Category Archives: Education

Falling in love with home movies

Parmer Leroy Miller – Parmer & Roose Miller’s Family Reunion Trip to Illinois, 1930

Parmer Leroy Miller – Parmer & Roose Miller’s Family Reunion Trip to Illinois, 1930

This Sunday, the BMA will play host to its first Home Movie Day as part of the the Imagining Home Opening Celebration. Dwight Swanson is on the Board of Directors for The Center for Home Movies, and spoke to BMA Museum Educator Jessica Braiterman about his love of home movies.

JB: Why do home movies capture your imagination?
DS: I started falling in love with home movies for two contradictory reasons–first, because of how familiar they are–I could recognize something of myself and my life, or my family’s life, across generations and across cultures, since in a lot of ways people have kind of always been the same no matter where they are from. On the other hand, though, there are moments that completely surprise me, like when a moviemaker comes up with a new way of looking at something, or some event or place that I never would have been able to feel so deeply if someone hadn’t captured it in their camera.

JB: What can they reveal about us, our culture, what we care about?
DS: Some home movies are historically important because they are the best or only documentation of something, and what matters is the content…what is revealed in the frame–the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination is obvious example here, but it could also be of a long-gone building in our neighborhood. More complicated, though, are the little bits of unspectacular, everyday life, and what we can learn by looking at those. One question that I’m interested in is why people choose to film what they do? Sometimes the answer is obvious–people always bring cameras on vacations, because they are seeing something new. People like me who have watched a lot of home movies tend to get most excited about scenes of everyday life in the past (like shopping, or pumping gas) that were not usually filmed. I was taught a long time ago by someone who had been working with home movies for decades, that what I should look for in the films is gestures. These brief moments, maybe a glance, or a movement, may not teach me about history or culture in any broad sense, but they can be really powerful in showing us bursts of humanity across time.

JB: What is one of your favorite moments from a home movie—perhaps one of the best surprises or a deeply poetic moment?
DS: One of the projects I have been working on for several years now is “Home Grown Movies,” which grew out of Home Movie Day, and shows some of the favorite films discovered by the local Home Movie Day hosts at their events. Last year, one of the contributions was a home movie of a family reunion shot on a farm in Illinois in 1930. There are some wonderful scenes of the family at home and at work on the farm, looking a lot like what I’d imagined a Depression-era farm to look like, but what I wasn’t expecting was when the men playing banjo, guitar and fiddle in a string band were suddenly joined by a bobbed-hair girl (one of the family members) dancing the Charleston with a lot of gusto. Its moments like that show me that I need to forget a lot of my assumptions, and remember that people have always had the ability to surprise us.

JB: Tell me a little about your project Amateur Night: Home Movies from American Archives
DS: Amateur Night is a feature length 35mm compilation of home movies and amateur films compiled from 16 film archives. It was developed as a way of highlighting the wonderful work being done by moving image archivists and preservation laboratories to try to capture our history on film. I picked the films that I did to try to show the diversity that home movie show, which is something that they’re not usually given credit for. The movies come from all across American and cover nearly a century of images. They also range from very typical home scenes to elaborately constructed stories. The goal was really to put together a show that would entertain or intrigue any type of audience.

JB: Are there any special moments in the upcoming screening at the BMA that you are really excited about? Can you give us a little teaser?
DS: One of my favorites is an edited film that is a portrait of a woman named Pucky that tells her story through home movies and videos and friends and family talking about her always perfectly-coiffed hairstyles. I’m really happy that films are from as early as the 1920s and as recent as a few months ago. Not all of them were shot in Baltimore, but the ones that were really capture the people of our city.

Dina Fiasconaro Pucky's Pappagallo

Dina Fiasconaro Pucky’s Pappagallo

Making crazy quilts with artist Susie Brandt

Susie Brandt's 1970's Crazy Quilts

Susie Brandt’s 1970’s Crazy Quilt

Baltimore based artist Susie Brandt will be running a crazy quilt activity from 12pm-3pm at the BMA’s Imagining Home Opening Celebration, Sunday, October 25, 2015. Below, she explains how she fell in love with crazy quilts.

As a kid, I was completely enchanted by a crazy quilt on display at the local historical museum. Made over the course of many years by a woman working out on the front porch of her big Queen Anne house in Glens Falls, NY, it looked a lot like the quilts now on display at the BMA. I loved all the dazzling silk and velvet fabrics, and the gloriously complex feather stitching. Carefully embroidered throughout that quilt were all kinds of flowers, and fans, and spiders.

In the early 1970’s my mother and I started our own interpretation of that crazy quilt using scraps from our own home sewing projects. We made a dozen or so blocks, before we got sidetracked with other things.

Then life happened. I grew up to become an artist and carried those blocks around for decades. Last year, when my older niece was graduating high school, I dug them out and finished one quilt – using family fabrics going back three generations. I also saved some of the original blocks for a second quilt that I’ll give my younger niece when she graduates next year.

For the BMA workshop, we’ll show you how to piece your own block one patch at a time. We’ll use the decorative stitches on the sewing machine and fabrics that reflect the motifs commonly seen in crazy quilts – florals, fans, peacocks, kitties, moons and stars. Perhaps we can launch your own family project.

Imagining Home, the inaugural exhibition for the BMA’s new Center for People & Art, brings together more than 30 works from across the BMA’s collection to explore the universal theme of home. Discover paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, textiles, and works on paper from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, as well as four miniature rooms, plus a variety of interactive features in three thematic areas.

Susie Brandt's 1970's Crazy Quilts

Writing in Response to Gedi Sibony’s All Her Teeth Are Made of Slate

Gedi Sibony (American, born 1973) All Her Teeth Are Made of Slate, 2013 Wood, paint, and screws 96 x 40 3/4 x 8 in. (243.8 x 103.5 x 20.3 cm.) The Baltimore Museum of Art: Frederick R. Weisman Contemporary Art Acquisitions Endowment, BMA 2013.287 Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

Gedi Sibony (American, born 1973). All Her Teeth Are Made of Slate, 2013. Wood, paint, and screws, 96 x 40 3/4 x 8 in. (243.8 x 103.5 x 20.3 cm.) The Baltimore Museum of Art: Frederick R. Weisman Contemporary Art Acquisitions Endowment, BMA 2013.287
Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York


delicately placed
or carelessly misplaced    Wood
made slate    Walls made mouths

 

Danika Myers, poet and recent speaker at the BMA’s Big Table Connections

As a poet, I often find that writing in response to other art helps me to both sort through my thoughts about the work I’m interacting with and takes me writing in new directions. A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to work with Pam Stiles from The Loading Dock and several members of the community to consider and respond to Gedi Sibony’s sculpture All Her Teeth are Made of Slate. The writing exercise we incorporated into the event is a variation on one I often use to begin to respond to something in the world that compels me. If you have a chance to spend some time with Sibony’s sculpture, perhaps this exercise will help you find words to sort through your own responses to the evocative piece.

  1. Spend at least five minutes looking at and thinking about Sibony’s sculpture. Write down any thoughts that come to you–descriptions of the sculptural components, judgements, associations. Think about the title of the piece as well as its appearance and the material used to construct it.
  2. Find a quiet place to sit and write a bit more. You don’t necessarily need to be able to see Sibony’s work in order to move through the next steps. Try to move quickly and without over-editing or worrying about whether you are coming up with anything “good”—you’re just warming up.
  3. First close your eyes and think about your teeth. Run your tongue over them, open and close your jaw a few times and feel your upper and lower teeth connect, clench your jaw and then release it. When you open your eyes, list the first 3-8 words that occur to you in a column.
  4. Now think about your mother’s, your grandmother’s, or another woman’s teeth–preferably someone you know well and have strong feelings for. Picture her teeth, then add another 3-8 words to your list.
  5. Think about your daughter, your niece, or another person you knew as a child; think about her teeth when she was a baby, a child, and an adolescent. Add another 3-8 words to your list.
  6. Go to the top of your list, and next to each word, jot down the word that seems to you to be the opposite of the first word.
  7. Opposites are easy, but sometimes they aren’t all that interesting; let’s go someplace more interesting! Now, next to the word that is the opposite of the first word, write a word that sits just next to that word–a word that is somehow still in tension with the first word, but not directly opposing it.
  8. Finally, one more list: this time, use sound to help you come up with one more list of words. Choosing a word that sounds like the opposite but means something more like the original word might evoke both. Choosing a word that sounds like the original and means something only slightly different might just get you to a word that’s more precise and interesting. Ultimately, you might end up with a bunch of lists like these:

Original        Opposite        Tension            Sound
ivory                grey                faded                green (sounds like grey)
crooked          straight          polite                stacked (sounds like both straight and crooked)
filled                pristine          silver-lined       phony (sounds like both filled and pristine)

At this point you have a fairly large bank of words that you can use to move yourself in interesting directions as you return to All Her Teeth are Made of Slate. Go take another look at the piece, and then write a short poem or a paragraph that collects one response to it. Try to include at least one of the words from your word bank in each line of your poem, or at least two words from your bank in each sentence of your paragraph.

Still not sure how to start? Try using several of your words in a haiku, like the one created above! I’d love to see you share your poem or short response in the comments below.


headshot_danikaMyersDanika Myers is a poet and is a member of the First Year Writing Program faculty at the George Washington University. Her work has appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and in Forklift, Ohio.

The BMA Outpost in Reservoir Hill

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The BMA Outpost in Reservoir Hill.

The BMA Outpost is a portable museum that is taking up temporary residence in a variety of communities throughout Baltimore City, led by the BMA’s Amy and Marc Meadows Education Fellow Katie Bachler.

I spent October and November of 2014 in Reservoir Hill at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center – an old house turned church turned community center and after school program. The center hosts 43 students every day, and they work on projects and school work in rooms that were once bedrooms, with old fireplaces, and carved wood decorations. This was a home for the Outpost, our folding museum set up by the bus stop at the corner of Linden and Whitelock Streets, with reproductions of The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz and A Quick Nap by Walter Williams displayed in the sun. People from the neighborhood stopped by every day to chat, to share a story, to add to the map of what matters to them in the neighborhood. The kids were happy to see me every day, saying “art, art, art!” as they walked by or got off the bus. This corner became a home, and residents became familiar with me as a bit of extra street architecture and a source of conversation.

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Visitors to the Outpost create maps of what matters to them in the neighborhood.

This neighborhood was once home to wealthy business owners, who lived in three story brick homes, with marble staircases, decorative windows, and iconic spired roofs that glowed in the sunlight at the end of the day. These were and are grand homes, some with gutter systems that would bring rainwater into the kitchen for washing dishes.

Reservoir Hill was known as Jonestown, the original site along the Jones Falls where the Englishman David Jones claimed land, and built along the water, like people tend to do all over the world – growth happens around water. The land was filled with oaks, and small streams, in a time when Baltimore was growing, and land was available to claim. Druid Hill Park was once rural land outside of the city of Baltimore, whose northernmost boundary was North Avenue. Sheep grazed near untouched forests. Everyone put Druid Hill Lake on his or her map; it is the anchor of the neighborhood, a place to relax and walk and think and breathe.

There was a perfectly circular reservoir known as the Mt Royal Reservoir that brought water to half of the city’s residents in the 1850s, at the old entrance to Druid Hill Park, the remains of which are still flanked by two large marble posts. The city was growing then. The Jones Falls was a source of clean water, helping Baltimore to become a booming industrial town, immigrants flowing in to help create and alter the economic conditions of the city.  Water was home.

REZHILLMAP SM

Hand-painted map of resident’s favorite places by Katie Bachler, handed back to participants who contributed locations.

The past is remembered in places, in the height and material reality of buildings, and what was cared about and what was given weight, given names, given space, like the gardens along Linden Avenue, which was once known as the Garden Path, and was manicured, and existed as an entrance to Druid Hill Park.

