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

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Art in Focus: A Brief Self-Guided Tour

An Art in Focus tour in action
Going through a museum can be intimidating. People fear that they might seem ignorant by misinterpreting a painting or worry that they lack the knowledge to appreciate a work of art. Even those who have studied art can feel lost among many works in a gallery. Monstrous canvases can engulf you. Intricately painted details can astound you. Vivid colors can overwhelm you. Docent-led tours are one way to experience art in a museum, but your schedule may not always fit with the ones we offer (every Wednesday at 2 p.m., plus one Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon a month). 
Another Art in Focus tour

To help, the Georgia Museum of Art’s education department has created a series of brief self-guided tours, called Art in Focus. Art in Focus tours are available printed on cards that visitors can pick up just outside the museum’s permanent collection galleries, on a long desk near the stained-glass window of St. George and the dragon. Each one focuses on a different topic, including African American artists, a director’s tour, women artists and a guide for kids. The education department chose these topics to highlight different collections at the museum and to introduce lesser known artists or works of art in a playful way. Each tour highlights five works of art on display that relate to the topic and includes a mix of biographical and art historical information, communicated in simple, straightforward language. Educators and curators carefully selected the works included on the self-guided tours to help visitors make connections to works of art and to lead them through the galleries.

The reopening of the permanent collection galleries after their complete reinstallation during the summer of 2016 inspired the tours. Callan Steinmann, associate curator of education, said, “I’d wanted to create self-guided materials for a while, but decided to wait for the permanent collection reopening to launch them. Now that the galleries have more wall text and contextual information to help orient visitors as they move through the galleries, people can really get a lot more out of their visit even if they don’t have a tour guide.” 

Educators and their interns worked on the content for the guides during the reinstallation, and they were rolled out recently. Steinmann says they plan to add a few new guides every year to correspond with the works being shown in the galleries and to switch up the topics of the tours. They’re currently working on a few new ideas, so visit the museum soon and keep your eyes peeled for new mini-tours. 

Stephanie Motter
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Staff Spotlight: The Poetic Talents of Chevelyn Curtis

Chevelyn Curtis

If you’ve ever explored the Georgia Museum of Art, chances are that you’ve seen Chevelyn Curtis countless times. Although she often comes off as shy and reserved, those who know her know that she has a great sense of humor as well as a contagious smile to go with it. Her friendly personality allows anyone around her to feel comfortable and welcome. Chevelyn has been working at the museum for years, first as a part-time security guard and now as a full-time security guard. Recently, she created her own blog to showcase her poetry: Chevelyn was kind enough to sit down with us and give us some backstory about her writing and experiences.

How long have you been writing poetry?

I started in my sophomore year in high school, so about… 13 years? I don’t write as much as I used to though. I’m always busy.

Reading your poetry, we see that a few of them seem to revolve around the theme of love. Do you often hesitate to post something so intimate online?

Not really. This is actually the first time that I’ve actually posted anything online. I’ve entered contests—I never won—but every poem that I sent in has been published in a book. I’m pretty used to my work being out there for the public to see.

Some people use poetry as an outlet. There’s no denying that putting your heart on a sheet of paper can result in so much relief, whether emotional or mental. Is that why you write?

Yes. I was teased a lot so, I reached a breaking point and almost thought about committing suicide. I found writing—and the fun thing is that it was a school assignment, and I ended up liking it. I was able to write off the top of my head. I didn’t need to think about it. 

On your site, the first thing you see is a headline that reads: “My Love for Poetry Will Hopefully Inspire You in Some Way.” If you desire that readers take something away from your writing, what do you want it to be?

I’m hoping that it’ll inspire people to write more and express themselves. If my poem could help them in any way, I’m all for that too. Actually, I do have a poem about being teased that I will be posting soon.

Does being a security guard for the Georgia Museum of Art fuel your artistic side? I imagine that poets would love to be around beautiful art because both serve to tell stories.

Honestly, no. I do like the paintings we have here, but they don’t really inspire me or fuel me to write.

Is it hard for you to be so vulnerable on paper and then to upload your innermost thoughts for even strangers to see? Does that kind of courage come naturally to you? Or is it something you had to work toward?

I’m definitely still working on that. I’m very shy and I’m like… the quiet one. Unless I’m comfortable around you. Then I’m a completely different person. This takes a lot of courage because it took me a long time to actually act on this. I’ve been thinking about making a blog for the longest. 

