Posts Tagged 'DMA collection'

Tracy Hicks’s “Freedman’s Field”

Tracy Hicks was a beloved figure in the Dallas arts community when he passed away in 2014 at the age of 68. Having myself moved to the city only in January 2017, I never got a chance to meet him, but his reputation soon reached me as I attempted to immerse myself in the local arts scene. Hicks was a foundational figure in Dallas, where he had lived since he was a toddler, before ultimately moving with his wife, journalist Victoria Loe Hicks, to North Carolina.

In fall 2018, Greg Metz invited me to see a brilliant retrospective of Hicks’s work at UTD’s SP/N Gallery. After walking through several rooms that showcased Hicks’s investigations around the intersection of scientific and archival processes with art, we encountered a light-locked space. Upon turning the corner, Freedman’s Field, a collection of excavated artifacts artfully arranged on a table, lay in resplendent glory. I had known of the work because it was first exhibited at the DMA in 1994 as part of the Encounters series, which keenly paired his work with the YBA artist Damian Hirst.

Tracy Hicks, Freedman’s Field, 1990–94, wood table, pottery shards, broken bottles, old watch parts, fragments of porcelain dolls, coins, buttons, oxidized silverware, and rusted metal, Dallas Museum of Art, Charron and Peter Denker Contemporary Texas Art Fund, 2020.14

Seeing it for the first time in person, after being steeped in the artist’s world and regaled with stories of his life and practice through Professor Metz’s fabulous tour, was a revelatory experience. The intense love and care Hicks had shown for these objects, which were repositories of such an important and lesser-known history of my new hometown, was palpable. I instantly fell for it, and knew it belonged back at the DMA, where it could communicate these local histories to visitors in perpetuity.

Close-up of Freedman’s Field

After that visit, we sought to learn more about the history of Freedman’s Town and its eventual demolition, beautifully explored in scholarship collected in SP/N’s exhibition catalogue, and in a semi-permanent exhibit at Fair Park’s African American Museum. Meanwhile, our collections team got to work learning how to care for such an installation, meeting with those who had cared for it before—including friends Ron Siebler and Nancy Rebal, who had shown the work in a memorial exhibition Rebal organized for Hicks in Corsicana in 2015—and learning firsthand about the myriad of decisions Hicks made in creating the work. As you’ll see, Freedman’s Field is unlike most works you’ll find in an art collection. The typical rules of cataloging just don’t apply here. It is better conceived as an archaeological dig. And Erick Backer, Preparator; Katie Province, Registrar; and Fran Baas, Objects Conservator, bravely undertook the challenge to apply their best professional standards to its care.

Interim Chief Conservator Fran Baas carefully treating the artwork.

The word curator comes from the Latin curare, “to care,” and this work is all about care: the care Hicks showed for the city of Dallas, the care the many local artists we met with showed to Hicks, and our care in honoring those relationships that predated us. My hope is that this work’s testament to that loving care might encourage us to pay closer attention to the world around us so that we can hear the stories it yearns to tell us.

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

Click here to dive deeper into this piece by watching an excerpt from Ron Siebler’s film Remembering Tracy Hicks.

Connections Across Collections: C3 Visiting Artists

The DMA’s C3 Visiting Artist Project offers opportunities for North Texas–based artists to create an interactive installation and facilitate programming around a theme related to the works in the C3 Gallery. Over the years, the project has showcased the talents of artists from many backgrounds and with various creative approaches and missions. We asked five former C3 Visiting Artists to respond to works in the DMA’s collection that resonate with them. Here’s what they had to say:

xtine burrough & Sabrina Starnaman 
Former C3 Visiting Artists, October–December 2017
Find out about their work through their project page and get to know them through their DMA interview.

Eyedazzler textile, Arizona, Navajo (Diné), 1880–90, wool with indigo and aniline dyes, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, anonymous gift, 2016.19.2.FA
 

Why they chose this work: Our artistic practice investigates the importance of work, especially work by women not credited to the maker. Women are the weavers in many cultures. The Navajo culture’s creation myth tells of Spider Woman, who taught people how to construct looms from the elements: sky, earth, sun, lightning, and crystals. We selected the eyedazzler textile to celebrate women’s work in textile technologies. 

Timothy Harding 
Former C3 Visiting Artist, JanuaryApril 2018
Find out about his work through his project page and get to know him through his DMA interview.

Charles Demuth, Buildings, 1930–31, tempera and plumbago on composition board, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase Fund, Deaccession Funds/City of Dallas (by exchange) in honor of Dr. Steven A. Nash, 1988.21

Why he chose this work: I first encountered the work of Charles Demuth during my undergraduate studies in painting. Seeing how he rendered architectural subject matter with collapsed space and reduced elements helped me think differently about working through problems of paint and form.

Lisa Huffaker 
Former C3 Visiting Artist, JulySeptember 2017 
Find out about her work through her project page and get to know her through her DMA interview.

David McManaway, Jomo/Jomo #14, 1992, mixed media, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas Artists Fund, 1992.523

Why she chose this work: David McManaway’s Jomo/Jomo #14 houses talismanic objects in a shrine-like Wunderkammer that resonates with exponential, not just additive, significance. Likewise, I aspire to exceed the “sum of parts” as I bring fragments of the world into my art and writing.

Lauren Cross 
Former C3 Visiting Artist, September–December 2018
Find out about her work through her project page and get to know her through her DMA interview.

Annette Lawrence, Anna Cooper Lawrence, 1997, acrylic on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., 1998.76, © Annette Lawrence

Why she chose this work: When I was first introduced to the work of Annette Lawrence, I saw so much of the work that I do reflected: the use of brown paper and the connection to personal narrative. Her work Anna Cooper Lawrence is not only related in its use of material but also in her use of family history, a key element in my own practice. My work at the DMA, Assembly, embodies all these qualities with visitors in its use of brown paper and its connection to the familiar among us. 

The Texas Kid and “True Stories”

One hour into David Byrne’s 1986 movie True Stories, John Goodman’s character, Louis Fyne, parks his car in front of the eccentric house of a voodoo practitioner. A sign reading “Invisible Hospital of Saint John the Baptist” is barely visible in the nighttime. That sign was hiding another sign that read “The Texas Kid.” The actual owner of the house with a fantastically decorated yard was Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson.

Filming the “Dinero” music video at The Texas Kid’s house in 1984. Top row, left to right: Charlene Dawkins, Lee Gonzalez, George Reiff, Dick Ross, Willard Watson, Kris Cummings, David Byrne, Joe “King” Carrasco. Seated on bottom row, left to right: Adelle Lutz, Georganne Deen. © Christina Patoski

Willard Watson, a.k.a. The Texas Kid, was a folk artist born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and raised in Dallas, Texas. He was a local celebrity, recognized for his customized cars, flashy outfits that he sewed himself, and the sculpture garden outside his home near Love Field Airport. Fourteen of his drawings are in the DMA’s collection. The first drawings were acquired just three months after the movie was filmed.

As Watson recalled in his autobiography, “That year, 1985, David Byrne, who had a famous band called Talking Heads, came by the house and asked if he could film part of his movie TRUE STORIES at my house.”

Christina Patoski, a journalist and photographer from Fort Worth, served as a special consultant for the movie. David Byrne called her in 1984, after a mutual friend recommended Patoski to be a point of contact in Texas, and said he was working on a film. In the summer of 1984, Byrne, Patoski, and some friends drove around for three days scouting locations in Dallas and surrounding counties that Byrne imagined as settings for the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. Patoski took photographs during the initial trip and throughout the filming of the movie.

Patoski suggested that Byrne come back in the fall during the State Fair. He returned in October and brought Jonathan Demme, the director of Stop Making Sense. At that time, Patoski was directing a music video for Joe “King” Carrasco staged in the The Kid’s yard. They visited her there and met Watson and saw his incredible yard and home. Byrne decided to use it as a location in True Stories. Demme purchased some of Watson’s drawings and later cast him in his feature film Something Wild.

Byrne and crew came back in August of 1985 and started filming in early September. Patoski says it was an intense six-week shoot. Watson recalled:

“Elnora and I said yes, but we had to give up the use of our home for almost two weeks. They would work all day and often until two or three in the morning. The crew was all over the place. . . . At night, the cast and crew liked to party at nightclubs, particularly Shannon’s club, Tango. . . . I even went to their wrap party at Sons of Herman[n Hall.]”

Watson in the “voodoo room,” built in the dining room of his house in 1985. © Andy Reisberg

While Watson himself doesn’t appear in the movie, his wife, Elnora, and one of their grandsons had roles as the wife and son of the shaman, played by Pops Staples. Patoski says they built the “voodoo room” for the movie, but the rest of the house, filled inside and out with Watson’s art, hardly had to be changed.

While True Stories was filming, a solo exhibition of Watson’s art was on view at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake. It was there that a curator from the DMA saw his Life Cycle drawings, and after showing them to the director of the DMA plans were made to acquire them. “I was really really proud for my work to be acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art,” wrote Watson.

Click images to expand.

Lillian Michel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the DMA.

Keeping It Cool

The weather is heating up outside but it’s a cool, comfy, and constant 70 degrees (or thereabouts) at the DMA, where our temperature and humidity is monitored 24/7. More than 220 sensors are hidden throughout the Museum, and they help us record and regulate our internal environment.

With our encyclopedic collection and a vast array of media, 70 degrees with 50% humidity is the museum gold standard to best protect and preserve the precious objects entrusted to our care. If conditions are too dry, our wooden sculptures could crack; too humid, and other objects could start to mildew. What we try to avoid most are dramatic fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which could cause materials to expand and contract.

Artworks that are particularly vulnerable to climatic conditions are sometimes monitored in their cases. Wandering through our galleries, you may spot these tiny devices (just 1 x 2 inches) lurking in the corners. These hygrothermographs are temperature and humidity sensors that give us real-time environmental readings.

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Lacquer in particular, such as these works from our Asian collection, is susceptible to fluctuations, which can cause the material to lift and crack. For objects needing lower humidity, we sometimes hide the desiccant silica gel inside the casework (under decks and mounts) to create special microclimates.

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So as temperatures and humidity soar in the Dallas summer, come cool off in the Museum, where general admission (and air conditioning) is always free.

Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar of Exhibitions at the DMA. 

Insomniac Tours: A History

Roslyn Walker, DMA curator, leading a Late Night tour.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the Dallas Museum of Art after the sun goes down? Do the paintings look different at night? Does the Museum have a different feel to it? Well, there’s one way to find out.

Late Nights at the Museum feature a variety of programs and activities, including the Insomniac Tour. The Insomniac Tours started informally in 2004, thanks to our Director, Bonnie Pitman, and her night-owl disposition. When the DMA turned 100 we stayed open for 31 hours, and Bonnie led tours into the wee hours of the morning for anyone who wanted a more personalized Museum tour. With the launch of Late Nights, the tours continued, and their name was coined.

Bonnie is not the only one who gives the Insomniac Tour, although she tries to attend as many Late Nights as possible. Other guest tour guides have included artists Krystal Read and Jim Lambie, DMA curators Heather MacDonald, Roslyn Walker, and Jeffrey Grove, and local art critics such as Christina Rees. When Director of Collections Management Gabriela Truly gives the tour, she talks about the art that’s not displayed, and where it is stored. These different speakers give visitors a chance to learn new things about the works of art through multiple perspectives.

The best part about Insomniac Tours is that no two tours are the same. The tour guide will take a poll every Late Night to see how many people have taken an Insomniac Tour before, and will ask for input on what members of the group want to see. If the group is full of newcomers, the tour guide will give a “best of” tour, highlighting some of the most unique parts of the DMA’s collections. Repeat visitors can get a tour of more obscure works, or focus on a certain exhibition or movement.

Since the DMA is such an expansive museum, it can be intimidating for visitors to know where to begin. Joining an Insomniac Tour allows visitors to receive a customized tour with some of the leading art experts. So check it out the next time you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night, and see how art can come alive after dark!

Join Olivier Meslay, Senior Curator of European and American Art and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art, when he leads his first Insomniac Tour during the February Late Night.


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