Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fire and Ice: Student Night


Nothing says “college” like free food and dancing; however, despite an abundance of ice pops and beats by Athens favorite DJ Mahogany, the heart of last Thursday’s Student Night at the museum lay in exposing students to the museum’s current exhibitions and opportunities. The theme was “Fire and Ice”: a concept inspired by Ann Bonfoey Taylor’s fiery passion for fashion in the snowy world of professional skiing. Her fusion of the two interests was displayed in “Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor,” the exhibition open to students throughout the event.
            The event itself was organized and executed by the Georgia Museum of Art Student Association, a collection of individuals committed to increasing the presence of art on campus and the presence of a student voice within the museum. The Association, led by museum intern Eva Berlin, holds at least one Student Night event a semester (the next will occur November 7). The collective presence of the student group is influential in drawing students to the museum and exciting interest in art and museum functions. 
            Along with the DJ and buffet table, the event offered interactive activities like crafts and photo booths that continued the theme. Visitors tested their creativity while decorating candle-holders as either fire or ice themed—the best example of each was given a prize. Meanwhile, others participated in a scavenger hunt to explore the galleries and win prizes. As for the photo booth, the Kodak moments made with props and costumes were prize enough. (Click here to see the pictures taken!)
            If you were unfortunate enough to miss out on Thursday’s good time, don’t stress: the Student Association is currently planning November’s Student Night, which will highlight the upcoming exhibition “Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great (1762-1796.”   


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Fashion Independent Events

The Georgia Museum of Art is showing a fashion film series that goes arm in arm with the exhibition “Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor.” up until September 15. Taylor wore many hats—sportswoman, socialite, pilot, designer—but it is her renowned fashion style that is on display. The exhibition consists of Taylor’s personal, custom-made wardrobe, which is highlighted by the three documentary fashion films that are being featured in the museum’s M. Smith Griffith Auditorium. The first film, “Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution,” was presented on August 29, but there are still two amazing fashion documentaries to be seen! The movies are free and open to the public, and will be screened at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 and Sept. 12.

Both films offer a glimpse into the world of fashion—an industry filled with creativity, beauty, competition and intrigue—but focus on different parts of the multifaceted realm of style and beauty. One film peers into the modeling industry, and the other portrays the life and mind of a prominent fashion icon.

On Sept. 5, the museum will show “Girl Model,” a documentary that follows two people involved in the fashion industry: Ashley, a deeply ambivalent model scout who scours the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces to send to the Japanese market, and one of her discoveries, Nadya, a 13-year-old plucked from her Siberian home and dropped into the center of Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. The two rarely meet again, but their stories are inextricable. As Nadya’s optimism about rescuing her family from their financial difficulties grows, her dreams contrast with Ashley’s jaded view of the industry’s corrosive influence.

The final movie being featured in the fashion film series is “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” which will be presented Sept. 12. This documentary is an intimate portrait and a vibrant celebration of one of the most influential women of the 20th century, an enduring icon who has had a strong influence on the course of fashion, beauty, publishing and culture.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pick of the Kiln: The Work of Michael Simon

The Georgia Museum of Art is honored to host the exhibition “Pick of the Kiln: The Work of Michael Simon” through Sept. 8, 2013.

Simon was born and raised in Minnesota, where he attended the University of Minnesota and studied under the nationally acclaimed potter Warren MacKenzie. He left for Georgia in 1970—moving into a pottery commune just outside of Athens called Happy Valley—and received his master of fine arts degree in ceramics from the University of Georgia in 1981.

Simon used a salt kiln to fire his pots, a technique that creates a translucent glaze along the pottery and gives it a varying surface. When the salt is exposed to the high temperatures of the kiln, it releases the gases chlorine and sodium. The sodium is attracted to the clay pottery and bonds to it, making a distinctive and beautiful glaze. One of the amazing things about this technique is that you never know exactly what you are going to get; the gases move around the kiln, and the surface of each pot varies based on how much the piece was exposed to the salt’s gases. The process was exciting for Simon, and he was always eager to see how each load would turn out, saying, “I had a peek hole, and I could tell how the whole kiln load would turn out based on looking at that one pot in front of the hole. . . . I never stopped doing that.” But though this technique remained the same, his art continued subtly to change and grow over the years.

Starting in the mid-1980s, Simon began to keep one pottery piece from every kiln load he fired—saving the pick of the kiln, so to speak. During a tour of the exhibition, Simon spoke about how he chose each pot: “I picked a pot from each kiln load, not necessarily because it was the best, but because I wanted to remember it. . . . It was dynamic.” He might base his choice on the glaze of the pot or a motif that he particularly liked or something else that caught his eye. Though not always the “best,” the pieces were those that most accurately represented his shifting views, influences and interests as an artist. These select pots—the same ones in the exhibition—record Simon’s career as a potter and show the evolution of his art.

Dale Couch, curator of decorative arts at the museum, said, “It provides the opportunity to fathom a leading ceramic artist’s view of his own work as it develops over time. Caroline Maddox (the museum’s director of development and the curator of the exhibition), in collaboration with Michael, has selected a body of work that is metaphorically like an archaeological trench: it simultaneously reveals the chronology of his work and the creative consciousness of the artist. These are brilliant examples of modern craft.”

Simon’s pottery is functional art—pots that can be used and not just admired, though each piece’s beauty is great enough to stand on its own. He says, “I knew that I wanted to make pottery that people could use. . . . There’s something very touching about that.” He made cups, plates, bowls, teapots and the like, but he is most known for his outstanding Persian jars.

Though Simon insists that the motifs and designs on his pottery are only there to complement his ceramic work, each one is gorgeous in its own right. The images seem simple at first, the pots usually decorated with animals or geometric figures, but one immediately notices the fluid elegance of the shape and design; the art is endearing, charming and beautiful. Simon is able to unite form and pattern to create some of the most amazing and striking pottery in the United States, and his love for potting shows in every one of his pieces.

Each pot in the exhibition is a work of art, but the show is not really about the individual pots. The pieces as a whole represent Simon’s career in making pottery and how he and his art have evolved. Simon has said, “Change proceeds slowly and subtly, but the growth carries on and is most satisfying. The real significance of years of potting can be found in the way one pot leads to the next. Slow progress comes into view in the development of the work in total, not in the beauty of any one pot. There is no end.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Leadership Without Limits!

Last month, the Georgia Museum of Art was thrilled to partner with Leadership ¡Sin Limites! (LSL), a University of Georgia J.W. Fanning Institute statewide youth leadership program for high school students, ages 15 to 18, interested in Latino culture and building leadership skills. LSL, a seven day program, focuses on offering students a cohesive understanding of issues surrounding today’s Latino populations, as well as a concentration on individual leadership styles and how to effect change in their home communities. The Fanning Institute collaborates with several academic and student affairs departments to create a college campus experience for the participants, including the museum.

The 20 participants, along with five UGA college mentors, visited the museum for a 2-hour special program to gain insight into fine arts and self-expression. The first part of the workshop consisted of a tour of the galleries, with a special focus on portraiture. After an introduction to portraits as viewers, the group was challenged to apply their new knowledge and become artists themselves. The group explored how symbols and other non-written mediums could contribute to nontraditional representation and applied these concepts to create their own collage portraits.

The museum’s staff is more than enthusiastic to participate in a program so closely paralleled with its own mission: to support and promote teaching, research and service.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Art Adventures!

This summer, the Georgia Museum of Art holds host to groups of bite size detectives—art detectives that is. The theme of this summer’s Art Adventures, a program for larger groups such as day camps or day-care centers, is Museum Mysteries. In the interactive, educational program designed by previous intern Caroline Warner, local elementary-school-aged children learn how to answer questions about art and even create some of their own.

The young investigators begin their adventure with an interactive tour of objects in the museum’s permanent collection, where they will answer questions such as “who,” “what,” “when” and “where.” Docents, members of the education department and education interns lead the tours with an interrogative theme in attempts to engage the kids; props, signs and duplications of the art also help maintain interest. While collaborating on what seems like simple questions, the kids are essentially learning how to interpret and evaluate art.

After the tour, the group walks together to the classroom, where the education department has set up pieces of fabric and supplies for kids to create their own individual works of art based on the questions asked during the tour. After everyone completes their fabric art, the pieces are put together to create a collaborative object for the group’s classroom or community center.          

Watching the young sleuths apply what they learned—how to ask and answer questions about art—to their own crafts is evidence of their education. The program will run through June and July.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

GMOA Docents

Every Wednesday at 2 p.m., one of the museum’s 24 active docents leads a tour of the permanent and temporary exhibition galleries. Volunteers range from students to retirees but share a love of art and people. Although no formal experience is required, volunteers are required to go through an application and interview process, and typically maintain a personal interest in art. They then make a minimum two-year commitment to represent the museum by giving tours, among other activities. The first year consists solely of a training program that continues throughout their relationship with the docent program. During this first year, volunteers learn tour techniques, shadow experienced docents and eventually practice their own tours. Because tours bring in a variety of visitors, this time and practice allow docents to be flexible enough to alter and adjust tours to suit the visitors’ needs.
Julia Sanks, a veteran docent at the museum, quickly realized that a small group of two young boys and their mother would appreciate a different approach to the typical “Tour at Two” than a larger, adult audience. Sanks smoothly set her more in-depth notes aside and engaged the young visitors by asking them to verbalize their responses and observations. After close to 11 years of affiliation with the museum, Sanks is comfortable molding herself to the needs of her audience.

“I’ve been here for around 11 years, but all docents, including myself, have to commit to training every week; there is always more to learn,” said Sanks.

Kitty Donnan utilized this same flexibility when she gave a tour of the permanent and temporary galleries to around 15 visitors from Hong Kong, China. Donnan gave an eloquent synopsis of art composition and history; because the visitors were interested in local history, she also drew attention to local artists and subjects like George Cooke’s “Tallulah Falls” and a self-portrait of Lamar Dodd. As an avid traveler, Donnan easily connected with the group not only as an art enthusiast, but also as a visitor to Hong Kong. She has traveled to places like the Louvre in Paris and the Vatican, although her favorite visit was to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Donnan looks forward to the exhibition “Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great,” and its display of Russian art.

Docents don’t always wait for visitors to come to the museum. Docents participate in “suitcase tours,” an outreach program that caters to grades K-3 in the Athens-Clarke County area. These programs consist of volunteers literally packing up a suitcase of art reproductions, games and interactive activities to evoke students’ interest in art. On a more social level, some docents also choose to participate in the docent book club, which meets once a month to discuss books relating to art and art history. Both activities reflect the heart of the program, which consists of a love of art and a desire to share it.

For students interested in becoming docents, Carissa DiCindio, curator of education, will be teaching the special topics course ARED 5230/7230: Engaging Art Museum Audiences as Student Docents in the fall. The course will not only focus on the museum’s collections, but also on the complexities of art interpretation and how to facilitate interaction and dialogue within tours. The one-year commitment for students includes a semester of training within the course and a semester of participation at the museum. The special topics course will frequently be held in the galleries to encourage comfort and familiarity with the collection. 

Those interested in becoming a student or community docent should visit the GMOA website for more information: