Archive for October, 2010

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Eight: Character Study

Halloween is just around the corner. These works of art capture the theme of costume and disguise. Ghosts and gobblins may abound this holiday, but these creative characters—Ichikawa Danjuro VI as Arakawa Taro and the ghoulish mask design by Edward Jennings—should inspire you to think (or dress) outside the box. Give us some candy—Caption This!

Thanks to all who have participated in our contest! Week Eight will be your last opportunity to win free admission to the Gibbes and a chance at a facial from The Spa at Charleston Place.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

Performance and role-playing has been explored through portraiture since the fifteenth century. Here, Toshusai Sharaku captures Japanese kabuki theater actor, Ichikawa Danjuro VI, playing the dramatic role of Arakawa Taro. Danjuro was one of the chief actors among the most famous kabuki acting clans. He was seventeen at the time of this portrait. Much like Hollywood actors in America today, famous theater actors in Japan were idolized by the people, and portraits of the actors in character sold by the thousands.

Centuries later, artist and stage designer, Edward Jennings, used his theatrical portrait designs for a more personal purpose. From his paintings he created wire and papier-mâché masks to portray dramatic characters. His designs exemplify the intense subjects he produced. Jennings was born with a severe speech impediment and it was from behind these masks that he was able to reveal his dramatic personality. He is known to have performed interpretive dances for groups of friends crowned with his creations.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Poets in Schools Find Inspiration at the Gibbes

Poets in Schools students from Burke High School visit the Gibbes Museum.
Poets in Schools students from Burke High School visit the Gibbes Museum.

Last year, 50 students from Burke High School, many of whom had never been to the Gibbes or any other art museum, spilled out of a bus on a December morning, toting legal pads and pencils. Two hours later they left with a thick stack of stories and poems inspired by paintings and sculptures. Some wrote as much as five pages.

Getting students to write poetry about art (the term is ekphrastic poetry, but you have to find a pretty big dictionary to find it), involves more than just letting them loose in the museum and telling them to “use their imaginations.”

The first thing I tell kids is I don’t want them to try and come up with right answers. Don’t try and guess what the painting is about or what the artist thought. I want you to write something only you can write.

I usually like to start at a portrait. I ask a series of leading questions. What’s this girl’s name? Where does she live? What sort of smells are in the air? What’s she holding behind her back? What sounds? And name names: don’t just say she hears music, name a song. Of all the exercises I do, these kinds of stories are often some of the longest. It’s fine if kids get carried away and stop listening to my questions, that’s the point.

With a painting like The Green Fan by Robert Henri, the last thing I hope to see are stories about a fourteen-year-old who lives in Toledo, Spain. So much better to read Ariona Moten’s story about Benita from Argentina, on the run from police:

      “In her left hand, she holds small scissors to cut her hair so she can disguise herself.

I like to do Color Poems next, which are trickier. Sit most people in front of an abstract painting and ask them what the colors mean to them, you get a lot of stock answers—green grass and angry reds—even from children, who can be great, uninhibited poets. But if you can get them in the right mindset, maybe ask them to really stare at the painting till they see something they hadn’t seen before, then till they see something that’s not even there, you get lines like Jessika Washington’s:

      “Orange can be tricky like the seeds in a watermelon.

I’ve written with thousands of kids, and I have a lot of prompts ranging from bananas to Beethoven. But I got my start in writing workshops at the Gibbes, as a poet-in-residence in the Poets and Painters program. I’ve always loved the way the art and the architecture of the museum can instantly change a kid’s attitude towards his own work. Besides last year’s annual trip by Burke, which was led by poets Richard Garcia, Marjory Wentworth and myself, I bring five sessions of my summer writing camp to the museum. Sessions are a week long, and the Gibbes trip on Wednesdays are often the days heretofore reticent writers break out of their shells, or strong writers explode with creativity.

I believe in high expectations, and coming here with kids, it’s as though the collection is pushing the young talents to dig a little deeper. There’s a Picasso or Jasper Johns on the wall, but you’re here now, with your pencil, so what would you like to create? What’s something that only you can write?

Jonathan Sanchez, guest blogger

Jonathan Sanchez is the director of the Poets in Schools at Burke High School, a program of the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (LILA), which is under the auspices of the College of Charleston. Each year, Jonathan and fellow writers lead workshops in the fall and compile a book of poems and stores. Volume four, So-Called Whisper, was just released and features eight paintings from the Gibbes which were on display last fall when the Burke students visited. Visit Blue Bicycle Books to learn more.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Seven: The TaTa Sisterhood

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we propose this pair of nudes from our Face Lift exhibition: on the left, Iaida, by Isabel Cohen Doud and on the right, Nude Woman and Vase of Flowers: Miss Thompson, by Clarence H. White. Although captured in different media and settings, both portraits express the beauty of the female figure. Caption This! (and keep it clean!)

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective
The female figure has remained a constant feature in modern and contemporary art. Here, early twentieth century artists, Clarence H. White, and Isabel Cohen Doud, explore the female nude in their chosen mediums.

Clarence H. White burst on the national scene in the late 1890s, in the first wave of modernist art photography. After opening his own school of photography in New York in 1914, he became one of the most influential photography teachers of the twentieth century. His students included Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, and Karl Stuss. White’s simple subjects, captured in old fashioned, decorative interiors, were transformed into photographic art using only natural light.

Isabel Cohen Doud, daughter of prominent attorney Asher Cohen, grew up in Charleston and attended the College of Charleston. She studied drawing and painting under the tutelage of several French teachers and focused primarily on figure studies and outdoor venues. Doud attended the Art Students League of New York and later moved to Rome to study portrait and figure work. While in Rome, she married fellow painter, Gorda Doud. The couple traveled and painted extensively in Rome, Canada, and New York.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Six: I Spy

In these self portraits, the artists turn the tables and become their own subjects. Let the unusual and somewhat comedic compositions inspire you to “Caption This!”

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

Like all portraiture, self-portraiture serves many purposes, from advertisements for an artist’s skill to experimentation with new techniques and new mediums. Most of all self-portraiture provides artists a unique opportunity for introspection and self-exploration.

Renowned twentieth-century lithographer Prentiss Taylor created this self-portrait in 1949 as a requirement for admission into the National Academy of Design. The four intertwining faces capture Taylor’s concern with artistic perspective as well as his fascination with the human mind. He was deeply interested in the connection between art and psychiatry, and published the article, “Art as Psychotherapy,” in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1950. In this image, Taylor chose to portray himself from various physical profiles, each one characterizing a different introspective mood.

Legendary photographer for Life magazine, Alfred Eisenstaedt is probably best known for his iconic image VJ Day, The Kiss. Eisenstaedt worked almost entirely with miniature cameras and is known for his use of the fast lens technique and exclusive use of natural light. His ability to capture candid moments in history is revered and he often explained, “I just kept motionless like a statue. For the kind of photography I do, one has to be very unobtrusive and to blend in with the crowd.” In his self-portrait, Eisenstaedt catches himself in the act of his own work. He poses inconspicuously as if he himself is being photographed candidly. Surrounded by steel trashcans, he crouches in a corner, holding one of his miniature cameras to his eye, waiting for action.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Toddler Tuesdays: A Parent’s Perspective

Toddler Tuesdays
Danielle Zorn (center) and her daughter, Kylie, paint fall leaves during Toddler Tuesdays.

If you come to my house on a typical morning you will probably find me asking my two year old daughter Kylie at least four to five times to please put on her shoes so we can get our day started. Not on Toddler Tuesday. All I have to do on Tuesday is casually mention that it’s time to head to the Charleston Library Society and shoes are on and she is out the door before I have time to blink! She loves the Gibbes Museum of Art’s Toddler Tuesdays and so do I!

Once we arrive at the Library Society both kids and adults settle in on giant bean bags and sit back and listen while we are taken on an exciting literary journey that help the kids explore the world of art as well as the world that surrounds them. They are often asked questions during the stories that help them explore and understand the morals and lessons of the books. Once the stories are read, the kids move on to their art projects. From painting to collage, pencil drawing to t-shirt dying, the art projects are varied and exciting. Whether taught by Annette Wanick or Sandy Young, the kids learn about basic art concepts such as color mixing, shape recognition, the use of texture and layering, and much more. Both Annette and Sandy are wonderful art educators that relate to and encourage creativity from their students. With such caring and knowledgeable teachers, it is no wonder that each week we come home with a new masterpiece to add to our collection as well as wonderful memories that will be remembered for a longtime to come.

I think that Kylie sums up her experiences here best when she leaves on Tuesdays saying, “that was really fun, mommy. I like coming here.” I agree.

Danielle Zorn, Member and Guest Blogger, The Gibbes Museum of Art

Toddler Tuesdays
Free and exclusive for Gibbes Museum and Charleston Library Society Members
Every Tuesday at the Charleston Library Society, 164 King St
10:15–11:00am in the Children’s Room; No reservations required
Led by Gibbes Women’s Council members Annette Wanick and Sandy Young
Questions? Call Rebecca Sailor at 843.722.2706 x41 or email rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org

Face Lift: Caption This!
Week Five: Me and My Shadow

Week Five’s comparison shows two very different styles of portraiture, but the juxtaposition of the images makes it appear that there’s a conversation going on. Tell us what you think Otto Neumann’s figure might be saying to Marguerite Miller’s portrait of Jane Allen.

Read the full terms and conditions for the Face Lift: Caption This! contest.

Curatorial Perspective

During the early twentieth century, the movement toward the modernist ethos of total abstraction and non-objectivity caused portraiture to fall out of favor with many artists. Though fewer artists were exclusively portraitists in the traditional sense, many turned to portraiture at some point in their career including moderns like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The experience in making portraits played a key role in rethinking issues surrounding representation and artistic interpretation that challenged artists of the avant-garde.

German artist, Otto Neumann, is an example of an artist whose experience with portraiture influenced his later styles. Dedicated to the human form, Neumann’s career reflects a number of distinct, highly articulate styles and techniques. His work ranges from masterful expressionist linocuts to pencil drawings of grotesques, painted portraits, and an extensive series of figurative and abstract monotypes like the one seen here.

In contrast, Charleston artist, Marguerite Miller was best known as a portrait painter. She worked from her studio at the Gibbes Museum of Art in the 1920s and early 1930s and her paintings were featured in exhibitions throughout the Southeast. Her portrait of Jane Allen in both form and pose makes an interesting comparison to the abstracted and anonymous human figure depicted by Neumann.

See previous Face Lift: Caption This! contest entries.

Toddler Tuesday’s: An Art Teacher’s Treat

Toddler Tuesdays
Annette Wanick shares a story during Toddler Tuesdays.

Teaching the Gibbes Museum of Art’s Toddler Tuesdays—held weekly at the Charleston Library Society—has become one of my favorite things to do. The class combines story time and art activities for children ages 18-months to five years accompanied by an adult. My partner-in-crime, Carole Anne Rissmiller, and I love reading the books and planning the lessons. (We also use Toddler Tuesdays as an excuse to have lunch at different restaurants and explore Charleston with our cameras!)

All art lessons for the toddlers are discipline based. Each week we use a fascinating early-learning level book to help the children explore the world of art. Last week, we read “Squarehead” by Harriet Ziefert. Through question and answer, we discovered that there are many different kinds of shapes and colors in our clothes, on the windows and doors, and all around us. Learning and recognizing shapes is a fundamental tool when learning to read. Focusing on what they learned in “Squarehead,” the children and their adult partners created personalized books featuring specific shapes and colors. Extra pages were included to allow them to continue working on their books at home.

As a retired elementary art teacher, this class allows me the opportunity to continue to share the world of art with children. I hope to have more children and parents join us this year.

Sandy Young, Women’s Council Volunteer and Guest Blogger, Gibbes Museum of Art

Toddler Tuesdays
Free and exclusive for Gibbes Museum and Charleston Library Society Members
Every Tuesday at the Charleston Library Society, 164 King St
10:15–11:00am in the Children’s Room; No reservations required
Led by Gibbes Women’s Council members Annette Wanick and Sandy Young
Questions? Call Rebecca Sailor at 843.722.2706 x41 or email rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org