Monday, August 30, 2010

Betts House Exhibition Gets Award

Congratulations Margo Warminski! Her curatorial work on From Tenements to Townhouses: Multi-Family Housing in Cincinnati won a History Outreach Award from the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums. OAHSM recognizes organizations for outstanding projects, including public programs, exhibits, media and publications that contribute to awareness and understanding of local and state history. You can find a complete list of award winners here.

If you haven’t seen From Tenements to Townhouses yet, it will be on view at the Betts House through September 30. This exhibit is made possible, in part, by grants from the Louise Taft Semple Foundation and the Bettman Prize administered by AIA Cincinnati; and panel sponsorships from LPK, Towne Properties, York Vision, and anonymous donors.

The Betts House is open Tues, Wed & Thurs, 11 am – 2 pm, two Saturdays a month (August 28, September 11 & September 25, 12:30 – 5), and other days and times by appointment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

International Scholar, David Franklin Appointed Eighth Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art

David Franklin, an internationally respected scholar of Italian Renaissance and baroque art, was named the next director of the Cleveland Museum of Art in a unanimous vote by the museum's board of trustees. Franklin's selection marks a new generation of leadership for the museum, known for the quality and breadth of its collection and its historic role as a leading American museum.

The 49-year-old Franklin, currently the deputy director of the National Gallery of Canada, will assume his duties in Cleveland on Sept. 20. Franklin brings to the position deep experience in exhibitions and acquisitions, as well as an international perspective as a result of having lived and worked in Canada, London, Oxford and Rome. He arrives at a key moment for the Cleveland Museum of Art, which in the next three years will complete a $350 million renovation and expansion project designed to improve the installation and interpretation of the museum's collection and enhance the experience of its visitors.

"As an international scholar who has curated many successful exhibitions and has substantial leadership experience at a large and complex museum, David possesses a rare combination of managerial and curatorial skills, making him the perfect fit for the Cleveland Museum of Art," said Alfred M. Rankin Jr., president of the museum's board of trustees and chairman, president and chief executive officer of NACCO Industries Inc. "This appointment gives us the opportunity to tap a talented professional to join an emerging group of innovative, new directors at the nation's top art museums."

As deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Canada, Franklin is responsible for the core work of that museum, including its curatorial departments, art acquisitions, conservation, library and archives, and education division, which together comprise approximately one quarter of the institution's total staff of 290 and total annual operating budget of $58 million. Franklin has held the position since 2001.

"I have long admired the Cleveland Museum of Art's commitment to quality, which has given the institution a reputation for possessing among the world's finest encyclopedic holdings," said Franklin. "It is with great enthusiasm that I join the talented Cleveland staff in leading this museum into its next 100 years. I want to build upon the museum's strong traditions while increasing its focus on outreach and diversity to identify new ways to bring the collection to life and engage the regional and global audiences that the museum serves."

The museum is now finishing the final planning for its building project, which remains on budget and on schedule for completion in 2013. In June, the museum's board of trustees demonstrated once again its strong commitment to the project by voting unanimously to fund and complete this final phase.

"The new Rafael Viñoly building will act as a magnet for curious audiences, making this the moment to have a greater impact on more people than ever through Cleveland's collection and intelligent presentation of art," said Franklin. "I'm looking forward to taking an active role in Cleveland and to making the museum even more meaningful and relevant within its community."

At the National Gallery, Franklin has balanced significant leadership responsibilities with an active scholarly agenda. He is one of the museum's most visible spokespeople, representing the organization in its outreach across Canada and initiating fundraising that has secured individual and corporate support at an institution that previously had been accustomed to relying almost entirely on government funding. During his tenure, Franklin's successes have ranged from increasing art donations from individuals across Canada to securing more than $2 million for a curatorial research fund and playing a central role in a fundraising event that raised nearly $2 million for the museum in one night.

At the same time, he has curated several of the National Gallery's noteworthy special exhibitions, including Italian Drawings from the National Gallery of Canada (2001), Parmigianino (2003) and Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence (2005). Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture (2008), organized in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum, was the first major exhibition of Bernini's work in North America and the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist's portrait busts. From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome (2009) featured more than 150 works by artists including Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and El Greco from lenders including the Vatican Museums, British Museum, Galleria degli Uffizi, J. Paul Getty Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre, Morgan Library & Museum and National Gallery in London. Franklin is currently organizing the exhibition Caravaggio and His Circle in Rome, scheduled to debut at the National Gallery of Canada in the summer of 2011 before traveling to the United States.

"David is an individual with extraordinary ability and reputation in the field of international art scholarship," said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. "In the current environment, where institutions are building a growing international presence beyond bricks and mortar and across borders, David has shown a real strength in his rare ability to mount complex projects."

"David's work in organizing ambitious exhibitions is impressive, and he has demonstrated appreciation for sharing with museum visitors not only his own area of specialty but also many others, including contemporary art," said Michael J. Horvitz, chairman of the museum's board of trustees and of counsel to the law firm Jones Day.

Franklin has earned honors in Canada and abroad, including the 1995 Eric Mitchell Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to art historians, for his publication Rosso in Italy: The Italian Career of Rosso Fiorentino. This volume also was awarded the Yale University Press Governors' Award for the most outstanding book published by an author under the age of 40. In 2009, the Italian government took note of his research, honoring Franklin with its Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity), the country's highest honor for non-Italians, awarded to those who demonstrate exceptional service that furthers Italian culture.

"In a very strong field of candidates, David quickly distinguished himself as our top choice," said R. Steven Kestner, chair of the museum's search committee and national executive partner of Baker & Hostetler LLP. "He brings an international outlook that will allow the museum to continue broadening its reach in the areas of research, exhibitions and publications. We're thrilled to welcome David and his family to Cleveland."

Franklin, a native of Québec, earned his Bachelor of Arts in art history from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He received both his master's and doctorate degrees in European Renaissance art from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. He also was awarded an honorary Master of Arts by the University of Oxford.

He has held fellowships at Oxford's Lincoln College and All Souls College, spent four years researching and teaching Italian Renaissance art at Oxford and served as a visiting scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Los Angeles and the Hertziana Library in Rome.

Franklin first joined the National Gallery of Canada in 1998 as the curator of prints and drawings and within two years was promoted to deputy director. The National Gallery possesses a collection and staff similar in size to that of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada's national cultural institutions. The museum's collection - which spans all periods of Canadian art and is particularly notable for strong holdings in prints and drawings, photography, Inuit art, modern American art and contemporary art - includes approximately 38,000 works, in addition to 161,700 images held within the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. Annually, the museum attracts approximately 400,000 visitors to its modern, downtown Ottawa building and adds an average of 300 works of art to its collections.

"David has made outstanding contributions to our institution," said Marc Mayer, director of the National Gallery of Canada. "While we will miss him greatly, I truly believe this is his moment to take the helm of an internationally renowned museum and make optimal use of his ideas, energies and talents there."

Franklin and his wife Antonia Reiner, who holds a degree in modern languages from Oxford and is a freelance translator and fiber artist, are currently in the process of relocating to the Cleveland area with their two children. In the coming months, Franklin will work closely with Deborah Gribbon, who has served for the past year as the interim director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.

Franklin's selection follows a 12-month international search that began in September 2009. The museum worked with the executive search firm of Phillips Oppenheim.

You can find a recent story about the CMA appointment here.

Taft Museum Receives Highest National Recognition

The Taft Museum of Art has achieved accreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition for a museum. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public.
AAM Accreditation is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation, and public accountability, and earns national recognition for a museum for its commitment to excellence in all that it does: governance, collections stewardship, public programs, financial stability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for 35 years, AAM’s Museum Accreditation program strengthens the profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely, and to provide the best possible service to the public.
“AAM accreditation is a wonderful endorsement of the Taft,” said Deborah Emont Scott, the Taft’s director/CEO. “It reflects the quality of the Museum’s operations including exhibitions and programs, and recognizes the tremendous undertaking by the Taft’s staff, board, and volunteers on the accreditation project as well as the high quality of their day-to-day work at the Taft. We are especially thrilled by the AAM’s recognition of the Taft’s community outreach efforts, specifically the Duncanson artist-in-residency program, which the AAM highlighted as a noteworthy program for outreach to diverse audiences.”
Of the nation’s estimated 17,500 museums, 775 are currently accredited. Among those institutions are 316 art museums and centers, with the Taft one of only 26 art museums accredited in Ohio. The only other accredited institutions in Cincinnati are the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
“Accreditation assures the people of Cincinnati that their museum is among the finest in the nation,” said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. “As a result, the citizens can take considerable pride in their homegrown institution, for its commitment to excellence and for the value it brings to the community.”
Accreditation is a rigorous process that examines all aspects of a museum’s operations. To earn accreditation, a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, review and evaluate the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation. While the time to complete the process varies by museum, it generally takes three years.
The American Association of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. With more than 15,000 individual, 3,000 institutional, and 300 corporate members, AAM is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of the American landscape, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future. For more information, visit

Thursday, August 19, 2010

OAC Accepting Nominations for Governor's Awards for the Arts

The Ohio Arts Council is now accepting online nominations for the 2011 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio. The annual awards are given to Ohio individuals and organizations in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the arts statewide, regionally and nationally. Awards are given for Arts Administration, Arts Education, Arts Patron, Business Support of the Arts, Community Development & Participation and Individual Artist.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5 p.m. and the deadline for support letters is Friday, October 1, 2010 at 5 p.m.

Nominations will be accepted only online. A complete explanation of the nomination process is available on the 2011 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio and Arts Day Luncheon website. For more information about the Governor’s Awards nomination process, please contact Stephanie Dawson at the Ohio Arts Council at 614/728-4475 or

Monday, August 16, 2010

Aesthetics and Athletics: Not So Unlikely a Pair

Throughout most of my time in academia, arts and athletic departments always seemed bitter rivals. This is especially true when speaking about funding curricula. The well-rehearsed and received argument says dollars funding an arts-based curriculum will always be cut before athletes and coaches feel the crunch. I don't follow the money so don't know the strength of the argument. But pitting these two (what are they?) academic or extra-curricular programs (?), disciplines (?), interests (?) against each other may be an apples and oranges debate: both are different, but belong together.

For the past few months, I've been thinking more about how and when aesthetics and athletics pair up. For me, the natural starting point is ancient Greek sculpture of Olympic athletes. Of course this easily tapped reference is the result of an art history curriculum. What I am finding recently is a more natural pairing of the two taking place in recent conversations on Twitter and blog postings and general comments about art.

Art writer and sports fan Tyler Green pulls these two topics together effortlessly. With his more current America's Favorite Art Museum brackets and last year's Super Bowl bet between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art his readers can satisfy interests spanning what's been accepted as a wide spectrum. And finally, our human tendencies towards both competition and the arts has been more recently harnessed and presented in Bravo's Work of Art.

Still, there are many who feel it necessary to patrol the pairing of aesthetics and athletics. The Cincinnati Art Museum has enjoyed a successful summer of arts and programming around the theme of Americana, called SEE America. In these final weeks, they've installed a large screen t.v. on which visitors can watch a Cincinnati Reds baseball game or historical highlights of the first major league baseball team. Not surprising, there was some grumbling in the stands. A few think the museum is not a place to watch baseball and suggested this was simply a gimmick to get new patrons into the museum. With a whole summer devoted to American culture, the museum should be safe from such an accusation.

The only way to agree with this argument is to simply dismiss the historical compatibility of aesthetics and athletics. What do these critics have to say about Andy Warhol's Pete Rose on permanent display in this museum?

Are there other examples of the pairings of arts and sports? Can recognizing these cultural interests as siblings rather than enemies help strengthen school curricula?

Taft Names Violinist, Nokuthula Ngwenyama 2010 Duncanson Artist-in Residence

The Robert S. Duncanson Society of the Taft Museum of Art has selected violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama as the 2010 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence from a talented pool of local and national candidates. A nationally recognized orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician, Ngwenyama will be the Taft’s 24th resident artist.

Ngwenyama learned about the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence program during a visit to Cincinnati in April when she performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at Music Hall. She describes the Taft’s historic Duncanson murals as “beautiful, peaceful works of art.”
The Taft Museum of Art established theDuncanson Artist-in-Residence program in 1986 to honor the achievements of contemporary artists of African descent working in a variety of disciplines and media. The program also honors the relationship between African American painter Robert S. Duncanson and his patron, Nicholas Longworth, who commissioned Duncanson to paint landscape murals in the foyer of his home, now the Taft Museum of Art.
“I think that it really shows the contribution that African Americans have made to the fine arts for such a long time. To be able to have a tie to that legacy is a wonderful honor,” Ngwenyama says. “To pay tribute to the relationship that Duncanson had (with Longworth) has given me a sense of tradition in this country that I wasn’t really aware of.”

Gramophone Magazine has proclaimed Ngwenyama’s playing as providing “solidly shaped music of bold, mesmerizing character,” and the Washington Post describes her as playing "with dazzling technique in the virtuoso fast movements and deep expressiveness in the slow movements.”
Ngwenyama’s orchestral appearances include performances with the Atlanta, Baltimore, and Indianapolis Symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. She has been heard in recital at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, the Louvre, the Ford Center in Toronto, the Maison de Radio France, and the White House.

Born in California of Zimbabwean-Japanese parentage, Ngwenyama came to international attention when she won the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions at age 17. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. As a Fulbright scholar she attended the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris and received a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard University.
“I hope to highlight the legacy (between Duncanson and Longworth) and make sure it continues today,” says Ngwenyama, “and show that the arts cross racial boundaries.”

In addition to her performance activities Ngwenyama served as visiting assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame in 2007, teaching in the field of ethnomusicology. She joined the faculty of Indiana University as visiting associate professor from 2008-10. Ngwenyama is the current director of the Primrose International Viola Competition and president-elect of the American Viola Society.

During her residency, Ngwenyama will give public performances and workshops. She will also engage in educational outreach activities with students both in the classrooms and at the Taft.
Artist-in-Residence Events
Thursday, November 4, 6-8 p.m.
Taft Museum of Art
Reception with the artist. Free.
Sunday, November 7, 2-3 p.m.
Taft Museum of Art
Family Concert: Strings and Things, with Nokuthula Ngwenyama. Free.

Thursday, November 11, 7 p.m.
Allen Temple A.M.E Church, 7080 Reading Rd., Cincinnati
Nokuthula Ngwenyama in Recital
Sandra Rivers, piano
Free. No reservations taken.
Sunday, November 14, 2 p.m.
Taft Museum of Art
Nokuthula Ngwenyama in Recital.
Sandra Rivers, piano
All events are free but reservations are required and seating is limited unless noted above. For reservations or information please call (513) 684-4528 or 4516.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should Greenacres Foundation Lose It's Non-Profit Status?

The American Association of Museums sets the standard for best practices of museums including the sale of art and artifacts. Generally museum collections are not seen or used as assets. Instead, the mission of museums includes holding collections in trust for the public. While museums can sell works that are duplicates or in other ways offer no value to their holdings to obtain other works of art, but not to satisfy a debt.

There have been a number of stories in the past couple of years debating questionable deaccessioning of art practices. Brandeis' Rose Museum has been at the center of a controversy that sees the school's interest in selling the entire collection to satisfy a financial need. And more recently, the Chelsea Art Museum risks losing its charter for putting up its entire collection as collateral for a loan to pay it's mortgage. Losing its charter may lead to the museum losing its non-profit status.

Just as the museum community helps to upholds ethics rules around deaccessioning, cannot the Greenacres Foundation be held to certain ethics violations if the foundation demolishes the Gamble House? Other than the Cincinnati Preservation Association, I've heard a loud cry by a number of Cincinnati residents against the destruction of the house.

Presumably the Gamble House is legally protected by its Landmark designation. However this has not protected it from the Foundation's interest in letting it deteriorate to its current state. Of course I would never agree to allow the house be demolished, especially since the CPA has offered to purchase and restore it. I have heard from some who think the Foundation has every right to do with the house they wish since they own it.

Do they own it or is the house held in their trust as a Landmark. Are they not responsible for maintaining it? If it is decided they can demolish, shouldn't the Greenacres Foundation give up their non-profit status? What do our city's non-profit organizations think? Our Attorney General, Richard Cordray?

FYI: The Gamble House in Pasadena, California

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Could This Happen in OTR? Oh Yes.

It is hard to imagine the artistic backbone of Cincinnati's Over the Rhine being pushed out to make room for corporate interests. But this is a neighborhood development pattern that is all too common, and not just in the United States.

After 10 years as an arts hub, Berlin's Tacheles is facing corporate redevelopment. The building, which houses open studions much like our own Pendleton, is now a historical marker thanks at least in part to the local artists squatters who occupied it in 1990. The neighborhood has gone through the natural progression from "underground-hip" to now full of tourists.

The NY Times story correctly notes the fight between the artists and the corporations is more than one about gentrification, but about identity. Historical preservation is about more than saving old buildings, but cultural identity. Tacheles reveals that corporations and even residents can, without batting an eye, evict their founding artists.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Museum Day on Fountain Square

Museums & Historic Sites of Greater Cincinnati invites residents and visitors to explore the many historic and cultural gems of the Greater Cincinnati region at Museum Day on Fountain Square, Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Come and learn about attractions from across the tri-state in one, convenient downtown Cincinnati location. More than two dozen museums and historic sites will be on hand to showcase their programs with costumed interpreters, objects from their collections, and hands-on activities.

In the tri-state region, over sixty museums and historic sites are open to the public, each with a unique story to tell. Guests of Museum Day will have the opportunity to explore a variety of interests, such as local history, art, and preservation. Museum Day participants include: American Sign Museum, Anderson Township Historical Society, Behringer-Crawford Museum, The Betts House, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Observatory, Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, Contemporary Art Center, Delhi Historical Society, Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum, Greater Loveland Historical Society Museum, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Hillforest, John P. Parker Historic Site, Lloyd Library, Mt. Healthy Historical Society, Ohio Tobacco Museum, Price Hill Historical Society & Museum, Promont House Museum, Rankin House, Taft Museum of Art, and the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

Museums & Historic Sites of Greater Cincinnati (formerly Historic Homes and Sites of Greater Cincinnati) was founded in 1992 by a group of ten historic house museums to encourage an appreciation of the Ohio River Valley and its history through tourism, educational programming and other activities. In 2009, the coalition decided to broaden its focus to include more of the region’s historical and cultural attractions and modify its name. MHS-GS is currently comprised of over 26 participating organizations located in Brown, Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties in Ohio; Dearborn, Franklin, and Ohio counties in Indiana; and Bracken, Boone, Campbell, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, and Pendleton counties in Kentucky. Each site offers a unique perspective on local history and culture through public programs, exhibits, lectures, and tours. For additional information on MHS-GC and its members visit or find them on Facebook.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

ArtWord: Kristine Donnelly

Kristine Donnelly, Detail of Untitled (Fan Shapes)

This month, the Taft Museum of Art will open its second Keystone Contemporary exhibit. This annual series highlights the work of an emerging artist in the Tristate region with a small scale solo show. This year, the museum is featuring the work of Kristine Donnelly. While preparing for this solo show and working at the Cincinnati Art Museum as the Coordinator of Family Learning, Ms. Donnelly took the time to meet with me and answer some questions about her work.

1. Like many successful artists, you began as a figural painter. Can you tell me a bit more about your earlier work? What specifically does painting not allow you to do that your current medium does? And perhaps just as interesting, what challenge does cut paper provide (for you and your viewer) that painting may not?

I worked directly from life when painting the figure. I created life-sized multiple figure oil paintings. My work dealt with personal narratives and memories. I loved working with oils: the richness of the color, the opacity of the pigment, the transformative power that a simple color wash could have. When creating large multiple figure paintings, I was most interested in the act of composing. I began works with many preparatory drawings and studies, always moving things around and changing viewpoints and space. Even half way through a painting, it was always so exhilarating to scrap a canvas down and start again when I’d realize a new, more interesting arrangement. At times I was more interested in the directing of a painting than the finish work and details. I was also intrigued by negative spaces: the small abstractions of color, the forgotten, “unimportant” areas. I would spend weeks laboring over the contour of a nose or the flesh tones. However when a painting was finished I was usually most interested in the flat negative shapes that took only seconds to paint.Although I loved paint, a few years ago it became apparent that this medium was no longer the proper vehicle for my ideas. The figure slowly exited my work. I then created images of painted patterns and ornamental designs. Color became less important as I struggled to find crisp edges and dimension. Initially the move from paint to cut paper was hesitant. However I quickly fell in love with the new material and new vocabulary for making work.
I’m interested in the limitations of paper. It is both fragile and temporary. My works test the tolerance of paper. By cutting, pulling, stretching, sewing, and tacking paper, it is transformed. Failures are common as I try to create different forms. Ideas often result in discarded piles on the studio floor. Making work that is by nature temporary is very exhilarating. Knowing that my work eventually will expire (rip, crease, fold, etc,) makes me more likely to experiment- to take risks when making it.
Paper is pedestrian. It is encountered on a daily basis. Everyone understands paper. In my work the screenprinted patterns and cut paper designs transform the paper. However they aren’t meant to completely disguise it. It is still paper. I intentionally leave pencil
lines, mistaken cuts, and scraps. The work is often hung with thumbtacks.

Kristine Donnelly, Unraveled (Detail)

2. What fascinates me most about your work is the prominence of the organic form and your ability to tease these out of architectural spaces. So often, artists maintain the grid as subject of nearly every abstract exploration of architectural space. I see a connection between your figural work within the frame of a painting and your current organic forms within the architectural grid. What is it that you hope your viewer will see in these forms?

In my current work, the patterns I create are composites from a variety of sources: images of skin, biological cells, lace patterns, and architectural elements. Creating the pattern is painstaking and deliberate. My intent and thought process behind the patterns is abstracted and obstructed from the viewer. It isn’t necessary that that the viewer have full insight into the origin of the forms. Viewers will see structures both fragile and strong that can’t easily be defined. They’ll find connections to biology, craft and textiles. The cuttings also invite the viewer to question and redefine positive and negative space. Viewers can look at the pieces and through the pieces. Wall, floor, light and shadow become players in the pieces and bring new definitions.

3. The materials and tools you use to make your work are common everyday objects. Even what you do with this medium can be seen as something rather fundamental. I think of paper cutting we do as children to make paper snowflakes. This comparison is not meant to undermine or in any way minimalize you work, but to emphasize the universal that is your process,the materials, and finally the monumental impact your work achieves. Do you think allusion to (illusion of?) the familiar is the reason your work is so successful? Explain more your dance between the individual and the universal present in all of your work.

As I said earlier, I hope that the universal material brings understanding and approachability to my work. The labor and delicacy is meant to confront and engage. Certainly my work could be made in a fraction of the time by using technology. It would be perfect and flawless. However my work is by choice laborious. The images are hand screenprinted.
The openings are hand cut. Cutting the shapes of a repeated pattern is much like a choreographed dance. My hand knows the designs so intimately. It moves almost without thinking from one curve to the next. It is quick and meticulous. Economical and deliberate. It is a quite and meditative act, this repeated cutting. It’s interesting because the idea of “cutting” is violent and frightening. However the cutting used to create my work is very calming. The delicate process of cutting is central to the pieces.

Kristine Donnelly, Enclosure (Detail)

4. As an MFA student, you studied the work of Tara Donovan. When she was here at the CAC, you had an opportunity to work with her. While I imagine it was pretty exciting for you to work with her, I’m sure she was equally thrilled to work with you. What exactly did you explore in her work prior to her visit to Cincinnati? Did your ideas about her work change after the CAC exhibit?

I had the opportunity to work on the installation crew for the Contemporary Arts Center’s Tara Donovan in 2009. It was very surreal to no only meet this artist, but to assist in creating her pieces for an exhibition. At the time, Donovan’s work challenged every definition I had for what art should be: permanent, archival, recognizable, narrative, etc. I loved how she made art from everyday objects. I loved how her work was both feminine and masculine. How it evoked aesthetic responses in both artists and non-artists. I felt that her work was in dialog with French landscape paintings, but in 21st century terms. How pencils and buttons became topographical maps and plastic straws looked like wrinkles of skin.
It was exciting to work with Tara and her crew and learn about the creation process and discuss the site-specific nature of her work. The pieces changed shape and stature within the different exhibition spaces. The unique architecture of the CAC played a prominent role in the shaping of Donovan’s work. It was interesting to hear how her work was developing and changing from new materials to processes.

5. While you both may use similarly recognizable materials, Donovan’s work seems to rest more on the unit that is repeated. We easily recognize the Styrofoam cup or plastic straw, for instance. Your work though requires one to look closer in order to identify the unit; to note repetition or pattern. Explain how pattern and repetition in interior decorated spaces is the focus of your work, yet not necessarily immediately apparent to the viewer. Do you run the risk of the viewer simply loving the look and texture of your pieces as interior decoration only?

The screenprinted patterns in my work are taken from organic (cellular) and architectural forms as well as established patterns and motifs from historical wallpaper and lace. I combine different sources to create a composite image that becomes a pattern by repeating it via screenprint. I take long rolls of paper and repeatedly screen print the motif. The repetition is lessened when I begin cutting into the paper rolls. The patterns are compromised with new openings and negative shapes. When the cut paper rolls are combined to create a larger form they are often twisted, layered, rolled, and piled. Thus the patterns are further abstracted and obstructed. The screen printed patterns and the cut paper openings then become the vehicles for design. They play off the existing architecture, both exposing and covering it. They create a new definition for the work. The viewer is invited to investigate the detail and texture of the piece as well as the space it resides in.
Certainly my work has a dialog with decoration. I’m interested in wallpaper- how it can recede subtly in the background or loudly overtake a space. It is a cheap impermanent way to assign a space an “identity.” I’m also interested in draperies- how beautiful forms are created to serve as a covering. Delicate curtains are intended to conceal things and bring privacy. My work explores the function and forms of decorative elements.
When invited to make work for the 2010 Keystone Contemporary Exhibition at the Taft Museum, I was immediately excited about exploring the Taft’s interior decoration. The draperies, walls, and floors, were central to creating work for the exhibition. I relied on the Taft’s interior architecture, patterned designs, and color palette.

Kristine Donnelly, Cover Up

Kristine Donnelly: Paperwork will open at the Taft Museum of Art on August 6, 2010 and will be on view through October 24, 2010 in the Keystone gallery. Ms. Donnelly will give a talk at the museum on August 22 with a reception following. See here for more information and to make reservations for this talk.