The 18th Annual Lavona Rushton Concert will take place on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:30PM. To see (and hear!) why you should attend, watch this video of our performer Sean Chen:
Video from The Cliburn’s YouTube page.
Longtime BMA patrons Norm and Carnetta Davis are featured the October issue of B-Metro magazine for their expansive collection of work by African-American artists. Check out the excerpted piece below and read more on B-Metro’s website.
Displayed prominently on the living room wall of Norm and Carnetta Davis’s house in suburban Birmingham is a piece of art that sums up the couple’s decades-long commitment to tradition, community, and art. On a large piece of weathered wood, etched in black, is an image of Carnetta’s mother, recreated here along with objects that capture an echo from her life as an educator and mother, a matriarch.
The work was commissioned by the Davises from the artist Whitfield Lovell, who is internationally renowned for his installations that incorporate masterful Conte crayon portraits of anonymous African-Americans from the time period between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement. Using vintage photography as his source, Lovell often pairs his subjects with found objects, evoking personal memories, ancestral connections, and the collective American past. In 2007, Lovell was awarded with a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, often referred to as the “genius grant.”
The piece created by Lovell for Norm and Carnetta captures the essence of the collection that they have spent the last dozen years assembling, work that helps to tell the continuing story of the evolution of African-American art. The Davis Collection includes more than 100 works of African-American art, spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries. It includes such well-known names as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Charles Evan Porter, Allan Rohan Crite, Benny Andrews, Kevin Cole, and Radcliffe Bailey, among others. “What we once naively defined as African-American art based on the color of the artist’s skin and the skin color of the subjects painted we now realize is as broad and deep as the world of art itself. We have gotten to know many artists, art professionals, and other art collectors who have helped to enrich our lives and have provided unforgettable experiences for us. We thoroughly enjoy our hobby and newfound appreciation for this genre of work,” Carnetta says.
Graham Boettcher, chief curator and The William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, has long admired the commitment of the Davises to their collection efforts. “The Davis collection, which comprises the work of historical artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner and Richmond Barthé, as well as modern masters including Radcliffe Bailey and Whitfield Lovell, presents a magnificent survey of art made by African-American artists from the late 19th century through the present,” Boettcher says. “It is most impressive for its breadth and comprehensiveness. There are few artists that have escaped the eyes of these astute collectors, and those whose work is yet missing from their collection will undoubtedly be sourced and acquired by the Davises in the future. They are very committed collectors.”
The genre of African-American art is of particular importance and interest to Boettcher and the BMA. “There are a couple other private collectors of African-American art in the Birmingham community, but I would say that Norm and Carnetta’s collection is special because it doesn’t just focus on the work of contemporary artists, but traces the history of black artists in America from a very early point,” he says. “The area in which the Davises collect is very important to the Birmingham Museum of Art, and is a major institutional priority in terms of our collecting focus. My single most significant purchase for the Department of American Art since arriving at the BMA in 2006 is a major landscape—“A Dream of Italy” (1865)—by the African-American landscape painter Robert Seldon Duncanson (1821–1872), so we are committing a lot of resources in that area. The Davises have been wonderful friends and supporters of the BMA in this regard and added a major work to the American collection just last year, a beautiful fruit still life painted in 1884 by Charles Ethan Porter, a Connecticut artist.”
More than 1,000 people attended District 8’s Party with a Purpose fun day in Ensley Park. At this year’s event, the Museum offered a variety of art projects for all ages, including Jerry Brown-inspired face jugs, bookmarks inspired by Native American art, mixed media projects inspired by Wassily Kandinsky, and watercolor paintings. Children, parents, and even a few policemen dropped by to create some art with us!
During the event, the Museum also presented one lucky Miles College student, Beatrice Collins, with a free membership. We would like to thank Councilor Hoyt for his leadership in bringing Party with a Purpose to District 8 and for letting us make art – and new friends! – at the event again this year.
Take a look at photos from the event in the slideshow below:
Last week I had the opportunity to travel to New York City for the 10th annual New York Art Book Fair (NYABF). The fair was started in 2006 by artist and then president of Printed Matter, AA Bronson as an annual showcase of artists’ books, catalogs, periodicals, zines, records, and cassettes, as well as exhibiting archival materials from specific presses/artists, and hosting performances and the Contemporary Artist’s Book Conference, whose planning committee I sit on. I spent three full days at the fair and am 100% sure I didn’t see everything. There were 35,000 attendees, so I did see a lot of sweaty backs. I was impressed with the quality and diversity of programming this year, including a panel about Atlanta-based superstars Nexus Press (which later turned into the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center) and Art Papers. It was nice to see the South represented alongside such an international spread of speakers and performers.
The conference sessions I attended were insightful and timely. The discussions often evolved into lively conversation between presenters and audience members. I especially enjoyed the dialogue around Susan Thomas’s sessions “Artist’s Records and Recordworks.” This may seem like an odd subject for an artists’ book fair, but the genre is wide-ranging and historically based. We have an artist book in the Museum library by Andy Warhol that includes a recordwork and a piece in the collection that includes a record by Bruce Nauman. Recently records have been produced as alternative exhibition catalogs. Speakers included Matthew Higgs, curator and director of White Columns, Art historian Francesco Spampinato, who recently published Can you Hear Me? Music Labels by Visual Artists, and artist and founder of Weird Records Pieter Schoolwerth.
I purchased a few things for the library, and have a list a mile long of things I’d like to purchase for the library. It’s difficult to know where to start when developing an artist’s book collection. For now, I’m using the Museum’s permanent collection as a starting point, but I also want to focus on local connections, especially where they intersect with global themes. I purchased two books from the legendary Bread and Puppet Theater and a beautiful book by Aidan Koch, a New York-based artist who occasionally works with the Birmingham-based record label Noumenal Loom.
Sacred images are a vital part of many of the world’s religions. For example, painted and sculpted images of Mary and the infant Jesus provide a focal point during Christian prayer or worship, while Hindu artists portray gods and goddesses with multiple arms to remind believers of their ability to help many people with different problems at the same time. Because the divine being does not inhabit the earth, an image of that figure allows believers to connect with the deity.
In order to commune with the divine being, believers must be able to identify the image properly. To help viewers recognize people and stories, artists have developed iconography, a sort of visual shorthand. Iconography can include items carried by figures – for instance, St. Peter often holds keys, referring to his role as gatekeeper of heaven – or mudras (symbolic hand gestures) in Buddhist art. In So Close to Heaven: Sacred Sculpture of Asia from the Weldon Collection, currently on view at the Museum, various sculptures depict the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and other deities – but how does the viewer tell these figures apart from one another?
Though the term “buddha” identifies any person who has achieved nirvana – the state of enlightenment and release from earthly existence – it more often refers to Siddhartha Gautama, a Himalayan prince who renounced wealth and position in search of the true meaning of life. Bodhisattvas are individuals who have attained enlightenment but have chosen to remain on earth to help fellow Buddhists.
The Buddha has specific attributes that set him apart from a bodhisattva. He does not wear jewelry or elaborate clothing, since he gave up that lifestyle. He wears his hair in close-cropped curls and has a bump on the top of his head (“all knowing”), a dot between his eyebrows (“all seeing”), and long earlobes (“all hearing”). Though these elements are the most common in an image of the Buddha, there are in fact 32 main characteristics and 80 secondary identifiers according to Buddhist scriptures.
The Buddha and bodhisattvas share some of these attributes, such as long earlobes, because they symbolize spiritual aspects of buddhahood. In contrast to the Buddha, however, bodhisattvas wear ornate crowns, jewels, and clothing, and often hold an object that identifies them. The bodhisattva Maitreya, called the “future Buddha,” holds a water vessel and often makes a hand gesture called Turning the Wheel of the Law, as it will be his duty to teach Buddhist law. The bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara, and his female counterpart, Tara, carry a lotus flower – a Buddhist symbol for purity in speech, body, and mind.
Bodhisattvas can serve as protectors and provide guidance. In the case of Avalokitesvara, his presence encourages Buddhists not only to express compassion outwardly but also to seek compassion in the everyday experiences of life and in the painful hurts of the world. These sacred sculptures reminded believers to continue striving for lives filled with compassion, wisdom, and enlightenment.
Visit the So Close to Heaven: Sacred Sculpture of Asia from the Weldon Collection smartguide feature to explore more works from the exhibition and to hear commentary from Dr. Don Wood, senior curator and curator of Asian art; Dr. Cathleen Cummings, professor of art history, University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Steven Frost, Chinese historian.
Check out these resources to learn more about Buddhism, bodhisattvas, and Buddhist art.
The deadline for the Gandhi Jayanti Essay and Poster Contest has been extended to September 24!
Each year, students, in grades 6-12, from across the area submit artwork and essays demonstrating the influence of Gandhi on Martin Luther King, Jr., and the contributions of each leader to worldwide civil rights.
The awards ceremony for the poster and essay contest will take place on Sunday, October 11 at 4pm. The event begins at 3pm with a panel discussion, which will explore the American experience with a diverse group of second-generation Americans.
To learn more about the essay and poster contest, read submission guidelines, or to submit a piece for the contest, please click here. If you have questions, please contact Suzy Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The leaves are beginning to change, the weather is finally cooling off, and football is in the air; fall is officially here! Today is the first day of fall, and we are not only surrounded by the changing season outside, but also within the Museum.
Come visit us and see these 10 fall-inspired works, all currently on view in our galleries.
This week, September 13-19, is National Arts in Education Week. The Museum, particularly our Education Department, works with schools, parks, and churches to take art into our communities and also invites students into the Museum, with free admission every day. Art in school curricula is crucial in establishing many life-long skills, like creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, confidence, and more.
One of the many ways the Museum works with schools was illustrated perfectly this week, as the Irondale Community School held its first meeting of the new Birmingham Museum of Art Club. Associate Curator of Education Suzy Harris says, “Irondale Community School’s Principal Chuck Yeager is very forward thinking. He believes that life experiences can teach many valuable lessons that textbooks cannot, so he has reached out to community partners to establish clubs at the school.” The Birmingham Museum of Art Club had 13 members at the first meeting, where Harris and Stacia Jacks, the Visual Arts supervisor at Jefferson County School System, will teach students at the school about art.
“We visit the school with our culture cases, which are filled with materials to help students explore and experience world cultures in a hands-on way. Each case includes touchable objects, images, books, music, and lesson plans to bring these cultures to life,” explains Harris. After meeting at the school, the Club hopes to then bring students to the Museum to explore the art of the world even more together.
In the first BMA Club meeting, students were inspired by a local artist, Birmingham native Lonnie Holley. The students learned about the artist and then created wire sculptures based on his work. “They were a lovely group of students,” says Jacks. “They were kind, creative, and enthusiastic, and we can’t wait for our meeting next month – we are bringing paint!”
In partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Advanced Imaging Lab and Florida State University’s Art Therapy Program, the Museum has added 10 new stops to the BMA smartguide as part of the The Art of Meditation smartguide feature.
The Art of Meditation smartguide feature, available for FREE here, was developed by art therapists and educators to help onsite and offsite visitors feel more calm and relaxed. Audio guides help visitors meditate on artworks to reduce tension and to feel rejuvenated and energized.
The Art of Meditation smartguide feature includes:
The Art of Meditation smartguide feature complements a pilot project that will bring high-quality reproductions of Museum artworks into the Advanced Imaging Lab’s waiting and treatment rooms. There, patients and their care partners will begin engaging with artworks through close-looking and critical-thinking prompts. They can continue their exploration of these artworks by accessing the smartguide at the Advanced Imaging Lab, at the Museum, or at home.
Using your web-enabled smart device, click here to get started.
As fall quickly approaches in Birmingham, we are lucky to have so many opportunities to get outside, enjoy the weather, and take advantage of all the fun happenings in our communities. This past weekend, September 11-13, our Education Department took art beyond our walls with free art projects for all ages.
Here are a few pictures from two community events this weekend, the Empowerment Week Diversity Fair and Reach Out and Read Alabama’s Read and Romp: