Slow Art Day Keynote at Tiempo de Arte

The Slow Art Day collective delivered the closing keynote last Friday for Tiempo de Arte‘s conference in Spain. Our two European HQ members, Johanna Bokedal (Sweden) and Jessica Jane Nocella (Italy) traveled to Spain while our U.S.-based founder, Phyl Terry, participated via Zoom from New York.

The conference took place in the Centro Botín: an arts centre designed by Pritzker Prize-winner architect Renzo Piano, in collaboration with Luis Vidal and Architects. It is located between the city centre of Santander and the historic Pereda Garden, and the bay.

Centre Botín, Photo Credits: Johanna Bokedal

The conference was opened by the Organizing Committee of Tiempo de Arte, the Director of Centre Botín, the Mayor of Santander, and by the Tourism Director of Cantabria. Then, Writer Carl Honoré gave a talk on “La Revolución Slow: La Magia de la Lentitud” (lit.: the revolution of slow: the magic of slowness). In his engaging speech, Carl stressed the importance of slowing down in a high-speed world. He also talked about the importance of what he calls “the slow paradoxes” – i.e., how sometimes you can slow down to go fast, or how disconnecting from your phone can reconnect you to the world around you.

Carl’s talk was then followed by different interesting roundtables on various topics, which ranged from sustainable collecting to the role of humanism in the digital world.

Carl Honoré, La Revolución Slow: La Magia de la Lentitud”. Photo credits: Johanna Bokedal

On the second day, the conference opened with a dialogue between the award-winning chef Jesús Sánchez, and the sculpor José Luis Vicario. They talked about how encounters and meetings can be an opportunity to slow down and discover the beauty surrounding us. This was then followed by a roundtable on art, beauty and health where experts in psychology, art, and art therapy talked about the benefits of art in different contexts.

Professor, Psychologist, and Writer Alejandra Vallejo-Nágera engaged with the audience in a slow-listening activity. She invited us to close our eyes, listen to two cellos playing, and then to communicate the music through our hands as if we had to express it to someone who was hearing-impaired. One last roundtable on tourism and art was held by the Mayors of Santander, Malaga, and Madrid.

Roundtable on Art, Beauty, and Health. Photo credits: Johanna Bokedal.

The conference closed with our talk Slow Art Day: Design by Letting Go, which we delivered both in-person (Jessica and Johanna) and remotely (Phyl).

We began with a cross-continent slow looking exercise focused on Hans Hoffman’s Fantasia, the piece of art that kicked off the slow art revolution back in 2008.

Phyl Terry engaging the audience in a slow-looking activity

We then showed highlights from the 2,000+ Slow Art Day events that have been held around the world. Finally, we emphasized the radically decentralized nature of Slow Art Day and our mission to create an environment of radical inclusion.

We really enjoyed giving this multi-language (our talk was simultaneously translated into Spanish), multi-continent, multi-media talk. And Johanna and Jessica, who had been working together for years but had never met, loved spending two days together in real life.

Slow Art Day team engaging with the audience.

Slow Art Day HQ would like to thank Merche Zubiaga, Zaida De Las Heras, and Charo Izquierdo for inviting us to speak at their Tiempo de Arte event. We look forward to continuing to work with them to keep building the slow art movement.

Learning to Look from LA Times’ Christopher Knight

Writing and talking about the art of slow looking can be difficult. Fortunately, Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times does it really well. And as we all get ready for Slow Art Day 2022, we can learn a lot from him.

A talented writer, Knight avoids ‘Art Speak’ and instead helps us slow down and look, as in this article, Baroque painter gets her due at last about the artist Artemisia Gentileschi and her painting Lucretia.

Knight looks slowly at her painting, Lucretia (below).

ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI’S painting “Lucretia” (J. Paul Getty Museum)

Here’s a great example of his observational (and writing) skills:

Light falls from murky darkness at the upper left, establishing a spectral diagonal exactly opposite to the figure’s spatial thrust toward the upper right. The dagger points directly to the place where the two diagonals cross. X marks the spot. Head tossed up and back, eyes fixed heavenward, Lucretia is about to stab herself to death.

In this passage above, he doesn’t give us a lesson on Baroque Art, he helps us see the light and dark; the composition; the position of the figure; the twist of the body; the grasp of the dagger; the contrast between the surface textures of skin, fabric and metal.

Most of all, he shows us that it’s all right there in the painting if we just slow down and look.

Final point I’ll make: Knight starts with the art and only after he has reviewed the work itself does he then get into the history, the patriarchy, and even the ‘discovery’ and celebration of Gentileschi as a Feminist icon. This is precisely how we want Slow Art Day participants to look – first at the art, then and only then might we move to a discussion about the history and theory.

