Posts Tagged 'DMA'

Latinx Literature: An Arts & Letters Live Reading List

Looking for some inspiration, a deeper dive into current issues, or your next favorite recipe? Here’s a list of books recommended by the Arts & Letters Live team honoring Hispanic Heritage month. 

Fiction: 
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Nonfiction:
Silver, Sword, and Stone by Marie Arana
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú

Silver, Sword, and Stone by Marie Arana

Children’s Picture Books:
Love by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Both authors and illustrators previously featured at Arts & Letters Live!

Yuyi Morales presenting Dreamers at Arts & Letters Live in 2019

Young Adult Fiction:
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Poetry:
Tertulia by Vincent Toro

Tertulia by Vincent Toro

Memoirs:
Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aarón Sánchez
Native Country of the Heart by Cherríe Moraga

Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aarón Sánchez

Cookbooks:
Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor by Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evangelina Soza
My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson

My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson

You Asked, They Answered! #AskaCurator Highlights

The DMA participated in #AskaCurator Day on Twitter last week—a day that harnessed the power of social media to connect our curators to just about anyone with a Twitter account and a burning question. Users tweeted their questions using the #AskaCurator hashtag for our seven participating curators to respond to. This resulted in a wide-ranging (and fun!) array of answers, from absurd museum gifs to personal anecdotes. Here are a few of the highlights:

Q: What is your favorite museum gif?

Q: How important is social media to seeing and finding new artists?

Q: What’s one of the weirdest paintings in your collection?

Q: What is your biggest “OMG I can’t believe I get to work/handle these object(s), pieces of history, etc.”?

Q: How have you done your job during the pandemic?

Follow us on Twitter to read through all of our #AskaCurator threads!

The Figures Behind “Hands of the Heroes”

The brooches in Kiff Slemmons Hands of the Heroes series, part of the exhibition Contemporary Art + Design: New Acquisitions, are each inspired by historical figures. Browse our round-up of interactive materials below to help you become familiar with the heroes represented and their historical significance.

Kiff Slemmons, Hands of the Heroes, 1987–1991, silver, ebony and mastodon ivory, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Deedie Potter Rose; TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund for Wearable Art, 2020.12.1-12

Harry Houdini

Jacques Cousteau

Marie Curie

Marco Polo III

Don Quixote

Glenn Gould

Roald Amundsen

Louis Leakey II

Fred Astaire

Emily Dickinson

Stephen Jay Gould

Joseph Cornell

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.

Artist Interview: Do Ho Suh

Earlier this year, Dr. Vivian Li, the Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art, had the opportunity to interview artist Do Ho Suh, whose work is featured in the exhibition For a Dreamer of Houses. Read excerpts from the interview below about his inspiration and how the pandemic has changed his practice, and click here to read the full interview.

Do Ho Suh, Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea, 2016, Polyester fabric and stainless steel, 117 × 102 × 65 in. (2 m 97.18 cm × 2 m 59.08 cm × 1 m 65.1 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2019.15. Photo by John Smith.

VL: Many of your fabric pieces are replicas of a specific place you once called home and are often described as such with the precise address as the title. Can you describe the place that inspired Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea (2016), and why you selected to make a fabric replica of this particular structure?

DHS: Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea is an area of my parents’ home in Seoul, where I grew up. It’s a traditional han ok (Korean house)—a 70s copy of the one King Sunjo (1790–1834) built in the early-nineteenth century because he wanted to experience the life of ordinary people. I’ve continued to stay there whenever I’m back in Seoul so it’s the site of decades of memories for me. I think of the fabric architecture works as, in a sense, an act of shedding skin, slipping out of my clothes and packing them quietly away to unfold elsewhere.

The Hub sculptures are transitional or in-between spaces—corridors, passages, entryways. This one is an area between the bathroom and the living room/bedroom. Traditional Korean architecture is much more porous than in the West—there is less rigidity to the separation of the rooms, and the outside world is much more integrated: sounds travel; doors or windows become walls; you feel the temperature of your external surroundings keenly; the spaces themselves are reconfigured throughout the day and night. That porous quality all feeds into this sculpture and it’s partly why the translucence of the fabric is key. I began using fabric partly because of its affinities with those qualities in Korean architecture and Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong is probably the closest one of my Hubs comes to the original structure, because three of the walls are doors and windows covered in rice paper. The transition feels very natural.

Do Ho Suh, Seoul Home/Seoul Home/Kanazawa Home/Beijing Home/Pohang Home/Gwangju Home, 2012-present, Silk and stainless steel tubes, 575 x 285 x 156.5 inches / 1460.5 x 723.9 x 397.5 cm, Installation view, Do Ho Suh: Perfect Home, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, 2012–2013. © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

VL: How has the pandemic changed your studio practice, or is there anything you have become more focused on lately?

DHS: I keep thinking about what it means if you don’t have somewhere to call home. I first started to consider what home meant when I left Korea and I’ve never stopped, so for me it was something that came into focus when it was challenged. So many people must be struggling with that now. Also how borders—physical, political, social—impact our behaviors. I’m a transnational artist and I’ve benefited from notions of a borderless world, the fluid and constantly moving nature of the cultural sector. What happens to that now? They’re such complex areas though. I’m also thinking a lot about what’s happened in the wake of globalization, and to an extent neoliberalism—all the lost optimism, all the ambitions to build new walls and borders.

In terms of my studio practice, I’m inevitably doing less work on larger-scale physical projects and a lot of thinking around philosophical concerns. Even the fact that I’m spending a lot of time cleaning my apartment – I’m touching and seeing it in different ways and that’s really interesting to me. Looking anew at the objects you unthinkingly interact with on a daily basis. I’m also working a lot with my two young daughters on an ongoing project, but it’s really taken shape during the lockdown. We’ve been building a lot with Legos and whole fantastical worlds of modelling clay. I’m interested in what happens to our psychic space as we age, how the child’s mind works and what imaginative play communicates about how we frame our worlds, how we try and impose order on the chaos and how much better children are at navigating that chaos.


See this work in For a Dreamer of Houses, now open to the public at the Dallas Museum of Art through July 4, 2021. Plan your visit to the DMA and reserve your tickets here.

Making the Mural: Behind the Scenes of “Landscape of a Lifetime”

In fall 2019, Sandra Cinto’s large-scale mural Landscape of a Lifetime was brought to life in the Museum’s Concourse by the artist, along with the help of some DMA staff and a team of artist assistants from around Dallas. The team spent roughly three weeks working on the 153-foot mural, which features 24 shades of blue shifting from night to day, intricate pen drawings of celestial elements such as stars and clouds, and low-level audio of crashing waves, rustling leaves, birds, and crickets.

Sandra Cinto and team working on the mural

To coincide with the recent launch of our virtual tour of the mural, we reached out to some of the participants who helped bring this work of art together and asked them to reflect on their experience. Here’s what they had to say:

“Learning Sandra’s simple drawing vocabulary of dots and lines, which we deployed in the cavernous Concourse in the form of stars, bridges, mountains, and clouds, created a link to an ancient human past of painting cave walls, tombs, temples, canyons, and shelters with an extended family that speaks a common language of art.” —Tino Ward

Sandra Cinto: Landscape of a Lifetime at the Dallas Museum of Art
Cinto working with an artist assistant

“Being an artist is a selfish pursuit. Even when it comes to a mural, helpers are treated as a necessary evil, paycheck players brought in to meet a deadline. Sandra Cinto is a magical exception to that rule. Her mural, Landscape of a Lifetime, allowed us lucky few to feel truly invested as this piece took shape, while Sandra deftly handled the key elements. Rather than keeping us at arm’s length, she built a nest in the clouds and drew us in. I was given the job of drawing stars. Up close, they seemed tedious and mundane, but when taken in from a distance, they shimmer—not unlike Sandra herself. I had the privilege of being part of a project that was communal in the best sense of the word—an enterprise of the spirit. Thank you, Sandra.” —Russell Sublette

“Working on Landscape of a Lifetime was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The opportunity to learn from such a successful artist was an honor. I made many meaningful connections that I am eternally grateful for.” —Meena Valentine

Meena Valentine contributing to the mural

“Sandra Cinto firmly believes that everyone can draw. The elements that you see throughout the mural are composed of simple marks—the stars are lines radiating from a center point, the mountains quick penstrokes—but with many people drawing, they come together in a multitude to form a harmonious whole. That is another component of Sandra’s philosophy: communities of people can be an incredible source of love, care, and creative potential.” —Hilde Nelson

Hilde Nelson drawing delicate penstrokes
Cinto warmly giving an artist assistant a hug

A Journey Through the Design of “My|gration”

What items would you take with you if you had a few hours to prepare for a weeklong trip? If you’re like me, you might drag your suitcase down from the storage shelf in the garage and lay out a few outfit options with a pair of good walking shoes, the necessary toiletries, phone charger, and books. But let’s imagine for a moment that we didn’t have a few hours to prepare, and our weeklong trip was actually a permanent move. What items would you choose if you were leaving your home forever and you could only take what you could carry? What if your move wasn’t your decision, and it was forced upon you? Or maybe your move was your decision and you are hoping for a better life with more opportunities?

This is the heartbeat of the exhibition My|gration, which is a play on words describing the personal journey of migration experienced by our community and by artists throughout history. As a graphic designer at the Museum, I was very excited to have the opportunity to take the lead in designing the environmental graphics for this exhibition. Working closely with the Interpretation, Education, and Exhibition teams, we wanted to create an exhibition that encouraged the visitor to experience the world from another person’s perspective, and in particular how life and art are affected by immigration or displacement.

As we started designing, we thought about the natural journey of the earth as it travels around the sun, bringing us day and night, dusk and dawn. We mirrored that with the idea that many people take similar journeys throughout their lives, with periods of light and dark, clarity and ambiguity. These thoughts informed our earthy and atmospheric color palette.

I started to create graphic elements that would help tie this metaphorical journey with the physical journey of movement and migration. I illustrated a compass rose that represented the many directions life could take us, both
emotionally and physically. We used suitcases and luggage tags to suggest the idea of items you might journey with. Then I started working with an illustrated map of Dallas, zooming in and making it the color of earth—a rusty, warm bronze. I laid it out at the bottom of the entry walls with a sunset gradient fading into a starry night sky.

As a focal point of the exhibition, DMA Head of Interpretation Dr. Emily Schiller provided facts about Dallas’s immigrant population to highlight the diversity in our own community. I used the illustrated map of Dallas here as well in this bilingual infographic.

The exhibition space was organized into sections featuring artwork that fell into three categories: Arrivals (artists who immigrated to the US), Departures (artists who emigrated from the US), and In Transit (art reflecting our connected world). For these section headers, I designed circular blade signs that mimicked ones you might see on the road or at a train station while traveling.

The circle used for the blade signs repeats itself throughout the graphics in the space. I used it frequently to suggest multiple meanings: (1) the rose compass, (2) the “you are here” icon on a map, and (3) the metaphorical idea that circles are continuous, much like the personal journeys of our lives.

Brittany Lowe is a graphic designer at the DMA.

Black Birders on What Humans Can Learn from Birds

Summer is a popular time for birding. Binoculars optional—all you really need to do is look and listen and you’ll see that birds are everywhere: working, singing, crafting. However, some birders know that they have to consider their own safety and security while viewing birds, not because of the dangers of wildlife but because of racism. With the recent viral video of the false police report made by a white woman against an African American man birding in Central Park, birding has become part of the national dialogue around race. Within 48 hours of the birder’s video post, which took place on the same day that George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, an enterprising group of nature enthusiasts, ecologists, and science educators joined forces to create the first ever Black Birders Week to bring awareness to issues of race and the outdoors. I spoke to three organizers of the group about the video, birds, art, and more.

From left: Nicole Jackson, Kassandra Ford, Ashley Gary

Nicole Jackson, Program Coordinator at The Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, told me that such incidents of racism directed at Black birders and outdoor enthusiasts “is something that happens more often than people realize.” Kassandra Ford, a PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, echoed this, saying, “I wish I could say I was surprised by [the video], but I wasn’t at all.” Ashley Gary, a freelance Science Communicator also known as The Wildlife Host, remarked, “It is exhausting to be a Black person because there are so many things you have to worry about.”

Although Black Birders Week was formed to address racial inequities, its aim is also to highlight the positive impacts of African Americans in birding, environmental work, and the STEM fields. I decided to ask these three founding members of Black Birders Week to weigh in on some works in the DMA’s collection depicting birds, since birds’ relationship to human society is nothing new, and in fact goes back millennia.

Pendant: bird-man, Tairona, 1200–1500, Tumbaga, Dallas Museum of Art, the Nora and John Wise Collection, bequest of Nora Wise, 1989.W.474

The first piece, a bird-man gold pendant, would have been worn around the neck by elite men in what is present-day Colombia. The piece may reflect the Tairona belief that religious leaders could temporarily leave their human form to embody animals and gain knowledge from them. This pendant shows a bird of prey in somewhat of a dual human-animal form as the bird wears earrings and perhaps a garment. I asked Kassandra for her insights on birds of prey. “Birds are just,” Kassandra then paused, “excuse my language—but they’re badass. They’re intense, they’re ferocious, especially birds of prey. They have an aura of pride and power in the way that they hold themselves, in the way that they dive-bomb prey. That kind of attitude is like a warrior.” Indeed the piece may very well have been worn with that same aplomb.

Dance headdress, Igbo peoples, mid-20th century, wood, paint, metal, and fiber, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1975.27.McD

This dance headdress by an artist of the Igbo of present-day southeastern Nigeria would have been worn in dynamic display during a masquerade. The carving depicts a seat for the spirits, of which the birds may be indicative as messengers to the spirit world. Ashley found the bird figures in this piece to be observing the activity from all angles, suggesting omniscience. She compared it to Edgar Allan Poe’s infamous Raven, who silently watches and knows all, as the poem goes: “the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core.”

Double-spout strap-handle vessel depicting a falcon, Paracas, 500–400 BCE, ceramic and resin-suspended paint,
Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.85

The double-spout vessel depicting a falcon is a funerary object from Peru’s Paracas peninsula. Many two-spouted vessels were musical devices that whistled when poured. Bird imagery is common in Paracas art, and music was also a crucial element of life, including in burial rituals, festivals, and ceremonial communications with ancestors. Since birds are among the most magisterial song makers in the animal kingdom, it seems fitting that a culture highly valuing music would also esteem an animal known for impressive sounds.

Bird calls play a major role in how birders learn to locate and learn about a bird’s life. Ashley noted that birds have the unique ability to sing two notes at once, since birds produce sounds from an organ called the syrinx, a two-sided voice box in their chest. According to author David Sibley, birds sing to communicate and mark territory. They can read their audience too, as they sing differently to mates than to rivals, and some species have over 200 songs in their repertoire. To find out more about bird behaviors, tune in to our Arts & Letters Live event with David Sibley, available now through July 28.

All three birders we interviewed spoke of the meditative aspect of birding, how it quiets the mind and fuels the spirit. The vast array of artistic depictions of birds, Nicole speculated, may reflect the dichotomy between the ubiquity of birds in our lives and their simultaneous mystery. “Birds are everywhere,” Nicole observed, “but there’s the dynamic that we don’t know everything about them. It’ll be a lifetime before you’re close to knowing everything about birds.” In a time when many people are aiming for social change, Nicole’s final observation struck me as a potent lesson to learn from the only surviving dinosaurs: “Birds are very resilient and very adaptable.” The intersection of nature and society also struck a note for me in one of Kassandra’s effusions about the pleasures of birding: “Birds can be unapologetically themselves without worrying about being judged.  We as humans can learn from them.”

Dr. Carolee Klimchock is a Program Manager for Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

Break Bread, Break Borders: A Recipe and Reflection

We reached out to Break Bread, Break Borders, one of our community partners for the My|gration exhibition, and invited them to share a favorite recipe from their kitchen, as well as provide some background on their organization. Follow these steps to learn how to make a Syrian-style chicken kabsa dish, and find out more about this local nonprofit that “caters with a cause” in their message below.

Chicken Kabsa: Syrian Style (feeds 4 people)

Syrian Style Chicken Kabsa

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups basmati rice
  2. 1 whole chicken cut into pieces or 4 thighs
  3. 1 medium size onion
  4. 5 pieces of minced garlic
  5. 1 green pepper
  6. 2 green chili peppers
  7. 1 cup grated carrots
  8. 1 cup tomato sauce
  9. Handful of raisins (can skip)
  10. Nuts (almonds) for decoration (can skip)

Spices and herbs:

  1. Salt
  2. Black pepper
  3. Juice of 1 lime
  4. 2 cinnamon sticks
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 3 cloves
  7. 5 cardamom pods
  8. 1 teaspoon of “7 Spices” mix
  9. 1 teaspoon kabsa spice mix
  10. 1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
  11. Parsley for garnish (optional)
BBBB Community Cooks Khuloud Sultan (image left), and Rania Alahmad (image right)

Preparation:

  1. Chop onions and pepper finely
  2. Add oil in pot
  3. Add onions first; when it turns a bit brown, add garlic
  4. Add the rest of the veggies and mix
  5. Add tomato sauce
  6. Add salt and all spices
  7. Lower heat and let it cook for about 5 minutes
  8. Add washed chicken pieces to the mix
  9. Mix for a little bit and then add water until chicken is covered
  10. Let it cook and boil until chicken is fully cooked
  11. Wash rice very well
  12. Put rice in a pot; add the chicken stock to the rice (for every cup of rice, add a cup and a half of the chicken stock)
  13. Let it boil and then lower heat under it
  14. Add some raisins to the rice 7-10 min before it’s fully cooked
  15. Don’t mix the raisins, only cover the rice and let it cook
  16. Bake chicken in the oven at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
  17. Roast nuts in pan until golden brown
  18. Before serving the rice, mix it lightly with a bit of ghee
  19. Serve rice in serving tray and add the chicken, nuts and minced parsley on top
  20. Enjoy!

BBBB Community Cook Rania Alahmad, serving her father’s recipe of Chicken Kabsa

June was first declared World Refugee Awareness Month in 2001. Since then, June has been a time to acknowledge the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees who live around the globe. By definition, a refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters. These are the heroic journeys that inspired the show My|gration at the DMA, and our organization, Break Bread, Break Borders, is honored to be a participant in this community project.

Based in Dallas, Texas, Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB) is a “catering with a cause” social enterprise, economically empowering women from war-torn countries by teaching them how to earn a living by honing their cooking and entrepreneurial skills. Professional chefs, restaurants, caterers, and culinary consultants mentor refugee women apprentices, who earn food service industry licenses and certifications. BBBB’s women also learn to share their powerful stories with diners, creating a unique cultural exchange.

Jin-Ya Huang founded Break Bread, Break Borders in 2017 to honor the legacy of her late mother—chef, restaurateur, and community leader Margaret Huang. Through food, culture, and powerful storytelling, we break bread with the community, breaking down borders at the same time.

BBBB has served more than 10,000 people, catering events for clients including the City of Dallas, Texas Women’s Foundation, George W. Bush Institute, Texas Lyceum, Toyota of North America, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Social Venture Partners-Dallas, and many more. We have been named among Dallas’s Top 50 Most Innovative Social Enterprises by Dallas Innovates. BBBB is part of a cohort of social enterprises at The Hunt Institute at Southern Methodist University. Airbnb International has featured BBBB as a social impact experience partner. Our founder Jin-Ya Huang was selected as a 2019 Food Leader of the Year by Slow Food USA. In 2020 Huang was selected for the prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, allowing her the chance to work with former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on community projects to create lasting social change.

Standing on the side of freedom, Break Bread, Break Borders proudly educates on the ideas of equity, anti-racism, and eradication of xenophobia. One bite at a time, we will continue to share the taste of hope, compassion, and transformation to the world. Enclosed here is a recipe from one of our BBBB Community Cooks, Rania Alahmad. Please enjoy her Chicken Kabsa Syrian Style with your families, neighbors, and loved ones. Happy cooking, y’all!

Jin-Ya Huang is the founder of Break Bread, Break Borders, a social enterprise developing a culinary training program to help refugee women from war-torn countries find food service job opportunities by sharing their storytelling through food and culture. She is a member of Orchid Giving Circle and a fellow of the 2020/21 Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.

Unnecessary Embarrassment: Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Letters

Among the treasures in the DMA Archives are four letters exchanged in the summer of 1941 between artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi and the Director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Richard Foster Howard. For more than 40 years, these letters were the only works by Kuniyoshi housed in the DMA. Since 1988, Museum visitors have become acquainted with him through Bather with Cigarette. This star of the American art collection is currently on view in My|gration in the Center for Creative Connections.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Bather with Cigarette, 1924, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase Fund, Deaccession Funds/City of Dallas (by exchange) in honor of Dr. Steven A. Nash, 1988.22, © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Displayed alongside works by artists and designers including Hans Hoffman, Peter Muller-Munk, and An-My Lê, Kuniyoshi’s painting represents one of the 14 immigration stories shared in the exhibition’s “Arrivals” section. The 1941 correspondence between the 51-year-old artist and the DMFA director sheds light on the challenges and discrimination Kuniyoshi experienced in the US.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, from the Archives of American Art, photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son

Kuniyoshi arrived alone in Spokane, Washington, as a teenager in 1906. Although he initially planned to stay only a few years, by 1910 his artistic talents had led him to New York City. There he enrolled in a series of schools and entered the circle of leading figures in American art.

Bather with Cigarette was completed in 1924—the same year Congress effectively banned immigration from Asian countries. Kuniyoshi had already witnessed the government’s discriminatory policies. His marriage to fellow artist Katherine Schmidt in 1919 caused her to lose her citizenship. In 1922 the Supreme Court ruled that Japanese people were not the same as “free white persons” and thus did not have the same rights to naturalization. 

Fast forward to the summer of 1941. Headlines about naval attacks and international conflict fueled racism and xenophobia in the US. Kuniyoshi, like many American artists, wanted to travel the country in search of new inspiration. Unlike most of his peers, he could not embark on a trip without being hyper-aware that his appearance and national origins could be perceived as threatening. To mitigate the risk of police detention, he asked regional arts leaders to provide letters verifying his profession. The DMA Archives holds Kuniyoshi’s initial request to Howard (May 22, 1941), the director’s two-part response (here and here, May 26, 1941), and the artist’s thank you (mailed mid-journey from Colorado Springs, July 9, 1941).

Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s original letter to Richard Foster Howard.
Click HERE to expand.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the US declared war. Kuniyoshi was not among the 120,000 people of Japanese heritage who were forcibly moved to internment camps in early 1942. He was, however, declared an “enemy alien.” Federal authorities impounded his bank account and confiscated his binoculars and camera as potential spy equipment. Despite this maltreatment, he spent the war years working for the federal government as a graphic artist and radio broadcaster (valued for his fluency in Japanese). Following WWII, Kuniyoshi became the first living artist to be honored with a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1948. Although he had identified as an American and lived in the US for over 40 years, immigration laws prevented him from becoming an American citizen before his death in 1953.

Emily Schiller is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.


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