2014 in Review at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

A look back on a year of exhibitions at the museum

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Interactive Gallery preparation with students from Memphis College of Art

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Interactive Gallery preparation with students from Memphis College of Art

We started 2014 with pyramids on this blog and pyramids is how we will end it. Last January we mentioned the Pyramids of Giza in conjunction with a photography exhibition and how, in 1982, the pyramids were moved closer together (digitally) in a photograph to better fit on the cover of National Geographic magazine. This was done without the consent of the photographer, and provides an early example of a photo-manipulation faux pas. The exhibition we had on view, Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography, provided examples of this kind of pre-Photoshop handiwork without having to be labeled a misstep. Photographers such as David Levinthal and Vik Muniz reminded us that “throughout the short history of the medium, photographs have been staged, fabricated, and manipulated.”

Brooks members view the Shared Vision exhibition

Brooks members view the Shared Vision exhibition

Tricky enough to fool Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame into believing in faeries and powerful enough to be a propaganda tool everyone should be the wiser of–all the while, photographs have been a legitimate art medium, no matter if the mass public has some form of the technology at their fingertips. Sure, not all Instagram photography is art, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be. So last January along with Shared Vision we staged #MemphisShared, an exhibition of Instagram photography; if for no other reason than to stir up conversation about the state of photography–an endlessly interesting topic.

#MemphisShared

#MemphisShared

It is due to our current exhibition, Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt, that we mention pyramids now. On view through January 18, 2015, this exhibition includes artifacts and animal mummies from Egypt, as well as x-rays and research materials from the Brooklyn Museum. Of course with our city’s namesake pyramids are never far from mind, and the city of Memphis, Tennessee has its own Egyptology experts. In fact, the Institute of Egyptian Art and Anthropology at the University of Memphis received international acclaim with the discovery of a new tomb, a few feet away from Tutankhamen’s tomb, in 2006.

Reenacting Marisol's Mi Mamá y Yo at Community Day

Reenacting Marisol’s Mi Mamá y Yo at Community Day

Men–Nopher, called Memphis by the Greeks, meant, to the early Egyptians, “Good Abode,” and the city of Memphis has been a good abode to the Brooks Museum: the past year brought many changes, and more are coming. In 2016, the museum will have been in Overton Park for 100 years. Part of the museum mission is to bring varied exhibitions to Memphis, and we are proud to have brought the work of Marisol to the city this past summer, a great post-war American artist obscured by history. Chief Curator Marina Pacini saw her career project realized in this exhibition, titled Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper, which traveled to El Museo de Barrio, New York’s leading Latino cultural institute, where it is on view until January 10. Not only did this exhibition introduce Marisol to Memphis, it reintroduced Marisol to the world. The results of this effort can be seen online by searching #MeetMarisol.  

Another major exhibition of 2014 was Dalí: Illustrating the Surreal, a collection of 49 rare book illustrations by the celebrated and sometimes controversial Salvador Dalí. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and Miguel de Cervante’s Don Quixote were amongst the tales told through Dalí’s masterful illustrations. We should keep the protagonist of Cervante’s work in mind as we push forward into 2015: Alonso Quixano was an adventurer, a little bit crazy, but whose mission to right the wrongs of the world, restore humanity, and inspire forceful social change, is one we all need to hear right now.

After the Ku Klux Klan burned this cross in front of a Mississippi Delta Freedom House, a civil rights worker transformed it with a painted message.  Tamio Wakayama  Indianola, Mississippi, 1964

After the Ku Klux Klan burned this cross in front of a Mississippi Delta Freedom House, a civil rights worker transformed it with a painted message. Tamio Wakayama Indianola, Mississippi, 1964

With that in mind, this month brings a remarkable opportunity to experience the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of those who lived it. This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement opens to the public on January 14. Over the past few months, Brooks staff members have met with community leaders to develop a way to interpret these photographs in an impactful way that is relevant to now. We invite you to sit in with us on a number of unique opportunities. It is our hope that the exhibition and programs we have planned will help prepare Memphis and the world for a brighter tomorrow.

With Art, You Can Move The Pyramids

Jerry N. Uelsmann

Jerry Uelsmann, American, b. 1934, Untitled, 1996, Gelatin-silver print, © Jerry N. Uelsmann

In 1982, National Geographic “moved the pyramids”. Using expensive digital technology (proto-Photoshop), layout editors scrunched two of the Pyramids at Giza together so that they would both fit on the magazine’s vertically formatted cover. The photojournalist who captured the original image noticed, complained, and controversy over the ethics of photo-manipulation ensued.

Tomorrow is the last day to view Shared Vision, and the whole of the “Subjective Inventions” section of the exhibition showcases artists who used photo-manipulation before Photoshop as well. Albeit, as Raymond Pettibon has said, “In art, impurity is not a mortal sin.”

Let’s Build Some Visual Literacy: Conversation with Coriana Close

In a conversation with blogger Erin Williams, the 29 year-old Ohio native let us in on her influences, thoughts on if film photography will forever be a thing of the past, and why it takes more than a cell phone camera to call yourself a true photographer.

shared vision tour.Coriana Close

Coriana Close

When it comes to explaining why artists do what they do, sometimes the best points of view can only be understood by a fellow artist. Coriana Close, photographer and assistant professor at University of Memphis will attempt just that on Thursday, when she leads a guided tour of Shared Vision that explores the changes of the history of photography as seen in photos from the exhibit. An Oberlin College and University of Arizona Alum, she most recently showcased a collection of her photo and video work at Wrong Again Gallery, in an exhibition titled Solar that focused on time spent in Vieques and Puerto Rico. Continue reading

The Media Cabinet of Carroll Cloar

Over yonder at Summer of Cloar.com, Dr. Stanton Thomas has put together a list of essential reading for those of you who are HARD-CLOAR. There you’ll find Southern Gothic short stories coupled with paintings by Carroll Cloar that seem to tell the same story. In the spirit of interpretation – never exhaustive, here’s one more for the books.

