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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: Education

Susan Vreeland makes a virtual appearance

On Wednesday, September 10, Susan Vreeland joined us for a Skype video discussion about her latest book, Lisette’s List: A Novel.

As we began our discussion, Vreeland positioned herself in front of the webcam to give us an intimate view of her appearance (although she jokingly admitted that the real reason was to hide her messy office). Vreeland captivated us with her wit and infectious humor as she shared with us background information about the novel, as well as personal anecdotes. For example, during her student years, Vreeland chose to study music appreciation rather than art. She attributed this outcome to her old roommate who complained about an art history course and the burden of having to remember so many dates and the monotony of slides that all seemed to blur together. Fortunately, this did not discourage her from learning about art, collecting art books, and traveling around the world to places like France to quench her thirst for the world’s finest art treasures. As Vreeland once remarked:

“Coming out of the Louvre for the first time in 1971, dizzy with new love, I stood on Pont Neuf and made a pledge to myself that the art of this newly discovered world in the Old World would be my life companion. Never had history been more vibrant, its voices more resonating, its images more gripping.”

A video tour of Roussillon, the setting for Vreeland’s novel

Most of Vreeland’s novels (with the exception of her first book What Love Sees) were inspired by art (thank goodness!) and Lisette’s List was another literary treat. Beginning in 1937, Lisette and her husband André Honoré Roux moved from Paris to the village of Roussillon to stay with Andre’s grandfather, Pascal, who owned paintings by Cezanne and Pissarro. Pascal, who worked in the ochre mines of Roussillon, provided frames for the artists in exchange for paintings. Pascal eventually passed away and André died unexpectedly during World War II, leaving Lisette alone to struggle through her bereavement, while continuing to search for a rare collection of modern art that mysteriously disappeared. In the process, she discovered the value of friendship, community, and the transformational power of art.

The novel was a wonderful story about modern art, culture, and regional history, but it was Susan Vreeland’s special appearance that made the story enduring and timeless.

Chinese Consul gets “lesson” in Arts Education at the MMFA

DSC-489_blogArt is looked at from a different perspective, at least when Yang Song compares what’s on display in China’s museums to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Song says, “This is wonderful. The visit is quite special, unlike other experiences in museums in Europe and China.”

Song is employed with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China based in Houston, Texas. The Consul for Cultural Affairs came to Montgomery, August 21 through 23, for this year’s Dragon Boat races on the Alabama River. Upon his arrival into the Museum’s Rotunda, he seemed impressed with the plans for the MMFA’s new sculpture garden. A few steps further into the Permanent Collection he marveled over Mary Cassat’s Francoise in Green, Sewing, a little girl decked out in her Sunday best. Song says, “At first sight, you see such beauty here at the museum, it’s a good environment for visitors.”

We even caught him photographing Charles Lucas’ creations on the back grounds of the MMFA. As he discussed the sight with Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, his face lit up when she told him the creatures on display were created from car parts. In fact, Song had to turn to his assistant to have it all translated into his native language to make sure he fully understood. Song says, “In China our museums are open to the public, but the buildings are huge. There is very limited interaction. Here it’s totally different. China could learn something from Montgomery, Alabama.”DSC-483_blog

DSC-495_blogThe China native also liked touring and photographing the large window in the Lowder Gallery, but he seemed most impressed with the educational experience our Artworks Gallery provides for children. He noted that museums in his native land are hard pressed to provide the kinds of experiences that the MMFA can give young visitors. The size of China’s population makes delivering art classes, services, and cultural experiences a challenge even in modern day China.

DSC-505_blogCynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

 

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

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

FLIMP Festival 2014 is a hit in Montgomery

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Four hours of creative, innovative, and family-friendly entertainment attracted a crowd of more than 2300 spectators to this year’s 25th-annual FLIMP festival.  A cool breeze accompanied by plenty of sunshine made for a spectacular day, and the first partnership between the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Booker T. Washington Magnet High School made it one to remember.

