Exploring Grief in Art at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

For their fourth Slow Art Day, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens invited guests to slow down and enjoy the immersive indoor and outdoor mixed media art environment created by artist Isaiah Zagar. The winding spaces are covered in mosaics created with Zagar’s handmade tiles and found objects, such as folk art, bottles, bike wheels, and mirrors.

Second level of the outside sculpture garden, featuring Isaiah Zagar’s Kohler tiles. Photo by Allison Boyle, Events & Marketing Manager.

Zagar’s art can also be seen on public walls throughout the south Philadelphia community, where he has been restoring and beautifying public spaces since the 1960s.

Mosiac building exterior by Isaiah Zagar on South St, Philadelphia. Photo by Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor.

After slowing down to take in the details of the space, Samantha Eusebio, Museum Educator, led a discussion on a particular section of the outdoor sculpture garden that included several large handmade tiles that Zagar made during a residency he held at the Kohler company in Wisconsin from September to November, 2001.

Samantha Eusebio and Slow Art Day participants. Photo by Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor.

Samantha first asked the group of 15 participants to share themes that they noticed emerging within the tiles. She then shared a video interview of Zagar talking about his experience at Kohler.

After the video, Samantha led a discussion about Zagar’s influences for the large tiles, which happened to be the events of 911 that occurred while he was in his residency at Kohler. Being raised in Brooklyn, NY, Zagar was heavily influenced by the tragedy, and his tiles include images of airplanes and buildings. Samantha continued the discussion with the group on different ways individuals deal with grief and trauma – through art, reading, exercise, or even just slowing down.

Slow Art Day participants looking slowly at Isaiah Zagar’s large Kohler tiles. Photo by Ashley Moran.
Large Tile Mosaics with Airplane Motifs by Isaiah Zagar. Photo by Ashley Moran.

Large Tile Mosaics with Airplane Motifs by Isaiah Zagar. Photo by Ashley Moran.

I had the pleasure of attending this Slow Art Day event, and it was eye opening. Even though I know that slowing down helps you see things that you are otherwise blind to, and even though I’m a longtime Slow Art Day volunteer who teaches many others about the power of slowing down to really see, I was still surprised by how much I saw that I had never seen before on multiple previous visits to The Magic Gardens. This is why Slow Art Day is an experiential program, and not primarily a theoretical one. You can understand the theory behind slow looking, but that doesn’t mean that you can see until you really slow down.

Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor, immersing in the mosaicked space.

It truly is amazing what you can experience if you take the time to slow down.

We at Slow Art Day HQ look forward to visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens while on our tour this summer of NYC and Philadelphia, and we can’t wait to see what they share for Slow Art Day 2023.

Ashley

Gratitude and Mindfulness for FMoPA’s Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, Florida, hosted an in-person event focused on mindfulness and gratitude.

Slow Art Day participants viewing the artwork by Paul Caponigro, Stream and Trees, Redding, Connecticut, 1967, Silver gelatin print, Collection of the Artist.

During the event, participants were taken through a step-by-step presentation by Zora Carrier, Executive Director of FMoPA, which we highly recommend curators and educators review and consider for inspiration for their own events.

Participants were first invited to do a body scan — noticing their sensations without judgement. We love this beginning. This is a great way to ground people in their body and senses.

Once they were tuned up, they were then invited to look slowly at two photographs by Paul Caponigro and David Dennard, and think about the following promts for each:

  • Look carefully at this artwork. What do you notice? Write down your observations. Be thorough.
  • Carefully review your observations.
  • Write down any inferences, opinions or conclusions formed because of known facts?
  • Are there any details that you want to know more about? Write 3-5 additional questions.
  • What is the context of the image?
  • What might the photographer be feeling?
  • Is the image positive, negative or neutral?
  • Is this image about an idea/concept that we can’t recognize with our five senses?

Paul Caponigro, American, b. 1932, Stream and Trees, Redding, Connecticut, 1967, Silver gelatin print, Collection of the Artist.
David Dennard, American, b. 1954, Paul Caponigro, A Desert Father, Death Valley, 2020, Platinum-palladium print, Collection of the Artist.

