Open Today 10am-5pm

Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

Open Today 10am-5pm
20

Category: General

Call me Trim Tab—Twelve Degrees of Freedom Restored

B_Fuller_Karsh_blogRichard Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), who preferred to be called Bucky, wrote more than 30 books, earned 28 U.S. patents, circumnavigated the globe 57 times, and coined the term “Spaceship Earth.” Along the way, he invented the Dymaxion (short for dynamic maximum tension) house and car, and he popularized the geodesic dome, an efficient but often leaky structure designed and built through application of the principle of tensegrity.

Tensegrity is the balance of forces of tension (cables) and compression (rods) that the artist patented. His 1962 patent defines tensegrity as “the physical phenomenon that produces a stable geometric structure with solid members that are arranged in tandem with tense metal cables. The solid members of this system do not touch or support each other directly.B_Fuller_damage_blog

The spare beauty of the principle of tensegrity is aptly demonstrated in Twelve Degrees of Freedom (and by Fuller himself in a photograph by Yousuf Karsh, 2009.9.2), but not long ago that sculpture was limp and unable to stand on its small tripodal foot as originally designed because an accident in the galleries stretched its plastic-coated, braided steel wires.

B_Fuller_art_blogFortunately, a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) enabled the museum to employ McKay-Lodge Fine Arts Conservation of Oberlin, Ohio to restore the sculpture. After careful research into the design and fabrication of the sculpture, which was produced in Fuller’s architectural studios in Cleveland, conservator Tom Podnar painstakingly measured, knotted, and inserted each of the eighteen replacement wires and fitted their knotted ends into holes in the rods and the central sphere so that the entire geometric structure attained a rigid state. Only in that condition will the sculpture stand on one of its tiny tripodal feet as designed. Podnar’s persistence has paid off. Once again viewers can appreciate Twelve Degrees of Freedom as the artist intended.

This sculpture is part of Triad, a group of three similar tensegrity sculptures of rods and cables that Fuller designed and fabricated in an authorized edition of ten around 1982. Some of those are now in the collection of the Buckminster Fuller Institute in Philadelphia. Fuller made a few other sculptures like these, but most of his formidable creativity was focused on functional structures in a lifelong quest, as he said, “to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefitting all humanity.”

Fuller said, “call me Trim Tab.” That is the tiny adjustable flap on the trailing edge of an ocean liner’s rudder that creates a low pressure area, easing the movement of the relatively small rudder that steers the massive ship. Bucky made a career of applying minimal amounts of energy to effect maximal results, designing efficient sculptures, houses, cars, and other components of Spaceship Earth to achieve sustainable systems that maintain nature’s delicate balance.

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D
Curator of Art

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.

Littleton Unveiled

Littleton2_blogOn the evening of Tuesday, August 26, the MMFA officially ‘unveiled’ one of our newest acquisitions, Harvey Littleton’s Orange Triple Movement, 1983 (see blog post of July 7, 2014).

Joan Loeb, Chairperson of the Decorative Arts Committee, who was instrumental in bringing this historic and significant sculpture to the MMFA kicked off the event, and following the unveiling, Maurine Littleton shared her insights about the work. As a renowned gallery dealer and as the daughter of the artist, Maurine revealed how Harvey Littleton created the work, while describing her father’s relationship to many of the other artists featured in the MMFA’s collection of American studio glass including Dale Chihuly, Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, and Dante Marioni.

Littleton1_blogMaurine conveyed how to tell the difference between the different glass types utilized by artists—commercially available or hand-made—and why artists use various colors together, primarily because of similar melting temperatures. She also talked about the beginnings of the American Studio Glass movement, emphasizing the congenial nature of that artistic community. She believes that the sharing of ideas and techniques among artists helped the movement to blossom and grow. This is especially apparent in the early creation of glass programs at universities around the country—many started by students of her father. While these artists influenced each other, there was also a spirit of innovation that spurred so much creative experimentation, allowing artists to develop individual styles. Certainly, everyone could see Harvey Littleton’s extraordinary style and technique in Orange Triple Movement.

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

 

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

 

Museum Director Celebrates Twenty Years

ADM.Mark_blogTwenty years — that is a long time by any measure, but it is a particularly long tenure for a museum director and Tuesday, August 12, we had the pleasure of celebrating Mark Johnson’s 20th anniversary at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

Staff threw a surprise breakfast party for Mark that included his 1994 hiring president, Winnie Stakely and past president Laurie Weil and featured a waffle bar given by Jennie Weller to honor this significant achievement. Winnie and Laurie shared stories about Mark from the Board and community point of view, while Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, who is one of a handful of staffers whose tenure exceeds Mark’s, rounded out the remarks from the staff perspective. While Mark has publicly stated he does not like surprises, he was touched that all current staff signed a plaque created by artist and Museum Shop staffer Kay Jacoby that featured Rose Kennedy’s quote “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

While Mark has reached a momentous milestone with this anniversary, I just ran a quick tally and Mark has hosted over 3,150,000 visitors to the Museum during his tenure, creating a myriad of moments for so many people.

We thank Mark for his service to the Museum and the River Region in so ably leading the institution and we look forward to creating many more moments in the future.

Congratulations Mark!

Jill Barry
Deputy Director

Photo: Donna Pickens, Amy Johnson, Mark Johnson, Winnie Stakely and Gloria Simons at the celebration breakfast held August 12, 2014.

Military Open House 2014

MOH76_blogMajor Brian Chatman family’s first visit to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts turned out to be impressive.
Chatman said, “We really appreciate you guys providing the food, the band is amazing and the kid’s zone, my daughter had a blast.”

Chatman, his wife Georgene, and their 16-month-old daughter Raelyn, were among the 423 people taking part in this year’s Military Open House. This is their first full month in Montgomery. They moved here in July from Los Angeles. Georgene Chatman said, “It’s introducing us to activities we can do throughout the day as a family and explore with other military families. It’s also introduced us to culture and art. This has been great.”

Like the Chatmans, many other military men and women took advantage of what this family centered event had to offer. During this two hour period, they got to take a personal tour of the Museum’s exhibits, dress up in costumes and take pictures at a photo booth, and get their hands dirty during clay pottery and paper quilt-making activities.MOH65_blog  Chatman said, “It’s a great introduction to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.”  His wife Georgene added, “It helps us get connected with other military families.”

Not all members of the armed forces are active duty, some are reservists or retired like James Simpson. MOH85_blogWe found Simpson, his wife Cynthia, and son Desmond sharing family time doing an art project together. James Simpson said, “Not only do I get to take my family to a quality event, I also get to be around comrades, and sometimes I get to run into people from Maxwell Air Force Base that I was stationed with and haven’t seen in a long time.” Cynthia Simpson said, “It keeps our family connected. It helps us appreciate each other and enjoy this special time together. Their son, Desmond Simpson said, “It’s just fun to me.”

We found other guests like Brigadier General Robert Thomas bonding with colleagues while dining on a meal catered by Wintzell’s Oyster House. This is his third year bringing his family. Brigadier General Thomas said, “I think it allows the men and women at the base to feel like a part of the community.”

The fun doesn’t stop with the activities and food. Music filled the air in the Lowder Gallery with tunes being belted out by the voices of members of the LoFiLoungers band. Many said this helped end their evening on a good note.

MOH72_blogBrigadier General Thomas said, “My favorite part is looking at the paintings with my kids and discussing what is their favorite painting. I ask them ‘what do you like about this one’ and I think it’s a fun memory for them.”

This was the 19th year for the MMFA’s Military Open House. We look forward to saluting the Chatman, Simpson, and Thomas families for their dedication and service to our country again next summer.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

View highlights of this year’s Military Open House at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXXGVH_41T4&feature=youtu.be.

MMFA’s Summer Program Encourages Young Men

This is the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art’s 13th year sending trained teachers to community centers in the Montgomery area  to offer weekly art classes for underserved youth. In March of 2013, the MMFA began its first year teaching weekly art classes at the Mt. Meigs Youth Detention Facility, working with the young men incarcerated there. Miriam Jones, the MMFA Outreach Coordinator, describes her experiences.

“Teaching the students at Mt. Meigs is a joyful challenge. The boys are usually hesitant to dive into a project, claiming, ‘they don’t know how’ or ‘they don’t know what to make.’ It has been a good reminder to all the adults involved that if you haven’t tried to draw anything since you were a child it actually requires a good bit of bravery to try to express yourself in a brand new way. Teenagers particularly are plagued with worries about ‘messing up’ or being embarrassed, so, during a recent session, Ed.mt.meigs_blog1I, along with others, tried to include projects that each student could enter at their own level, ending in a group result that no one person would feel the burden of having to make a perfect piece of artwork.

With the assistance of Sarah Struby, our Outreach Teacher, we made clay masks that we then mounted onto ‘Totem Poles’ to be placed in their common space.  Clay encourages playing and masks can be all varieties of abstract, simple, mimicking, or complex. We were all inspired by the carved wooden totem pole by William Dawson in the Museum’s collection .

We also recruited Brian Cooley, sculptor/outdoor educator from the Montgomery Public Schools, to work with the boys on making flower planters out of old tires. The boys got really excited to see how they could reclaim a trashed object and with a bit of paint and cutting make something pretty. We also thought it was important to stress that you could make a place look more pleasing or improve the world around you without having to perfect fine painting skills or technical drawing techniques. Numerous boys talked about making planters for their grandmothers or moms when they went home.ED.mt.meigs_blog2

The tire planters and the ceramic totem poles are now installed in public areas of the Mt. Meigs campus so the students can share their work with everyone and to help with the larger goal of beautifying the facility. These projects were balanced with lessons on one and two point perspective to give the boys more confidence with drawing.”

The following quote from Carmen Archie, of the Mt. Meigs staff,  sums up the importance of the MMFA’s outreach program.   “The success of this has far exceeded my expectations.  The students’ response to the art class is overwhelming.  When the students hear another class is starting I get bombarded with requests to be in the class.  The number of students per class started with 10 to 12 students and we are now having to turn down students and place them on waiting list…. I see students who felt they didn’t have any artistic abilities open up and realize the potential they have.”

Miriam Jones
MMFA Outreach Coordinator

 

“An Observer Without an Agenda” Almost

RaySmith_blog

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.

Randy_Shoults_blogNan Cunningham-blog2

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

Older Posts:

Page 2 of 41234