Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Decking the Halls....and so much more, at the Dixon!

The holidays are quickly approaching, and the Dixon is celebrating in a big way. Our annual holiday decorations are going up and if you are not in the holiday spirit before arriving, you will be before you leave. 

The Memphis Garden Club goes the extra mile to make each year's decorations more festive and beautiful than the last. This year is no exception. 

With decorations in Garrot Court, Catmur Foyer, the residence, and the Winegardner Auditorium - we can't wait for you to see all of the work that has been done by the volunteers and staff to make the Dixon your one stop holiday photo op.

Enjoy our exhibitions, programs, and events surrounded by the merry and jolly ornamentation that you will only see at the Dixon! 

Remember to check out our holiday hours on the Dixon website. and plan your trip to the Dixon this holiday season. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One of our Best Family Days Ever!!!

A great time was had by all last Saturday at our Brian Selznick Family Day! The band(The Wuvbirds), magician(Larry Clark), activities, and games were all in tune with the illustrations now on view in From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick.

We gave visitors a chance to have their questions answered by Brian Selznick during his virtual visit, which was great!

We had nothing to do with the weather, but that was pretty great too. There were even areas to create sidewalk chalk art, and bunny rabbits for petting....not for magic tricks.

The Room of Wonders was full the entire event and the galleries and gardens were aflutter with children and adults completing the scavenger hunt and admiring the detailed work of Brian Selznick.

Kids made Frindles, drew pictures, had their faces painted and much more during one of our most loved family events. 

We hope all of our visitors realized that there is a little magic in all of us and we can't wait to see what you discover at the next Family Day. See you next time!

Thank you to all of our volunteers, Le Bonheur and MCA for your hard work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spotlight on the Permanent Collection

It’s been a fun week for us in the curatorial department at the Dixon.  Since the Birmingham Museum of Art hosted the American Ceramic Circle’s annual conference, a couple of the country’s great porcelain aficionados came by the Dixon to take in and study our renowned Stout Collection of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain.  So I thought today would be a good day to discuss one of my favorite porcelain objects in the Dixon’s collection.

A lot of times I’m asked what my favorite work in the Dixon’s permanent collection is, and it’s a really tough question to answer.  I have SO many favorites!  But one of my very very top favorites is this work of Meissen porcelain, Harlequin and Columbine Dancing, created by the legendary porcelain manufactory around 1744.  I have always loved images of the commedia dell’arte in fine art, and immediately fell in love with the Dixon’s many porcelain objects pertaining to the subject.
Meissen, Harlequin and Columbine Dancing, c. 1744, Hard paste porcelain
Collection of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Gift of Warda Stevens Stout, 85.22
The commedia dell’arte, or Italian Comedy as it is sometimes called, arose in the open-air markets of Padua in the 16th century as an improvisational theater group.  Known for their rough and bawdy sense of humor, commedia troupes saw actors playing stock characters that would come up with short skits that dealt with love, lust, and local politics.  By the 18th century, the popularity of the commedia idea had grown so much that there were over 60 commedia groups in over 4 countries, including France and Germany. 

Commedia subjects were extremely popular with artists in the 18th century, including Jean-Antoine Watteau, as well as the modelers at the many porcelain manufactories throughout Europe, specifically Meissen.  At Meissen, modeler Joachim Johann Kandler was particularly creative in shaping his individual figures and groups, using bright colors as well as humorous gestures to convey the personalities of each of the stock characters.

Created around 1744, Harlequin and Columbine Dancing features two of the most common and enduring characters in the commedia dell’arte.  Harlequin (right) is one of the zanni, or servants, in the group.  He is lusty, witty, greedy, and above all mischievous.  In fact, the modern term “zany” comes from his role as a zanni and perfectly describes Harlequin’s character.  Harlequin traditionally wore a diamond-patched costume, but porcelain modelers, like those at Meissen, often modified that to include playing cards on his clothes to allude to his role as a chancy or shifty character. 

With Harlequin in this group is Columbine, a flirtatious, coquettish female servant who is in many ways Harlequin’s female counterpart.  She is witty, lusty, and light on her feet, and she, like Harlequin, often becomes entrenched in zany plots aimed at bringing two lovers together or swindling some of the wealthier characters in the stories.  Here, Columbine and Harlequin are shown dancing, an activity both characters were known for being skilled at.  

With vibrant colors and playful expressions, porcelain figures like Harlequin and Columbine Dancing quickly became popular for porcelain aficionados in the eighteenth century.  The Dixon is fortunate to have several commedia figures and groups in both the Stout and Hooker porcelain collections.

One of the Meissen experts that stopped by the Dixon this weekend, a wonderful man named Malcolm Gutter, was particularly fascinated by the Stout’s commedia subjects and remarked on how absolutely special they are.  Come by and see Harlequin and Columbine Dancing for yourself on view in the Stout Gallery at the Dixon.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Julie Pierotti
Associate Curator

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick

Our new exhibition, From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick, is an amazing showcase of illustrations by author and illustrator Brian Selznick.  The illustrations are accompanied by the book, allowing visitors to put each image into the context of the story and see the other illustrations that are not presented in the show.

So, who is Brian Selznick? After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, Selznick wrote and illustrated his first book, The Houdini Box (1991), while working at Eeyore's books for Children in Manhattan. Since then, he has illustrated many books for children, including Frindle by Andrew Clements, The Doll People by Ann Martin and Laura Godwin, and Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

He received a 2002 Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins and was awarded the 2008 Caldecott Medal for his innovative, cinematic The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a 526-page book told in words and pictures — nearly 300 pages of pictures! — that he both authored and illustrated, and which has been made into a film, Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese that will be released in theaters this month.

Our creative and talented staff in the Education department put together the Room of Wonders, an interactive gallery that will take children out of the tangible world, and into the realm of the impossible with activities and exciting ways to engage with art

We didn't stop at the Room of Wonders, there are other exciting kid-friendly/family oriented events planned this month. Enjoy something new and fun with the family on Saturday mornings with our monthly program, Family Studio (Saturday, November 5, 10:30 am - 2:30 pm). Drop in at the Dixon to create magnificent works of art, play a game, solve a puzzle, or explore the world of art through children’s books with your family. We have projects and tools for all ages. This month's Family Studio has extended hours to fit more activities based on From Houdini to Hugo.

The fun doesn't stop there! Our popular Family Day is coming up next week (Saturday, November 12, from 10 am - 2 pm) and we will have more of what you love - games, activities, contests, face painting - plus many more exciting extras to look forward to, all with a Selznick twist! You don't want to miss this last Family Day of 2011, full of wonder and magic, surrounded by beautiful art and gardens.

Join the Dixon now and experience even more fun for you and the whole family, in conjunction with  From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick between October 23 and January 8! 
New Family/ Dual membership levels and above will receive the following:

  • 20% off any one item at Booksellers of Laurelwood
  • Advance opportunities to see the premiere of the film "Hugo" at Malco Theatres
  • Already a member? Give a Gift Membership and receive a free dessert (with purchase of an entrée) at The Booksellers Bistro