What Do You See?

I have fallen a week behind! Last week was the meeting of our museum’s board of trustees, so perhaps that explains why.

Our most recent acquisitions were presented during that board meeting. One notable addition to the museum’s collection is Larry Sultan’s large-scale photograph Novato, from his series Homeland, which focused on the landscape near his home in Corte Madera, California.

Novato, 2007

Larry Sultan (1946–2009), Novato, 2009, dye coupler print, Purchase with funds provided by the Stieglitz Circle of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, courtesy of Estate of Larry Sultan/Wirtz Gallery

This important series was the last the artist completed before his untimely death in 2009 from cancer. Sultan hired day laborers to pose as actors in a semi-uncultivated landscape that abuts the edge of a housing community. The multiple layers of meaning in this work are riveting, but what struck me when I saw it in San Francisco for the first time was its pastoral qualities. It reminded me of another work in the Amon Carter’s collection: Thomas Cole’s The Hunter’s Return, painted in 1845.

Hunter's Return

Thomas Cole (1801–1848), The Hunter's Return, 1845, oil on canvas

The settled landscape emerging out of the “wilderness” in both works is one point of intersection, but I would be interested to know what you think. What points of similarity or difference do you see? Write me in the comments section, and I will respond. And if you would like to see the Sultan work, stay tuned. I will let you know in my next blog when the opportunity will be available to you.

On the Photography of Sheep and Cattle

Yesterday library volunteer Jodie Sanders unearthed this turn-of-the-twentieth century article on photographing livestock, particularly sheep and cattle. It comes from the 1899 issue of The American Annual of Photography, an example from the many specialized periodicals on photography that the library collects. We thought we should share this discovery for all you folk taking pictures at the stock show across the street!

Click on the image below to download:


Get to Know Us: Interpretation Manager

As someone who works in a museum, I can't tell you how many times I have been asked what it is I really do all day. Behind the quiet galleries you see when you visit, there is a constant buzz of activity across the many departments that make up the museum. We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to Jenna Madison, the newest member of the Amon Carter staff. Check back soon to meet other members of the staff as we give you a behind-the-scenes look at what really happens during our version of a nine-to-five day.

A Post from the Road

I have been on the road now for several days, traveling from Fort Worth to New York City and on to San Francisco, where I am attending the mid-winter meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors. More than 240 directors from the United States, Canada, and Mexico have gathered to discuss the issues that our cultural industry is facing. As the economic and demographic trends change in urban communities, art museums are not only positioned to increase their value as destinations for education and entertainment, but also to think about new ways of doing business. Like any industry, creative and innovative thinking is the core of leadership.

Seminar Photo

Right now, I am in a seminar on how to motivate innovative thinking to meet the needs of the communities we serve. My group is exploring ways to engage younger audiences in the life of the art museum. The facilitators are encouraging us to do the unexpected. One of the ideas we are discussing is a “speed dating” event for young people on Valentine’s Day where participants pick their favorite works of art as a starting point for compatibility. Would you come to such an event? I would be very interested in ideas that you might have for ways to attract young individuals and couples to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Enter them in the comment section; you never know, we might just put it into action!

Happy New Year!

Although 2011 marked our celebration of the museum’s 50th anniversary, I am a firm believer that any anniversary of significance should last for at least eighteen months. So we will continue to celebrate, even as we turn fifty-one.

For me, our celebration continued when I returned from my holiday adventures to find on my desk an advance copy of the book that will accompany our exhibition, Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell, which opens here February 11. Rick Stewart, the author of the book and curator of the project, tells a lively story of Russell’s tremendous achievement working with a medium that is subtle and variable. Every watercolor in the exhibition is reproduced in a stunning plate section in the book that proves what Rick claims in his essay: Russell was a true artistic genius as a watercolorist.

Romance Maker

Holding this book made me realize yet again the strength of the museum’s collection and our commitment to find new ways to deepen our understanding of art that seems so familiar. Charlie Russell is one of the artists that we have long celebrated. He was a favorite of the museum’s namesake, Amon G. Carter. But never before has his work as a watercolorist been explored—he was an innovator in this medium. Finally, that story is available for all in the book that I hold. If you are a lover of watercolor, or a fan of Charlie Russell, this volume belongs in your library. Come see the works in person, then visit our store to take them home with you.

Inspired Art

Recently an area teacher borrowed materials from the Teaching Resource Center on artist Joseph Albers to help her students understand the effects different colors have on each other. Elizabeth was kind enough to share pictures of the recent art exhibition at Wedgwood Academy as well as photos of some of the artists and their work.

Wegwood Academy Artists.jpg

Wedgwood Academy Art Exhibition.jpg

Many thanks to Elizabeth Morand and her students for sharing their art and inspiring us all.

Helen Frankenthaler 1928-2011

The sad news of the passing of artist Helen Frankenthaler has prompted the estate of noted photographer Ernst Haas to post a wonderful group of photographs showing Frankenthaler at work in her studio in 1969. The Amon Carter acquired works by both Frankenthaler and Haas within months of each other in 2007-2008.

Link to Ernst Haas photographs of Helen Frankenthaler

Merry and Bright

Did you know that tomorrow, December 22, is the anniversary of Christmas tree lights? The bright sparkles of string lights that today adorn trees and houses alike got their start in 1882 when Edward Johnson, who worked for Thomas Edison’s Illumination Company, first tried stringing together small electric bulbs on a single power cord. Though string lights did not enjoy immediate popularity, today they hold a special place in the hearts of many during the holiday season.

Whether your holiday season is brightened by friends and family, your very own illuminated Christmas tree, the Festival of Lights, or all three, we here at the Amon Carter wish you a holiday that is merry and bright.

Gast House Christmas Tree

Laura Gilpin (1891–1979), Gast House, Christmas Tree [Colorado], 1929, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist

Holiday Travels

During the month of December in 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flight. Only 83 years later, again in December, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, around-the-world flight without refueling and landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination. ~Wilbur Wright

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), [View of Mountain from Airplane]. 1920-1950, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist.

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979), [View of Mountain from Airplane]. 1920-1950, gelatin silver print, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist, P1979.102.39

Howard Cook (1901-1980), Airplane, 1931, wood engraving, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Howard Cook (1901-1980), Airplane, 1931, wood engraving, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1985.271

Happy holiday travels. Enjoy the scenery!

Spreading the Word

I am traveling this week, so I come to you this morning from gate D2 at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. The goal of this trip is to help advance the profile of our museum across the nation. I have been in St. Louis working with our conservator, Claire Barry, and the conservators at the Saint Louis Art Museum on a proposed exhibition project that we hope to partner on.

Jolly Flatboatmen in Port

George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879), Jolly Flatboatmen in Port, 1857, oil on canvas, Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Purchase 123, 1944

The exhibition will explore the series of paintings the American artist George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879) made during the 1840s and 1850s of life along the Mississippi River—the edge of the western frontier at the time. While we are interested in the compelling cultural narrative Bingham's work suggests about western expansion, we are also exploring his working process. Yesterday we examined through technical process the underdrawings Bingham made on his canvases and their relationship to the highly finished drawings he made of his primary subject: the men who worked on the river. Through the science of conservation—the art museum equivalent of CSI—we hope to better understand how Bingham linked drawing on paper and canvas to achieve complex, multi-figured paintings. Put another way, we’re endeavoring to get inside his head as a working artist creating a national story for his day. Our process began yesterday to reconstruct Bingham's process, and it will continue for more than a year.

Building partnerships with other art museums to advance scholarship is just one reason to travel on behalf of the Amon Carter. Tomorrow, I continue north to Chicago to develop more relationships that will help bring Fort Worth's great American art museum to the nation.