Tag Archives: art

Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA and Beyond

In February of 1939, the Baltimore Museum of Art exhibited 116 works by 29 black artists. Contemporary Negro Art, co-organized by Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke and the Harmon Foundation, became one of the first exhibitions at a major American art institution to exclusively display the work of black artists, including Hale Woodruff, Jacob Lawrence, and Dox Thrash.

The BMA revisited the landmark exhibition this summer with 1939: Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA, showcasing work by seven of the 29 artists included in the original show. While the exhibition is indeed a celebration, the BMA isn’t historically immune to racial discrimination. Morgan Dowty, BMA Curatorial Assistant for Prints, Drawings and Photographs—and the exhibition’s curator—will sit down with Dr. Bridget Cooks, author of Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum, to dive into the story behind 1939 and examine contemporary representations of black art.

Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA and Beyond takes place Thursday, September 6 at 6pm. Here, Dowty shares her thoughts on the upcoming conversation.

What are you most looking forward to addressing?

I’m excited to talk with Dr. Bridget Cooks because she’s really put Contemporary Negro Art in the context of a larger history of predominately white institutions exhibiting black artists from the 1930s to the present day. Her book, Exhibiting Blackness, delves into several instances when black artists have been positioned in terms of their identity, and highlights key problems with this model of exhibition. Some of the issues that came up in 1939 are the same that we consider today when artists are grouped in exhibition based on race. Having done deep digging myself into this very local history at the BMA, I’m curious to discuss how the show fits into a larger trajectory of American institutions.

What do you hope visitors will take away from this conversation?

I think it is important to consider the BMA’s Contemporary Negro Art within a national context and an expanded sense of time—not just in the 1930s when these exhibitions of black artists are situated in segregation-era America and just starting to enter white institutions. I hope to examine how institutions and individuals play a role in telling these stories, who’s given a platform, and when. It’s also important to consider how this exhibition history carries forward, or how it doesn’t when there are gaps in representation at the BMA and at other institutions. Let’s not make it just a celebration of the fact that the show happened, but really take a critical look at the context. Contemporary Negro Art was an important exhibition, but we need to complicate the narrative, and I think that’s something we’ll do during the discussion.

Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA and Beyond happens Thursday, September 6 from 6pm-7:15pm at the BMA. This conversation is free and open to the public. Learn more.

1939: Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA is on view through October 28, 2018.

The lasting impact of the Baltimore City and Baltimore County Public Schools Student Art Exhibition

Every year, the Baltimore Museum of Art teams up with schools around the area to highlight the talented young artists this city has to offer.

Every spring, the BMA hosts the Baltimore City and Baltimore County Public Schools Student Art Exhibitions with work from Baltimore students of all ages. Elementary students on up to seniors in high school are given the special opportunity to have their work displayed in a real art museum.

During my senior year, I was personally chosen to have one of my works showcased in the exhibition, just as I was starting to seriously think about my future and who I wanted to be in college and beyond. Four years later, I’m now an intern at the BMA and about to graduate from Towson University with an Art and Design Major and an Art History minor. I paint every opportunity I can and love being an artist.

I wasn’t, however, always so sure about which direction I wanted my life to head towards. I was always drawn to art and painting but never had the confidence in myself that I could make a career out of it. Having my painting chosen to be in a real exhibition at a respected art museum really helped boost my self-esteem and let me envision myself as a working artist. For one of the first times, I truly believed in myself and my ability to paint. I know through my own experience and struggles that this is such an important and vital feeling for a young student to have. This show is particularly special because kids of all ages and teenagers can seriously struggle with their self-image and identity.

Even if a student doesn’t decide to continue with art, gaining confidence in their skills and being able to proudly display their work has long-term benefits. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, studies have shown that students who have early and consistent access to the arts perform better academically and have better workforce opportunities. This is especially true for at-risk youth from a low socioeconomic background.

I’m so happy to be able to intern at a museum that realizes the importance art has on the lives of children and chooses every year to show them their work is just as significant and beautiful as any other piece of art in the museum.

Years after having my own art displayed in this exhibition, I have grown significantly as an artist and a painter and have chosen to pursue a career working in art museums. I’m excited to work at institutions that are committed to bringing art and education to the community around them, and the BMA is a great model for this commitment. The Baltimore City and Baltimore County Public Schools Student Art Exhibition is just one example of this commitment that personally had a significant impact on me. There is no doubt in my mind that this year it will also have an impact on another young student and hopefully inspire them to find their place in the art world.

Here is the painting that started it all from the 2014 BMA student show:

“Pulling My Hair Out.” 24in x 30in. Oil on canvas.

Here’s what I’ve been up to as a senior in college studying art:

“Caer Iborneith.” 30in x 40 in. Oil on canvas.

“marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, or overactivity.” 30in x 40in. Oil and mixed media on canvas.

fyi…For Your Inspiration: Baltimore City Public Schools Art Exhibition, now in its eleventh year, will feature artwork by 400 students from 90 Baltimore City public schools from May 9-May 13, 2018.

The annual countywide student exhibition, Art is for Everyone: Baltimore County Public Schools Art Exhibition, runs from May 16-May 20, 2018.

More details on both exhibitions.

Behind the Dust: Conservation of a Gitenga Mask

When the Gitenga Mask (Fig. 1 and 2) came to the conservation lab for treatment it caused great excitement.  It was impressive in size at 33 ½ x 35 ½ x 19 inches, and had great presence.

Fig 1 and 2 Before Treatment. Photos of the Gitenga Mask by Senior Photographer Mitro Hood.

As one took a closer look it became apparent that the majority of the feathers, especially in the back, were deformed and covered in layers of dust (Fig. 3 and 4) and insect remains. Some feathers were bent, broken, and in many cases the “tip” (rachis and barbs) was missing especially around the base on the back and left-hand side. It was a very intimidating treatment prospect and one that would take hundreds of hours to complete. When the exhibition date was set for the fall of 2017, there was no turning back.

Fig 3 and Fig 4 Lab photographs showing the dust and deformed feathers.

Below are some of the interesting discoveries that emerged before and during the conservation treatment of this remarkable object.

The slow removal of the dust on the back of the mask revealed layers of striking blue feathers as seen in the lab photograph taken during treatment (Fig. 5). Kevin Tervala, Associate Curator of African Art, researched the various birds that exist in the Pende region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the mask originates, and discovered that the feathers are from the Great Blue Turaco Bird (Fig. 6).

Fig 5 A lab photograph of the back of the Gitenga Mask during treatment.

Fig 6 A Great Blue Turaco Bird.

The clever way the feathers were attached to the mask during its construction is illustrated in the photograph below. The feather “base” (calamus or hollow shaft) was bent and inserted into a woven twine support (Fig. 7). A second piece of twine was passed through the bent bases of several feathers to create a “string” of feathers. The “strings” of feathers were then sewn onto the fabric head cap in layers (Fig. 8).

Fig 7 and 8 Interior photographs illustrating how the strings of feathers were attached to the head cap.

The beautiful neckline of the mask and a section of the back (Fig. 9 and 10) also illustrates the method in which the feathers are secured to the head cap. Notice all the missing feather “tips!”

Fig 9 and 10 Lab photographs of the neckline and a back section of the mask before treatment.

Fig 11 Preening the feathers one at a time.

Fig 12 and 13 After Treatment. Photos of the Gitenga Mask by Senior Photographer Mitro Hood.

One of the most satisfying discoveries a conservator can make is finding old repairs. In this case I wasn’t disappointed. Someone had carefully taken the top (vane) of a broken feather and adhered it to the remaining base (calamus or hollow shaft) of another broken feather that was missing its tip (rachis and barbs). So, this was not the first conservation treatment campaign for the mask, and will certainly not be the last.

Please note that in the case of ethnographic works with organic parts, it’s important to determine if there’s any evidence the piece has been treated with pesticides, some of which containe heavy metals (e.g. mercury) which can pose health risks. This was done in good faith by museums and collectors in the past to try and stop insect infestations.  In the case of this mask, there was no visual evidence of pesticide use. We are fortunate at the BMA to have a handheld Bruker X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer (XRF), which can detect heavy metals. The XRF readings at the various sampling locations supported the visual observation that there were no heavy metals present.

A conservation treatment like the one of this Gitenga mask involves more than just the objects conservator. Shannen Hill, former BMA Associate Curator of African Art, encouraged me to take this treatment on and Kevin Tervala, BMA Associate Curator of African Art, encouraged me to finish it. Local objects conservators Angie Elliot, Diane Fullick, and Lara Kaplan, gave me valuable input along the way. Objects conservator Cheryl Podsiki, known for her work with handheld XRF pesticide analysis of ethnographic objects, was also a valuable resource. Senior photographer Mitro Hood and the BMA installation team helped show the mask to its best advantage, and the BMA conservation members were cheerleaders throughout the treatment. Many thanks to all!

The mask is on view in Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art through June 17, 2018.

 

Top 20 #HeartsForArt Picks

This year, we celebrated Valentine’s Day by joining museums across the country to spread love for #HeartsForArt. This is the fourth year visitors, staff, and volunteers wandered the galleries, leaving colorful paper hearts in front of their favorite works of art. More than 1,600 hearts were distributed and nearly 400 works received some love.

The votes are in! Here are this year’s top 20 picks:

  1. Tomás Saraceno, Entangled Orbits
  2. Phaan Howng, The Succession of Nature
  3. Tomás Saraceno, 80SW iridescent/Flying Garden/Air Port City
  4. Tomás Saraceno, Hybrid solitary semi social semi social SAO 90734 built by: a solo Nephila senegalensis one week, a duet of Cyrtophora citricola three weeks, a quartet Cyrtophora citricola juvenile two weeks
  5. Auguste Rodin, The Thinker
  6. Water-Moon Guanyin (Shuiyue Guanyin)Hebei province, China,
  7. Al Loving, Barbara in Spiral Heaven
  8. Jack Whitten, 9.11.01
  9. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwell: Aso Ebi
  10. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwell: Me, We
  11. Elizabeth Catlett, My right is a future of equality with other Americans
  12. Dave Eggers, Issue 16
  13. Eugene Kupjack, Domestic Interior in a Shaker Community, 1820-1860
  14. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled” (Water
  15. Auguste Rodin, The Kiss
  16. Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Head of Medusa (Door Knocker)
  17. Annet Couwenberg, Heritage
  18. Annet Couwenberg, Backstitch
  19. Olafur Eliasson, Flower Observatory
  20. Sam Gilliam, Blue Edge

Thanks for playing along!

Pleased to Meet You! Caroline Lampinen joins BMA staff

Carolineweb

Caroline Lampinen: Community Engagement Coordinator

The BMA is excited to introduce the newest member of the Education team, Caroline Lampinen, who joins us as the Community Engagement Coordinator. She works closely with the Manager of Community Engagement, Dave Eassa, to facilitate programming with the BMA Outpost across Baltimore.

What is the BMA Outpost?

The BMA Outpost is a community initiative of the Baltimore Museum of Art, acting as a nomadic and flexible mobile museum that collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders across the city of Baltimore for periods of three months at a time. The Outpost engages communities through artmaking, conversations, and visual connections to the BMA’s physical collection. The Outpost’s democratic and collaborative programming is guided by the overarching theme of “home” and the diverse representations and emotions that each individual can bring to the conversations around home. The BMA Outpost encourages residents to contribute drawings, paintings, ideas, and conversations to build a museum about their community by the community. It becomes a space where the unrecorded conversations and dialogue are just as important as the ideas documented and contributed through visual art.

Who is Caroline?

Caroline grew up in metro-Detroit with a musician father and nurse mother. After earning a BFA in Graphic Design from Western Michigan University, she moved to rural Arkansas where she taught literacy for four years and coached novice teachers for three, earning a Master’s in Educational Leadership along the way. From there she spent a year as an Education Pioneers Fellow at Denver Public Schools. Her passions include building, fostering, and teaching inclusive and equitable practices for all people in all industries; running; spending time with her rescue dog, Blue; and art making.

Visit the Outpost!

Starting Jan. 23, the BMA Outpost will begin its next three-month collaborations with the Loch Raven VA Clinic working with veterans, and at the Cherry Hill Town Center working with the residents of Cherry Hill.

Caroline will be facilitating programming at Cherry Hill Town Center, collaborating with Catholic Charities to turn an unused store front into a dynamic arts and community space for the next three months.

Come visit any time during our open hours! Be sure to check our website, Instagram, and our Facebook and Twitter pages for any changes, or to find out about any of our other amazing programs!

Cherry Hill Town Center Hours:

Tuesday: 3pm-7pm
Wednesday: 4-8pm
Thursday: 3pm-7pm

Los Tres Grandes on view in Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints

A new exhibition opened this fall at The Baltimore Museum of Art, highlighting our rarely shown collection of prints and drawings by renowned Mexican artists from the 1930s to the 1940s.

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints features 30 works on paper by artists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, known as “Los Tres Grandes,” or the Three Great Ones, as well as images by Elizabeth Catlett. The works on view document the political, social, and cultural shifts that took place in the years following the Mexican Revolution.

Take a quick tour of the exhibition in this short clip with Senior Curator Rena Hoisington:

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints is on view through March 11, 2018.

WATCH: Njideka Akunyili Crosby discusses new exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art

Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby invited art enthusiasts inside her creative process the same day her new exhibition, Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts, opened at The Baltimore Museum of Art.

On the heels of being named a 2017 MacArthur Award winner, Crosby sat down with BMA Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman at The Maryland Institute College of Art to discuss culture, technique, and the beauty of breaking the rules.

WATCH BELOW:

Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts is on view through March 18, 2018. 

[Photo: Mitro Hood]

Art Matters: BMA hosts new radio segment on WYPR FM

If you tune in to WYPR 88.1 FM regularly, you may have spotted a new segment hosted by BMA Director Christopher Bedford.

“Art Matters,” airing the first Friday of every month at 4:44pm, connects listeners with some of the most innovative artists creating today. Each four-minute interview finds Director Christopher Bedford in conversation with an artist, exploring his or her work, vision, and influences.

The series kicked off this fall with Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, who was selected to paint the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. A conversation with artist Tomás Saraceno followed, where he discussed the inspiration behind Entangled Orbits, his new exhibition currently on view in the BMA’s East Lobby.

Listen to the latest chats HERE and tune in to 88.1 FM the first Friday of every month for more!

[Photo: Mitro Hood]

Top 6 Prints, Drawings, Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art

BMA Curatorial Assistant Morgan Dowty took over our Instagram feed this week to showcase some of her favorite images in our renowned Prints, Drawings & Photographs Collection.

In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of her top six picks from the BMA’s collection of 65,000 works on paper:

  1. Morgan Dowty, BMA Curatorial Assistant, signing on from the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs to bring you some of my favorite works on paper this week. With 65,000+ works on paper in the collection, there are plenty to choose from! I’ll begin with a favorite suite of engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar, “Diversa insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646.

[Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677) “Diversae insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646. Eight etchings. Each approximately: 115 × 180 mm. (4 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.) Garrett Collection. BMA 1946.112.2413-20]

2. Tantalus, Icarus, Phaeton, and Ixion are four mythological figures whose hubris caused them to fall from Mount Olympia. In this suite of the “Four Disgracers,” Hendrick Golzius, master engraver of the 16th century, captures the falling body from all angles.

[Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558-1617) after Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (Dutch, 1562-1638). “The Four Disgracers,”1588. Four engravings. Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, BMA 2005.47 / Gift of James and Leslie Billet, Baltimore, BMA 1983.11 / Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357 / Garrett Collection, BMA 1984.81.137]

3. This album by Charles Norman Sladen is a new one of my favorites. On each page, Sladen includes photographs from a family vacation in 1916 to Great Chebeague Island, which he expands through imaginative pen and ink drawings. Scroll right to see some detail shots!

[Charles Norman Sladen (American, 1858-1949). “Great Chebeague Island, Maine,” 1916. Album of black ink drawings and gelatin silver print collages, bound with leather and fabric cover. The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund. BMA 2001.289]

4. In this self-portrait, Käthe Kollwitz captures her own likeness in just a few precise marks.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

[Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945). “Self-portrait,” 1924. Woodcut. Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 1956.176]

5. Printmakers often pull working proofs, or test prints, as they develop an image to track their progress. Swipe to compare these two states of Felix Bracquemond’s portrait of the French literary critic Edmond de Goncourt.

[Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833-1914). “Edmond de Goncourt,” 1879-1882. Etching. Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Fenwick Keyser, Reisterstown, Maryland, BMA 1997.19 / Purchased as the gift of the Print & Drawing Society, BMA 1983.76]

6. It’s been a treat to share a few of my favorites this week! If you’re interested in exploring more works on paper, consider making an appointment to visit the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Study Room of Prints, Drawings & Photographs by emailing PDP@artbma.org.

[Arthur Wesley Dow (American, 1857-1922) “Group of Buildings, Dow’s Compound, Ipswich,” /”Garden, Dow’s Home, Ipswich,” / “City Island, New York,” c. 1885-1897. Three cyanotypes. Gift of Susan Ehrens, Oakland, California, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, BMA 2015.343-345]

Which image is your favorite? Follow us on Instagram at @BaltimoreMuseumOfArt.

BMA Outpost finds Home in Remington, Upton neighborhoods

The BMA Outpost is the mobile museum of the Baltimore Museum of Art, a flexible and nomadic art making space that works with different communities across Baltimore City for three months at a time.

Every day the Outpost sets up, it builds a Museum around the idea of “Home” and encourages residents to contribute drawings, paintings, ideas, and conversations. It becomes a space where the unrecorded conversations and dialogue are just as important as the ideas documented and contributed through art.

This fall, the BMA Outpost has been in residence in the city’s Remington and Upton neighborhoods, working with Church of the Guardian Angel, R. House, and the Union Baptist Church as host sites.

The BMA Outpost at the Church of the Guardian Angel in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood.

BMA Outpost at the Church of the Guardian Angel in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood.

Talking about the idea of home quickly becomes complex and loaded for everyone. Home is a relationship that can bring up feelings of happiness, confusion, anger, frustration, love, and everything else that could fall on the spectrum of human emotion.

Individuals can have many different associations with the idea, thinking about their nuclear family and place of residence, as well as a more expanded view of how they relate to their community. While our communities are constantly in flux and changing—sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse—art-making and dialogue can help us envision ideal futures and different realities.

Art can be a catalyst for us to ask, “What would a better future look like?” while also recognizing and honoring past histories.

In Remington, the Outpost has been working with Church of the Guardian Angel every Saturday from 10am to 2pm, in conjunction with the Church’s Thrift Store hours, as well as at R. House for “Remington Night” every Thursday from 3pm to 7pm.

Remington as a neighborhood has vastly changed in the last decade, with a major influx of development from companies like Seawall Development. As change happens rapidly, how does a community work together to envision a brighter future that includes everyone? The Outpost poses this question to Remington residents to encourage dialogue across the boundaries of age, gender, class, and others, to not only think about what that brighter future sounds and looks like, but to also develop real actions to move towards those goals. The Outpost strives to create a space for both agreement and dissent, as art-making can be a powerful tool to bring people together and find commonalities.

The BMA Outpost at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore's Upton neighborhood.

BMA Outpost at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood.

In Upton, the Union Baptist Church and the BMA Outpost have created a pop-up museum called “Art and Spirit,” which nods to the longstanding histories of the Upton neighborhood, the Church’s home since 1905.

The Upton neighborhood has deep ties and major contributions to African American liberation and autonomy, Civil Rights era activism, community building, and boasts many past residents and architectural structures of historical significance. Dr. Harvey Johnson’s pastoral and civic achievements, and the childhood home of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American individual to serve on the Supreme Court, are just pieces of Upton’s history.

Art and Spirit is inspired by past Soul Schools of the neighborhood, which were unofficial places of thought, organizing, and support in the Upton community. They were places where young people learned from their elders with a deep sense of community as the social fabric. Art and Spirit is a reflection of the creative community of the past, present, and future of Upton. Art and Spirit is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1pm to 5pm and Thursdays from 8am to 12pm.

BMA Outpost visitors with City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke in Remington.

BMA Outpost visitors with City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke in Remington.

The BMA Outpost’s collaborations with the Remington and Upton communities will culminate in an exhibition at R. House highlighting the work created. The exhibition will be on view and open to the public in December 2017.

Beginning in January 2018, the Outpost will begin new collaborations with the Cherry Hill Town Center in south Baltimore, and the Loch Raven VA Clinic in northeast Baltimore through March 2018.

Find the BMA Outpost online HERE.

(Author: Dave Eassa, Manager of Community Engagement at the BMA)