Posts Tagged 'Art'

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.

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.

Studio Doors Are Open—Come On In!

Calling all weekend crafters, makers, tinkerers, and artists! The DMA’s Art Studio is opening its doors to one and all starting in January 2019. On the first and third weekend of every month, drop by and give your creativity a workout with a hands-on art-making project for the entire family. Whether you prefer to wield a paintbrush or squish some clay, we’ll have something to inspire your inner artist. Materials and projects will switch up every month, and DMA staff will be on hand to demonstrate techniques and share fun facts about art and artists in the DMA’s collection.

In January we’re kicking off Open Studio by making landscape monotypes inspired by the exhibition Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow. We’ll supply the paint and paper—you bring the fun!

Open Studio 1

Open Studio is available for FREE on the first and third Saturday and Sunday of the month from noon to 4:00 p.m. All supplies are provided, and no registration or ticket is required.

Leah Hanson is the Director of Family, Youth, and School Programs at the DMA.

DMA Online Collection: An Inside Look (Part II)

Last week two of our Digital Collections Content Coordinators (D3Cs) reflected on the highlights and insights they’ve gathered throughout their time diligently compiling information for over 5,000 objects in our online collection. Today, the other half of this team recounts the dots they’ve connected and some of their favorite hidden gems they’ve uncovered on the job.

Chloë Courtney, Contemporary Art, Latin American Art, and Arts of Africa, 2018-present
chloe

Connecting the Dots:
My favorite aspect of the online collection is the way it highlights dynamic connections between objects from different areas of the Museum’s holdings. For example, Renée Stout’s sculpture Fetish #1 draws upon her study of African sculpture. Links to contextual essays and related objects in both the contemporary and African collections explain how the protective powers of minkisi influenced Stout’s choice of materials.

1989.128Renee Stout, Fetish #1, 1987, monkey hair, nails, beads, cowrie shells, and coins, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Roslyn and Brooks Fitch, Gary Houston, Pamela Ice, Sharon and Lazette Jackson, Maureen McKenna, Aaronetta and Joseph Pierce, Matilda and Hugh Robinson, and Rosalyn Story in honor of Virginia Wardlaw, 1989.128, © Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

The Spanish Colonial screen also relies on contextual information from multiple curatorial departments. This highly ornamented screen allows us to see how Japanese byobu, or painted screens, inspired Spanish Colonial adaptations and thus visually represent the centuries of trade between Asia, the Spanish Philippines, Mexico, South America, and Europe.

1993.74.A-BScreen, Mexico, Mexico City, c. 1740–60, oil on canvas, pine, and gilding, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Stanley and Linda Marcus Foundation, 1993.74.a-b

Hidden Gems:
While the number of objects displayed in the galleries is limited by factors including available space, the online collection enables visitors to experience art rarely on view in the building. One of my favorite contextual essays focuses on time-based media. Not only does the essay provide a survey of this field and the DMA’s impressive holdings, but it also draws attention to works that typically reside in storage.

Jennie Russell, American Art, European Art, and Teaching Ideas, 2016-2018

jennie
Hidden Gems:
Due to conservation restrictions, works on paper are generally permitted to be on view for only four to six months and then require long resting periods in storage. These works, though they get little exposure in the galleries, can be studied in the online collection through contextual essays and high-resolution photography.

Connecting the Dots:
My favorite part of the job is exploring the connections between visual art and the arts as a whole (music, theater, literature, etc.). Working on the mid-20th-century print Wreck of the Old 97 by John McCrady let me explore pop culture connections to art. Several artists, including Johnny Cash, had previously recorded the story of the wreck as a ballad. I came across interesting bits of trivia including the origin story of a local band’s name.

wreck of the old 97John McCrady, Wreck of the Old 97, date unknown, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1948.6

A fan of both literature and Surrealism, I knew I would enjoy working on Salvador Dalí’s 1969 Alice in Wonderland illustrations (examples include A Mad Tea Party, The Queen’s Croquet Ground, and A Caucus Race and a Long Tale). Dalí’s lithographs capture the spirit of Lewis Carroll’s tale with the painter’s usual wit and whimsy. Taking advantage of web resources let me provide visitors with links to other depictions of Carroll’s story as well as clips from cinematic adaptations.

Find your own favorites by browsing through our online collection, the content of which wouldn’t be possible without the research and hard work of our D3C team!

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!

When the Painting Meets the Frame

The centerpiece of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow is her Highland Lighthouse series. Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe painted seven variations of the lighthouse in the early 1930s, using mostly related color palettes and experimenting with dynamic symmetry. The first, a realistic representation, is now lost, but the following six lighthouses she painted are all reunited here at the DMA in one room.

Five of the paintings have a “clam shell” frame. The sides of a clam shell frame slope inward toward the painting. Each side is half of an arch that peaks at the inner edge where the frame meets the canvas. These frames were all made by painter and frame maker George F. Of, who worked closely with Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery. Thus, it is through her relationship with her sister Georgia and her brother-in-law Alfred Stieglitz that Ida came to know Of during the early years of her career.

Ida’s paintings are not the only example of close working relationships between artists and frame makers on view at the DMA. Artists often worked closely with particular frame makers and some were known to prefer certain styles of frames.

PG_2016_11_21_McD-framed_o4

Maurice Prendergast, Merry-Go-Round, c. 1902-06, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

On view in An Enduring Legacy, Maurice Prendergast’s painting Merry-Go-Round is in a frame that was probably not made by his brother Charles. Many other artists of his time mechanically reproduced patterns for their frames, but Charles designed and hand carved his frames. He considered himself an artist too. If he made a frame for Merry-Go-Round, it was long gone when it entered the McDermott’s collection. Margaret McDermott chose this frame to accentuate the style of the painting.

prendergast detail

The frame has both an inner and outer edge of roughly carved wood in ropelike patterns. Between these layers is an expanse of unvarnished wood with groups of scratches perpendicular to the painting’s edges. The unfinished quality of the wood frame complements the blank canvas that is visible throughout the painting where colors meet.

George Bellows’s portrait of his wife, Emma in a Purple Dress, is in a “Bellows frame.” Bellows favored frames by the New York frame maker M. Grieve Company. This particular water-gilded gold frame has three thin, curved ridges descending toward the painting within a squared outer frame. Its back is stamped with “Grieves Co.” The gilded, textured surface of the frame emphasizes the shining fabric of the sitter’s dress.

Reviews of Ida O’Keeffe’s New York shows sometimes mention her tendency to decorate her own frames, though few of them survive today. Ida most likely didn’t make the frame for Star Gazing in Texas, but she did decorate its upper molding with star-shaped foil stickers and five-point stars cut from tin.

These stars on the frame make it part of the composition. The title, Star Gazing in Texas, reinforces the relationship between painting and frame. During Ida’s lifetime, the painting was exhibited under several other titles—Dreaming in Moonlight; Spring Lethargy, Texas; and, possibly, Texas Hillbillies. The DMA’s Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art, Sue Canterbury, chose the title Star Gazing in Texas, which Ida used in an inventory of her paintings, because it captured the interconnectivity of the painting to its frame. The star-gazing woman looks outside her painted environment, making the frame part of her world as well as part of ours.

Rebecca Singerman is the McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Material Girls (and a Guy)

To make browsing through our online collection easier, there are filters to see smaller samples so you aren’t wading through thousands of artworks. For instance, you can search through culture of origin or look at the period in which an artwork was made—maybe you enjoy 18th-century French, or you want to go back to B.C.E. But one place where you might not normally look is our section labeled “Medium,” which lets you know how each artwork was made and what it is made from. While there are plenty of works made with oil paint, bronze, and marble, there are also those made of neon, bone, and soda cans.

What better time to showcase the interesting materials in our collection than the same week we celebrate the original “Material Girl” herself, Madonna. Second Thursdays with a Twist on September 13 is all about Madonna’s style, music, and the decade she helped shape: the 1980s. Until then, you can learn more about the materials in our collection that, like Madonna herself, are anything but ordinary!

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Prostitutes, c. 1893–95, pastel on emery board, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.75

There are unique materials scattered among all the cultures that make up our collection. As you look at the different materials, some might stick out as interesting or odd, but for the artist making that piece it would not have been such a strange choice. This is the case in the pastel work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in which he used emery board, or emery cloth, as the base. This has similar qualities to sandpaper—slightly rough and coarse compared to traditional canvas. Using a delicate medium like pastel on something that will rip apart the creamy texture was a technique he learned from studying 18th-century pastellistes. Lautrec used the technique to create the beautiful, modeled shadows on the woman’s back with the heavier application of pastel. Although today we might think of emery board as an interesting material, at the time the work was created it would have been somewhat traditional for the pastel medium.

Meg Webster, Untitled (Turmeric), date unknown, jade adhesive on arches paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Caroline and Michael Van Valkenburgh, 2017.47.3, © Meg Webster

Contemporary artist Meg Webster was influenced by the Land art movement in the 1970s and studied under Michael Heizer. This influence led her to work primarily in sculpture using natural elements like plants. Webster’s untitled work in our collection is not a sculpture but one of her works on paper. These works share the same focus on the earth and connection to nature with her use of materials such as soil, ash, beeswax, and spices. Untitled uses turmeric to create a textured, dyed element on the paper. She uses natural materials in this series, but on a more intimate scale compared to her room-sized works with living plants. Using natural elements to dye or paint isn’t new, but using turmeric in its raw form shows Webster’s ability to create art without changing the natural form of the materials she uses, while also giving the piece a multisensory effect through smell and the visually distinct color.

Deborah Butterfield, Horse #6-82 – Steel, 1982, sheet aluminum, wire, and tar, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Edward S. Marcus Fund, 1982.96.FA, © 1982 Deborah Butterfield, Bozeman, Montana

Artist Deborah Butterfield has been making organic sculptures of horses almost her entire career. She has experimented with many different materials to make the animals to scale. In her early career, she used mostly wood and organic materials. The horse in our collection is made from steel, sheet aluminum, wire, and tar during the period in which Butterfield used mainly found metals to make the horse’s form. Even though the materials are rough, she contrasts them by creating smooth, precise forms, making the inorganic look organic. Butterfield is still working today, and now combines the materials from earlier in her career. She finds wood to create the shape of the horse, and then casts the pieces in bronze and reassembles it, Combining the two mediums to make one sculpture.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.


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