Maggie Exner the Magnificent

Maggie works as On-Call Admissions Coordinator and in the catering department at the Brooks. When she’s not at work (rare), she’s plugging away creating new forms both sculpturally and two-dimensionally. Typically, my work explores themes of human experience in particular environments through the form of drawing. In my drawings I create strange environments that are reminiscent of the real world but heavily animated. These become the playing grounds for imaginative characters that interact with their surroundings.

Last Friday, Exner turned a typical dive bar into an art space wonderland by installing decorated sculptures mimicking clouds and heat juxtaposed with paintings, drawings, and other mediums. Her work is not only unique, but challenges other artists to go beyond their imagination into another realm of creativity.

The environment I am creating in this show is one familiar to most people spending their summers in Memphis: hot, miserable, and uninspiring. Our appetites and television sets drive most of our daily decisions. Yet, visually, the dark reality of the matter is understated, concealed by the bright, colorful, and chaotic elements of the installation: swirls of recreated sunlight, cotton candy ice cream cones, and detachable plastic limbs, just to name a few. The characters are real people who I will fashion according to the aesthetics of my work through costume and makeup. As the characters wander through this fantastic world, they add life and movement to the installation, becoming caught up in the “Heat Wave.” Essentially, Heat Wave is a fun, colorful distraction, one that will satisfy your visual and social appetite, if only for a little while.

To read an article about Maggie and her show in The Memphis Flyer, click here.

To see an extended body of her work, click here.

The artist’s website

Education Department: Art Therapy

Through the Art Therapy Access Program, the Brooks recently partnered with the Shelby County Relative Caregiver Program (SCRCP), a program of the Department of Child Services at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. SCRP supports children who are not living with their parents by providing therapeutic activities, family advocacy, educational workshops, and caregiver respite. The Brooks’ collaboration included sessions with a registered art therapist, Karen Peacock, as well as interactive gallery tours of the museum’s permanent collection. A selection of the resulting artworks is featured in an exhibition now on view, MeTV: The Identity Channel.

The Brooks is one of only a few museums in the country that is integrating Art Therapy with the museum experience. Art Therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art-making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the process involved in artistic self-expression helps people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Utilizing the creative process of art making and interactive gallery discussions as a forum for self-exploration and self-expression, this collaborative provided a supportive environment in which participants could develop and explore their personal narratives and increase their self-confidence.

MeTV: The Identity Channel
Inspired by Vide-O-belisk by Nam June Paik, located in the rotunda of the Brooks, each participant was asked to create his or her own television, and to choose a scene to display on the screen. The scenes were selected by the participants from one of several art directives: paint a scene from your past, present, or future; paint a time when you were happy or sad; and paint a picture of you and your caregiver. Each television is also adorned with unique hieroglyphs or symbols that communicate an aspect of the participant’s identity.

Allowing the participant to be the creator and “director” in this manner helped form a personal narrative in a creative way, which supported the formation of a positive self-image and increased self-confidence.

Self-Advertisement Billboard
Each participant was asked to describe him or herself with one adjective with the idea that together these adjectives would help “advertise” and “promote” the MeTV Channel. Working as a group to create the billboard helped improve social skills. By being more conscious of how they present themselves to others, participants’ self-awareness grew and developed.

For more information about this program or other educational programs at the Brooks, click here.

FILM: No One Knows About Persian Cats

Thursday, August 12 | 7 PM

In his third film, director and writer Bahman Ghobadi tells the story of two 20-somethings trying to inspire others through music. What makes this film different from others is not only its characters, but itz location.

Negar and Ashkan, two possible lovers but definitely bandmates, are bohemian musicians who want to spread their sound and meet others like them from around the globe. They decide to get visas and passports and out of Tehran, Iran — where free speech and music are condemned and illegal.

Sought by the Iranian police, the two search for a safe practice space, venue and loyal friends. Based on true accounts, No One Knows About Persian Cats is an inspiring and unique must-see.

Persian with English subtitles.

For more information about this and other films at the Brooks, click here.

FILM:M for Mississippi: A Road Trip Through the Birthplace of the Blues

August 5 | 7pm

A documentary about Mississippi and its famous Delta blues, M for Mississippi tells the story of several artists and their cultural influences on music from the South. This film takes the viewer from one place to the next ranging from the fields and farms to the bars and juke joints to demonstrate the deep range of Mississippi music. A Q & A with the fillmakers will follow the movie.

Easily one of the best documentary films made about the blues in years.
– Blues & Rhythm Magazine

For more information about this film, or other films at the Brooks, click here.

Global Lens Film Series: The Shaft

Thursday, July 22 | 7 pm
Thursday, July 29 | 2 pm


The Shaft (China, 2008)
, is a film about the personal struggles and hardships of living in Western China. As a father constantly searches for the wife who left him years before, his two children find that reality happens quickly and dreams linger on.

A daughter is accused of an affair, left by her love and forced into a marriage she doesn’t want. Her brother has many goals, but is left to work by the side of his father in the coal mines. This film is an emotional account of growing up and surviving in an arduous world.

Runtime: 98 minutes.

For more information about this film or other films at the Brooks, click here.

Exhibitions Department: Behind-the-Scenes

Did you ever want to know how an exhibition is set up? Or wonder what everyone’s doing behind the closed doors of an upcoming show? Kip Peterson, Collections Manager/Registar here at the Brooks, finally shines some light. Kip is not only super smart, but she’s also really funny and nice. Read on — I guarantee pure enjoyment.

Ever wonder what happens once an exhibition has finished its tour? Well, Mr./Ms. Art Lover, many months of planning go into the take down, or de-installation, of a show. I’ll use Venice in the Age of Canaletto as an example.

Planning for the return of the artworks to each lending institution began about a year and a half before the exhibition opened at the Brooks on February 14, 2010.

Once the doors to the public close, the behind-the-scenes work begins. First, all of the artwork is checked, or condition reported, by a registrar to determine if any changes to the condition of the piece have occurred while on view at the museum. Once that process is completed the museum preparators, or exhibition art handlers, re-pack the work in the crate provided for travel. But wait, I’m jumping ahead, I want to tell you about the many details that happen before we repack the art.

After contacting several art transportation companies for both cost estimates and possible travel dates, an art transport company was selected. Then I contacted each museum registrar informing them that my preliminary plans had their loan being returned sometime during the last two weeks of May 2010. At that time I also asked if the museum intended to send a courier (registrar or conservator) to oversee the packing of their artwork. Granted, it was a bit early, but the exhibition was scheduled to close in May…as in…Memphis in May, and a limited amount of hotel rooms are available in Memphis! Out of the twenty museums lending to the Canaletto exhibition, eight responded that they would require a member of their staff to be present at Brooks when their artwork was re-packed for the return shipment home. Working with the assistant to the director I was able to secure the hotel rooms ahead of time. Check, scratch that off my list!

Next, I determined the exact route that each of the five trucks used to return the artwork to the lending museums, keeping in mind the value of each artwork, due to a predetermined value cap allowed per truck. One of the most important parts of the return process is finding the shortest, thereby hopefully the safest, route by which the artwork will travel. Additionally I must arrange with each museum for their delivery on a particular day, at a certain time, in order to fit their schedule as well as the truck schedule. Each climate-controlled truck will also have a courier – a museum Registrar – riding with the two drivers, overseeing the delivery of the artwork to the lending institution. (Little know fact: the truck has two drivers so that the truck keeps moving along the return route, another safety precaution.) Each courier has a “release” sheet listing each museum, address, contact person, phone number, crate identification number and crate size to be returned. Additionally, there are hotel reservations to make (after days on a truck one needs a shower!) and airline tickets to purchase (each museum courier needs to come home and get back to work!). Whew….

Now, let’s get back to the actual packing of the artwork by the museum preparators. Once repacked all crates are marked with the date packing is completed and a return label is attached. In this instance, because five separate climate-controlled art trucks will transport the returning artworks to the various museums around the country, the crates will also have a “color code” label … i.e. the RED label crates will be loaded on the westbound truck, the GREEN label crates will be loaded on the northeast truck, etc. In this instance it took three separate days for the five trucks to be loaded and begin the long journey home for the artwork.

