Extra Wacky Wednesday

About a minute into “Hot Topic”,  a song by NYC electroclash band LeTigre, artist Faith Ringgold gets a shout out. She’s in good company. The song continues, paying tribute to the artists who have inspired the band: Yoko Ono, to Aretha Franklin, to Eleanor Antin.
Not mentioned, is pioneer video artist Nam June Paik, but as Wynne Greenwood‘s music video for “Hot Topic” shows, Paik’s influence is never far away.
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Carroll Cloar Film Series

Memories, hauntings, history, and occasionally magical realism form reoccurring themes that cross place and time in the 3 films we’ve chosen to show alongside the upcoming Carroll Cloar centennial exhibition, The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South. Crîa Cuervos, The Exterminating Angel and Intruder in the Dust were selected to reference and expand upon the corresponding themes seen in Cloar’s life and paintings. Continue reading

Artist Wayne White: The Anti-Guru

Wayne White 003

“I can tell you from being around them; famous people are insane. Celebrity really is for crazy people.”

On Sunday, March 17th, the Brooks had the pleasure of hosting multi-media artist Wayne White. Originally from the wellspring of artistry of the American South, White is currently living on the west coast and in the loving arms of the art world for his “word paintings”. If this doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you will be more familiar with his role in a certain cultural phenomenon: White was one of the original puppet masters of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Recently dispatched from the Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva Island, Florida, the artist appeared quite tan and fully inspired as he obliged the Q & A session that followed Brooks’ screening of Beauty is Embarrassing: The Wayne White Story, a documentary by Neil Berkeley that tracks the artist’s journey thus far.

“Hi, I’m Wayne White. If you ‘Q’, I will ‘A'”

And with this humble exposition, a smattering of positive inquiry unfurled from the audience in earnest. Artists, teachers, supporters of the arts, and even a man from White’s hometown provided the artist with a platform to divulge everything from the secrets to success (failure), to the best way to transfer a drawing to canvas (ballpoint pen). Effortlessly, his thoughts coalesced into sound bite lore: The insight of a formidable art-star packaged as Southern adage.

At one point, White expressed his dislike for the idea of having a guru, “I’m anti-guru.”
Indeed, he is….
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Lectures, Films and Scholastic: What Museums Are Today

I work at the Admissions desk every weekend and have been for over two years. I have seen the progression of the Brooks in that short time, and realized that museums are so much more than the exhibitions they house. It is more, from my perspective, what each exhibition represents to the institution and to its audience.

The museum had a great crowd this month due to the opening of the Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition, a Decorative Arts Trust lecture and the British Arrow Awards film. Those are three distinctive events all occurring in front of the eyes of all of the artworks the museum shows such as our extensive permanent collection that focuses on art that spans time to our traveling and in-house shows that represent so many interests…

Looking into the future, I believe that museums will offer even more to their cities. There are already so many possibilities and ways to turn an institution into exactly what you need it to be for you personally. One could come cost free on a Wednesday, have an inexpensive date on Thursday night or a picnic date on the weekend while lazily strolling around the museum with a full stomach. Or you could catch up with friends and family to eat and shop. I had no clue that museums offered so much! I look forward to seeing you here soon.

In Focus with Girls Inc.

Photographs and video from the Brooks Museum’s summer In Focus program are currently on view in the Education Gallery through Oct 23, 2011. Memphis artist Thomasin Durgin worked with 30 adolescents from Girls Incorporated, a non-profit organization with a mission to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. The focus of the program was portraiture through digital photography and included an introduction to stop-motion video.

Adolescents typically struggle with issues of identity and control over their own lives. Through portraiture girls are able to express who they are, and to show themselves as they want to be seen by the world. Many participants began the program with an eye for glamorous shots, yet photo assignments such as composing faceless portraits or choosing to depict specific emotions helped them begin viewing the camera as an artistic tool. Photographs were projected and reviewed at the end of most sessions, which encouraged dialogue and reflection. Composition, framing, lighting, and technical aspects of photography were introduced during these discussions s well.

