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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's Almost Time!

By Olivia Cothren, Cooperstown Graduate Program student

We’re now just two days away from Night at our Museum at Fenimore Art Museum!

We’ve been hard at work putting together the mystery tour. We’ve chosen our cast, outfitted the actors in costumes from The Farmers’ Museum, and had fun, productive rehearsals. Only one more dress rehearsal and then it’s show time!

One of the many joys of studying at the Cooperstown Graduate Program is getting the chance to participate in all aspects of the local museum programming. Last year, I was delighted to play one of my idols, the Statue of Liberty, in the Night at Our Museum mystery tour. This year, I’ve gotten to work behind the scenes while another crop of my classmates gets to show off their theatrical talents. Night at our Museum is a fun, educational experience for the community as well as for the staff and students involved in the planning and implementation of the event.

Although the mystery tour will be a highlight of the evening, there will be plenty more to do and see on Saturday night. Be sure to take a moment to visit with representatives from local community groups who will be providing fun activities. Sad that your stash of Halloween candy is now a crumpled pile of wrappers? Save the tears—we’ll have plenty of treats on hand to keep the sugar rush going. And don’t even think about missing the evening’s musical act, Cooperstown’s own “Will and Will.” Everyone knows they say “where there’s a will, there’s a way”…but do you know what they say about two Wills? You’ll have to attend to find out!

We hope you’ll join us on Saturday night for this special event. We need as many detectives as possible to help solve the mystery! Did anyone use the clues in this post to figure out which galleries the mystery tour will take you? If you have, congratulations! You’re well on your way to helping us solve the mystery. Now that you know what rooms you’ll see, try to figure out which pieces of art will come to life using these new clues:

• I don’t mind if you call my work wacky, eccentric, or zany…but I think CRAZY might send the wrong message!
• You’ve chosen me as one of your favorite paintings in the museum. Well, my rose and necklace are quite lovely, so I can’t say that I’m surprised…but I never let my emotions show on my face.
• Oh goodness, I feel like I’ve been waiting on this line all day. If we don’t get moving soon, I might just go postal!

See you on Saturday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cameo Appearance

By John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections

Having worked at the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum storage facility for over three years now, there isn’t too much that surprises me when I stumble across it on a shelf. Except for a box of dozens of cameos. And not the cameo pins like most people are familiar with; these are plaster, and used to be glued into the trays in which they’re still contained. I’ve questioned for a few months now “What exactly are these?” They’re not jewelry, but they’re so small they can’t possibly be art to hang on a wall, unless you live in a doll house.

Well, looking under the lid helps.

The label is in Italian, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t spoken a complete sentence in Italian in over 20 years. Thank you Google! Given the translation of the first few words I figured out that this is a sample box of a cameo artists work, and the artist’s name was Giovanni Liberotti. I butchered the translation, even online, of the rest of the label, but it appears that the artist gathered the likenesses of other cameos and recreated them, showing off his own talent. Sort of an early artist’s portfolio I suppose, to help the artist have more work.

For some reason it never occurred to me until today that something like this sample set would have ever existed, but it certainly brings up other questions that the historian in me wishes could be answered. Was this kit brought from Italy by the artist to find work in America? Did someone find it in a dusty shop somewhere in Rome and bring it back as a souvenir? Who was Giovanni Liberotti? (I found a few answers to that question thanks to Google again!) In any event, it’s a very nice set of sample pieces that I can’t wait to work with a little more!

Cameos, Givoanni Liberotti, Plaster, various sizes, N0146.1969.
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