Thursday, June 29, 2017

Athens Middle-Schoolers Interpret Art through Hip-Hop and More

If you visited the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia on a Tuesday afternoon this June, you might have heard someone rapping about women’s empowerment. The museum’s lobby can be quiet during the summer, when UGA’s enrollment is much lower than during the spring and fall semesters, but the middle-schoolers from Camp DIVE have been doing their best to fill it with life and noise.

Student work produced at the museum with Camp DIVE

Camp DIVE — which stands for discover, inquire, voice, and explore — provides local, underserved youth in Athens with a month-long free learning experience. This partnership among the Clarke County School District, the University of Georgia College of Education and the Athens-Clarke County community is meant to combat summer slide, or the tendency for students to lose progress made during the previous school year. Camp DIVE not only serves Athens youth, but also allows UGA students to engage with the community and gain hands-on experience working with children.

 The museum’s partnership with Camp DIVE has focused on art and poetry. About two dozen middle-school students enrolled in the camp visit the museum every Tuesday to make connections between visual art and creating their own literature. Associate professor Ruth Harman and assistant professor Kevin Burke, both in the UGA College of Education’s department of language and literacy education, have been working with museum educators and local poets to create an enriching experience for their young students. Burke’s graduate students in language and literacy have been working directly with the campers.

Student work produced at the museum with Camp DIVE

As the students and their instructors arrive at the museum, the lobby fills with happy voices. Half of them head to the galleries to draw inspiration from the works of art on display there while the others work on their projects. One group of students has created a rap about women and empowerment; another student has painted her own version of Everett Shinn’s early-20th-century painting of a ballerina.

Student work produced at the museum with Camp DIVE
The museum’s curator of education, Carissa DiCindio, said, “We hope that the middle school students are inspired by the works of art and make connections to their lives through art making and poetry. We want them to feel at home in the museum.”

Mariah Parker, a graduate student in UGA’s linguistics program who both studies and performs hip hop (under the name Lingua Franca), also emphasized how important the program is with making students comfortable in the museum, saying, “This is a casual introduction to a space that can be very intimidating.”

The program is supported by the Aralee Strange Fund for Art and Poetry endowment, created by Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher, longtime residents of Athens who are both actively involved in their community. Most recently, they helped make the documentary film “Athens in Our Lifetimes,” which covers the city’s evolution over six decades. To honor their friend Aralee Strange, they provided the endowment to fund the Art and Poetry project to cultivate an appreciation for the arts in Athens youth.

Aralee Strange was no stranger to the arts. She was an illustrious poet, filmmaker and playwright who moved to Athens in 2007 after developing her career in New York and Cincinnati. Strange founded the monthly open poetry forum Word of Mouth, which welcomed local Athenians and strangers alike to participate in a night of poetic prose. Strange died in 2013 at the age of 69.

The idea behind the project is that its students will create poetry, performance and visual art that reflects their community and investigates connections among these art forms. It also serves as an experiential-learning initiative for UGA students, connecting them with the Athens community and letting them see how art fosters literary development and civic engagement in youth.

The campers will present and display their work at the museum tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. at a reception that is free and open to the public.

Stephanie Motter
Communications Intern

Thursday, June 22, 2017

From the Publications Office: Art of the Press Check

Spreads from "Black Belt Color: Photographs by Jerry Siegel" at press check with Friesens, Canada.

In an ever more digital age, fewer and fewer people understand the printing process and how, exactly, it works. Press checks — where a representative from a publisher tweaks and approves every page in a book coming off a printing press — are less common than they used to be, but for color-critical publications (like exhibition catalogues) they can make a big difference. I traveled all the way up to Altona, Manitoba, Canada, recently to do a press check at Friesens, a printer that the museum has used for years. Friesens prints a lot of art books, but the Georgia Museum of Art’s latest publication, “Black Belt Color: Photographs by Jerry Siegel,” needed some special care.

Most people don’t realize that, even when you get proofs from a printer, those pages aren’t always produced on the same machine that will print the final job. Soft proofing, or proofing on a computer screen only, isn’t recommended for color-critical publications. “Wet proofs,” which do come off the actual press, are less common and much more expensive. Even then, printing is as much an art as a science. Friesens has a color profile that graphic designers apply both to individual images and to the final files for a book, which, in theory, tells the computers that run the press exactly how to match the intended color. But specific papers, even white ones, can have a slightly different tone—one that’s a little more blue or more red—and those tiny differences can affect the final result. The Epson proofs that the publisher typically receives to check color try to match the effects of paper tone, but they’re run on what is essentially a big, fancy inkjet printer.

The big four-color press, on the other hand, stretches the length of a room, with, in the simplest cases, one plate each for cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink (watch this one-minute video to see how it works). Together, those four colors can produce a big section of the visible spectrum, but they can’t capture everything, and sometimes tinkering is necessary on press to match the Epson proofs to the client’s satisfaction.

It’s more complicated than just getting a single image right, though. Books are printed in signatures, or chunks of pages divisible by four, and “Black Belt Color: Photographs by Jerry Siegel” was printed in 16-page signatures, meaning usually groups of 16 images at a time. The larger the signature, the more financially efficient a book can be to print because it means fewer sheets run through the press.

Cyan, magenta, yellow and black can be tweaked from levels of 0 to 100 in columns that run the vertical length of the large sheet of paper. At the same time, too much ink on the page will look muddy, not accurate and it won’t dry, either. If one image out of 16 has sections that seem to have too much red, you can’t just reduce the magenta for the entire press sheet, or other images may be negatively affected. Getting every image on the sheet to reproduce as accurately as possible can require creative thinking as well as a good eye for color and a knowledge of how the process works.

Hillary Brown
Director of Communications

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan

F. Townsend Morgan, Untitled (harbor scene), n.d., etching on paper
The exhibition “Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan,” curated by independent scholar Stephen Goldfarb, begins this Saturday, June 17, and will be on view through Sunday, September 10. The exhibition highlights the work of F. Townsend Morgan, who created many prints of the places he lived in and the objects around him. Forty prints of sailboats, architecture and natural beauty will be on display.

Morgan F. Townsend and family in Key West, Florida. ca 1940.
Image: State Archives of Florida
F. Townsend Morgan grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and studied at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League. The title of the exhibition comes from a writing of Morgan’s, who wrote that he pursued art as an avocation—or hobby— which eventually turned into employment. He developed his style while living in Pennsylvania with Joseph Pennell, a fellow artist and friend of famed artist James McNeill Whistler. After the Great Depression, Morgan focused on perfecting his craft and turning it into a career to support his family. He found work in New Deal art programs for several years; Morgan moved to Key West through a Federal Relief Agency and worked as director of the Key West Community Art Center in 1941. Morgan eventually moved to Annapolis, Maryland, and received the post of artist-in-residence at St. John’s College from 1948 through 1950.

Morgan’s prints focused on the architecture and nature of the many places he lived and visited including Maryland, Orlando, and Louisville. He especially enjoyed making prints of sailboats, which particularly caught the eye of Goldfarb, who said, “Morgan’s boats are in a tradition that, at least to my eye, goes back to Turner by way of Joseph Pennell and Whistler. I particularly like the dark ships against the water and atmosphere, which is rendered with very little ink, so the original color of the paper shows through. A sort of ‘less-is-more’ aesthetic.”

F. Townsend Morgan, "Covered Bridge," n.d., etching on cream paper

Morgan achieved many accomplishments in his life; he was chosen to make the stamp for the tercentenary celebration of Annapolis and he won several awards for his prints. His works can be seen today in collections at the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and the Treasury Department of the United States. He had several exhibitions during his life, but “Avocation to Vocation: Prints by F. Townsend Morgan” is the first exhibition to focus entirely on his work since his death. Goldfarb hopes that this exhibition teaches visitors that many artists of the past deserve to be remembered and that they are a part of history. Goldfarb said, “Many of the artists that I am interested in did not join the movement to abstraction and other modernist movements after World War II and for that reason have been, like Morgan, all but forgotten by art historians, as well as the collecting public. Exhibitions like this one could reverse that trend.”

Programs related to the exhibition of Morgan’s work include a film series focusing on Key West (“Reap the Wild Wind,” “Key Largo” and “Matinee”), starting June 22; 90 Carlton: Summer, the museum’s quarterly reception (free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, $5 for nonmembers) on July 28 at 5:30 p.m.; and public tours on August 23 at 2 p.m. and September 10 at 3 p.m. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

Stephanie Motter
Communications Intern

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design

“Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design” opens this Saturday, June 10, and will be on view through Sunday, September 17th. The exhibition focuses on furniture and decorative objects by Giò Ponti, an Italian designer and architect, whose iconic career spanned almost 60 years. The Georgia Museum of Art has also published an accompanying full-color catalogue written by curator Perri Lee Roberts, available now at the Museum Shop.

Giò Ponti, chest of drawers, ca. 1955
Ponti’s work combines traditional and modern techniques and materials, a rarity in Italian design at the time. He promoted new concepts of modern living and influenced the public’s ideals on design by exposing them to works from the United States and Europe as well as his own works. Ponti aimed to modernize the Italian manufacturing process and promote the artistic design of industrial products. This artistic design can be found in a plethora of Ponti’s creations, from ceramics, to glassware, and even a coffee pot he designed.

Giò Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, Madrepore table and four armchairs, ca. 1950
Ponti’s attention to detail and design can be seen in his and Piero Fornasetti’s design  known as the Madrepore dining suite. The “dining suite” consists of four beautifully crafted chairs and a large, bowl-shaped table. The entire set is a captivating robin egg blue; the table is made of a lithograph transfer-print and lacquered wood, brass, glass and silk. The lithograph print is of stony coral (madrepore in Italian) and covers the top, sides and legs of the table. The top of the table mimics a tide pool with its concave base covered by a piece of glass, as if while sitting at the table, you were given a secret glimpse of a tide pool full of the fauna of the ocean. This attention to detail is what makes Ponti’s work so intriguing and influential.

Exhibition catalogue available
now at the Museum Shop.
“The most resistant element is not wood, is not stone, is not steel, is not glass. The most resistant element in building is art. Let’s make something very beautiful.”

Ponti’s influence is still prevalent today. In Milan, his Pirelli skyscraper stands tall among classical and modern structures. His Via Dezza chair, created for his own home, is still produced by Molteni & C, an Italian furniture company. Retailers are mass-producing silverware sets with his design. The combination of art and design is what makes Ponti’s works so relevant. Ponti said, “The most resistant element is not wood, is not stone, is not steel, is not glass. The most resistant element in building is art. Let’s make something very beautiful.” Ponti’s works are timeless and elegant, sleek and practical; they combine the beauty of art with the stability of architecture and furniture. It’s no wonder Giò Ponti is known as the father of modern Italian design.

Stephanie Motter
Communications Intern

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Ed Tant Retires After Seventeen Years

Walk into the Georgia Museum of Art any day and you will see a security guard with long, white hair. This man, Ed Tant, is well known by visitors and staff alike for his wry humor and dedication to his job. He has become almost a permanent fixture at the museum, so many people are surprised to hear of his upcoming retirement. We are extremely thankful for his time here and will miss him greatly. Be sure to stop by and say hello to Ed before he retires on Thursday, June 22! We met with Ed to discuss his time here and hear what advice he had to share.

Ed in the Byrnece Purcell Knox Swanson Gallery.
Clockwise from top, the works behind him are by Ben Shahn,
Paul Cadmus and Jacob Lawrence. Image: Stephanie Motter
How many years have you been working here?

Almost 17. I started in August 2000.

What did you do before you joined the museum?

I worked for eight years at Book Peddlers [a bookstore located here in Athens].

What have you learned after being a security guard at a museum? 

I’ve learned that my job is to protect art from art lovers. Most people don’t mean any harm, but they forget how sensitive art is and get too close or touch the works.

How is working security at a museum different than other places? 

If you work museum security it’s easier, other places have to deal with other problems like shoplifting. I like the peace and quiet of the museum, it’s calming.

What is your favorite memory from the museum? 

The kids on Family Day are fun to see enjoying the museum, and I enjoy meeting the artists. I’ve been in Athens since 1972, and I visited the museum back then. It’s been interesting to see the change of location and extension of the museum. I miss the north campus location, but I like that this museum is bigger and shows off more works of art.

What is a normal day like at the museum?

There is no normal day; expect the unexpected, predict the unpredictable. Some days you think it will be slower than others and then, out of nowhere, a bus full of people will pull up to the museum.

Security staff photo. Ed Tant (front, center right) is retiring
after 17 years at  the museum. Image: Michael Lachowski

Has working in a museum given you a greater appreciation for art?

I’ve always appreciated and been interested in art. I enjoy listening to the tours and learning more about the works; learning things you may not see at first glance.

What’s something you want people to know about security guards? 

We are here to protect the art. We really don’t want people to touch works because we want works that have survived hundred of years to be enjoyed by people for another hundred years. I believe everybody should work in museum security at some point in their lives; to walk a mile in our shoes. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen while working here? 

Art never quits; when you think you’ve seen it all, something new comes up. It’s also cool to see people come in uninterested but then find something they like. We’ve got something for everybody.

What do you plan on doing after retiring?

I don’t have much planned. I’ve never missed a day of work in 25 years, so I’ll enjoy relaxing for a change. I do plan on coming back and visiting the museum, but only as a guest.

What’s the biggest misconception about your job?

People think security guards are mean; people disparage security guards. We are trying to protect the art and preserve it for future generations. Security guards are more important than people think; a security guard discovered Watergate [a major political scandal during the Nixon era]. We really enjoy what we do.

What advice do you have for museum visitors? 

Do not touch the works or stand so close, and take time to enjoy the museum.

Interview by Stephanie Motter, Communications Intern