‘The Approaching Storm’ with The Norton Simon

For their fifth Slow Art Day, The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, invited the public via Instagram to look slowly at Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña’s ‘The Approaching Storm.’

The event was inspired by the Norton Simon’s regular Mindful Looking sessions, where visitors focus on looking at one artwork for one hour.

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807-1876), The Approaching Storm, 1870, oil on canvas, The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon.

Viewers were guided by two prompts:

  • Step inside this scene and sit under the light.
  • How does it feel? In times of uneasiness, where do you find light⁣⁣?

We’d also like to note that the museum provided an unusually good description of the artwork – not filled with jargon but instead with accessible, compelling, and even poetic words.

⁣”In the midst of an approaching storm, a beacon of light shines down through a gunmetal sky onto a rocky landscape. A lone woman by the rocks nestled in the middle of the scene reminds us that we are part of this earth. At right, a tree is bent and blasted but does not break.”⁣⁣

Description of ‘The Approaching Storm’, The Norton Simon Museum, Slow Art Day 2020.

Mariko Tu, Manager of Youth and Family Programs at the Norton Simon Museum, said that slow-looking visitors loved the experience and the post was liked 600+ times.

The Slow Art Day HQ team also participated. We imagined ourselves in this scene; felt the soft warmth of the light, and really immersed ourselves in the calm before the storm. Although the lone woman in the painting seemed small, we came to believe that she is filled with strength and courage from the light despite the dark skies.

We look forward to whatever The Norton Simon Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Female Photographers at the IAACC Pablo Serrano

For their first Slow Art Day the IAACC Pablo Serrano in Zaragoza, Spain, highlighted four works by female photographers from the Museum’s archive:

  • Grete Stern, Sueño 39, 1949.
  • Cristina Martín Lara, “Si yo supiera a qué se debe…/ Wenn ich nur wüsste woran das liegt…(1) II”, 2004.
  • Mapi Rivera, “Estelación crepuscular”, 2004.
  • Liang Yuanwei, “S/T, Series: ‘Don’t forget to say you love me’, 2005.
Grete Stern (Wuppertal, Germany, 1904 – Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1999), Sueño 39, 1949. Photomontage.
Cristina Martín Lara (Málaga, 1972), “Si yo supiera a qué se debe…/ Wenn ich nur wüsste woran das liegt…(1) II”, 2004. Polyptych, photography on aluminum.
Mapi Rivera (Huesca, 1976), “Estelación crepuscular”, 2004. Analog Photography and Chemical Printing.
Liang Yuanwei (Xi’an, China, 1977), “S/T, Series: Don’t forget to say you love me”, 2005. Photograph on paper.

The photos were part of the virtual project “Visiones transversales en torno a Circa XX. A través de mi cuerpo / A través de tu cuerpo” (“Transversal visions circa XX. Through my body / Through your body”) which explores women, their physical bodies, as well as their social and artistic agency.

For example, Stern’s “Sueño 39” denounces obstacles women faced in 1940s Argentina. Yuanwei’s self-portrait series “Don’t forget to say you love me” is a parody of erotic photographs of women which comments on the male gaze and the objectification of women.

On April 4th, 2020, the photos were shared on social media, accompanied by prompts and brief descriptions. Viewers were encouraged to look slowly at each photograph and then to share their reflections online. The Museum also produced a short video of the four works, which can be viewed below.

The photos were liked many times on social media and some participants, and even some artists, posted inspiring reflections. One of the photographers, Cristina Martín Lara, commented on Facebook:

What a joy to be part of this Slow Art Day initiative to show everyone the Cirka XX Collection in our confinement. Thank you for making it possible! (Translated from Spanish)

Cristina Martín Lara

Several participants also posted reflections in connection with individual photographs. For example:

Even in the most idyllic context we can find something that makes us stop suddenly, causing us pain that only time, and not the context, can mitigate. (Translated from Spanish)

Participant response to Grete Stern’s “Sueño 39”, Instagram.

At Slow Art Day HQ we are inspired by the depth of symbolism in these photographs. The works in the Cirka XX project are exciting to consider one-by-one and even more powerful when viewed in relation to each other. We recommend that all Slow Art Day readers look at the photos posted above as well as the video.

We want to also thank María Luisa Grau Tello, curator at IAACC Pablo Serrano, as well as Julio Ramón Sanz, Eva María Alquézar, Alba Rodrigo Urmente, Gloria Sánchez Martín, Silvia Abad Villarroya and Alfredo Blanco Morte for hosting the Museum’s innagural Slow Art Day event.

We look forward to what the IAACC comes up with for Slow Art Day in 2021!

– Johanna and Ashley



Telescopes and Celestial Maps with Musée Stewart

For their first Slow Art Day, the Musée Stewart in Montréal, Canada, invited participants to watch slow-motion videos of two pieces in the NIGHTS exhibit (below).

Cassegrain Telescope, France, 1750. 1979.51.14 © Stewart Museum
Celestial map, Andreas Cellarius, Scenographia systematis Copernicani, 1660.  1985.34.2 © Stewart Museum

After watching the videos, viewers were encouraged to close their eyes and describe or draw the artifacts from memory. They were asked, “What do you remember?” and “Why do you remember what you remember?”

At Slow Art Day HQ, we decided to participate ourselves. Watching the videos felt almost like traveling slowly through space. The experience demonstrates something most video artists know: just how powerful slow-motion videos can be.

We also found that the memory drawing exercise was a wonderful way to connect a physical activity to a memory. We recommend that other Slow Art Day hosts consider this simple but powerful memory drawing exercise.

The Slow Art Day team loved Musée Stewart’s first Slow Art Day and we are excited to see what creative initiatives they develop for 2021.

-Johanna and Ashley

Slow Art with LUAG in Bethlehem, PA

For their first Slow Art Day, Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG) in Bethlehem, PA, invited the public to learn more about artworks in the Gallery’s collection, such as Romare Bearden’s Firebirds, 1979.

Romare Bearden, American (1914-1988), ‘Firebirds,’ 1979.
Lithograph on paper, 66/300. Gift of George P. Kramer. LUG 83 1021

On April 4, 2020, the event was promoted across social media, and also shared as an email invitation.

Participants were given access to a wide range of material on the Gallery’s Slow Art Day webpage, including prompts for ‘Firebirds’, short videos created by Lehigh students, and downloadable coloring pages.

The Gallery also hosted a series of “Art in Dialogue” presentations, featuring sessions such as ‘The Stories that Pictures Tell’ and ‘Visual Journaling’.

Slow Art Day “Art in Dialogue” presentations hosted by Lehigh University Art Gallery, 2020.

The event engaged 3,392 people in total through various channels. The email invitation was opened by 1110 people, and the Instagram and Facebook posts together reached 2,200+ people. 

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the range of activities organized for LUAG’s first Slow Art Day. We want to thank Stacie Bennan, Curator of Education, for creating such an innovative and involved set of activities.

We really look forward to what she and her team come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

P.S. You can check out more of the Lehigh digital art collection on their Artstor page.

Fossil Interpretations at the RPM in Hildesheim

For their second Slow Art Day, the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum (RPM) in Hildesheim, Germany, produced short videos about three objects by artist Gerd Hjort Petersen that were part of the exhibit “Begegnung mit Gerd Hiort Petersen und Hans Munck Andersen” [Encounter with Gerd Hiort Petersen and Hans Munck Andersen].

Gerd Hjort Petersen,”Sea Urchin Fossil 1″, 2015. Photo: Sh. Shalchi.
Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, owned by the artist. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)
Gerd Hiort Petersen, “Sea Urchin Fossil 2”, 2011. Photo: Sh. Shalchi.
Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, owned by the artist. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)
Gerd Hiort Petersen, “Rock Shell”, 1993.  Photo: Sh. 
Shalchi. Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, collection Claßen. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)

Short texts promoting the objects and Slow Art Day were shared before the videos went live. Then, on April 4, the three videos were shared to Facebook and the Museum’s website, featuring brief commentary by Dr. Andrea Nicklish, Curator of the Ethnological Collection. They received 350+ views, and are still available to watch on the Museum’s website.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the focus on shapes, materials and textures in this event. The videos recreated the experience of viewing the objects in the actual museum space, and gave a sense of their sizes, intentionally exaggerated by the artist.

We look forward to what the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking Eases Pandemic Stress in Iceland

For their first Slow Art Day, the Hafnarborg Art Museum in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, shared a selection of sketches by artists Eiríkur Smith and Elías B. Halldórsson to Instagram between the 4th and 9th of April, 2020.

Their slow-looking event aimed to help participants ease pandemic stresses. Viewers were invited to look slowly at the monotone artworks, then were encouraged to create their own sketches as a way to ground themselves in the present.

Eiríkur Smith, Untitled Sketch. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.
Elías B. Halldórsson, Pesky Saint. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.
Elías B. Halldórsson, Fragmented Self. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.

The Museum’s thoughtful captions addressed the importance of talking about mental wellbeing:

Art mirrors our experience, helping us cope with our situation through the basic human emotions expressed in the artwork, whether that be happiness, sorrow, anxiety or loneliness.

Some may feel a sense of anxiety during this ban on public gatherings, as stress or pressure to act or do something productive can be felt in the air. Therefore, we urge you to take a moment to sit down and put a pencil to paper without worrying too much about the result, only focusing on the process itself and being in the now.

