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!
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.
For their third Slow Art Day the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, shared slow-panning videos of two artworks from the Museum’s Founding Collection:
Friedrich August von Kaulbach (German, 1850-1920), ‘Rosario Guerrero,’ ca. 1908
In the manner of Edouard Manet, ‘Landscape with Figures,’ not dated.
Slow looking prompts were included in the video descriptions and on the Frye Slow Art Day website. After viewing the artworks, participants were encouraged to share their thoughts by commenting on the posts.
The event was promoted via social media posts and stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Compared to other posts by the Museum, the Slow Art Day event had a higher than average reach on Facebook and more engagement across all social media platforms.
Feedback from participants was also positive and showed that the Slow Art Day ethos was passed on. One viewer even wanted to use the exercise in their teaching:
“Thank you! You gave me an assignment for my students to do in our new online art class.”
At Slow Art Day HQ we loved the Frye’s art choices. The panning in ‘Landscape with Figures‘, which integrated movement in different directions, was especially innovative. We also extend special thanks to Caroline Byrd, Education Coordinator, for sharing details about the Frye’s event with us.
We look forward to what the Frye Art Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
For their first Slow Art Day The TarraWarra Museum of Art in Melbourne, Australia featured two very different artworks by Australian women artists: ‘Club Colours’ by Rosalie Gascoigne, and ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’ by Jenny Watson.
To promote the event, Elisabeth Alexander, Marketing and Events Coordinator, created a short teaser ‘slow zoom’ video of ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’, and posted image stories on Instagram and Facebook.
On April 4, participants were directed to a dedicated Slow Art Day page on the Museum’s website to look slowly at full-size images of the two paintings. Shannon Lyons, Education Coordinator, then led an online discussion via the Museum’s social media channels, where participants were encouraged to share thoughts about the artworks and their slow looking experience.
Shannon Lyons shared with us her surprise at how well it went:
From an educator’s perspective, it was interesting to see how willing people were to both delve deeper and give voice to their wonderings online. They actively questioned why aspects of the artworks appeared the way that they did, and why particular elements of the artworks seemed to dominate, hold or demand attention far more than others.
Their first Slow Art Day was a success, with over 5000 impressions and 100+ post engagements across Instagram and Facebook. Further, the average time spent on their dedicated webpage was 6 minutes – dramatically higher than the average time of under a minute for other pages on the site.
The TarraWarra Museum of Art had originally planned to host their first Slow Art Day in-person featuring their newly opened exhibition ‘Making Her Mark: Selected Works from the Collection‘, however Lyons and Alexander had to quickly re-imagine it as a virtual experience due to Covid19.
The whole Slow Art Day team has been impressed with what Elisabeth and Shannon were able to produce – given that it was not only their first Slow Art Day but, of course, also since the pandemic forced a last minute change of plans. We look forward to what they create for Slow Art Day 2021.
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:
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?
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?
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?
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.
Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.
Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Managerat the ICA. On April 4, they were shared to Instagram, Facebook, and the museum website, where they could also be accessed via a PDF.
Participants could choose artwork in their own home for slow-looking, or use one of the suggested artworks from the ICA’s collection such as Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall (2018).
The easy-to-follow instructions involved mindful breathing, slow-looking, and stream-of-consciousness note-taking which were well received across the board – with the Instagram post receiving 530+ likes. For anyone wishing to recreate the experience, the material can still be accessed on Instagram, Facebook, and the museum’s website.
One Instagram user commented:
“Happy Slow Art Day! I like the slow art from (artist) Caitlin Keogh very much! Thank you for sharing her work with us in slow motion during this global event, and it fits well with quarantine schedules as it invites us to slow down and enjoy the discoveries art can offer.”
The whole Slow Art Day HQ team was excited by the clear and compelling design of their slow looking instructions as well as by the decision to encourage participants to slowly look at artworks in their home.
We look forward to whatever the ICA Boston comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
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:
“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.”
“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?”
“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.
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.