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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.“
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:
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.
Below are some excerpts from the original prompts from the Instagram Stories. Why not take a moment to look at each painting to learn a little about the artists and re-live the Art Gallery of Ontario slow art experience?
Figurative paintings like Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta are good starting points for close looking. Notice the groups of figures, the gondolas waiting for passengers, the person looking over the balcony down at the square. By looking more slowly, you may get a sense of what a typical day in Venice looked like in the 18th century. They probably didn’t have dolphins around then either….
Hepworth practiced direct carving, which means the artist tried to respect the nature of the material, working to bring out its particular characteristics. What do the vertical forms and the dynamics between them suggest? It’s easy to imagine the forms standing in for humans. What conversation might they be having?
Imagine you could walk into this painting. What would it feel like? What would it smell like? Monet was particularly interested by the effects of fog. He painted over 37 versions of this scene, trying to capture the changes in light and ambience. Have you ever done something over and over again? How does repetition change your experience? Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian author, famously estimates that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. And hey, there is no shortage of time right now…
Claes Oldenburg sketched food and merchandise displayed in shops in the lower east side of New York and created a series of exhibitions related to the theme of a store between 1963-1967. Nothing was irrelevant, everything could be art. There is definitely a focus on foodie culture lately, especially with more time to be in the kitchen. What is your comfort food? If you were an artist, what kind of food would you immortalize in sculpture?
Odjig, Canadian First Nations artist from the Odawa-Potawatomi nation, uses a graphic style to portray her immediate family during her childhood in Wikwemikong. This artwork shares her first artistic influences – her family. In particular, her grandfather taught her to paint and draw. On sketching excursions, he taught her the stories of her ancestors and the use of the curvilinear design. What better way to depict family connections. How would you represent your family?
In addition to the Instagram event, a post of Monet’s ‘Charing Cross Bridge‘ was also shared to the museum’s Facebook account which was liked 400+ times, and shared by 170 viewers. It was accompanied by general guidelines for slow looking, such as:
Take your time. Look at the texture, colour, shape, symbols, story, and perspective.
Pay attention to how your mind and body respond.”
We are delighted to see museums like The Art Gallery of Ontario rise to the challenge of involving people in slow looking in their own homes. When we started Slow Art Day 10 years ago, we primarily wanted museums to use the web in the service of sending more people into real spaces. Due to Covid19 lockdown restrictions this year, however, most museums had no choice but to rely on virtual platforms, and it is wonderful to see events such as this one still producing amazing engagement with art.
We hope to see yet another wonderful event for Slow Art Day at The Art Gallery of Ontario next year.