Thursday, November 16, 2017

Former Intern Daniel Chamberlin Is Making a Career in Museums

Daniel Chamberlin giving a tour at the Owens-Thomas House, Savannah.

Daniel Chamberlin was a volunteer intern at the Georgia Museum of Art from 2012 to 2014. He worked on numerous projects while here, including with Dale Couch, curator of decorative arts, and with the preparators, helping to mount exhibitions including "Rugs of the Caucasus." For that exhibition, he also wrote materials for its catalogue. We've followed his museum travels since he left here and been proud to see him working first at Hay House, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, in Macon, where he was a museum interpreter, and now in a similar role at the Owens-Thomas House and Telfair Academy, part of the Telfair Museums in Savannah. We asked if he would write something for us on his experience here, and he was kind enough to oblige.

During my time as an intern at the Georgia Museum of Art I was exposed to so many great things I have taken with me into other jobs since that time. Working with Dale Couch as a curatorial intern was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, and he continues to be a mentor to me today. His wealth of knowledge combined with the resources available at the Georgia Museum of Art were invaluable. I not only learned a great deal about object analysis, best museum practices and research methods; but was exposed to both public and private collections giving me innumerable learning opportunities. He introduced me to many other museum professionals within the field, and I continue to maintain those connections today. Through those I have been able to further my own education and career path.
Unlike many student interns, I completed two consecutive internships, and stayed for a second year to work within the preparators' department. The skills I gained during my time working with Todd Rivers and Larry Forte have also proven to be of great worth — from exhibit design to ​various construction methods. Given the chance to design and execute a temporary exhibition, I was able to work directly with curatorial and preparation staff members simultaneously, which gave me such an in-depth and holistic experience. 
All of this has carried me through much of the work I have done since that time. Currently employed by the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia, I am still using those skill sets and knowledge I gleaned within the collections and galleries of the Georgia Museum of Art. I would highly recommend these intern programs to anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in museum work on any level. 
To learn more about internship opportunities at the museum, which are rich in experiential learning, visit our website here

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mickalene Thomas highlights her muses

Mickalene Thomas, La leçon d’amour, 2008. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The word “muse” conjures an image of an ethereal ancient Greek figure, but artist Mickalene Thomas has a different, more grounded set of muses, comprising strong African American women, including her mother, friends and former lovers. Thomas is best known for her large-scale paintings of women, which complicate the art historical representation of female beauty and reconsider tropes around femininity, identity and desire.

Currently based in Brooklyn, Thomas earned her bachelor of fine arts in painting at Pratt Institute in 2000 and a master of fine arts at the Yale University School of Art. She experimented with photography by taking photographs of herself and her mother. For each image, Thomas creates a tableau with furniture and fabrics that the models pose within. She uses stylistic influences from the 1970s, the civil rights movement and second-wave feminism as she puts forward a complex depiction of what it means to be a woman and an expansive definition of beauty.

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia is presenting the exhibition “Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête” through January 7, 2018. More than 40 works by Thomas and artists whose work she has selected are on view.

Thomas’ work both deconstructs and reappropriates art history while it reflects a personal community of inspiration. Her photograph “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires,” for example, reimagines Edouard Manet’s famed painting of a bohemian picnic with three women who are close friends of the artist.

“We are excited about the opportunity to exhibit the work of this cutting-edge contemporary artist,” said Shawnya Harris, the museum’s Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art. “Our audiences will be engaged and fascinated with works that are both accessible and thought provoking.”

Carrie Mae Weems, "Project Row Houses," 2006 – present. © Carrie Mae Weems,
courtesy the artist and Jack Shaman Gallery, New York.
Thomas served as curator of the other artists’ works on display in the exhibition, an installation of work by fellow photographers that includes specific works of art that have inspired her. Artists include Derrick Adams, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems.

This exhibition is organized by Aperture Foundation in New York, a not-for-profit foundation that aims to connect the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work. This exhibition is sponsored by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc., and locally by UGA’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.

