Tag Archives: MICA

Monkeying Around with a Meiping Vase

Jingdezhen kilns. Meiping with Lotus Decoration. c. 1500. Origin: Jiangxi province, China. Gift of William C. Whitridge, Stevenson, Maryland. BMA 1979.126

Jingdezhen kilns. Meiping with Lotus Decoration. c. 1500. Origin: Jiangxi province, China. Gift of William C. Whitridge, Stevenson, Maryland. BMA 1979.126

Melanie Lester, Goh’s Kung Fu

This Sunday, students and instructors from Goh’s Kung Fu will perform a lion dance and martial arts demonstration on the BMA’s iconic stairs for the Museum’s Asian Art Celebration. We have partnered with a team of visual artists from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) to produce props and costumes for the show. (Full disclosure – I teach at both schools.)

Choosing the right artwork for the performance
When we first started planning the performance we knew that we wanted to include visual elements pulled from pieces in the collection.

Because fragile artworks and martial arts don’t always go together we decided to recreate this Meiping vase out of foam. The foam replica vase is a catalyst for the narrative of our show. It entices the monkey character, gets stolen, and angers our sleepy lions into action. The show culminates when the vase is returned finally and the lions have a joyous celebratory dance.

This is not something you’d want to do with a 500 year old porcelain vase.

This is not something you’d want to do with a 500 year old porcelain vase.

The Meiping vase stood out to us for a few reasons: jugs and vases have historically been used in certain styles of Chinese kung fu (like drunken styles), the large motif would be easily visible to the audience, and the lotus symbol on the vase sometimes represents qualities martial artists strive to gain from their practice, such as longevity, humility, honor and tranquility.

Making the Vase
The first steps were to come up with a pattern and decide on materials. Kevin Law used open source software to create a 3D model of the vase.

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Goh’s Kung Fu recently built a new space for our martial arts studio and had leftover foam from the floor that we were able to recycle for this project. It is the perfect material because it is lightweight and durable.

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Foam proved to be the perfect base.

After we cut and shaped the vase in foam we painted a base coat.

After we cut and shaped the vase in foam we painted a base coat.

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While we were working we kept an image of the actual Meiping vase and tried to stay true to its shape.

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We sanded and painted several times to seal the surface of the foam.

Jhenny Adams meticulously copied the motif.

Jhenny Adams meticulously copied the motif.

Jhenny blocked in colors and shapes first and then went back to add detail.

Jhenny blocked in colors and shapes first and then went back to add detail.

With paints leftover from other projects and purchased with a generous grant from the Office of Community Engagement at the Maryland Institute College of Art we made the piece of foam look as close to the Meiping vase as possible.

This is our monkey character played by Nicholas Wright-Sieloff doing an aerial while holding the vase during rehearsal.

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I hope to see you at the show!

Thanks to the BMA for letting us share some of our process during the build for this performance. Thank you to Goh’s Kung Fu for having amazing martial artists to work with. And thank you to the MICA Office of Community Engagement for funding the supplies used to create our visual elements.

The BMA’s Asian Art Celebration will be held from 11am – 5pm on Sunday, June 28th, 2015. All are welcome to attend this fun-filled day of music, dance performances, and activities inspired by the newly renovated galleries for the Asian art collection.

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Melanie Lester began teaching costume and other garment related topics at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006.  She started practicing kung fu at Goh’s Kung Fu in 2005.  Though seemingly very different fields, both garment construction and martial arts require similar repetition and practice to achieve even the slightest improvement.  “Focus, repetition and practice” is the mantra behind all of Melanie Lester’s teaching philosophy.

A moment of solitude

Kirsten Savage. Museum Solitude. 2015.

Kirsten Savage. Museum Solitude. 2015.

This painting of a familiar-looking museum interior caught our eye on Twitter recently, so we contacted the artist to find out more about it. Kirsten Savage lives in Colorado but grew up in Maryland and received her BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. She told us, “Baltimore is still close to my heart and I have many fond memories of wandering the galleries and special exhibitions at the BMA with my family and friends.”

The sculpture in the painting is Aristide Maillol’s Torso of Summer, 1910-1911 (cast before 1960), from the Alan and Janet Wurtzburger Collection (BMA 1966.55.15). It is currently on view in Antioch Court.

We love seeing how people respond to the BMA. If you’ve been inspired by the collection or the building, let us know! 

BMA Voices: Paintings of an earlier Baltimore

Jacob Glushakow. Light Snowfall. 1939. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Municipal Art Society, Baltimore, BMA 1946.68

Jacob Glushakow. Light Snowfall. 1939. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Municipal Art Society, Baltimore, BMA 1946.68

Rob Morgan, Collections Database Administrator

Although technically not a native son (he was born on a ship carrying migrants from Europe to America) you can’t get much more Baltimore than Jacob Glushakow. Growing up in east Baltimore at Eden and Baltimore streets, Glushakow graduated from City College and studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Not surprisingly, his artwork focused on Baltimore, painting scenes that are now extinct in the city, such as the old harbor, tailor shops, and street life of the mid-20th century.

Glushakow was born in 1914 on a ship crossing the Atlantic. His parents were Russian Jews leaving Europe at the beginning of World War I. The oldest of 11 children, his father Abraham David was a clothing presser and candy maker and his mother Esther Novikov a homemaker. As a teenager, Glushakow started selling cartoons and drawings. For the next seventy years Jacob supported himself as an artist and art teacher while painting street scenes of Baltimore life, completing over a thousand works before his death in 2000.

The painting above is one of seven Glushakow paintings owned by the BMA. Dating to 1939, and entitled Light Snowfall, the work is typical of Glushakow, a scene displaying what one critic called “the melancholy peripheries of urban life.” Glushakow would begin these works by unobtrusively sitting in his car drawing a study. He’d then bring the study back to his Mt. Washington studio and complete the painting there.

Jacob Glushakow. Razing Calvert Street Station. n.d. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, 1957, BMA 1993.3

Jacob Glushakow. Razing Calvert Street Station. n.d. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, 1957, BMA 1993.3

Destruction and renewal take place on a daily basis in Baltimore (as pictured above in Razing Calvert Street Station).  The working harbor of the 20th century was a recurring theme for Glushakow (pictured below in Pier No. 5). He painted its decay before the Harborplace and the condos at Silo Point. The reborn Inner Harbor didn’t interest Glushakow – he always stated that it was more interesting to sketch decaying piers.

Jacob Glushakow. Pier No. 5. 1950. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.252

Jacob Glushakow. Pier No. 5. 1950. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.252

In addition to the pre-Rouse harbor as his subject matter, many of Glushakow’s paintings depicted the various markets located throughout the city. Below is his 1949 painting Lexington Market, an unmistakable Baltimore scene down to the rowhouses and shopfronts. By concentrating on the people and the streets where they shopped, worked, and lived, Glushakow shows us the potential of the commonplace.

Jacob Glushakow. Lexington Market. 1949. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.254

Jacob Glushakow. Lexington Market. 1949. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of J. Blankfard Martenet, BMA 1957.254

Glushakow died in 2000 at the dawning of the 21st century. Recently, 50 of his paintings were bequeathed to the Maryland Historical Society (MHS). For those wanting to see a large group of his paintings, many are on view at MHS in the exhibition Images of a Vanished Baltimore: The Art of Jacob Glushakow.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

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.

Drawing with Her Eyes

I had the most wonderful conversation with a member of my church yesterday who reminded me why my work at the BMA matters. She recalled a conversation with me several years ago when she told me that she wanted to take her granddaughter to the BMA, but had to work on Thursdays when the museum was free. I said something to her about not doing my job very well because she didn’t know that the BMA had eliminated general admission fees since 2006. She was very excited to learn this and began taking her 2-year-old granddaughter Athena to the museum.

AthenaAthena was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is non verbal, but these physical challenges haven’t diminished her spirit. This extraordinary young girl has found ways to enjoy ice skating and horseback riding… coincidentally both activities that make me very nervous. Four years after her first visit to the BMA, Athena began making art using new technology that enables her to design using eye and finger movements. Her family was astonished to discover her works were not simple fingerpaintings or fanciful doodles, but beautifully rendered drawings that show movement and intention. Now 7-years-old, Athena’s artwork was featured in a recent exhibition at the Maryland Institute College of Art curated by graduate student Danielle Chi. You can see a video clip of Athena (the first child in the video) and Danielle’s graduate project on eyeartist.net. Her proud family has also published a book of Athena’s drawings on createspace.com.

Athena Storm. Chasing Ice. 2013

Athena Storm. Chasing Ice. 2013

You never know what will spark a child’s imagination. I think this little girl already had the innate talent and vision to create art, but perhaps didn’t realize it until she began visiting the BMA and then learned about the new technology. It gives me great joy to see how Athena’s creative expression has blossomed. I hope it will inspire others who wonder why they should visit a museum or who have any doubts about their abilities. It is extraordinary what you can accomplish with passion and vision.