I am delighted to introduce you to baby Rhys Amann Coffey, born to Sarah and her husband Todd. Rhys made his debut on June 9 at 12:57 p.m., weighing in at five pounds and twelve ounces. Mom, dad, and baby are happy and healthy. We will miss Sarah while she is on maternity leave, but can’t blame her for wanting to spend as much time as possible with this handsome little guy.
C3 Gallery Manager
Surrealism is typically regarded as an art movement dedicated to personal exploration by tapping into a person’s subconscious. This was certainly an important component, but Surrealism was also focused on group activity, ranging from the creation of Surrealist journals, to collectively written statements, to unfettered discovery through group play and games.
Many of the games the Surrealists played together were derived from the types of parlor games they learned as children or still enjoyed as leisure. Such activities, while fun, were also meant to spur creativity and subvert the psychological conditioning of society. Sometimes these games resulted in finished works of Surrealist art and writing. As the movement’s self-proclaimed leader, André Breton, described their game playing in 1954: “Although as a defensive measure we sometimes described such activity as ‘experimental’ we were looking to it primarily for entertainment, and those rewarding discoveries it yielded in relation to knowledge only came later. [...] It is clear that to shut oneself off from game-playing [...] is to undermine the best of one’s own humanity.” (Brotchie and Gooding, 1991, 137-138)
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits for educators using Surrealist games in the classroom is how the activities offer a set of tools to get learners conceptualizing critically and playing with images, words, and ideas where the purpose is surprise, delight, and creativity. For the Surrealists, the fact that games had rules or instructions that mandated how they were played, but the end-goal was itself unstructured, illogical, and messy, was representative of their own world-view.
Let’s briefly explore two games the Surrealists used in group settings that might be fun to apply to classrooms and museum teaching. My descriptions of these games has been adapted from Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding’s delightful Book of Surrealist Games (Shambhala Redstone Editions, 1995).
The Exquisite Corpse
Perhaps the best known Surrealist drawing game, the Exquisite Corpse was actually born out of a writing activity. Surrealism’s roots are in writing and poetry; its earliest practitioners and founders were all writers. Games like the Exquisite Corpse (the name is taken from the poetic results of the first game played) were later modified into a visual variant.
Group size: Typically three-to-four players, or any size up to how easily one sheet of paper can be folded.
Instructions: A piece of paper is folded so that the number of creased sections matches the number of players, usually horizontally or in quarters for four players.
The first player takes the folded paper with the top fold exposed and draws anything that comes to mind. (Note: In it’s purest incarnation, as a reference to the name of the game, the players are to base their portions of the drawing on the portions of a human body, but this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule!)
She then extends some of her drawn lines across the fold into the next blank section, and refolds the paper so only the second section is exposed, and the next player cannot see what she drew in the first section.
The re-folded sheet is passed to the second player, who bases his drawing on the few exposed lines provided. After completing his section, he also extends a few of the bottom-most lines across the fold, refolds to hide his portion and expose the next, and passes to the next player.
This process continues until all players have a turn to draw a section, when it is unveiled and unplanned, group-designed drawing is revealed. An added variation involves the last player handing the folded drawing to the first player again, who must conceive of a title before the full drawing is shown.
Outcome: An example of an Exquisite Corpse can be seen above, created by André Breton, Greta Knutson, and Valentine Hugo, where the “head” is a florid, calligraphic design, the “torso” is an hourglass, and the “legs” are heart-footed compasses. The surprising and seemingly unnatural conjunctions of objects in these drawings are similar to the visual juxtapositions presented in many Surrealists’ work. Examples include the René Magritte’s Persian Letters, and Surrealist objects, such the one below by Sonia Mossé, both in the DMA’s collection.
The Game of Variants
This is essentially the traditional “whisper” game of Telephone. The group sits in a circle, and the first person conceives of a phrase, then whispers it to her neighbor. The second person whispers the same sentence to his neighbor, and so on, through the entire group. By the end, the beginning and ending phrases are compared.
Starting Phrase: “You must dye blue the pink bags fathomed by orange parapets.”
Ending Phrase: “At all costs forget the fifth paragraph of ‘Paradise Lost’.”
While not practiced by the Surrealists, I have used a fun visual variant of this game in teaching.
Group Size: Best suited for groups between ten and thirty players.
Instructions: Take a piece of paper and fold it horizontally then vertically in an accordion-style (front-over-back) into quadrants that add up to the number of players. (So, with twenty-five players, fold a typical sheet of paper four times horizontally, then four times vertically.)
Present the folded up paper so only one folded quadrant is visible, then have the first player draw a small simple, linear image.
