebleau by Narcisse Diaz de la Peña. The artist was part of the Barbizon School of French painters, whose goal was to rediscover the magic of untouched nature.

Narcisse Diaz de la Peña, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1868, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1991.14.M

Leaving the dark forest behind, take in the bright colors of Claude Monet’s poplar trees. Poplars, Pink Effect belongs to a series of 24 paintings; like Van Gogh, Monet often revisited the same subject multiple times to capture varying light and weather conditions.

Claude Monet, Poplars, Pink Effect, 1891, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., bequest of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 2019.67.14.McD

Before leaving Level 2, look for an apple tree painted by Piet Mondrian. Through his use of line and color, Mondrian conveyed nature’s dynamic energy.

Piet Mondrian, Apple Tree, Pointillist Version, 1908–09, oil on composition board, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation, 1982.26.FA

Did you know Winston Churchill was also an artist? If you visit the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection on Level 3, you will find several paintings by Churchill, including Sea and Pine Trees, Cap d’Ail

Winston Churchill, Sea and Pine Trees, Cap d’Ail, about 1955, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.14, © The Churchill Heritage Limited

As you continue exploring Level 3, take a moment to stop and appreciate the standing male figure from Vanuatu. While not a literal depiction of a tree, it was carved from the lower part of a tree-fern stem and stands over 11 feet tall! 

Standing male figure, Vanuatu, Ambrym Island, about 1930–50, tree fern and pigment, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1996.33

Now make your way to the Arts of Africa Galleries and look for the linguist staff (okyeame poma) from the Asante peoples of Ghana. The finial on this staff refers to an Asante proverb that states, “One who climbs a good tree always gets a push.”

Linguist staff (okyeame poma), Ghana, Asante peoples, 1900–50, wood and gold leaf, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2010.1.McD

Head to Level 4 and find Veteran, a painting by Everett Spruce (bonus tree points!). The tree in this painting shows us the often uncompromising and inhospitable forces that shape the Texas landscape.

Everett Spruce, Veteran, 1932, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Maggie Joe and Alexandre Hogue, 1986.232, © V. Alice Spruce Meriwether

Around the corner from Veteran, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Bare Tree Trunks with Snow gives us a more minimalist and abstract version of trees. O’Keeffe would often simplify what she saw in nature, using descriptive titles to clarify things for the viewer.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Bare Tree Trunks with Snow, 1946, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1953.1, © The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The final tree on this walk through the woods is in the free special exhibition Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico. George López’s sculpture Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life shows the moment when Eve offers Adam an apple from the tree of knowledge—and it is made of wood from three different trees: cottonwood, pine, and cedar!

George López, Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life, 1956, cottonwood, pine, and cedar, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1956.100.1

Stacey Lizotte is the DMA League Director of Adult Programs at the DMA. 

A Change of Scenery for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Sam F”

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sam F, 1985, oil on door, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Samuel N. and Helga A. Feldman, 2019.31, © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

In 2017 we began conversations with Helga Feldman about a landmark gift to the institution of a work by the incomparably important US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The portrait, Sam F, painted right here in Dallas, is of Feldman’s late husband, who wanted the work to be given to his city’s museum to be enjoyed by the public. As was the wish of the Feldmans, the work entered the collection at the time of Mrs. Feldman’s death in spring 2021. Basquiat’s significance to the recent history of art is almost unparalleled, and when we received the painting, we got to work making immediate plans to get it on view. With this in mind, we adapted to certain considerations of time and space in order to share the work with our audiences without delay. Therefore, we decided to show it in our Concourse, which is the most public of the Museum spaces, and is traversed by all visitors to the DMA. We have often shown works in that space that we want to honor—the Basquiat hangs where the honored artist of our major annual fundraiser, TWO X TWO for AIDS and Art, is typically found. However, because of the very public nature of this space, our duties to care for the collection mandate that the work must be hung above visitor touch distance—an average viewer’s arm span—to keep the work safe. When Sam F went on view, we received the feedback that seeing the painting from this height was far from ideal. This work clearly struck a chord with viewers—for Basquiat was one of the most innovative figures in 20th-century art history. Moreover, as an artist of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, his presence in the Museum’s collection signals the crucial contributions of Black and Latinx artists to the art historical canon, and the work contains a wealth of references to Afro-diasporic culture that are illuminated in the accompanying interpretive panel.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Sam F on view across from Pablo Picasso’s The Guitarist on Level 2

We heard this feedback, and we agree—it’s time to move the Basquiat so that the conditions of display can better facilitate the close looking the work merits. As of today, the work will be on view on Level 2, at the threshold between the European and contemporary galleries. The work’s neighbors include paintings by Pablo Picasso and sculptures by Henry Moore, Jacques Lipchitz, and Aristide Maillol. It also abuts our collection of classical art, providing a compelling survey of how artists have treated the human form over thousands of years. Basquiat’s portrait of Sam, who used a wheelchair, rejects the idealism first introduced in the classical period and depicts subjects that are typically excluded as subjects of the fine arts. His signature formal style combines expressive mark making taken from both his past as a graffiti artist and the Neo-Expressionism movement that dominated art in New York in the 1980s, while also pointing to a groundbreaking synthesis and reconfiguration of the art historical language that now surrounds it. We invite you to come and see the work, and to let us know what you think.

Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck is the Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.


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