ABC: A Museum-School Program does “Rococo Subversive”

Left: Florine Stettheimer, American, 1871 – 1944, Still Life Number One with Flowers (Flowers Against Wallpaper), ca. 1915, Oil on canvas, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; Gift of the Estate of Miss Ettie Stettheimer  60.21 Right: Student work from Kingsbury Elementary 

Left: Florine Stettheimer, American, 1871 – 1944,
Still Life Number One with Flowers (Flowers Against Wallpaper),
ca. 1915, Oil on canvas, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN;
Gift of the Estate of Miss Ettie Stettheimer  60.21
Right: Student work from Kingsbury Elementary

Last week, Art Builds Creativity (ABC) program participants wrapped their first museum visit of the school year.  Students studied the Florine Stettheimer Still Life Number One with Flowers and then created their own still life in the studio. The ABC Program (formally known as Art and the Basic Curriculum) is a visual art enrichment program available to fourth grade classes at Title I schools in Memphis. This program has provided quality art education and authentic museum experiences to students and teachers in Memphis since 1979. Today the goals of ABC are to increase creativity skills and reinforce language art skills recommended by participating teachers.

Associate Director of Education Jenny Hornby trying to relate Manhatta to Florine because students were distracted by the television. Haha!

Associate Director of Education Jenny Hornby trying to relate Manhatta to Florine because students were distracted by the television. Haha!

Florine Stettheimer (Linda Nochlin’s “Rococo Subversive”) was born in New York in 1871 to a very wealthy family. As a little girl and young adult she spent a lot of time traveling the world. After studying art in college she moved to Europe for a few years where she attended fun gallery openings and important museums to see how famous French artists were painting at the time. Florine saw artwork that did not look realistic like a photograph but instead the brushstrokes were messy, the lines were loose, and colors were vivid, thick, and had many layers. This was very different from the way that American artists were painting at the time. She loved this French painting style dearly so when she moved back to New York in 1914 she began using some of these new painting techniques in her own artwork. Florine became well known for her paintings that included bright colors, loose lines, and rough textures.

Manhatta, a 1921 documentary art film by Paul Strand, is next to the Stettheimer painting in our gallery. Florine was 50 then, so she totally experienced NYC when it looked like this. Maybe she even watched Manhatta….?

St. John Elementary using viewfinders to frame a composition within the still life shown in the image on the right.

St. John Elementary using viewfinders to frame a composition within the still life shown in the image below.

Students viewed a still life model through a viewfinder to learn about a picture's frame of reference.

Students viewed this still life model through a viewfinder to learn about a picture’s frame of reference.

Thanks to ABC instructors Kelly Seagraves for the photographs and Katie Lepo for the great teaching.
For more information on the Brooks ABC program, visit brooksmuseum.org/art-builds-creativity

Lions and Crocodiles and (Kitty) Cats, Oh My! Animals and Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt

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George checking out a book on Impressionism before taking it into the bathroom at a bookstore. (Note the kitty cat.)

“Do not laugh at a cat,” Dr. Patricia Podzorski, Curator of Egyptian Art at the University of Memphis advised me through email late Tuesday; this immediately brought to mind an incident earlier in the week, with my cat Thomas so embarrassed–dashing out of the room, when his ambitious relocation fail was met by my fits of laughter.

The advice came by way of “The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq,” a text consisting of pragmatic and humorous maxims on a variety of topics tentatively dating to the Ptolemaic period: think bathroom reading without all the indoor plumbing. Dr. Podzorski went on to offer other suggestions for translation she thought better suited to a cat’s temperament: do not “sport with,” “torment,” or “annoy.” But my Thomas had sent a clear message: it was the laughter he did not approve of. Cats have a “sense of persona–and become visibly embarrassed when reality punctures their dignity,” writes Camille Paglia in her epic Sexual Personae. (Maybe this is why cats and the internet go so well together, we can laugh about their punctured reality without embarrassing them in real life.)

The cat was domesticated by man over 4000 years ago in ancient Egypt, and its mummified body has been found all over the area. The complex and unique relationship between animals and the ancient Egyptians doesn’t end there. Dr. Podzorski will shed light on this topic and guide a tour of the Brooks’ foster mummies this Saturday, December 6, at 2 pm.

Brooks Announces Major Acquisition Bequest

Untitled weaving by Eva Bernhardt / Eva Bernhardt in her studio

Untitled weaving by Eva Bernhardt / Eva Bernhardt in her studio

Throughout the ages the path of the weaver has been the path of true civilization… there where the loom is waiting, the night of savagery is over.

