Video feature: Dale Fisher on John Marin's "Off Flint Island, Main Coast"

For this video feature, the second in our series highlighting works on display in the A Legacy for Iowa... exhibit at the Figge, we chatted with University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) Director of Education Dale Fisher about John Marin's Off Flint Island, Main Coast. Check it out here or on the UIMA's YouTube channel.

And be sure to attend Dale's lecture, where he'll talk more about John Marin's work, this Thursday, July 2—part of an ongoing "Thursdays at the Figge" series over the summer!

Dale Fisher, Featured Artist: John Marin
Thursdays at the Figge
When: July 2—Bar open 5-9 p.m., Music 6-8 p.m., Art Talk 7 p.m.
Where: Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second St., Davenport, IA
Cost: Free with museum admission and for UIMA donors with Donor Courtesy Card and UI Students, Faculty, and Staff with UI ID card.

--Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager


Thursdays at the Figge: Pamela White on Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943, oil on canvas, 19' 10" x 8' 1"
Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, copyright 1959 UIMA

UIMA Interim Director Pamela White will give tomorrow's "Thursdays at the Figge" talk on Jackson Pollock, the famous Abstract Expressionist artist who created the UIMA's most celebrated painting, the nearly 20-foot-long, more than 8-foot-tall Mural (1943).

If you'd like to read a bit about Pollock before the talk, check out the UIMA website for more information. You can also read some of the past posts on this blog.

Pamela White, Featured Artist: Jackson Pollock
Thursdays at the Figge
When: TOMORROW, June 25—Bar open 5-9 p.m., Music 6-8 p.m., Art Talk 7 p.m.
Where: Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second St., Davenport, IA
Cost: Free with museum admission and for UIMA donors with Donor Courtesy Card and UI Students, Faculty, and Staff with UI ID card.

--Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager


From the Figge Front: Unpacking African

Last Thursday at work was like Christmas morning! We’ve been receiving packages of all shapes and sizes from David Riep, who is field collecting for us in South Africa (see the article about David in the UIMA’s Summer 2009 Magazine). They have been waiting to be opened for months, and other new African acquisitions have been waiting even longer: a few objects were purchased just before the 2008 Flood and were sent directly to our Chicago storage, so they’ve been packed up for over a year. Last Thursday we welcomed all of these objects to their new temporary home at the Figge!
From Left to right: UIMA Registrarial Assistant Whitney Day , Preparator Steve Erickson,
and Registrar Jeff Martin work to unpack African objects at the Figge.

We unpacked the objects and assigned them all numbers, and then we photographed them against a white background. Most of the objects go together to create beautifully beaded and embroidered outfits, many used for initiation ceremonies or religious rituals. (I almost asked if I could model some of the outfits but decided that might not be the best practice in art handling.) Some of the objects (like the above apron) were made from animal skins, so we repacked them in paper and then plastic bags and placed them in a freezer for a few weeks, to make sure that no bugs hitched a ride from South Africa. We located the rest of the objects to shelves in storage at the Figge.

My favorite pieces were the initiation staffs.
New staffs like this are given to male initiates, usually from their maternal uncle. Each stick must cure for one year before being decorated, due to the type of wood used. This kind of wood shrinks while it dries, and it must do so before the decorative wire is added so the wire doesn’t fall off the shaft. The colorful designs are made from telephone wire, which is commonly used for sticks like this.

Formerly, sticks were carved with fancy tops, but this went out of fashion by the 1940s. This artistic shift is a reflection of cultural changes: beginning in the 1940s, Africans needed to take up migrant work in the cities and those who became night watchmen began using surplus materials to make new traditional objects, such as these coiled sticks. These staffs function in a variety of ways: for walking, fighting, and shepherding, in addition to serving as a status symbol. Very cool! I wonder how difficult it would be to make my own…

We anticipate receiving another shipment from David on Thursday, said to include more outfits and some ceramic vessels (aka, beer cups), which we hope will arrive undamaged after their long journey. Update to follow!

