Friday, May 31, 2013

Dallas Museum Art: So Much to See

I'm teaching my May semester of Creative Writing, and as part of that class, we always have a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). For the past three years, one of their art preparers, Mike Hill, has selected several works for our private consideration and discussion.

Last Friday Mike guided us as we traced Mondrian's artistic evolution. Today the painter's geometrical themes show up in everything from art to architecture to fashion. But many don't realize that he once specialized in landscapes. And because the DMA has a great Mondrian collection, we could physically see his movement from representational paintings to the primary-colors-with-black-border creations for which he is famous.

After that fascinating conversation, Mike joined some of us at the new Klyde Warren Park, across the street from the DMA, for more conversation about art—especially contemporary art. What does it mean? How do we know what's good?

When everyone returned to campus, I stayed on for lunch with my department, which happened to be having an outing at that very park. But after enjoying time together over curried bratwurst from one of the food trucks, I returned to the DMA to check out the special exhibits. And these kept me there until it was almost rush hour.

The Marc Chagall exhibit, which ended last weekend, included a large sampling of Chagall's paintings, costumes, ceramics and sculptures. Wish I had seen this earlier so I could have recommended it. Great use of color and variety. Wonderful stuff.

Cindy Sherman's show contained some evocative and downright bizarre images, from the satirical to the violent. She works exclusively with photography, usually exploring themes of women's identity. An acquired taste.

And as a DMA member, I got a sneak preview of "Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy," which opened May 26. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, the DMA has brought together the art that had been installed in the president’s suite at the Hotel Texas during his fateful trip in 1963. The original grouping, which included paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, and other greats (including Charles Russell) was orchestrated by some Fort Worth art collectors and created especially for the president and first lady in celebration of their overnight visit. But this exhibit reunites that collection.

I saved (what was, for me) the best for last: "The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum." This exquisite exhibit of more than 120 objects that explore the human form, includes marbles, bronzes, pottery, funerary monuments, terracottas, and gold jewelry from three millennia of Greek civilization. I especially enjoyed it because so many of the artifacts were from the first and second centuries BC and AD, the period that has been the focus of my doctoral work. A must-see.

The DMA is now free to all visitors—thank you, DMA! But, of course, the special exhibits and parking are extra.

Oh, and if you're a fan of Margaret Atwood (The Handmaiden's Tale, The Blind Assassin), she's speaking tonight as part of the DMA's Arts and Letters series. The venue has been moved from the DMA to First Presbyterian Church. For tickets and info, go to

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