International Museum Day

By Emily Horn, DOMA Social Media Assistant

May 18th is International Museum Day!


The International Council of Museums (ICOM) created International Museum Day in 1977 with the objective to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” Participation in International Museum Day is growing among museums all over the world. In 2018, more than 40,000 museums participated in the event in some 158 countries.

The organisation chooses a different theme for the day and coordinates every year. This year’s theme, “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition,” focuses on how the role of museums in society is ever changing. On its website, ICOM writes “As museums increasingly grow into their roles as cultural hubs, they are also finding new ways to honour their collections, their histories and their legacies, creating traditions that will have new meaning for future generations and relevance for an increasingly diverse contemporary audience at a global level. This transformation, which will have a profound impact on museum theory and practice, also forces us to rethink the value of museums and to question the ethical boundaries that define the very nature of our work as museum professionals.”

Come celebrate International Museum Day at DOMA with Art in Bloom Public Exhibition & Tours this Saturday & Sunday from 1:30 – 4:30 pm with a docent tour at 2:30 pm!



A Preview of DOMA’s Indigenous Art from Oceania

DOMA’s collection features a wide range of indigenous art from all across the globe. Oftentimes information available about the daily lives of these indigenous peoples is sparse, with only anthropologists and travelers’ accounts to provide us with information. By examining the art they have produced, however, we are able to glimpse into their cultures and ways of life. In many cases, these artworks have a specific purpose to them, often functioning as a spiritual or ritual item. Here are some of the indigenous works of the Oceanic peoples in DOMA’s collection. 

Bridal Headpiece 1979.010.002

New Guinea, divided today into the countries of Papua New Guinea on the east side and part of Indonesia on the west, is located off the northern coast of Australia. Indigenous New Guinea has a long history of sculpture-making, paintings, and body ornamentation. New Guinean accessories were made for practically every life event, including funerals, weddings, and warfare, as well as for everyday use. DOMA’s Bridal Headpiece, from the Sepik River Region, was worn by brides when entering their husbands’ homes. The shells and animal forms represented various aspects of their lives, such as their family’s wealth, or specific clans or totems.   

Shield 2013.001.036

The island of Borneo, located in the Malay Archipelago north of Australia, is home to a group called the Dayaks. Although not practiced today, Dayak peoples were known for their headhunting rituals. During warfare, Dayaks would take the heads of their slain enemies and hang them in a communal longhouse. They believed that the heads sustained life and would bring prosperity to their community. Hair from the fallen enemy would be placed onto the warrior’s shield as a way for him to display his power and accomplishments.  

Club (Gata) 1981.018.004

Melanesia consists of many islands and archipelagos in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Although the cultures of Melanesian people is widely diverse, their art mainly focuses on themes similar to other Oceanic art, including spirits, nature, and functionality. Some Melanesian art is focused on male-centered social activities and communal duties such as canoes, weapons, and fishing gearwhich would be embellished, much like DOMA’s Club (Gata). Oftentimes ornamented with geometricized patterns, these clubs were used for warfare, for which they were the weapon of choice for Fijian people, as well as for ceremonial gifts that elevated a warrior’s status in the community. 

Gable Peak Figure (Tekoteko) 1991.068.028

Polynesia is located in the “Polynesian Triangle,” formed by New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island. Polynesian art is derived from the Lapita culture, a group existing since 1500 BCE. The aesthetic traditions of the Lapita people, such as geometric patterning and stylized figures, is oftentimes seen in indigenous art as well, which is mainly used for religious purposes. Polynesian sculpture, such as DOMA’s Gable Peak Figure (Tekotekofrom the Maori people of New Zealand, serves a specific function via its symbolism. The tattooing on the face represents an ancestral figure. The club in the hand also signifies the ancestor’s role as a protector. This gable would have been placed on the peak of a Maori village meeting house. 

These artifacts from the indigenous regions of Oceania provide us with an indication of the values, culture, and spirituality of various groups of people. Through these works of art, we see the importance of functionality, regardless of its religious or utilitarian context. Often serving a range of purposes, such as rituals, social status, and warfare, this art played a significant role in the lives of indigenous Oceanic people.  

 View these fascinating works of art, located in the Pacific Islands portion of the African and Pacific Islands gallery of DOMA, on the west side of the Sculpture Court.  

Hello Spring!

Spring has sprung, the days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and the birds are getting louder! We have searched the DOMA collection in order to find our most suitable spring objects. Here are some of our favorites to inspire you to celebrate the season.

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Peonies, Charles Courtney Curran, 1975.500.007

These large double peonies range in color from white to rose and appear in full bloom in the late Spring. A native to China, the peony became the Indiana state flower in 1957. The woman depicted here is probably the artist’s wife Grace. Curran’s wife is wearing a frilly dress that mimics the flower petals. In the Victorian era book, The Language of Flowers, peonies denote bashfulness a trait that describes the shy Grace.

Vase, Samuel Schellink 1978.014.009

We know it’s Spring when we start to hear birds singing first thing in the morning. This chirping you hear in the early morning is called the “dawn chorus.” It’s when birds are singing louder and prouder than at any other time of day, and there are a few ideas about why that happens. Scientists have found that bird songs are most clear in the morning which means it’s a great time for a bachelor bird to show off his unique tune in hopes of attracting a female.

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In Poppyland, John Ottis Adams 1995.035.040

Flowers will soon be in full bloom! Our Spring Special Exhibition, Impressions of Love,  offers a chance to view In Poppyland along with other paintings featuring the same poppy field!

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Spring (Printemps), Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux L2017.015.000

“Spring (Printemps)” is a reduced-scale bust of a monumental figure of Flora, the goddess of Spring.  Carved around 1873, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, a sculptor of emotion, captures both botanical details, such as the crown of morning glories, and brief human expressions, including a laugh and a smile.

Celebrating Black History Month with Kara Walker

Kara Walker, a painter’s daughter, was born in Stockton, California in 1969, and knew she wanted to become an artist as early as age three. At the age of 13 her family moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia where her father accepted a position at Georgia State University. Unlike the multicultural environment of California, Stone Mountain still held Klu Klux Klan rallies. Confused by her new environment, Walker escaped to the local library, where narratives of the South helped clarify the customs and traditions of her new home.

Directly out of graduate school Kara Walker became famous with her wall-sized paper cut silhouettes of figures in period costume set in a simpler time. The silhouettes seem innocent until we notice the content: nightmarish depictions illustrating the history of the American South.

Walker pop-up book 4 (1)
Kara Walker, “Freedom: A Fable,” 1997, bound volume of offset lithographs and five laser-cut, pop-up silhouettes on wove paper, 9 ½ x 8 x ¾ inches (24.1 x 20.3 x 1.9 cm). Photo: Jason Wyche. © Kara Walker

One of Walker’s works, Freedom, A Fable is a short story, illustrated with pop-up versions of her famous silhouettes of racism and gender discrimination. Walker tells the story of a female slave who is granted emancipation but still experiences oppression where she discovers that freedom is indeed just a fable.

Freedom, A Fable is currently on display in at DOMA for Black History Month.


The Folklore and Fashion of Japanese Netsuke

By Emily Horn, DOMA Social Media Assistant

The kimono, a long, loose robe with wide sleeves and tied with a sash, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves but men preferred to suspend their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses or writing utensils on a cord from their sash.

These hanging objects were called sagemono. To stop the cord from slipping through the sash, a small toggle was attached called a netsuke (pronounced net-skey). The entire ensemble was worn at the waist and functioned as a removable pocket.

For tiny art, Japanese netsuke are an enormous subject. Netsuke subjects portrayed in netsuke include legends, folklore, history, animals, flowers, insects, mythological creatures and more. Styles range from the intensely realistic to the abstract and surreal.

Netsuke (A Kappa Caught in a Clam Shell)

Netsuke (A Kappa Caught in a Clam Shell), Kyogyoku, 1931.500.065

kappa (river-child) is an amphibious yōkai (are a class of supernatural monsters) demon found in traditional Japanese folklore. They are typically depicted as green, human-like beings with webbed hands and feet and a turtle-like carapace on their backs. A depression on its head, called its “dish,” retains water, and if this is damaged or its liquid is spilled, the kappa is severely weakened. As water monsters, kappa have been blamed for drownings, and are often said to try to lure people into water and pull them in with their great skill at wrestling.

Netsuke (A Tengu Coming out of Its Shell)

MuseumBSU_2418_fullTengu (heavenly dog) are a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion. Although the name is from a dog-like Chinese demon, the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. Chinese literature assigns this creature a variety of descriptions, but most often it is a fierce canine monster that resembles a shooting star or comet. It makes a noise like thunder and brings war wherever it falls.