Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cats on Canvas (as well as cloth, paper, chalkware...)

By Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

As someone who shares her home with three cats I am always on the look out for felines in art. Truth-be-told I have an unofficial competition going in terms of representation of dogs versus cats in the Fenimore Art Museum collection. So, when I was back in our newly renovated painting storage area I was delighted to find another cat friendly portrait - Four Children and a Cat. In this 1840s portrait the cat is batting one of the children’s locket - familiar behavior to anyone who owns a cat.

How many other cats were prowling around the galleries and collection spaces I wondered? A quick survey found at least 8 cats (big and small) featured in portraits, paintings, toys, prints, quilts and statues. No surprise as some of those pieces came from the Gunn family, whose collection is now part of our own.

Although Mrs. Gunn had a reputation for not being overly fond of children she was plainly an animal lover. The following was recorded before her death in 1957:

“Most of all I like dogs, but now I keep cats. I, of course, will soon go. Dogs would grieve for me, but cats will not cry, will live out their time.”

The interviewer relates that “Neighbors thinking that Mrs. G worshipped cats were bringing or stealthily abandoning kittens at her door…Finally the stray cats found their way to the house on their own.” I would add that they found their way into the artwork as well.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Question For You

By Jessica Kendrick, Development and Marketing Associate

I spend a lot of time thinking about why you should donate to the Fenimore Art Museum. My ideas range from funny (our rooster weathervane is quite the comedi-hen!) to the ridiculous (please, please, please, I’m on my knees begging!) to the serious (we depend on the support from individuals like you to present the high-quality exhibitions and programs you enjoy).

But in reality, no matter how many reasons I come up with, it comes down to you. What do you love most about the Fenimore Art Museum? How much do you value having this gem of a museum in our community? Do you want to make a difference?

Your support is vital to our continued success. Your donation could pay for the fixtures to hang your favorite painting in next year’s feature exhibition American Impressionism: Paintings of Light and Life. Or, it could cover the costs of updating our Art Carts, allowing your kids or grandkids to touch and feel the materials used to create the art they see. The difference you can make might be in our ability to research the amusing story behind a folk-art painting and share it with you on this blog. The list goes on and on. The next time you are at the museum, look closely around you to see the real difference individuals just like you make. I see it every time I walk through the museum, and I hope you see it, too.

So, in conclusion, think about what your life would be like if the Fenimore was not here. Think about your favorite painting, exhibition, or program. Think about the fun, educational, delightful receptions, films, and discussions we offer. Now, don’t get distracted. Keep thinking about all your favorite things about the Fenimore and click on this link and make a donation to the museum right now! (Best viewed with Firefox or IE).  Your gift can be large or small; the important thing is your willingness to invest in us. It will make a difference.

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ring in the New

By Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

As the old year winds down we here in the curatorial department are deep into preparations for the New Year. The Fenimore Art Museum closes its doors to the public on January 1 and that is when we do our big 2012 makeover in preparation of our April 1 re-opening. The 2011 temporary exhibits come down and artworks are returned to various lenders or to our storage areas.

The paint colors and graphics for next year’s exhibits are being planned now. Fonts are chosen to fit the theme or sense of the exhibits with something exotic for Heavenly Aida: Highlights from the Metropolitan Opera, sensual for Spellbound: The Metropolitan Opera's Armide, and spring-like for American Impressionism: Paintings of Light and Life. Floor plans are devised on computer using sketch-up, InDesign or good old paper and pencil. We need to know where the objects are going and what they will be displayed on before we move them out of storage or ship them from another museum.

It is an exciting time of anticipation. Choosing colors and designing the look of a show is a challenge but is also good fun. Our curatorial team spars over what they think is wonderful or horrible. One person’s dream color or font can be another’s nightmare! In the end we come up with a look that we believe enhances the objects on display without dominating them. It’s a vision that we enjoy and hope our visitors will as well.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Never Too Late to Look Ahead

By Stephen Loughman, Preparator

As we finish up a very successful 2011 season at Fenimore Art Museum my focus now turns to all the exciting exhibits coming up in 2012. As featured in one of my posts early this year, it really begins to sink in that the New Year is coming up when we begin to talk about wall colors for next year. It’s always a lot of fun to find the perfect combinations.

We start with a small color swatch, if a color passes the initial test, I make a larger paint swatch on cardboard that will give us a better idea of what the color will look like on the wall. Just the first of many steps that we take to getting a finished exhibit on the walls for everyone to enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You can make a difference

By Dr. Paul S. D'Ambrosio, President and CEO

Edward Hopper once said, “All I want to do is paint light on a side of building.” Sounds simple, right? But his ability to capture light is transformative. Ugly freight cars are beautiful; the working dock yard dynamic.

That is the power of art. It makes you think about things in different ways. It tells a story that brings a community together and speaks uniquely to the individual. If you value having that resource here in your community, then please make a donation today to support the Fenimore Art Museum.

Simply put, your investment in us will make a difference. $20 could pay for the fixtures to hang your favorite painting. $50 would underwrite planting our Three Sisters Garden in Otsego: A Meeting Place. With $100, we can update the Art Carts, allowing visitors to touch the materials used to create the art they see. $250 pays for supplies to paint one gallery wall for our upcoming American Impressionism: Paintings of Light and Life exhibition. $500 covers the cost of printing all the informational labels for next year’s exhibition Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed.

This just skims the surface of how your dollars will make a concrete and visible difference. We are working hard to keep the same level of excellence you have come to expect. But to continue, we need your help. We depend on the financial support of friends like you. We value your involvement in our museum. Thank you. But by doing a little bit more, by making a donation, you will make a difference today.

We offer three easy, safe, and convenient avenues for you to make a donation.
Contribute online:
Contribute by phone: 607-547-1433
Contribute by mail: PO Box 800, Cooperstown, NY 13326

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The grand tour of Indianapolis!

By Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

I recently returned from a week installing Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It was just great! Brittany, IMA's registrar, was a master organizer all went according to her plans and schedule. It was a smooth and easy installation. IMA and its grounds are a delight and I even got myself photographed with the LOVE sculpture.

There are a few Cooperstown Graduate Program alums here in Indiana and I got to visit with Jane Hedeen, my own former class mate. Jane came down and meet me for lunch at IMA.

On Saturday my coworker Chris Rossi, Dorothy (my neighbor back home in New York and a former Indianapolis native) and I went to visit Johanna Bluhm, associate curator of western art at the Eiteljorg Museum.

Johanna interned with me in the Thaw Collection while a student at CGP. I really enjoyed seeing her at "her museum, her collection and her exhibit." Congratulation on a job well done, Johanna! We had a ball at the Eiteljorg - I especially loved the Christmas Train exhibit.

We also went to their storage facility and looked at everything... what a treat! Thank you, Johanna!

Sunday, Dorothy and I, in this Fiat 500, went to Columbus, Indiana. That outing is known as the "Modernism on the Prairie" tour and boy did we look at architecture!

We also toured the Miller House, a recent acquisition of IMA. Getting tickets to the tour was a tricky business. They have been sold out for every tour they have done since opening in May! IMA does 1-2 tours per day with 20 visitors in each tour, and they have a waiting list. No photos were allowed so here is the link to an article from Architectural Record.

I had a lovely lunch in a sweet little ice cream parlor that has been in business for 100 years! They had already decorated for Christmas. Somehow it felt right in this little place.

Many thanks to Dorothy for her tour of Nashville, Bloomington and its university!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Final Destination - Indianapolis

By Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Greetings from the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), where colleague Eva Fognell and I are installing our traveling exhibition, Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection, at its last venue in this 2-year long tour. The IMA has a collection of over 50,000 works of art from a variety of cultures and periods in art history. It also features traveling exhibits such as our own. Situated in the midst of 152 rolling acres, which include a nature park, mansion and gardens, the museum is a lovely place to install an exhibit.

Once again we are working with a topnotch crew to unpack our collection and get the objects in place. Every venue has given us a new way to think about the collection and how to present it. David, the designer here at IMA has chosen wonderful colors and layout for the gallery to offset and compliment the objects.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whodunnit at Night at Our Museum?

By Amy Hollister, Cooperstown Graduate Program Student

If you didn’t attend Night at Our Museum last weekend at Fenimore Art Museum, you missed an evening of art, crafts, music, and mystery. Will & Will entertained with musical stylings for the entire family, while the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown Art Association, The Glimmerglass Festival, The Brookwood School, and Cherry Valley Artworks provided art activities.

Will and Will were a highlight of the evening.

The excitement of the night centered on a mystery – just before the concert, a visitor’s purse went missing. Visitors divided into groups and worked with a detective and security to solve the case. And solve it they did! Using clues, young detectives roped off the galleries and scoured the crime scenes – and by crime scenes, we mean paintings. It turns out that at night the paintings come to life, and within the artwork lay the clues to catching the culprit!

Even if you didn’t attend, it’s not too late to solve the mystery. The clues and pictures of the crime scene are posted below. There are many things to consider when looking at art, but there are a few questions that provide a good start to your investigation:
1. “What is going on in this painting?”
2. “What do I see that makes me say that?”
Now it’s time to test your sleuthing skills! We’ve provided the clues and the paintings below.

Feathers at the scene of the crime
When our young detectives checked the purse’s last known location, all they found was bird feathers.

Quilting in the Clark
Two women sitting in the Unfolding Stories: Culture and Tradition in American Quilts exhibition were putting together a friendship quilt and had some conflicting tips. One woman said the purse thief was wearing black, and the other said she was wearing blue. It was hard to get a straight story, though, since they were arguing over quilting styles – and boy, was that a heated argument! We didn’t want our detectives to get caught in the cross-fire of fabric swatches and thread, so we left the gallery pretty quickly.

Young Boys Run Amuck in the Genre Gallery
Detective Henson and young detectives question the Village Post Office Lady and Mrs. McCormick.

In the genre gallery, we overheard Mrs. McCormick grumpily explaining to the Village Post Office Lady about the dangers of young boys. Unfortunately, neither Mrs. McCormick nor the Village Post Office Lady had much to contribute to the investigation. Do you see anything in the painting that could solve the case?

Eliza rocks in front of her post-mortem portrait. Can you find any clues in the painting?

Poor Eliza; she’s sad, and we don’t know why. Eliza was rocking in her chair when we got up to the gallery. From her, we learned that the thief was skinny, mean, and had a covered head. But this describes too many people! Investigate the painting to see if you can figure out anything to add to the case – or a clue to Eliza’s melancholy state. Is she upset because she stole the purse?

Those were all the clues the young detectives found. With such little information, it would take outstanding skills to find the thief. But, by vote of applause, the case was solved! The thief came forward. Check the comments section of this post for the answer – but only after you do your best to solve the case. Who do you think took the purse and why?

Visitors voted, by round of applause, on who they thought stole the purse.

A Night at Our Museum was a great success. Next year will bring a new mystery, new clues, and new crime scenes. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Native American Art Studies Association conference in Ottawa

By Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

I recently spent an interesting 5 days in Ottawa attending the 18th Native American Art Studies Association (NAASA) conference. It is a biennial event hosted at a different location each time. What the locations all have in common is a rich cultural scene with Native American art collections at their museums. This time we were guests on Algonquin land.

The program started with a board meeting for the members of the Otsego Institute for Native American Art History at one of the member’s houses.

Otsego Institute Board members; seated (left to right) Ruth Phillips, Aldona Joinaitis, Joe Horse Capture, Janet Berlo, standing (left to right) Jolene Rickards, Aaron Glass, Richard Hill and myself. (Evan Maurere and Jon Holstein could not make it to Ottawa.)

The Otsego Institute is a biennial conference and workshop held here at the Fenimore Art Museum for graduate students and junior professionals. The next Institute will be held May 20- 25th, 2012. Up to twelve participants are chosen on the basis of competitive application. The Institute pays for their travel and living expenses while onsite. It is a fantastic opportunity to develop relationships with prominent scholars in the field since they serve as faculty and mentors for the students. The Board spent a good part of the afternoon determining the program and discussing speakers to invite for the 2012 gathering.

For the next 3 days it was all business at the NAASA Conference with days joyfully crammed full of presentations. Here are some of the sessions: Object Lessons: Manifold Meanings in Individual Objects; Stand By Me: Activism and Aboriginal Curatorial Practices; Globalizing Native Art; Making the Past Present and the Present Contemporary. Interesting, invigorating and mind boggling at times!

Carlie Fishgold and Joe Horse Capture are enjoying themselves. Carlie was my intern in the Thaw Collection this past summer. It was great to see her again.

I also had a chance to catch up with student alums from past Otsego Institute conferences. At least 6 past students were presenting papers at the conference. On Saturday a group of us got together for lunch:

On Saturday evening NAASA's big gala dinner event was held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Here are some photos from that event:

What a setting for a dinner - among totem poles! About 200 people attended the dinner. I presented the first triennial $10,000 Thaw Publication Award to Jonathan Batkin for his book The Curio Trade in New Mexico. Afterward, I had moose stew and a glass of red vine. I am always amazed of what can happen "all in a day's work."

While in Ottawa, I had a chance to walk through town and look at the beautiful architecture and public art. Here are some pictures of what I saw:

 Check out this view over Ottawa and the river from my hotel room.
 Just a few weeks ago a young bicyclist died when hit by a car. A memorial to her sprang up on the sidewalk near the accident. Beneath all the flowers is a while bicycle. Ottawa is a bicycle friendly town with bike rental stations throughout the city. 

Parliament buildings in the morning light.

Bronze sculpture of Joseph Brandt on Rideau Street

And another bronze this one of Champlain

Maman by Louise Bourgeois, 1999 in the background is the National Gallery of Canada.
NGC borrowed 9 objects from the Thaw collection a few years ago for their exhibit Art of This Land.

Sculpture of ... hmmm, forgot to get the title! Isn't it an amazing stainless steel line in the sky? It is located on the river side of the National Gallery.

And then the Byward market! On the second floor this wood and paper mâché sculpture by Victor Tolgesya titled, Mc Clintock's Dream, 1978.

And here is one of the booths outside selling --- I don't know what to call it!

Tote pole in front of Ottawa School of Art
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