Hope your planning is going well for Slow Art Day 2022.

This year I will be leading a Slow Art Day event looking at sculpture art in Heisler Park, which is a lovely outdoor park above the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, California.

Hedy Buźan
Founding Host, Slow Art Day

Hedy Buzan is an artist and founding host of Slow Art Day. She also helped launch the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, an annual arts festival in Southern California. 

Slow Art Day is committed to publishing posts like this from our hosts around the world. Here are some tips.

Slow Looking with the New York Times

Host Essay by Hedy Buźan

Have you ever wondered “Okay. –  So, how do I start ‘Slow Looking’?”, or, if you are a museum educator, “How do I help a visitor slow down?”

One answer comes from the interactive art appreciation online New York Times column Close Read, written by critics Jason Farago and Arthur Lubow. They use an observational technique to closely examine work as diverse as an Albrecht Durer self portrait or a Jasper Johns abstraction.

Of course, being art historians Farago and Lubow bring context and relevance to the exploration, but this extended way of looking is a possible model for advanced slow looking sessions.

(Ed: For museum educators designing events, Slow Art Day HQ recommends a simple approach that allows participants to discover that looking slowly with no prep or expertise can be transformational; to that end resources such as this step by step process used by Brigham Young University Museum of Art for their first Slow Art Day in 2021 can be quite useful.)

While I have done a lot of slow looking (and slow painting) in my life, this series helped me see even more clearly.

This is what I notice about the Close Read method:

  • The critic starts by taking in the whole object and thinking about what it is – a figurative study of an interior/ exterior environment, a landscape, a ‘documentation’ of a historical event, or a self portrait.
  • Then they get specific describing the characters the atmosphere and the general feeling of the piece. (Incidentally, back when I was an art teacher, I would ask my students to start a critique by describing the image to a blind person, naming all the parts as specifically as they could- I found this tool helped students start really looking).
  • Then the critic starts in with observing parts. Noticing. Noticing. Noticing. The pose, the background, the brushwork, the characters- primary and secondary – the light and the dark passages.
  • Once the parts are named the critic becomes curious about each one and what it might represent- They ‘Sit with it’ and let the work reveal itself. Asking themselves: Why is this compelling?
  • As they notice they ponder: Why this depiction? What could that possibly mean? How does it expand the meaning of the work?
  • Finally they embrace context- comparing it to other works, putting it in cultural and historical context, and inviting us in to a deeper understanding.

We can expand our Slow Art experience by adopting some of the techniques above including reading about the artist’s life, comparing one artwork to another, and by looking at the works of the artist’s influencers and contemporaries….but remember our main focus, especially with the public, is on the simple art of L O O K I N G with no expertise or historical knowledge required.

If you want to read more, I recommend beginning with their wonderful piece on Jasper Johns, How a Gray Painting Can Break Your Heart.

“In Memory of My Feelings — Frank O’Hara”, Jasper Johns, 1961.

Enjoy!

Hedy Buźan
Founding Host, Slow Art Day

Hedy Buzan is an artist and founding host of Slow Art Day. She also helped launch the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, an annual arts festival in Southern California. 

Slow Art Day is committed to publishing posts like this from our hosts around the world. Here are some tips.

Slow Art Day Bikeride to Sarehole Mill

To celebrate Slow Art Day 2021 when museums were locked down in England, artist Jo Essen, based in Birmingham, UK, organized a slow looking bike ride to Sarehole Mill.

The historical mill, today a museum and bakery, is well-known for its connection with J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He once lived across the road from the Mill, and it inspired his writings about Middle-earth.

Picture from the surroundings of Birmingham. Photo credits: Jo Essen.
Picture of nature. Photo credits: Jo Essen.

Essen shared an online video from the bike ride, and encouraged others in the pandemic lockdown to get out and do some slow looking. “It was wonderful to be involved in slow looking even when we were not able to visit museums,” said Jo Essen.

So, while the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Norton Simon Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and many other large museums ran virtual (or in-person events), and while a number of smaller museums and galleries also ran Slow Art Day sessions, 2021 also included Jo Essen and her family looking slowly at nature and architecture.

Love that!

This report is a fitting final post for 2021, especially as we and the world struggle through yet another wave of the coronavirus. (Note: you can read all of our 2021 published reports, or wait for our 2021 annual report to be published in February of 2022.)

We hope you have a wonderful new year wherever you are in the world. And perhaps take some inspiration from Essen and go out and do some slow looking at nature, architecture, public art, or in museums and galleries, if they are open in your area.

Stay safe and healthy and get ready for yet another year of building the slow looking movement.

With love,

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Mindful Slow Art Day in Singapore

For their first Slow Art Day, the gallery ARTualize in Singapore, Singapore, organized a Mindfulness with Paintings session, encouraging participants to combine mindfulness with slow looking.

On the 10th of April, ARTualize opened their two-hour session by introducing participants to some mindfulness techniques. Participants were then invited to look slowly and mindfully at selected paintings, including Low Hai Hong’s 海天一色 (literally: Sky and Sea). This was followed by discussion.

Low Hai Hong. 海天一色 (literally: Sky and Sea), from the collection Passion in Living – Paintings of Indonesia. Courtesy of ARTualize.

 

The gallery also hosts regular ‘Mindfulness with paintings’ sessions to get more people to discover the joy of looking at art. Sessions are held every Sunday from 2 to 4 pm.

Paintings on display in the gallery are also available for rent to give people the opportunity to experience the art in their own homes. Exhibited works are changed every two months. Click here to learn more.

At Slow Art Day HQ, our mission since 2010 has been to build a slow looking and mindfulness movement around the world. As a result, one of our goals has been to use the annual event to inspire museums and galleries to host regular slow looking sessions throughout the year.

We are happy to see that ARTualize are both participants and leaders in this movement and look forward to whatever they come up with for Slow Art Day 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

P.S. If you would like to follow ARTualize’s updates, you can follow them on their Facebook page.

Slow Art ‘Can Doers’: A British Museum Collaboration

For their first Slow Art Day, the British Museum, in London, UK, collaborated with the Can Do Project, a skills-development programme for people aged 16-35 with a disability or long-term health condition, run by the resendential care company Leonard Cheshire.

The week-long Zoom-based slow looking program was initiated by the British Museum’s Volunteer Coordinator for Access, Equality and Young People, Jessica Starns, along with Leonard Cheshire’s Programme Coordinator, Deborah Sciortino.

During sessions, participants were invited to take a long look at objects from the museum collection, and observe their shapes, contours and colors. These ‘Can Doers’ then gave their opinion on what they believed the objects were used for. Afterwards, a brief history about the object was shared by a facilitator to spark further discussion. In the final session, participants were asked to choose their favorite object and create a short presentation about it. Alongside looking at objects slowly, topics such as equality and diversity, employability skills, helping visitors to make sense of their visit to the museum, and online safety on social media were covered with help from the Leonard Cheshire Marketing Team.

‘Can Doer’ presenting an Egyptian Artwork on Zoom

On April 10, 2021, the events culminated with a presentation of the participants’ favorite objects in collaboration with the Keiken Collective, which worked with the group to develop object reveal Instagram filters and create digital postcards using 3D scanned museum objects on the 3D & AR platform Sketchfab. The collective took inspiration from the fact that the British Museum has been selling postcards for over one hundred years. The presentations were pre-recorded at home by participants, then played for the group in the live session.

Example of a 3D artwork created on Sketchfab

Thomas Winter, the Digital Marketing Volunteer at Leonard Cheshire, wrote a blog post about the events that is worth reading.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited that the British Museum, together with the Can Do Project and the Keiken Collective, designed such an inclusive Slow Art Day event. It inspires all of us when educators and organizations collaborate to design new kinds of slow looking experiences.

We look forward to seeing what the British Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day in 2022 (and would love to see another collaboration).

Jessica, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl

P.S. The British museum has an extensive volunteer programme which you can view here.

Slow Art Day in an 18th century building: Casa Regis

For their first Slow Art Day, Casa Regis, a non-profit association and centre for culture and contemporary art in Valdilana, Italy, featured local artists in a video and social-media-based event.

Casa Regis’ Facebook post of the event.
In the picture, Achill(a)/Frame, sculpture by Daniele Basso.

On April 10, 2021, art photographer and founder of Casa Regis, Mikelle Standbridge, uploaded a series of short videos of different artistic installations on the organization’s Instagram page.

The videos featured a soundscape of birds chirping, as Mikelle briefly introduces works by local artists Sissi Castellano, Daniele Basso, Carla Crosio, Michela Cavagna and herself. Note: the artists were selected and chosen in part because of the interesting juxtaposition of their work against the backdrop of the eighteenth-century building in which Casa Regis is located.

Below you can find pictures of the featured installations, links to the videos, and a brief description of each.

Screenshot from the short video of
Sissi Castellano’s installation I AM NOT AN ARTIST

Sissi Castellano‘s silkworm cocoon installation entitled‘ ‘I AM NOT AN ARTIST‘, is based on the Japanese Mingei philosophy of objects, which the artist follows. The Mingei approach simulatenaously focuses on the function and aesthetic value of common household objects.

You can view the installation and the above video here.

Daniele Basso. Hawk. Steel and white bronze sculpure. Picture taken from Casa Regis’ IG page.

Sculptor and artist Daniele Basso‘s ‘Hawk’, which comes from a series called Frames, is a stainless steel and white bronze sculpture. The artist plays with effects of mirroring, showing the complexity and the different levels of reality.

You can find a brief explanation and watch above video here.

Carla Crosio. Cancer. Picture taken from Casa Regis’ IG page.

Artist Carla Crosio‘s installation, entitled Cancer, is made of of marble, bronze and glass and it takes inspiration from her personal life.

View the above video here.

Michela Cavagna. Birth. Picture taken from Casa Regis’ IG page.

Fiber Artist Michela Cavagna‘s installation entitled ‘Birth’, is inspired by the Russian tale of Vassilissa.

You can view the video of the installation with a brief explanation here.

Screenshot from the short video of
Mikelle Standbridge’s installation Public Domain.

Mikelle Standbridge also included one of her works of art named ‘Public Domain’. This art work can be seen as a bridge between art and science.

View Part 1 and Part 2 of that video.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the use of video for creating slow looking environments. We recommend that our museum educator and curator friends around the world watch some of the short videos that Mikelle created.

We are also happy to report that their inaugural event was so successful that they then planned in-person Slow Art day events for the rest of 2021. Excellent!

We look forward to whatever Casa Regis comes up with for Slow Art Day 2022.

Jessica, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl

PS: A press release of the event is available in Italian here.

Looking, Writing, Making, and Mindfulness at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

On April 10, 2021, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosted both in-person and virtual sessions for their 7th Slow Art Day.

For the in-person activity, visitors were first introduced to the concept of slow looking, and were then invited to practice what they learned as they walked through the museum. Participants were encouraged to share their experiences on social media and tag the museum with #PMASlowArtDay.

Printed Textile Swatch (detail), 1935–59, made by Soieries F. Ducharne
Printed Textile Swatch (detail), 1935–59, made by Soieries F. Ducharne (France, 1920–1972), 2014-144-190a. Picture used to advertise the Slow Art Day event on the Philadephia Museum of Art website in April.

The virtual event consisted of four separate Zoom sessions focused on slow looking, writing, making, and mindfulness.

Slow Looking

For the slow looking session, participants were encouraged to use a naturalist’s attention to detail when looking at still life paintings. Using tools like the Google Art & Education app allowed them to zoom in and experience works of art in a different way compared to in-person.

Detail of Antoine Berjon, 1819.
Still Life with Flowers, Shells, a Shark’s Head, and Petrifications. Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 × 34 9/16 inches (108 × 87.8 cm) [from the Slow Looking Zoom session hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021]

Slow Making

The Slow Making session took the form of a workshop inspired by the work of artist Judith Rothschild. For this session, participants cut and collaged materials to create their own mixed-media work of art, which resulted in the works you see below.

Participants engaging with art during the Slow Making workshop

Slow Writing

For this session, participants were guided in a communal writing exploration of portraits in the museum’s exhibition Painting Identity. Participants were asked to imagine and write about the subjects’ identity.

Portraits from the exhibition Painting Identity

Museum Mindfulness’

For this virtual session, the Yogi, martial artist, and body worker J Miles of Maha Vira Yoga encouraged participants to find their inner calm with a slow, guided look at a selection of works from the PMA’s collection. This section had a more internal approach compared to the other three sessions.

The events were well received, and the virtual participants responded positively to the PMA survey on Slow Art Day:

“The programs will make me more mindful when visiting the museum. I appreciated the opportunities to look more deeply at works of art that I might have otherwise skipped by.”

Participant’s quote

“A lovely creative and mindful way to start my day”

Participant’s quote after attending the Museum Mindful Session

“Taking time to smell the virtual flowers and using Google Art & Education app to zoom in on every area of a painting; seeing that each component had significance in the painting.”

Participant’s quote after having attended the Slow Looking session

“…slowing down & listening to/reading other participants comments, seeing their creations… is very rewarding and opens new vistas.”

Participant’s quote after having attended the Slow Making session

“Very creative and uplifting. I felt renewed and encouraged, and also came up with some ideas for my own teaching”

Participant’s quote after having attended the Slow Writing session

At Slow Art Day HQ, we want to thank the Philadelphia Museum of Art for hosting yet another wonderful event. The range of activities they designed inspire us and educators around the world to consider creating multiple workshops and experiences for Slow Art Day.

We look forward to whatever creative designs the Philadelphia Museum of Art comes up with in 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

PS. For further information on the museum’s events you can follow their social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Great Expectations at Vänersborg Art Gallery

For their first Slow Art Day, Vänersborg Art Gallery, in Vänersborg, Sweden, organized an in-person event featuring three artworks by artist Bo Ljung from the exhibition Lysande Utsikter (“Brilliant Views” or “Great Expectations”).

On April 10, 2021, participants joined this Gallery in southern Sweden after hours to participate in the slow looking event. They looked at each of the three artworks for 10 minutes, and then had an open and stimulating discussion about their experience. Food and water were provided. You can view the artworks from Bo Ljung’s exhibition here.

Slow looking at one of the artworks
More slow looking

Reflecting on the event, Kajsa Frostensson, Gallery Manager, said they learned a lot from their pilot Slow Art Day and look forward to running more slow looking events in the future.

The openness in mind and thought that is required [during slow looking] is something I think we need training in, and we as an organizer also need training in administrating the talking afterwards. Nevertheless, it was a good experience and I liked it very much. So did our participants.

Kajsa Frostensson

While Kajsa and her team may be new at this, they have already contributed one good idea to the global Slow Art Day movement: host slow looking sessions after regular hours. Other galleries and smaller museums might want to borrow this idea. We imagine that an after hours session helps to support slow looking in this fast-paced world of ours.

We look forward to whatever other innovations Vänersborg Art Gallery comes up with for their second Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Ashley, Jessica, and Phyl

P.S. You can also follow the Gallery’s Facebook page for more updates.

Slow Art for Educators at the Smithsonian

For their second Slow Art Day, The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C., organized a virtual slow looking workshop specifically for art educators focused on the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). The aim of the session was to share slow looking ideas and skills that can be applied as teaching methods.

Detail of Katsushika Hokusai. Thunder God. Edo period, 1847. Ink and color on paper. 126.9 x 53.8 cm (49 15/16 x 21 3/16 in). Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art.
Katsushika Hokusai. Thunder God. Edo period, 1847. Ink and color on paper. 126.9 x 53.8 cm (49 15/16 x 21 3/16 in). Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art.

After a brief introduction by Education Specialist Jennifer Reifsteck, Faylinda Kodis, high-school Visual Educator, led the slow looking activity. BoBeen Chung, Program Assistant for the Department of Engagement and Visitor Experience, supported by sharing links for participants in the chat. The structure of the session is outlined below.

1. Start with a relaxation and meditation “eye palming” activity

2. Observe Hokusai’s “Thunder God” for 10 minutes – without prior knowledge of the work (and without distractions, including mobile phones).

3. Write observations on Hokusai’s artwork using the following prompts:

  • Describe: What did you see?
  • Analyze: Why do you think the artist made certain decisions in this artwork?
  • Interpret: What is the message, story, or theme of this artwork?
  • Inquire: What would you like to know about this artwork?

4. Discussion of the artwork and observations

Jennifer Reifsteck closed the day’s program by sharing a brief history of the Freer and Sackler’s Galleries, information on Hokusai’s collection, and where to find lesson plans and useful material for educators on the Gallery’s website.

We encourage educators to view the recording of the session and this Google doc highlighting the participants’ reflections.

Screenshot from the beginning of the Zoom session.

The event was attended by 53 participants from all over the world, including Romania, France, India, Austria, and several states across the United States: Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Florida, California, Rhode Island, and New York.

Participants loved the event, and left positive feedback:

“Congratulations and THANK YOU for today’s work and the follow-on resources. What lovely teamwork and expertise to share with us educators. Thanks to all participants, too!”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“These resources/sharings are some of the BEST things that have come out of the pandemic, RIGHT?  Bless your good work!”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Amazing! Thank you, I am very inspired by this educational slow looking technique.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Thank you for this wonderful approach to perception.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Excellent, very informative & inspirational lessons on slow looking with Hokusai at Freer with you. Thank you so much.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Thank you for all of this. It was very informative and of great benefit for me and my teaching going forward.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Therapeutic to slow look. I appreciate this platform to collaboratively slow look and appreciate out loud. So I’m curious if the Freer or other art museums are offering more mornings like this to bring folks together for the shared experience. Now that the nation is ZOOMING as never before, it unleashes some more possibilities.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited that the Smithsonian designed a slow art event specifically for educators, which advances our mission of equipping educators with the skills to implement slow looking in their teaching.

We look forward to seeing what they come up with in 2022!

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl