Posts Tagged 'African Masks: The Art of Disguise'

Indiana Jones in the Digital Age

Uncrated stopped by the IT Department and caught up with Jessica Heimberg, Senior Developer, to learn more about her role here at the DMA. She can typically be found hiding behind two large monitors on her desk.

Jessica Heimberg

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
I work in the Information Technology Department. My official title is Senior Developer, but I am more like the MacGyver of tech projects and all things IT. (For those of you who missed this TV series, MacGyver was a non-gun-toting secret agent who improvised gadgets to solve crimes.)

What might an average day entail?
It could start with an update meeting and nice espresso, courtesy of DMA Deputy Director Rob Stein, or it could start with a flooded closet and fried switches. Depending on the day, I may be writing code, managing a project, creating documentation, trouble-shooting software, (politely) arguing with a vendor, walking with the cable dudes through a dusty construction site, or trying to figure out why someone’s e-mail worked on their iPhone yesterday but not today. Actually, I think I just described my Tuesday a few weeks ago.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is that by helping create new programs, and supporting the DMA and its staff, I get to play a public service role in my city, and that makes me proud. I feel more than ever that people need art, music, playgrounds, and parks.

One of the more challenging and equally exciting effects of working in a small department is that we have to manage a lot of IT without a lot of staff. This definitely forces efficiencies, and we get to apply real creativity to problem solving. By nature and training, I tend to create schedules and plans. I like to maintain order and do my best to make working on projects as low stress as possible, but as anyone who’s ever worked on ANYTHING knows, even best-laid plans can get monkey-wrenched, and I have learned that some of the best ideas come out of the rubble of an initial plan.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I was going to be Indiana Jones—am I dating myself here? In a past life (yes, I am older), I worked in the fashion industry, and then in corporate settings, but always gravitated toward the arts, science, and nature to find balance and inspiration.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection?
Just one? Not possible to pick just one.

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Chanel 1 - "Fire," 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Channel 1 – “Fire,” 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose, (c) Bill Viola, Long Beach, California

I have always loved The Crossing, by Bill Viola. At my last job, at least once a week I would take lunch at the DMA and wander the galleries for an hour just to clear my head. I remember when the Viola was installed and how exciting it was to walk into this big, dark space and stand in front of the projection, watching. I visited the thing three or four times before realizing it had a whole other side! I fell in love with it a second time. I know it is a digital piece, but something about the scale and pace of it strikes me as very human, and it is comforting to me.

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Chanel 2 - "Water," 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose

Bill Viola, The Crossing, Channel 2 – “Water,” 1996, two-channel video/sound installation, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, and gifts from an anonymous donor, Howard E. Rachofsky, Gayle Stoffel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Solomon, Catherine and Will Rose, and Emily and Steve Summers, in honor of Deedie Rose, (c) Bill Viola, Long Beach, California

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
Oh, gosh – so many! I thoroughly enjoyed the “blockbuster” exhibitions like Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs and especially The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, but most of my favorites have been mounted by our own curatorial staff. I loved Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea, The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, African Masks: The Art of Disguise, Omer Fast: 5000 Feet Is the Best, and the telling of a chunk of American history through Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design. I think Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, the Islamic art and culture exhibition opening in 2014, will be a stunner.

Jessica Heimberg is Senior Developer, Information Technology at the DMA.

Interview with Curator Roslyn Walker

Dr. Roslyn A. Walker

It has been a busy summer here at the Dallas Museum of Art. One of our amazing curators, Dr. Roslyn A. Walker, took time out of her schedule to answer questions related to her job at the Museum. Read below for more information about Dr. Walker and her exciting exhibition that just opened – African Masks: The Art of Disguise.

Amy Wolf
Coordinator of Gallery Teaching

Name and Title: Roslyn A. Walker, Ph.D., Sr. Curator, The  Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific/The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art

Years Employed at the Dallas Museum of Art:  I’ve worked at the DMA for six years, since the end of 2003.

Describe your job here at the Museum:  A curator, by definition, is the specialist in a particular field of study whose job it is to do the research on the collection and provide information about it; select objects for acquisition, to “grow” the collection; interpret the collection through exhibitions; and over see the maintenance of the collection.  I execute all these tasks.

What is your favorite part of your job?  All of the above! I do love doing research and learning about the art form, i.e., when and who made it (name of the artist if possible or his “hand” or style through comparison with other works), why it was made, how it was used in the original cultural context, and its provenance.

What is a challenge you face in your job?  I wish there were more hours in the day. I could use a course in time management. Buying art is a challenge because the price of highest quality of certain types of objects is beyond our means. We are fortunate to have a great collection that is representative of the major sculpture-producing peoples of sub-Saharan Africa.

How did you decide you wanted to work in a museum?  I enjoyed going to museums on school fieldtrips and with my family. I loved viewing the works of art, but I was also curious about what went on behind the scenes.  I chose a college – Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) which had a museum and was fortunate to work in that museum from freshman year through graduation. As I understood museum work at the time, I would have the opportunity to be a scholar, teacher, artist, registrar, exhibit designer, preparator – everything. This was a one director, one student assistant kind of museum! 

If you weren’t working here at the Museum, what is something else you would be doing? I can’t imagine doing anything else. I think I would have been happy working at the Department of State, in one of the cultural offices.   

Tell us about the exhibition you’ve been working on this summer. I’ve just opened African Masks: The Art of Disguise on Sunday, August 22nd. This exhibition presents approximately 70 objects which demonstrate the variety of masks types, sizes, styles, materials, and contexts in which the objects appear. Masks are worn in other ways than on the face and masks are only part of a costume that conceals wearer, from head to toe. The exhibition reveals the function, meaning and aesthetics of African masks. The masks “come to life” in performances recorded on film and in contextual photographs. I hope you will come to see this exhibition and that you will take along a smARTphone so you can learn more about masks, view videos, interviews, masquerades and more.

Visit www.DallasMuseumofArt.org/Education to learn more about the programs and resources for students and teachers related to this exhibition.


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