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The Art of Appropriation, a Wednesday Gallery Talk

Every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m., visitors can meet at the Visitor Services Desk for the Museum’s weekly Gallery Talk.   Gallery talks are 45-minute long intimate lectures and discussions that take place in the Museum galleries.  These talks are very different from a tour in that they typically focus on a narrow group of objects with a unifying theme within the Museum’s collections or special exhibitions.  They are often led by Museum curators, visiting scholars, and Museum staff.  Each year, every McDermott Intern leads a gallery talk as part of their internship experience. 

I was the first intern up to bat in leading a Gallery Talk titled The Art of Appropriation: “Exotic” Motifs in European Art.

Below are images of several of the objects I discussed during the talk.

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I decided to focus on appropriation art, a topic taken from my honors thesis as an undergraduate at SMU.  I’ve done extensive research on chinoiserie, an 18th-century European decorative arts movement inspired by Asian motifs, and this served as the starting point for my investigation of Asian-influenced objects in the DMA’s collections.  The talk emphasized four main topics in the discussion of these objects.

1. The definition and different types of appropriation art or art that crosses cultural boundaries.  For example, the colonial Mexican screen pictured in the slideshow appropriates styles, motifs, and subjects from Japan, China, the Netherlands, and ancient Rome.  See if you can determine which element can be attributed to which country!

2. Early (13th to 17th century) travel, trade, and other forms of contact between Europe and Asia.  Cosmopolitan objects, such as the Mexican screen, would not have been possible without cross-cultural exchange of information and goods between the two continents.  This exchange manifested in the early accounts of travelers like Marco Polo, the trade of goods and publication of scientific surveys through the various East India Companies, and missionary publications.

3. 17th- and 18th-century Chinese and Japanese exports and subsequent European “copies.”  Objects such as the Charger seen above represent early porcelain exports from China (made at the Jingdezhen imperial kiln) and the influence of European taste on their decorative elements.  Due to the relatively high cost of these imports, Europeans began making faience, and later porcelain, copies of Asian-produced objects.

4. The contradictory pairing of exoticism and ethnography in the 19th-century.  The 19th-century saw the emergence of the field of ethnography, fueled by the World’s Fairs and a growing body of “scientific” literature.  However, the notion of the East as a mysterious and exotic land persisted as seen in the painting above by Alfred Stevens that showcases the artist’s collection of Japanese screens, Chinese porcelain, and Kashmir textiles within the quintessentially French context of the salon.

Leading a gallery talk is a unique experience for an intern, and all in all it was very enriching, though a bit nerve-racking.  This topic was especially rich to share with museum visitors, as most everyone has experience with some type of appropriation!  It is a ubiquitous presence in our lives from advertisements that include famous works of art to the millions of souvenir stands selling Mona Lisa key chains or Mao Zedong t-shirts.  Post your example of appropriation to the comments section!

Upcoming Gallery Talks for the month of January include:

January 5th: Must be Willing to Travel: Early American Portraitists and the Transatlantic Exchange, led by Sara Woodbury (McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern for European and American Art)

January 12th: Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present, led by Kevin W. Tucker (The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, DMA)

January 19th: Topping It Off: Portraits of Women in Fashionable Hats, led by Sarah Vitek (McDermott Education Intern for Adult Programming)

January 26th: European Art and the Rosenberg Collection, led by Heather MacDonald (The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art, DMA)

Ashley Bruckbauer
McDermott Education Intern for Resources and Programs for Teachers

All I Want for X-Mas

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I recently asked colleagues which artwork from the DMA they would most like to take home and why they like it so much.  Below are their responses.

Melissa Nelson:
If I could take home any work of art from the Museum, I would choose Phil Collins’ the world won’t listen.  This is a three-part video installation showing ordinary people from Colombia, Indonesia, and Turkey singing their favorite songs from The Smiths’ album of the same title.  As an art-lover, it’s amazing to see the global devotion to a British band that spans three non-English speaking countries, expressed through genuinely heartfelt and uninhibited singing and dancing, shown simultaneously on large screens in a pitch-black room.  As an avid Smiths fan, it’s impossible for me to view this work of art without wanting to perform the songs myself.

Amy Wolf:
I would like to take home Aria After the Ballet, by Edgar Degas. I wrote about Degas monotypes in my graduate studies, so having this in the collection is wonderful! I like the cool build-up of pastel colors on the figures contrasting against the flat stage backdrop.

Ashley Bruckbauer:
Farm Near Duivendrecht, in the Evening, Piet Mondrian, c. 1916 (Reprise of a compositional Series from 1905-1908).  I absolutely love the juxtaposition of positive and negative space in this work and the overall painterly style.  It appears at once realistic and abstract, with blocks of warm oranges sharply contrasted by neighboring blocks of cool blues and purples.  Also, I love seeing this example of Mondrian, which is so different from the body of work for which he is most famous.  I wouldn’t mind if it appeared in my Christmas stocking this year!

Shannon Karol:
I have had such a hard time deciding which artwork I want to take home with me!  As of right now, my choice is Carousel Club by Wayne Gonzales (currently in Big New Field).  I love the ruby red background and the Kennedy connection.  Plus it will fit in my apartment much easier than Robert Rauschenberg’s Skyway (my 2nd choice).

Karen Colbert:
That Gentleman, Andrew Wyeth, 1960; I love this artwork because it exudes serenity. I am always wanting to get a glimpse of the man’s face in the artwork, and although it’s not seen by the viewer, I think the colors, the composition, and subject matter give you snapshot of the type of gentleman he was.

Nicole Stutzman:
Choosing just one work of art is so HARD!  But, I would love to share one of my favorite works from Indonesia.

Wall panel with figure of a slain shaman, Indonesia, Taileleu Village, c. 1900. Wood, paint, shell inlay, and cloth.

Why is it one of my favorites? 
1)      I love the way the maker emphasized the hands of the carved figure.  They seem a little too large and slightly out of proportion, and the texture of the hands seems really rough.  You can see gouging marks around the fingers from the tools used by the maker to create such a deep relief.  I love the physical qualities of the size and texture of the figure’s hands.

2)      I also love the stories behind this object.  The panel was carved following a headhunting ritual, which was part of festivities surrounding the creation of a new clan house, or uma.  It served as a memorial to the headhunting victim and was placed in the front room of the uma.  Seen by visitors who entered the house, the panel proved the courage and abilities of the house’s owners.  The culture that created this lived on the Mentawai Islands, and they believed that everything around them had a soul – the people, the trees, the houses they inhabited, and more.  I think this is a wonderfully powerful perspective to have about the world around you.  Part of the beliefs surrounding the creation of the panel focus on the Mentawaian people’s efforts to maintain harmony between all of the spirits and souls in the world.  Through this panel they honored the spirit of the slain victim and the materials used to make the panel, as well as the new house and its soul.

Jenny Marvel:
The “Dimension” tea and coffee set; I would love to have this coffee and tea service to have as a conversation piece while entertaining guests during the holidays! 

Amy Copeland:
My answer to this question changes all the time, but right now I would most like to take home one of the sketchbooks we have from artist Otis Dozier.  Drawings are my favorite media, and I love the bright colors, pale washes, and gestural lines Dozier uses to capture the places he traveled.  I’ve seen single pages of his sketchbooks on view before, but they’ve been enclosed in vitrines, so I would welcome the opportunity to turn the pages!

I hope the next time you visit the DMA, you’ll find a favorite artwork.

From all of us here at the DMA, warm wishes for a merry and bright holiday.

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Go van Gogh Outreach

Big New Field Opens

The DMA’s newest exhibition, Big New Field: Artists in the Cowboys Stadium Art Program, opened this past Sunday.  In celebration of Super Bowl XLV, to be held in Dallas at the new Cowboys Stadium, this show highlights nineteen artists from the Cowboys Stadium Art Program.  The Program is the initiative of Gene and Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys owner) to incorporate contemporary art into the innovative and unique space of the recently constructed stadium.  They hope to create a dialogue between art and sport through the inclusion of large scale and, at times, monumental works by artists from Texas and around the world.  The Museum’s very own Charlie Wylie (The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art), along with Chief Curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Michael Auping and Texas-based collectors Gayle Stoffel and Howard Rachofsky, served on the advisory committee for the Program.  It is this joint passion for and advocacy of contemporary art that has brought works by many of the artists represented at the Stadium to the walls of the DMA. 

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Whether examining Annette Lawrence’s Free Paper, constructed of cut and torn strips of “junk mail”, or contemplating Wayne Gonzales’s Carousel Club, visitors are sure to be impacted by these phenomenal works.

Big New Field: Artists in the Cowboys Stadium Art Program runs through February 20, 2011.

Ashley Bruckbauer
McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers

"Exotic" Mexican Objects at the DMA and Crow Collection

In commemoration of the 2010 bicentennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain, many Dallas-area institutions have hosted events or created exhibitions related to Mexico’s past, present, and future.  In addition to highlighting Mexican and Spanish colonial works in the Museum’s fourth floor galleries, the DMA currently has two special exhibitions celebrating Mexico’s 200th anniversary: Jose Guadalupe Posada: The Birth of Mexican Modernism and Tierra y Gente: Modern Mexican Works on Paper.

For me, one of the most intriguing objects in these galleries is an eccentric folding screen from colonial Mexico.  This screen is elaborately painted and gilded in the European decorative tradition, but its central vignettes are drawn from a Flemish book of moralizing tales.  Additionally, the ornate borders of the screen contain Japanese and Chinese-inspired motifs popular in European Rococo.  This object connects with a recently opened exhibition, Black Current: Mexican Responses to Japanese Art, 17th-19th Centuries, also in celebration of Mexico’s bicentennial, at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

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*Photography by George Ramirez

This exhibition includes Mexican-made objects, such as folding screens and rolled paintings, that were greatly informed by trade via the The Black Current.   This marine trade route, established in the 16th century,  ran eastbound from Manila to Acapulco, bringing goods such as decorative arts, silk, and spices to Mexico.  Approximately 500 Pacific crossings were made along the dark river in the sea, feeding the growing market for luxury commodities in Mexico and generating Asian demand for American resources such as silver.  These exchanges led to an artistic interchange that left lasting impressions on Mexican artists.

Cosmopolitan, Mexican-made objects, such as those in Black Current and the DMA Screen, reference their Asian precursors through the inclusion of Asian-inspired motifs, use of laquer, inlay and shells, and format of the folding screen and scrolls mounted on rollers.  Additionally, they serve as visual documentation of ambitious exchanges between spatially disparate cultures.

Ashley Bruckbauer

Programs and Resources for Teachers Intern

Friday Photo: Inside Scoop from New Interns


Ashley and Karen: 2010-2011 Education Interns

Hello all!  I am Ashley, the new McDermott intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers.  I graduated from SMU with a B.A. in Art History and Advertising Management.   I have a deep-rooted interest in Asia and a passion for everything French, and my area of focus, Asian influence on European art in the 18th and 19th centuries, allows me to explore both simultaneously.  In pursuit of these interests I’ve worked as an intern at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, studied and researched in France, and lived in China.  My ultimate goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in French art history and become a university professor.  I am thrilled to be at the DMA this year working with the Education Department, where I can both utilize and cultivate my skills.

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The first week in the office has been hectic to say the least, with lots of meetings and an overload of information and little details.  That said, I can already tell this is going to be a fabulous environment in which to work.  Every day I feel that I am learning an immense amount about the collection and special exhibition objects by attending docent trainings, gallery talks and sessions with the curators.  I’ve also already attended my first teacher workshop and am excited to participate and take a more active role in those throughout the school year.  I think this will be a fantastic year and look forward to sharing my experiences through the blog!

Hello Everyone!  I am Karen Colbert and I am excited to be the new McDermott Teaching Programs Intern this year. I enjoy visiting museums, dining with friends, reading, and traveling. The best experience I have had traveling is working with students at the Mahenzo Mission School in Kenya, Africa. 

My first week at the Dallas Museum of Art has been exhilarating.  I have had the opportunity to hear Dr. Roslyn Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa speak about the current African Masks: The Art of Disguise exhibition during docent training and currently working on a text label project for Gail Davitt, Dallas Museum of Art League Director of Education.  As the year progresses, I will have more opportunities to lead tours in the galleries, teach the Go Van Gogh outreach program with partnering school districts, and participate in many other projects. I look forward to this year of discovery and will keep you posted with “A Day in a Life”.

Ashley Bruckbauer, McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers
Karen Colbert, McDermott Intern for Teaching Programs

Intern Update

postcard from Justin Greelee's travels in Italy

 A few short months ago, we said farewell to our interns Logan Acton and Justin Greenlee, and last week we welcomed our new interns for 2010-2011, Karen Colbert and Ashley Bruckbauer.   

Logan Acton, Assistant to the Director of Education

Since wrapping up their internships, Justin and Logan have both been very busy. Justin left the States for Italy to work for a study abroad program run by his alma mater, Kenyon College.  He’s had the chance to do a lot of traveling — mostly art-related — including an amazing trip to Assisi.  

Logan completed his M.A. in Aesthetic Studies from The University of Texas at Dallas and was hired in August as a full-time DMA staffer. He is now the Assistant to the Director of Education, and we are thrilled to get to continue working with him.  

Ashley Bruckbauer, McDermott Intern

 Ashley Bruckbauer is the new McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers. She received her B.A. from Southern Methodist University in Art History and Advertising Management. Her experiences prior to joining the DMA are graduate-level research in France, an internship at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, and teaching abroad in Shanghai, China.  

Karen Colbert, McDermott Intern

 Karen Colbert is the new McDermott Intern for Teaching Programs. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in Art Education, with a focus on museum education and arts leadership, at the University of North Texas. Before joining the DMA staff, Karen was an educator at the Women’s Museum in Dallas and an art teacher with the Dallas Independent School District. 

 We are excited to have Ashley and Karen on our team for the 2010-2011 school year! Keep an eye on this blog for upcoming posts about their experiences as DMA interns. 

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs

Trade before Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Have you ever wondered how goods and services, such as spices, fabrics, and art, traveled from one part of the world to another before the use of planes, trains, and automobiles?  The Silk Road provides a great insight for understanding early trading among different countries. It is the most well-known trading route of ancient Chinese civilization that was used during the first millennium B.C.E through the middle of the second millennium C.E under the Han Dynasty. The Silk Road was a transcontinental network of land and sea trade routes that spread across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to China and Japan. Domesticated horses and cattle as well as marine vessels were used as transportation to carry such goods and services along these routes.

Dr. Anne Bromberg, The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art, organized The Silk Road, an installation which illustrates how this great route of trading developed.  This exhibition also describes the spread of religions from India to Central Asia during this time. One of the greatest benefits of the Silk Road that Dr. Bromberg wanted to emphasize was the spread of agriculture. Animals not only provided transportation, but they also provided food and a mechanism for cultivating crops.


 Oxen and Cart, 2000-1800 B.C., Bronze
Dallas Museum of Art, Irvin L. and Meryl P. Levy Endowment Fund

A great deal of Near Eastern art similar to the Oxen and Cart traveled along the Silk Road. The Proto-Hittites were devoted to animals, which were vital to hunting and farming. Objects such as the Oxen and Cart were perhaps used as an offering to be left in a shrine, sacred caches or tomb. In addition,  the Oxen and Cart symbolizes the distinct moment when domesticated horses or cattle were first used as powered transportation on land.

The Silk Road provides a great opportunity to discuss with students the benefits and consequences of trading among different cultures. I’ve added a list of books and websites that will help you introduce the Silk Road to your students. These books and more can be found at the Dallas Public Library or the Museum’s Mayer Library.

Stories From The Silk Road by Cherry Gilchrist and Nilesh Mistry
The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History by John S. Major and Stephen Fieser
Mapping the Silk Road and Beyond by Kenneth Nebenzahl
Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road by Priscilla Galloway and Dawn Hunter
Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants by Luce Boulnois and Helen Loveday

the Silk Road project:

Silk Road Seattle:

Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

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