The Ackland Museum Store’s new home

By: Alice Southwick

We completed our move from East Franklin Street into the Ackland Art Museum and opened on October 6, 2017 in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Flash of Light, Fog of War, which was being installed in the galleries as we were setting up the Store. It was an exciting and energetic time, with all of us working under a deadline—lots of carpentry, painting, and ladders—and with a common purpose. We think the Store turned out great and, needless to say, so did Flash of Light, Fog of War!

Being located inside the Museum has proven to be a wonderful experience. We’ve always been a part of the Museum, but had not experienced being around all the teaching activities that are constantly going on and that has been amazing. We also have the opportunity to look at the exhibitions much more closely, connect with our Museum colleagues on a regular basis, and gain a better understanding of each of the many parts that work together to make the Ackland such a special place.

We are thrilled that many of you have come to see us in our new location. Your positive comments about the Store mean so much to us. Our time spent on Franklin Street was amazing and we miss our neighbors and look forward to visits from the regulars who used to stop by the store for greeting cards, a quick look, and even a brief chat. That said, we’re delighted for all the new connections we will make here in the Museum and hope we will see you soon in our new, sparkly, little Store. We cannot wait for you to see our wonderful greeting card “wall” and hope you love it as much as we do!  The best part:  You get to see amazing art at the Museum too!

 

The Study Gallery

By: Elizabeth Manekin

As is true in lots of encyclopedic collections, much of the artwork in the Ackland was never intended to be in a museum. Made for religious rituals, mass markets, burial sites, and banquet tables, it lives in harmony alongside works that were intended for gallery walls. We collect and combine the gamut as “Art.”

Sammy Baloji Culture Congolese, African, “Kalamata, chief of the Luba against watercolor by Dardenne” 2011:
medium archival digital photograph on Hahnemuhle Paper. 2016.6.

Perhaps my favorite part of my job is teaching and learning about these diverse objects from multiple perspectives. Teaching in the galleries, I regularly engage in lively discussion with students and faculty; in the Study Gallery, I get to put some of those conversations on the wall.

The artwork in the Study Gallery aligns with course objectives from all corners of the University, and its organization often eschews the traditional display categories of country or chronology. I work closely with faculty to determine which works of art will enhance their course and its learning goals. The art might illuminate a cultural context, or push students to consider a familiar concept from a new perspective. Works of art may develop new competencies, of empathy or visual literacy for example, or might be a platform for further research, reflection, and creative response. With two eight-week installations per semester, there’s always something new to see and consider on view.

This semester is no exception. In our first rotation, for example, graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program visited the Ackland’s Study Gallery on multiple occasions as they investigated experiential learning. Students examined the different experiences depicted in the artwork and reflected upon their own experiences of looking at and talking about art. As students looked repeatedly, they evaluate the concepts that define experiential learning and how they relate to their work in the classroom.

Also on view were works for the Art History courses “Introduction to Architecture” and “Art and Sports,” which presented multiple representations of building and athletes, respectively. Students in a Renaissance history course used works of art on view in the Study Gallery to learn to read visual and material primary sources. A Women’s and Gender Studies class analyzed photography and thought

about issues of identity. Graduate students in musicology explored the influence of Russian refugees on global artistic production in the wake of the Revolution in 1917. This last course coincided with a graduate-organized conference, and their scholarship was accessible in the gallery.

Egon Schiele, Austrian, “Church and Houses at Modling, near Vienna,” 1918: black chalk and gouache. 58.1.238

Anyone of these Study Gallery installations is engaging on its own, but I also love the challenge of figuring out the ways in which these separate courses are in dialogue with one another. This semester, the theme of how we form identities, as individuals and as nations, is an undercurrent. In what ways do both the buildings around us and the sports teams we root for shape our sense of self in relation to the world outside? How do we draw the boundaries of “otherness”? What are the roots of our faith in reason and logic? What role do we play in shaping our own identities? These are big, difficult questions, helped along by the experience of looking closely at what is sometimes a small and specific thing. For all visitors, the Study Gallery is a window into the classrooms at Carolina and an invitation to ask these questions on your own.

I invite you to come to the Ackland’s second-floor Study Gallery. Look closely and think big. Pick up a syllabus. Discuss issues with a friend. The Study Gallery is for everyone!

Out of the Basement

By: Lauren Turner, Assistant Curator for the Collection

For those of us who work in the arts in the Triangle, October doesn’t just portend the changing seasons, Halloween, and pumpkin-spiced everything; it also means it’s time to celebrate the medium of photography through the annually occurring, month-long Click! Photography Festival. (Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.)

Photographer: Peter Krogh; pictured, left to right: Bryce Lankard, Stephen Fletcher, Lori Vrba, Ray Pfeiffer, Frank Konhaus

In an effort to focus some of the month’s activities to appeal to out-of-town guests, this year’s Click! organizers decided to introduce a new facet of their programming – Click! 120, an intensive five-day celebration of all things photography, with highlights including presentations by three keynote speakers, bus tours to local collections, and a day-long portfolio review by assorted curators, gallerists, and arts editors. Unfortunately, this year the Ackland was unable to offer a tour of its collection to the participants since Click! 120 overlapped with both the opening of our new exhibition Flash of Light, For of War: Japanese Military Prints, 1894-1905, the unveiling of our new Store’s location, and some no-big-deal, really minor news announced that weekend. (Kidding! We’re still giddy!).

Even with the flurry of activity at the Ackland and on campus, I was fortunate enough to serve as one of the portfolio reviewers on the final day of Click! 120, during which I met with eleven photographers for a full half-hour each at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham. During those meetings, we discussed their aspirations for their current bodies of work, and where possible, I offered suggestions and encouragement in helping them to achieve those goals.

The morning began with Daniel Kariko, an assistant professor of photography at East Carolina University; his project Suburban Symbiosis: Insectum Domesticus utilizes microscope photography and an intensive post-production process to create stunningly colored portraits of household insects. He was followed by Carol Erb, a Californian photographer who showed me her series-in-progress Reckoning, in which fantastic scenes of natural disasters serve “as a metaphor for a civilization in crisis.” Chris Ogden then shared with me selections from Stones Echo, a series he has created by rappelling into stone quarries; the beautiful images that he has captured read more as elegant abstract color studies than traditional landscape compositions. Susan Patrice was also turning to landscape in her most recent work, but she was doing so in a way to explore a mid-career turnaround in practice and the ways in which exploring a familiar wooded path through a tondo format have had on this transition. Charlotte artist Amy Herman brought apartofme and it wasn’t important until it was, two series connected by her captivating inclusion and consideration of vintage family photographs within her own practice. Tori Gagne rounded out the morning with her elegantly captured Moonlit Dance series of horses in motion.

photographer: Peter Krogh

After a break for lunch, I met Susan Keiser who uses mid-century dollhouse figures with water and ice to create unsettlingly quiet scenes that evoke suburban tragedies in the two bodies of work Barbaric Glass and Flooded. Greg Banks, currently an instructor at Appalachian State University, delighted me with his combination of Appalachian folklore, family history, and a tintype aesthetic in An Explanation of Sympathetic Magic. Donna Hixson impressed me with her witty eye for depicting roadside Americana, as seen especially in series like Unseen Florida and Stars and Stripes. Chapel Hill artist Heather Evans Smith introduced me to her meditation on the tensions between mother and child in Seen Not Heard, a thoughtful body of work that some local viewers may have encountered this year at the Horace Williams House. I finished the day with R.J. Kern who will have selections from his series The Unchosen Ones appear in November’s National Geographic; his respectful portraits of participants in county fair animal competitions complicate conceptions of winning and losing.

While the day was a whirlwind introduction to a broad array of creativity and working styles, each of the photographers I met exemplified professionalism and an evident love for the medium. It is a truly wonderful event that the Click! organizers brought together, and it’s still only mid-October! I encourage you to check their website for more upcoming programs.

Exposure and Conservation: Presenting the Peck Collection in Perpetuity

The theme of the second in our ongoing series of selections from the recently donated Peck Collection of Dutch and Flemish drawings is “Ruins.” The topic of transience and decay seems an appropriate prompt for a quick discussion of the effects of time and exposure, not only on the grand structures of the Dutch and Roman past but also on 17th-century drawings themselves.

At the Ackland, we are often asked why the Pecks’ wonderful gift is not permanently on view in its entirety. Are we not proud and thrilled at this extraordinary enrichment of the Ackland collection and the cultural landscape of North Carolina? Indeed we are – so much so, in fact, that we not only yearn to show everything to everybody, but we add another dimension to that wish: everything to everybody, forever.

It is this last word, “forever”, that provides a clue to the answer as to why our visitors cannot see all 134 Peck Collection drawings, including the seven by Rembrandt, all the time. When museum folk think about the institution’s audience, we think not only of our many and diverse constituencies visiting in 2017, but also of all the possible visitors of the year 2117, or 2217, and beyond. Our commitment is to preserve masterpieces of human creativity for as long as humanly possible (you’ll sometimes catch us uttering the phrase “in perpetuity”).

To achieve that, works of art that are sensitive to the effects of light must be protected from over-exposure. Light can fade inks and darken paper; it can even, in the worst case, make a work of art disappear. Therefore, we carefully control not only the level and type of light that all drawings in our collection are exposed to, but also the length of time they are on exhibition.

We are hard at work on a website that will showcase all the Peck Collection drawings in very high resolution digital images, with commentary and information. We will also present a full-scale exhibition of the entire gift, with a scholarly catalogue, as soon as we can – probably in four or five years. Until then, I encourage you to return to the Ackland regularly, as our focused selection of works from the Peck Collection will change every few months, offering fresh perspectives, themes, and questions. And I invite you to peruse the collection on our current public database.

The Peck Collection offers us exquisite examples of human creativity, “rescued” by the collectors from the contingencies of history and time. It is our job to ensure that these well-preserved masterpieces do not themselves become ruins, unavailable to future generations in their full glory. Your grandchildren and great grandchildren and on “into perpetuity” will silently thank you for your understanding.

Hendrik Hondius the Elder, Dutch, 1573-after 1649: Ruins of Castle Spangen, n.d.; Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black chalk on paper. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.45.