0 to 6: The Experience of Time through Vine

With our exhibition 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art currently on view, the themes of art and time−and the intersection of the two−have been on our minds lately.

Enter Vine. Vine is a mobile app for making and sharing 6-second videos. It’s a format that makes you conscious of time in a new way. Vine is quick, easy, available, and most important, meshes perfectly with the exhibition theme. Because of the 6-second time limit, you can’t create a Vine without being mindful of time. Time is sliced, stretched, lapsed, lost, and repeated endlessly on Vine–in visual, creative, often artful ways.

Now we want you to get involved. Show us your experience of time through Vine. Hurrying, racing, sauntering, repeating, or utterly static–what does time look like for you? Let us see time through your eyes!

At the end of the project, we’ll select three outstanding Vine videos to be featured on the NCMA Web site. Winners will also receive tickets to a summer outdoor concert and film and a 0 to 60 exhibition catalogue.

Here are the details:

  • Vine must explore the concept of time … however you wish to interpret it. Be creative!
  • To submit a video, tag your Vine #artandtime and share it on Facebook or Twitter.
  • There is no limit on submissions. Share as many Vines as you’d like.
  • The deadline to submit to the contest is Friday, August 2 – so get Vining before you run out of time!

Download Vine from iTunes or Google Play.

Watering the Horses

The more I live with the Museum’s American collection, the more I am intrigued by the curious and inexplicable things I see in the paintings. I’m still puzzling over whatever is in the window of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cebolla Church. A different sort of puzzle lies at the heart of a picture painted a century before O’Keeffe’s church. At first glance this picture seems innocuous enough: a young man pausing to let two horses drink from a shallow stream. It’s a lazy summer day, the sky tossed with clouds. Watering the Horses must have seemed a bucolic idyll to the New Yorker who bought the painting in 1852. (Let us not forget it was the denizens of crowded, noisy, malodorous cities who were the principal patrons of landscape painters.)  The artist, Junius Brutus Stearns (1810–1885), was a Vermont-born portrait painter who occasionally tried his hand at historical subjects, such as vignettes from the life of George Washington, and rural scenes. Unfortunately, his ambition too often exceeded his talent. Watering the Horses is one of Stearns’s more successful paintings and probably his oddest. And what makes it so successful is precisely its oddity. I am fascinated by the surprising and almost perverse way the artist stages the scene. There are any number of ways he might have depicted a man watering horses. But who in his right mind would pose them with their backs turned to us?  I ask myself: are we being ignored? Shunned? No, the artist would not be so rude to his public. And call it picayune, but I am perplexed why a portrait painter would not show the man’s face. So, is this painting some joke—perhaps a visual pun—that I am just not getting? The setup seems deliberately comical, but is it truly funny?  Should I be smirking? Until I figure it out, I am resigned to being the butt of the artist’s elusive wit.

Image: Junius Brutus Stearns (American, 1810-1885), Watering Horses, 1852, Oil on canvas, 29 x 36 ½ in. (73.7 x 91.4 cm), Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina, 52.9.27

Time for a Walk

It’s an exciting season in the Museum Park. While the beautiful spring weather is a sufficient reason for a walk on the trails, we’ve also got other reasons to celebrate: the grand opening of our new Blue Loop trail and new art as part of our exhibition 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art.

Two new installations may be spotted by sharp-eyed trekkers. First are three images by Maryland-based artist Dan Bailey for our popular Park Pictures series. As you may remember, our Pictures are three “billboards” installed along the paved walking trails, commissioned by the Museum and changing regularly, to encourage visitors to explore the art in the Park. For his images, as well as for his indoor mural in 0 to 60, Bailey chronicled the human activity on the NCMA campus over several months. He rigged a low-altitude weather balloon with a camera set to take a photograph of the grounds below every few seconds. The artist visited multiple times in the past year, capturing shadows, seasonal differences, and other time shifts. The final product is a digital collage combined with satellite photographs of the Museum grounds. It is a fascinating compression of a particular place at various points in time, joined into one single image.

A second installation is Tom Shields’s Forest for the Chairs, in which the artist literally brings his materials—found and discarded furniture, particularly wooden chairs—back to their source. By attaching the chairs to trees in the Park, he accepts that time and weather will affect their appearance and eventual stability. The bio-degradation of the chairs, part of Shields’s plan, is the final step in the lives of these chairs. Once functional and decorative, these seats are now simply memories, or imitations, of their former selves. Time rules here: its passage will determine the length of the art’s life.

0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art remains on view through August 11. Bailey’s billboards are on view through the fall, and Shields’s installation will be with us for the foreseeable future.

These works, made possible by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, are part of an ongoing series of outdoor art projects, Art Has No Boundaries, commissioned by the NCMA to encourage visitors to actively explore the Museum Park.

Image: Tom Shields, Forest for the Chairs, 2013, found chairs, dimensions variable


Hearst’s Other Castle

Sir William Pepperrell (1746-1816) and His Family

In a recent post, I wrote about Thomas Hart Benton’s Spring on the Missouri (1945) and the painting’s original owner Harpo Marx. Harpo was one of several Hollywood stars interested in work by living American artists. Gene Kelly, Burgess Meredith, Henry Fonda, Vincent Price, and Paul Newman all collected American art and lent paintings to exhibitions. So, I began to wonder: what other Hollywood connections do we have in our American galleries at the NCMA?

My search first took me to Citizen Kane (1941)—“the greatest movie of all time” according to the American Film Institute. Directed by and starring Orson Welles, the film follows a group of reporters as they try to discover the meaning of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane’s dying word: Rosebud.

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Harpo’s Benton

When Thomas Hart Benton’s Spring on the Missouri was first shown in a Chicago art gallery in 1946, it caught the eye of a visiting Hollywood celebrity. As Art Digest reported the next day (coincidentally April Fool’s Day): “The first purchase from the Benton show … was made by Harpo Marx, who stopped off at Associated American Artists to do a little gallery gazing…”

I came across the Art Digest article in our file on the painting, and was surprised that little had been written on Harpo as an art collector. I had always loved the Marx Brothers (and highly recommend “Duck Soup” (1933) to the readers of this blog), but had never thought of any of them as the “gallery gazing” type. My curiosity was sparked, and I set out to find out more about Harpo’s collection. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Harpo’s son, Bill Marx, about his father’s interest in art.

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My Time in 0 to 60

When I first visited 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art as it was being installed, it was a spare group of seemingly incongruent works. It was impossible yet to understand their conversation. I was struck by Lisa Hoke’s organic wall covering, emerging from itself in radiating curls and waves. Kyoung Ae Cho‘s woven pieces, made from silk from corn stalks, were lovely and meditative and focused.

Walking into the installation the following week was a surprise and a joy. Most of the pieces had arrived, and the works were beginning to speak to one another and to me. On my third visit, the exhibition was open to the public, and the show’s message was fully realized.

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0 to 60: Art and Timelapse

Artist Lisa Hoke installed a site-specific work of art over the course of ten days for the exhibition 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art.

Saint-Gaudens Bronze Reinstalled

Home is the sailor, home from the sea … and the poet returned to the gallery.

In the summer of 1997, I was invited by Norman and Judith Topper to visit their home at Fearrington Village. Originally from New York, the Toppers had embraced the Triangle and especially the Museum. Both were dedicated, enthusiastic docents at the NCMA. They invited me over that August morning to talk about their art collection and specifically if there was anything of interest to the Museum.

Their collection was modest, mostly European and Japanese prints and Chinese export porcelain. While not for us, they would be welcome in the collections of several local museums, and I gave the Toppers names and phone numbers of the curators. However, there was one item that I very much coveted. Leaning on a shelf was a bronze portrait medallion of the Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson by the American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. That was a keeper! The Toppers happily offered to leave the portrait to the Museum in their wills. The next day Norman called to say that he and Judith had changed their minds: they wanted to donate the portrait right away. In such moments curators are allowed to be giddy. Read More »

Student Exhibition: Focal Point



What separates a great photograph from a snapshot?

In our online Art of Photography course, students learn that good design doesn’t just happen. A snapshot captures a moment, whereas a great photograph captures it beautifully by being composed. All of the elements are chosen and arranged to fit together. Elements such as line, texture, and pattern can add visual interest and heighten a photograph’s drama.

The students discussed examples from photographers Pamela Pecchio and Aaron Siskind, whose work is in our permanent collection, exploring how actual and implied texture can create a visually engaging image, and also created photographs of their own.

Examine these images and consider students’ choices in composing each photograph. Whether you notice the skewed worm’s-eye view of brightly patterned ribbons or the rhythmic patterns of leaves growing between pipes, your eye is drawn through the composition.

The students’ work will be on display in the Museum’s Education Lobby from January 11 through April 14. Pecchio’s work is featured in the exhibition Dwelling: Interiors by Page H. Laughlin and Pamela Pecchio, opening February 10 in the adjacent North Carolina Gallery.

Art of Photography is one of five online semester courses offered through the Museum that students can take for high school credit.

Beyoncé, Borrowing, and the Beast

I like Beyoncé a lot. Am I jeopardizing my (completely unestablished) reputation by writing this? Maybe. But it’s Beyoncé. Everyone likes her. Except, perhaps, for South African photographer Pieter Hugo.

If you have seen Beyoncé’s video for “Run the World (Girls),” you may remember her holding two hyenas on a chain.

She’s making reference to Hugo and his series The Hyena & Other Men. Hugo’s fascination with the “Hyena Men” came about after a friend e-mailed a picture he had taken of a man walking a hyena on a chain in Lagos, Nigeria. The men, called “Gadawan Kura” (rough translation: “hyena guides”), were surrounded by myth and mystery and largely assumed to be drug dealers, bodyguards, thieves, and debt collectors. In fact they are itinerant performers who tame and work with hyenas, monkeys, and rock pythons to entertain and to sell traditional medicine. They are all related, and the tradition is passed down generation to generation. Through a journalist friend and a Nigerian reporter, Hugo was put in contact with the Gadawan Kura, who agreed to let Hugo travel with them for eight days. Two years later, with the project feeling unresolved, Hugo returned to Nigeria and took more photos. These images are more intimate, more informal, and reflect the trust and understanding the artist had developed with the hyena guides two years earlier and maintained over the interim.

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