Captions to the The Hafnarborg Museum’s Slow Art Day Instagram Posts, April 2020.

The posts were liked 55+ times and the theme resonated with the viewers, with one participant commenting “Vel orðað” (“Well Said”).

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are impressed by the Hafnarborg Art Museum’s sensitivity in addressing the mental health issues affecting people during the pandemic. The power of art to both bring people together and help manage stress during uncertain times are themes that we have seen throughout Slow Art Day 2020 events.

We look forward to what the Hafnarborg Art Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking at American Art with the MCA, Chicago

For their second Slow Art Day, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA), Illinois, featured five arworks by American artists from the MCA Collection.

CA Collection Artwork #1 Deana Lawson, American, b. 1979 “Sons of Cush,” 2016 Inkjet print, and mounted on Sintra Framed: 44 × 55 3/16 in. (111.8 × 140.2 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of Emerge, 2018.19
MCA Collection Artwork #2 Nicholas Africano, American, b. 1948 “I Get Hurt,” 1980 Acrylic, magna, oil, and enamel on Masonite Framed, approx.: 36 × 71 1/8 × 4 in. Collection MCA Chicago, 1980.42
MCA Collection Artwork #3 Jack Pierson, American, b. 1960 The Call Back, 1995 Chromogenic development print 30 × 20 in. (76.2 × 50.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of The Dave Hokin Foundation, 1995.119.1
MCA Collection Artwork #4 Joshua Nathanson, American, b. 1973 Is it late yet?, 2015 Acrylic and oil stick on canvas 84 × 61 1/16 in. (213.4 × 155.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2016.9
MCA Collection Artwork #5 Gertrude Abercrombie, American, 1909–1977 The Courtship, 1949 Oil on Masonite Framed: 28 × 31 ¾ in. (71.1 × 80.6 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust, 1978.56

On April 4, 2020, the artworks were shared to the Museum’s Twitter and Instagram Story alongside this 3-2-1 prompt:

  • Make three observations
  • Name two experiences the artwork reminds you of, or two people you want to see this
  • Pose one question to other viewers.

The 3-2-1 prompt was so intriguing that I decided to try it myself while looking at Africano’s “I get hurt”. I included my reflections below in the hope that it might inspire more museums and participants.

  • Observations: The color-palette is melancholy and, to me, it invokes a sense of stillness. The spacious background of Africano’s painting reminded me of how the current pandemic has hightened feelings of isolation for many people; it is a powerful visualization of how relationship and communication issues create loneliness.
  • Experiences: I thought of the times when I confronted friends and family members with grief or anger. The central figure’s hand-over-heart gesture made me remember the last time I cried, when I had gotten overwhelmed by all the minor annoyances of life during the pandemic.
  • Question: The question I would pose to other viewers is this: When was the last time you were honest about your emotions with someone close to you?

The team and I have been encouraged that so many Slow Art Day events during the pandemic fostered a much-needed sense of community through art. We look forward to seeing another great Slow Art Day event from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 2021.

– Johanna

Slow Looking and the 19th Amendment in Asheville

The Asheville Art Museum hosted its third Slow Art Day with a virtual slow looking webinar focused on three works by women artists in honor of the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary:

  • Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Playing Cards/Malcolm X) from the Kitchen Table II series, 1990.
  • Minnie Evans, Untitled, 2012.
  • Harriet Randall Lumis, The Little Red Bush, circa 1915.
Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Playing Cards/Malcolm X) from the Kitchen Table II series, 1990, printed 1999, gelatin silver print, edition 2/5, 26 ¾ × 26 ⅞ inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by 2004 Collectors’ Circle, 2004.24.04.91. © Carrie Mae Weems, courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery.
Minnie Evans, Untitled, not dated, colored pencil on brown paper, 11 ¾ × 9 inches. Gift of Randy Siegel, 2012.08.42.
Harriet Randall Lumis, The Little Red Bush, circa 1915, oil on canvas, 24 × 28 inches. Given in honor of Dorothy Hamill on her birthday, October 12, 2000, 2000.14.21.

Master docent Doris Potash instructed participants to do three things before the webinar: 1) find a quiet, still space; 2) look at each of the three images for 15 minutes; 3) while looking, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s going on in each artwork? What details do you notice?
  • If you were in those places, what sounds would you hear? What textures and temperatures would you feel?
  • What memories and emotions do these artworks evoke?
  • Each of these artworks was created by a woman. Is there anything about the works that you would associate with a uniquely female perspective?

Doris then moderated a live discussion about the experience.

The two-part session was attended by 23 participants, who gave very positive feedback about the event:

“A lovely way to spend an hour of my social distancing!”

“…a much needed break during these trying times.”

“I was very moved by the art selections and benefitted from this experience greatly.”

Participant Quotes

The Slow Art Day event was well-received on social media, with over 100 likes on Facebook and Instagram. It sparked so much interest overall that the Museum has since added weekly Slow Art Friday sessions to its regular calendar of events! A recording of the original Slow Art Day session can be found here, and the weekly program description and upcoming fall programs can be found here.

Our mission at Slow Art Day is to inspire museums and participants to embrace slow looking every day. Thus, we are excited that this North Carolina-based museum not only produced a great Slow Art Day but now has made slow looking a weekly activity.

-Johanna and Ashley

Slow Art Good Enough to Eat

In April of 2020, Slow Art Day veteran Hedy Buzan co-ordinated an event inspired by Wayne Thiebaud’s edible-looking paintings of food.

Sent out as a ‘Super Challenge’ via Mailchimp, Hedy asked participants to make their own sketch of Thiebaud’s ‘Jolly Cones’ with colored or standard pencils. She also provided hints and step-by-step pictures of her own process, which we include below following Thiebaud’s original:

Wayne Thiebaud, ‘Jolly Cones‘, Oil on panel, c. 2002.
Gift from the Wayne Thiebaud Foundation to the Laguna Art Museum, 2013, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Hedy Buzan, Slow Art Day drawing of Thiebaud’s ‘Jolly Cones’ #1
Hedy Buzan, Slow Art Day drawing of Thiebaud’s ‘Jolly Cones’ #2
Hedy Buzan, Slow Art Day drawing of Thiebaud’s ‘Jolly Cones’ #3

After they completed the challenge, participants were invited by Hedy to send images of their work alongside three observations from the exercise. Following the instructions, Hedy also included this helpful reminder:

Remember, we are not trying to make a perfect drawing but are using sketching to S L O W down and learn to look.

Hedy Buzan

The event had several asynchronous participants. One of them, Ellen Brundige, even captured a time-lapse video of her digital drawing, viewable here, the final result of which can be seen below:

Ellen Brundige, ‘Jolly Cones’ after Thiebaud, Slow Art Day challenge, 2020.
Source: Ellen Brundige Tumblr.

Hedy, who helped launch Slow Art Day in 2010, has previously collaborated with the Laguna Art Museum, where the original ‘Jolly Cones’ is exhibited. The Laguna Art Museum had to close this year due to the pandemic but Hedy hopes for further slow looking collaborations.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we have been impressed with the resourcefulness of all the hosts this year as they have found ways to connect people through art across virtual platforms. We love the fun spirit of Hedy Buzan’s challenge and look forward to more innovative Slow Art Day events from this pioneering artist in the future.

– Johanna and Ashley

From STEM to STEAM

The STEM acronym has become familiar to many since its introduction in 2001. Now, it is evolving, with the most recent term, ‘STEAM’, also incorporating art. In this post, we profile Dr. Koshi Dhingra, a forefront pioneer in linking STEM subjects with art, and her non-profit: talkSTEM.

With over 30 years of experience in STEM research and education, Dhingra is passionate about letting every child especially girls and underrepresented youth access STEM resources. This directly inspired her to found talkSTEM in 2015, which has since become a powerhouse of free material for educators.

As part of talkSTEM, children and students get the chance to have “outside the textbook” STEM mindset experiences with the walkSTEM project, often in connection with art.

Developed by Dr. Dhingra and her partner Dr. Glen Whitney, founder of the National Museum of Mathematics, walkSTEM is a framework for place- or concept-based tours with the aim of seeing the world through the lens of STEM. The talkSTEM and walkSTEM resources are easily accessible and adaptable for a range of ages, places and interests.

In the following video, Dr. Dhingra introduces the talkSTEM YouTube channel, where participants can find hundreds of videos focused on STEM topics.

In the video below, you can view the introduction to a walkSTEM tour by Dr. Whitney in the Dallas Arts District.

The inclusion of art with science, technology, engineering, and math is an exciting development, evident across talkSTEM resources such as:

  • This video playlist containing 26 short videos focused on art and math using walkSTEM methods. 
  • This page containing the Create Your Own walkSTEM framework (click on the appropriate colorful tile for museums).

At Slow Art Day HQ we recently took part in a video call together with Drs. Koshi Dhingra and Paul Fishwick, Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication; Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, both of whom have great STEAM projects in store for the Dallas area. We are excited to be in discussion with these great minds on the connection between STEM and art, and see clear links to the Slow Art Day aim of getting more people discover the joy of looking at art in new ways.

We have loved learning more about art through a STEM lens, and will keep following talkSTEM’s development.

– Johanna and Phil

Further links: local and state-wide press releases about talkSTEM.