She then presents the drawing to the next player, who looks at it, folds the paper over to the next blank quadrant, then redraws the image from memory. He then passes his version of the drawing on, and the process is repeated until the last player finishes her drawing.
Once finished, unfold the entire sheet, and marvel at the evolution of the image as it transforms from one recognizable thing into something else altogether!
Outcome: Just as the results of the Telephone game are remarkable for the dissimilarity between starting and ending phrases, the results of this visual variant are similarly startling, but the sheet also becomes a visual record of the transformation of starting image into something else entirely. In the example below completed during a class I taught in 2009, the starting image of a shoe transforms multiple times, into a cigarette and ashtray, a frying pan, a robot, and a bug.
Have you tried using Surrealist games like these in your teaching or for fun? Please leave your experiences and ideas in the comments below!
- Ferdinand Léger, Composition with Tree Trunks, oil on canvas, 1933, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation.
- André Breton, Greta Knutson, Valentine Hugo, Untitled (Exquisite Corpse), Colored pencil on black paper, c. 1929, Private Collection.
- René Magritte, Persian Letters, oil on canvas, 1958, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.B. Adoue, III.
- Gaston Paris, Untitled (Mannequin by Sonia Mossé), Gelatin silver print, 1938, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior Associates and an anonymous donor.
Brotchie, Alastair and Mel Gooding. A Book of Surrealist Games. Boston & London: Shambhala Redstone Editions, 1995.
Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs
Art is often a reflection of a society’s culture; it can range from an artist’s response to a specific experience, to a cultural relic born out of a particular time and place. The Dallas Museum of Art’s collection represents cultures from every continent over the last 5,000 years. Help us explore the diversity within North Texas by sharing your photographs that capture culture.
Upload your photographs here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/dmaculture
Click here for guidelines and more information.
Submitted photos will be on view in the DMA’s Center for Creative Connections starting in July.
C3 Gallery Coordinator
This edition of Artist Astrology features one of the DMA’s most beloved Gemini artists, Mary Cassatt (May 25th). Gemini’s are born between May 22nd and June 21st. They are typically categorized as multi-talented, scattered, talkative, and social. Communication is one of the strongest traits of a Gemini, and they may use this skill to clearly express their ideas and opinions. On the other hand, Gemini’s are very versatile and their companions may not be able to keep up with their often-scattered interests. Because of this adaptability, Gemini’s have an easy time making friends. The danger in this behavior may be overexertion and difficulty with time management. Gemini’s constant variety helps them maintain a fun-loving and youthful attitude throughout their lives.
Mary Cassatt – May 25th
Mary Cassatt did not let anything stop her from pursing her dream, despite many obstacles. Raised in a wealthy family, she was educated according to the typical duties expected of a woman of the time, primarily those aimed at becoming a proper wife. Cassatt, however, realized that this was not her passion and enrolled in art school at age sixteen. Unfulfilled by the curriculum, she left for Europe in 1866 in order to study from the Old Masters firsthand. Her family did not support this decision, and she was forced to pay for her materials and training independently.
As is characteristic of the social Gemini, her career was highly impacted by her relationships, especially that of Edgar Degas. Degas advised Cassatt to pursue her own artistic direction and, after doing so, eleven of Cassatt’s paintings were included in the Impressionist Exhibition of 1879. The exhibition was hugely successful and helped to launch Cassatt’s career. Her work, often focused around women and children in domestic settings, was praised for its objectivity and honesty. Cassatt would continue to play an influential role in the Impressionist movement throughout the late 1800s.
McDermott Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching
With school out, Go van Gogh volunteers are spending their days in the community, visiting recreation centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, and libraries with art-making programs. Summer programs are casual, always fun, and sometimes a little wild…in the best possible way!
We’re embracing summertime wildness in all its glory this year, with a new Go van Gogh outreach program called Into the Wild with the DMA. The program was inspired by the children’s book Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, in which a very proper Mr. Tiger, bored with being so proper all the time, decides that he needs to have a little fun; so, he goes wild. Really wild! ROAAAR!!! It’s a story that all of us—kids, especially—can relate to when the summer heat hits.
Into the Wild, which will be offered at Dallas Public libraries through the remainder of June and July, begins with story time and an animal game. We then put on our safari hats and venture into the wild depths of the DMA’s collection, exploring big cats and fierce mythical animals in artworks from the African savanna to the Indonesian jungle.
Our art safari ends with time to reflect and create an artwork inspired by one of our discoveries, the DMA’s Japanese Tiger.
If you’d like to join us on an art safari this summer, upcoming program dates and locations are listed below. Into the Wild is designed for children ages five to nine, but art and animal-lovers of all ages are welcome! Be sure to call the library ahead of time to confirm space availability, as programs are limited to thirty participants.
Tuesday, July 1, 10:30 a.m.
Hampton-Illinois, 2951 South Hampton Road, 75224
Tuesday, July 8, 2:00 p.m.
Dallas West, 2332 Singleton Boulevard, 75212
Tuesday, July 15, 2:00 p.m.
Audelia, 10045 Audelia Road, 75238
Thursday, July 17, 2:30 p.m.
Skillman Southwestern, 5707 Skillman Street, 75206
Tuesday, July 22, 2:00 p.m.
Polk-Wisdom, 7151 Library Lane, 75218
Friday, July 25, 2:00 p.m.
Lochwood, 11221 Lochwood Boulevard, 75218
Tuesday, July 29, 2:00 p.m.
Skyline, 6006 Everglade Road, 75227
Thursday, July 31, 2:00 p.m.
White Rock Hills, 9150 Ferguson Road, 75228
And if you can’t join us at a library, stop by the Museum and use our In the Swim Family Gallery Guide to chart your own summertime animal adventure!
Manager of Go van Gogh and Community Teaching Programs
Borrowing lyrics from Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime tune seemed to fit with this Friday Photo post theme of Summer fun! Stumped for what to do this summer? You can take a hint from some works of art in the DMA’s collection.
Why not take a run or bike ride along White Rock Lake? This urban oasis has provided inspiration to many North Texans over the years, including Edward G. Eisenlohr who documented the early twentieth-century landscape of Dallas in over 1,000 drawings, watercolors, pastels, oil paintings, and lithographs.
Jump in! One of the best ways to beat the heat is taking a dip in a local swimming pool, but would you ever think you could swim at Dallas City Hall?! Well back in 1984 that dream was a reality. William H. Whyte had the idea to revitalize the area around City Hall, and these ideas took shape as a beach party! In June of 1984, the city trucked in tons of sand, and everyone grabbed their swimsuits to soak in some sun at City Hall. Luckily photographer Lynn Lennon, who was working on a project about public spaces for the Dallas Public Library, captured images of the epic event. Find out more about this quirky time in Dallas history here.
If the pool isn’t your scene, then take advantage of the outdoors by packing a picnic or taking a day trip to one of the wonderful Texas State Parks in the DFW area. Artist George Inness often took inspiration from the outdoors, and sought to give his viewers the experience of nature through the shifting effects of light, atmosphere and season in his work.
And perhaps the best summertime activity of all is the block party, where neighborhood or community members can come together to celebrate with delicious food, good music and great conversation. And it just so happens that TONIGHT is the Dallas Arts District block party! Come celebrate the summer at this annual event that brings together programs like the Crow Collection After Dark, ’til Midnight at the Nasher Sculpture Center, and of course the exciting activities of Late Nights at the DMA!
Last weekend, From Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith opened at the Dallas Museum of Art. In connection with this exhibition, the Center for Creative Connections is pleased to have on view a “Baker” Bracelet by Art Smith, along with a collection of tools owned by the artist. Because a different “Baker” Bracelet is also on view in the exhibition, we faced the challenge of providing information that would expand on and not simply duplicate the information included in the exhibition. In the months prior to installing the bracelet, I learned that “Baker” referred to Josephine Baker. So, naturally, my first question (and the one that I thought visitors might have) was “Who is Josephine Baker?”
As it turns out, Josephine Baker led quite an amazing life. Baker was an African-American dancer and singer, who rose to fame in France. In 1926, her performance in the popular show La Folie du Jour cemented her celebrity status. During World War II, she worked for the French Resistance both entertaining troops and smuggling hidden messages in her sheet music. After the war she returned to the United States and was an advocate for the Civil Rights movement. Her efforts were acknowledged by the NAACP, who named May 20th “Josephine Baker Day.” Baker, loved for her singing, dancing, fashion and beauty, was greatly admired by artists and writers of the time such as Langston Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. However, what I found most intriguing was that she inspired several sculptures by Alexander Calder. Calder is known to have been an influence on modernist jewelers like Art Smith, and so their mutual interest in Baker caught my attention.
What similarities can you notice in the lines, shapes, angles, and curves between the bracelet and the images of Josephine Baker?
Visit the Center for Creative Connections to see the “Baker” Bracelet and Art Smith’s tools and to learn more about Smith’s inspiration and process. On view through December 7, 2014.
C3 Gallery Coordinator