Museum Meanderings Part 1

Aicular crystals in talc-schist from Tyrol, Austria: Australian Opals: Ladies slipper shaped pyrite from England: World’s largest topaz from Brazil. All from the Natural History Museum in London.

We spent a lot of our time in London walking around museums. In particular, I was looking for interesting color combinations and some new inspiration for designs for my art. I found something to inspire me at each museum. The Natural History Museum had a spectacular wildlife and nature photography contest exhibit. They used a lightbox technology for the display of the top photos where light comes from behind the photograph displayed in the dark room and everything is very dramatic.  Most of the photographs that I really liked included a lot of negative space around the main focal point. For example, a close up of a duck swimming in the water where the water is white reflecting the fog and it looks like a line drawing of a duck on white paper. One artist used drone technology to photograph seals lounging on a small iceberg with dark water surrounding the iceberg. It was very geometric and graphic with simple colors of blue, black and white.  Right now, I’m in the “less is more” phase. I love that inspiration can come from a totally different media. Click to see a print of my favorite one, The Midnight Passage.

The other highlight of the  Natural History Museum is the ROCKS. The opals were magnificent and I will remember all those colors for future work. For design inspiration, I saw some of the rocks with long curved crystals immersed in a grey rock. Somehow I want to incorporate this into a future artwork, as well. In included other favorites in the photos in this article.

Next up is the British Museum.  The curators have created such wonderful displays. I love how they displayed the African pottery. They had a large exhibit on African cloth, both old and new cloth. Another interesting thing about the British museum is they had contemporary art next to historical artifacts in the same exhibit from the same places. I was fascinated with this modern piece of art based on Ghanian kente cloth but made out of wood by artist El Anatsui.

Kente Rhapsody by Ghanian artist El Anatsui. Full artwork upper right plus closeup on the left. African pottery on the lower right. All from the British Museum in London.

Great design and great use of colors. Here is how the museum described his work called Kente Rhapsody,

“Ghanian artist El Anatsui highlights not only this reverence but also the damage inflicted on tradition by mass consumerism. The chain saw, which scars the wood from which it is created, symbolizes this erosion.”

The other inspiration was for the color combo of garnet and gold form the Sutton Hoo excavation. Gorgeous.  I also loved the medieval helmet they dig up within this burial chamber. I have included photos of the pieced together original helmet and an artist rendition of what it would have looked like. The text around the exhibit said the poem Beowulf was shown to be more true than just just an allegory based on this archeological find.

Sutton Hoo ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon grave dated early 600 AD. Purse lid of gold and cloisonne garnets and shiny reconstruction next to original helmet found on the site.

The masterpieces of our human history shown in these museums from all over the globe is inspiring in itself. The colors of the rock specimens or the design of the ancient Greek friezes from temples in Athens are all inspiring. It comes down to color and design. The fun part of thinking creatively is to take two totally different ideas and combine them to inspire something totally different. Museums are a great place to let your mind wander and think up new combinations that have meaning for you in your art. 

So why am I sharing this with you? Hopefully you find this museum meandering interesting. But most importantly, I hope it inspires you to look at museums differently, as a way to get inspired to create your own art in your own way.

This year I want to spend more time in the studio. To help free up more time to do this, I will be writing my Studio Notes every other week. So look for my next post January 23. And get ready because the next Studio Notes post is all about the Annie Albers exhibit at the Tate Modern Museum. She was a weaver and associated with the Bauhaus movement. Loads of inspiration and hundreds of photos later, I’m still being inspired by her.