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

Van Gogh in Mississippi for Slow Art Day 2020

For their second Slow Art Day, the Mississippi Museum of Art shared a slow-panning video of Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles” (1888).

The video featured close-ups of the painting alongside commentary by Victoria Meek, Associate Curator for Family and Studio Programs. The painting is her favorite artwork from the Mississippi Museum of Art exhibition “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Their Times,” which was postponed due to the pandemic.

Title: Art Moment | Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles,” 1888.
Artwork: Oil on canvas, 13 x 16 1/2 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 2014.207. Copyright Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement, said that the video was well-received across social media, with 830+ views and likes on Instagram and Facebook.

One person posted a picture of roses as a thematic connection, and others praised our education staff for providing insightful interpretation of the work. We were pleased to have produced something that could allow our audience to take a closer look at one of the iconic works on view.

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement

Following the positive feedback on the video, the Museum created a new “Mindful Art Moment” video series on their Facebook page, encouraging viewers to think differently about what they see in works of art.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited to see the Museum build new programs based on the success of its Slow Art Day initiative. This is core to our mission: use the annual event to encourage museums to adopt year-round programming.

We look forward to seeing what the Mississippi Museum of Art has in store for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Art Day Sets Sail with the Hong Kong Maritime Museum

For their fourth Slow Art Day, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (HKMM), collaborated with 21 Masters of Art students in Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong to design three guidebooks and activity kits for children, linked to current exhibits on migrant workers, seafarers, and container terminals.

The guidebooks and activity kits they created can be found online here:

  • Sailing in the Sea (migrant workers)
  • Between Clouds and Sea (container terminals)
  • Homeland on the Sea (seafarers)

The project is the third collaboration between the HKMM and the City University students for Slow Art Day, and aims to spread awareness of Hong Kong’s identity as a seaport city, past and present, and its future in sustainable development. Originally designed as a one-day event specifically for Slow Art Day, it was changed into a set of activity kits in response to the Covid19 lockdown.

HKMM project guidebook cover, 2020

HKMM project guidebook cover, 2020

HKMM project guidebook cover, 2020

The project is available to view on the museum’s website. The guidebooks are well designed with beautiful illustrations and, today, can be used while visiting the museum, which is now open for groups of up to 4 only due to the pandemic.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited to see collaborations between museums and universities as well as events aimed at families and children. We look forward to another HKMM and City University Slow Art Day project in 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 at American Art with the MCA, Chicago

For their second Slow Art Day, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA), Illinois, featured five arworks by American artists from the MCA Collection.

CA Collection Artwork #1 Deana Lawson, American, b. 1979 “Sons of Cush,” 2016 Inkjet print, and mounted on Sintra Framed: 44 × 55 3/16 in. (111.8 × 140.2 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of Emerge, 2018.19
MCA Collection Artwork #2 Nicholas Africano, American, b. 1948 “I Get Hurt,” 1980 Acrylic, magna, oil, and enamel on Masonite Framed, approx.: 36 × 71 1/8 × 4 in. Collection MCA Chicago, 1980.42
MCA Collection Artwork #3 Jack Pierson, American, b. 1960 The Call Back, 1995 Chromogenic development print 30 × 20 in. (76.2 × 50.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of The Dave Hokin Foundation, 1995.119.1
MCA Collection Artwork #4 Joshua Nathanson, American, b. 1973 Is it late yet?, 2015 Acrylic and oil stick on canvas 84 × 61 1/16 in. (213.4 × 155.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2016.9
MCA Collection Artwork #5 Gertrude Abercrombie, American, 1909–1977 The Courtship, 1949 Oil on Masonite Framed: 28 × 31 ¾ in. (71.1 × 80.6 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust, 1978.56

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.

– Johanna

Slow Looking Meditations with the National Gallery

During the spring 2020 Covid19 lockdown, the National Gallery in London began releasing 5-minute long art meditation videos on YouTube in order to promote mental wellbeing among the public.

5-minute Meditation: Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’, The National Gallery, YouTube

Written by Christina Bradstreet, Courses and Events Programmer at the National Gallery, the meditation videos were produced at home by members of the gallery’s digital team and promoted across social media platforms.

So far, the slow looking video-series has included meditations on:

Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’

Redon’s ‘Ophelia among the Flowers

Rosa Bonheur’s ‘The Horse Fair’

Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’

Zurbarán’s ‘A Cup of Water and a Rose’

A true slow looking pioneer, Bradstreet is a powerful advocate at the National Gallery for slow programming throughout the year. When we asked her how she first became aware of the power of slow looking, she recalled how she felt as she walked home after attending her first mindfulness class:

“I felt acutely aware of the crunch of my footsteps on the gravel, the air on my skin, the bird song – and I thought, “wow! maybe mindfulness can really help us to savour the sensory details of paintings.”

Christina Bradstreet

Her positive experience inspired her to design a range of events at the gallery, such as finding wonder in familiar paintings like Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers’, mindful looking, drawing sessions, and, during the lockdown, the above meditation videos.

National Gallery visitors enjoying a slow looking activity (pre-lockdown).
Picture courtesy of the National Gallery.

The first two slow looking videos have been an enormous success, with an average of 16,000 hits each on Youtube, and a total of 260k hits and counting across the gallery’s social media platforms.

Viewers have also given strongly positive feedback:

“Well done. Please do more.”  

*Delightful*”

“Fabulous meditation! Thank you so much for these slow looks.” 

“Soul touching and relaxing with a new breath of freshness.”

“I’ve seen this painting many times but I never saw the hare, or the people at the side of the river [in Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’]. Thank you so much!” 

Participant Quotes

Bradstreet also shared with us some thoughts on the design of these 5-minute videos:

Rather than simply offering a slow looking experience, I’m interested in choosing meditation techniques that connect with the paintings content or how it was painted, so that the art and the meditation enhance one another. For example, in the video on Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair, I explore the theme of the commotion of the busy horse fair as a metaphor for the busy mind, and think about how we might stay mindful when the world is chaotic around us. Clearly, these themes can be taken much further in a longer meditation. However, we have kept these short, partly because many of our audience will be beginners at meditation, and partly because we don’t want to add to online fatigue!

Christina Bradstreet

The National Gallery has truly captured the essence of slow looking within these meditation videos, and I have loved incorporating the short art meditations into my own workday as a way to relax. I recommend that you do the same.

I and the whole Slow Art Day HQ team hope that these videos inspire more slow looking around the world. We can’t wait to see what Christina Bradstreet and the National Gallery in the UK design for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna

Slow looking with the Frye Art Museum

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.

Friedrich August von Kaulbach (German, 1850-1920), Rosario Guerrero, ca. 1908.
Oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 37 3/8 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.082
In the manner of Edouard Manet, ‘Landscape with Figures,’ n.d.
Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.109

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.”

Participant Quote

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Art Gallery of Ontario Hosts 6th Slow Art Day

For their sixth Slow Art Day The Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada, invited the public to look slowly at five artworks, accompanied by prompts, via their Instagram Story:

  • Canaletto, ‘The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta‘, c. 1735.
  • Barbara Hepworth, ‘Two Figures’, 1943.
  • Claude Monet, ‘Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard‘, 1902.
  • Claes Oldenburg, ‘Ice Cream Soda with Cookie‘, 1963.
  • Daphne Odjig, ‘Odjig Family: Father, Grandmother, Stanley, Daphne, Donald, Winnie, Xmas, Dec 25th‘, 1986.

Re-Live the Experience

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?

Canaletto

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….

Canaletto, The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta, c. 1735. Oil on canvas, Unframed: 48.8 × 81.8 cm. Gift of the Ludwig Mond Estate, 1926. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 829.

Hepworth

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?

Barbara Hepworth, Two Figures, 1943. Redwood, strings, 61.2 x 31.4 x 21 cm. Gift of Sam and Ayala Zacks, 1970. © Bowness, 71/88

Monet

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…

Claude Monet. Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard, 1902. Oil on canvas, 73 × 92 cm. Gift of Ethel and Milton Harris, 1990. © Art Gallery of Ontario 90/161

Oldenburg

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?

Claes Oldenburg, Ice Cream Soda with Cookie, 1963. Alkyd paint on plaster and glass, stainless steel, chinaware, paper, painted tray, 29.2 x 34.9 x 26 cm. Gift of the Sydney Lawrence Wax Family Trust, 2011. © Claes Oldenburg 2011/272

Odjig

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?

Daphne Odjig, Odjig Family: Father, Grandmother, Stanley, Daphne, Donald, Winnie, Xmas, Dec 25th, 1986. Acrylic on canvas, 121.9 x 101.6 cm. Purchase with assistance from Greg Latremoille and the Estate of Mary Ash, 2016 © Estate of Daphne Odjig, 2016/39.

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:

  • Get comfortable…
  • 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.

– Johanna