Posts Tagged 'DMA'

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.

Pride of Place: Dallas Artists Respond

It’s always fascinating to see which objects in the DMA’s collection artists are drawn to because it can be a window into what is on their mind and how they think about their own work. For the last three years, the DMA has partnered with the local arts nonprofit Arttitude to celebrate the work of LGBTQ+ visual and performing artists in Dallas through programs like State of the Arts and our annual Pride Block Party. Since we are unable to tour the galleries with local artists for Pride Month this year, we reached out to two artists who exhibited in Arttitude’s recent MariconX show and invited them to find and respond to an object in the DMA’s collection that resonates with their own work. Here is what they had to say: 

Armando Sebastián is a Dallas-based painter whose work draws on Mexican folk art and his own life experiences to explore themes of gender and identity. Sebastián describes his style as akin to magical realism, and he is particularly interested in referencing the traditional Mexican folk art genre of ex voto paintings depicting divine interventions into human misfortunes.

Here are a few recent paintings from Armando Sebastián. You can see more of his work on his website and on Instagram

Images: Armando Sebastián, Los Amados / Live in Harmony, 2020; I know who I am, 2020; The Dreamers, 2019

Sebastián chose the 18th-century painting Christ as Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), reflecting:

Unknown artist, Christ as Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), late 18th century, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Cleofas and Celia de la Garza Collection, gift of Mary de la Garza-Hanna and Virginia de la Garza and an anonymous donor, 1994.37.1

“The angels above are conspiring to the master plan on earth. The trinity holds flaming hearts, perhaps the interpretation of humankind. On the ground you see the depiction of evil, a beast eating a fruit. The ladder to the heavens is full of obstacles that makes it impossible for anyone to climb. I personally appreciate narrative in art, the possibility to convey complex ideas and hidden meanings through your work.” 

Olivia Peregrino is a Dallas-based photographer working in portraiture and documentary photography. She began her career as a photojournalist, and her work has expanded to include uplifting portraits of women and Latinx LGBTQ+ communities, event photography, and documentary filmmaking.

Here are a few recent photographs by Olivia Peregrino. To see more of her work, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

This slideshow contains nudity.

Images: Olivia Peregrino, Omar, El Salvador, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Rafael, Colombia, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Wandel, Dominican Republic, LGBT Immigrant, ongoing project, 2020; Melissa, Natural Bodies, 2018

Olivia chose Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1981 photograph Ajitto, saying the following:

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ajitto, 1981, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund, © The Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe. Used with permission, 1981.99

“Robert Mapplethorpe is one of my favorite artists for the beauty of his portraits and his mastery of light and composition. Ajitto’s portrait perfectly reflects Mapplethorpe’s recurring obsessions in his photographs. The representation of the human body through the female and male nude is a theme that I, as an artist, also seek to show in my portraits, but from a feminine and contemporary perspective.”

DSO x DMA: A European Art-Inspired Playlist

We asked Dallas Symphony Orchestra musicians to curate their own Spotify playlist that pairs music with artworks from our European collection. Hit play and take an immersive stroll through our virtual galleries to hear how each piece of music harmonizes with the art, and read deeper into each musician’s notes here:

Derick Baegert, The Descent from the Cross, about 1480-1490, oil on oak panel, Dallas Museum of Art, Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Fund in memory of Dr. William B. Jordan, 2018.14

Kari Kettering, Cello
Artwork: Derick Baegert, The Descent from the Cross
Track: Johann Sebastian Bach, St. Matthew Passion
I picked J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion for this painting because it is a masterpiece of sacred music and to me nothing else more perfectly and divinely depicts the story of the crucifixion. The whole work is almost three hours long so if I had to pick one movement to accompany the painting it would be No.64, “Am Abend, da es kuhle war”. It occurs right after the Evangelist speaks of the scene depicted in the painting.

Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Ecce Homo, after 1615, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, 1969.16

Jenna Barghouti, Violin
Artwork: Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Ecce Homo
Track: Johann Sebastian Bach, Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052: II. Adagio
Though written about a century after Procaccini’s Ecce Homo was brought to lifethe second movement of J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D minor felt like the perfect setting for Procaccini’s work. The movement opens with an eerie, chromatic melody that is played in unison by the strings and the harpsichord. The dramatic opening almost illuminates the surroundings of Procaccini’s work; the looming figures surrounding Christ who portray indifference to his suffering. The short introduction paves the way for the glistening harpsichord sound to soar above the orchestra. The lone harpsichord embodies Christ’s heightened emotions. His suffering comes through in the highly embellished, yet despairing, solo harpsichord melody. The harpsichord draws the listeners in through the rest of the movement, just like Ecce Homo gradually reveals new details with each glance.

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre, The Abduction of Europa, 1750, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 1989.133.FA

Ted Soluri, Principal Bassoon (Irene H. Wadel & Robert I. Atha, Jr. Chair)
Artwork: Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre, The Abduction of Europa
Track: Jean-Philippe Rameau, Zaïs, Prologue,: EntrActe
The Rococo Era of painting and music expands on the Baroque style with more color and lightness. The rococo French composer Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s music is a perfect pairing with the work. The music is light and energetic with wonderful colors in the orchestral writing.

Elisabeth Louise Vigée‑Lebrun, Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo, 1799, oil on canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 32.2019.14

Willa Henigman, Associate Principal Oboe
Artwork: Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo
Track: Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony in B flat, H.I No.85 -“La Reine”: 1. Adagio – Vivace
Since Vigée-Lebrun was Marie Antoinette’s portraitist, I have chosen one of Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies, nicknamed “La Reine” (“The Queen”) after Marie Antoinette declared it her favorite of Haydn’s works. The first movement of the Symphony captures the grace of 18th-century society but also contains moments of drama, which I feel matches the elegance and rich colors of this portrait.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bonneville, Savoy, 1803, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Nancy Hamon in memory of Jake L. Hamon with additional donations from Mrs. Eugene D. McDermott, Mrs. James H. Clark, Mrs. Edward Marcus and the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1985.97.FA

Theodore Harvey, Associate Principal Cello (Holly & Tom Mayer Chair)
Artwork: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bonneville, Savoy
Track: Edward Elgar, In the South, Op. 50
Even though Bonneville, Savoy is in France, “Savoy” is also the name of the royal family of Italy, and I was thinking about Englishmen being inspired by visits to continental Europe. Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) came to mind. We performed that at the DSO not too long ago.

Gustave Courbet, Fox in the Snow, 1860, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 1979.7.FA

Gregory Raden, Principal Clarinet (Mr. & Mrs. C. Thomas May, Jr. Chair)
Artwork: Gustave Courbet, Fox in the Snow
Track: Claude Debussy, String Quartet in G Minor, Op.10, L. 85: 2. Scherzo (Assez vif et bien rythmé)
I chose the second movement of Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor. In this movement, I could feel the coolness of the snowy landscape and the sense of the victorious fox with his prey after the chase.

Claude Monet, Valle Buona, Near Bordighera, 1884, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, 1981.127

Christine Hwang, Viola
Artwork: Claude Monet, Valle Buona, Near Bordighera
Track: Hector Berlioz, Harold en Italie, Op. 16, H. 68: III. Sérénade d’un Montagnard des Abruzzes à sa maîtresse (Allegro assai – Allegretto)
When I saw this painting, Berlioz’s Harold in Italy came to mind (yay, solo viola ). I’m particularly reminded of the third movement, in which a mountaineer sings to his beloved in the Abruzzi region of Italy. It’s both rugged and picturesque at the same time.

Paul Gauguin, I Raro te Oviri (Under the Pandanus), 1891, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the Adele R. Levy Fund, Inc., 1963.58.FA

Stephen Ahearn, Clarinet
Artwork: Paul Gauguin, I Raro te Oviri (Under the Pandanus)
Track: Claude Debussy, Suite bergamasque: I. Prelude
Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque is one of his most famous piano works, and was composed around the same time that Gauguin painted “I Raro te Oviri”. The first movement “Prelude” pairs wonderfully with the Gauguin as they both use a bold color pallet and clear, concise structure to create their respective scenes. Debussy’s Suite was beautifully orchestrated by André Caplet, a contemporary of Debussy’s, and the recording I’ve suggested was conducted by Jun Märkl. Märkl is a frequent guest conductor at the Dallas Symphony and I always look forward to working with him.

Edvard Munch, Thuringian Forest, 1904, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., bequest of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 2019.67.15.McD

Maria Schleuning, Violin (Norma & Don Stone Chair)
Artwork: Edvard Munch, Thuringian Forest
Track: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 1 in D Major: 4. Stürmisch bewegt
I love the idea of Mahler Symphony No. 1 for this, but I would suggest the opening of the 4th movement. I think it expresses the deforestation and bleeding/anguish depicted in the painting perfectly.

Gerrit Rietveld, Zig-Zag Chair, 1932, stained pinewood, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2018.8.McD

George Nickson, Principal Percussion (Margie & William H. Seay Chair)
Artwork: Gerrit Rietveld, Zig-Zag Chair
Track: Igor Stravinsky, The Soldier’s Tale (Histoire du soldat)
This reminds me of the wit and fun angularity of Stravinsky’s music from this period. I think Soldier’s Tale fits this really well!

The Wonder Moments

What do you love to do? Perhaps it’s a favorite hobby or pastime, or perhaps it’s part of your job. Is there a moment that comes to mind when you think back on how you first became interested in that particular passion? We call these moments the “wonder moments”—moments where sparks of curiosity are first ignited. We asked DMA staff members about the “wonder moments” that led to working in a museum or doing the jobs they do now. Here’s what they had to say:

Georgia O’Keeffe, Red Poppy, 1927, Private Collection, Geneva. Invitation to the 1988 exhibition preview, Dallas Museum of Art Archives

Tamara Wootton Forsyth
The Marcus-Rose Family Deputy Director
The moment I knew when I wanted to work in a museum was actually here at the DMA! My high school art teacher made it a requirement that we go on a field trip to a museum. My field trip was to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition here at the DMA. I was dumbfounded by the exhibition and knew I wanted to stay in the arts forever. This was my favorite painting from the show. I even ended up with a small tattoo of the work!

Jacqueline Allen
The Mildred R. and Frederick M. Mayer Director of Libraries
I’ve always loved a good mystery.  In grade school, I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a novel about two children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and research an art object.  Two decades later, I visited The Met in New York City and knew then that art and museums would be part of my life.  Fast forward to an Arts & Letters Live event on March 26, 2004, where I met the author E. L. Konigsburg, a dream come true.

Brian MacElhose
Collections Information Manager
I discovered when working at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) that I could merge two of my interests: computers and the fine arts. I had decided to return to nonprofit museum work after working in a for-profit gallery for about three years in New York City. When I was tasked with governing MAD’s art information, I realized that data is my jam!

Bernardo Velez Rico
Manager of Off-Site School ProgramsMy “wonder moment” was as an undergraduate at Stanford University.  The first class I took taught the histories of my communities—ones of resistance and resilience—through art; that taught me we all have stories to tell, and that I could help youth share their own.

Jessica Thompson-Castillo
Manager of Teen Programs
My “a-ha” moment was when I was working alongside teen volunteers in my first museum internship at Thinkery in Austin. Young people taught me what it means to listen and act with empathy—because sometimes that’s hard for adults to remember. Their passion and leadership inspire me to be a positive force for change in my community.

Art Runs in the Family

Creativity is all around us in Dallas, and we love highlighting and honoring our local creative community at the Museum. This year, we have the special opportunity to celebrate the work of two relatives: Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson, whose drawings are in For a Dreamer of Houses, and his nephew Stephen McGee, whose painting is featured in We Are ARTISTS: The Stewpot Art Program.   

Willard Watson, affectionately known as “The Texas Kid,” was raised in Dallas and wore many hats—literally and figuratively—over his lifetime. He served as a solider in the South Pacific  in World War II, and was also a tailor, a cook, a carpenter, an upholsterer, a shade-tree mechanic, a handyman, and an actor. Around town, he was best known for his creative homemade outfits, customized cars, and front yard sculpture garden.

Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson’s customized car
Photograph of Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson seated outside of his home and posing in front of the sculptures placed in his yard for his portrait. Creator: Unknown, 1993–01. This photograph is part of the collection entitled The Black Academy of Arts and Letters Records and was provided by UNT Libraries Special Collections.

His artworks often included found objects and everyday materials. Using colored markers, pencil, and paper, Watson created a series of Life Cycle drawings that showed scenes from his home and family life and were narrated with vivid captions. Thinking back on his childhood in Dallas, he wrote:

My middle sister, Mable, had taken sick and I to go down to Elm Street to Otis drug store to pick up some medicine, But first I had to get some money from Daddy, who worked at S&S grocery store. I had to walk a mile down Central tracks and a mile back. And when I got Back my mother was drinking Buttermilk, I will never forget it. Tears were in her eyes, and it made me feel very Bad. She was depressed. She Loved her children so much that when one got sick she’d show it By tears. She say she Be praying But she always had tears. I kind cheered her up. The other Children were out Playing.

Willard Watson, “The Texas Kid,” born 1921 in Caddo Parish, LA; died 1995 in Dallas, TX; Untitled, 1985. Colored marker and pencil. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Friends of Willard Watson, 1985.181.8

Watson shared his love of art with his nephew Stephen McGee. McGee relished working in acrylic paint, pastels, colored pencils, and charcoal mediums. He particularly enjoyed portraiture, and he completed art projects for the nonprofit organization CitySquare that involved creating drawings of former talk show host Jay Leno, Lyle Lovett, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Dallas Cowboy Tyron Smith. McGee had loved art since he was a small child, and next to his love for God, art was his life.

Stephen McGee working on a portrait of Robert Johnson
Retrieved April 10, 2020, from FPCDallas
Fast Cheetah by Stephen McGee

McGee became a member of the Stewpot Art Program community in 2010. The Stewpot offers a safe haven for people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness in Dallas, and the Art Program provides class time and art supplies for individuals looking to express themselves creatively, grow as artists, and support themselves through the sale of their work. You can learn more about The Stewpot and how to support their work here.

The Art Program helped McGee take his artistic practice to a higher level, form lasting friendships, and make his life more positive. McGee passed away on August 8, 2019, leaving a host of family and friends who love and remember Stephen “The Artist” McGee for his tremendous resilience, kindness, and creativity.

How are you spending time with loved ones right now? How are Willard’s scenes similar or different from your home life? Have you ever shared a special legacy with an important person in your life or passed down something you care about to a younger generation? These artworks make us think of home, family, and the ways that we can support one another during these uncertain times. 

We hope the artwork and life stories of Willard Watson and Stephen McGee inspire you to create, share joy with your loved ones, and continue to explore our city’s rich creative communities in For a Dreamer of Houses and We Are ARTISTS: The Stewpot Art Program.

Stephen McGee with his Stewpot Art Program class on a visit to the DMA. Stephen is third from the right in the white shirt.

Mary Ann Bonet is the Director of Community Engagement and Lindsay O’Connor is the Manager of School Programs at the DMA.

The House and the Dream of the Poetic Image

For a Dreamer of Houses takes Gaston Bachelard’s 1958 book The Poetics of Space as its conceptual framework. In this work, the French philosopher posits the house as the formative structure by which we develop a relationship with the exterior world through the emotive qualities of our daydreams and memories. These experiences then become the stuff from which writers and poets spin the threads of meaning, conjuring images forth from where we formed our first world: the house.

Clementine Hunter, Saturday Nite, 1971, oil on canvas board, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert F. Ryan, 1984.220

The Poetics of Space is, fundamentally, a love letter to poetry, to the ways in which poets shape language into an evocation of lived experiences, of half-forgotten memories. Yet there is a porous boundary between the literary and visual arts, with their shared interest in the conjuring of images. Visual art has a language all its own—one of light captured on silver-coated paper, pixels in digital space, etched impressions. As the resulting weaving of this visual language, art is a way of imagining—and imaging—potential ways of being in the world. In Bachelard’s telling, the questions of being human that art seeks to interrogate and crystallize are forged through the home, the nest from which we learn to become social beings.  

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby’s Refrigerator, 2007, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family
Acquisition Fund, 2018.37

For Bachelard, this outward-looking view springs from our sense of the house as a universe in and of itself. In the 2007 photograph Grandma Ruby’s Refrigerator, LaToya Ruby Frazier portrays the home as the encapsulation of a/the world, with the ties of familial relationships proudly displayed in an orderly grid on her grandmother’s fridge. The kitchen—a space of gathering, of shared meals and the tenderness of cooking and providing for one another—becomes the site in which the matriarch orders her world. Here, the home is a place of comfort and love from which her family can fundamentally ground themselves as they venture outside of its sheltering embrace.

Literal depictions of the home are not the only forms of art to which Bachelard’s theories may be applied. Ian Cheng’s BOB (Bag of Beliefs) is an artificial lifeform composed of multiple driving personalities that react to each other and to external stimuli. While BOB lives in a cavernous simulated den in the space of the gallery, viewers contribute to BOB’s development through the BOB Shrine, a phone-based app in which viewers introduce patterns of stimuli to BOB and thereby shape its behavior in a parental fashion. As surprise and upheaval force BOB to update its beliefs, Cheng seeks to explore what constitutes the human experience of change and encounter through artificial life.

Ian Cheng, BOB (Bag of Beliefs), 2018-19, artificial lifeform, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2019.81

BOB exists solely in digital space, an amorphous realm of data that seems almost immaterial in the context of human life. It is through the notion of inhabitation that we ground our relationship to BOB. BOB is not “real” per se, but we are able to conceive of it as a being with drives and needs and to visualize its experience through the framework of the home: its home in the gallery monitors is the place from which it nourishes itself, from which it develops a code of beliefs, from which it interacts with the world on a truly global scale. As Bachelard notes, “Whenever life seeks to shelter, protect, cover or hide itself, the imagination sympathizes with the being that inhabits the protected space.”

It is this ability of the house to foster imagination that Bachelard finds so compelling. He argues that intimate spaces, like those of the home, give rise to the daydreams in which our material, immediate world becomes infinite, and we achieve that grandeur that is only to be found in the depths of thought. The expanse of the cosmos becomes tangible and known, a cherished friend to our imaginings. Bachelard muses, “The house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

Vija Celmins, Strata, 1983, mezzotint, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon Fund, 1984.24, © Vija Celmins

Perhaps no artist captures the longing and the tender intimacy of the immense better than Vija Celmins, whose lovingly hand-drawn seascapes, rock fields, and starscapes render these seemingly boundless landscapes as human and knowable. Strata, with its soft, luminous stars pulsing through the black field of space, imparts a sense of belonging in a vast universe. In Celmins’s work, we are stardust; “immensity is within ourselves.” Her creation, itself visual poetry, brings the cosmos within our reach, the stuff of daydreams drawn forth from the embrace of the known universe of our homes.

Hilde Nelson is the Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art at the DMA.


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