Festival on the Green

By Carli Mandel

On the evening of June 10th, 2017, residents from the Muncie community came together to celebrate the arts at Muncie’s annual Festival on the Green. The event was held on the Ball State University Quad in front of the David Owsley Museum of Art, and ran from 6 pm–8:15 pm. An Arts Fair presented by the Muncie Arts and Culture Council (MACC) was held from 5:30–7 pm, and the Muncie Symphony Orchestra put on their musical medley concert from 7–8 pm. Performing such varied pieces as Csardas and Offenbach’s The Infernal Gallop to The Chicken Dance and the YMCA, the concert was suitable for all ages, and drew in a numerous and varied crowd. Free and open to the public, the event attracted an estimated 1,500 individuals in attendance, as determined by data collected from the Muncie Symphony Orchestra.

Local businesses and vendors from the community set up an array of booths and tables along the pathway winding through the Quad, along which guests could walk and socialize with different organizations. Our booth, representing the David Owsley Museum of Art, provided children and families with the opportunity to participate in both a Calder-mobile craft activity and a photo booth with frames and props for participants to become living portraits. An informational table was also set up in our DOMA tent to allow interested families to grab brochures and informational pamphlets regarding the works in our collection. Throughout the course of the evening, an estimated 30 – 40 families stopped by our table to participate in activities, as well as learn more information about the museum.

The Calder mobile activity, as designed and implemented by School of Art graduate student and DOMA education intern Lily Rawson, gave children the chance to be able to make a mobile inspired by the Calder work Three Worms and a New Moon in DOMA’s own collection. Created by attaching pipe cleaners and geometric foam pieces to one another, the activity was purposely made so that it could be hung up by string in participants’ homes following the event. The mobiles were fairly easy to make, and hugely popular with the children who visited our booth. Each and every work of art produced was unique to the child that fashioned it, and proved a great exercise in helping younger audiences to expand their creativity and encourage interest in our museum. The hands-on art making also helped children to draw connections between the music being performed by the Muncie Symphony Orchestra with such artistic principles of design as movement and rhythm.

Our second activity, that of a picture frame photo booth, was also very popular with children, ranging in age from toddlers all the way up adolescents. This activity allowed participants to choose from a variety of costumes and props provided, which were inspired by painted portraits, and then have a photograph taken of them within the confines of a picture frame. Visitors were able to actually become a living part of the art, while also exploring common symbols/themes prevalent in traditional portraiture. Pictures of the photo booth “portraits” were taken by education intern Lily Rawson, docent Jean Gadziola, and myself on our mobile phones, and were uploaded soon after to the David Owsley Museum of Art Facebook page (for interested persons to access). Each “portrait” allowed our visitors to creatively design a scene and make a physical statement about themselves to others, an extremely important concept in portrait painting which we hoped to stress.

In relation to the event and the success of our museum-oriented activities, DOMA education intern Lily Rawson states, “Festival on the Green was a lovely afternoon to meet some community families. It was so wonderful to help the kids explore simple sculpture techniques while listening to the symphony in the background. The smiles and laughs that were seen during the portrait activity were priceless, as families squished themselves within the frame for the photo, while wearing a variety of the silly props. As an intern, it’s lovely to see the community members of Muncie get involved with DOMA, and get to know about its artwork and opportunities here.

DOMA docent Jean Gadziola also commented “Overall I think the DOMA booth was a hit at this year’s event.  I loved the mobile activity, and many children had a better understanding of what a mobile is all about.” She also went on to say about the picture frame photo booth, “The portrait activity is an excellent way for children to imagine posing and what it must be like to have your portrait painted.”

Judging solely by the pure excitement, joy, and smiles on the faces of those families who passed through our tent, I’d say that the DOMA booth, our activities, and the Festival on the Green event went extremely well. Families were able to listen to famous music from every period, as performed by a fantastic orchestra, and many children under our guidance were given the opportunity to make art that may not have otherwise been provided. With sunny weather, lovely music, and a bevy of businesses to interact with, the community really came together to celebrate the abundant arts and culture Muncie has to offer, a feat which I hope we can continue to support and enrich for years to come.

 

First Person: Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith

By Breyanne Urbin

On Thursday, April 20, the David Owsley Museum of Art was proud to welcome contemporary artists Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith who are both featured in our Spring 2017 special exhibition called SHIFT: Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, Corban Walker. The two artists, along with Lisa Banner, curator of SHIFT, spoke together on stage in Recital Hall to tell visitors stories about Ma’s and Smith’s artwork, artistic processes, inspiration, and evolution as artists over the years.

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Lisa Banner and Jongil Ma with a visitor

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Jongil Ma, Lisa Banner, and Christopher Smith

Jongil Ma originated from Korea and started his career in business and accounting before moving to New York to start his life anew as an artist by studying at and graduating from The School of Visual Arts in 2002. At the beginning of his art career, Ma built monumental sculptures that he said were 30 to 100 feet tall. During the presentation, Ma mentioned how he was, “…interested in architectural sculpture because the form was so beautiful but tense which kept a building held together.” Not only is architecture an influence on Ma’s art but music is a big influence as well. Ma explained, “It’s a great mindset to express oneself.” In Ma’s current work, his art has sized down considerably.  In some of his work, he will repurpose previously used wood from large-scale sculptural installations.

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Floating in Blue Space, Jongil Ma, 2014

Just like Ma, Christopher Smith lives in New York, where he has lived for most of his life. Smith art focuses on using video to capture paint trickling down and dripping off Plexiglas canvases. During the presentation, he explained how taking his hand out of the art targets the viewers’ attention to the paint itself. Another element Smith adds to his videos is purposefully having no concrete beginning or end. Smith explained how he wants, “…to make the videos very accessible where you can walk into it and out of it at anytime.” If a viewer started watching the middle of one of Smith’s videos, they wouldn’t be confused about what’s happening because the artwork is meant to make sense at any point in the video without watching it all completely.

 

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Cutting In, Christopher Smith, 2011

While the two Ma and Smith are different, Banner said, “They are like brothers,” because they are continually supportive of each other.  After the presentation, the galleries were open for visitors to check out the SHIFT exhibition where both Jongil Ma and Christopher Smith’s art is on display until May 7th.  As this exhibition quickly draws to a close, I would like to say how honored I am to get to work with all of the artists in SHIFT, Jongil Ma, Christopher Smith, and Corban Walker as well as curator Lisa Banner. Thank you all for making great exhibition and making great art!

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Happy National Volunteer Week to our Docents

Docents are individuals who volunteer to connect art to visitors. Docents are volunteers that provide tours to the many visitors of the David Owsley Museum of Art. Here at DOMA we have an enthusiastic group of volunteer docents who are passionate about bringing art to the community through their well-prepared tours. This is a letter to the David Owsley Museum of Art docents:

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Dear Docents,

Happy National Volunteer Week!

Beginning in January, I became one of the education interns here at DOMA. With that responsibility came the pleasure of participating in the Docent Learning Program along ide many of you. After a semester of getting to know you, I am truly grateful for all that you do.

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I just wanted to say thank you for all the time, resources, energy, and brain power you put into being a docent here at the David Owsley Museum of Art. You each willingly give up an hour and a half each and every week to participate in the Docent Learning Program; you observe tours; you do extensive research both at the museum and on your own; you prepare your tours, putting in hours of planning; you are the heart of this museum. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

William Shakespeare once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

I would say that you all have found your purpose, as you are using your gifts as docents to serve the public and support the David Owsley Museum of Art. Ball State students and the Muncie community are so lucky to have you as part of their DOMA experience. Last year alone, DOMA docents provided 247 guided tours, serving a total of 8,637 individuals, a new record for the museum. That number is ever-growing and would not have been possible without volunteer docents, like you, so again I say, thank you!

Sincerely,

Alexa Hirt, DOMA Education Intern

Final Friday: Identity

By Alexa Hirt, Education Intern

I often find myself behind the lens of a camera. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s a barrier between me and the rest of the world. When I zoom in with that lens, I can see things in people and expose them in their most intimate moments without them even realizing it.

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Last week’s Final Friday: Identity PechaKucha presentations sparked an interesting thought: is my identity found behind this camera lens and am I able to capture aspects of other’s identities that they may not even know exist? I like to think that I specialize in the “candid” shot. That meaning, I capture images of people in their most natural state; when they are laughing, contemplating, observing, eating, sneezing, etc. Some may find this intrusive, but I find it fascinating and thrilling. If I can capture the exact moment someone’s emotion changes from a frown to a smile without their knowledge, I believe I have captured the purest form of their identity and who they are.

While one of the PechaKucha presenters suggested that identity is only something that you choose for yourself and others can only base their perception of you based on your chosen identity, I’d like to suggest something slightly different.

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My personal definition of identity comes down to the idea that your identity is what you portray yourself to be even when no one is looking.

I think that who you are as a person is best seen when you don’t think you are being seen. The moments when joy overtakes you, or sadness overcomes your entire being, or confusion overrides all things that make sense; your reaction to those moments reveals your identity. Your identity is the purest form of yourself, just like a candid photograph. So, to answer my original question, I ask myself again… Is my identity found behind the lens of my camera? Well, yes, I think it is.

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In the moments that I forget about the rest of the world, and zoom in on what I find to be intriguing, beautiful and pure, I am revealing my reaction to those moments, thus putting on display, my identity, maybe, without even knowing it.

The next Final Friday will be April 28, 2017. Check out the Facebook event for more details.

Painting conservation and its many layers

By: Cassi Amman

Have you ever wondered how works of art can survive through centuries of existence? Have you ever seen a painting or sculpture in a museum that has been taken down for “conservation”? If you have, that means a conservator deemed the artwork unstable and in need of intervention by hand to restore it.

Conservation by definition:

Conservation is the process of analyzing works of art and taking proper measures to ensure that they endure for more years to come. This process is careful to consider the original intent of the artist and the materials that were used when creating the artwork. In a field working with art of every age, medium, and size, it is natural that conservation has many different divisions in order to address the complexities of a given object. These categories generally fall under paintings, prints, photographs, textiles, and objects. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on paintings.

Conservators working in the field of painting focus their attention on studying the history of the paintings in their care. However, there is more that goes into restoring a painting than just touching up some paint. Here are some basic steps:

  • To begin, the conservator must become well acquainted with the materials and intent of the artwork. With this information, they will know how best to approach restoring the painting.
  • Close examination is the next step. Conservators harness natural light, ultraviolet light, x-radiography, and infrared technology in order to see the under layers of paint and canvas. Doing so, they can better see the artist’s process in addition to any painting that has been added by previous restorative sessions.
  • Before contemporary conservative ethics and processes were established, previous restorative additions were intrusive, unethical in relation to artist intent, and possibly damaging over the long-term life of the painting. Now, with better research in chemical and ethical aspects of paintings, conservators are better able to restore paintings for extended survival.

As Indianapolis Museum of Art’s painting conservator, Linda Witkowski states, “In art conservation, all good things take time.”

  There are many different restorations that a painting can go through:

Conservators look for condition issues such as peeling paint, bubbles on the surface, holes punched in the canvas, old and discolored varnish, excessive crackling, loose frame marks, and many other surface malfunctions that indicate age or structural instability. Now, conservators even look for previous restorations that go against artist intent or museum practice and intervene to bring the piece back to what is was meant to be. One of my favorite restorative processes is the removal of old, dirty varnish in favor of new, clean varnish. This allows the viewer to see the original colors and image the artist had in mind that had been blocked or discolored by old varnish.

Here in the David Owsley Museum of Art:

There is currently four-sided, painted, wooden altar panels being conserved in the West Gallery on the upper floor. If you have visited the museum recently, you have probably seen these panels are noticeably covered with rectangles of Japanese tissue paper. The work is titled, Saint John the Baptist with Saint Lawrence on the reverse; Saint John the Evangelist with Saint Catherine on the reverse, by Marten de Vos and is located near the middle of the West Gallery.

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The paper you see on the paintings is a restorative measure in setting the paint chips back down to the surface of the board it was painted on. When paintings experience a sudden difference in environment, humidity, or other external factors, they can expand and shrink. This movement causes paint to bubble, crackle, or flake. In the case of the de Vos, the paint had started bubbling and flaking. Since conservation is a long process and takes much planning, it is often required to create preventative measures while set times are planned out to restore. Then, painting conservators Michael Ruzga and Linda Witkowski will return to the project and remove the paper in favor of a more long term restoration.

The process entails using a safe, chemically stable substance to adhere the paint back to the panel. The conservators will also look at the varnish to ensure that it is even, clean and matches the other panels. Lastly, sometimes with paintings, conservators will touch up paint with expert color matching skill. However, and the materials used are reversible and can be removed in the future if necessary.

Challenges to conservation:

More pressure comes from societal expectations that a work must remain pristine. This causes conservators to start preserving artworks much sooner than they usually would. For example, conservators must keep in mind if it is ethical to try to maintain a work of ephemeral art that is meant to deteriorate. In a video on contemporary art conservation at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, conservators explained that a piece such as “Fishman,” created in 1969 by Paul Thek, was not created to survive but for the experience of viewing it. The sculpture, created out of latex, has already started falling apart due to the firming nature of latex over time. Conservators question whether it is appropriate to attempt repairing the artwork or whether the experience of viewing it in the moment is more of the objective.

It will be interesting to see how conservators will tackle these new issues in years to come. In the meantime, please stop by DOMA to see how the altar panels evolve. Michael Ruzga and Linda Witkowski will return to work on the panels March 25-March 29, 2017.

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