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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: Programs

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.

“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

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

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

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

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.

 Copley2
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

FAC.int.1988.1w

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

EV1_BookClub

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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