NMWA Turns Slow Art Day into a Week of Activities

For its 7th Slow Art Day celebration, The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. turned the day into a whole week of events, featuring 10 women, half of whom are artists of color: Andrea Higgins, Graciela Iturbide, Frida Kahlo, Susan Katz, Yayoi Kusama, Amy Lamb, Delita Martin, Alison Saar, Amy Sherald, and Mickalene Thomas.

Participants in their Slow Art “Week” were invited via the museum website and social media platforms to select and spend 10 minutes with five portraits from among the works of the 10 artists. They were then asked to join a Zoom discussion to reflect on their slow looking experience. A detailed image of Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky’ (1937) was also made accessible on the Google Arts & Culture platform and shared as a Facebook post.

The Slow Art Day events were part of the ongoing initiative NMWA at Home, which features an amazing range of art resources from online exhibitions to Spotify playlists which can be accessed here. A PDF with instructions for the Slow Art Day specific events is available here. You can also explore more of the NMWA collection here.

One of the featured artists for their Slow Art Week was Amy Sherald, who works to reclaim portraiture and turn it into a celebration of African American individuality. Strongly inspired by Frida Kahlo’s themes and her use of color, Sherald’s art is a critique of historical black representation in both portraiture and photography and seeks to promote black selfhood.

Amy Sherald, ‘It Made Sense…Mostly In Her Mind,’ Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches, 2011; Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the 25th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Photo courtesy of the artist.

Amy Sherald has also spoken a lot about her work. We’ve included quotes below and encourage you to watch the short YouTube video ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio.’

“My work is about taking blackness past the stereotypes and opening it up to the imagination.”

Amy Sherald, quote from the NMWA Blog.

“These people have let go of that idea of being watched. They’re there to meet your gaze in a different way. And it’s a critique on historical black representation, whether it be in photography or painting.”

Amy Sherald, quote from Hauser & Wirth’s ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio’ (YouTube).

The whole Slow Art Day HQ team loves Amy Sherald’s work and we are excited to see such focus on the reframing of conventional art history.

Participants also loved the NMWA’s Slow Art Week. One said it was one of the most “well-planned online (or offline) events they had experienced.” And unlike the previous years when the events were in the museum, this year people from all over the world – from California to the United Kingdom – were able to participate in their great program.

“This has been a super experience in so many ways: the quality of the seeing/interpretation; the generosity of listening/talking; and the sheer excitement of talking to a group of women I do not know in another country in another time zone, in this moment.”

U.K. Participant

We loved participating in the NMWA’s program and learning so much more about the 10 featured women artists. The Slow Art Day team looks forward to seeing more Slow Art Week (or maybe month?) events at the NMWA in 2021.

– Johanna, Phil and Ashley

P.S. We also have watched with admiration as the NMWA has recently started handing out water and snacks from their museum entrance as one way to support the international protests against racism and police violence.

Slow Looking with Bisa Butler’s Stunning Portraits

For the second Slow Art Day hosted by the Katonah Museum of Art (KMA), the museum focused on its Bisa Butler: Portraits exhibit. Renowned for her use of fabric and traditional quilting techniques, Butler reimagines historical black figures and culture in her art, often taking classic photos and turning them into vibrant, multi-colored textiles.

On April 4, 2020, detailed images from one of Butler’s amazing quilts titled ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ were shared to Facebook and Instagram.

Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019, Cotton, wool and chiffon, quilted and appliquéd, 50 x 129 in. (127 x 327.6 cm). Private collection, promised gift on long-term loan to Minneapolis Institute of Art.

We show the full image first (above), but the museum did not include it in their initial posts. Instead, they posted four close-up images (below), captioned with short prompts to encourage deep reflection. Participants were then invited to an in-depth Zoom discussion, led by Marijane, a KMA docent, to explore the whole exhibit and slowly look at some of Butler’s amazing work.

Detail 1: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.
Detail 2: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.
Detail 3: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.
Detail 4: Bisa Butler, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ 2019.

Butler’s stunning textiles are often based on important black and white photographs – the one above of four women sitting on the steps of Atlanta College in 1900.