To finish the session, all participants were asked to do some breathing exercises and write a gratitude note to a person of their choice, guided by a three-step prompt:

  • Step 1: Focus on the recipient. Spend a few moments thinking about the note recipient—what they did for you; what they said; what it meant—focusing on the feel of the paper, colors, or what mental images come to mind when you think about the person.
  • Step 2: Be specific and personal. Think about the thing you’re most grateful for out of your relationship with the person.
  • Step 3: Think about how it made you feel—then and now. Don’t feel restricted by making it look ‘good’ as long as you can communicate your gratitude. Art is subjective, and this won’t be criticized.

In our own slow looking of these two photographs, we were particularly captured by the juxtaposition of the lush, first photograph with the spare moonscape-like second photograph. Then, after several minutes, we looked at the caption and realized that the artist of the first one is the subject of the second one. That brought added joy to the slow looking experience.

We recommend that all Slow Art Day educators and curators do as we did, and go through Carrier’s presentation. As much as possible, look with a child’s naive eye.

We are very happy to welcome FMoPA to the global Slow Art Day, and can’t wait to see what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl

PS. When we started Slow Art Day, almost no museums offered regular slow looking programming. We are happy to see that FMoPA not only participates in the global Slow Art Day, but also runs monthly slow looking events.

Slowing Down for Summer

Enuma Okoro, weekly columnist for the Financial Times, wrote a lovely article this week, The joy of living off the clock (gift link – first 20 readers to click will have access), about slowing down for summer and some of the art that reflects that.

In the column, Okoro spends time with three paintings: Khari Turner’s, “Get Home Before Dark“; John Singer Sargent’s “Two Girls Fishing“, and Njdeka Akunyili Crosby’s “Remain, Thriving.”

In looking slowly at these paintings, Okoro combines her life experience, her work as a curator, her knowledge of art history, and her good eye.

Njdeka Akunyili Crosby’s Remain, Thriving (at Brixton tube station in England)

Enjoy her article.

Meanwhile, the Slow Art Day volunteer team is beginning the process of writing up the reports from this year’s event. We will begin publishing soon and through the autumn. Be patient with us as we slowly work our way through all of your great work.

Hope you are having a good and slow May.

Phyl

P.S. The Slow Art Day HQ team will be slowing down this summer *together*! For the first time, we’ll meet in person (we work via Zoom across continents) and slowly look at art in New York and Philadelphia. We’ll share more about our plans soon in case you want to join us.

Slow Art Day Keynote at Tiempo de Arte

The Slow Art Day collective delivered the closing keynote last Friday for Tiempo de Arte‘s conference in Spain. Our two European HQ members, Johanna Bokedal (Sweden) and Jessica Jane Nocella (Italy) traveled to Spain while our U.S.-based founder, Phyl Terry, participated via Zoom from New York.

The conference took place in the Centro Botín: an arts centre designed by Pritzker Prize-winner architect Renzo Piano, in collaboration with Luis Vidal and Architects. It is located between the city centre of Santander and the historic Pereda Garden, and the bay.

Centre Botín, Photo Credits: Johanna Bokedal

The conference was opened by the Organizing Committee of Tiempo de Arte, the Director of Centre Botín, the Mayor of Santander, and by the Tourism Director of Cantabria. Then, Writer Carl Honoré gave a talk on “La Revolución Slow: La Magia de la Lentitud” (lit.: the revolution of slow: the magic of slowness). In his engaging speech, Carl stressed the importance of slowing down in a high-speed world. He also talked about the importance of what he calls “the slow paradoxes” – i.e., how sometimes you can slow down to go fast, or how disconnecting from your phone can reconnect you to the world around you.

Carl’s talk was then followed by different interesting roundtables on various topics, which ranged from sustainable collecting to the role of humanism in the digital world.

Carl Honoré, La Revolución Slow: La Magia de la Lentitud”. Photo credits: Johanna Bokedal

On the second day, the conference opened with a dialogue between the award-winning chef Jesús Sánchez, and the sculpor José Luis Vicario. They talked about how encounters and meetings can be an opportunity to slow down and discover the beauty surrounding us. This was then followed by a roundtable on art, beauty and health where experts in psychology, art, and art therapy talked about the benefits of art in different contexts.

Professor, Psychologist, and Writer Alejandra Vallejo-Nágera engaged with the audience in a slow-listening activity. She invited us to close our eyes, listen to two cellos playing, and then to communicate the music through our hands as if we had to express it to someone who was hearing-impaired. One last roundtable on tourism and art was held by the Mayors of Santander, Malaga, and Madrid.

Roundtable on Art, Beauty, and Health. Photo credits: Johanna Bokedal.

The conference closed with our talk Slow Art Day: Design by Letting Go, which we delivered both in-person (Jessica and Johanna) and remotely (Phyl).

We began with a cross-continent slow looking exercise focused on Hans Hoffman’s Fantasia, the piece of art that kicked off the slow art revolution back in 2008.

Phyl Terry engaging the audience in a slow-looking activity

We then showed highlights from the 2,000+ Slow Art Day events that have been held around the world. Finally, we emphasized the radically decentralized nature of Slow Art Day and our mission to create an environment of radical inclusion.

We really enjoyed giving this multi-language (our talk was simultaneously translated into Spanish), multi-continent, multi-media talk. And Johanna and Jessica, who had been working together for years but had never met, loved spending two days together in real life.

Slow Art Day team engaging with the audience.

Slow Art Day HQ would like to thank Merche Zubiaga, Zaida De Las Heras, and Charo Izquierdo for inviting us to speak at their Tiempo de Arte event. We look forward to continuing to work with them to keep building the slow art movement.

Glen Foerd’s 2nd Slow Art Day

For their second Slow Art Day, Glen Foerd in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, selected the following four works from their collection for participants to enjoy in-person over the course of 2 hours.

Manifestation with Wings (1958) by Benton Murdoch Spruance (1904-1967. Oil on canvas. Collection of Glen Foerd.

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Flowers in Gold Vase by (Mary) Elizabeth Price (American, 1875-1960). Oil on panel. Collection of Glen Foerd.

Lady Trimleston by Sir Thomas Lawrence (British 1769 – 1830). Oil on canvas. Collection of Glen Foerd.

An Archive of Desire (2020) by Jennifer Johnson (American). Mixed Media, Porcelain. Archive of Desire Installation, property of Jennifer Johnson.

Participants were provided with a flyer that included images of the pieces, and the following prompts:

  • Look not only at what is pictured, but how it is pictured.
  • What kind of colors has the artist used? Are they bright, muted, or somewhere in between?
  • Can you see how the color has been applied or is the color smooth and blended?
  • Is there a sense of deep, moderate, shallow, or indeterminate space? Is that space consistent throughout the picture?
  • Is space clear and well defined or atmospheric? What about how the picture was painted gives it that quality?
  • Is there the suggestion of a directional light source, of light coming from a one side or the other?
  • Can you see lines anywhere, whether painted lines or strong edges created by color-to-color areas? Where are lines used and how? 
  • What other observations can you make?
  • How is the installation piece different from the paintings?
  • What is the unifying theme of the installation?

Afterwards, Director Ross Mitchell invited participants to the art gallery where he led a discussion on the aesthetic qualities of the pieces. The event was promoted on Glen Foerd’s website and their Instagram page a month in advance.

An Impromptu Slow Looking Session

As we at Slow Art Day HQ started to write this report, we also decided to take few moments to look slowly at all of the works and have our own discussion about them – and we encourage you all to do the same.

Before reading further, scroll back up and look… slowly. Then come back here to read a little about our thoughts.

….

We were immediately drawn to this work and to its great sense of movement. We debated whether we thought the two winged figures (angels, birds?) were drawn to the light or coming from the light. And we all enjoyed one of the rewards of slow looking at this painting – the eventual realization that there is a third figure. Overall, slowing down with this painting left us with a feeling of hope.

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We debated the flatness of this painting, and whether it’s a painting of a painting. We also were drawn to, and discussed, the richness of the table – the wood is like droplets of water falling into a stream. One of us pointed out that the closely-cropped borders give a sense of tightness. And, in a lighter moment, we all agreed that we wanted to move the lit candlesticks away from the flowers. Ultimately, this work brought us feelings of autumn and a sense of sadness.

This several hundred year old painting brought up the most debate. Some of us do not like portraits of the elite, but the power of slowing down is that everyone gets to go beyond the superficial binary of “like / don’t like” – and discovers a new relationship to the artwork. As we looked and then talked, we noticed and discussed a number of things. Several of us were drawn to her facial expression. Is she smirking? We noticed her white dress, shoes, translucent sleeves, and colorful shawl (is that an LGBTQ flag?) and parasol – and also noticed how her ring is displayed prominently. Is the artist making a proto modern-day statement about gender, sexual orientation, marriage? Unlikely. We don’t know, but we are free to see what we see.

