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Category: Behind the Scenes

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.

 

Art in the Garden: Chris Boyd Taylor

Meet the Artist

Chris Boyd Taylor is primarily interested in craft, scale, color, movement, architecture, and ideas of spectatorship and interpersonal relationships. This piece is part of a series called Stadium Spheres, 2018, inspired by recent travels across the Southeastern United States documenting venues of spectatorship. Taylor found that many stadiums use staggered colored seat patterns in order to trick television viewers into thinking it is full when it is not. This color pattern, and the stair zig-zag that accompanies the profile of most bleachers, is the signature design inspiration for this new body of work.

Taylor received degrees in fine arts from Ohio State University and New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and is presently an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, with major public art commissions in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Clarksville, Tennessee. Taylor is currently working on a commission for the Nashville International Airport to hang in one of the concourse’s skylights.

Interview

Art in the Garden: Craig Wedderspoon

Meet the Artist

Craig Wedderspoon trained as a glass and crystal carver but moved to making art from metal and wood in the late 1990s.  Manipulating his chosen material and playing with density, pattern, surface, and the velocity of line, Wedderspoon combines geometry with patterns found in the natural world. This results in elegant abstract forms that are simultaneously fluid and ordered.

Currently, Wedderspoon is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Alabama. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida International University and his master’s degree in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. His work has been exhibited widely, including solo presentations at the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy.

Interview

“Volunteer Voices” Part II

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has lots of wonderful volunteers and docents who donate countless hours to a variety of programs year in and year out.  In the first “Volunteer Voices” blog post, volunteers and docents answered the question  “What drew you to the museum to share your time and energy?” We received so many wonderful answers, we decided to continue the blog posts and create a series. This second installment of “Volunteer Voices” is dedicated to the question  “Do you have a favorite or most rewarding moment with visitors of the museum?”

Take a look at some of the responses from Docents and Volunteers below on their favorite or most rewarding moments at the MMFA, and leave some of your own in the comments!

 

“When the Uribe exhibit was here recently, I captured several people and took them to see the exhibit.  They thanked me profusely.  The same is true for other exhibits.”  Frances Durr, Docent

 

“Several years ago I was giving a gallery tour to a 1st grade class and right before they were to leave the entire class gave me hugs!!!” George Jacobsen, Docent (featured right)

 

“I have had lots of great conversations with visitors about lots of different exhibits.”  Meili Wang, First Impressions Desk

 

“I enjoy seeing children learn.” Penny Thompson, Docent

 

“The kindergarteners’ insightful observations, seeing the excitement as they explore a piece of art for the first time.” Frank Gitschier, Docent, After a Cakewalk gallery tour (featured right)

 

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping visitors that come into the museum.  If I can provide information that enhances their visit I have done my job.”  George Childress, First Impressions Desk

 

“Any time a kid walks into the museum.” Liz Land, Docent (featured below)

 

“I like it all. The best part of volunteering for the museum is working with staff and other volunteers to help the patrons have a good experience when they visit.”  Luigi Edwards, Special Events Volunteer

 

 

 

We look forward to your stories and the next installment of “Volunteer Voices” very soon!

Meg Hall
Volunteer Coordinator

Class of 2016 Docents Graduate Thursday Evening

For teachers and students, it’s nearing the end of another school year, and graduation is in the air!  It’s no different for our MMFA docent corps, who will this Thursday evening, May 12, see their newest members graduate from the New Docent Program into the ranks of our talented active, senior docents.  The docents of the 2015-16 class have already participated in Outreach, Studio, Artworks, and gallery tours, and have made their year-end presentations to the Museum staff and active docents. Those presentations were innovative, enlightening, and entertaining, and we are looking forward to incorporating this diverse and talented group into the active docent corps.

My conversations with the members of the 2015-16 docent class are summarized below:

Maria Freedman docentMaria Freedman

Maria came to Montgomery in 1995, by way of Germany and Illinois. She was an art teacher for 40 years, and, during that time, taught a weekend workshop for children at the MMFA and participated annually in the Flimp Festival. She retired in May 2015, and is looking forward to having more time to work on her own art, but, she says, she still needs structure in her day, so in addition to being a new docent, she assists with the Respite Program at First United Methodist Church and is a member of the Selma Art Guild.

Frank Gitschier2 docent-smallFrank Gitschier

A graduate of the University of Louisville, where he was a second string All-American football player, Frank spent 34 years working for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office before retiring in 2012. Alice Novak and Jill Barry, whom he met at a dinner party, recruited him into the docent program. A firm believer in the maxim that “a picture is worth a 1,000 words,” he loves leading gallery talks, but is scared (he claims) of leading a studio lesson.

Meg Hall DocentMeg Hall

Before moving to Montgomery in 1996, Meg, who has a master’s degree in social work, lived in Wisconsin and in Auburn, working with children, disabled persons, and the elderly. She also earned a second-degree black belt in karate. In Montgomery, she worked in the Golf Shop at Wynlakes Country Club. Just as she was leaving her employment there, she heard about the docent program from Alice Novak’s friend Foad, a massage therapist at Mind and Body Holistic Spa in Cloverdale. Meg’s favorite part of the docent program is the people. She loves working with children, and helping with Artworks and studio activities.

Evelyn Jackson docent
Evelyn Jackson

Evelyn has operated several small businesses centered on flowers and plants. Now she is a Spanish language interpreter and translator. She says that she needed – and found – a new direction in her life when a friend recommended the docent program to her. Not surprisingly for someone with a degree in English literature, she believes that art is evocative of the range of human experience, and she finds herself looking at art in verbal terms.

Nam Kim docentNam Jung Kim

With a master’s degree in business administration, Nam spent 20 years in marketing. When she and her family moved to Montgomery, she visited the Museum and found it to be a “peaceful and comfortable” place. She called Alice, offering to do marketing work for the Museum and was persuaded to become a docent, which, she said, has turned out to be a wonderful way of getting to know Americans and being part of a community.

 

 

Wanica Means docentWanica Means

After living in San Francisco during her working life (which included being a model), Wanica moved to Montgomery to be near family and to be in a place where the cost of living was reasonable.   She reinvented herself by starting an etiquette consulting firm and, along with active docent Phyllis Hall, formed a women’s social club – “Fit and Fun and Fifty Plus.” When Phyllis suggested that she become a docent, Wanica responded, “Free art history class every week? Count me in!” Like Nam, she has found a sense of community in the docent program.

Nicki Rupe 2-docent smallNicki Rupe

Before coming to Alabama, Nicki spent most of her years in California, where she served as the executive secretary to CEOs of biotech companies and to Senator Dianne Feinstein. Here in Montgomery, she has re-launched a business, begun in California, as a professional organizer and home stager. She has always considered playing a role in an art museum, perhaps because she understands that she, like an artist with a blank canvas, “has a passion to create something beautiful from what seems like mayhem.” She believes that the docent program has given her a more discerning eye to appreciate the masterpieces that grace walls of the Museum and she is grateful that the MMFA reaches out to the community to share its treasures.

Marilyn Simpson docentMarilyn Simpson

Marilyn spent 42 years in higher education in California, Virginia, and Alabama. When she left the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service in 2001, she resolved to start on her bucket list, part of which was to become a museum docent. During her travels, she had visited many museums and had found them to be lovely, well-maintained places filled with beautiful things. She decided that her retirement years were going to be surrounded by beauty and the docent program has helped her accomplish that goal. She says, “What could be better than a year filled with a free education in art and beauty?

Gretchen Sippial docentGretchen Sippial

Alice’s friend Foad at Mind and Body Holistic Spa recruited Gretchen’s husband to be a docent, and, when her husband indicated that he was not interested, Gretchen jumped at the chance. (Sounds like Foad should be an honorary docent!). Despite having an undergraduate degree in art, she was not inspired, she says, by her own work and decided to pursue other careers – in management, construction, and higher education. Now, however, she has come full circle and is inspired by the art she is learning about here at the MMFA.

 

Carroll Thompson docentCarroll Thompson 

Carroll was born and raised in Memphis and is a graduate of Rhodes College (formerly Southwestern at Memphis), where she majored in fiber arts. Her three lifelong interests have been theater, dance, and art. She has taught ballet and loves doing art projects with children. She came to the docent program through her friend, active docent Carol Tew. Carroll loves “art history Mondays” and enjoys being part of the docent community at the MMFA .

Congratulations to all the members of the MMFA’s 2015-16 docent class and we warmly welcome them to our active membership.

Mary Lil Owens
New Docent Representative

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts of the Ida Belle Young Acquisition Fund

ShortCourseIdaBelleYoungEleanorWho was Ida Belle Young and how did her generous contributions impact the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts? These questions will be answered through a docent-led short course, which began on January 26, 2016, and will continue each Tuesday (at noon) through February 23, 2016.

I began the first session by highlighting Young’s life, work, and legacy. Regarded as an astute businesswoman, active civic person, and a philanthropist, Young provided the endowment for the Ida Belle Young Art Acquisition Fund, which has enabled the Museum to expand and enrich its American art holdings. ShortCourseIdaBelleYoungA.FreemanFollowing this presentation, attendees proceeded to the galleries, where Dr. Alma Freeman led an in-depth and captivating discussion on the first painting purchased through Young’s art fund, Francoise in Green, Sewing, 1908-1909, created in France by Mary Cassatt. Participants enthusiastically offered their interpretations of the painting.

ShortCourseIdaBelleYoung#4On Tuesday, February 2, Session II of the course featured presentations by Mary Lil Owens (William Sydney Mount’s Any Fish Today?, 1857) and Lou Scott (Severin Roesen’s Still Life with Mixed Flowers and Bird’s Nest, ca. 1851-1859).ShortCourseIdaBelleYoung

We look forward to more interesting and innovative discussions and your insightful interpretations of these fascinating works of art made possible through Young’s bequest. Additional sessions are scheduled as follows:

2/9    George Henry Durrie’s Holidays in the Country, The Cider Party, 1853  (Beverly Bennett)
Edmonia Lewis’ Hiawatha’s Marriage, 1868  (Pam Moulton)

2/16  George Inness’ Medfield, 1877   (Jiyeon Suh)
Eastman Johnson’s Girl in Landscape with Two Lambs, 1875  (George Jacobsen)

2/23   Thomas Hart Benton’s Ozark Autumn, 1949  (Pat Wanglie)
Max Weber’s View of Roslyn, New York, ca 1922-1925 – (Gloria Simons)

ShortCourseIdaBelleYoungMary Lil

Eleanor Lee
Museum Docent and Docent Council Secretary

 

 

Behind the Scenes—Installing Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman

Blog.LipmanOn Saturday, November 14, 2015, the MMFA will open our newest exhibition for the fall season, Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman.  Featuring seven sculptures and eight photographs, this is the largest exhibition of artist Beth Lipman’s work to date. While her sculptures allude to seventeenth-century still-life paintings, her three-dimensional interpretations of these historical canvases offer pointed commentary on contemporary art and life. (At left: Artist Beth Lipman during installation at the MMFA)

Putting together these large-scale sculptures—assemblages of hundreds of individual glass objects—is not a straightforward process, but rather is an intricate dance of placement, gluing with silicone, and timing. To create this exhibition in our galleries Lipman arrived at the Museum on November 4. Since then, she has worked many long days on several pieces at once, adding new layers, allowing the silicone to dry, and coming back to each of the sculptures to add additional elements day after day.  Lipman’s works often defy gravity—glass vines, pitchers, swags, and vessels break free of the confines of their tables, bursting beyond their edges to dangle unsupported in space.  Pushing the glass material to the point of breakage, while simultaneously highlighting its strength, Lipman’s precarious compositions are fraught with a sense of immediacy and tension. Watching the artist in action as she builds these complex installations demonstrates Lipman’s mastery over her process, and the results are stunningly beautiful feats of exemplary creative engineering!  Accompanying the sculptures are equally impressive photographic representations of Lipman’s glass objects portrayed in two-dimensional splendor, revealing yet another aspect of the artist’s approach to her work.

Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman is accompanied by the first full-scale, illustrated catalogue of the artist’s work, produced by the MMFA and available in the Museum Store.  The exhibition is touring to two other venues, The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee (on view from March 11, to June 12, 2016) and the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (on view September 22, 2016 to January 7, 2017).

Please stop by the MMFA between November 14, 2015 and January 31, 2016, to see the results of Beth Lipman’s hard week’s work of installation—the culmination of her many years of experience creating art the in splendid medium of glass.

To see Beth in action, check out the  video  Cynthia Milledge, director of marketing and public relations, captured of the installation and the brief interview she conducted.

Blog.Lipman.1

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art, and the exhibition

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