Posts Tagged 'Lesli Robertson'

The Mother Load

Visit the Center for Creative Connections (C3) over the next few months to view The Mother Load, a collaborative project and interactive community installation created by artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio that explores the balance between being an artist while also being a mother. The project engages artists from all over the globe both on the Mother Load website and in person. You can attend a visual performance lecture, Hot Potato Called Motherby Israeli artist Shira Richter of The Mother Load project at the DMA tomorrow, October 2, at 7:00 p.m.

Natalie Macelleio (left) and Lesli Robertson (right)

Natalie Macellaio (left) and Lesli Robertson (right)

How has the Mother Load project affected your perspective on being a mother and an artist?

Natalie Macellaio (artist; co-creator of The Mother Load): I feel like I’ve become more interested in collaborating with other women and other artists in general. I’ve become more aware of people’s strengths and how they can best benefit from different things that are happening. I’ve tried to become a little more selfless and look for opportunities not just for myself but for other people I know.

Lesli Robertson (artist; co-creator of The Mother Load): I think one of the things it’s done is to encourage me to continue to dream big. Having children doesn’t mean we have to shut off any part of ourselves, but rather we imagine other possibilities. We can change our practice in a way that will help us move forward and accomplish the things we, as artists, want to do. You don’t have to step backwards, but step forwards.

Shira Richter

Shira Richter

Shira Richter (visiting artist with the Mother Load project): The Mother Load makes me very happy because it’s a non-subject, really, and Lesli and Natalie have helped it become more a subject in its own accord with this international dialogue. It’s extremely important: just the other day, I heard about an art student who couldn’t find a sitter, so she came to class with her baby and the professor basically kicked her out. The student has been trying to fight it, and she felt very alone, but a friend sent her to me, and now there’s this big international conversation going on. It gives us backing, it makes this issue more visible and that’s what we’re trying to do in general, make a connection between motherhood and being an artist. It’s like a worldwide guild. From what I know about it, the art world is extremely sexist, so having an international group of serious people talking about this as a serious subject makes me feel as though my chest is growing just as we speak.

How do you fit in time to be creative? 

LR: By working in collaboration with Natalie. That helps us find the time to be creative and work as artists. Since our children are young, it has been important to go to each other’s studios, and to designate that specific important time for that process to happen. I work at night, I work in the morning, and I also try to have time to think and dream.

Liam, Lesli's son, playing in her studio

Liam, Lesli’s son, playing in her studio

NM: I always try to keep things I’m working on with me. It could be a little project I can do in a few hours to something I work on for months. I always have it with me, at work or at home, so if I find an extra 30 minutes I can work on it. I’ve learned that the only way I can get anything done is to grab time when I can and when I have the energy. I’ve found that my best time is in the morning, so I get as much thinking and work done then as I can. Also, to have someone you’re accountable to when you work collaboratively forces you to stay on top of it and stay on your game, if you will.

Natalie's children, Milo and Fina

Natalie’s children, Milo and Fina

SR: First of all, I think it’s different according to the age of your kids, and it depends on context: do you have a partner who helps, do you have an extended group that helps such as friends, other artists, other mothers, helpers, grandmas, etc.? It really depends on that. Since my kids are older now (twelve), things have changed. At the beginning, I grabbed any minute I had. It’s why I shifted from being a filmmaker to an artist. I didn’t have time to make films anymore. I dissected the film into frames and became more of a photographer and artist in order to suit my new profession as a mother. I completely changed my medium and the way I work.

Shira installing a gallery show

Shira installing a gallery show

NM: Along those same lines, I also no longer create large-scale installations – I now create more intimate works and things I can get done in a reasonable amount of time.

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Visitors at the opening of The Mother Load at the DMA

What message would you like visitors to take home with them after visiting the DMA’s Mother Load installation?

NM: Lesli and I were just talking about it last night and thinking about the responses on the tiles. We are hoping that instead of running through the space, visitors will take a moment to reflect on their own lives and what they nurture. They don’t have to be an artist to relate to the idea of being a mother while also wanting to nurture something inside themselves. We hope that visitors take a few minutes to reflect on what they nurture and to figure out a good balance in their day-to-day activities.

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Visitors respond to the question “In your life right now, what do you nurture, and why?”

LR: To speak to another point, we also want visitors to discover new artists and the work they’re doing. We include QR codes because we want them to be a visual representation of the two sides of the artists, but also so visitors can find new artists that hopefully can be a great inspiration to them. The idea of art and motherhood and all these conversations aren’t in one culture, but are broader than that.

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A visitors scan one of the QR codes included in the installation

NM: Sometimes we feel we are so far away from other cultures and other people. We don’t feel like we have common ground, but we do, and it’s easier to find similarities between different countries, languages, and cultures than you realize. Lesli and I have had Skype conversations with women we’ve never met, and we find we have this common ground and can talk for an hour or two hours (that’s what happened the first time we talked with Shira). This is something extremely universal, and these conversations need to continue, maybe today more so than ever.

LR: Visitors to the DMA’s installation can read written responses on this topic from women all over the globe on the accompanying iPad in the installation or at themotherload.org.

SR: First of all, I haven’t been to the installation yet, but I am excited to see it. There’s so much on this subject that belongs not only to women artists but belongs to culture at large because we are creative beings. I think we in the Western world divide creativity and nurturing. Women artists who are mothers are trying to figure out how to connect these two and bring them back together. We find that, as we become mothers, it is so intense and that’s where the tear occurs; you’re using creativity to bring up this amazing human being but you also think “What about my career, my work?” We’re trying to bring these two elements back together and figure out a way to inspire ourselves and others.

Join us tomorrow for what is sure to be a unique performance-lecture experience.

Melissa Gonzales is the C3 Gallery Manager at the DMA.

 

Fall Transition

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Transition in the Center for Creative Connections is always a bittersweet time. While we’re excited by the infusion of new art in our gallery because it brings new experiences for our visitors, this week we had to say good-bye to some favorites:  The Visitors by Jacob Lawrence, Frank Smith watering his horse, Cross-B Ranch, Crosby County, Texas by Erwin Smith, and Soul Three by Romare Bearden. Now we’re welcoming Ram Mask with Feather Cape by the Kom people in Cameroon, two films by Isa Genzken, and The Mother Load Project, an interactive installation by local artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio. Here’s a little more about our newest installations:

Helmet mask with feather costume, Kom peoples, North West Province, Cameroon, Africa, Early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

Helmet mask with feather costume, Cameroon, North West Province, Kom peoples, early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

This mask depicts a ram, an animal that is sacrificed in religious rituals. While the face of the animal is carved naturalistically, the horns are designed as two stylized spherical knobs composed of concentric rings. When the mask is worn, it fits snugly on top of the dancer’s head and the dancer’s face is concealed under a fitted hood. The dancer also wears a costume of chicken feathers. masks_of_mbuoshu_book_scan_descreenWhile we are interested in visitors being able to explore the sensory elements of this piece, including the texture of the materials, the weight of the mask, the sounds of a masquerade, and the sight of the feathers in motion, this month we will focus activities in the C3 on mask making. If you were to create a mask symbolic of yourself or an event in your life, what animal would you choose as a symbol, and why?

Additional works from our African collection have recently been installed in the African Galleries on Level 3, including the new acquisition of a sword ornament in the form of a spider.

genzken-chicagodrive
In conjunction with the current exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective, on view through January 4, 2015, the Center for Creative Connections is showing two films by Genzken in the C3 Theater. On weekdays you can see Chicago Drive, a 16mm film made in 1992 while Genzken was in Chicago preparing for her Renaissance Society exhibition. It reveals her fascination with local architecture, both the famous and the mundane, and also includes intermittent blues music on the soundtrack. On the weekends, My Grandparents in the Bavarian Forest will be on view. This 63-minute film has English subtitles and is a personal account of Genzken’s grandparents’ home in southern Germany. Through the recording of seemingly banal conversations and her grandparents’ quotidian rituals, Genzken draws a moving portrait of the complexity of family dynamics, and the difficulty of coming to terms with the survivors of the World War II generation.

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This week artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio have been on hand in the Center for Creative Connections installing The Mother Load project, an interactive work that hopes to start a dialogue with visitors about the balance of nurturing in one’s life. The collaborative project began as a way to engage with women who lead the creative life of an artist while also being a mother. Through the project, Robertson and Macellaio are collecting fingerprints from artists and their children, recording experiences through written word and audio interviews, and documenting the ongoing project through their interactive website (themotherload.org). In the interactive component of the installation, visitors are asked to respond to this question: “In your life right now, what are you nurturing, and why?” Look for an upcoming post where we interview Robertson and Macellaio about The Mother Load.

Jessica Fuentes is the C3 Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

Woven Records Sneak Peek!

Lesli Robertson returned to the DMA this week to aid in the installation of Woven Recordsthe Museum’s first community partner response art project designed and executed by a single artist.  Last fall, Lesli guided sixteen community groups in the creation of small concrete collages.  She then wove over 500 concrete collages into strips that form a larger textile-based art installation that will be on view in the Center for Creative Connections February 7-May 23, 2010.

Each section is laid out on a table before it is mounted to the exhibition wall.

John Lendvay, a DMA preparator, aligns each section as it is mounted.

A covered opening allows interior access to the wall, which is hollow.

Lance Lander, another DMA preparator, has the lucky job of securing the mounts inside the wall.

Lesli is interviewed for footage that will be available to CW 33, Fox 4, and NBC 5.

Close-up view of installation.
Melissa Nelson
Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community

 

Community Connection: What happens when you combine textiles with concrete?

Welcome to the first “Community Connection” blog post!  My name is Melissa Nelson, and I’m the Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community at the DMA.  Each month, I will interview a creative member of our community and feature their responses here in a series of posts called “Community Connection”.

Meet Lesli Robertson, our first Visiting Artist with the Museum’s Center for Creative Connections.  I caught up with Lesli bright and early last week, as she was enjoying the cool weather before her day got started.

What first made you want to become an artist?

I think it made sense, and it was something that was part of my nature and my world.  Making helped me understand things, either about the world or myself.  I didn’t have any art classes in elementary school, and in high school the emphasis of looking at artists didn’t get that much better.  It wasn’t until college that I started seeing what it really was about – making art, creating art, throughout history to contemporary use.  It wasn’t until then that I figured out I was an artist.

How would you describe your creative process?

I use textile-based media; I think they have the potential for communication.  My work depends on where I’m at, what I’m thinking about, what’s going on.  It’s very intuitive, though I make conscious decisions on material, form, how things are installed.  Part of the process is looking at where you’ve come from as an artist and where you’re going.  The body of work I’m now working on is a reaction to the past three years of writing, research, and studio work.  It is a comment on the evolution of my artwork.  The materials I use stay the same – I started working with textile-based media and concrete five to six years ago and I love those materials. They have so much content to them and apply so well to what I want to do, formally and conceptually.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

I love working on projects with the community and looking for different opportunities for collaborations.  For example, last semester I worked with the biology department at University of North Texas (Lesli is an adjunct professor of fibers at UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design).  I am also conducting research in Uganda and writing an article on contemporary bark cloth artists.  I have to almost limit what I do – it is all informative but can pile up real easily.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

I’m most proud of a handmade mat from Uganda that I bought from an artisan.  It is gorgeous.  It is hand-plaited in narrow strips about two inches wide, which are then stitched together, and cut into a mat of about three feet by seven feet.  What’s so gorgeous is that the artisans work with two tones of color.  When everything gets stitched together, it makes a pattern and it’s beautiful.  It’s one of those things that you covet, and I’m glad I have it, so I don’t have to covet it anymore.

Please describe the work you’re currently doing with the Dallas Museum of Art.

I’m working on a community collaborative project.  I’m asking the community to make small concrete collages that I’m weaving into small strips, which I’m using for an art installation in the Museum’s Center for Creative Connections.  The idea is to work with the diverse communities that the DMA works with, and having an artwork that shows each individual that makes up this larger community.  I’m going out and working with groups, and inviting people in the Museum to contribute also.  The installation relates to the Materials and Meanings exhibition in the Center for Creative Connections, and the idea that materials can mean something to the person making the work of art.  I ask the participants to choose materials that represent them to include in their individual collages.

To meet Lesli in person, join us for our first Thursday Evening Program for Teachers on September 10 at 7:00 p.m.  Participation is free and advance registration is not required.

The Ice House Cultural Center summer camp students, Dallas ISD Talented and Gifted elementary students, Cathedral Guadalupe, and Booker T. Washington teachers are just a few of the groups Lesli is working with from July through October.  Make sure you check out Lesli’s installation in the Center for Creative Connections, starting January 2010.

Melissa Nelson

Manager of Learning Partnerships with the Community

Kicking off a New Program for Teachers

On September 10 at 7:00 p.m., all educators are invited to participate in our first Thursday Evening Program for Teachers.  Artist Lesli Robertson will join us to share her creative process and to involve teachers in a community response project.  Participation is free and advance registration is not required. 

Lesli is a textile artist by training, but in her creative process she often combines materials that are a sharp contrast to the usual fibers. She will create a piece incorporating elements created by DMA visitors and other community members.  Check out photos of other programs Lesli has led for Museum visitors lately. 

Get here a little early and enjoy the “Teachers Lounge” in the Atrium Cafe, starting at 6:30.  Look for the reserved tables and relax while listening to the live Jazz in the Atrium.  Food and drinks will be available for purchase.  We’ll depart from the Atrium at 7:00 to meet with Lesli.

This year a different Thursday evening program will be highlighted for teachers each month, including gallery conversations, lectures, and art-making opportunities.  Visit our website for information about upcoming programs. 

I am looking forward to this opportunity for educators to come together in a community for a monthly experience that explores creativity and makes connections to our collection.  Gather up your teacher friends and join me on September 10 for this first program.

Molly Kysar
Head of Teaching Programs


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