Where the Woodbine Twineth (aka You Never Believe Me) by Davis Grubb.

It’s some pretty creepy/fantastic commentary about the fear that some people have of other cultures, despite their close proximity in daily life. In 1965, it was adapted into an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour:


Some of you may already be familiar with Davis Grubb. He wrote The Night of the Hunter. A national bestseller in 1955 and made into a movie that same year with one-time director Charles Laughton. It’s a hard-to-categorize thriller that went on to become one of Roger Ebert’s favorite films of all-time, and is responsible for all those knuckle tattoos.

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Scene from The Night of the Hunter

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Ancestry and Identity: Prints by Maritza Davila

Brooks blogger Erin Williams talks to the artist.

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Maritza Davila, Gallo Mañanero, 2008

Though we live our lives as individuals, the choices we make and the paths we choose are all shaped by the influences of those we let in our world. Our parents, future children and spouses, long lost friends, even politicians can shed light on the ways and means we decide to follow. For artist Maritza Davila, her life has been built like a sturdy home: Her parents laid the foundation, who raised her and her four sisters in her native Puerto Rico; was rounded out by other strong females like her daughter and aunt, and cemented through the examples and ideals of other friends, family, and students she met along the way.

Davila is a professor at the Memphis College of Art who specializes in printmaking, and has exhibited her work worldwide. Her latest exhibition, Ancestry and Identity: Prints by Maritza Davila, is framed as an altar that celebrates those she has looked up to the most. “Even though this work has been developed from a very personal point of view, they’re issues that we all deal with. They are family issues, love issues, honoring issues…they are not alien, and at least I hope they are not alien to the viewer,” she says. On the eve of its opening, we spoke with Davila about the values instilled in her by her father and mother, how she identifies as a Memphian, and what it means to have faith.
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It’s A Cloar, Cloar Summer

Artist Mandy Maxwell of Earle, Arkansas shares her thoughts on the Brooks Museum taking Summer of Cloar on the road in our June 29th event, Bike to Cloar. 

mandy1The Brooks has done some very impressive things this summer to promote both regional and southern art.

When it comes to art in the Delta, no one does it better than Carroll Cloar. Each of his masterpieces captures the romanticism and magic that only a true southern native could achieve. Those who’ve seen his work can’t help but place him among America’s best, yet he is still virtually unknown.
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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

You Can Go Home Again

Guest Blogger Erin Williams on Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey

Icon-Guide

In the quarter-century that I have spent in and around the city that I refer to as my second home – the place where I spent more summers, weekends, holidays, weekdays and all the days in between with my extended family, not once had the time ever been taken to go to the Brooks Museum.

That time ended yesterday.

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Angels and/or Tomboys or Both or Neither: Girlhood in the 21st-Century

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It’s called a ‘knit bomb’.

A group known as the Memphis Knit Mafia rallied last month to weave a 21st-Century response to the Brooks’ Angels & Tomboys exhibition around the walkways, architectural elements, and pedestals punctuating the Museum’s outdoor plaza.

From MKM’s call to action, fellow Memphian knitters came forth; trafficking tote bag after tote bag chock-a-block vibrant swatches of knit work onto the grounds. The collaboration transformed, unseating any remnants of color from the Brooks’ chalk festival of the day before. It seems we had staged a weekend of innocuous park graffiti.
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A Studio Visit with Chief Curator Marina Pacini

This fall, I am organizing A Different Kind of Landscape: Maysey Craddock and Erin Harmon. The exhibition will run from August 24 through November 10. I’ll be posting photos of our meetings in Erin’s and Maysey’s studios between now and the show’s opening. They’ll also be contributing images of works in progress. Click on the images below and stay tuned.
Marina Pacini
Chief Curator


M studio March

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Spotlight On: Our Lady of Sorrows School, 5th and 6th Grade ABC Program Experience 

Some of my fondest memories of elementary and middle school include the art projects that went along with the most interesting units that my favorite teachers thought up – the same teachers that inspired me to go into education myself. As a first year educator, I was daunted with the task of creating not only engaging standards-based lessons, but also incorporating art into what my students were doing in the classroom.

Participating in the ABC (Art and the Basic Curriculum) Program through The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art exposed both my students and me to excellent lessons that highlighted how to successfully use art integration in the classroom. We were also privileged to take part in guided museum visits and activities that showcased the wonderful educational resource that is the Brooks.

Most of my students have lived in Memphis all of their lives but had not been to the Brooks before participating in this program. I have a combined fifth and sixth grade classroom of mostly boys who are between the ages of 10 to 12 – not a group that most would say would be interested in fine art. When, during our first museum visit, I saw my entire class sitting at attention (a difficult task for many a middle school student) and intelligently discussing the symbolism in a particular painting with our fabulous museum educator Ms. Brown, I knew we were taking part in something special.

Ms. Brown’s three visits to our classroom at Our Lady of Sorrows School in Frayser were equally rewarding for my students. They learned how to create a Sioux Winter Count – an activity that brought an ancient Native American tradition to life for them within the four walls of our classroom. Their study of plant and animal cells in science was reinforced by our final ABC lesson for the year, which consisted of creating a scientific illustration of a cell.

From having the opportunity to join in on an ABC teacher watercolor painting workshop earlier this year to seeing the growth in my students because of their participation in this program, I look forward to the interesting lessons and activities my students and I can expect for next school year!

This blog is written by Elizabeth Black, educator at Our Lady of Sorrows School.