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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: Behind the Scenes

A Familiar Face Returns to the Museum

The Museum is excited to welcome Tisha Rhodes back to the Museum family in her new role as Director of Development. Before leaving the Museum in 2014 to pursue an opportunity in private business, Tisha spent 17 years as the Director of Services. For the past two years, Tisha served as the Public Affairs and Development Director at the Family Sunshine Center. Tisha grew up in a military family and moved to Montgomery in junior high school. She has been married to Jason Rhodes for 26 years, and together they raised a daughter now starting her first year of college.

What drew you to art?

My parents did a great job of introducing me to the arts as a young girl, and I continued to be interested as I matured. I studied art in college, and in 1997 at the age of 25, I jumped at the opportunity to join the MMFA team.

What brought you back to the Museum?

I returned because of my love for the institution and a mission that strives to enrich, enlighten, and bring enjoyment to people’s lives through art.

What is the best thing about working at a museum?

I get to be around art and collaborative people who feed my spirit.

What is the biggest change at the Museum since you last worked here? What has not changed at all?

The biggest change is the leadership. I spent 17 years working with Mark Johnson, which I will always cherish, and now I have the privilege of working with and learning from Angie Dodson. The thing that remains constant is the spirit of the creative people who work for the Museum. I love the energy!

What is your favorite work in the collection?

I adore Kelly Fitzpatrick’s work because of the Southern regional subject matter and the amazing colors. I am lucky to have one of his paintings—one of my favorites—Alabama Foothills, hanging in my office.

What do you want others to know about the Museum?

I want locals to know that the Museum has free admission and that art is for everyone. With our great permanent collection, ArtWorks, and the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden, there is something to pique all interests. I want people outside of the area to know the MMFA has one of the finest collections of American art in the Southeastern US, and a trip to Montgomery is not complete without a visit to the Museum.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think people see me as an extrovert because of the work I do and have done for 20+ years, but I am an introvert—peace, quiet, and alone-time energize me.

Why do you feel art is important—for individuals, families, communities?

Art introduces perspective and allows people the opportunity to achieve that perspective. I love the quote by John Lubbock, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” Perspective is key to one’s experience and art can be a catalyst for that outlook.

Do you have a favorite story or memory about the Museum?

One of my fondest memories is the 25th Anniversary in the Park Celebration Reception and the excitement that was in the air. It was such an exciting time with the Sculpture Garden on the horizon and so many monumental moments from the past 25 years in the current building to celebrate. There are terrific pictures that capture the joy of that evening.

A Gift that Sparks the Imagination

The Museum is thrilled to introduce its latest permanent installation in the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden to the River Region. The Children’s Gate (2019) is a gift of the City of Montgomery in honor of the Montgomery art community.

This brightly-colored work of art was crafted by Montgomery-based artist Vincent Buwalda (American, born 1965). Situated between the Sculpture Garden and the Education Courtyard, the Gate consists of playful robots welded from steel. Buwalda’s inventive design will spark the imagination of people of all ages, encouraging all who enter the Education Courtyard to unleash their own creativity.

Mayor Todd Strange and the Museum initiated the commission to celebrate local artists with the permanent placement of a work of art in the Garden. The Sculpture Garden Committee unanimously selected Buwalda’s design from the call for proposals put forth by the Museum and the Montgomery Business Committee on the Arts.

On Thursday, June 6, Mayor Todd Strange and the Museum’s Director Angie Dodson presented the Gate to local children, Museum supporters, the Sculpture Garden Committee, the Montgomery Business Committee on the Arts, and members of the media.

Vincent Buwalda, (American, born 1965), The Children’s Gate, 2019, urethane paint on welded steel, Gift of the City of Montgomery, Todd Strange, Mayor, 2019.6

Conservation: Untitled (Nymph), 1933

The John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden gained its first permanent resident in October when Jessie Duncan Wiggin’s (1872–1954) Untitled (Nymph) took center stage at the top of the new Garden. While many of its current sculptural residents are intended to be temporary visitors, this lovely bronze dancer will be welcoming visitors to the Caddell Sculpture Garden for years to come.

The Nymph’s journey to the Garden began in New York in 1933. The more than six-foot tall figure was cast at the Roman Bronze Works in New York and depicts a mythological spirit of nature, who, as in this case, is generally shown in a celebratory dance. In mythology, nymphs were associated with locations such as woods, rivers, and streams.

Having already been exhibited outdoors for many years in Robert and Virginia Weil’s Montgomery garden, the sculpture’s surface needed to be cleaned and years of accumulated corrosion removed. It is corrosion of the metal that gives bronze exhibited outdoors a characteristic bright green color over the original patina. The Museum consulted with objects conservator, Michelle Savant of Atlanta for the project. A broken finger was repaired, the sculpture was cleaned, and finally, Savant waxed the surface, which will protect it from further deterioration. This process has returned the sculpture’s surface to its original bronze patina.

The Museum has placed Nymph on a limestone plinth at the top of the Garden, in front of a beautiful natural rock wall that defines the northern edge of the Caddell Sculpture Garden itself. As a garden sculpture in the classical tradition of mythological spirits of nature, Nymph represents a convention in Western art that goes back for many centuries: that of showing female figures as celebrations of nature and of the garden’s natural beauty.

Follow the Conservation Process

Conservator Michelle Savant began work on the sculpture Nymph by washing the bronze with a mild soap and using a low-abrasive pad to remove surface dirt and corrosion.

Once the work had been cleaned, the conservator applied wax to its surface to seal it and protect it from the elements. Garden Superintendent Jeff Dutton assisted by heating the surface with a heat gun, which kept the wax flowing to fill any tiny crevices in the surface.

Finally, once the wax had dried and hardened, the surface was buffed with a clean, lint-free fabric. The Museum staff will continue to apply wax as necessary to protect the work over time.

Art in the Garden: Jun Kaneko

Behind the Art

Born in Japan during World War II, Jun Kaneko immigrated to the United States in 1963 to study painting at Chouinard, now known as CalArts in California. Soon, he began studying with influential ceramic artists including Peter Voulkos; their experiments in removing the functionality from clay in order to work expressively and abstractly led to what is known as the “American Clay Revolution.”

For the last 40 years Kaneko has worked extensively in Ceramics, Painting, Glass & Bronze. In 1985 he moved to Omaha Nebraska— where his current studios consist of over 80,000 square feet in 4 warehouses. A prolific artist, Kaneko is most renowned for his monumental, cylindrical, and triangular-shaped ceramic forms called “Dango”, the Japanese word for “rounded form”. Kaneko began creating monumental ceramics in 1982 using industrial kilns to produce the tallest single ceramic forms measuring up to 13’ tall. These enormous, playful, and innovative sculptures are not only an impressive technical achievement but also demonstrate his mastery of glazes. His works embody several dualities: the combination of painting and sculpture and the balancing of Eastern and Western ideas.
Featured in exhibitions nationally and internationally, Kaneko’s sculptures are also a part of museum collections around the world including the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the National Gallery of Australia, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, and the MMFA. His work Untitled (Dango), 2003, is on view in the Museum’s Young Gallery.

Installation of three of Jun Kaneko’s works: Jun Kaneko (Japanese, born 1942), Untitled (Dango), 2004–2007, glazed ceramic, Lent by the artist

Art in the Garden: Joe Minter

Meet the Artist

A self-taught artist, Joe Minter uses art to tell the story of the history and journey of Africans and African Americans in America. In 1989, he began working on his own sculpture garden, the “African Village in America,” located in Birmingham. Minter feels he is directed by God in this endeavor and creates all of his sculpture from found objects, as he believes that these items contain the spirits of all who have touched them.

Minter was a featured artist in the MMFA exhibition  History Refused to Die in 2015, and his sculptures are part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Joe Minter, Dedicated to All Those Who Served, n.d., found metal, Lent by the artist
Joe Minter, Lumberjack Without a File, n.d., found metal, Lent by the artist

Art in the Garden: Adam Bodine

Meet the Artist

Adam Bodine brings a sense of humor and fun into his sculpture. Employing salvaged wood and metal, he creates oversize images of toys. Bodine’s use of industrial materials formed into familiar objects allows him to explore themes of play, dreams, building, and learning. What You Say, 2012, conjures up nostalgic ideas of old-fashioned gramophones or brings to mind a more current image; that of a bullhorn, an apparatus used to amplify our voice.

Bodine received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia. He has worked at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham and has shown his sculptures around the South.

 

Art in the Garden: Casey Downing, Jr.

Meet the Artist

Mobile-based artist Casey Downing, Jr., works both figuratively and abstractly in a variety of metals.  Circular, an example of his minimal abstract sculptures, incorporates the fluid, graceful forms that evoke movement and controlled energy that is apparent in many of his non-representational works.

Downing received his degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and his art has been featured in exhibitions at the Mobile Museum of Art, the Huntsville Museum of Art, and other venues in the South. In addition to exhibitions, Downing is best known for his permanent public art commissions around the state, which include sculptures sited in Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery.

Circular (2018)

Casey Downing, Jr., Circular, 2018, stainless steel, Collection of Dr. Paul Maertens, Mobile, Alabama
Photography of installation at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Art in the Garden: Deborah Butterfield

Behind the Work

One of the most prominent American sculptors working today, Deborah Butterfield first began using mud, clay, and sticks to create sculptures in the form of horses in the 1970’s. In 1977, she moved to a ranch in Montana and in 1979 began using scrap metal and found steel. For the past decade, she has been making unique bronze pieces, cast from found wood sticks and pieces, to which she then methodically and expertly applies her patina. Currently, Butterfield splits her time between studios in Montana and Hawaii. In both places, she shares the land with horses (including her dressage horse, Isbelle, the model for this piece), and they continue to inspire her work.

Born and raised in San Diego, Butterfield received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Davis. Since 1976, she has exhibited extensively around the world, including solo presentations at the Seattle Art Museum in Washington, the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem, and the San Diego Museum of Art in California. Her work is included in numerous public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among many others.

Art in the Garden: Christopher Fennell

Meet the Artist

Christopher Fennell’s background in engineering informs his art.  Using everyday objects for inspiration, his dynamic sculptures have a sense of humor and are often participatory. For example, viewers can sit in the center of Skate Leaves, 2018, and look up and into the vortex of colorful skateboard decks that suggests the acrobatic skill of skateboarders as they sweep up and over the sides of a skate park.

Based in Birmingham, Fennell received his Bachelor’s of Art in Sculpture from the University of South Florida and his Master of Fine Art in Sculpture from the University of Georgia. Installations and public commissions are sited around the country in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Maine, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington State, among others.

Interview

Art in the Garden: Randy Gachet

Meet the Artist

Birmingham-based artist Randy Gachet reclaims and re-contextualizes everyday materials into his art. In Hollow Sphere Theory, 2018, he combined salvaged tire pieces from roadsides into two semi-spheres of hexagonal elements.  For Gachet, this is partly a way to return industrial materials to nature, to push humble materials into new directions, and to explore what he terms the “bounty” that exist in areas of urban sprawl. The resulting sculptures are playful ways to examine the tension between nature and artifice, high and low, insider and outsider.

Originally from Mobile, Gachet received his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from Birmingham-Southern College and now teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. His work has been featured in exhibitions at the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy, the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan, the Huntsville Museum of Art, and the Meridian Museum of Art in Mississippi.

 

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