Remaining programs related to the exhibition include a Teen Studio program tonight (November 9 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.), which is free and includes a pizza dinner (email or call 706.542.0448 to reserve a spot); Student Night, organized by the Georgia Museum of Art Student Association, also tonight, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; and an Artful Conversation on December 13 at 2 p.m. Several of these programs are in conjunction with UGA’s 2017 Spotlight on the Arts festival.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Spotlight on the Arts Enters Its 6th Year

When UGA started its Spotlight on the Arts festival, it was a much smaller affair, but last year about 23,000 people attended its events. The festival runs November 1 – 12, with events in the literary, performing and visual arts happening all over the UGA campus. Today (November 2) brings the Student Spotlight, on the Tate Student Center Plaza, with theatrical and musical groups performing every 15 minutes until after 4 p.m. It's a great chance to see all the things students in the arts are doing on campus.

Of course, the museum has many events scheduled as part of Spotlight, including the first film in our Americans in Paris film series, "An American in Paris," tonight at 7 p.m. in the M. Smith Griffith Auditorium. Come experience Vincente Minnelli's lavish musical on the big screen, as Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron sing and dance their way around Paris.

Friday, November 3, brings one of our Morning Mindfulness sessions at 9:30 a.m. These free guided mindfulness meditation sessions, held every other Friday during the school year, include a variety of instructor-led meditation, movement and mindfulness techniques. No experience or special clothing is necessary, and we provide meditation pillows or yoga mats. (Reservations are encouraged; please contact 706.542.0448 or Funded in part by the Hemera Foundation.)

We have no special events planned for this Saturday, November 4, when UGA plays South Carolina at home at 3:30 p.m., but we will be open, as we are every home game Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. And Sunday, November 5, at 3 p.m., we'll have a docent-led tour of highlights from the permanent collection. We'll have another tour Wednesday, November 8, at 2 p.m.

On Tuesday, November 7, at 10 a.m., we'll have the latest in our series of Toddler Tuesdays, with a special tour, story time in the galleries and art activities just for little ones. This free, 40-minute program is designed for families with children ages 18 months to 3 years. Space is limited, and registration is full for this session, but you can email or call 706-542-0448 to be placed on the waiting list. 

Toddler Tuesday in action
From November 1 – 7, we're hosting the poster competition part of the 4 minutes, 33 seconds: Spotlight on Scholarship event, in our education resource center, just off the lobby. Stop by to see student research in the arts, then attend the in-person competition in our auditorium on Tuesday, November 7, at 7 p.m., where students have 4 minutes and 33 seconds to present their research and win cash prizes.

Teen Studio attendees will make photography collages
The evening of Thursday, November 9, will be one of our busiest times, with both Teen Studio and Student Night. This edition of the Teen Studio program focuses on the Mickalene Thomas exhibition and runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Teens ages 13 – 18 are invited to this studio-based workshop led by local artist and educator Kristen Bach. The group will spend time in the galleries exploring the work of contemporary artist Mickalene Thomas in the exhibition "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs and tête-à-tête" before creating their own mixed-media works of art using photography and collage. This program is free and includes a pizza dinner, but space is limited. Email or call 706-542-0448 to reserve a spot. 

Student Night is open to all UGA students, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Titled "Exposure: Race, Gender & Sexuality," it also focuses on the Mickalene Thomas exhibition. Thomas’ work focuses on the experience of African American women and the resulting work is vibrant and larger than life— definitely a must see. Come to see the exhibition, then stay for the Polaroid photo booth, collaging, button making, WUOG dj and local eats. Student Night is generously sponsored by the UGA Parents Leadership Council and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. 

Finally, Saturday, November 11, is an away game, which means it's time for the Spotlight on the Arts Family Day. In addition to the museum's monthly Family Day, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon and focuses on color as a theme, and creative writing activities taking place in the museum's education resource center in the afternoon, you can also bring your little ones to the Saturday Morning Club at Hodgson Concert Hall in the Performing Arts Center, an instrument petting zoo at the Community Music School in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music (plus performances by Community Music School attendees), dance performances (inside the music school) and an art carnival all over the Lamar Dodd School of Art. The Taqueria 1785 food truck will be on hand from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

For details on all of these events and the dozens of others all over campus, visit

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Museum Café Is Open

A salad at the Museum Café
 After a few months without a full-time coffee option, the Georgia Museum of Art has opened a new café for all of our caffeine-loving visitors. Operated by the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, the café offers not only coffee, tea and soda, but also a selection of sandwiches, salads, snack boxes, baked goods, snacks and even soup. There are plenty of options for vegetarians or those who are eating gluten-free as well as healthy, fresh choices.
Pastries at the Museum Café
Located on the first floor beside our study area, we find the café allows students and visitors like to find sanctuary in the museum for their studies and projects. The museum café is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (except for UGA home football games, when it is closed but the museum remains open).

The Georgia Museum of Art recognizes that our visitors need a tranquil place to work and study. We strive to make sure that everyone who visits the museum is given a great environment. We aim to make sure each visit is just as good, if not better, than the last. 

Be sure to make a quick stop at the museum café! Feel free to have a coffee and explore the sculpture garden or take a seat at a table and finish that book you’ve been meaning to read. Then, when you’re done, make your way to the second floor and take a look at the art on display.

Marq Norris
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Look into the Life of Louise Blair Daura

Louise Blair Daura's passport from 1927

Imagine leaving your home, family and country right after graduating college and moving to a bustling city halfway across the world. It’s daunting to think about, yet for Louise Blair Daura, the idea of a fresh start was thrilling, so she moved to Paris with her cousin and soon decided to pursue a dream of becoming an artist. She would achieve success during her career, but over time was overlooked and eventually forgotten about, until now. The Georgia Museum of Art is proud to present the exhibition “Louise Blair Daura: A Virginian in Paris.”

Daura was an accomplished artist during her life, exhibiting at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, and frequently received praise from her friends and fellow artists for her work. Why, then, is she so understudied today? The most likely reason is that, after about 1930, she did not exhibit any of her works. It’s unclear why she gave up her career as an artist, but she may have felt out of place in the Parisian art scene. Her husband, Pierre Daura, whom she met and married in Paris, was also an artist, a co-founder of the artists’ group Cercle et Carré. He was supportive of her career and her art (he actually submitted her painting to the Salon), but her figurative work was very different from what he and his friends were producing.

An untitled portrait of Louise Blair Daura's daughter, Martha, from 1930.

Louise did continue to paint after 1930, but she mainly produced art for herself or her friends, including portraits of her daughter. Although she was not painting much at this time, her works were still of high quality and precisely painted. An untitled painting of her infant daughter shows the baby sleeping, wrapped in a floral bed sheet, with her hands clutching the fabric and her face contorted, as if she is deep in a dream. This skill in portrait painting is evident throughout her career, as in “Self portrait with Mantilla.” The mantilla, a traditional Spanish lace shawl worn over the head, is painted with precision, and Louise depicts herself in a stoic manner. She wrote about refusing to idealize her acquaintances, or herself, for their own pride. Both of these works can be seen in the exhibition.

Louise Blair Daura, "Self-portrait with Mantilla," ca. 1929. Oil on canvas, 24 x 15 inches.
Musée d’art Hyacinthe Rigaud, Perpignan, 

The exhibition is not only noteworthy because it examines a lesser-known artist, but also because its exhibition catalogue publishes the letters Louise Blair Daura wrote to her family in the United States, from the time she arrived in Europe until the end of 1930. These letters give an intimate look into her life: from her soirees with prominent artists to her travels around France and Spain and the joyous birth of her daughter, her letters leave the reader feeling as if they were a close friend of hers. The letters also illustrate what life was like for an American in Paris at this time.

The exhibition is up through December 10 at the museum, after which it will travel to the Daura Gallery at Lynchburg College, Virginia. Remaining programs include a Family Day this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, Museum Mix (tonight from 8 to 11 p.m.), and a Film Series on Americans in Paris, beginning November 2.

Stephanie Motter
Intern, Department of Communications

Friday, October 13, 2017

Extreme Makeover: Database Edition

Remember the last time you went to the Georgia Museum of Art?

The refreshingly cool foyer? Being greeted by the front desk security guard? You then made your way upstairs and into the galleries to admire the art. How many works of art do you remember seeing? Fifty? One hundred? Two hundred? The museum has about 500 works on display at any given time—only 5 percent of its total collection. The museum is proud that its permanent collection now consists of more than 12,000 works of art from a wide range of cultures and artists, and it does its best to rotate what is on display regularly, but limited gallery space means it can only display a small fraction of what it owns. That’s where the museum’s registrars have been hard at work.

Over the past few years, the registrars have been implementing a new collections database. This new database replaces the old DOS-based database, which was built in the 1980s and only accessible to some museum staff. The new database, called The Museum System (TMS), is online, and information on more than 2,400 works of art is now accessible to the public, with more being added every day. TMS will not only allow the public to explore the full collection, but will also greatly aid scholars and faculty in their research.

Head registrar Tricia Miller is particularly enthusiastic about the public’s access to the new database, saying, “Better access to information about the museum’s collection is one of the Georgia Museum of Art’s primary goals, and we are so pleased to reach this milestone in the process. I look forward to continuing to make more information about the collection available for students, faculty, scholars and the public to enjoy.”

The process of transferring the information from both the old database and from paper files to the new database is intricate. Basic data transferred from the previous system—such as title, date, artist, medium and dimensions—must be reviewed and corrected for each record before it can be made available to the public. In addition, relevant metadata, such as subject, country of origin or style of art will be added to the records in order to enhance the system’s search capabilities. The process may take several more years before all 12,000 records are made public, but the registrars work every day to make more records available. Additionally, all newly acquired objects will be added to the system on an ongoing basis.

Not everything in the system has a photograph attached to it. The registrars have been taking snapshots of new objects when they enter the collection for some years, but many works that were acquired earlier have not been imaged. It is the registrars’ hope to find funding to document the entire collection photographically at some point.

The public can access TMS through the collections page on the museum’s website (, which presents several options. You may view collections of highlighted works (African, American, European, Asian and decorative arts for now). You may view the works by category (print, painting, drawing, photograph, etc.). You may view all works alphabetically, by date or by object number, if you just want to browse. You can also search a word—for example, “bird,” which will return works relating to birds. These specifications are what make this new database so efficient, cutting out the need to spend hours going through files to find exactly what you may be looking for.

Another revolutionary function of TMS is that it allows visitors to sign in and create a folder of their favorite images, called “My Collection.” This feature allows people to play curator, creating their own online “exhibition” and forging a personal connection to the collection. These collections can be kept private or made public to share with other users on the site.

So the next time you find yourself mindlessly surfing the Internet, take a minute to examine the new database. You may find a work that inspires you, examine the career of a local artist or bask in the glory of a master of American impressionism. You never know what you’ll find.

Stephanie Motter
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Art of Giving: Beard Scholars at the Georgia Museum of Art

(left to right) Joseph Litts, Linda Beard, Victoria Ramsay and Larry Beard

The stereotype of southerners is that they move, think and speak slowly, but people who think that haven’t met Dale Couch. Come to the offices of the Georgia Museum of Art any day and you will see Couch, the museum’s curator of decorative arts, practically running around the museum, talking a mile a minute. Recently, Couch has been accompanied by two people just as lively as he is: the museum’s new Beard Scholars, Joseph Litts and Victoria Ramsay.

Earlier this year, Drs. Linda and Larry Beard—major supporters of the Georgia Museum of Art and its decorative arts initiative—made a commitment to establish this scholarship as a paid position for undergraduate interns in the museum’s Henry D. Green Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts. Linda Beard is a member of the museum’s Decorative Arts Advisory Committee and the Executive Committee of its Board of Advisors. She is also a distinguished collector and connoisseur of Belleek porcelain, and works from her collection are on long-term loan to the museum, where they constitute a popular display. Professor Larry Beard is also a scholar of the arts and is an able associate in the Beards’ quest to improve the learning experience in the decorative arts.

Beard Scholar Joseph Litts discusses a chair
Litts and Ramsay are the first students to receive the scholarship, which runs through the 2017–18 academic year. Both of them have demonstrated a strong commitment to the study of the decorative arts. The field focuses on useful objects (furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles et al.) that transcend their function through design, craft, ornament or inherent beauty.

The Beards said, “It is an honor and privilege for us to encourage the work and research of outstanding students in the decorative arts. These scholars represent the absolute best of those students who are passionate about the arts. Their work and aspirations bode well for the future of the decorative arts.”

Litts previously studied history as an undergraduate student at Clemson University. He interned at the museum in the summer of 2015. In the summer of 2016, he attended the summer institute at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, an in-depth, practice-based program that focuses on the decorative arts and material culture of the early American South. Ramsay is an undergraduate UGA student majoring in English and history, with an emphasis on British and Irish studies. She attended the University of Georgia at Oxford program, at Trinity College, for 6 weeks this summer studying English literature. 

Beard Scholar Victoria Ramsay shows
Linda and Larry Beard some of her work

As Beard Scholars, Litts and Ramsay are tasked with a variety of responsibilities, from visiting donors to digging through antiques shops to writing research articles. The program fosters a more intensely educational, hands-on experience than they would get in a classroom alone. 

When asked what he hopes they will gain from this position, Couch says, “I hope they realize that following a passionate interest gives fulfillment to life. This program exists first to educate and enrich lives of students, not solely to train future curators. I would be delighted to have my interns go on to be lawyers, professors, stay-at-home mothers and fathers, businesspeople. Good design gives rise to conscious living.”

Litts and Ramsay believe that the scholarship will benefit them by providing an enriching educational experience that allows them to be fully invested in their work. Ramsay said, “This internship has made me realize things about myself that I wouldn’t have
known before. I have found what I am truly passionate about and what I want
to work toward in the future.” Both Beard Scholars have decided to attend graduate school. Litts will be studying art history and Ramsay will study English with the intent of becoming either a professor or an archivist. They advise anyone who has interest in the program and the decorative arts to apply for the Beard Scholarship.

The importance of the Beard Scholarship cannot be emphasized enough. Director of development Heather Malcom said, “The Beard Scholarship establishes the first paid internship position for undergraduates at the museum and serves as a model for programs of its kind that help remove barriers and open doors for talented students. It provides opportunities for students to do original research on material culture that helps tell stories about our shared history and environment. And it will go a long way toward creating and diversifying the next generation of scholars in the decorative arts.”

Information about how to apply for this scholarship and other experiential-learning-focused internships at the museum is available at

Stephanie Motter
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Serving UGA Students Through Experiential Learning

Sarah Dotson in the Met galleries

Hi there. My name is Sarah, and I graduated from the University of Georgia last May. During my senior year, I interned at the Georgia Museum of Art in the publications department in order to evaluate whether or not a job in museum publishing would perfect for me – as a lover (and student) of both English and art history, it seemed to be ideal. As it turns out, it was. As the imminent approach of graduation put existential pressure on seniors across the country, I began applying for jobs, internships and other post-grad opportunities that would allow me to move to New York City and begin a career in the arts. 

Much to my excitement and surprise, I landed an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its publications department as part of the summer MuSe program. To apply, I wrote a few essays, provided both academic and occupational references, and interviewed with the people who would soon become my supervisors. I can say with absolute certainty that I have never felt more prepared or qualified for an interview in my life. It was almost surreal finishing an interview and knowing that I didn’t have to come up with irrelevant anecdotes out of thin air to illustrate relevant skills. I had concrete examples of the projects I had been involved in at the museum, and I knew the work I was doing was actually contributing to the progress of various museum publications. 

I sat with Hillary Brown, the director of communications and my supervisor at the Georgia Museum of Art, before my interview to prepare. It was immediately clear that, by trusting me with image acquisition work, blogging, writing press releases, transcribing interviews and updating the museum’s various calendars, the museum had given me the chance to develop many skills that would appeal to my interviewers. I felt challenged but always supported by Hillary as well as by staff in other departments during my time at the museum. 

My time at the museum taught me a tremendous amount…not just about museum publishing, but also about how a museum functions as a whole, office etiquette and which shoes echo the loudest in quiet galleries (Hint: the shoes you think will echo the loudest absolutely do. Heels, heavy boots and dress shoes.)

It is easy to say I built a strong foundation at the Georgia Museum of Art that will allow me to continue pursuing work in my three different areas of occupational interest: museums, publishing and the arts. I think that is one of the ways in which I feel my internship was most helpful – I left knowing that the skills I developed were transferrable between different fields. While understanding the ins-and-outs of how to acquire image rights to reproduce photographs of an artist’s work may be specific to a job in museum publishing, learning about interdepartmental communication, project management and writing for various audiences are skills that will be helpful throughout my career, wherever it takes me. I am reaping the benefits already as I shift from my summer in publishing at the Met to online art news publishing at a company called Artsy. I’ve approached both endeavors nervously but with tremendous excitement, knowing that my experience at the Georgia Museum of Art prepared me for both. 

It is almost impossible to list all of the many ways in which the year I spent at the Georgia Museum of Art helped me reach my ultimate post-grad goal. Above all, I left my internship there knowing that I had an incredible, supportive, intelligent, artistic community behind me cheering me on as I graduated college, moved across the country and started a new job. I am so thankful for everyone at the museum, for the integral role it plays in the Athens community and for all of the inspiring works it houses. I encourage and recommend students to take advantage of the many opportunities the museum offers during their time at UGA, from internships to Museum Mix and everything in between. 

Sarah Dotson (UGA '17)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Intuition and Intimacy: An Art Student Reflects on Drawing

William H. Johnson, "Musicmakers," 1926.

When I began to study art at the undergraduate level, I didn't know that drawing seems to be misunderstood by the general public as an area of art restricted to studies and incomplete ideas. I couldn’t comprehend why gestures made in graphite, charcoal or pastels didn’t command the same respect as those made in oil, acrylic or tempera. In my mind, drawing was always a separate but equal companion to painting. I realized that that idea was part of the modern era’s growing appreciation for a look into the artist’s inner thoughts and feelings, and things had not always been that way. 

Many drawings do maintain a documentary, eyewitness approach, which is why they have historically been viewed as studies, but by the turn of the 20th century, the popularity of drawing improved, and artists began to create with an understanding of the potential for public viewing. With artists’ acknowledging the public, it’s much easier to understand how highly polished and refined drawing can be seen as a substantial art form, but even solely functional studies offer as much intrigue and insight as the lauded masters’ paintings. 

When considering various qualities that make a work of art valuable to its viewers, drawings have the potential to be more accessible than painting and just as rewarding: how the elements of a drawing are arranged for compounded meaning, how its formal qualities inflect conceptual purpose, how it expresses sentiment and vulnerability, how its means and method influence the subject, how it inspires and amazes, how its textures and line-work satisfy the soul, how it gets at this bare-bones, core component of art that is sharing one’s life through intended visual experience. 

I’m not proposing that the drawings Edward Hopper did in preparation for "Nighthawks" (1942) deserve the same critical attention as the finished work, but they are just as fascinating to me, and the painting wouldn’t have been as successful without them. Dry media is highly conducive to spontaneous mark-making, so drawing can be a valuable tool for inquiry and exploration, discovery and innovation. 

In a relatively brief and recent span of art history, we have begun to value when striated marks and impulsive flicks of the wrist evince an artist's intuition because those marks heighten the intimacy one feels with the artist. The reason I decided to focus on drawing for my bachelor of fine arts degree (in progress at the Lamar Dodd School of Art) is because it allows raw ideas and emotions to flow quickly and easily. I saw it as an open-ended discipline in the contemporary art world ripe for exploration. 

Similarly inspired by the insightful “pictures of the artist’s mind and method, his or her sensibilitá,” a young Giuliano Ceseri, living just outside Florence in the mid-20th century, was collecting art when he was only 14 years old, eventually pursuing his talents to become a gallerist. In 1995, he placed about 1,500 of those works on long-term loan to the Georgia Museum of Art, and although the collection is dominated by Renaissance-era drawings, the exhibition "Modern Masters from the Giuliano Ceseri Collection" shows works from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The collection shows the diverse ways artists use drawing in their practice, and it offers an opportunity to observe their discoveries and unique intuition by means of the raw expression present in their mark-making. One such work that encompasses the many ways drawings demand respect akin to painting is William H. Johnson’s "Musicmakers" (1926). Drawn in graphite on paper, it shows that the artist's primary goal was to work out the composition and lighting: the standing figures’ heads are cropped and the angles of the highlights dominate the eye’s movement. It’s easy to focus on the imperfections of the work, but inquisitive drawings have the potential to inspire and amaze even when they have technical flaws. Just look at that genius in the middle figure’s right shoe, the crook of that same man’s left arm, the guitar player’s nimble fingers – those 3-second impulses evince skill found only after a lifetime of practice. 

Many artists can craft a beautifully illusive drawing of a hand, but only a few can describe the essence of something so visually complex in the duration of an impulse. One of the things I love most about drawing is its immediacy and conduciveness for intuition, and graphite is particularly transparent and revealing. I can reasonably guess that Johnson first tackled the gestural line work with the bodies loosely arranged and the heads reduced to simple ovals. Then he selectively darkened the primary contours and gradually added value with directional marks, heightening the contrast as he continued. Last, he probably added in the detailed flourishes on the face, hands and wrinkled clothing. The contrast between the steady and diligent work on the faces and the rapid marks on the body is especially effective at guiding the eye. 

The highlight of the work for me is the woman’s dress, with its rhythmic folds that show the effortless sweeping motion of Johnson’s pencil. In it, you can see how the layers previously mentioned have been built up. The figures’ postures seem significant and purposeful, yet the empty spaces speak as much as the figures. Johnson’s use of space in his paintings is very block-like, but the spaces in the drawing are activated with texture. How might it affect our interpretation to see that the figures aren’t so two-dimensional? Whereas Johnson's paintings are reductive, with heightened symbolism, this elaborate drawing seems to say more about the artist than his subjects. 

We all have different tastes in art, so I charge you to consider what you value and appreciate most when perusing an exhibition, and then consider how drawings relate to those values. “Modern Masters from the Giuliano Ceseri Collection” is currently on display at the museum through November 12, so be sure to explore, discover, observe and reflect while you have the chance.

Ben Thrash
Intern, Communications

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Featured Publication: "Black Belt Color: Photographs by Jerry Siegel"

"Black Belt Color: Photographs by Jerry Siegel" is one of the newest books the museum has published. It accompanies a traveling exhibition of the same name for which we're trying to find venues (please let us know if you're interested in seeing the prospectus). The book focuses on the photography of Selma, Alabama, native Jerry Siegel, who has lived and worked in Atlanta for years but keeps returning to the place where he was born to document its places and people.

A couple of weeks ago, the Bitter Southerner and ArtsATL partnered to produce two great pieces on the book and on Siegel's work. The photo essay at the Bitter Southerner can be found here, if you missed it. Stephanie Dowda interviewed Siegel for ArtsATL here.

Our curator of American art Sarah Kate Gillespie selected the images for "Black Belt Color" and worked on creating some very deliberate pairings and groupings in the book, highlighting the narratives inherent in the images. Our director, William U. Eiland, who is from Sprott, Alabama, not far from Selma, wrote a fantastic essay for it, contextualizing Siegel's work. It also includes a transcription of a long interview with Siegel and a brief essay by the late Mary Ward Brown, a famed Alabama author and a close friend of Siegel's.
Watch the video below for another brief chat with Jerry Siegel, a look inside the book and some close-ups of some of the images it includes. Communications intern Jinsui Li created the video, and she did a great job.

"Black Belt Color: Photographs by Jerry Siegel" includes more than 60 color photographs, including seven fold-out panoramas. Hardcover; 123 pp.; $30 ISBN: 978-1-946657-00-8 You can order it by calling 706.542.0450 or online at the Museum Shop via UGA Marketplace and