• Tag Archives museum
  • Pacific Northwest On the Front Range

    Winter                    First Moon of the New Year

    The Denver Art Museum (DAM as it describes itself) has a wonderful Pacific Northwest gallery.  Undergoing reinstallation when Kate and I visited the museum last year, I saw its bones and wanted to see what I though was a new gallery.  Turns out it’s an old gallery newly installed with several new works added.

    There are two sets of two large story poles (totem poles) which have hung between them on a braided rope a puppet by Richard Hunt, creator of the MIA’s raven/sisuitil transformation mask.  A wall between them has many masks, some from the late 19th century, but many from latter decades of the 20th.

    A bear clan living space partition is huge and has the usual womb located space for the chief to enter through wearing and carrying clan regalia.  The collection also includes several bent wood boxes and two story poles from the 19th century, weathered and furrowed, haunting in their quiet presence.

    If you’re ever in Denver, this is a real treat.

    The new DAM buildings, I’m afraid, are not so fine.  Now three years or so old, they include many dark areas with little natural light, oddly shaped galleries that draw attention to themselve rather than the art.

  • A Member of the Loyal Opposition

    Lughnasa                                              Waning Honey Extraction Moon

    Today members of the guide discussion group meet with Katherine Milton at the museum.  We’ve had specific concerns around continuing education and requested this meeting to discuss them with the head of the department that includes Art Adventure, Collection in Focus and Docent programs.

    I had this in mind the other day when I wrote about complainers.  Instead of figuring out how to stamp down or stamp out complainers, organizations should welcome honest critics, often the only source of straightforward critique most institutional denizens ever get.   Too often cloaked in a self-justifying cloud of hopes and projects, all folks who work within large organizations of any kind, be they corporate or non-profit, run the risk of filtering evidence through their own biases, unintentionally slanting and weighting feedback.

    That’s not say, of course, that every outside critic has the truth, but it is to say that the probability of unbiased feedback rises if it comes from folks whose lives are not intimately entwined with the institution.

    My hope is that this process will establish clear channels for guides (all volunteers) and their representatives, that it will open the museum to the voices of that cadre of folks who most often interact with the museum’s public, and that the result will be improved education and resources to the end of excellent tours for museum patrons.

    At the Woolly meeting last night we focused on gratitude, especially for those who had touched our lives in a formative way.  I admitted, as I’ve written here before, that I’ve held at a distance folks who would mentor me. (with one unsuccessful exception, Phil Johnson) “I have an oppositional personality,” I said, “Though none of you may have noticed that.”  Everyone chuckled.

    It’s not a surprise to me that I’m involved with this effort.  My ear hears the frustrated, the unheard, the fearful and my heart always aches to make them heard and felt.  Mom and Dad, in different ways, both reached out to the avoided, the uncared about and did it in spite of considerable institutionalized opposition.  I suppose that’s why this feeling has an instinctive feel, something taught before language and learning.

    We all have our peculiarities, our deep inclinations, this happens to be mine.

  • Why Go To A Museum? It’s Where Art Is.

    Lughnasa                                         Waning Grandchildren Moon

    Museums.  They’ve played an important role in my life since I was young.  In reading a report titled Museum’s 2034 I learned that most people like me can identify a key moment between age 5 and age 9 that cemented a strong relationship with museums.  Nothing comes to mind.  I may have had such an experience, but if I did I don’t recall it now.

    My first memorable museum experiences came on the campus of Ball State University where the small art museum there drew me in on a regular basis.  At the time I had three refuges from the hectic life of a late 60’s college student:  the library, the sanctuary of a local Catholic church on weekday afternoons and the art museum.  In each one I could find my center, fend off the anxieties and confusions of having my whole world torn apart and rebuilt piece by piece.

    I never found a comparable place anywhere I lived until I moved to the Twin Cities.  At that time the seminary, UTS, offered a quick tour of the Twin Cities for new students.  I chose the art focus and went for the first time to the Walker, the MIA and the Guthrie.  Over the 30 some years since then I’ve continued to go to all three though Guthrie attendance has waned over the last several years, as has those Friday evenings at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

    What is it about museums?  Those of us who visit them, who love them, tend to be promiscuous, visiting other museums when out of town, sometimes spending hours in their galleries, maybe even more time than we spend in our own museums.   We can’t get enough.  Of what?

    Auto-didacticism must be a key motivator for all of us.  No one but ourselves makes us trek up the stone steps of the Chicago Art Institute or the Met or the National Gallery.  We enter sometimes with a plan, sometimes with a hope, sometimes as a seeker, waiting for a moment, an instance when an object meets us in the moment, rocks us back on our feet or pierces our heart or shifts the internal landscape of our mind.

    I still remember the first time I saw Cezanne’s Water Lilies in Chicago.  I stopped and didn’t move for quite a while.  Singer’s Lady in White drew me in the same way in the National Gallery.  Breughel’s work in the Kunsthistorische.  Botticelli in the Uffizi.  The Sistine Chapel.  The Winged Victory of Samothrace.  Redon’s ethereal work in the Musee D’orsay. Goya’s Dr. Arrieta in our own museum.  What happens?  A living relationship begins with a work of art, a relationship that will not end until the work has been seen for the last time and not even, it ends not until the work fades from memory.  It is so much like falling in love.  Allowing another to enter into the intimate spaces, to lay itself down along the most inner corridors of the heart.  A line sometimes.  Cezanne moves me with his lines, so does Picasso.

    And color.  Bonnard.  Monet.  Cezanne. Ukiyo-e prints.  Chinese silks and Japanese garments.

    At least for me art is first a sensual experience, again the parallel with love.  It is a physical attraction, a force of its own, unexplainable and indefinable.  It is, later, a dialogue, but one always colored by that first, sense loaded encounter.  Museums offer the chance for these experiences and, therefore, I treasure them.

  • Groceries and Bauhaus

    34  57%  37%  5mph  windrose WNW  bar steep rise  dewpoint20  Waxing Crescent of the Snow Moon   Holiseason

    Spent an hour in the Modern design galleries discussing the Frankfurt kitchen, Tatra, arts and crafts, bauhaus and art moderne with people from Supervalu. 

    The event started at 5:30 PM and I showed up at 4:45PM.  Went up in the gallery, 3rd floor, new wing to check out my objects.  The museum announced closing and a guard checked to see why I was still there.  Supervalu.  Oh, OK.

    That gave me a half an hour after the museum closed to the public and before the Supervalu folks began to trickle into the galleries.  It was strange, like being in a store after closing.  The feeling is intimate, as if for a suspended moment the museum, or at least these galleries, had only me to appreciate them.  

    To carry the store analogy a bit further, as I walked the two galleries of my assignment, I had to engage people ad hoc, as they looked at an object.  At first it felt intrusive, then a long ago memory floated into consciousness, working the floors at the WT Grant company when I was in managment training.  It was the walking back and forth, seeking moments to engage people that resonated, partly aimless, partly repetitive, partly hopeful.  The only difference was that at WT Grant I had pets and toys while here I had a hundred years of skilled design.

    The time went fast, only an hour, then I was away, back into a blustery November night with a cloudy sky, headed home.