This particular work engages with complex ideasranging from change, power and freedom, to historical symbols of wealth culturethrough Butler’s carefully curated patterns and colors. Of course, the title of this work borrows from the title of Nobel-Prize winning poet and writer Maya Angelou’s debut memoir in 1969.

The event was very well received across social media and Zoom. Many participants followed up the event with positive feedback such as:

Thanks for the incredible up close views!

Such a wonderful tour.  Thanks so much for making my day.

This was AMAZING!!  Thank you so much for hosting slow art day and for hosting it virtually!!!!

PARTICIPANT QUOTES

At Slow Art Day HQ, we also love Butler’s art and her powerful textiles. These are amazing to slowly look at online and we can only imagine what they are like to see hanging on the museum’s walls. The museum is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but when the KMA re-opens, we recommend you go if you are near northern Westchester County, New York.

Finally, we note that over 80% of artists from collections across 18 major U.S. museums are still both male and white according to a 2019 survey by PLoS ONE; we are grateful that the KMA is helping to change that.

– Johanna and Ashley

Mindful Slow-Looking with The Fotomuseum

For their 5th Slow Art Day, The Fotomuseum in Antwerp, Belgium, provided a virtual slow-looking mindfulness exercise (in Dutch) for people at home during the Covid19 pandemic.

Title picture of the instructions for the event Slow Art Day at Home organised by the Fotomuseum, Antwerp.

Participants were encouraged to choose an image, drawing or photo to look at for 5-10 minutes and find a comfortable seated position. The Fotomuseum outlined 5 stages for its meditative slow-looking activity:

1) Relax

“Close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath, and put one hand on your stomach to feel it. If your mind wanders, return to your breath. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 6. Repeat this 5 times.”

2) Look at your artwork

“Open your eyes and look at the artwork with the same alertness you had for your breath. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you notice?
  • What colors, composition, shapes and materials do you see?
  • Does the artwork remind you of events from your own life?
  • Would anyone else notice the same things as you?

If your mind wanders, try to return to the image.”

3) Breathe

“Close your eyes a second time, and return focus to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths so you feel the air flow deeply into your lungs, and then breathe as normal again. Pay attention to any thoughts about the artwork, but try to not lose yourself in them. Return to your breathing again.”

4) Look a second time

“Open your eyes and look at the artwork for the second time.

  • What stands out to you now?
  • Do you notice anything new?
  • Does the artwork take on a new meaning for you?”

5) Reflect

“Take a moment to reflect on the exercise.

  • Did you notice yourself thinking or looking in a different way?
  • Do you have a new or different connection with the artwork?”

The original in-person event planned by the museum attracted interest from over 150 prospective attendees, and the online instructions were shared to Facebook with 50+ interactions.

At Slow Art Day HQ we have loved using these thoughtful instructions for our own slow-looking. Try them out at home for yourself!

We look forward to The Fotomuseum’s 6th Slow Art Day in 2021 ― hopefully in their actual museum.

– Johanna

Note: The above instructions were translated from the original Dutch.

PS – You may want to take a look at the webinar they did for Slow Art Day last year.

Jigsaws and Meditative Drawing with the Georgia Museum of Art

For their 5th Slow Art Day, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia, combined two meditative art techniques by artist Anna Bogatin Ott: Slow Looking and Slow Drawing.

Slow Looking

For the slow looking activity, participants were invited to look closely at the painting Aurora by Anna Bogatin Ott, and were guided by prompts via a PDF file, such as:

  • “How do the repetitive marks guide your gaze around the painting?”
  • “Imagine the painting so far away it becomes a speck, then zoom in so close that it’s touching your nose.”
Anna Bogatin Ott (American, b. Ukraine 1970), Aurora (River Wanderings 7714), 2014 – 15. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches (122 x 122 centimeters). Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of the artist, GMOA 2017.34.

Since Ott’s art is inspired by nature, participants were also encouraged to reflect on similarities between the colors of the painting and nature.

“I engage all my senses, dissolve into surrounding sounds, become immersed in the nature’s logic of being, and then, from memory, I recreate my experiences in drawings and paintings.”