In your biography on your website, you thank viewers for making your dreams come true. What exactly are your dreams and aspirations?

Well, my main goal was to publish a book of my poems. However, I kept hitting roadblocks with that because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to get it done and I didn’t have the money for it anyway. So that’s when the blog idea popped into my head. But my goal, in short, is to just get my poetry out there. The only downside to writing my own book would be the book tours and reading in front of people. I hate public speaking.

On your blog in your introduction page, you mention that you’ve endured bullying. Thankfully, you found writing. What advice do you have to people who also endure hardships that you’ve endured?

Well, I couldn’t escape harassment because I got it at school and at home. I didn’t have an outlet, and one day I told my mom about the assignment and she just told me to write what I felt. Doing that really helped, so I would say, “find an outlet.” You can write, draw, or sing… Do whatever you can to get it out.

Marq Norris
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jason Hubbard Is Making a Living Work of Art

Jason Hubbard poses in his garden with the Horace Farlowe sculpture

For those who have walked along the south side of the Georgia Museum of Art over the past years, you might have noticed a dead and forgotten patch of land transform into a lush and calming garden niche. At the heart of that transformation is Jason Hubbard of UGA's Facilities Management Division, a true gardener if there ever was one. He has been digging in the dirt for more than 18 years, and it’s apparent he tends to his gardens with the utmost care, making sure to meet the specific needs of each plant. You can often find him in a broad-brimmed, straw hat, enveloped in his garden searching for weeds or taking a break to talk plants with home gardeners who pass by.

At one point, Jason only managed the giant circular pots by the main entrance, but 4 years ago he noticed an abandoned space just around the corner and took the initiative to rehabilitate it. The first step was to remove a dying dogwood and nurse another back to health. Then he began transferring perennials from other locations on campus where the foliage might have been too thick. Over the years, he has developed the garden with minimal budget, only receiving funds for nursery-born plants last fall. For Jason, little gardens like this one are his opportunity to contribute the greatest good. 

As a conscientious gardener, he keeps the space mostly organic except for a well-considered dose of pesticides on occasion. With the prevalence of concrete in mind, Jason has made a pollinator habitat so that vital pollinators like bees, wasps and hummingbirds have a sort of oasis. He considers what kinds of birds and insects certain plants cater to, and when discussing the give and take of pesticides with him, it becomes evident that the garden is a delicately balanced environment. That balance was enhanced this past summer with the installation of a marble sculpture by Horace Farlowe, a past UGA professor who made significant contributions to the growth of the sculpture department (you can find out more about that sculpture here). Jason’s garden proved to be an ideal location for the sculpture’s debut at the museum. He coordinated with the concrete pourers for the optimal location, and in the spring he will have the opportunity to uproot and reorganize plants to frame the new centerpiece.

Ben Thrash interviewing Jason Hubbard
Once just a patch of mulch, a beautiful garden now accompanies the museum’s southern entrance. It is with the utmost gratitude that we thank Jason Hubbard for his care and initiative in transforming the space. What used to be a common and forgettable corner has now become activated and lively, so if you happen to see a man in a straw hat when you walk by, be sure and stop to say thanks!

Benjamin Thrash
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, August 17, 2017

From the Publications Office: Using the Study Centers

When you're reading a book, you probably don't think too much about where all the materials in it came from or how they were compiled. A large part of the process of creating something visually exciting for you to hold in your hands consists of tracking down material to illustrate the final result. Sometimes (a lot of times, in fact) that means contacting museums and other lenders to get them to supply high-resolution photographs of works of art. But what if you have a book that's mostly text? How do you give it some visual flair? A lot of that is up to the graphic designer, and the Georgia Museum of Art works with many talented freelance designers, who have won countless awards for their projects with us. In the case of "Louise Blair Daura: A Virginian in Paris" (which opens at the end of September and has a large book to accompany it), we were lucky enough to have the Pierre Daura Study Center close at hand.

The study center includes an amazing trove of material produced by both Pierre Daura and his American wife, Louise Blair Daura, the focus of this upcoming exhibition. The book will include her letters home from Paris to her family in Virginia written from 1928 to 1930, giving wonderful and witty insight on the art and social scene of the time. It also makes use of family photographs in the archive, Louise's creative projects (valentines, for example) and even passports, as in the snapshots here. We wanted some of the script font in the book to resemble Louise's actual signature, which can be small or blurry or written in an abbreviated form in the letters. A passport is a perfect place to get a nice, clear signature.

Other times, as with the image above, Louise makes reference in her letters to a drawing, so we needed to pull the actual letters and scan them to extract her sketches. Going through these pages and family photos gives one an even better feel for the daily life of these people than reading about them in a book, but we're doing our best to capture that feel for everyone who reads the final product.

The contents of the archive are listed through the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, online. To make an appointment to use the archive, you can call the museum's main line, at 706.542.4662 or email

Thursday, August 10, 2017


A new UGA student at orientation

As usual, the museum's department of communications had a busy summer. While much of UGA slows down from May to early August, and a good parking space is easy to find in downtown Athens, the university also runs orientation for the thousands of freshmen, transfer students and graduate students who will start classes next week. We want them at least to know the museum exists, so we show up and work a table at every orientation session: 15 for freshmen, 4 for transfer students, 1 for graduate students, 1 for international students and 1 for new faculty.

Our lovely volunteer with our Snapchat poster

We spent much of the summer hauling around our red wagon filled with copies of Facet, a tablecloth, a pop-up banner and our brand-new trifold brochure aimed at attracting people to the building (you can look for the latter at the Athens Welcome Center, the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau and welcome centers around the state). Some times were slow, and we had a chance to observe the latest in 18-year-old fashion or enjoy some quality time with Corny the corn snake, who accompanies the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources to some sessions. We made new friends, both among the new students and among our fellow tablers. Other times were busy, and we got to deliver our spiel about the museum to dozens of people streaming by our table. We hope some of it sunk in. If students can remember that there's a museum on campus, we're doing our job.

We also decorated a dorm room, for the third year in a row. University Housing puts a call out for different departments on campus to spruce up its tour rooms during orientation, so they don't look as spartan. We always have fun trying to make our room look lived in but attractive, and our placement in Building 1516, which is just down the street from the museum, helps us make our case that students should get out and experience everything UGA has to offer. We're eager for the start of the new academic year, and with students moving into the dorms this week, we've already seen an uptick in foot traffic. We know we're not the first to say it, but welcome, new folks!

The museum's dorm room in Building 1516

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Morning Mindfulness Program Is a Zen-sation

A Morning Mindfulness class taking place in the galleries

A monk, a professor of human development and family science and an assistant curator of education walk into an art gallery. While this scenario may sound like the introduction to an atrocious joke, it has happened at the Georgia Museum of Art as part of a program called Morning Mindfulness that recently received a grant from the Hemera Foundation.

Morning Mindfulness is organized by the education department at the Georgia Museum of Art. The secular program leads participants on a journey through different contemplative techniques including mindfulness, meditation, reflection and yoga, all of which take place in the museum’s galleries. No experience is necessary, no special attire is needed, and yoga mats and meditation pillows are provided. The event is free and open to the public, although reservations are encouraged (at 706.542.0448 or

Each program is led by an experienced instructor who might incorporate specific works of art or simply focus on a specific contemplative practice. Morning Mindfulness participants include university students, professors, community members and museum staff. Each program attracts around 20 to 40 people, including both new faces and regulars.

The program was started in 2015 in collaboration with Dr. Jerry Gale, a professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and has since grown and also received state and national attention, recently winning the 2017 Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries Education Program Award.

The Hemera Foundation is a philanthropic organization interested in supporting human growth and well-being. It generously provides funds to programs and research that relate to the intersection of contemplative practices and the arts, like Morning Mindfulness. The grant the museum received was part of a cohort of grants the Hemera Foundation provided to museums in an effort to support the growing number of museum programs nationwide that incorporate contemplative practices into their educational programming. At the Georgia Museum of Art, the grant will help support current the mindfulness program, as well as additional workshops and events. It will also send museum staff to a conference in September facilitated by Hemera. The conference brings together museum professionals from across the United States who run mindfulness programs to share best practices and future opportunities for contemplative art education.

Assistant curator of education Sage Kincaid, who manages the program and will attend the conference in September, said, “The main goal of Morning Mindfulness is to encourage museum visitors to slow down and take time to focus on being in the present moment. By spending uninterrupted time in the museum’s galleries, many participants find that they have more satisfying experiences with works of art, feel calmer and learn techniques that are useful in our busy lives.”

If you find yourself stressed during the school year due to classes, work or whatever else is going on in your life, do yourself a favor and check out Morning Mindfulness, which starts up again on August 25 at 9:30 a.m. It could be just the break you need.

Stephanie Motter
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, July 27, 2017

New Acquisitions: Sculpture by Horace Farlowe

Horace Farlowe, "Tennessee Cut."

In 2013, the Georgia Museum of Art acquired “Tennessee Cut,” a pink marble sculpture measuring 28 by 23 by 20 inches carved by artist and former University of Georgia professor Horace Farlowe (1933–2006). Previously tucked into a hidden garden at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, where Scott Simpson of the Office of University Architects noticed it, the sculpture has found new life at the museum thanks to Robert Jarrell (b. 1963), an artist and former student of Farlowe’s; deputy director Annelies Mondi; preparators Todd Rivers and Elizabeth Howe; and Rebecca Salem, an undergraduate preparatory intern.

Simpson emailed Mondi to suggest that the Conference Center might be willing to transfer ownership of the sculpture to the museum, which it did. Mondi, who also took one course with Farlowe, and remembers him as a “patient and mild-mannered human being,” then consulted with Jarrell to restore and display the sculpture in a way that captured Farlowe’s intention for the piece and celebrated his legacy at the university. Located in a small garden to the right of the side entrance of the museum, the sculpture now faces the Lamar Dodd School of Art, connecting Farlowe’s professional and artistic careers and echoing his conviction that “Life and Art are the same thing.”

“Tennessee Cut” is part of Farlowe’s window series, so it was important that the piece be placed at a height to allow both adult and young visitors to look through to the other side, as well as that it frame a good view from either side. The sculpture now rests on a smooth, square concrete plinth poured carefully by Dave Lawson of the Facilities Management Division. Farlowe worked mostly in stone, and his sculptures, towering up to 17 feet tall, can be seen in Spain, Germany, Italy, Scotland and all over the United States. According to Jack Kehoe, one of his colleagues in the art department, the prominence of the marble-carving program at the university can be attributed to Farlowe’s skill and passion as an artist and teacher.

Horace Farlowe, untitled.

Farlowe’s work appeared in several exhibitions at the museum during his lifetime, including “City on a Hill: 20 Years of Art at Cortona” (1989). The museum also owns a small untitled example of his work, also in marble, that was a gift of Margaret Leary (GMOA 2016.250). Farlowe gave Leary the sculpture after they worked together on a site-memorial entry to commemorate the World Trade Center towers.

Martha Wilde
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Art Adventures Inspires Future Designers

Sage Kincaid, assistant curator of education, works with a YWCO group on a gallery tour during Art Adventures.

Every Wednesday and Thursday this summer, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., children came to the Georgia Museum of Art to get inspired by the work of designer Giò Ponti on a 90-minute journey to Italy. They were participating in Art Adventures, the museum’s annual free summer program. Art Adventures runs every June and July, encouraging focused engagement with works of art and a studio art activity that builds on children’s experiences in the galleries. Day camps, day cares and community centers take advantage of it, bringing about 600 elementary-school-aged children to the museum in the summer months.

Art Adventures has a different theme every year. This summer, informed by the exhibition “Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design,” it focused on modern design and how we use design in our everyday lives. Children took an interactive tour of the exhibition, led by museum education staff and interns. Examples of gallery activities included looking for elements of art in Ponti’s designs, imagining how furniture functions in different settings and thinking about their own style by listening to examples of Italian music while learning about the work.

Art Adventurers design and create their tiles.
After the tour, kids created their own works of art, using their new knowledge of art and design. Thinking about the patterns and colors they saw in the exhibition for inspiration, they tried out different colors and shapes. and practiced using new art materials. Once they felt ready, they created colorful patterns on a ceramic tile using tissue paper and a clear glaze. Students cut and tore tissue paper and layered it to explore patterns, transparency and colors on the tile. When they finished, they each had a beautiful tile with a unique design.

An Art Adventurer with her finished tile.
“I’m always so inspired by kids’ creativity and their imagination.” said Sage Kincaid, the museum’s assistant curator of education. “Our goal for this program is to engage children with the exhibition and help them feel connected and interested in not just the works of art and the museum, but also their own and classmates’ reactions and thoughts about what they are seeing.”

Jinsui Li
Intern, Department of Communications