The question everyone asked during Saturday’s event was, “Exactly what is a FLIMP?”  Even though they weren’t sure of the answer, that didn’t stop participants from getting their faces IMG_1383wpainted, making and breaking piñatas, or enjoying other arts and crafts.  Just when you thought you had seen it all, nearly two-dozen dogs, decked out from head to paw, strolled through the parking lot for the return of the Do-Dah parade. That procession actually helped four canines get adoptedIMG_1235w from the Montgomery Humane Society.

The echoes of voices from BTW’s choir and the melodies from the school’s band filled the air as everyone walked the grounds of the MMFA.  For those who didn’t want to be outside, no worries, there was plenty of entertainment on the inside of the Museum.  Who knew you could take an animal’s bones and other objects and turn them into a jam session?  Drummer Dave Holland showed a packed gallery, how to do just that.  Holland even let them volunteer to be part of his percussion section.

As this year’s festival came to a close, the reminder of two fun-filled days shared among local students and adults remained on display from 2014’s Chalk Art competition. If you drive out right now, you might still be able to get a glimpse of the chalk artists’ transformation of the front parking lot into an art gallery.

However, don’t worry if you missed out on all the fun this year. The FLIMP Festival will take place at the same place and time next year. We will plan on welcoming you then.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

Tall Tales & Tornadoes with Ke Francis

GalleryTalk_KF_blogThe Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts hosted mixed-media artist Ke Francis at the opening of the exhibit Ke Francis: A Selection of Large-Scale Work on Thursday, March 20. In examining his work at face value, Ke’s pieces – GalleryTalk_KF_2b_blogwhich range from small prints to large sculptures – exhibit many of the characteristics of the folk aesthetic that are often found in rural settings. However, after hearing Ke explain his process, it became clear that he uses the folk medium as a vehicle for story-telling. During his lecture, Ke recounted several stories that influenced his work. Some were as real as tornadoes ripping apart houses, others as magical as sage catfish living on land. These tales allow the viewer to begin connecting the seemingly individual images within Ke’s works and understand how they mesh together into a web that evokes the archetypal experience of life in the South.  GalleryTalk_KF_3blogIt was wonderful to meet Ke and hear the stories in person. His words brought his images to life and created a very personal experience for the audience.

Beth Hataway
President, Junior Executive Board

BTW Word and Image

btw_readingLast night the Museum was proud to host young writers from Booker T. Washington Magnet High for a reading “Word and Image.”  Each work of prose and poetry was composed in response to a work of art on display at the Museum.  Led by Mr. Foster Dickson, the expressions were a result of the annual Ekphrastic writing workshop at the Museum.  Ekphrasis means a literary response to a work of art.

Selections from the student work include:

1995.7.2.blogFrom “Descending Night” by Somer Marshall
She was more than she could understand.
She was capable of more than her untrusting heart
Allowed her, she was beyond compare.


Adolph Alexander Weinman, Descending Night
1995.7.2

1935.12_blogFrom “Cotton Gin” by Ke’Veonia Hall
This cotton gin can satisfy plenty
And also avoid a lot of mayhem
Keeping Whitney from turning over in his grave

John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Cotton Gin
Gift of Works Progress Administration, 1935.12

 

 

2008.5_blogFrom “Thoughts Inside a Cocoon of Bones” by Keandra Pope
I turned into a cave of myself
Amber-colored walls kept up to keep out
Each limb turned into a lock

Rick Beck, Self Portrait
Gift of MMFA Patrons*, 2008.5

 

Alice Novak
Assistant Curator of Education

* Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Bowen and Carol Ballard, Jim and Jane Barganier, John and Joyce Caddell, Dorothy Cameron, Ben and Virginia Cumbus, Elizabeth Emmet, Bonner and Virginia Engelhardt, Bob and Susan Geddie, Barrie and Laura Harmon, Camille Elebash-Hill and Inge Hill, Paul and Anne Hubbert, Charles and Donna Ingalls, Michael and Allison Ingram, Mike and Kent Jenkins, Mark and Amy Johnson, Joan and James Loeb, James and Margaret Lowder, Michael and Laura Luckett, Alfred Newman, Phillip and Gloria Rawlings, Bruce and Emilie Reid, Adam and Dawn Schloss, James E. Sellars, Charles and Winifred Stakely, Andy and Lisa Weil, Jean Weil, Barry and Corinna Wilson, Drs. Tommy Wool and Laurie Weil and Anonymous Donor

An Expressive Evening and ARTWORKS Corridor Student Recognition

Expressive Evening 5 Expressive Evening 6 Expressive Evening 4 Expressive Evening 3 Expressive Evening 2 Expressive Evening 1On Tuesday night, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts was rich with vivid colors and sounds and truly felt like the home of the Muses.  The Museum’s teen council – the MUSES –  did a fantastic job organizing “An Expressive Evening”, featuring student singers, dancers, musicians, and visual artists.  Following inspiring performances in the auditorium and rotunda, student artists from kindergarten to 12th grade were recognized for their works on view in the juried ARTWORKS Corridor exhibition Inspired by Nature.  The student exhibition is based on Nature Distilled, on view in the Weil Print Room.

- Museum Educators

MMFA Short Course: Art of the 18th Century (Tuesdays at noon)

Amidst the sun and snow of recent weeks, the latest Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts short course has been exploring the art of the 18th century.  A lecture series that began with scenes of French ladies and gentlemen in lush garden scenes ended with an image of sword wielding men swearing allegiance to the state (while the women weeped.)

Now we are spending time in our galleries, making connections across American paintings, Old Master prints, and decorative arts.  So how does the world we live in compare to that of several hundred years ago?

Since the eighteenth century, haunting images and stories have provided popular entertainment, from this Piranesi print of an imaginary prison to American Horror Story.

Piranesi_series
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian 1720–1778), Title Plate, From the series, Carceri di Invenzione, ca. 1760,
etching on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Jr.
in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr., 1974.19

Wigs on men however are no longer as in vogue.

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John Singleton Copley (American, 1738–1815), Joseph Henshaw, ca. 1770-1774, oil on canvas,
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, The Blount Collection, 1989.2.6

Interestingly, the sitter in the portrait above was a member of the Sons of Liberty, while the painter’s father in law owned the tea that was dumped into Boston Harbor.  But before we get too carried away with politics, sometimes it’s important to go back to where we began and remember that everyone likes to frolic in the garden,

Fragonard_danseJean Honore Fragonard (French, 1732–1806), Danse de satyres, 1763, etching on paper,
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Jr.
in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil, Sr., 1992.5

that classical never goes out of style

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and there is always time for a nice cup of tea.

teacupWorcester Porcelain Factory (English, Founded 1751), Teacup, ca. 1765-1768,
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Lucien Loeb, 1993.3.1.1

Alice Novak, Assistant Curator of Education

Ekphrasis: A Book Club for the 21st Century

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The Ekphrasis book club is an exciting monthly program hosted by the Education Department that explores various topics related to art and art history as they are interpreted by historical or contemporary literature. I borrowed the term “Ekphrasis” from Susan Vreeland (an author we have featured several times) who used the term broadly to address how works of art are interpreted through other mediums (media?). The use of the term in this context is a departure from its traditional usage, but I find Vreeland’s adaptation appealing because it opens up the door for multi-faceted approaches to analysis, allowing us to explore the intersection of art with literature, film, and photography.

With art as the central focus, and our chosen books (fiction and nonfiction) as the main vehicle, we supplement our discussions with multimedia presentations that include visual and digital imagery, audio, and video used to expand our understanding of the topics addressed. For example, a book about the painter Caravaggio was supplemented by a slideshow of his paintings and selected clips from a video documentary as visual references.

On several occasions, featured authors have called in to answer questions via Skype, including (of course), Susan Vreeland (Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Life Studies: Stories, Passion of Artemisia), Jack Flam (Matisse and Picasso: The Story of Their Rivalry and Friendship), and Harriet Chessman (Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper). We have also invited authors to visit the Museum and address the club in person, including, Nancy Robards Thompson (a.k.a. Elizabeth Robards), author of With Violets, and Nancy G. Heller, author of Why a Painting is Like a Pizza.

The next book club meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12 p.m. Jennifer Jankauskas, Curator of Art, will offer a presentation on the Los Angeles art scene and lead a discussion about the featured book Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.

I hope you will join us at the next book club meeting!

Tim Brown, Curator of Education

 

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