The quote is from the brochure for The Path of the Weaver, an exhibition mounted at the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery (as the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art was known at the time) in 1978. Among the individuals given a prize was Eva Bernhardt—it was just one of many awards she received. Mrs. Bernhardt studied under Henry Easterwood at the Memphis Academy of Arts (today Memphis College of Art) and went on to teach weaving at the college between 1972 and the early 80s. An accomplished artist, her work was exhibited at Arkansas Art Center, Mint Museum, Speed Museum, and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and she won many prizes and awards. Like Easterwood, she worked in a variety of styles from abstract florals in bright colors to geometric shapes in more mute earth tones.

A native New Yorker, Mrs. Bernhardt lived in Memphis for many years as her husband Herman served as a physician at the Veteran’s Hospital. Before taking up weaving, she taught biology and, as part of the Women’s Army Corp, served as a tail gunner trainer during World War II.

The Brooks is deeply grateful to Mrs. Bernhardt who generously left a bequest specifically for the acquisition of works of art for the permanent collection.

Someone call the Dog Police: William Wegman Videos on View

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William Wegman let the dogs out.

Before William Wegman shot the large format photographs of Weimaraner dogs that would win him—and his subjects—mass acclaim, he created equally playful and imaginative short video works. In 1970, despite having graduated with an MFA in painting and printmaking from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wegman was one of the many artists who proclaimed that the medium of painting was “dead.” Throughout the early 70s, artists would find their antidote in Minimalism, Conceptual art, Body art/Performance, and Post-minimalism. Wegman responded by moving to California, buying a dog, and making video art.

Borrowing from all of the prevailing styles while claiming none, Wegman made over a thousand videos between 1970 and 1978, all averaging a minute long. His mock commercials, absurdist demonstrations, impersonations, send-ups, and pseudo-confessionals took from the mass communication visible on television screens across America, as the 60s dream of a utopian future faded from public consciousness. With all the trappings of a new era in art and culture and a “smart / dumb” eloquence, Wegman had only to start the reel and to see what happened. Like an ingenious child alone in his room and struck by boredom, Wegman improvised with the props at hand: inanimate objects, his body, and his first dog, Man Ray. He threw off the decade’s sense of foreboding with sight gags, double-binds, and visual clichés executed in pitch perfect deadpan humor. In unscripted, unedited videos shot in real time and using only actual sound, Wegman rendered the cosmic joke as a doodle.

William Wegman’s Video Works, 1970-74, on loan from Dr. James K. Patterson, will screen continuously in the Brooks’ Orientation Theater, entry level, through January 10, 2015.

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Announces Search to Identify New Director

Esteemed Phillips Oppenheim Firm to Lead Search

Memphis, TN (September 25, 2014) — Nathan Bicks, President of the Board of Trustees of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, announced today that a search committee has been formed and that the Phillips Oppenheim firm of New York City has been selected to lead the search for the new Director of Memphis Brooks Museum, replacing Cameron Kitchin, who leaves the position on September 26.

The search committee is chaired by Lisa Kranc, retired Senior Vice President, Marketing and Customer Satisfaction, AutoZone, and a Brooks Trustee since September 2011. In addition to Kranc, the search committee consists of: Deborah Craddock, Vice President, Southeastern Asset Management and Brooks Trustee; Barbara Hyde, President, J. R. Hyde Family Foundation, and Brooks Trustee; Tom Lee, President, Stovall Engineering, and Brooks Trustee; Carl Person, Global Enterprise Sales, UPS, and Brooks Trustee; Chris Peck, Associate Director, Pyramid Peak Foundation; Beverly Robertson, retired President, National Civil Rights Museum; and Elizabeth Rouse, President and COO, Arts Memphis.

“I am extremely gratified that a committee of this caliber could be assembled to assure that the best possible candidates are recruited to lead the museum into its next century. It is a testimony to the significance and importance of the Brooks as a primary cultural asset in our community that these individuals were willing to undertake this responsibility,” said Mr. Bicks.

Phillips Oppenheim, a New York firm with eminent history in executive recruiting for the nonprofit sector has been selected to coordinate the search process. Among organizations listed on its client roster are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Mark Tarnacki, who has been at Phillips Oppenheim since 2001, will manage the search. Mr. Tarnacki, who has years of experience with nonprofit organizations, has invited museum staff to offer suggestions and recommendations to the search committee as it proceeds with its assignment.

Ms. Kranc noted that, “We are pleased that Phillips Oppenheim has a great sense of urgency around this effort, with particular focus on the strong leadership qualities that we are seeking at this exciting juncture in the museum’s history.”

Specific candidate recommendations for the position of Director should be submitted to Mr. Tarnacki at mtarnacki@phillipsoppenheim.com.

Harry Goldsmith, Vice President of the Board of Trustees, is serving as Interim Director of Memphis Brooks Museum until a permanent successor is put in place. Mr. Goldsmith, who recently retired as General Counsel from AutoZone, Inc., a Fortune 500 company, and is currently Senior Counsel to Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, has been involved with the Brooks as a Trustee and benefactor for many years. As Interim Director, Mr. Goldsmith will continue the focus of implementing the mission of Memphis Brooks Museum, which is to enrich the lives of our diverse community through the museum’s expanding collection, varied exhibitions, and dynamic programs that reflect the art of world cultures from antiquity to the present.

About the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, located at 1934 Poplar Avenue in historic Overton Park, is one of the leading art museums in the American South. Over 9,000 works make up the Brooks Museum’s permanent collection including ancient works from Greece, Rome, and the Ancient Americas; Renaissance masterpieces from Italy; English portraiture; American painting and decorative arts; contemporary art; and a survey of African art. For more information on the Brooks, and all other exhibitions and programs, call (901) 544-6200 or visit http://www.brooksmuseum.org.

Community Partners: ArtsMemphis, Hyde Family Foundations, Tennessee Arts Commission, The Jeniam Foundation, and AutoZone.

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Announces Departure of Cameron Kitchin

Cameron Kitchin, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Cameron Kitchin, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees announces the departure of Cameron Kitchin, who has been director of the institution for the past 6 years. Kitchin has been named Director of the Cincinnati Art Museum; he will begin his new position there on October 1. Nathan Bicks, Chairman of the Brooks’ Board of Trustees, upon announcing Kitchin’s departure, noted “He’s a very smart and talented individual—and he is well ensconced in the leading theories of museum management. He’s a good strategic thinker with a wonderful family. It’s a loss for our community and a real benefit to Cincinnati.” Continue reading

Alien! Exploring Identity with Latino Memphis

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Can you see it? Alien: Exploring identity, is on view in the Brooks’ Education Gallery through September 21

With the help of local painter Yancy Villa Calvo and her husband Mauricio Calvo, the Brooks presents an exhibition of Latino student artwork, and Spanish versions of the Marisol audio guide and exhibition text.

In conjunction with the exhibition Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper, the Education Department of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art partnered with Latino Memphis to host a six-week workshop for students enrolled in their College Access program. The resulting exhibition, Alien: Exploring Identity will be on view in the Education Gallery through September 21. Yancy Villa Calvo volunteered her time to work with this group to explore Marisol and create their own works of art in response to our exhibition. Pictured above, is the group’s key piece: a collaboration based on Marisol’s Family Portrait. Borrowing Marisol’s style and exploring her themes of identity provided the students with an opportunity to meditate on their own.  Continue reading

Hank and Asha Filmmakers Share Their Top Travel Movies

Filmmakers Julia Morrison and James E. Duff call New York City home, but were living in Prague when they made their film Hank and Asha. In it, a girl named Asha, who is studying abroad in Prague for a year, and a boy named Hank, a filmmaker and lonely new transplant to New York City, develop a video correspondence-based friendship. They hope the film inspires audiences to travel to both locales, but in the meantime, in the spirit of cinematic armchair travel, here are five of their favorite travel films:

still from Hank and Asha

still from Hank and Asha

A Room With A View (England and Florence) – Based on the E. M. Forster novel, this favorite Merchant Ivory movie follows a group of Brits on holiday in Italy, turn of the century style.  Scenes of Florence (Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria), the Florentine countryside, and a romantic travel encounter with a handsome stranger add to the appeal.  Apparently people were already complaining about tourist throngs in Florence in 1908, but that’s not stopping us. 1985, Directed by James Ivory Continue reading

From Cave Art to Post Modernism: Thinking in Curlicues

“Most of my life I’ve thought in straight lines. It seems to me that artists think outside the box and in curlicues,” Rebecca Barton, DDS, on what being a Brooks docent taught her.

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What a treat it’s been to be involved with the Brooks Docent Program. After having retired from a career in dentistry I was actively seeking some “fun” projects in which to engage.  I’ve always enjoyed art but was quite unsophisticated in the history and techniques involved therein.  The well-organized and well-taught docent training class was, to me, like getting a Master’s degree in art history and art appreciation.  In addition, the Memphis Brooks Museum becomes “Yours.”  As you learn about the founders and major contributors to the museum and its collections, you gain a deeper knowledge and appreciation not only of the art, but also about the history of Memphis and its people.  In fact, with each new exhibit you learn more about our world history and receive in-depth information about the individual artists and their work. After having gone from Cave Art to Post Modernism in class, you then have the opportunity to share some of that insight with children and adults in an attempt to enhance their experiences while here at the Brooks…and also enjoy and learn from them. Continue reading

Interview with Finding Vivian Maier Editor and Associate Producer Chris McKinley

Documentary Finding Vivian Maier follows the recent discovery of photographer Vivian Maier—described as “part Mary Poppins, part Weegee”—and her exceptional body of work. The film has received quite a bit of attention since its March release; what people seem to find in Finding Vivian Maier is an affinity for the artist, or more accurately the photographs she took (which, as it happens, were often of herself). The public would never know Maier personally because her fame came after her death. The  film asks: would she have it any other way?

The Brooks found a kinship in the film as well: in production. Memphis-born Chris McKinley is an editor and associate producer of Finding Vivian Maier, and he was kind enough to oblige us with an interview. New Brooks blogger Natalie Higdon provides the Q & A below. If you enjoy the interview, please welcome her by sharing this post with friends.

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Photo courtesy of John Maloof

Chris McKinley, Editor and Associate Producer of the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, chats with us about his involvement with the film, why choosing a favorite Vivian Maier photograph is impossible, and what screening this film at the Brooks means to him.

Q: How did you “find” Vivian Maier?
I joined the project after it was underway. I was editing a TV show for one of the documentary’s directors, Charlie Siskel. He told me about Vivian Maier, John Maloof’s discovery of her work, and the film, and I was really intrigued. Then he showed me her photos and I was blown away. It wasn’t a tough call to be involved if they wanted me. Basically, I was pretty lucky.

Q: What is it about Vivian’s work that you think resonates with so many people today?

It’s tough to even say why I connect with it, let alone why others do. I just know that when I saw the photos for the first time I said, “WHOA.” For me her stuff feels really immediate and fresh even after being locked away for decades.

To paraphrase what photographer Joel Meyerowitz says more eloquently in the movie: there’s something about Vivian’s work that seems primary. It doesn’t feel imitative. She’s doing her own thing her own way and you feel there’s a definite point of view there. Continue reading

FOUND! Sculptures “Inspired by Marisol” in Downtown Memphis

The Tom Lee Art Transport Co.

The Tom Lee Art Transport Co.

One could consider Marisol a great post-war American artist obscured by history. Working in New York throughout the 1960s, her contemporaries were the famous avant-garde artists we know today–definitively–as either Pop or Abstract Expressionist. But Marisol’s mixed-media sculptures were neither. Although her work was popular, critically acclaimed, and respected amongst her peers, it could not be neatly categorized. And as she shifted themes into the 1970s and continued to vary her materials, the artist defied classification all the more.

Her public persona did little to combat the oblique legacy. From time to time, Marisol would refrain from speaking altogether, having developed an aversion to speech after hearing how other people sounded as a child. Taking cues from Pop celebrity pal Andy Warhol, she embraced her own eccentricities as a way of generating public interest in her art. “Otherwise, not so many people would notice your work,” she told Cindy Nemser in 1975. It worked. Kinda. She was referred to as the “Latin Garbo” to readers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, but Marisol was not suited for celebrity. Life as an art scene icon on Warhol’s arm was not for long. She embarked on spontaneous trips around the world, more than once, only furthering her mystique.

Transient was how she spent her early life, so traveling came naturally. Her jet-setting parents, both Venezuelan, moved the family “back and forth between Europe, Venezuela, and the United States” Marisol recalled in 1972, “not because of business but out of boredom.”

This guy is a millennial for sure.

a millennial meets Marisol

From here it is easy to see why she became an artist: Her identity became her art–and in turn, as we will see through her varied portraiture, her art is about identity!  Continue reading

The Cloar Catalogue: Crossroads of Memory

Dr. Stanton Thomas, Curator of European and Decorative Art and exhibition curator for The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South, weighs in on the origins of the exhibition catalogue, out now and available at the Museum Store.

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Every once in a while I get involved with a project that really gets seeps into my psyche—which is how it was with the Carroll Cloar exhibition project. Although I grew up in Northern Missouri, far from the Arkansas Delta, there was something about the artist’s paintings that was achingly familiar. Continue reading

On becoming a museum docent: 5 Things I Learned About Art From Children

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Art is so much more than just art: It can be science, culture, motion, and history, as well as color, line, and shape. Young children naturally think like artists, and their imagination is at its peak during their early development as students. Yet educators struggle with ways to develop and instill creative and critical thinking skills—crucial tools that his generation needs to utilize their creative impulses in educational and civic pursuits. As a docent at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, I work in conjunction with the Smithsonian Early Childhood Education program, engaging Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten children from Title 1 schools, where 40 percent or more of the students enrolled are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Continue reading

Teen Brooks: Time Well Spent

The Teen Brooks program comes to an end this week. Below is a recap from two-year Teen Brooks alum Ashton Arroyo.

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I have been involved in Teen Brooks for two years now, since the program started. The meetings have always been fun for me. Mostly due to the new people I meet, I happily anticipate each upcoming meeting. All of us who participate have an interest in art, and many of us find that we have other similar interests as well. Interacting with the other members is very refreshing for me because I feel comfortable and act as my casual self (rather than Continue reading