A “Light Bulb” Moment at McMaster Museum of Art

For their 8th Slow Art Day, the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton (ON), Canada, hosted a slow looking Zoom session led by McMaster BFA students Donna Nadeem, Julianna Biernacki and Jill Letten, and it focused on their own work and on art by John Hartman, a McMaster alumni.

John Hartman, O’Donnel Point, 1993, Oil on linen. Gift of the artist © John Hartman

On April 10, participants were invited to look slowly at the painting by John Hartman, followed by discussion. Donna, Julianna and Jill, graduating BFA students, also showed and discussed their own work, part of the McMaster Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition for graduating students: QUIXOTIC. Meaning “all that is deemed idealistic, starry-eyed and impractical”, the word ‘quixotic’ inspired all pieces in the exhibition (Curator’s Statement by Alexis Moline).

The event was well received, with the Instagram post being liked 70+ times. Participants also left glowing feedback:

“I’m so thrilled to look at more than just the subjects and colors. I’ve never been good at interpretation but this has been the light bulb moment I was looking for.” 

Participant feedback

We love this quote, and hear this all the time from Slow Art Day attendees — simply slowing down to look creates “light bulb” moments.

You can find out more about the QUIXOTIC exhibition on the Museum’s Instagram. Their Facebook and Twitter pages are also great places to find out more about its collections and events.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we want to thank the McMaster Museum for the long-time leadership they have provided to the Slow Art Day movement, including this year’s creative design, featuring work by former and current students at the University.

We are already excited about seeing what they come up with for 2022.

-Johanna, Jessica, Ashley

Gardiner Museum Hosts Sense-ational Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day, The Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada, hosted an immersive virtual event with a multi-sensory focus.

On April 4, four photos of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, were shared to social media in intervals. An event outline was also available as a downloadable PDF, which can be viewed in full here. Because their session was so well designed, we have included more detail in the excerpted prompts below.

Participants were encouraged to spend 5-10 minutes with each photo, and consider the accompanying prompts and questions:

View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, Clay, water, metal, nylon, wood.
Part of the RAW Exhibition at The Gardiner Museum. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Imagine yourself seated on the bench next to the installation. Take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you absorb what you’re seeing.

  • Focus on each individual element of the work. What kinds of lines and shapes do you notice?
  • Consider the areas of light and shadow. How does the lighting influence the mood or feel of the installation?
  • What do you think you’ll see as you move closer? What textures and patterns might appear?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Once again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you grasp this new perspective and information.

  • What do you notice now that you may not have perceived in the first image? Does this change your impression or understanding of the work?
  • Shift your attention to the cables. What kinds of shapes and forms do you notice in the negative space around and between the cables?
  • Consider the weight of the water contained in each membrane. Close your eyes and imagine that your arms are the cables holding them above the ground. What do you experience?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you register the new details.

  • How does this perspective add to or change your interpretation of the artwork up to this point?
  • Close your eyes and picture yourself gently pressing a finger against the nylon membrane. Feel the weight of the water shifting. Does it remind you of a sensation you’ve experienced before?
  • Narrow in on the water droplets that are gathered on the membrane. Imagine poking them with your finger. How would the water feel running down your hand?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

For the last time, let your eyes move slowly around the image as you take it in.

  • What would it feel like to run your fingers through the clay? To pick up a handful.
  • Close your eyes and imagine the smell of the clay, both dry and wet. What does it smell like? Is it earthy? Musty? Chalky?
  • Now consider the work as its own ecosystem or world. How would you describe it to a friend? How would you articulate its look, feel, and smell?

This was such a well-designed slow looking session that we hope more people who are reading this on the Slow Art Day website will take the time to go through this event themselves.

The Gardiner Museum is one of many museums that had to quickly re-think how to keep the public engaged with art during the Covid19 pandemic. By using photos and descriptive prompts of the installation from their special exhibition RAW, they successfully produced an imaginative multi-sensory experience – even with the added element of being virtual.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we absolutely love how immersive this event was. It reminded us how powerfully our minds can conjure up the real-life experiences of textures, shapes, weight, and scents.

We very much hope that The Gardiner Museum will continue hosting Slow Art Day events – and in their actual museum space in 2021.

– Johanna

Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.




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

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

Successful First Slow Art Day at InterAccess in Toronto

For their first Slow Art Day event, InterAccess in Toronto, Canada examined slow looking in relation to time-based media. They welcomed renowned artist Lisa Steele to the gallery to lead a two-hour tour of the exhibition of Daniel Young & Christian Giroux’s work Film Path / Camera Path with under-titles, which merges sculpture practice with film installation using high tech design and manufacturing technologies. 

First, Lisa Steele led a discussion with participants on slow looking, and invited them to read aloud the artist-contributed texts that accompanied the show, written by John Barlow, Ina Blom, Eric Cazdyn, Geoffrey Farmer, Agnieszka Gratza, Daniel Hambleton, Erín Moure, Bridget Moser, Judy Radul, Patricia Reed, Reza Negarestani, Mohammad Salemy, and Michael Snow.

Next, the visitors were encouraged to take time viewing the three different components of Young & Giroux’s work in the gallery – the film screen, the mechanical sculpture, and an LED sign displaying the texts the participants had read earlier in the session.

Image by Jennifer Toole. Courtesy of InterAccess.

We love to hear how organizations promote slow looking across diverse media, and look forward to seeing what InterAccess has in store for Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley

The Power Plant Hosts Successful Third Slow Art Day; and Mid-year Roundtable with Phil Terry

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada hosted a successful third Slow Art Day in 2019, led by Kendra Campbell, TD Curator of Education & Outreach Fellow. Kendra guided participants to look slowly at one work of art in each of three exhibitions: Shuvinai Ashoona: Mapping WorldsAlicia Henry: Witnessing; and Omar Ba: Same Dream.

She then led a group discussion about the participants’ perceptions of slow looking. They discussed their personal connections with the artworks, which revealed startling similarities.

Participants viewing work from Shuvinai Ashoona: Mapping Worlds.
Slow Art Day 2019 at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Saturday, April, 6, 2019.
Participants viewing work from Alicia Henry: Witnessing.
Slow Art Day 2019 at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Saturday, April, 6, 2019.

On Wednesday, July 3, 2019, The Power Plant also hosted Phil Terry, the founder of Slow Art Day, for a roundtable discussion with Toronto-area organizations that have hosted, or aspire to host, their own Slow Art Day. Each of the educators and curators talked about their designs for Slow Art Day, and what worked and what did not.

Phil Terry, center back of the table, meets with Toronto host venues at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Photo: Josh Heuman.

The Power Plant’s new TD Fellow, Laura Demers, will be ready to guide the next Slow Art Day on Saturday 4, April 2020, and we look forward to seeing what she has in store for the event.

– Ashley

OCAD University’s Slow Art Day Reveals Tiny Details

OCAD University Gallery in Toronto hosted a successful second Slow Art Day in 2019. They reported that both participants and guides alike enjoyed slowing down.

Both guides and participants were encouraged to look and then talk about the artworks. They made several discoveries.

First, they found how each person’s way of seeing the world affected the experience. In other words, slowing down helped them see not only the art but themselves and each other in new ways.

They also learned how the art of slow looking can reveal even the smallest details and “nuances” that seem invisible at first and then almost magically appear the longer you look.

“In the quietness of looking, our eyes wandered and caught the tiniest details in hopes of deciphering hidden nuances.”

Khadijah Morley, OCAD University Gallery Staff Member
Installation view: How to Breathe Forever, Onsite Gallery, OCAD University, Toronto, 2019 (Photo: Yuula Benivolski)

We look forward to OCAD University’s participation in Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley

Insightful Slow Art Day at AMP Studio

Valerie Arntzen, assemblage artist at AMP Studio in Vancouver, Canada, invited Slow Art Day 2019 participants to look at one of two pieces of her artwork slowly and then discuss the experience.

Not surprisingly, Valerie found — as Marcel Duchamp once said — that the “spectator completes the work of the artist.” In other words, the Slow Art Day participants were active co-creators of Valerie’s art bringing new and varied meaning and perspective.

It’s great to have artists and “spectators” directly interact via slow looking. In fact, we invite artists all over the world to open up their studios for Slow Art Day and hope that more will follow Valerie’s example next year.

– Ashley

Slow Art Day with Ceramics, Glass, and Mixed Media

The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada participated in their first Slow Art Day in 2019 by inviting visitors to slow down with ceramics, glass and mixed media from Canadian artists. 

After one hour of slow looking, visitors gathered for 30 minutes to discuss their observations about the material and meaning of the works, including the hidden qualities and stories they discovered.

According to The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, one participant said it was “exhilarating to meet new people and share so many diverse perspectives about the artwork.”

Photo Credit: Eleanor Zhang. Instagram: @eleanor.jing_zhang

We look forward to the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery’s participation again in 2020!

– Ashley

Kelowna Art Gallery’s First Slow Art Day

This year marked the first Slow Art Day at the Kelowna Art Gallery in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Alison Trim, visual artist and graduate student in the MFA program at UBCO in Kelowna, along with the Gallery’s Public Programming Assistant Ryan Trafananko together hosted an afternoon that combined art exploration and information about the Poetics of Space exhibition.

Trim and Trafanako reported that many participants loved learning the art of slowing down and fully experiencing art — especially with this exhibition, which focused on the experience, creation, and dynamics of space.

Participants enjoying the Poetics of Space exhibition. Slowly.

We were very happy to hear that their first Slow Art Day went well, and are looking forward to Kelowna Art Gallery’s participation in 2020.

Ashley