The stories I hear from residents now are still about home—about family, about eating dinner, about hanging out on the corner, and how the roofs of the neighborhood houses look so cool. I spoke with Juanita, who lives on a short street behind the St. Francis Neighborhood Center where there used to be the garden, as she walked past the Outpost. She remarked, “you have to smile at people, it makes it a place here, it makes it home.” Juanita’s little dog Sammy walks beside her. They are connected.

The BMA Outpost will be located at the Govans Branch of the Enoch Pratt library from  mid-January through mid-February. You can join us to experience art in public, and map your own journey to home.

HANDS

Announcing the BMA Outpost – a mobile museum and project space!

OUTPOST

The BMA Outpost

Keep your eyes open for a small museum in your neighborhood.

The BMA Outpost is a roving public space that will be exhibiting reproductions of works from the BMA’s collection, all related to the idea of home through time and across cultures. This small museum-on-the-move will also have content created by you – the residents of Baltimore. It is a museum about place, about home, and about why this city matters to all of us.

What does ‘home’ in Baltimore mean to you? Is it egg custard sno-balls, sitting on the stoop in front of a brick house, the way the clouds look over the Inner Harbor, or your grandmother’s collection of cups and bowls?  You can contribute to a map of the neighborhood with places and memories that are meaningful to you!

The Outpost is an exchange, a conversation, a dinner table.  You bring life and meaning to this space, then we decide together how it grows. We will be visiting places all over the city and partnering with organizations already working in your neighborhood.

In October, the BMA Outpost will be set up from 1-5 Tuesday-Friday at The St. Francis Neighborhood Center at 2405 Linden Ave.

I look forward to visiting your neighborhood, and making a museum with you.

KatiesDwg

A drawing of the BMA Outpost

At the intersection of art and mathematics

 

Photograph of Olafur Eliasson's Flower observatory courtesy Christopher Hartman, July 2014.

Photograph of Olafur Eliasson’s Flower observatory, 2004 courtesy Christopher Hartman, July 2014.

Mathematics and art at first seem worlds apart. But is it so? Might there be a relationship between these disciplines? And if so, can it be explored in the BMA’s collection? Are there works of art at the Museum that draw on mathematical ideas, processes, and overlapping notions of beauty?

A stroll through the BMA’s Contemporary Wing invites pause as I – do I dare – walk on top of Carl Andre’s Zinc-Magnesium Plain, 1969. I look down and take in the textures of the metal surfaces. I think about the shape of the squares and their imperfect alignment and how the grid that this zinc and magnesium surface represents extends out infinitely in all directions.

I look up and see an explosion of geometric shapes—this time in brilliant stainless steel. Olafur Eliasson’s Flower observatory 2004 bursts forth and lures a viewer inside and around the hulking form.  It is quite a complex structure. Each triangular spike that pierces the gallery air has curious openings of various sizes where the tips would be. I stretch up and try to see through them like tiny keyholes and spy intricate forms. I cross the threshold, feel the shadow of the large form darken the space and look up. It is a dazzling canopy of star-like shapes as if a new universe is unfolding. I am inside the observatory, observing, marvelling. I don’t rush this moment; the marvel has its pleasures.

As the wonder subsides, I catch myself thinking about shapes—the glittering diamonds and flower-like forms, the rhombuses, the pentagon that inscribes the invisible base of the sculpture, the hex screws that connect the steel planes. I wonder if this is what a mathematical imagination might feel and look like.

To try to understand these questions and ideas, I invited mathematician Susan Goldstine and architect Fred Scharmen to the Museum for a conversation about the intersection of mathematics and art in these pieces. Fred uses words like “striking and beautiful” to describe geometry and art.  Susan poignantly said that “the beauty of mathematics – and the mathematics of beauty – comes from the ways in which simple elements combine and intersect to form dazzling structures seemingly out of thin air.”

As soon as Susan walked under Flower observatory, she said that it was based on a rhombic triacontahedron – a convex polyhedron with 30 rhombic faces. I’d remembered reading that in my research but couldn’t see it. She helpfully explained it to me and offered to show me how to fold the shape with paper, so that I could understand it with my hands as well as with my mind’s eye.

This conversation about the relationship between art and mathematics will form the basis of the next Big Table Connections. Both Fred and Susan have a natural, deep connection to mathematical forms, and they will bring their knowledge to the BMA on Saturday August 2nd at 2 pm. We will also get the chance to fold rhombic triacontahedra and make mathematical drawings too. I hope you will join us! You can also join in the conversation online using the #BMABigTable hashtag on Twitter.

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Sondheim semi-finalist exhibition at MICA to see Fred’s large wall drawing inspired by his mathematical research. The exhibition is on view in the Decker, Meyerhoff, and Pinkard galleries at MICA through August 3rd.

Light Play–Musing on Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”)

Visitors observing Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf").

Visitors observing Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”).

The tower of fluorescent lights looms large at a tight triangular junction where the old building meets the new. On a quiet day at the museum, you can literally hear it hum.

Flavin’s signature use of ordinary fluorescent tubes gives the work both a straightforward familiarity and a strange magic. Up close, you can see the screws, the wires, the ordinariness of the fixtures. But stay a while—the colors start to work on your eyes. The red, yellow, and blue bulbs mix—sunset raspberry and a delicate melon sorbet splash on the walls. The entire room is noticeably flooded with a lavender glow.

The sensory experience beckons. I slowly look up and linger longer than usual on the exit sign which glows a gorgeous green. I look left and notice a dramatic yellow cast in the adjacent gallery which my intellect knows is a crisp white. My eyes have shifted. The world has become a complex tapestry of colored light. Experiencing Flavin’s piece is also about following the light out into the space occupied by the light. It is expansive and also quite mysterious.

One of the pleasures of sitting with light art is all the questions surrounding light—how does Flavin’s skillful work with light seduce the senses and alter one’s perception? What is causing my eyes to see a white room as yellow? Why does colored light create such suggestive moods and alter the character of space?

It is these questions and more that we’ll explore in the BMA’s Big Table Connections program on Saturday July 5, when light artist and lighting designer Glenn Shrum joins us for a session on Dan Flavin’s piece and the inner workings of light.

Shrum is the owner and founder of Flux Studio. He is an active member of the international lighting design and lighting education community and Assistant Professor of Lighting Design at Parsons The New School for Design. We invited him to lead a session of the BMA’s Big Table Connections program. Thankfully, Glenn very generously agreed. In June, he came to the museum for a fascinating planning session and developed a clever in-gallery project with his colored light tables. Participants will get to try their hand at color mixing with light. How might you mix light and reshape space. What marvelous effects will you generate? Be sure to bring your cameras or devices to document your experiments.

What do you think? Have you experienced Flavin’s work? How did it impact your senses? What other special experiences with light have you had?

The BMA’s Big Table Connections program is a great opportunity to unpack complex ideas in contemporary art from multiple perspectives. This year we have been presenting sessions on Minimalism and its offshoots. We could not finish the season in August without looking closely at the work of Dan Flavin in our Contemporary Wing.

Join us on Saturday, July 5 at 2 p.m., to hear Glenn discuss light art and lighting design, and provide valuable context for Flavin’s work. After Glenn’s talk, we’ll move into the galleries and try our hand at mixing colored light. Hope to see you there!

 

On W-120301 – Sarah Oppenheimer’s radical architectural intervention into space and time

Sarah Oppenheimer. W‑120301. 2012. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Nathan L. and Suzanne F. Cohen Contemporary Art Endowment; and gift of the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, BMA 2012.1. © Sarah Oppenheimer. Photo by James Ewing

Sarah Oppenheimer. W‑120301. 2012. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Nathan L. and Suzanne F. Cohen Contemporary Art Endowment; and gift of the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, BMA 2012.1. © Sarah Oppenheimer. Photo by James Ewing

The BMA’s Big Table Connections program brings together experts —from neuroscientists and engineers to choreographers and product designers— to explore ideas related to works of art in the Contemporary Wing. On June 7, Goucher College philosophy professor John Rose joined Baltimore-based artist Leah Cooper to discuss Sarah Oppenheimer’s W-120301, a radical architectural intervention that uses mirrors to provoke new experiences of space and time. Here are some of his thoughts:

Sarah Oppenheimer, Architectural Intervention W-120301 beckons to us from the open region of the timing of time and the spacing of space, from the open region of possibility.  This open region is the site of interaction of our conscious intentions and the resonances of the worlding objects around us.  The openness of the world is space/time where our consciousness and the world intertwine and meaning arises. Meanings have already arisen in that opening, and those meanings are our tradition and our history.  That tradition and history is often taken for the “truth” of the world.  The questions then arise, “How can we both engage and disrupt that tradition? How can we see the meaning arising in an opening of space and time, yet also step into other possibilities in that opening?”  Oppenheimer’s intervention achieves a rare opportunity to experience that opening by playing and subverting the ways in which we usually step into the meaningful space of a museum.

We know from Husserl’s Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness that perception is always perspectival and temporal. We have to walk around an object to see it from various perspectives. We have to retain the previous perspectives and anticipate future perspectives as we weave together those perspectives in time into a meaningful object.  Opening the space between two floors and the stairwell, W-120301 plays with our spatial intentions towards objects by unfolding multiple perspectives.

When we first see it upon entering the third floor gallery, it appears as another two dimensional painting in a room of paintings of abstract, yet colored, geometrical space.  We see a black parallelogram on a wall; its four sides with opposite equal acute angles, opposite equal obtuse angles are an already familiar shape.  “Might it be a rhombus?” we might ask ourselves, if we were to bother.  We might not even bother to have a look at it right away, as we glance around the room.  Without fore-knowledge of the intervention, we might not wander closer.  But when we do, we realize that we can see into its space.

We get a question!  “What is there in here?”  But the “in here” of its space takes us elsewhere.  We are not sure where we are looking.  Usually, we move around an object to pick up further perspectives that we weave into the story we tell ourselves about that object.  Paintings on the wall don’t allow us to do that so much, but this is no longer a painting on a wall.  It is an inviting space, a hole in the wall, a rabbit hole to jump down?  The guard keeps us back from leaning over into and looking down.  But we see something: more geometric shapes, glimpses into other rooms.  But where are we looking?  The questions grow.

Oppenheimer’s wormhole reminds us it is impossible to take in an object all at once.  But here, to have an intention towards this space, you have to be two or more people.  We send our friend out to find the other ways into this space.  Is it above?  We are on the top floor.  Below?  How far?  It cannot be viewed all in one “space” or in one “time,” which perhaps reminds us that no object can be viewed in an exhaustive way from all perspectives all in one time and space.   As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Truth can surely stand on one leg, but with two it will be able to walk and get around.”

We find ourselves doing what we never do in a museum: playing, engaging the space/time of the exhibit.  To a degree, we become ek-static; we are outside ourselves.  Both the object itself as space/time whose properties elude us and the gestural movement through it to the larger space/time it reveals in this musing space it makes manifest, takes us away from our usual modes of gathering of intentional experiences and make sense of objects.  It gives us the opportunity to do what we rarely get to do afresh: participate with the opening of the world in letting meaning arise.

John M. Rose, Professor of Philosophy, Goucher College
13 June 2014

What do you think? Have you seen Oppenheimer’s work at the BMA or other institutions? How did you react to it? Are there other works of art that you’ve encountered that have left you thinking about time and space in new ways? Tell us about them below.

The Big Table Connections takes place on the first Saturday of every month at 2 p.m. Meet experts in related fields as they share their insights in the galleries, then participate in art-making activities that delve into the ideas behind the artwork. Join us on July 5th as master lighting designer Glenn Shrum addresses Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”). Participate in a hands-on exploration of color mixing with light.