Posts Tagged 'Collection Connections'



Collection Connections: War Horse

Recently I enjoyed a fantastic performance of War Horse over at our Arts District neighbor, the Winspear. I was completely blown away by the horse puppets, created by the South African Handspring Puppet Company. Classifying them as puppets, however, does not seem to do them justice. The beautiful craftsmanship of the puppets along with the expertise of the puppeteers magically breathed life into horse protagonist Joey and his other horse and animal companions. (I was highly entertained by Joey’s hysterically energetic goose friend.)

What I found most amazing was how the puppets, puppet artists, and actors were able to so powerfully communicate the strength of an animal-human bond. I was so moved by the relationship between Joey and his owner Albert that I teared up throughout much of the play!

I wanted to explore how works of art in the DMA’s collection could similarly convey the potential of human and animal relationships. I thought of the following works:

This small ivory sculpture from the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria presents a man with the most important import: the domestic horse. Horses were introduced to Africa via Asian conquerors in Egypt between 1640 and 1532 BC. Because of their speed, strength, and ability to lift a rider taller than any standing man, horses symbolized power and prestige to the Yoruba.

In this nineteenth-century painting, Cinderella and her pet cat gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. As pets are the best listeners, I would imagine she is venting about her mean stepsisters, who vainly admire themselves in the mirror behind her.

In this sculpture, the Hindu god Vishnu appears as a man with a wild boar head.  The earth goddess, whom he just saved from a demon, sits on his shoulder and embraces his snout.

Coats of arms often included representations of animals. Throughout history, humans have admired certain characteristics of animals and used animal imagery to symbolize human values. Think of a courageous lion or a wise old owl…

Here a man stands with open arms, locking eyes with two birds. The stylistic similarities between man and bird suggest man’s undeniable connection to the animal and natural world.

Artworks shown:

  • Horse-and-rider figure (elesin Shango), 17th to 18th century, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.
  • Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation
  • Vishnu as Varaha, 10th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, E.E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Wendover Fund, and gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen
  • Plate with coat of arms, c. 1740, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
  • Rufino Tamayo, Bird Watcher, 1950, Dallas Museum of Art, Collection of Robert Harville Bishop, gift of Eugene H. Bishop

Signing off,

Andrea V. Severin
Coordinator of Teaching Programs

Collection Connections: Jersey Boys

I adore spending my day at the Dallas Museum of Art. But in the evenings, I also love exploring beyond the museum’s perimeters and checking out what our neighbors in the Dallas Arts District are up to. Last week, I thoroughly enjoyed swaying along to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Walk Like a Man, and some of my other favorite songs during Jersey Boys at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I thought about the legacy of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Their music and lyrics are everywhere!  I started to think about where we could find a little bit of Jersey Boys in our collection…

  • Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund

While I was not alive during the 1960s, Jersey Boys transports you back in time, immersing the audience in the dynamic, diverse, and high-energy culture of 1960s America. In the same way, Skyway is a giant collage of imagery representing 1960s American culture.

  • George A. Tice, Houses and Watertowers, New Jersey, 1973, Dallas Museum of Art, Polaroid Foundation grant

This photograph reminds me of the New Jersey neighborhood of Frankie’s childhood from which Frankie was so determined to escape. In Jersey Boys, Frankie’s buddy and fellow Season says, “If you’re from my neighborhood, you got three ways out. You could join the army. You could get mobbed up. Or,you could become a star.”

  • Robert Morris, Untitled, 1965-66, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund and matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

The concept of gestalt refers to a structure composed of individual parts that cannot be expressed in terms of those parts. (A song, for example cannot be recognized as a list of it individual notes.) Gestalt is important in understanding Morris’ sculpture. In this work, two semi-circles together create a full circle. Gestalt also relates to the success of the Four Seasons: their working-class roots, their resolve to leave New Jersey, Bob Gaudio’s songwriting skills, and Frankie Valli’s unique voice.

  • Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: Straight,1962, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Louise W. Kahn and Edmund J. Kahn

The clean lines and strict geometry of Albers’ Homage to the Square: Straight reminds me of the Four Seasons’ clean-cut stage appearances: clean-shaven, slick-back hair,  matching suits and ties, and perfectly in-sync dance moves. Homage to the Square was also painted the same year that the Frankie Valli and Four Seasons came to fame.

  • Bruce Nauman, Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo, 1972, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund, The 500, Inc., Dorace M. Fichtenbaum, Deedie and Rusty Rose, an anonymous donor, the Friends of Contemporary Art and a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in honor of Sue Graze

Many scenes in the Act I take place in seedy lounges and clubs where Frankie and his band mates performed. Neon signage is often the focal point of the set design, referencing the dark and smoky atmospheres of such places. A play-on-words, Perfect Door/ Perfect Odor/ Perfect Rodo, radiates a similar vibe.

Andrea V. Severin
Coordinator of Teaching Programs

Teen Docent Program: Loads of Fun

Every summer something special happens at the DMA.  High school students from around the DFW area lend us their free time to participate in our annual Teen Docent program.  Celebrating ten years of summer fun, the Teen Docent Program offers an invaluable experience for teenagers, ages 14-18, to learn about art, sharpen their speaking skills, and interact with younger students in the galleries.

Teen docent Jennifer Mayen discussing Miguel Covarrubias's "Genesis: The Gift of Life"

This summer we have eleven returning students and thirteen fresh faces, and it’s easy to spot all of them in their official “uniform,” which includes a gray Dallas Museum of Art t-shirt and a Teen Docent badge. 

Most often you’ll find them around the Museum carrying a docent bag full of fun supplies and guiding a group of students on an Animal Safari or A Looking Journey tour.  Other times, you may see them helping out on weekends with Family Experiences programming like Studio Creations and Collections Connections, or pitching in with program hits like First Tuesday or Late Nights.

Teen docent Tennessee Bonner handing out supplies

I asked one our new teen docents, Tennessee Bonner, why he wanted to join the program. “The reason I joined the docent program was the fact that I would be able to help the museum and I would have fun doing it.”

What a great answer!  Teen docents are not only summer tour lifesavers, but they help create a fun, learning environment for younger audiences.  It is the teenagers’ willingness to learn about the Museum and share their enthusiasm with younger students that makes this program work.   

2011 Teen Docents

For the past ten years, the Teen Docent Program has become an integral part of our summer programming.  I commend all the volunteers that have donated hours of their cherished summer time, and I hope to see many of them next summer.

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits


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