On the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I spent part of my day at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History viewing a three-story panel from the 101st to the 103rd floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The FWMSH holds this artifact as a permanent part of its collection now, a remnant from a still present tragedy and a constant reminder that carried me to memories of that day, the lives lost, and the wars that followed. It also made me think of how an object has the power to transport you out of the routine of the everyday to one of reflection and insight. At over thirty-six feet tall and six feet wide, this steel façade enveloped me into the scale of the tragedy.
Standing there made me think of a series of works of art that has preoccupied me of late and that references another tragedy in our nation’s history. In 1968, the artist Leonard Baskin was commissioned by the National Park Service to illustrate a commemorative volume for the Custer Battlefield National Monument. At that time, the Battle of the Little Big Horn (June 25, 1876) stood as the most memorialized human tragedy in American history. But unlike artists before him, Baskin chose not to focus on the “reality” of the military battle, but rather on the human tragedy wrought in the faces of Indians and the officers in a series of moving portraits. As then director of the Amon Carter, Mitch Wilder observed, “We see man's mortality, brutality, and futility. And yet we read in the faces of Baskin's people the basic humanity which ties us together in a tragic climax no one seems to comprehend.”
Wilder’s words could just as easily apply to the World Trade Center artifact; works of art or historic artifacts have the power to touch our basic humanity even when beyond comprehension. One of the watercolor-and-ink drawings that Baskin made for the commission, An Oglala Sioux, is currently on view in the exhibition at our museum The Allure of Paper.
Above: Leonard Baskin, An Oglala Sioux, 1971. © The Estate of Leonard Baskin; Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York
This is my first blog post as director of the Amon Carter. I hope you’ll check in and let me know your thoughts as I share mine with you; I’ll be posting every other Tuesday.
We listened to lots of stories...
Storytime visitors heard stories connected to 24 works of art in the museum this summer.
We had over 1800 Storytime visitors!
Congratulations to Isabella, our Storytime Grand Prize winner! She won a copy of all 24 books read during Storytime.
We told our own stories...
Residents from Bethesda Gardens enjoyed our Sharing the Past program on the second Thursday of each month. We have been known to sing and tell jokes too!
We were inspired by the Amon Carter’s collection to create our own art…
Our program Crafting from the Collection program inspired creative thinkers.
All of our family programs offered lots of chances to make art.
And to teach others to share new ideas…
Over 700 teachers developed techniques for using art as a primary source this summer.
And to top it all off, we had a BIG PARTY!
Over 4500 of our good friends joined us for 50Fest, our 50th Anniversary celebration!
There were cakes to vote for…
…and cake for eating…
…and hot dogs too.
We did some dancing...
…we hula hooped and blew bubbles…
We had fun looking at art…
…and making our own art.
Brady Sloane, our tireless Public Programs Manager, made everyone feel welcome at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
As the paper conservator at the Amon Carter, I oversee the collection of works on paper---totaling nearly 10,000. Part of my job is to ensure that the works of art to be included in a show like The Allure of Paper are stable enough to be placed on exhibit. Once I receive the list of works the curator would like to include in a show, I spring into action. I examine each object closely, looking for problems like flaking paint, weak or torn hinges, tears, or any other problem that would make the piece unsafe to display.
For The Allure of Paper a few works needed conservation treatment: Edward Hopper’s untitled charcoal drawing, John Henry Hill’s small watercolor sketch Nevada Falls, John Abbot’s Cardinal Grosbeak, and Arthur Davies' Certosa Monastery. Most had minor issues that needed to be addressed before they could safely hang in the galleries for four months.
Using magnification enables me to examine a work closely, as well as make very subtle repairs.
Edward Hopper’s charcoal drawing had several small edge tears and creases, making it vulnerable to further damage. Because the drawing was executed on poor quality paper (newsprint), over time the paper had darkened. Its condition required that light levels be kept low, and it remains covered during non-public hours.
Edward Hopper (1882--1967), Untitled (Captain Gardner K. Wonson House), ca. 1923--28, charcoal on paper, 2004.31
Documentation photographs are taken before and after conservation treatment. Above is the before treatment photograph.
After examining the object, I write up a treatment proposal that the curator and I agree upon. For this piece I repaired the tears with wheat starch paste and thin Japanese paper strips. The repairs secure the tears, stopping them from getting larger.
Treatment proposal for Edward Hopper’s charcoal drawing
Once I’m finished with treatment I write up a report detailing what I’ve done and what materials I used. Each object in our collection has a dedicated file where documentation is kept detailing its history.
In addition, for every piece on the exhibition list I make note of its exhibition history. Works of art on paper are vulnerable to overexposure to light and environmental conditions. To protect the art we limit the lifetime exhibition of a work on paper, keeping it off view in our vaults for years between shows to slow down its inevitable deterioration. We also limit the light levels used in the exhibition. Some works are so vulnerable that for the duration of the show we cover them with custom-fitted drapes to protect them when we are closed to the public.
Georgia O’Keeffe's Light Coming on the Plains No. III (1917) is covered by its custom-fitted drape during non-public hours.
Post written by Jodie Utter, conservator of works on paper
Documentary photographer Jerome Liebling has passed away at age 87. Liebling is represented in the Amon Carter's collection by Butterfly Boy, a 1949 portrait of a young boy on a city street, which has been exhibited numerous times since it was acquired by the museum in the 1980s. NYT obit here and a slide show of his work here.
Jerome Liebling (1924-2011), Butterfly Boy, gelatin silver print, 1949, © Jerome Liebling
Thanks to our IMLS-funded digitization grant, all 700+ plates from the full set of Edward Curtis The North American Indian portfolios acquired by the Amon Carter in 2009 are now available on our online collection search. These plates, created between 1907 and 1930, represent Curtis' life work of traveling and documenting Native American traditions in the early 20th century.
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Pima Matron from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1907, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Two Whistles -- Apsaroke from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1908, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Povi-Tamun ("Flower Morning") - San Ildefonso from The North American Indian, photogravure, 1925, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor
The Amon Carter houses one of the country’s major collections of American photographs. Now, we want you to submit your own great American photographs of family and friends enjoying the museum! Enter your best photos in our free contest in August, which will be posted on the museum’s Facebook page.
Click here for the complete rules.
One of the great things about working on digitization projects is that you finally get to see so many works that you’d only heard of before. I’ve seen files and database records for nearly every work in the Amon Carter’s collection, but generally only see the images themselves once they are digitized. So until recently, I knew the following three works by title only. Expecting to see a straightforward cityscape, what a happy surprise to see how they actually look.
The following three works – shown here courtesy of our IMLS digitization grant - are by photographer Diane Hopkins-Hughs, who spent several years in Texas and taught at SMU in Dallas. For any readers outside the DFW area, I-30 is the interstate highway that links Fort Worth and Dallas with points to the east and serves as the main connection between the two cities.
[Note that all three works, and many more by this artist, are now available in our online collection search!]
Diane Hopkins-Hughs, I-30 #2, gelatin silver print, 1969-70, © Diane Hopkins-Hughs
Diane Hopkins-Hughs, Interstate 30, gelatin silver print, 1971, © Diane Hopkins-Hughs
Diane Hopkins-Hughs, Interstate 30 #7, gelatin silver print, 1972, © Diane Hopkins-Hughs
The museum’s Installation Preparation Services (IPS) team, which includes Greg Bahr (Lead Preparator), Steve Price (Preparator), and Les Hofheinz (Carpenter/Asst. Preparator) care for, handle, prepare, and install all of the artwork on display at the Amon Carter. They were essential in the execution of our current special exhibition The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection, playing multiple roles throughout the planning and installation process. Jim Belknap (Installation Manager) determined the budgetary needs for all materials needed for the exhibition, including paint, mats, and frames, and organized the work schedule for all IPS activities.
Works on paper are vulnerable to physical damage; they can be torn, folded, and smudged. IPS ensured that each drawing and watercolor was securely hinged with Japanese paper or mounted using archival photo corners to a mat support before they were matted and framed for display. (Learn more about matting and framing works of art on paper here.)
Months before the exhibition, I met with IPS to select mats and frames for each artwork. Greg and Steve provided invaluable input regarding the appropriate mat colors and sizing for all of the art objects. They also sized and cut all of the mats for virtually every artwork on display, while Les built most of the frames you’ll see in the exhibition.
Steve Price frames a watercolor for the exhibition.
Les Hofheinz cleans the glass of a newly framed object.
Greg Bahr installs a watercolor in the special exhibition gallery.
As curators, we often comment that we have one of the most talented and gifted IPS teams we have ever worked with. Thanks to their tremendous efforts, The Allure of Paper was executed beautifully.
The Allure of Paper: Watercolors and Drawings from the Collection is now open! Drop by the museum anytime we're open to see these works firsthand.
Post written by Shirley Reece-Hughes, assistant curator of paintings and sculpture
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