Installation of work by Vanderbilt alumnus Creighton Michael honors Professor of Fine Arts Emeritus Milan Mihal
During the summer of 2013, the Fine Arts Gallery will host a special exhibition of Tapestry Suite by Creighton Michael, M.A. 1976. These seven digital drawings, selected from Michael’s larger Tapestry series, were created by the artist in honor of Professor of Fine Arts Emeritus Milan Mihal, and donated to the Fine Arts Gallery by the artist. Michael writes that he would like to thank Professor Mihal, “for introducing me to the wondrous beauty and serene sensitivity of the Far East.” He also sites his experiences in Professor Mihal’s class as an influence for much of his artistic practice over the last forty years.
Michael has explained that the Tapestry series is a collection of composite drawings, layered in time and personal marking history, employing unconventional drafting tools, such as photographic negatives, video stills, sculpture, digital scans and intaglio solar plates. The artist selected the seven works featured in Tapestry Suite as a continuous narrative and a meditation on drawing. This is a common theme for Michael who, in much of his work, has expanded traditional notions of drawing by creating works of art that approach this time-honored practice in fresh, innovative ways.
Michael received his B.F.A. in painting from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1971); his M.A. in Art History from Vanderbilt University (1976); and his M.F.A. in painting and multi-media from Washington University, St. Louis (1978). His work has been featured in numerous one-person exhibitions and can be found within the collections of The Brooklyn Museum; Denver Art Museum; Hafnarborg Institute of Culture and Fine Art, Hafnarfjördur, Iceland; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Mint Museums of Art, Charlotte, NC; among several others.
Kathryn and Margaret Millspaugh Fund for Art Conservation
The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery is pleased to announce the establishment of the Kathryn and Margaret Millspaugh Fund for Art Conservation. Made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of Kathryn and Margaret Millspaugh, two sisters and Peabody College alumnae, this fund will provide a consistent source of income to support conservation treatment for works of art from the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery’s permanent collection.
The Millspaugh Fund has already made a significant impact on the Gallery. This past fall, this gift funded conservation treatment of twelve works on paper, including works by artists such as Georges Braque, Hans Hartung, and Alexander Calder. In the winter of 2013, these twelve prints and drawings were on view as part of the exhibition Mark di Suvero–Affinities. Before receiving conservation treatment, many of these works were in a condition that made them un-exhibitable. Affinities, marked the first time that several of these prints and drawings were on public display.
The Fine Arts Gallery is deeply appreciative for Kathryn and Margaret Millspaugh’s generosity which will allow us to continue to care for our collection, preserving these priceless works of art for academic study and public enjoyment, for years to come. We will continue to provide updates on the work sponsored by the Millspaugh Fund on our website.
Opening Reception for Polar Probings: Sculpture by Gabriel Warren
On October 13, 2011 the Fine Arts Gallery celebrated the opening of Polar Probings: Sculpture by Gabriel Warren. During the reception, Gabriel Warren gave a gallery talk about his work and discussed how his two trips to Antarctica have influenced his creations. Polar Probings will be on view at the Fine Arts Gallery through December 8, 2011.
Campus Art Project Imole Blue, Led by Artist in Residence Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons
On Monday, October 17, 2011 Vanderbilt Senior Art Majors and other volunteers from the Vanderbilt community took part in the campus art project Imole Blue, led by Artist in Residence Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons.
The artist and her volunteers met at the northeast corner of the Kennedy Center on Peabody campus to plant 4,400 hyacinth bulbs in a shape mapping out Campos-Pons' hometown in Cuba.
This project was part of Campos-Pons' week-long residency jointly sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, the Department of Art, the Department of History of Art, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, the Program in African American and Diaspora Studies, the Atlantic World Seminar, the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Neil Leonard, and the College of Arts and Science. An exhibition of Campos-Pons' work will be on view at the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery through December 8, 2011.
Polar Probrings: Sculputre by Gabriel Warren On Display October 13– December 8, 2011
Gabriel Warren creates sculptures using natural ice formations as source material. As noted by the artist, his sculptures are "intended to reflect the beauty of the natural sources from which they emerge.... They represent my attempts to triangu- late an understanding of a single natural phenomenon: ice." Warren adds, "although ice is not the only source in the natural world for my sculptural probings, it is the dominant one and has been so for decades. Ice exhibits mind-numbing variability and variety on a visual plane, and, on a scientific one, understanding its behavior is key to under- standing many other components of our world."
Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery will present a number of works by Warren, each layered with meanings and references to the condition of the planet and based on his close observation of the way ice behaves, including an outdoor sculp- ture installation adjacent to Cohen Memorial Hall, the home of the Fine Arts Gallery.
Dividing his time between his studio and resi- dence in Rhode Island and his summer home in a primitive cabin he built on a sea cliff in Nova Scotia, Warren has traveled twice to Antarctica, making his 1999 trip as the recipient of a National Science Foundation "Artists and Writers in Antarctica" grant, and returning in 2006 under the aegis of the National Science Foundation. His art has been shown at the Peabody-Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; the Newport Art Museum, Newport, Rhode Island; Hunter College, New York, New York; and the Quay School of the Arts, Wanganui, New Zealand, among many other museums and galleries.
María Magdalena Campos-Pons: MAMA/RECIPROCAL ENERGY On Display October 12– December 8, 2011
María Magdalena Campos-Pons: MAMA/RECIPROCAL ENERGY will be the first exhibition that examines this internationally recognized artist's drawings. Five large-scale, mixed-media drawings, works that the artist created as a means to explore themes central to her practice, such as issues of identity, exile, and displacement as an Afro-Cuban artist living in America, will be included.
In addition to these works, drawings that address specific performances the artist has presented over the course of her career, one of which is a collaborative work she created with her son, will also be featured. This later body of work is the artist's attempt at "putting the [performances] in a memory box, [in order to create] the essence of the moment." The drawings will be accompanied by a three-channel video work that examines questions surrounding the nature of energy from a unique perspective.
Born in Matanzas in 1959, Campos-Pons was educated in Cuba at the Escuela Nacional de Arte (1976–1979) and the Instituto Superior de Arte (1980–1985). In 1988, she continued her studies as an exchange student in the graduate program at the Massachusetts College of Art. In addition, she was a Bunting Fellow for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. She is one of the most significant artists to emerge from the Cuban post-revolutionary era. Campos-Pons moved to North America in 1991 and now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband, the composer and performing artist Neil Leonard, and their son.
Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery moves into Cohen Memorial Hall. by Jeff Buchanan
photography by Steve Green
What thrills Joseph Mella most about the renovation of Cohen Memorial Hall, new home of the Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery, is the balance between old and new. On one hand, the renovation brought the gallery’s security, electronics and lighting up to contemporary code. On the other, architects understood that Cohen is a historic building with an important pedigree, so they treaded as lightly as possible.
“The architects approached the design, renovation and expansion with a deft touch and not a heavy hand,” Mella, director of the Fine Arts Gallery, said. “The historic core of the building was spectacularly renovated in such a way that it captures what it looked like 85 years ago.”
The major benefits of the Cohen renovation are departmental centralization, additional floor space and a more accessible gallery with state-of-the-art amenities.
Cohen now houses three units that have never entirely been in proximity before: the Fine Arts Gallery, the Department of History of Art and the Department of Classical Studies. The Old Gym was the previous home of History of Art, but lack of a spacious lecture hall forced History of Art faculty to teach their largest classes in Furman Hall. The Cohen building has enough seating for the majority of courses offered by the two departments.
There is optimism that a larger volume of students entering and leaving Cohen Hall will create synergy among the building’s different tenants. With plenty of gathering spaces on all floors, it’s easy to find somewhere to chat after bumping into a friend or colleague.
Gallery staff no longer face the logistical challenge of exhibiting and storing the collection in two different locations. Cohen has two art vaults, one of which for decades has stored the majority of Vanderbilt’s fine arts collection. When the gallery was in the Old Gym, staff would have to facilitate the transfer of art objects across campus.
“If we are organizing an exhibition from the collection in one place and an object is stored in another, we have to wrap the object and hire campus movers to move it,” Mella said. “Any time you move art it is always of concern because of the potential for damage or loss. Now it’s a totally different story.”
In addition to being more centralized departmentally, the renovated Cohen Hall is an upgrade from the Old Gym in terms of floor space and amenities. Cohen has more faculty office space and more than double the academic teaching space of the Old Gym. In addition to a large lecture hall, the building has two classrooms and two seminar rooms.
More floor space means more wall space for art. Thanks to an addition, which includes a catering kitchen for special events, items from the collection can be displayed in public spaces when they aren’t currently on exhibition in the gallery.
While the gallery at Cohen is larger than it was at the Old Gym, the most significant upgrades to gallery spaces cannot be measured in square feet. The renovation brought art exhibition spaces up to appropriate museum standards, which include security and climate control. Cohen now exemplifies state-of-the-art storage and gallery spaces.
And they are more accessible. Previously, individuals with disabilities could use a ramp to enter the main floor of the Old Gym, but that was as far as they could travel. An elevator was included in the Cohen addition, making all three floors of the renovated building accessible.
Gallery staff are not only pleased with the improved physical accessibility of their facility, but also with how accessible the collection is to the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities. In addition to strengthening the gallery’s ties to the academic mission of the university, there is a new effort to link the database of the collection, which contains just under 6,000 catalogued art objects, with the gallery’s Web site. All of those objects have a listing in the database, and about 1,100 of the listings include an image of the object.
“Student interns also are busy at work this semester digitizing hundreds of additional works of art that will further enrich this resource,” Mella said. The target date for the database to go live is May 30, with the project on schedule according to gallery staff.
The online database will allow users to browse the collection for the first time in its history. It will be a valuable resource for faculty members who wish to make art part of their curriculum.
“Students and professors can log on, see what we have, think of making connections to the collection, and then in turn incorporate the collection into their curriculum,” Mella said.
Mella is excited to launch the online collection, but he emphasizes that it will be a gateway to – not a substitute for – the experience of observing art objects in person. Looking at an art object on the screen of a computer is less effective and educational than firsthand observation, because pixels do not capture certain artistic qualities as well as canvas or paper, he explained.
“You have issues of scale, you have issues of lighting, you have all these things that come into play that you don’t get on a computer screen,” Mella said.
The aesthetic experience of observing art is what inspired the title of the gallery’s current exhibition, “Eye and Mind: A Legacy of Art Collecting at Vanderbilt University.” The title, drawn from an essay on Cezanne by the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, is meant to capture two important aspects of observation: apprehending the work of art, and understanding it in its historical and artistic context.
“Eye and Mind,” which opened last October, has a new incarnation for 2010 after gallery staff swapped out 19 objects earlier this year. Highlights from the current exhibition include the Samuel H. Kress Collection of Renaissance paintings, on view in its entirety. The collection is notable for its strength in devotional art, especially Madonna subjects; images of saintly martyrdoms; and New Testament narrative selections, such as the crucifixion. “Eye and Mind” will continue through May 13.
Chris Drury The Star Chamber, 2006
At Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory (ongoing)
The Star Chamber is a stone and log structure located on the quiet, wooded grounds of the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory in Brentwood. Undressed stone laid in a spiral, galaxy-like formation surrounds the chamber. Large upright stones mark the position of the sunrise and sunset of each solstice and equinox.
Inside the chamber, visitors perceive an intimate, dark space covered with a log roof over a concave plastered floor and circular wall. If you take a seat on one of the wall-mounted benches, your eyes will slowly adjust to the dim light, and you will begin to notice images on the walls and floor around you.
You are seated inside a camera obscura, which is created by a lens or aperture in the rooftop cover overhead. Natural light passing through this lens projects an inverted image of the sky, clouds, and treetops onto the dish-shaped chamber interior.
Once your eyes are fully adapted, you will find yourself seated inside a quiet, enclosed microcosm of the natural world outdoors, immersed in the image of swaying treetops, moving clouds, and the occasional hawk flying overhead. A select evening view of the night sky is enabled when the cover is opened.
For information on visiting this work, please contact the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory at (615) 373-4897, or at www.dyer.vanderbilt.edu.