Posts Tagged 'Indonesia'

Friday Photos: Animal Guardians

The Indonesian galleries are probably the safest area of the Museum, and I don’t say this because there are nearby fire extinguishers or emergency exits. These rooms, particularly the south Indonesian gallery, are protected by a multitude of ferocious animal guardians.

The aso is a mythical animal that combines the strengths and characteristics of a dog and a dragon. This pair of aso, carved from wood, are both regal and elegant with their upright, smooth bodies, and yet intimidating with their dragon-like spirals and bared teeth.

Pair of mythical animals (ask)

Pair of mythical as0, Kayan people, Malaysia, 19th century, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund and the Museum League Purchase Fund

The body of two conjoined aso form the handle of a door, which served as a protective barrier in a traditional Kayan longhouse.

Door with protective symbols, c. 1850-1900, Indonesia, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, 1997.111

Door with protective symbols, Kayan people, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, c. 1850-1900, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund

One more work of art, not pictured here, also features carved aso. Come to the DMA and look for the aso‘s signature spiral forms, serrated teeth, and ivory eyes. If you visit during a week that the Pop-up Art Spot is stationed in the south Indonesian gallery (for instance, July 9-14), be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt so you can find the other animal guardians in Indonesian works of art.

Melissa Gonzales
C3 Gallery Manager

Culinary Canvas: Almond Crescents

The inspiration for this month’s recipe is a crescent-shaped tobelo, a sacred object from Indonesia used to connect with ancestral spirits. In my family, baking serves as a connector between generations, and at no time is this more true than the holiday season. In that spirit, be sure to bake this crescent-shaped cookie with your family and let everyone explore their artistic side with the decorations!


Crescent-shaped ornament (tobelo), 19th Century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Nasher Foundation in honor of Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher

Almond Crescents

Yields about 60 cookies
Level: Easy


1 cup blanched slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


2 ounces good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Decorations: crushed candy cane, chopped toasted almonds, coarse sugar, sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cookies: Place almonds in food processor and process into a fine crumb. In a medium bowl, stir together processed almonds with flour. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add flour mixture to mixer in three batches, mixing on low speed until just combined.

To form cookies, scoop off about a tablespoon of dough then roll between hands to shape into a log about 3 inches long. Place on baking sheet, then pull ends down and pinch to form a crescent shape, leaving about 1 inch between each cookie. When sheet is full, gently press down each cookie to flatten slightly. Bake until golden on bottom, about 13-15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on baking sheet then transfer to metal rack to cool completely.

Topping: Whisk dark chocolate in a glass bowl set over a small pot of simmering water until mostly melted, then remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Once cookies have cooled, dip one end of each into chocolate then sprinkle with desired decoration. Place on wax paper to dry. Repeat process with white chocolate.




Recipe adapted from Very Merry Cookie Party.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

60 Minutes in the Dallas Museum of Art

As a child, my first museum visits were orchestrated by my parents. These all-day excursions began the moment the museum opened its doors and ended sometime after five o’clock, when a security guard shuffled us to the nearest exit. Before the day was through, we’d make it a point to see everyone’s favorite area of the museum, eventually charting its every offering.

Today trips like this are harder and harder to come by and actually, now that I work for the Dallas Museum of Art, one of the hardest parts of my job is finding the time to experience the artwork! For me, shorter more frequent trips to the Museum have helped me get to know the DMA one gallery or even one artwork at a time.

Thanks largely to the DMA’s great variety of lunchtime tours, after-hours programs, and lectures, you can broaden your knowledge of the collection nearly every week. These guided experiences are the perfect way to spend a short visit to the DMA, and hopefully they’ll encourage and equip you to do more focused exploring on your own!

With just sixty minutes to work with, you’d be surprised at the great multitude of experiences that await you. Here are some of my favorite works to get you started. They’re just a small sampling of the amazing works that will inspire you to take your time and get a closer look.

Gandharan culture, Hadda region, "Thinking Bodhisattva", 4th to 6th century A.D., Terracotta, Dallas Museum of Art, Wendover Fund, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and General Acquisitions Fund

This Buddhist sculpture, located on Level 3, represents a bodhisattva, or someone who has achieved enlightenment but delays Nirvana to help others achieve transcendence. In fact, he’s not just any bodhisattva, but the one destined to become the historic Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

I enjoy this sculpture mostly because of its rich detail and lively gestures. When I stand before him, he seems to be not only reflecting upon his impending destiny but truly at the heels of it. At any moment he seems ready to step off his throne and into his next life as the Buddha.

Toraja, Sulawesi, Galumpang area, Indonesia, Shroud or ceremonial hanging (sekomandi), probably late 19th century, Cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, the Steven G. Alpert Collection of Indonesian Textiles, gift of the McDermott Foundation

Of all media, I am least familiar with and most intrigued by the textiles. You can get fairly close to these objects in the galleries, and attempting to deconstruct their striking complexities by doing so can be nothing short of mesmerizing.

This example, located on Level 3, was woven by the Toraja peoples of Indonesia and exquisitely combines bold arrangements in color, pattern, and texture to reveal in its central quadrant a series of geometric and interlocking human figures believed to represent generations of beloved ancestors.

Mvaï group, Fang peoples, Ntem region, Gabon, Africa, Reliquary guardian figure, 1800-1860, wood, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Predating Western notions of cubism by nearly half a century, this rare sculpture from the Fang peoples of sub-Saharan Africa is sure to stun you in your tracks. Composed of beautifully carved abstract and voluminous forms, the shining figure was probably modeled in the likeness of an ancestor and positioned protectively atop a reliquary box containing familial remains. Now I like to think of him as standing guard over the African galleries on Level 3 at the DMA, humbling our viewers and summoning their attention.

Roman, Battle sarcophagus, c. 190 A.D., marble, Dallas Museum of Art, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund and gift of anonymous donor

This sarcophagus, located on Level 2, was probably made to commemorate the military victories of a Roman general whose corpse it was intended to house. Its battle scene is deeply carved in a complex relief that reveals warriors, horses, and captives, each densely intertwined and submerged in the real chaos of war.

Every time I visit this work, I’m fascinated by the great number of unique figures and gestures captured against its surface. Every few inches reveals a new layer of intense drama.

Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt

During my first visit to the DMA, The Icebergs, located on Level 4, was the first masterpiece to truly floor me. Based on sketches made during a monthlong boat trip in the North Atlantic, it is an enthralling triumph by Frederic Edwin Church.

Its exquisite palette and sharp glow entice any viewer. I have to visit the painting time and time again, simply because each time I do, I swear, it changes. No matter how hard I try, I can never fully recall its subtle warmth and reflection of light.

Zaha Hadid (British born Iraq, 1950), designer; Sawaya & Moroni (Italian, est. 1984), maker, Tea and coffee service, designed 1996, executed 2002, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift of in honor of Lela Rose and Catherine Rose

This puzzle-like tea and coffee service, located on Level 4, represents a first foray into silverware for renowned architect Zaha Hadid. When not in use, the lustrous components gather into a single architectural form that defies symmetry and cleverly disguises its function.

How cool is that?! I challenge you to stand in front of this service and try to piece it together in your head. It’s no easy feat, I assure you, but in the meantime you’ll definitely enjoy getting lost in its abundance of reflective surfaces and voids.

Auriel Garza is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant to Non-Western and Decorative Arts at the DMA.

Revealing Spirits: The Art of Indonesia

My colleague Amy Copeland and I recently led a teaching session focused on a few works of art in the Dallas Museum of Art’s amazing Indonesian collections. Our session in the galleries highlighted an expressive ancestral couple and a beautifully carved door with mythical creatures, emphasizing ways to look closely as well as explore geography and belief systems through objects from Indonesia.

Spirits abound in Indonesia.  A mysterious energy animates the entire universe. Human beings and animals, trees and plants, the ancestral dead, stones, man-made objects, even traditional houses — all share in this vital force.  Man has been inspired to give many of these spirits tangible form, to make the unseen visible.

Dallas Museum of Art wall text

Female ancestor figure, Toba Batak people, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century or earlier, wood, Dallas Museum of Art, the Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Male ancestor figure, Toba Batak people, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century or earlier, wood, Dallas Museum of Art, the Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

This male and female pair represents an ancestral couple from the Toba Batak peoples on the island of Sumatra.  The two objects were originally bound together with a third object and kept out of sight in the uppermost region of the house inhabited by the Batak lineage founder.  This region of the house was a space the Batak associated with the upperworld, where gods and ancestors reside.  Only a privileged few were ever allowed to view or touch these powerful ancestors who both protected as well as carried the potential to inflict harm. What I love about this couple are their expressive qualities.  Look closely at their faces — the eyes, the noses, and the mouths.  Next, notice their posture. Both have knees bent slightly and their backs held in a certain way.  Viewing these in the galleries is best so that you can walk all the way around them. Finally, perhaps what attracts our eye most are the large hands of the female. The male once had separately carved hands as well.  You can see the rectangular slots on either side where his hands were once attached.  The hands on the female are up, with palms turned inward.  This gesture expresses the Batak greeting of “Horas”, or hello.

Door with protective symbols, Kayan people, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, c. 1850-1900, wood, brass, and shell, Dallas Museum of Art, the Roberta Coke Camp Fund

The Kayan people of East Kalimantan in Indonesia live in longhouses, which can be very large structures that rise from the ground on stilts.  The longhouse is a series of contiguous, individual spaces connected by a common verandah.  The organization of the spaces in the longhouse is similar to the American concept of apartment structures.  Each space houses a family, so a longhouse is the residence for many people.  This wooden door was either as the main door to the longhouse or as the door to the individual space of the chief. The animal symbols carved on the door protected inhabitants from evil spirits and intruders.  Look closely for animal forms on the door.  The white, shell circles contrast sharply with the dark wood.    These circles are the eyes of the protective, mythical creature called the aso, a form resembling both a dog and a dragon.

In addition to looking at objects in the galleries, Amy and I shared some general information about Indonesia during the session that help us begin to know and connect with this far away location.

  • Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world!  It consists of thousands of islands.
  • According to Google Maps, it is 9,200 miles between Dallas, Texas and the East Kalimantan in Indonesia.
  • A plane ride to Indonesia would last sixteen to eighteen hours!
  • Many islands in Indonesia have been known throughout history for the spices, such as nutmeg, and natural medicines, such as camphor, found there.
  • Several delicious coffees originate from Indonesia.  Sumatran coffee from the island of Sumatra is one of my favorites.

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships


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