Anna Bogatin Ott

Slow Drawing

For the slow drawing part of the event, participants were encouraged to draw horizontal lines while trying to stay in touch with their physical sensations focusing attention on the sound of their breath, the feel of the texture of the paper, and the visual effect of negative and positive space between the lines. The activity became a mindful way of remaining present through a multi-sensory art experience.

Slow Drawing Instructions (PDF) for Slow Art Day, 2020, by The Georgia Museum of Art.

Pre-event Virtual Jigsaw Puzzle

Leading up to the main event, the museum shared a virtual interactive jigsaw puzzle of their featured painting to their Facebook page. Several participants completed the jigsaw, and the post reached 647 readers.

Virtual jigsaw of Anna Bogatin Ott’s Aurora, available: www.jigsawplanet.com. Courtsey of The Georgia Museum of Art. Screenshot by Johanna.

Without being formally promoted, their event was a social media success with over 2000 Instagram impressions and 185 Facebook interactions.

The Slow Art Day HQ team has loved participating in these mindful activities. They made us feel centered and at peace, which is a big part of what Slow Art Day is all about.

We look forward to seeing more of The Georgia Museum of Art’s immersive events – hopefully for Slow Art Day 2021.

-Johanna and Ashley

Virtual Mosaic Murals with Philadephia’s Magic Gardens

For its 4th Slow Art Day, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens hosted its first virtual event with an interactive online map of mosaic murals by founding artist Isaiah Zagar. During the event, they shared photos on their Facebook page of three murals located in close proximity to each other in South Philadelphia. They urged attendees to either look at the photos online, or, if possible, walk over to them and view them in real space (Note: all murals are public and thereby easy to view without violating quarantine).

Isaiah Zagar, view of mural on 1313 S. 8th Street. Photo courtsey of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah Zagar, view of mural on 836 Sears Street. Photo courtsey of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah Zagar, view of mural on 1328 S. 8th Street. Photo courtsey of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Guided by prompts, participants were encouraged to send their thoughts about the murals to Allison Boyle, Events & Marketing Manager at Philly’s Magic Gardens, who was available online during the event to answer questions.

Alissa Giangiulio, one of the event participants, said that she could see some of the artist Isaiah Zagar himself in the mural on 1328 S. 8th Street (pictured above), and commented that:

“Art makes love go around, especially in a close knit city community!”

People participated during Slow Art Day and in the days that followed. Further, the Facebook post itself was viewed by over 4000 people and received 150 likes, comments, and shares. According to Allison, this was a stronger response than typical.

At Slow Art Day HQ we are firm admirers of Philly’s Magic Gardens, and love the ways that Zagar’s murals encourage people to stop and reflect in the streets (and on online).

When Slow Art Day started 10 years ago, we were happy to use the Internet primarily to promote Slow Art Day and send more people into real spaces. Despite having to shift more online this year due to Covid19, we have loved how museums and galleries like Philly’s Magic Gardens have pivoted to creating virtual experiences (or, in this case combination virtual and physical).

We look forward to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens Slow Art Day participation in 2021.

-Johanna and Ashley

Latvia’s Riga Bourse Joins Slow Art Day

The Art Museum Riga Bourse in Riga, Latvia, hosted their first Slow Art Day this year as a virtual event, like many art institutions across the world, due to Covid19.

Participants were invited to slowly view five works for 5-10 minutes each from the museum’s permanent collection using their Google Arts & Culture platform:

Portrait of William II, Prince of Orange-Nassau by the workshop of Anthony van Dyck, 1632 (the most viewed painting of the event, pictured below)
Musical Society by Niccolo Renieri, 17th century
Banks of the Tiber near Acqua Acetosa by Ludwig Richter, 1835
Christ on the Cross by Pieter Pietersz Aertsen, late 16th- early 17th century
Fisher Girl by Eugène Isabey, 1850

Workshop of Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of William II, Prince of Orange-Nassau, 1632, oil on canvas. Collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art. Used with permission.

The Google Arts platform allowed participants to zoom in on the 5 selected artworks to closely study brushstrokes and textures. Participants were then encouraged to consider the wider social context of each work and provide their commentary via the museum’s Facebook and Twitter accounts which reached more than 4000 people during the event. The museum produced a video (in Latvian) about Google Arts and slow looking that is still available to download.

Sandra Kempele, Curator of Education at Riga Bourse, reflected on how “encouraging [it is] to be part of this global community” of Slow Art Day especially now in the face of changing and trying circumstances.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we heartily echo this sentiment. Despite still advocating for the special experience of viewing art in museums, we are continually encouraged by the creativity and adaptability showcased by art institutions such as the Riga Bourse during this pandemic.

We look forward to the Riga Bourse’s continued participation in 2021 –hopefully in their actual museum.

– Johanna

Museo Pedagógico de Aragón Hosts First Slow Art Day

For The Museo Pedagógico de Aragón first Slow Art Day, the Huesca, Spain-based museum designed a compelling and important virtual event.

Participants were invited to slowly view a photograph from the museum’s archive, and given prompts for reflection. Responses were then emailed to Sara Lugo, Curator at Museo Pedagógico de Aragón, for collation.

The 1959 photo, titled ‘Sewing Afternoon’ (or ‘Afternoon of Work’), depicts the female teacher Rosa Mairal and students from a small town in northern Spain during General Franco’s dictatorship.

‘Afternoon of work, Rosa Mairal and her students, Girls School, Borau (Huesca)’, 1959.
Archive of the Pedagogical Museum of Aragon.

The image sparked discussion around a range of topics, including the working conditions of female teachers, the types of subjects taught to girls, and the current role of women in education.

Participants concluded that the education of women has greatly improved since 1959, but many changes still need to be made, especially in working conditions for women all over the world.

The museum’s virtual event received 84 views of the event listing, and over 1000 Twitter interactions and Facebook views. 

Sara Lugo, Curator at Museo Pedagógico de Aragón, said she really liked Slow Art Day and hopes to continue in the future when we can return to the physical museums and galleries.

At Slow Art Day HQ we are delighted that Museo Pedagógico de Aragón has begun their Slow Art Day journey with such a wonderful event and very much look forward to their continued participation.

– Johanna

Instagram “Slow Reveal” Hosted by McMaster

Because of Covid-19, the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, hosted their seventh Slow Art Day as a virtual “slow reveal” event via their Instagram account @macmuseum.

Over a 90 minute period, nine detailed image fragments of Franklin Carmichael’s Spring Snow were published in 10-minute intervals on the museum’s Instagram feed, with the full artwork being revealed at the end.

Participants were invited to reflect on each of the detailed images as they were posted, and a discussion was facilitated in the caption to each post, and in the McMaster Instagram stories.

Franklin H. Carmichael (Canadian, 1890-1945), Spring Snow, c.1930, oil on plywood.  Gift of Mr. Roy G. Cole. McMaster Museum of Art collection.

The Instagram stories for the McMaster Slow Art Day event had almost 200 views, and the posts themselves were seen by 350 people. A recap of the event is available for anyone who would like to recreate it at home.

When we started Slow Art Day 10 years ago, we were adamant that all the sessions be *offline* in the museums. We Internet veterans were happy to use the Internet to promote and support Slow Art Day but we wanted to use the web in the service of sending more people into real spaces. This year, however, we had no choice and are delighted to see the creative ways museums like the McMaster hosted virtual events for our 10th anniversary Slow Art Day.

We look forward – we hope – to the eighth McMaster Museum of Art’s Slow Art Day in their actual museum in 2021.

– Johanna

Drinks & Art for ArtemisSF’s 2nd Slow Art Day

ArtemisSF in San Francisco, California hosted its second Slow Art Day as a virtual event with a focus on the sense of taste (with some drinks to add a little zest).

Their event Ekphrastic Edibles, designed by Ammala Lacroix, re-interpreted two artworks by Maritza Ruiz-Kim as drinks that participants could make at home:

1 – Progress #15 interpreted as Matcha Lemonade: ‘Misterios con Matcha’

2 – Warmer interpreted as Hibiscus Ginger Mocktail: ‘Jamaica Haven’

Participants were provided with written explanations to illustrate the connection between the art and drinks, and were guided through each recipe to make the drinks themselves.

In her description of Progress #15, Ammala Lacroix writes that Ruiz-Kim’s juxtapositioning of coloured triangles highlights “the irony of differentiation”.

Maritza Ruiz-Kim, Progress #15, 6” x 6”, acrylic on panel, 2017, courtesy of the artist.

This theme was reflected in the different states of the lemon in the ‘Misterios con Matcha’ drink (liquid, solid and frozen). “Despite being presented in differing states,” Lacroix writes, “at the end of the day, a lemon remains a lemon”.

‘Misterios con Matcha’ (Matcha Lemonade), Response to Maritza Ruiz-Kim’s Progress #15, ArtemisSF, Photo: Ammala Lacroix

On the other hand, Ruiz-Kim’s Warmer explores the theme of reconciling the divide between past and present through an edited collage of digitally layered pictures taken by the artist’s paternal grandfather in New Mexico. Lacroix writes, “Maritza Ruiz-Kim tells the story of her family by creating soft pink landscapes informed by the past but seen through new eyes.”

Maritza Ruiz-Kim, Warmer, 14” x 16”, Digital C-print, 2019, courtesy the artist.

The ‘Jamaica Haven’ drink connects to the artwork Warmer through its colors and inclusion of traditional Mexican ingredients like hibiscus.

‘Jamaica Haven’ (Hibiscus Ginger Mocktail), Response to Maritza Ruiz-Kim’s Warmer, ArtemisSF, Photo: Ammala Lacroix

The event had 25 participants on Slow Art Day itself and received strongly positive feedback. It has since been viewed by over 60 participants asynchronously.

Participant Torange Yeghiazarian, Founding Artistic Director at Golden Thread Productions, said that she “loved the drink recipes” and appreciated learning about their inspiration from Ruiz-Kim’s art. Patty Tsai, Senior Associate Director at Columbia Alumni Association Arts Access also loved it and hoped to promote it to her group.

On April 26th, ArtemisSF also hosted additional virtual ‘see’ and ‘hear’ events involving activities such as a Zoom poetry reading in connection with the ‘taste’ event for Slow Art Day. Invitations for all events were designed by Ruiz-Kim.

At Slow Art Day HQ we love seeing such a beautiful focus on the senses in connection with virtual art, and very much look forward to ArtemisSF’s continued creativity and participation next year.

-Johanna

The Power Plant Hosts Fourth Slow Art Day, Virtually

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Canada hosted its fourth Slow Art Day this year – and its first virtual slow looking event given Covid-19.

The virtual event highlighted four artworks from the Winter 2020 exhibitions:

God’s Reptilian Finger by Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa
Cacaxte no. 2 (Sarvelia) by Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa
Spectre (La Teleferica) by Dawit L. Petros
Anxious Audience by Rashid Johnson

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, ​God’s Reptilian Finger​, 2015-20. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Cacaxte no. 2 (Sarvelia), 2020. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Dawit L. Petros, Spectre (La Teleferica), 2020. Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Rashid Johnson, Untitled (Anxious Audience), 2016. Courtesy of artist, Hauser & Wirth and David Kordansky Gallery. Photo: Martin Parsekian.

Laura Demers, TD Curator of Education and Outreach Fellow, wrote a series of prompts that were posted online, alongside close-up photos highlighting specific details in the four artworks. Viewers across the globe were invited to respond to these prompts, either by sharing their impressions in writing (stories, lists, poems, short paragraphs, or social media comments) or by engaging in small multi-sensory activities at home.

The downloadable PDF from the event is permanently posted on their website for participants to continue to use at their own pace. 

Laura mentioned that the event was so well received that it produced over 350 new Instagram followers, and thousands of likes from the community across all of their social media accounts.

Josh Heuman, Curator of Education & Public Programs at The Power Plant, writes that:

“In little ways, this COVID-19 pandemic is pushing us to re-think how we might use online platforms to think beyond the four walls of The Power Plant.”

We are encouraged by the creative responses to the challenge of hosting virtual events during these difficult times, and look forward to The Power Plant’s continued participation in 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley