The Fusion of Art and Story – How Ekphrastic Exercises Teach Art Appreciation

Written by: Guest contributor Tori Smith, a sophomore at Ball State University studying journalism

As a child, Lorette Luzajic recalls asking her mother to stay at the library for the day instead of attending a birthday party. She sat in the library, fascinated by all the works of literature around her, especially biographies. She learned about Vincent Van Gogh, mesmerized that he continued to make art throughout his hospitalization in a mental asylum.

“I romanticized the stories of the artists,” said Luzajic, a Canada-based artist. “I created this world about me with like-spirits. They were creative and experienced things that I did. These people created things regardless of their dark side.”

Luzajic grew up immersed in writing, literature and art. She wanted a more practical way to showcase her creativity, so she earned a degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto in 2000. Although Luzajic enjoyed the creativity of journalism, she didn’t enjoy the pressures.

“You don’t have 10 months to finish a project. It’s due tomorrow,” she said. “But since I was there, I had to finish. I already paid. But I thought I would become an artist instead.”

Lorette Luzajic photographed by Moshe Sakal

Luzajic explored creative ways to blend writing and art and learned about “ekphrasis,” or the verbal representation of a real or fictitious text composed in a non-verbal sign system. Traditional ekphrasis includes three elements: A scene or story (fictitious or real), a representation of that scene or story in visual form (painting, photograph, carving, sculpture, film, dance, music), and a rendering of that representation in poetic language.

Although Luzajic agrees that examining art through ekphrasis is fun, it brings the creative a sense of community.

“This approach takes you to people who live in a whole different culture; it brings you into communion with both you doing something divine,” Luzajic said. “Even though it’s you thinking about yourself and your own experience, you’re tapping in with the artist.”

Luzajic says the process of ekphrasis can happen through music, art and literature.

“You can connect at any time, not just while writing.” Luzajic said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a hymn or a Katy Perry song, something strikes you. You don’t think of it at the time, but it’s art magic.”

How Ball State uses ekphrasis to teach art appreciation

Elizabeth Dalton, a professor of honors humanities at Ball State, teaches ekphrastic exercises in her classes. Dalton specializes in Western humanities, with a focus on visual and literature arts.

One of the ekphrastic exercises she assigns requires students to write a response to a piece of art on view in the David Owsley Museum of Art.

“My goal is for them to get into the art,” Dalton said. “I want them to know it’s for them. Not only the hoity-toity people. They are perfectly capable of understanding what’s going on in the museum.”

Dalton instructs her students to go to DOMA and sit with an object for a specified amount of time. Then, they must create a work of ekphrasis after the experience.

“I don’t care what they write,” said Dalton, who specializes in Western humanities, with a focus on visual and literary arts. “I just want them to have an access point to the object.”

Sophomore Hannah Allen has been in two of Dalton’s classes that engaged in ekphrasis work.

“She was the first professor who introduced it to me,” Allen said. “She tells you to go, sit down and look at a piece of art, but not the label. It’s very therapeutic.”

Allen said that it’s a different writing exercise that she normally wouldn’t do in her other classes.

“Researching can be very analytical, and you don’t get to appreciate the art that much,” Allen said. “This way, you think about your feelings. You deal with what it is more than what it physically is.”

Allen recalls two classmates who explored the same piece of artwork with different outcomes” “It was interesting because the two people looked at it in different contexts,” she said. “One looked at it mythologically, and the other looked at relations of what the love in the piece might have in relation to today’s pieces.”

Although ekphrastic writing and artwork may be new to many, it’s developed quite a following – in part due to Luzajic.

Shortly after graduating, Luzajic created a small zine with a few colleagues. Although it was fun, it was very disorganized, Luzajic said. The journal was called Idea Factory, but there’s not a lot of money involved with running a journal.

“I’ve always loved working with journals or start-ups,” she said. “I got a taste of being able to call artists and writers. I really enjoyed that community.”

Luzajic worked as an artist after graduating and still does today. But in 2015, she was missing the community of an online journal. So, she created a second, more organized online journal to showcase ekphrastic works, titled the Ekphrastic Review.

The journal started in July 2015.

“I didn’t think I was going to start a journal, but to have a place where I can print something or maybe just see if other people write this kind of stuff,” Luzajic said. “It was like having a portal in my mind where I would put what I loved out there.”

Fast forward seven years, and the Ekphrastic Review has a readership of 4,000-8,000 a month.

Luzajic contributes 80 volunteer hours a month toward the journal, which offers workshops, contests and a podcast. Luzajic said she had 900 submissions in her email inbox waiting to be reviewed.

“I want people to feel free to participate, this is a community.” she said. “This is not for me, this is your work, it saves your life. It brings joy to the world. It’s for spreading the word.”

The Ekphrastic Review accepts ekphrastic small fiction, flash fiction, micro fiction, prose, poetry, hybrid forms, book reviews, author interviews and profiles.

Luzajic agrees with Allen that ekphrasis is therapeutic.

“It gives you an outlet,” she said. “It helps you recognize the small beauties of the day as it does the dramatic storms.”

Luzajic says that ekphrastic writing can be particularly helpful when switching your thoughts to something you’re not thinking about.

“As soon as you ponder something, you’re putting your focus there,” she added. “All things that swirl in your brain will come to the paper.”

Although Luzajic receives an incredible amount of submissions, she’s only able to publish about 5% of them due to the selective process.

“For one exercise, we received 50 to 300 submissions for one painting,” Luzajic said. “Those are all taken for just one work of art. It boggles my mind.”

Luzajic can’t believe the quality of writing the journal receives, she said.

“I love all poetry. But, something like alchemy happens. They do even better work when this inspiration happens,” said Luzajic. “It’s extraordinary work. It’s magical.”

If you’re interesting in reading or submitting ekphrastic work, visit https://www.ekphrastic.net/.

As always, thank you for reading the DOMA Insider! DOMA is free and open to the public; we are open Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Check out our website at https://www.bsu.edu/doma.

Tiles Tell a Tale of Beneficence

By: Sophie Edens, Public Relations & Marketing Intern

 

During the final event to celebrate Ball State’s Centennial on Friday, June 14, President Geoffrey Mearns unveiled a work of art created for Ball State University by artists in the community. This was done by the Muncie Artists Guild.

Each artist and guild member created an 18-by-18-inch panel that, when all 24 are combined, form the Beneficence Mural. Currently, the future home of the Beneficence Mural has yet to be determined. A campus-wide email was sent, asking Ball State University students where they believed the mural of Beneficence should be placed. It won’t be till later this summer that President Mearns will announce the mural’s future location.

For those unfamiliar with the beloved Beneficence who watches over the students of Ball State University, she is a bronze statue on the campus of Ball State University, located in Muncie, Indiana. She was created by Daniel Chester French in 1937.

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She is lovingly referred to as Benny by students. She is an angel with outspread wings, her hand extended to the viewer. She symbolizes the generosity of the five Ball brothers whose land donation to the state of Indiana allowed Ball State to flourish.

Tiles have been used for quite some time as decoration, such as interior and exterior design. Functionally, tiles have been used for flooring and walls. Artistically, tiles can be used to tell stories or portray an idea. It is a different method of portrayal.

For example, on display in the blue room of the John J. and Angeline Pruis Gallery by the elevator, you will see a series of decorative tiles. One appears as a starfish, another of birds, one with eyes, a sun, and guitars — the artwork on these glazed tiles were designed by Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí was commissioned by Maurice Duchin Inc. to design a series of tile images for production. Dalí reused themes from various paintings as he created his designs.

Dalí’s tile designs told a story. But Dali’s are not the only decorative tiles that can be found in the museum.

If you venture into the Frank and Rosemary Ball Gallery, the Edmund F. Petty Gallery, or the Margaret Ball Petty Corridor by Recital Hall, you will see some decorative wall tiles! American artist and educator Emest A. Batchelder designed these glazed tiles during the construction between 1924 and 1935.

These individual tiles depict Medieval and European Renaissance subjects, including birds, other animals, sailboats, and historical figures. Figures such as helmeted soldiers and graceful peacocks grace these relief tiles.

Somewhat surprisingly, many people ask about these tiles. It took me a while before I noticed them or regarded them as more than decoration. However, they can tell a story of their own.

So what do these tiles of Beneficence tell us?

She is a beloved symbol of our Ball State University, and a shining icon of our proud past and the bright future!

The new tile-mural shows the views of the artists as they thought of Beneficence, and how they should portray her. Everything from the color to the angle and the season shown depicts the story of Beneficence and what she means to the campus.

Tuesday, June 25th was the final day for people to cast their votes on where they believed Beneficence would best be placed. Exactly one month later on Thursday, July 25th, President Mearns sent another email announcing the forever home of the Beneficence Mural.

The mural will be installed in the first floor of the Art and Journalism Building (AJ), between the south entrance and The Atrium food court. AJ—also home to Ball State’s bookstore, an art gallery, and multiple academic programs—is a high-traffic area that will result in maximum exposure for the Beneficence Mural. Here, it can be admired by all. Over the course of the next few weeks, staff members will be installing the mural in its new home.

ART: You’ll Be Glad You Came

 

61272405_2759475130760451_7209580739275259904_nBy: Jalynn Madison, Public Relations & Marketing Intern

College can be a stressful time for students. Between worrying about your GPA, graduation, and deciding on your next steps in life, it’s not surprising that summer break is sought after and well spent. But instead of spending money on a vacation across the country, why not de-stress and relax closer to home at DOMA?

Visiting an art museum can give you the same mental relaxation effects as going on a vacation. If you’ve ever been in nature and felt relaxed, then you have experienced Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART). ART is a psychological theory that states that being exposed to nature can improve our focus and ability to concentrate. It continues to explain that nature is a restorative environment because it allows us to be away from our stressors, engages us in soft fascination, provides comfort, and it is compatible with our interests.

With those qualities in mind, DOMA can also be considered a restorative environment. If you are stressed with work or life in general (because, trust me, we’ve all been there), strolling through our galleries and exhibitions can get you away from your stressors and provide you with a sense of fascination at the art we have on display. If you are someone who enjoys looking at art, DOMA is compatible with your interests and we encourage you to take your time and get comfortable while browsing through the collections.

Come explore Impressions of Love: J. Ottis and Winifred Brady Adams, an Extended Exhibition of Selected Works in the Brown Study Room through August.

You could also come on Tuesday, July 9th, for Connecting Through Art, an interactive art experience led by the DOMA education team. Join DOMA interns, docents, and staff for informal art conversations as we look at and discuss selected artworks using some recommended museum education methods. This event is free and open to the public, suitable for all ages, and no art experience required. Meet in the Sculpture Court at 12pm!

Why not enjoy your summer in a less conventional and more constructive way? Our free quiet museum will have you relaxed in no time — you’ll be glad you came.

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.

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

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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.