We were all immediately drawn to this piece, yet it took us to very different places. For some, this felt like a city at night, with the reflections in the table like lights in a river. For others, this was a library of mid-century modern shelves – the doors opening to reveal mirrors asking us to look deeply within ourselves. For yet others, each of these tiles represented the infinity of possibilities, including the unlimited number of genders.

….

We at Slow Art Day HQ are happy to see Glen Foerd’s participation for a second year, and look forward to whatever they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

P.S. – The Slow Art Day HQ team is getting together this summer in the United States and we are planning to visit Glen Foerd in addition to other NY and Philadelphia museums.

Special Message from Kyiv’s Slow Art Day

Hope you had a wonderful Slow Art Day 2022. We look forward to all of your post-event updates, which we will begin turning into written reports (and publish here throughout the year and then in our annual report at the end of 2022).

But today, on the day after Slow Art Day, I want to share this (lightly edited) message we received from Kyiv and the Khanenko Museum just before this year’s event.

I am Hanna Rudyk, a Deputy Director of Education and Communication at the Khanenko Museum in Kyiv, Ukraine.

The Khanenko Museum (officially: the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Nationam Museum of Arts), which holds the largest Ukrainian collection of art from around the world, has been a Slow Art Day host for the last three years.

This year we were also planning to host the event in our museum. But Russia’s war against Ukraine prevented us from going forward with these plans. So, we decided instead to switch our Slow Art Day to an online event focused on one artwork. We will show a very rarely exhibited piece of Chinese art and ask our followers to contemplate upon it and share ideas. In the afternoon, we will give time for our curator to add some comments.

I wonder, if our plans could be somehow reflected on the Slow Art Day Official website. We are truly committed to the ideas underlying Slow Art Day and we urgently need now to be more visible and supported.

Below is the artwork they looked at yesterday and the MS Word file they sent last night with the online prompts and some of the comments they received.

Hope you had a wonderful Slow Art Day and wherever you are, you think about our colleagues in Kyiv.

Those of us who love art – and love helping more people learn to look at and love art – we form a global city, and this year one of our neighborhoods is under attack.

Yet, our neighbors still found a way to celebrate Slow Art Day.

They inspire us and have shown us all how to live even in the most difficult moments.

And for that and many other reasons, they deserve *all* of our support and attention.

Phyl

P.S. Here’s the Word file with their prompts and comments.

Happy Slow Art Day 2022

Slow Art Day 2022 is happening now all over the world in more than 175 museums, galleries, hospitals, sculpture parks, and other settings.

Plus, many more people are simply finding ways to slow down today.

Check out Instagram for #slowartday to see photos and videos of what’s happening.

Screenshot of Instagram on Slow Art Day 2022 morning

I founded Slow Art Day as an antidote to the screen-based fast-paced multi-tasking world we were all creating back in the 2000s (Apple and Facebook were both clients when I first came up with the idea).

If you are an educator, curator, or artist leading slow looking sessions today, then know you are part of a global movement – that as you guide your visitors to slow down, so are many of your peers simultaneously doing the same thing all over the world.

And please take pictures and video. Post with the hashtag #slowartday. And send us your report.

Otherwise, whoever you are, go look at art slowly today.

Visit a museum or gallery. Or go online with longtime Slow Art Day leader, the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Look at 5 works for 10 or more minutes each (the courageous might choose one work and look for an hour).

Meditate.

Breathe.

Shift positions. Look away and then look back.

Be open to the profound love you may experience when you slow down and really look at art.

Certainly allow yourself to see beyond what you *expect* to see.

Most of all, have a happy and slow day.

Love,

Phyl

Happy Slow Art Day Eve!

Happy Slow Art Day Eve 2022.

174 museums, galleries, hospitals, sculpture parks and other venues are hosting slow looking sessions all over the world – from South Africa to Slovenia, Singapore to Serra Negra, Melbourne to Manhattan, Oaxaca to Orléans, Verona to Vilnius, and many, many other places.

Check out the Instagram tag, #slowartday to see what these educators, curators, artists, and art-lovers are doing around the world.

And, most of all, have a happy and *slow* day of looking at and loving art.

Phyl and the Slow Art Day team