--Melissa Hueting, UIMA Assistant to the Director for Special Programs and Curatorial Assistant


Flood anniversary

On Monday, June 15, the University of Iowa marked the one-year anniversary of the 2008 flood with "Remember, Reimagine, Rebuild," a commemoration at the Old Capitol Museum. A series of flood photographs taken by the UI Office of University Relations and posters illustrating cutting-edge, flood-related research being conducted by UI faculty, staff, and students will be on view at the museum through July. You can read more about some of the research online, here. Note the mention of the $30,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant that the UIMA received with the assistance of Jay Semel. In addition, digital archives of the StoryCorps Oral History Project from the Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection may be found online at digital.lib.uiowa.edu/flood. You can read more about that project here.

For a UIMA perspective, click here to read Claire Lekwa's post on interviewing a Story Corps reporter.

Here are some photos from yesterday's event. Also, make sure to check out the University's flood recovery Web site for the most recent flood news.

--Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager


Video feature: Max Beckmann's "Karneval"

In light of her upcoming lecture at the Figge, Melissa Hueting, UIMA Assistant to the Director for Special Programs and Curatorial Assistant, was kind enough to talk a little about Max Beckmann's Karneval for the first in a series of UIMA videos highlighting works on display in the "A Legacy for Iowa" exhibit. Check it out here or on the UIMA's YouTube channel.

And be sure to attend Melissa's lecture, where she'll give more insight into Max Beckmann's work, this Thursday, June 18—part of an ongoing "Thursdays at the Figge" series over the summer!

Melissa Hueting, Featured Artist: Max Beckmann
Thursdays at the Figge
When: June 18—Bar open 5-9 p.m., Music 6-8 p.m., Art Talk 7 p.m.
Where: Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second St., Davenport, IA
Cost: Free with membership or museum admission

--Claire Lekwa, UIMA Marketing and Media Intern


From the Figge Front: Break Time

After two weeks of driving to the Figge daily we’re taking a break. The Chicago teams have returned to their land of Cubs and Bears, and Team UIMA is back at Menards catching up on other projects. And we’re not the only ones doing this: Now that the students are gone, Studio Arts (SA) construction workers are rushing to reconfigure the building before classes begin again. Want to know the difference in sound between sawing through concrete flooring and drilling into metal? I learned that the other day. I learned that right before I invested in ear plugs.

Some of the projects we’re working on at SA right now:

UIMA @the IMU (The Richey Ballroom): We’re identifying objects from our collection to exhibit in this newly renovated educational museum space, which will open to the UI community and the public in August.

African conservation prep: We’ve been fundraising to conserve some of our top African works and are now beginning to plan for a conservator to visit the Figge and work on those pieces that were identified pre-flood as needing attention.

Database entry: Now that we have a break, it’s time to enter all of the information we’ve been recording (re: object locations at the Figge) into our electronic database back at the UIMA office.

We anticipate resuming our eastern migratory patterns in July. This is when we expect the Chicagoans to return to these, our "Fields of Opportunities," and we will continue to welcome back our masks and textiles, our Goyas and Piranesis.

--Melissa Hueting, UIMA Assistant to the Director for Special Programs and Curatorial Assistant



I just posted some photographs from the ongoing construction at the Richey Ballroom in the Iowa Memorial Union on Flickr. This space on the third floor will soon become a visual classroom for the UIMA, housing a broad cross-section of works from our collection that will be useful for classes. Workers are busy transofrming the former ballroom and event space into a climate controlled room-within-a-room for the art. The ballroom will open Aug. 20. Here's a slideshow for you to check out.

--Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager


Video feature: When Values Collide, lecture with Lee Rosenbaum

If you missed Lee Rosenbaum's Elliott Society lecture about museum deaccessioning controversies in April, now you can watch it online at the UIMA's lecture video channel! We will be posting lectures, artist talks, and any other UIMA programs we think people would be interested in at uima.blip.tv. We'll continue posting the videos here on the blog, but if you'd like to watch them in a larger format, be sure to check out the channel!

Also, if you're interested in seeing more UIMA videos, check out our YouTube channel, where we'll be posting shorter videos. There will be many posted there soon about paintings in the "A Legacy for Iowa" exhibit at the Figge.

--Claire Lekwa, UIMA Marketing and Media Intern

Veteran cultural journalist and "CultureGrrl" blogger Lee Rosenbaum speaks about art museum deaccessioning controversies in the University of Iowa Museum of Art's Spring 2009 Elliott Society lecture series. Iowa City-based attorney David Bright, who serves on the American Bar Associations Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee and the UIMA Members Council, joins Rosenbaum for the talk on April 15, 2009. The programs focus is especially relevant for the UIMA in light of the year's events. In 2008, at the request of the Board of Regents, the University of Iowa prepared an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of deaccessioning the Museums most celebrated painting, Jackson Pollock's Mural (1943), to cover flood damages the campus suffered in June 2008.


Nearing the flood anniversary

This weekend I clicked onto the UI Libraries' home page to start researching for a paper assigned in my summer art history class, and suddenly something familiar, yet lately absent from my life, caught my eye. The jolly, round face of Big Boy with his giant hamburger was a sight I hadn't seen in awhile, ever since the UIMA's collection was evacuated last summer. The poor guy still smiled through the layer of plastic wrap enveloping him.

The picture of Big Boy linked to the UI Libraries' Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection, an online compilation of over 3,400 photographs taken by the University News Services of the flood and its aftermath (including pictures of the water's impact on the former UIMA building—inside and out). The collection also includes oral history interviews recorded by the UI Anthropology Department and StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that has recorded and archived more than 25,000 interviews throughout the country since 2003, making it the largest oral history project of its kind.

The Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection preserves the flood experience and commemorates the anniversary, coming up next week. Exactly one year ago on June 13, the UIMA was forced to close its doors after evacuating its 12,000-piece collection under the threat of rising floodwaters. It's hard to comprehend all that has changed for the UIMA in a single year: leaving the Riverside Drive building for good, moving the collection to Chicago and then to the Figge, renovating campus space for temporary galleries, and contemplating the next big project—envisioning a new museum building. It's been an action-packed year for the UIMA staff, no doubt.

If you were in Iowa City during those days of flooding, your memories, like mine, are probably still just as vivid and always will be. For more than 35 eastern Iowans, those memories will be archived with the Library of Congress by StoryCorps, preserved as a part of the country's history. The 45-minute recordings are up for listening on the Iowa Digital Library Flood Collection site and include participants such as UI President Sally Mason and her husband, who talk about moving the UIMA collection, and also members of the UI arts community. UI School of Art and Art History professors John Scott and Steve McGuire talk about their personal losses in the flood (McGuire lost both his office and his house), the changes that resulted for the School of Art and Art History (relocating around 142 classes to "MenArts" in the span of a month and a half), and the importance of campus culture and community. Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson and Production Manager Kenneth Schumacher talk about the flood's impact on the auditorium and what both evacuation and clean-up was like.

When they came to Iowa City last October, I interviewed one of the StoryCorps facilitators, Anna Walters, about the organization and her thoughts on hearing the firsthand accounts of the flood. I thought I'd post the interview here for anyone interested:

For more reflections on the flood experience, read this UIMA Art Matters' post from last July featuring a story written by Shanti Roundtree, an editor with the local publishing company Buckle Down, about her personal experience of evacuating her home off Riverside Drive during the flood.

It was definitely a week (and a year) none of us will forget.

--Claire Lekwa, UIMA Marketing and Media Intern


From the Figge Front: Bringing it Back

“Here, smell this,” I say to the art conservator while leaning over an African textile. “Good?”

“Good,” she confirms.

“Excellent. Next textile.”

And with that, another of the 12,000 artworks from the UIMA’s collection is considered "checked in" at the Figge Museum. Or is it? If only it were that simple. What’s involved with the check-in process, exactly? Glad you asked...

But first, the players:
  • Team UIMA: Jeff Martin (Registrar), Kathy Edwards (Chief Curator), Steve Erickson (Preparator), Whitney Day (Registrarial assistant), Nathan Popp (Curatorial assistant), Melissa Hueting (Curatorial assistant, Assistant extraordinaire)
  • Team Terry Dowd (art handlers/movers): An assortment of young men, all of whom are artists in their own right. Word on the street is that in order to be hired by Terry Dowd, you have to present your portfolio with your application. A very pleasant, hard-working group. It’s not uncommon to find traces of googly-eye stickers on backpacks/purses and cell phones wherever the TD boys have been. And donuts. They are always accompanied by donuts.
  • Team O’Connell International Arts, Inc.: A crew from Chicago who help handle the art and document any damages we discover.
A day in the life...
Team UIMA begins the one-hour trek to Davenport by 8:00 am, car-pooling whenever possible. Steve, Jeff, Whitney and I have grown accustomed to riding together. We meet at Steve’s house and, if you get there early enough, Steve’s son Adam will give you a tour of his latest artworks and offer you some of his breakfast. What’s usually on the menu at the Erickson household? Coffee (for the adults) and pancakes or naan. Worth arriving early! And Adam’s latest artistic creation: a handmade kite kit—very cool!

After the hour ride, during which we generally listen to a comedian or book on CD, we arrive at the Figge and sign in with security. Next, we pile into the over-sized elevator (the same that was able to fit the huge Sam Gilliam painting in it—see photo below) and are swiped up to the secured fourth floor, which is where we prepare to receive the art.
Art movers fit Sam Gilliam's Red April (1970) into the Figge's giant elevator. The painting is more than 9 feet tall and more than 13 feet wide.

The whole fourth floor is ours. We set up work stations in the main space. These stations include two table groupings: one for examining works on paper and the other for objects. Kathy and Nathan sit at the works on paper table, waiting for the art to arrive. Whitney and I are stationed at the objects table, waiting as well.

Kathy and Nathan checking in works on paper.

African art sits on the fourth-floor object work table.

A truck arrives from Chicago, laden with art and art movers. They check in each box with Jeff Martin as they bring them from the truck to the fourth floor. Then the boxes enter the main space of the fourth floor. Some of the art movers continue to bring art from the truck to the fourth floor, while others start unpacking the art for us, one box at a time. For example, a box might have three African masks in it. The art movers will bring the box to the objects station and Whitney and I document the Terry Dowd shipping number, the Chicago Conservation Center number, and the UIMA number, all of which are written on the box’s exterior. Next, each of the three pieces within the box has a UIMA accession number and a CCC number, which need to be recorded. When the three objects are placed on the padded table, we examine each piece for new damage (i.e., cracks in wood from humidity, breaks from being bumped during transit).

Steve (right) helps unpack an African work.

After that, we look through the box and all of the packing material, in order to confirm that nothing remains in the box (artworks or fragments having been broken off). Once we’ve finished this box, we’re ready for the next. The art movers place the three African masks on a cart that is bound for the downstairs storage (one of three storage locations that we’re utilizing at the Figge). Steve Erickson receives the cart and, with assistance, locates the objects. Locating an object entails documenting the accession number and assigning the object to a numbered shelf. When the African masks are finally placed on the shelf, they are considered officially checked in.

So, back to the textiles: I have discovered that the easiest way to evaluate a textile’s condition is to smell it for mildew. Not having been trained as a connoisseur of mildews, I studied up before beginning to work with these objects. Additionally, one of the girls from O’Connell is an object conservator who spent time in the South after Hurricane Gustav. Her advice: “When it’s mildewed, you’ll know. Trust me, you’ll know.” So far, the collection is looking (and smelling) good!

--Melissa Hueting, UIMA Assistant to the Director for Special Programs and Curatorial Assistant

From the Figge Front: A new series

In the coming weeks, we'll be hearing regularly from Melissa Hueting, UIMA assistant to the director for special programs and curatorial assistant since July 2008.

Melissa does many things here at the UIMA, but most recently she has been logging a lot of hours in Davenport at the Figge Art Museum. Just a few weeks ago, the bulk of the UIMA's more than 12,000-work collection was moved to the Figge from storage in Chicago -- and that was the easy part. Now, along with several other staff members, art movers, and conservators, Melissa is examining works of art for damage before they are relocated in their new storage spaces at the Figge. It's a time-consuming and fascinating process, and we hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes peak into art museum operations!

Melissa is originally from St. Louis, MO. She attended Knox College, where she received her BA in Classics and Art History in 2004. She then entered the University of Iowa Art History graduate program and received her MA in 2006, writing her thesis on ancient Roman art in North Africa. She has participated in numerous archaeological excavations, both in the US and abroad, and has experience conserving ceramics and animal bones. In her free time, Melissa enjoys writing creative non-fiction short stories about her travels and life experiences. She recently decided to become a volunteer at Coralville Lake, where she will be introducing nature-art projects to the trails and doing educational programming.

--Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager