This week is National Dog Week—and what better Museum dweller to highlight than brave Jocko (and his unfortunate companion, the hedgehog) in honor of this important holiday?
The most exciting and challenging part of my job this semester is teaching the Satellite Program, a 30-year-old program meant to introduce high school students to Western art history. Not only do I have big shoes to fill (Chief Educator Barbara Brown Lee passed the Satellite torch to me this year), but I also have a couple of big questions to consider: How do I teach a solid, but fun, overview of art history using the Museum’s collection as our textbook? How can I incorporate new technology into the class to enhance our looking experience, and not distract from the artwork?
Does the Museum show work by Wisconsin artists? What’s the deal with frames? What’s the piece that has a hole in the floor? How do curators deal with new technology? Any ancient Chinese paintings? And the all-important question: are we hiring? These are just a sampling of the many juicy questions asked by visitors on Ask a Curator Day, last week.
The work of an art historian or curator can sometimes be like that of a master investigator or CIA agent. For example, a trail of clues led to the probable identification of the woman in this painting by Sofonisba Anguissola. Anguissola is one of the earliest identified female artists, working in Italy in the late 1500s. Rare for the Renaissance, Anguissola was famous in her own time and worked as the court painter for the King of Spain, a job she secured thanks to the portraits of her family that she’d painted as she grew up and honed her skills. The girl in this image is the spitting image of many of Anguissola’s family members, with her round face, large hooded eyes, and long nose. But Anguissola had five sisters and two brothers, so who is this?
This morning, on my way back from the docent room, I stopped at the crossroads of the main drag of the Museum’s offices. About to turn right to my cubicle, I found myself suddenly stopped by this painting, which hangs at the end of the hallway next to our director’s office. I see this painting at least twice a day, but I’d never stopped to really look at it. And so, I decided to investigate.
Last week, the Schroeder (west) Galleria of the Museum was filled with the sounds of clacking keyboards and clicking computer mice, with the blinking LED lights of personal Wifi devices, a live Twitter feed projected on the wall, and groups of excited, collaborating teachers talking at fullspeed. What brought these 128 educators from all over Wisconsin to the Museum for four packed days at the end of July? The Milwaukee Digital Media Conference.
From Museum docent Carl Becker: On a recent “Weather and Seasons” tour with fourth graders, we stopped in front of The Two Majesties to discuss the painting and the North African desert location. I asked the children how they would feel in the environment depicted in the painting.
Some people come to a museum feeling completely at home. But what about those who are a little intimidated, feeling as if they need to have a background in art history to have a great experience? After experiencing a new way of looking at art with one of my colleagues, my head has been swirling with this question.