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"Windmill" (1926), Thomas Hart Benton, United States, 1889-1975. Oil on canvas on board. BMA Collection, 1997.72

Happy Fall!

Fall is a time of change, and what better way to enjoy the season than with our ever-changing galleries? At the BMA, we are feeling festive for the fall ahead, filled with colorful leaves, perfect weather and – of course – plenty of

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Museum News

2014 Season of Art on the Rocks a Success

That’s a wrap for the 10th Anniversary season of Art On The Rocks presented by Dale’s Seasoning! More than 6,500 people visited the Museum and enjoyed performances by Birmingham artists, musicians, dancers, comedians, actors and designers who drew inspiration from the Museum’s world-renowned permanent collection and our summer exhibition Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor.

Guests enjoyed Japanese-inspired cuisine and drinks from A Social Affair, community art collaborations, an Asian-inspired fashion show, and our newest addition to AOTR – Nijikai! The Nijikai after-party was an enormous success, thanks to participating venues: Carrigan’s Public House, Paramount, and The Collins Bar. The Upper Plaza was flooded with excitement brought on by the talented headlining bands Seryn, The Kopecky Family Band, and Matrimony. The diverse range of performances and demonstrations from local artists and supporters included DJ COCO, DANCEe, Yellowhammer Creative, Shaia’s and Southern Femme, AEIVA and Magic Chromacity, The Baking Bandits, Steva Casey of Veranda, Saks Fifth Avenue, Seasick Records, DJ Coco, and Pastry Art.

The Birmingham Museum of Art would like to thank all of the volunteers, sponsors, and new guests who became members during Art on The Rocks!

A special thanks to the sponsors who made this 2014 season such a success: Dale’s Seasoning, Bromberg’s, Birmingham Budweiser, Pinnacle Vodka, Back Forty Beer Co., H2 Real Estate, Fox 6, and Birmingham Mountain Radio.

Continuing the Junior Patron Experience…

In addition to Art on the Rocks, the Junior Patrons host a multitude of exciting events throughout the year including private home and studio visits, behind the scenes tours, exclusive exhibition openings at the Museum, collaborations with curators and other Support Groups, as well as opportunities to be a part of the unique arts community in Birmingham. For more information and a list of upcoming events check out our webpage and our Facebook page.  Follow us to stay in the loop!

A Junior Patron individual membership is $60 for an individual or $80 for a dual membership. Click here to join online.

Sports mural in the gym.

South Hampton Elementary Mural Projects

On Thursday, September 11, the Museum joined Hands On Birmingham and T-Mobile for Huddle Up, T-Mobile’s national community outreach program that connects kids, primarily from single parent-families in high-need, urban communities to positive people, places, and programs. T-Mobile’s Huddle Up

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Spotlight on the Collection

September 2014: It’s the Real Thing!

It's the Real Thing!, 1978/2006. Hank Willis Thomas, 2006. Digital C-print. 27 3/4 x 24 3/4 inches. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Jack Drake Collection of Contemporary Art, AFI104.2011. © Hank Willis Thomas.

It’s the Real Thing!, 1978/2006. Hank Willis Thomas, 2006. Digital C-print. 27 3/4 x 24 3/4 inches. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Jack Drake Collection of Contemporary Art, AFI104.2011. © Hank Willis Thomas.

It’s the Real Thing!, 1978/2006, Hank Willis Thomas, 2006

Hank Willis Thomas (born 1976) was raised by a photography historian who taught him to be sensitive to the power of images. Though Thomas went on to earn degrees in fine arts and visual criticism, it was not until he photographed the funeral of his murdered cousin in 2000 that he began pursuing photography in earnest.

A self-described photo-conceptual artist, Thomas uses images to question the role of advertising in our daily lives. As a consumer, he felt duped upon forgetting that advertisements often sell fantasies, so he tackled issues of reality, identity, and popular culture in marketing in the series Branded. These imitation ads explore the authority of images and people’s reactions to the “truths” they present.

It’s the Real Thing – part of Thomas’s Unbranded series, which strips away branding of ads aimed at or featuring African Americans – is his take on a 1978 Coca-Cola ad. He digitally removed text from the original ad, leaving groupings of African Americans – young men singing, girls talking, a maternal figure perched at the top of the stoop – all enjoying a soda. The title plays on Coca-Cola’s former slogan but does not include anything that specifically identifies the sodas as Coke. In so doing, he encourages viewers to think critically about how images like this one reinforce stereotypes or construct a false reality about race and gender.

Join the Conversation!

How has advertising and marketing affected your life? Is there an ad or series of ads that you have found particularly believable or unbelievable? Is there a product that did not live up to your expectations created by an ad?

Check out the links below, and join the conversation!

“Advertising as Science,” Monitor on Psychology, October 2002

“Hank Willis Thomas Stages a Photo Shoot,” ARTnews, October 24, 2012

"John Grogan, A Patriot and his Dog, Ireland" (1980) Alen MacWeeney, Ireland. Gelatin silver print. BMA collection, 1982.224.9.

Dog Day at the BMA

August 26 is National Dog Day, and we couldn’t help but notice the many dogs that roam the Museum’s collection. Across centuries and cultures, dogs have been used repeatedly in works of art as signs of protection and companionship. The dogs in

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Museum News

Art Matters: What’s In A Color?

For thirty years, Exhibition Designer Terry Beckham has been establishing the look and feel of the Museum’s galleries through one important, though often overlooked, quality: the paint color on our walls. While at first glance the paint off the canvas may not seem obvious to Museum visitors, it plays an important role in complementing the artwork and enhancing the visitor experience.

The seemingly simple task of selecting a paint color is “the hardest thing that I do,” says Beckham. Through research and collaboration with the curator, Beckham methodically selects paint color based on a myriad of factors, whether through a moment in history, the interior decor trends of a time period, or even in the work of the artist. For instance, the “cornflower blue” paint that was used for the exhibition Norman Rockwell’s America was a hue that appeared repeatedly in Rockwell’s palette, on his canvases and in his Saturday Evening Post covers.

In addition to the curator’s vision for a gallery, the artwork itself serves as the most significant inspiration for selecting a paint color. The paint on the walls, in fact, makes the art look even better. “Typically,” Beckham explains, “I tend to choose darker, jewel tones, which make the colors in a piece of art appear brighter. The dark wall colors, combined with the dimmer conservation lighting in the gallery, trick your eye and make the art really stand out.”  You may recall this technique at work, particularly in our deep red Kress Galleries. Now thirteen years old, the Kress red was selected with much consideration and precision, as fourteen options were tested in the gallery under the proper lighting and against different pieces of art.

However, some of the color selections in our galleries are quite a departure from the darker paints. Our new African Ceramics Gallery is one example, where the fresh green walls are reminiscent of a grassy savannah, similar to the setting where the ceramics were made. Another favorite, Beckham adds, is the paint in the Asian galleries. This light grey, or celadon, is a color found in the art of every culture represented in our Asian collection. Not only is the color soothing and rather neutral, it is also symbolic of the shared artistic quality of these nations.

Just a few months ago, Beckham reflected on twenty years of paint color in a more tangible way. The rejuvenation of our Jemison Galleries gave us a dazzling archive of exhibition design history, when 187 layers of paint came off of the walls. “These layers of paint are a piece of Museum history, and truly tell a story about all the work we have done throughout the years,” Beckham says. “Paint is the most dramatic way to alter a gallery, but it also says so much about the planning and thoughtfulness that goes into everything we do at the Museum.”

Spotlight on the Collection

August 2014: Hot Water Urn

Hot Water Urn. Hester Bateman, 1780/1782. Silver with bright-cut engraving, and wood. Museum purchase, 1973.30a-b.

Hot Water Urn. Hester Bateman, 1780/1782. Silver with bright-cut engraving, and wood. Museum purchase, 1973.30a-b.

Hot Water Urn, Hester Bateman, 1781/1782

Modern collectors and silver enthusiasts have called Hester Bateman (1708-1794) “the queen of English silversmiths.” In 1761, she took over her late husband’s chain-making business and transformed it into an important silver workshop. She retired in 1790, leaving the shop to her son, whom she trained in the trade. Though the Bateman workshop finally closed in the mid-1800s, interest in Hester Bateman’s work continues today.

The Bateman workshop catered to a wealthy clientele as well as England’s growing middle class. While richer clients often commissioned custom-made pieces, evidence suggests that the workshop was among the first to adopt mass-production techniques. In order to meet the increasing demand for household silver, silversmiths mixed and matched common elements, such as claw or ball feet, to create unique designs.

Scholars and connoisseurs often call Hester Bateman’s designs elegant, balanced, and restrained. Her work exemplifies the Neoclassical style that other English manufacturers and craftsmen, such as Josiah Wedgwood, also embraced. For example, she based the urn-shaped body and ball feet of this hot water urn on Greek and Roman designs but arranged them with a fresh twist. This work of decorative art combines aesthetic value with utility and would have been a staple in an upper-class 18th-century household, especially as tea gained popularity in England during this time.

Join the Conversation!

Hester Bateman’s patrons often passed down silver from one generation to the next, as wedding gifts or reworked as sentimental pieces for their new owners. What do your heirlooms say about your family or heritage? How do you feel about your own family heirlooms? Are such items still useful in your life today?

Check out this link, visit the exhibition, and join the conversation below!

“The Tyranny of the Heirloom,” New York Times, June 26, 2008