An exceptional group of talented girls, the participants created work that is moving, creative, thoughtful, and fun.

Viva La France!

Every now and then we get an email from our friend Elisabeth Callihan, who has been living in Paris for the last year. Elisabeth was formerly the Public Relations and Public Events Manager here at the Brooks and she is simply fabulous. She feeds us little tidbits of cool stuff going on across the pond. Her most recent email says, everyone is obsessed with florals here lately – dresses, pants, shoes – everything in florals. Also, drinking outside is big. So put on your best floral dress and come to the Brooks for a drink on the patio.

Florals and drinking aside, it’s been all about France at the Brooks this summer. We even had a Bastille Day celebration with the opening of our new show, The Impressionist Revolution. Come to the Brooks for some French inspired fun, which will continue through early October. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll experience:

-Nicoise Salad, Quiche Lorraine, and more at the Brushmark Restaurant
-95 works of French and related Impressionism paintings
-French pop and hip-hop music by DJ Leroy Trenton during Brooks After Hours
-French films
-A “Kid’s Café” gallery featuring scent games, dress up, and more
-French wine tastings
-Screenings of French operas and ballets
-Sidewalk Impressionists Chalk Festival on September 24

That’s A LOT of French fun! And for a lot less than a plane ticket to Paris. So what are you waiting for? Take a trip to France without the annoying and invasive security checks. Join the Brooks now at http://www.brooksmuseum.org/join or call Andrea Carlisle at 544-6230.

This blog has been written by Diane Jalfon Director of Development at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Teenagers Rock! Face the Lens Opening

After partnering with students at Craigmont and Ridgeway High Schools, I am more than impressed with the insight our city’s youth has on social issues in Memphis. In a recent project that explored art as a catalyst for social change, Brooks Education introduced two high school classes to Depression-era photographs from the Farm Security Administration, currently on view in (Extra) Ordinary: The Story of Documentary Photography in the South. Students discussed the purpose of these images as documenting the effects of the Great Depression and examined the impact of the photographs in creating widespread outrage over poverty and helping promote the New Deal. We asked teens to explore what they regarded as today’s most pressing social issues and to consider how they might depict the issues visually.

After a brief introduction on photography techniques, we handed each student a disposable camera and asked them to document, research, and write about their chosen topic. When the work was done, each class narrowed down the photographs and writings that would represent their school in the Brooks’ recently opened exhibition, Face the Lens: Art for Social Change. The twenty-four images and writings address such issues as pollution, gangs, drug abuse, vacant buildings, homelessness, and education.

These photographs aren’t going to change the world but they will get people talking, in fact, they already have. Inside the gallery there is a viewer response wall where we present four categories: Social, Political, Environmental, and Other, and ask “What issues do you think Memphis is facing?” Viewers are invited to write their response on a Post-it note and stick it to the wall. Answers bring up issues of teen pregnancy, race relations, violence, and city pride. The fact that visitors are comfortable bringing up such serious topics inside the gallery is a testimony to the important role museums can play in bringing our diverse community together to discuss and address social issues. Viewer responses also reveal that the voices of our youth have made an impact on the community. One visitor wrote. “All of them are pressing issues…there is no greater voice than those present.” Memphis teenagers have something to say. Let’s listen!

Face the Lens: Art for Social Change is on exhibition in the Education Gallery through March 27, 2011

This blog was written by Jenny Hornby Assistant Curator of Education.

The Tennessee Arts Commission: A Who, What, When and Why to the Arts

Last week, the Brooks was proud to host a quarterly meeting of the Tennessee Arts Commission. The TAC is one of our major supporters, and you may have seen their logo on our website and our promotional materials. But what is the TAC, exactly, and what do they do?

An agency of the Tennessee state government, The Tennessee Arts Commission was created in 1967 “to stimulate and encourage the presentation of performing, visual and literary arts throughout the state and to encourage public interest in the cultural heritage of Tennessee.” To that end, the TAC awards dozens of grants to qualified arts organizations from Memphis to Knoxville, and everywhere in between.

Some of that money helps organizations like the Brooks with general operating costs—staff salaries, utilities, maintenance, and other fairly unexciting day-to-day expenses. (Sponsors rarely like to fund general operating costs, but it’s some of the most crucial funding we receive.) Other TAC funding goes toward specific programs that fit into categories like Arts Education, Professional Development Support, and Student Ticket Subsidies.

Naturally, TAC funds aren’t just handed out to anyone who wants them. Each year, organizations undergo a competitive (and rigorous) application process. We at the Brooks are proud to be the recipients of one of the TAC’s larger grants. We’ve received this funding for years—and yet every year we have to re-apply for it, in addition to appearing in Nashville every other year to undergo a panel review. These guys aren’t kidding around.

So where does the TAC get the funds it distributes? Well, the state contributes $2.8 million, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Education pitches in another $1.3 million. But the majority of the TAC’s funding—about $5.4 million annually—comes from our state’s innovative Specialty License Plate program. Any time you see a Tennessee license plate that promotes an organization or cause (including colleges, sports teams, clubs, etc.), the TAC has benefited from its purchase. If a plate is personalized, the TAC benefits even more.

So, thanks mostly to the license plate program, the TAC disburses more than $7.5 million in grants. (The remainder of their budget goes toward operating costs, like rent, salaries, and travel.) The TAC’s income numbers place Tennessee 12th in the nation—and 1st in the South—in per capita legislative appropriations for the arts.

You can support the TAC by joining its support group, Tennesseans for the Arts, or by upgrading your boring old license plate to a spiffy new one (and emblazoning it with your nickname). You can also help them out by keeping tabs on your legislators. Are your Senator and Representative voting their support for the arts? In addition to providing enrichment and enjoyment, the arts create thousands of jobs and generate millions in revenues, so supporting them is kind of a no-brainer.

The Brooks depends on a whole network of supporters that enable us to do what we do. So, a big thanks to the Tennessee Arts Commission as well as to our other foundation, corporate, and individual donors for keeping the doors open, the lights on, and the art accessible to everyone who wants to enjoy it.

This post is authored by our Grants Manager Bob Arnold.

Development Department: Fashion vs. Culture

Diane Jalfon is the Director of Development and a strong, determined woman. A piece of advice: read her perspective and learn from her wisdom. Oh, and wish her a happy birthday, too!

I was driving home the other day listening to my friends at WKNO slog through their bi-annual pledge drive with a mix of admiration and sympathy. It’s admirable that season after season they summon an amazing amount of energy and optimism to reach their fundraising goals. But I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of raising money in these precarious economic times.

I mean, if you have to choose between eating out once a week or renewing your WKNO, zoo, or Brooks membership your are probably going to go with dinner out. Many of us are having to make choices like this these days. We’re re-evaluating what’s really important. Thankfully, there’s a lot of people choosing to invest in their community rather than buy designer clothing. Let’s face it – trends come and go. That Prada purse will be obsolete in a year or two but investing in Memphis has lasting effects. Things like WKNO radio, the world-class Memphis Zoo, and the always-interesting Brooks help make Memphis a more livable city.

Plus, there’s real value to investing in culture. For $75 a year, a family of 5 can come to the Brooks an unlimited number of times, receive free audio tours, participate in free Saturday morning art activities each month, enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages at 4 members-only receptions, see live music and special performances on Thursday nights, and get 10% off at the Brushmark Restaurant and Museum Store. You can’t even touch a Prada belt for less than $300.

Don’t get me wrong – I like fashion as much as the next gal. But these days I would rather spend my money on something more substantial. Invest in the Brooks – it will expand your world and get you a whole year of fun. Plus you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you made a good investment in your community.

Click here to read more about all the memberships we offer or join now.

Diane Jalfon
Director of Development

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

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.