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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Year: 2014

“An Observer Without an Agenda” Almost

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On July 10, 2014, Ray Smith presented a gallery talk at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) to celebrate In Time We Shall Know Ourselves, the exhibition of 52 photographs he made in the summer of 1974, and the beautiful book that Smith published in conjunction with the exhibition.

In his brief prepared remarks, which he titled “I Am a Camera,” Smith explained that his intent during his travel around the country forty summers ago was to be “an observer without an agenda,” who enabled his subjects—people he met along the road—“freedom to present themselves with the least amount of intrusion or direction from the photographer.”

In a couple of short video interviews the artist recorded earlier that day, Smith explained why he used a twin-lens camera for his project, the larger context of his artistic journey, and his love of literature, which led him to make photographs that were like poems or fiction, “a short story exploding beyond its frame.”

As the introductory text panel in the exhibition indicates, “these vivid short stories explode into an epic travel narrative, a great American novel set in the 1970s but with its culmination in its publication and exhibition today.”

The exhibition will remain on view at the MMFA through September 21, after which it will travel to the Hickory (NC) Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville (FL), and the Georgia Museum of Art.

Perceptive viewers of the exhibition organized by the MMFA and readers of the book (which illustrates all of the images in the same sequence as the exhibition) may realize what the artist acknowledged in his gallery talk: “though my object was invisibility, I am IN every one of the photographs.”

Raymond W. Smith (American, born 1942), Self Portrait, Motel Room, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1974, printed 2012, gelatin silver print, Lent by the artist.

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D.
Curator of Art, MMFA

The Museum Store is Turning Five

ADM.store.blogThe Museum Store is preparing for our FIFTH YEAR as a HANDCRAFTED GALLERY STYLE SPACE. October is our birthday month and we are going to stretch out the celebration with treats, special deals, featured artists, and other fun things the entire month, so stay tuned for the details. If you haven’t been in the Store in some time, you are missing out on one of most distinctive shopping experiences in Montgomery. The Store features works by more than 70 local and regional artists with everything from pottery, glass, paintings, textiles, jewelry, photography, and more. We feel fortunate to have works by so many talented artists.

Behind each work of art there is a story, an investment of time and talent. The Museum Store should be first on your list when thinking about the perfect wedding or graduation gift and if you need just the right painting for your newly designed space, the Museum Store may have just what you are looking for.

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We will be closed for three days, August 5 through 7 for a little cosmetic work and will reopen Friday, August 8 with a new look and a bevy of new works by our beloved artists. Come and see what’s NEW starting August 8 and plan to celebrate with us the month of October!

Tisha Rhodes and Kay Jacoby
Director of Services and the Museum Store

First of Its Kind Museum Store Sale

If you haven’t been in the Museum Store in the past five years (yes, FIVE) you may not realize the caliber of handcrafted work we now feature. Behind each work of art is a story—a real live artist investing their time and talent—and we are happy to showcase these works in a gallery-like environment.

ADM.store.Greemn-blogFolks, you have until Sunday, ​July 13, to take advantage of a 30% off sale featuring 25 of our artists. This includes pottery by Chris Greenman, Randy Shoults, Jo Taylor, and Suzanne Jensen,  paintings by Marguerite Edwards, Nan Cunningham, Kellie Newsome, Barbara Royal, Rachael Sherer, and Pam Truitt, jewelry by Joanne Staley, Bernice Fischman, and Leah Dodd, various multi-media works by Darrell Ezekiel, Sherri Schumacher, Marybeth Farris, Kay Sasser Jacoby, and MORE.

There’s a “Half Off” table of MMFA logo items. This includes mugs, ornaments, and tee-shirts.  In addition, EVERYTHING in the store is 10% Off–which means it’s impossible NOT to save money when you shop this week!ADM.store.Jensen-blog

Tonight, July 10, we’ll be open until 7 p.m. for the MMFA Opening Reception AND book-signing for Raymond Smith’s photography exhibition, In Time We Shall Know Ourselves, as well as, an exhibition featuring the works from the Museum’s  original collection.  

ADM.store.Truitt-blogIf you visit us and say you read this blog, there COULD be a surprise in it for you!  See you sooner rather than later.  Meanwhile, come see us Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 4 p.m. 

Kay Jacoby
The Museum Store

Drawing With Color and Light

Glass_Littleton_blogFor almost 20 years, the MMFA has collected and interpreted art from the American Studio Glass movement from artists who use glass to draw with color and light. Recently we had the chance to acquire two works that greatly expand and enhance not only our collection, but also the understanding of the history of contemporary glass. First is Orange Triple Movement, 1983, by Harvey Littleton (American, 1922–2014), the man internationally recognized as the “Father of the Studio Glass movement”. This inventive work comes from one of his best-known series: Topological Geometry. In this piece Littleton utilized gravity to pull, bend, and shape the glass into elegant layers of flowing orange tones—a hue that is difficult to control.  In fact, the success Littleton found with the challenges of this piece made it one of his favorites.

The second acquisition is an innovative work by the influential collaborative team of Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace (American, born 1952 and 1949).  Doll Drawing with Rebecca, 1983 features a unique process pioneered by the two artists. Liking the quality of a drawn line, they decided to use thin metal wires to replicate pencil marks in the glass.  The “drawings” are filled in with colored glass before they embed it all in clear glass and form the vessel. This piece is an early example of their work and complements sculptures from a later series of glass fruit, also part of the MMFA Permanent Collection.Glass_Kirk-Mace_blog

Both pieces, along with many other works, are now on view in our freshly reinstalled Weil Atrium gallery.  Come out to see both of them as well as the many other pieces that will dazzle and delight your eyes.

If you’d like to learn more, you can hear Harvey Littleton describe his inspiration and process by going online to an interview hosted by the Archives of American Art. The interview is found at http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-harvey-k-littleton-11795

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

 

Groundbreaking for a Garden of Endless Possibilities

 

DSC_0805blogWhat started out as a $3 million vision by Museum director Mark Johnson and the MMFA’s board of trustees is being transformed into a three-acre reality.

Johnson says, “First we were just considering building it out to the road and having a one acre sculpture gallery, but then we started saying we have another 50 yards of property out there. We decided if we extended it out and changed a road here and there it would add a lot more space to it. ”

With temperatures rapidly approaching the 90-degree mark on Wednesday morning Johnson, Montgomery’s Mayor Todd Strange, MMFA Board of Trustees President Barrie Harmon, and other dignitaries took the Sculpture Garden to the next level. They all shoveled sand during a ceremonial groundbreaking to make way for it’s creation. The Mayor Strange says, “This is the next step forward.”

DSC_0769blogForward to 2016, which is when Museum leaders plan to have this new gallery completed. The additional outdoor exhibition and studio space will be an extension of the Lowder Gallery that is located on the east side of the building. The Board’s president believes the Garden was the highlight of the Museum’s 25th anniversary.  Harmon says, “It enhances the image of the city. It gives us a cultural dimension to what we’re trying to achieve in Montgomery.” The new addition will not only feature temporary and permanent exhibitions of outdoor sculpture, it will also be used for special events and innovative education programs. The space will provide an outstanding new venue for entertaining and appreciating the beauty of the natural setting in the Blount Cultural Park.DSC_0827blog

Director Mark Johnson says the planning committee did their homework touring other sculpture gardens across the United States to get ideas and taking this research to an architect and landscape architecture specialist in order to prepare the current plan.

The efforts to fund the construction of the new sculpture garden are already underway and Johnson says a third of the money needed has been raised so far.

In the meantime, to hear and see more sights and sounds from the June 25th groundbreaking go online to the Youtube video link seen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlH9G0YduH0&feature=youtu.be.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Public Relations and Marketing

 

 

Let the Sunshine In

One of the elements that creates “community” is the willingness to join with others volunteering time to make the world a better place, one person, one day, and one location at a time. That’s been the mission of all the amazing people who conceived and have delivered the program called Camp Sunshine for the past 25 years. Led by co-directors Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer, the volunteers come from all walks of life, professions, and age groups. Since 1989 they have created a loving, supportive, and magical environment for a group of 75 to 100 girls between the ages of 6 and 12. For a full week these girls, who otherwise have limited opportunities for summertime enrichment and fun, come together for recreation, friendship, and mentoring, as well as some cleverly designed learning opportunities, disguised as pure enjoyment.

SunshineCamp_blogFor many years the MMFA has provided a mid-week experience for the campers (in conjunction with our neighbors at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival). Delivering a quality program for these girls is both a mission and a privilege that our own long-time volunteer docents have embraced. The girls receive tours of the galleries, time in ARTworks, as well as a special studio experience under the guidance of our docents.  Some of these docents, including Pat Wanglie who is pictured here, have been helping with Camp Sunshine for more than 15 years. As with all our work with young people, we see the difference that exposure to art and an attentive guide can make. The excitement of these girls says it all.

The Museum is another example in which volunteers are the life-blood of the institution within the community. The hours of time that are donated to Camp Sunshine and the Museum make possible experiences that both enrich and can literally change the world-view of a child, giving them the self-confidence and insight to dream big. For each and every one who volunteers, this volunteerism is a way to honor the community and, as the motto of Camp Sunshine says, “Make the World a Better Place.”

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Third Graders Bring Art to Life

WaresFerryStudent_wAt the tender age of nine, Akira Sims knows first hand what it takes to get her name on a wall of fame at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Sims says, ”I really like to create things.”

For 17 weeks, Sims and 54 other Wares Ferry Road Elementary school students painted, drew, or sculpted their way through the Museum’s Artist in Residence program also known as Learning Through Art. Thursday, May 22, the third graders got to see their creativity pay off. The Museum held a reception in their honor.  Sims and her family were the first to arrive that evening. Sims says, “I was surprised because I have never seen art work in a museum before.” Sims creation “The Life of a Tree” and nearly five-dozen other third graders’ works are currently displayed in the ARTWORKS Corridor exhibition. She says, “I drew this in a day.”  

Ed Drozdowski is the principal at Wares Ferry Road elementary school. Drozdowski says, “I watched the kids doing this stuff. It’s a lot different seeing it now here at the Museum.”  This is the first year for the program funded in part by a grant from the Hearst Foundations.

Art educators Jean Kocher and Laura Boquin helped enrich the children’s artistic abilities during each of the weekly sessions.  Professional artists also visited the classes, sharing their artwork and special techniques. The program encourages the students’ critical thinking and literacy skills through the regular use of visual thinking strategies (VTS). Drozdowski says he wished Wares Ferry’s entire student body could participate.  “This is fabulous. We are taking baby steps.” His wish might just come true in the future. His students will continue exploring art for another year thanks to help from a Montgomery Kiwanis Club grant.

The student exhibition will be on view until June 29. Perhaps seeing these works will encourage more youngsters like Akira Sims to take an interest in the arts.                                

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Hear Ed Drozdowski discuss the Learning Through Art program at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIj3fl563ek&feature=youtu.be.

 

Sahara of the Bozeart—Say What?

In November of 1917, in the New York Evening Mail, essayist and journalist H. L. Mencken first published a version of his essay entitled The Sahara of the Bozeart. Reprinted in a compilation of essays in 1920 (Prejudices: Second Series) this essay, condemning the South as a “cultural wasteland,” caused quite a stir. In several thousand words Mencken damned the region as “that gargantuan paradise of the fourth-rate,” and although defenders of Southern society and culture rose up in its defense, his pronouncements were regularly repeated, and for generations the South was consistently branded as “sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, as the Sahara Desert.”

This unfortunate, and even in Mencken’s era inaccurate, reputation was one reason it was difficult for artists living and working in the South to find their way to acceptance within the larger art world in the early twentieth century. Those who wished to make a professional career of art, such as Ann Goldthwaite and Clara Weaver Parrish, quickly took themselves to art schools in New York and Paris in order to obtain the necessary “credentials.” Later, other artists found this journey more difficult, and less rewarding.

C_Gillis_blog2Late last year the Museum acquired an important watercolor for the permanent collection by one such artist, the Selma painter Crawford Gillis (1914–2000), In Custody (Project for a Southern Armory), 1936, watercolor on paper, Gift of George W. and Sue Royer, Jr., 2013.13. In Custody is a powerful indictment of Southern society in the 1930s. It is evident from the painting’s composition—a frightened black man in the custody of National Guardsmen—that he was referencing the social climate that predominated during the years of the Great Depression, in which poor people both black and white were subject to harsh living conditions, and sometimes brutalized by authorities. The painting’s subtitle, Project for a Southern Armory, was most likely an ironic reference to the possibility that an image such as this one would be an appropriate mural subject to place in an armory building that was planned for Selma. When asked if he had witnessed what transpired in the composition, he told the reviewer that, “I didn’t see it. They announced they would build a new armory in my town, and this is the way I felt it would work out.”

Gillis is an example of a talented Alabama artist who was fully dedicated to his work but unfortunately lived in an era when achieving wider recognition was complicated—first by the Great Depression and then by the disruptions of World War II. In addition, he fought the C_Gillis_blogprejudices of a society that accepted Mencken’s opinions as gospel—since there was no culture in Alabama, as Mencken adjudged it, there would be no artists.

This attitude created a challenge for those who saw Crawford Gillis’ insightful works on exhibit in a New York gallery in 1938—and then had to come to terms with his origins in the South. The reviewers of the January exhibition essentially dealt with the perceived contradiction by patronizing the artist characterizing him as “self-taught” despite the fact that he had studied art for many years in Selma, and then attended the National Academy of Design, studying under Charles Courtney Curran (1861–1942) and Leon Kroll (1884–1974). In spite of these quite acceptable art world credentials the reviewers did not get past his “past”.

While H. L. Mencken was no admirer of the South, by 1930 he would have at least found something to admire in Montgomery. In that year the founders of the MMFA created the State’s first art museum, and Mencken himself married a Montgomery girl, Sara Haardt, who was a Professor of English at Goucher College. Ever since Montgomery’s art museum has been proving that prejudices are just that, and that art is indeed alive and well in the “Sahara of the Bozeart.”

Jerry Siegel, Crawford Gillis, 1994, Collection of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

 

Tour could put MMFA in National Spotlight

P405_blogIt’s a conference that could gain the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts worldwide attention. 40 writers and bloggers from as far away as Canada and Australia took a four-day tour of the Capital city. They are known as the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association.

Writers David and Mary Gayle Sartwell of Bradenton, Florida walked into the Museum around 11:30 Thursday morning.  David Gayle says he wants his readers to have an understanding of what to do and where to go when they visit Montgomery.  “What we look for are personal interests, things in particular like Hank Williams and black history.” He says after growing up in the North he wants to look at the past and see how the city of Montgomery has progressed over the years.  His wife Mary says, “There’s more culture here than I presumed. I came here with an open mind not knowing what to expect.”

P410_blogP408_blogMMFA’s Curator of Art, Jennifer Jankauskas, gave the Sartwells and others a tour of 11 of the Museum’s galleries.  Author, Judith Glynn, is from New York City.  Glynn shared her goals as a writer. “We want to give a first hand introduction to the city.  It’s our responsibility to tell readers what we saw.” Lamont Mackay travels from Blenheim Ontario, Canada. “This museum is spectacular, so open.  It has a wonderful look and feel.”

Each member of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association provide press coverage through articles, blog posts, and social media. They made the Museum’s ARTWORKS interactive gallery and learning center the final stop on their 30-minute tour. It appeared to be a favorite with the guests. P413_blogMary Gayle says, “The child in me is coming alive again. I have been to a lot of science museums. This is one of the best I have seen.” Mackay says, “It makes you want to be a kid again. This will be a hook in my story. I am excited to write about this.”

The group wrapped up their visit with lunch at the MMFA’s Café M. Our staff was delighted the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce chose the Museum as one of the destinations for these writers to visit.  We hope their publications will spread word about the quality Montgomery’s art museum has to offer.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

 

 

Ending on a High Note

The monthly book club, Ekphrasis, ended the season on a high note! Margaret Lynne Ausfeld curator of art gave a stimulating presentation about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler), beginning with music – Witchy Woman by the Eagles (“woo hoo witchy woman see how high she flies”) to set the mood – and proceeding with an exploration of Zelda’s life through photography and art in the Museum’s permanent collection.

zelda_bookclub_blogWith fifty people in attendance, the program’s success was the culmination of a tremendous year, which included Skype discussions with prominent authors Susan Vreeland (Life Studies: A Novel), Ross King (The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism), and special visiting author Nancy G. Heller (Why a Painting is Like a Pizza).

Stay tuned for another exciting year!

Timothy P. Brown
Curator of Education

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