I was very sad to see this exhibition come to a close. I felt like I was sending my child to her first day of school…without me…as I waved good-bye to each departing truck. This exhibition and catalogue had absorbed most of my work day for several years and now it was gone. Well, now I can look forward to Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 — Present. What a great work life I have!

To learn more about our past, current and upcoming exhibtions, click here.

To learn about events surrounding the Who Shot Rock & Roll Exhbition, click here.

Live in the Galleries: Bryan Hartley

Thursday, July 15 | 5-7pm

Come check out the new exhibition, Who Shot Rock and Roll and enjoy live music played by local musician Bryan Hartley.

Born in Memphis, Hartley began playing music and writing songs early on. After moving to Nashville a couple of years back, he returned to Memphis with a new lineup. His new band doesn’t officially have a name, but they sure have a following. Their folk-country-rock sound is beloved by old and young alike.

Bryan will be playing an acoustic set this Thursday with a second guitarist. Visitors can expect to hear original songs written by Hartley and his band, and some tribute covers to honor the photographs in the exhibition. Catch them play as a band on August 13 | 10pm at the Buccaneer.

For more information about this event, or to learn more about other Live in the Galleries performers, click here.

Flipside Memphis 2010: Free Short Films!

Saturday, July 10 | 1pm

Enjoy a hot summer Saturday indoors with a cold drink and a movie! Join us as we celebrate Live from Memphis and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau as they partner to create Flipside Memphis! Featuring short films about the underground Memphis scene that ranges from Molly Fontaine Lounge to Jerry Lawler, Flipside is sure to warm any Memphian’s soul.

Enjoy refreshments and art activities before the film at 1pm, and stay for the movies! For more information, click here.

Who Shot Rock & Roll! It’s Almost Here! 

There’s been a strong buzz inside and outside of the Brooks with the museum’s newest exhibition, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, and now we finally get to see it!

Working at the museum has its obvious benefits. I am allowed to express myself through my clothing, which is oftentimes vintage and weird. I get to talk about art all day, be creative and imaginative, and walk the halls of our beautiful galleries at my leisure.

However, whenever a new exhibition is being set up, no one can venture into the gallery space. I found this out the hard way when I wandered into a closed exhibition, only to be caught by our Exhibitions Director! She was very nice while I was very apologetic (and embarrassed)! Apparently, only exhibitions staff is allowed inside, leaving the rest of the museum staff just as anxious to see the new art as our visitors.

As the Brooks’ Visitor Services Manager, I am excited to welcome each guest with the same giddiness as they have when they come to see this exhibition. I love all of the exhibitions we’ve had here since I’ve started, but Who Shot Rock & Roll takes the cake for me. As a born and raised Memphian, I love and truly appreciate music — especially the history. I’ve gone on late night bicycle rides to Graceland with friends, driven to Mississippi at 2 a.m. to experience Graceland Too (my boyfriend, an honorary member, has been there four times), and gleefully taken my Nashville friends to eat Dyer’s burgers. Now when our friends visit us, I can bring them to the Brooks to learn and feel the Memphis music experience.

To learn more about the Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present exhibition, click here.

To schedule a group tour or to learn about docent-led tours, email Brenda Burgess at brenda.burgess@brooksmuseum.org.

To find out about all of the events scheduled during this exhibition, email andria.lisle@brooksmuseum.org or click here.

Pregnancy and Bonnaroo: Reflections on Sponsorship

Meet Diane Jalfon, Director of Development, and one of the coolest and nicest people I know. Read her perspective on life inside the Brooks, and sometimes, outside of it as well.

You know how when you’re pregnant you notice all the other pregnant people? Well, when you’re in development you can’t go to anywhere without noticing sponsors. Attending a concert at the Botanic Garden? Gotta find out who the sponsor is. Seeing an exhibition at a museum in Nashville? Gotta see who sponsored it. We even notice whose logo appears on the ads for parties in RSVP. Last night I was watching Dave Matthews live stream from Bonnaroo on YouTube and I can tell you that Ford Fiesta sponsored that stream. I know, obsessive, right?

So why the obsession with sponsors? Well, sponsors are our lifeblood. We can’t have an exhibition, an event, or a program without a sponsor. They give us funding and we give them exposure. We put their logo on our website, invitations, and advertisements. Sometimes we give them tickets to events. And we give them the satisfaction of knowing that their money went to a good cause.

We’re constantly looking at who is sponsoring what so we can see how our benefits stack up. We know we’ve got a great product. I mean, how many other 96 year old art institutions are there in town? We know we’ve got a great marketing team that creates killer posters and bus shelters (see Who Shot Rock & Roll). And we know we will bend over backwards to make sure a sponsor is happy with their choice to support the Brooks.

But we can’t be complacent. We don’t want to miss an opportunity to match up a great company with the perfect sponsorship. And so we look at what everyone else is doing. Not in a “oh, we’re better than you” kind of way. More like a “good for you – that’s a perfect fit. I’ll have to remember that company supports the arts.”

We’re lucky to have a lot of very generous corporate supporters in Memphis. Next time you’re at an event make it a point to notice who the sponsor is. And then thank them.

To find out more about Brooks’ sponsors and events, call 544.6200.

Reel to Real: Eric Jambor Presents

Thursday, June 17 | 7 pm

Come to the Brooks this Thursday for two great films: Leo’s Room, the next Global Lens installment, at 2pm and Reel to Real: Eric Jambor at 7pm!

Jambor, executive director for Indie Memphis and local filmmaker, will be showing his 1996 short film, “Gamalost,” which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and was awarded the Gold Award for best original dramatic short at WorldFest Charleston. Afterwards, Jambor will screen his choice for the feature presentation, Hard Core Logo (1996). A film about a band’s last chance attempt at success, Hard Core Logo delves into the lives of a punk rock group whose issues and personalities rise to the surface and fill the viewer’s eye with a behind-the-scenes look at life on the road.

The Reel to Real film series will surely whet your appetite for the new Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present exhibition opening on June 26th. C.Scott McCoy and Laura Jean Hocking are currently working on a documentary about the infamous Antenna Club and will be featured in the next R2R, Sunday, July 25th at 2pm. Then, we’ll have two more music-themed Reel to Reals with Scott Bomar who composed the music for Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan in August and Robert Gordon, author of It Came from Memphis and the Muddy Water bio, Can’t be Satisfied.

John Salvest: The Finished Consumo Ergo Sum

This time equipped with kneepads (a quick fix to the many hours spent on the floor assembling his art), John Salvest arrived at the Brooks last Thursday to complete his installation of Consumo Ergo Sum.

I, once more, came armed with a camera and questions for the artist. As a follow up to curiosities triggered during our previous meeting, I asked, “Does your art prompt the collection of objects like bottle caps, or do you accumulate the items first and afterward conceive the art?” Mr. Salvest explained that it goes both ways.

He amassed business cards for 8 to 9 years before picturing their artistic design, the result being Nothing Endures (1998). Smoke-Free (2004) proved the exact opposite; he collected cigarette butts with the preconceived idea to shape them into a likeness of the American flag. Consequently, his creative process seems a combination of waiting, deliberation, persistence, and chance.

Smoke-Free and his latest composition Seize the Day (2010), a medicine cabinet filled with pain pills patterned to spell the title, flank Consumo Ergo Sum in the Kraft Gallery at the Brooks. The effect proves a visually and conceptually stunning success. Together, the three works fluently articulate heedless consumption as well as fated transience, and they probe the use and meaning of repetitive, iconic imagery. Mr. Salvest’s artworks also cast back to the Tunisians mosaics just hosted at the Brooks. This reference reveals the influence of an age-old technique on contemporary artistic productions.

Posted casually in front of his accomplished work, Mr. Salvest presented a gallery talk Thursday evening, which proved the perfect capstone to his installation. What began with an engaging narration of the artist’s aesthetic progression and journeys to Tunisia and Turkey led to a fantastic roundtable discussion with the audience. Topics included the conversion of found objects into art objects, the process and psychology of collectors, the use of patriotic symbols in art, and the conservation of contemporary art and material heritage. One theme, above all, resonated: time. Acknowledging a desire to express time in tangible form, Mr. Salvest transforms everyday, seemingly expendable items into unexpected relics. By continuing to accumulate these objects, I believe he demonstrates that time is not meant to be static but rather to move, evolve, and expand—much like his art.

This striking installation will be showcased at the Brooks only through this September. For that reason, carpe diem—seize the day—and come see and consider Consumo Ergo Sum, a work unquestionably worth both the artist and the viewer’s time.

Consumo Ergo Sum: The Intern and The Artist

Meet Meg Jackson, Exhibitions Intern for the summer! Read on to find out more about interning at the Brooks, plus gain an inside look at the upcoming John Salvest exhibition. Come see him work with your own eyes before the installation is complete!

Enthusiasm, ambition, and gratitude—each have proven the norm in the last two weeks as I began my summer internship for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Last Friday morning, these sentiments were joined by a profound excitement and wonder, as my task for the day was to observe and record artist John Salvest install his work, “Consumo Ergo Sum.” Despite being a longtime art history student and an intern in several art institutions, this happened to be my very first opportunity to watch an artist set up artwork in a museum space. Stars filled my eyes, and I am certain I was not alone in my eagerness.

Typically, museum visitors meet screens or doors with signs that read “Installation in Progress” when art exhibitions are under construction. The Brooks, however, decided to put up only a rope at the gallery entrance, which offers guests a sort of backstage pass to the museum’s newest installation. The initial reaction of visitors as they came across Mr. Salvest working turned out to be as charming as the artist himself. Double takes predominated, as people appeared both surprised and curious by the scene. Or, perhaps “consumed” provides the best description.

“Consumo Ergo Sum” consists of bottle caps—various in shape, size, and color—assembled into a map of the United States. The process of installing this art is an interesting mixture of preparation and impulse. The caps are prearranged by color and amount needed to shape each state. Salvest starts with a pattern of the states, which he puts together like a puzzle. After traced, the paper stencil of the state is replaced with the bottle tops. Within the outline of each state, the caps have no particular order, yet Mr. Salvest appears most careful in their arrangement. He attentively places each cap one by one, turns it over and back again, and often changes its position. I noticed that he even once took a pencil to carefully push a lid just a smidge to the right.

Mr. Salvest frequently stood, walked towards the opening of the gallery, and looked at the work from a distance. His expression seemed pensive, engrossed. As I sat there considering the artist as he considered his work, a remarkable thought dawned on me. When examining art, I always have so many questions, many of which go unanswered. Here was my opportunity to ask questions to the person who has the answers. Abruptly breaking the silence, I asked Mr. Salvest, “Having installed this work in such disparate areas as Houston, New York, and now Memphis, are you ever curious as to how differently publics receive your art or your message? For example, is there any sense of, or worry for, regionalism?” So much for a customary icebreaker! Later I ask myself, “Oh, Meg, why did you not lead with ‘Why bottle caps?’ or ‘How did you come up with this concept?’” Hindsight personified would be a comedian, I do believe.

Mercifully, his look of surprise at the eager question gushing from the quiet girl in the corner immediately turned in to one of contemplation. Art today, he says, is received much better and more uniformly thanks to the Internet and other informing technologies. “Is this art?”, Mr. Salvest elucidates, is no longer the primary question when contemplating art. He goes on to say that this is one of the first times he has personally installed the work. Usually, the bottle caps and templates are sent to the exhibition venue for someone else to construct. I immediately recognized his presence as quite the coup for the Memphis Brooks’ staff and visitors—not to mention, the elated intern.

Subsequently, I mulled over the work itself. “Consumo Ergo Sum” means “I consume, therefore I am.” To me, the art comments on consumerism, materialism, and temporality. For my next question (thankfully much smoother in nature and execution), I asked about the collection of the bottle caps. Salvest explained that he collected the tops over time. He also mentioned that he has gathered enough caps to make the map nearly five times the size he usually creates. My mind reeled. How long did such an enormous collection of bottle caps take? Where does he store his gatherings? Does his collection inform his art, or does his art inform his collection? His art necessitates his own consumption, and consequently, this consumption provides a spectacle of consumption for the consuming art audience—oh my, the work seems like an onion in all its layers of meaning! I suppress my urge to set free my many queries and allow the artist to concentrate on his work. I am excited he will be working further on his installation this week, and I foresee his gallery talk Thursday as being both interesting and insightful. I, for one, find myself consumed with curiosity for the artist and his artwork alike, and I have no doubt visitors of the Brooks will be captivated in much the same way.