Celebrating Black Artists

Written By: Sylvie Coffey – Public Relations Intern

February is Black History month when the U.S. honors the sacrifices and contributions of African Americans that have helped shape our present nation. Black culture has, still and will always majorly influence our society through art, fashion, music, science, politics, law, sports, and more. Beyond February we truly need to be celebrating and recognizing this culture year-round. We are not as far removed as we think from this country’s horrific past, and we must continue to make positive strides to becoming a fully free and equal society.

Here at DOMA we have recently acquired works of art by African American artists including Joseph Delaney, June Edmonds, John Wesley Hardrick, Sedrick Huckaby, and Richard Hunt. These join works by Jacob Lawrence, Martin Puryear, Lorna Simpson, Renee Stout, Kara Walker, Charles White, and Joseph E. Yoakum, among others.

Joseph Delaney (Knoxville, TN, 1904 – 1991, Knoxville, TN) spent years in New York, moving there in 1930 and studying at the Art Students League. where his teachers and colleagues included Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock. New York and its cityscapes and people became Delaney’s muse, and we see that through his work. Currently on display at DOMA, his piece Domino Sugar is just one example of his work from this period.

(Joseph Delaney, 1904 ­-1991, Domino Sugar, about 1953, Oil on paper adhered to canvas mounted on Masonite board, Gift of Charles and Kathleen Harper, 2010.021.002, © Estate of Joseph Delaney, Mark K. Williams, Administrator C.T.A.)

June Edmonds (Los Angeles, CA, 1959 – ), attended San Diego State University where she earned her BFA and her MFA at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Edmonds utilizes abstract painting methods to pay respect to African American figures, historical events, and to connect with her own roots. She has a concentration of flag paintings, and DOMA has acquired one titled Convictions I. These flag paintings take the United States flag as we know it to be, and by utilizing a variety of colors to represent diverse skin tones, she has created space for the inclusion of different identities within her paintings.

(June Edmonds, Born 1959, Convictions I, 2019, Acrylic on canvas 36 x 24 in., Purchase: Margaret Ball Petty Fund and the Sharon Seager Women’s Art Fund, 2020.003.000, ©June Edmonds. Courtesy the artist and Luis de Jesus, Los Angeles)

Come to DOMA to see both of the lovely paintings featured in this blog and to check out the works by other African American artists! We are open Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m., and per university policy masks are required for entry. As always thank you for reading the DOMA Insider and stay warm!

A New Year, a New DOMA Insider

Written by: Griffin Green – Education Assistant

With our last article having been posted on Nov 7, 2019, it goes without saying that things have been a little quiet here on the DOMA Insider blog. The COVID-19 pandemic has been relentless, but so are we here at the David Owsley Museum of Art, and as a result we are slowly but surely updating all the things that have fallen to the wayside over the past two years – like this student-produced blog!

When it comes to museum protocols regarding the pandemic, much remains the same in terms of mitigating transmission. Masks are still required by all guests and employees inside of the building and social distancing is encouraged. However, there is much that the museum has done to ensure that such restrictions do not act as barriers to guests’ viewing experiences as well.

For example, DOMA has successfully offered a wealth of online resources over the past few years, including:

  • DOMA’s first ever Virtual Museum Experience, a browser-based digital platform for Fall 2020’s exhibition titled 20/20: Twenty Women Artists of the 20th Century. Featuring 360 degrees gallery views and a number of close-looking videos, this compact yet informative display allowed us as a museum to begin the first steps towards adapting to a world defined by lockdowns and immobility
  • Summer 2021’s Art in Bloom event, featuring Morgan Everhart’s companion exhibition titled Flesh in Bloom. An online showcasing of Everhart’s work features a number of her stunningly vibrant floral compositions digitally imposed upon our gallery space for visitors to enjoy.
Arrangement done by Audrey Scott of the Normandy Flower Shop in response to the Finial Figure

When not working on digital resources, the museum stayed busy with a number of other endeavors as well:

  • Through the generosity of donor Ann M. Stack, DOMA was fortunate enough to receive a three-volume publication of the paintings found within the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican City, with color plates details reproduced at actual size. Information on these books can be found here.
  • Conservation efforts continue on in the background for several paintings within our collection, including Childe Hassam’s Entrance to the Grotto, Isle of Shoals (1902) and Alfred Leslie’s Pythoness (1959). More on that can be found in our Spring 2021 newsletter here.
  • DOMA’s paper archive collection has recently been surveyed and catalogued digitally for the first time, with a list of exhibition materials having been created which spans from 1918—1988. The finding aid for that archival list can be found here.

As for exhibitions, DOMA has (naturally) completed a number of them since Fall 2019, including:

  • 20/20: Twenty Women Artists of the 20th Century (Fall 2020)
  • POP Power from Warhol to Koons: Masterworks from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation (Spring 2021)
  • Morgan Everhart: Flesh in Bloom (Summer 2021)
  • The Sistine Chapel Trilogy (Summer 2021)
  • African American Art at the David Owsley Museum of Art: Past, Present, and Future (Fall 2021)
  • Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art (Fall 2021)

The listings for these exhibitions along with additional resources pertaining to these exhibits can be found here.

Last but not least, DOMA is gearing up for its latest exhibition, Spring 2022’s Body Language: The Art of Larry Day. An artist with a decades long career in abstraction, figuration, and cityscapes, Larry Day was known as “the Dean of Philadelphia Painters,” with a number of his monumental works (as well as a number of his drawings) to be put on display from February 24—May 21, 2022. More information on this upcoming exhibit can be found here. We hope to see you there!

As always, thank you for reading DOMA Insider, especially after such a long dormancy. There will be plenty more to come!

Halloween & Masks Around the World pt. 2

Written by: Micaela Knox, public relations intern

To read the first part of this two part series, please click here.

Welcome back to the second look at cultural masks in the museum!

How was your Halloween? Were there as many spirits lurking as you imagined there to be?

Today we are going to take a look at a mask from a Native American tradition that captures spirits in its very being.

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Unidentified Native American Artist, Pacific Northwest Coast, Tsimshian culture, Naxnox Mask, about 1875-18885, wood, pigment, David T. Owsley Collection, L1993.027.000.

Tsimshian NaxNox Spirits

Along the northwestern shores of Canada, a group of native peoples dominate the evil spirits in their lives through not only imitation, but encapsulation.

Traditional Tsimshian culture had a strong belief in the multiple spirits and supernatural entities that influence human nature. These spirits and their powers are referred to as NaxNox, and they may materialize through a human, an object or a dance called halait.

The Gitsontk were Tsimshian men who manifested the supernatural powers of the naxnox. A Gitsontk would receive his name as an adult from the house of their matrilineal families. The name often represented a literal negative characteristic, action or identity present in the Tsimshian society; family members would hand down names like names like “Choking While Eating,” “Deaf,” “Headache” and “Crazy Person,” all representing chaotic spirits.

With these names, the Gitsontk took the full responsibility of representing the spirits and controlling the qualities spirits caught in the name. By controlling the spirits, the Gitsontk could ensure social order.

Masks, like the one in DOMA’s Edmund F. Petty Gallery of Native American Art, were created to help contain the chaotic spirits. The Gitsontk would craft their masks, some with movable jaws or appendages, and compose songs with their supernatural ability. The men were no longer themselves when they wore their masks and performed halait during feasts or rituals, but transformed into the spirit that they control.

Naxnox mask with moveable jaw. Image property of The Seattle Art Museum.

In some performances, the Gitsontk, wearing their masks and possessed by their spirits, would terrorize the attendees at their tribe’s annual feasts, insulting their chiefs, and in some cases, mimic stabbing the chiefs with trick knives. In another performance, as reported by C.F. Newcombe, a performer named “White Man” carried a whiskey bottle. He poured drinks for the chiefs, and when he ran out of liquor, rolled in a barrel of whiskey.

Intruders who threatened to expose the Gitsontks’ processes as trickery or illusion were subjected to death. Gitsontks who failed a ritual would either immediately commit suicide or also be put to death, showing that these traditions were not simple child’s play, but a serious and righteous act carried out for the betterment of their communities.

The naxnox masks bore exaggerated features to help easily identify the chaotic powers they contained. We do not know what spirits the mask in the DOMA collection are supposed to be. What are the polychromatic pigments, with the stark, angry red and bold blacks supposed to say? Obviously it is an adult male human, but what negative attributes is it supposed to be?

 

Comment what you think below! And remember, don’t mess with spirits unless you have the credentials!

Halloween & Masks Around the World pt. 1

Written by: Micaela Knox, public relations intern

To read the second part of this two part series, please click here.

Happy Halloween!

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Are you getting into the spooky spirit? Dressing up the kids as their favorite characters? Putting together your best costume for a night out with friends?

As you don your masks, have you thought about how other cultures might wear theirs?

Halloween is not celebrated by everyone around the world, but many cultures have used disguises in other ways to honor spirits and the supernatural world around them. Tonight, while preparing for your annual tricks and treats, think about how similar your costumes might be to these masks from Japan and Northern Native America.

 

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Unidentified Japanese Artist, Japan, Edo Period, Hannya: Demon Mask for the Noh Theatre, 1700-1800s, wood, paint and brass, David T. Owsley Collection, L2007.015.000.

Hannya and the Legend of the Dōjō-ji

In the David Owsley Gallery of Asian Art, a terrifying face stares out from a display case. It is demonic looking, with a grimacing, opened mouth, corners pulled away to bear its teeth and piercing, furrowed eyes. From one angle, it looks angry, but somehow insanely pleased. From another, it looks sad and distraught.

This mask represents the Japanese demon Hannya, specifically the Shiro Hannya, or white Hannya. The demon is shown devolving into madness, its face with still a pale, girly shade, but its hair becoming wild and horns erupting from its forehead.

Other Hannya masks can be seen here.

This mask was constructed for use during a performance of the Noh play “Musume Dōjō-ji” or “The Legend of the Dōjō-ji.”

The story of the Dōjō-ji strings together two tales of jealousy and envy. The first tale describes a young girl, Kiyohime, who falls in love with a young Buddhist priest named Anchin. Anchin visits Kiyohime’s family often and gives Kiyohime gifts. She asks if he will marry her, despite his religious vows of celibacy, but he leads her on with flirty banter and the comment, “Maybe when you’re older.”

When Kiyohime realizes the emptiness in Anchin’s words, she is overcome with anger and jealousy. She chases after him and he flees towards the temple Dōjō-ji, crossing a raging river to lose her. As he enters the temple, he hides underneath its bell; in the distance, Kiyohime’s jealousy transforms her into a demon serpent. She crosses the river and climbs towards the Dōjō-ji. She encircles the bell, using her fire to melt the metal and kill Anchin.

Years later, the Dōjō-ji still has no bell. The leader of the temple acquires a new bell, despite the omens of the previous incident. The bell hanging ceremony dictates that women cannot be in attendance; nevertheless, the dancer Hanako approaches the temple after having traveled a long distance. When she is told that she cannot see the bell, she performs a “dance of anger and hatred” due to the sexism she experiences and makes her way into the temple.

As she pauses under the bell, she accidentally strikes it, making it fall and trap her. Inside, she is transformed into a serpent. A Yamabushi holy man–a leader in Buddhist ritual–is called to perform a series of prayers. The bell is lifted and the demon is repelled from the temple.

“The Legend of the Dōjō-ji” is considered to be one of the most popular Noh plays. Traditionally performed by an all-male cast, masks and costume are essential for the actors to fully take over their roles. Woman roles would boast a soft floral kimono and a white-skinned mask. The Hannya masks would match with an equally fiery outfit and a raging mane of hair. To see a performance of “The Legend of the Dōjō-ji,” click here.

 

Do you see any similarities between the “The Legend of the Dōjō-ji” and our Halloween traditions? Comment what you think below! And remember to have a safe Halloween!

#DocentDive: The “Simple” Furniture Suite

By: Micaela Knox, Public Relations & Marketing Intern

How many pieces of furniture do you own that was bought from a big-box retailer? That furniture might be pleasing to the eye, but how many other people own the same exact pieces? How much thought really went into designing them anyway?

hoffmansuite“The machine has largely replaced the hand and the business-man has supplanted the craftsman,” said Josef Hoffman (1870-1956) in reference to mass-produced goods. “To attempt to stem this torrent would seem like madness.”

Hoffman’s furniture designs seek to promote yet criticize mass-produced art. As a fan of the Arts and Crafts movement, he would find the beauty in a carefully produced piece of furniture, but as a Viennese Secessionist, he treaded the fine line between tradition and modern style. He wanted to enhance the role of the modern artist in the design, not the business of large-scale production.

This “Suite of Furniture: Pair of Armchairs, Table, and Settee”, designed somewhere between 1904 and 1908, is a perfect example of Hoffman’s modern style, which did away with the ornamentation of traditional art and instead focused on the beauty of simplicity. The way he utilizes lines in a geometric form allows eyes to move across and down each piece as one work of art, not only as three seats and a table.

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The suite in the DOMA collection is only one model design by Hoffman. This set of furniture has been in the collection for over 30 years and has felt its years. In 2001, the museum, then named the Ball State Museum of Art, experienced a construction-related fire. The smoke from this fire affected many other works in other parts of the museum, including the Hoffman suite, which was professionally cleaned later in the year. Nevertheless, time has worked its evils on the suite in other ways. The paint on the surface of the table crumbles and cracks.  The color has seen more vibrant days.

“Maybe this piece was his first attempt at this prototype,” wondered docent Ellen Buchanan, who had researched for and led a tour on furniture design on Sept. 28. “Just a baseline without ornamentation for later designs, that would explain the bland color and minimal design.”

She continued to hypothesize, “It’s interesting because mass produced furniture did not become more popular to the masses until the 1940s because of the industrialization from the war. Maybe it was purposefully designed to be simple and affordable to buy.”

Josef Hoffmann Seating Group For Sale

Similar, but more elegant, Hoffman designs are still being sold by collectors today. A handful of chair sets with the same half oval shape are listed for sale online. This beech seating group, also designed during Hoffman’s days at the Wiener Werkstaette (est. 1903), is described as part of the Jugendstil movement, also known as the German Art Nouveau, by the 1stdibs specialists.

 

Initially, I had to beg to differ from those specialists. Art Nouveau is most popularly known for its organic forms. I thought Hoffman’s style emphasizing geometric shape broke from this key characteristic of Art Nouveau, but I had learned that his style instead revolutionized it. According to Rebecca Seiferle on theartstory.org, “the organic shapes contrasted with more abstract and geometric forms to create a more complex dynamism.”

The suite in our exhibits is more than a seemingly mass-produced set of furniture. It is an ode to hand-crafted art and mass-produced products, as it teeters right on the edge of the two.

See the Hoffman suite on display in the Ball Brothers Foundation Gallery.

What do you think of the “Pair of Armchairs, Table, and Settee”? Would you have one of Hoffman’s designs in your home, or stick to building your own big-box furniture? Comment below!

Follow us on Facebook for more #DocentDives and information on upcoming Docent Choice Tours!