A Slow Look at Landscapes with the MSV

For their first Slow Art Day, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) in Winchester, Virginia, shared slow-panning videos of two artworks to Facebook.

Click on the paintings below to watch the videos.

Vance Barry, ‘Cocktail Hour, Star Gables Motor Court’, 22.5 x 24″, 2016-2017. Oil on panel.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Click on the painting to watch the video.

Sally Veach, ‘Autumn Ascension’, 48 x 48″, 2018. Oil on canvas in silver leaf frame.
Shown at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley as part of the 2019 Exhibition: ‘Ghosts of a Forgotten Landscape: Paintings by Sally Veach‘. Click on the painting to watch the video.

The videos were accompanied by prompts, and viewers were invited to respond in the comments.

We have included the prompts below. Why not watch the videos and try some slow looking?

Prompt to the Vance Barry video:

Think about the landscape features you see. What colors and shapes do you notice? How would this landscape sound if you were there? What, if anything, is missing from the landscape?

Prompt to the Sally Veach video:

Think about the colors you see and the shapes you notice. Take a deep breath and look again. Do you notice a different shape or color this time?What time of year do you think the artist is trying to convey? Does this painting remind you of anything you’ve seen out in the world? How does it make you feel?

In total the videos reached 800+ people. Several participants left comments on Facebook, describing Sally Veach’s paintings as “breathtaking”. One viewer also noted that ‘Autumn Ascension’ made him think of the chill of fall before an incoming storm.

Thank you to Mary Ladrick, Director of Education, and her team for hosting a great first Slow Art Day event. The 2020 pandemic meant that museums and galleries had to host virtual events this year, but the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley really rose to the challenge.

We look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Rubens for Lent at Sint-Pauluskerk

For their third Slow Art Day, the Sint-Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium, produced a slow-panning video of Peter Paul Rubens’ painting ‘The Flagellation of Christ’.

Narrated by Wilfried Van den Brande, with text by Rudi Mannaerts, the video features the stunning inside of the church and a commentary on Rubens’ artwork (click on the photo below to watch).

The nave, or central part, of Sint-Pauluskerk

Previously on loan to the Doge’s palace in Venice, the painting returned to Antwerp in time for the Slow Art Day event. Since Easter fell on the week following Slow Art Day this year, the painting’s theme of Christ’s suffering fit in well with the pre-Easter church calendar.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Flagellation of Christ, 17th century. Sint-Pauluskerk, Antwerp.

Many thanked the church for sharing the video, and several explicitly talked about how much they missed visiting the actual church. The Facebook video was viewed 2,535 times.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are delighted that the thoughtful connection between the event hosted by Sint-Pauluskerk and the Easter holiday was so well received.

We hope that Sint-Pauluskerk will be able to open its doors for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

What’s your Baggage?

For their second Slow Art Day, Railway Street Studios in Auckland, New Zealand, hosted a virtual event focused on Toni Mosley’s ‘CASE: Allegory’ series of art, which was inspired by the simple question: ‘what’s your baggage?’

As a result of thinking about that question, Mosley decided to explore suitcases as metaphorical symbols for emotional baggage, notions of mobility and journeys, and as containers of secrets, knowledge and memories. Not surprisingly, this theme ended up having significant resonance for home-bound viewers during the pandemic.

On April 4th, 2020, participants were invited to look slowly for 5-10 minutes at a selection of Mosley’s art:

Toni Mosley, ‘The Letters,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screenprint, paint on found image, 170mm x 200mm.
Toni Mosley, ‘Find Patience,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screenprint, paint on found image, 188mm x 262mm.
Toni Mosley, ‘My Heart, My Family,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screen Monoprint, hand painted on paper, 206mm x 286mm.
Toni Mosley, ‘My Immigration,’ CASE: Allegory, 2020. Screen Monoprint, hand painted on paper, 272mm x 210mm.

Participants were given four prompts to guide their slow looking:

  • What do you notice? The obvious and the subtle.
  • Does this remind you of anything? A story — personal, historical.  A single meaning or multiple?
  • Color and mood? Do you have an initial emotional response?
  • Does this piece bring up any questions? This could be metaphorical or technical.

The challenge that Railway Street Studios had to confront in the design of its virtual event was how to encourage attendees to really slow down and look. They came up with a simple, but effective, strategy: ask people to write down and send in their answers to the four prompts above for the chance to win an original artwork by Toni Mosley.

Fiona Cable, founder of Railway Street Studios, said it worked. Participants enjoyed the process and took time to think carefully about answers to the prompts, which they then submitted via a link on the Railway Street Studios’ website.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we thoroughly enjoyed the depth of symbolism in Toni Mosley’s artworks — especially given the shut-down of travel during the pandemic — and were also impressed by Railway Street Studios’ initiative to host a prize competition as a way to incentivize virtual slow looking.

We hope to see another creative event from Railway Street Studios for Slow Art Day on April 10th in 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

‘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

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 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