Cypher Space - the Museum of Art Blog

Are a print and an image on the screen both photographs? - 4/14/14

Visitors to the Photo Lab have given us some very interesting comments to the question, “Are a print and an image on the screen both photographs?” Answers ranged from the pithy “yes,” “no” or “maybe sometimes” to the witty to the downright poetic. Here are just a few examples of comments that visitors left:

  • “Light in front or light in back”
  • “yes, one is printed on a canvas that is made of paper whist the other is printed on a canvas made of glasses and plasmas. The only difference is the canvas.”
  • “Was there a lens? Turn out the light and what do you see?”
  • “Ask after electricity”
  • “Anything that permanently records an image is a photograph”
  • "NO. Photograph is an immobile image.  Image on screen is pixels which change and move"
  • “The image becomes a photo once printed”
  • "A print is like the original photo-gravure.  The final modification (by developing - altering times and solutions) of a captured image - On screen the image can still be altered and modified"
  • "Are a person and an image on a screen of a person both people? No.”
  • “No – as images yes – They take different routes – A print involves more technical skill whereas anyone can digitally play w a pic”
  • “If you want to know, Google it.”
  • “Yes, both photographs, but with different timelines to extinction”
  • “Every time I see your face it reminds me of the places we used to go. Now all I’ve got is a photograph” [lyrics to the song "Photograph" by Ringo Starr]
  • “The print is a physical object to hold. The screen is an electronic illusion”
  • "Yes they can both be photographs. However, neither is a work of art if it does[not] move the heart and spirit of the viewer”

If you would like to leave your thoughts, come to the Photo Lab on the second floor of the museum. We have pencils and post-it notes for you to write (or draw!) with.

Stay tuned in coming months for new questions to puzzle over!

Papa Gus - 4/1/2014

With the current exhibition, Spotlight on Gustave Baumann, and upcoming Southwestern AllureThe Art of the Santa Fe Art Colony, visitors to the museum will see plenty of works by Gustave Baumann aka "Papa Gus."  Gustave Baumann was a beloved member of the Santa Fe art colony and this musuem is honored to carry on his legacy.  His works range from paintings to woodcuts to drawings to his ever-popular wooden marionettes.  In addition to a huge collection of his artwork, the museum also has some of Baumann's personal archives.  Some of the highlights of this collection include the original scripts Baumann wrote for his marionettes to perform, and rare books that were illustrated by Baumann.  

The archives can only be viewed in the museum, but if you can't come here there are several other resources that you can access to learn more about Baumann's art and life.  Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art and David Acton's Hand of a Craftsman are two of the most frequently used in the museum library.  This museum also published two of our own books, Gustave Baumann's Southwest and The Hand-carved Marionettes of Gustave Baumann.  Last but not least, the New Mexico PBS program, Colores, is always an excellent source for videos about New Mexico artists.  Their video, "Hands of a Craftsman, Heart of an Artist" can be viewed anytime online for free.


Selfies- 3/12/2014

Given the omnipresence of social media and digital photographs these days, selfies are everywhere. A survey commissioned by PicMonkey suggests that nearly half of all U.S. adults have taken selfies, making it enough of a cultural impact that "selfie" was crowned as Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year for 2013. Critics suggest that the selfie is a symbol of today’s narcissistic youth culture. However, self-portraiture is neither new nor limited to teenagers or even the medium of photography.

Holly Roberts.
Woman Juggling (self portrait), 2005.
Gelatin silver photograph with oil paint on panel
Museum purchase with funds from Nancy G. Dickenson, 2005

Photography is a comparatively young form of art. By the time photography was invented, self-portraiture had already developed extensively in other mediums such as painting and drawings. In fact, one of the first photographic portraits ever created was a self-portrait by Robert Cornelius in 1839.


Francis Frith                                                                          Anne Noggle
Self-Portrait in Turkish Summer Costume, 1857          Self Image From Series "Face Lift", 1975
albumen photograph                                                          gelatin silver print
Gift of Jane Reese Williams, 1996                                   Bequest of the Rick Dillingham Estate, 1994
1996.68.59                                                                            1994.67.124

The New Mexico Museum of Art owns several very different works of art that explore the self as subject.   They range from close-up to distant, realistic to exagerated, serious to whimsical.  They are paintings, photographs, lithographs, and drawings. Clearly, the self is a subject that has resonated with a large cross-section of the public throughout art history.

This painting by Emil Bisttram is an example of the typical "professional artist at work" pose.  

Above: Self Portrait, 1935. Oil on Canvas. Gift of Mrs. Emil Bisttram, 1978


TC Cannon
Self with Star of David, circa 1975
Oil on canvas.  
Museum purchase with support from Bob Nurock and a gift from the Samuel and Ethel Ballen Estate, 2008.

Encountering Cezanne - 3/3/14

Today's guest blog post comes from Sicong Zhu, a recent graduate in Art History from the University of Iowa now living in St. Louis, MO.  

While browsing through the collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art, I discovered a section called “Art You Didn’t Expect”, in which an interesting lithograph of Paul Cezanne (figure 1) caught my attention. The post-impressionist piece stands out in the Museum’s collection which highlights indigenous artists and southwest culture.

Figure 1 Les Baigneurs, 1896-1898 Paul Cezanne (France),1839-1906 
Lithograph 24 1/8 x 30 in.
From the Vivian Sloan Fiske Bequest, 1978

The combination of naked figures and the wild scenery reminds one of the Renaissance concept of Arcadia and the ideal of beauty suggested by the idyllic landscape with perfect-shaped mythological and allegorical figures in it, illustrating the idea of Divine Proportion (figure 2); or, on the contrary, as Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (originally titled “The Bath”, figure 3) indicated, a bold declaration of revolt against the classical archetype of beauty and nature and a radical manifestation of the rupture between painting and nature: instead of sticking to the Renaissance view of “painting as imitation of nature”, he posed the notion of expressionistic painting by pulling together elements in his atelier and making nature speak for his artistic propositions.

Figure 2 Giorgione, Sleeping Venus, circa 1510 Oil on canvas 108,5 cm × 175 cm Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.

Figure 3 Edouard Manet, Luncheon on the Grass, 1863. Oil on canvas H. 208; W. 264.5 cm Musée d'Orsay

Here in Cezanne’s print, neither the naked figures nor the nature is ideal. The conventional concept of “nature as female” is rejected. It seems that all four figures are male (which may refer to Cezanne’s bathing experience in his childhood with his friend Zola and their friend Baptistin Baille) and they are rather ordinary-looking. We can see that this print is another version of an earlier, larger painting: Bathers at Rest (figure 4). The figure closest to the viewer also has an earlier prototype in Cezanne’s larger oil painting The Bather (figure 5). The print reflects Cezanne’s late style when he attached much importance to volumes and brushstrokes, bestowing the pictorial space an abstract and expressionistic nature. Instead of smooth outlines and natural gradation, we see aggregation of shapes, done in a sketchy manner, even a bit draft-like. The figures are still natural-looking, but the landscape looks “linear” and bears a kind of rough beauty that later shows itself in some of Matisse’s paintings. The outlines of the table-shaped mountain and the figures (especially the outlines of their arms) remind one of geometric shapes and offer a glimpse of cubism (think about Picasso’s figures!).

Figure 4 Cezanne, Bathers at Rest. 1876-77. Oil on Canvas 32 5/16 * 39 7/8 in. The Barnes Foundation BF906

Figure 5. Cezanne The Bather c. 1885.  Oil on canvas 50 x 38 1/8" Lillie P. Bliss Collection, Museum of Modern Art 1.1934.

I would love to go to the Museum and take a closer look at this print in person. This work can be viewed online in the Museum’s “Online Exhibition” section. It’s under “The Museum’s Collection”, and then “Art You Didn’t Expect”.

Donald Woodman - 2/21/2014

On Sunday, the New Mexico History Museum opens the exhibition Donald Woodman: Transformed by New Mexico. Woodman is a photographer who lives in Belen, NM with his wife, artist Judy Chicago. In addition to donating his photographs to the New Mexico History Museum, he also gave a few to the New Mexico Museum of Art. You can see these works any time on our website through the Searchable Art Museum.  

Most of the photographs in our collection come from the series, The Rodeo and the West. Woodman made this series at small town Rodeos in places such as Galisteo and Belen, NM. It is an observation of a romanticized west, looking behind the hype and myth surrounding this highly popular sport. The series emphasizes the rough and tumble, gritty side of this super macho arena. To create the prints, Woodman made traditional silver gelatin prints in the darkroom and then scanned the images and worked on them in Photoshop. The result is blurry, off-center and frenetic. They have the look and feel of a dream or a distant memory, rather than the highly stylized photographs you might find from the PRCA.

Donald Woodman, The Rodeo and the West #33,  1988 (printed 2005) Ink jet print.  Support: 53 x 44 in.  Gift of Donald Woodman, 2010.

Looking for Inspiration - 2/10/2014

Today's blog entry was written by Paula Nixon of Santa Fe.  Paula writes write a nature blog called Black Raven Red Sneakers at  In response to our call for guest blogger here is what she had to say:

It was a bright cold Friday morning in late January. I had just a couple of hours before another plumber was due to show up to look at the crippled boiler in my garage, but I needed a break from the chilly house and the big pots of water that I had simmering on the gas range. My temporary desk at the kitchen table was a jumble of files, books, and, spiral-bound tablets filled with notes. I was researching half a dozen different ideas for my blog, but hadn’t succeeded in completing one of them all week. I turned off the burners and headed downtown.

The small courtyard at the New Mexico Museum of Art (NMMoA) was sunny, but the fountain was quiet. I didn’t know what I was looking for as I stepped into the first gallery, but I knew from past visits to the museum that I was likely to find something that would pique my curiosity and make me look at the world in a slightly different way. Upstairs I found the Collecting is Curiosity/Inquiry exhibit.

At the entry to the gallery was Ted Larsen’s stair-stepped block, sculpted out of sugar pine, beeswax, and pinyon sap. I resisted the urge to touch the bumpy, but smooth-looking surface of Sugar Daddy, wondering if it would feel warm or cool.

When I looked up I noticed a large circle on the back wall, framed by the decorative ceiling vigas and the rich brown tile floor. Intrigued, and curious about what it was made of, I walked closer and discovered butterflies.

Hundreds, no, thousands of the winged creatures in all shades of brown—mocha, khaki, sepia—arranged in a tightly coiled spiral. I looked closely to see if they were real and found they were made of paper. Butterflies, 26,645 of them, photocopied out of a field guide, hand cut, and dyed in coffee and tea. The mandala was created by Tasha Ostrander and is called Seventy-Three in a Moment. I studied the speckled wings up close and then stepped back for another look. Ostrander chose that very precise number of butterflies to represent the number of days in the average human lifespan (seventy-three years) at the time she made the piece. I had to pull myself away so I didn’t miss my appointment.

Back at home I sat down at the table and went to work, refreshed.

Collecting is Curiosity/Inquiry closed at the end of January, so I won’t be able to see the butterflies anytime soon (the piece is part of the NMMoA permanent collection), but I look forward to returning soon to see Gustave Baumann’s woodcut prints of aspen trees.


Spotlight on Collections: All about Goya - 2/4/2014

With over 20,000 works of art and a history that stretches back almost 100 years, there are plenty of things the museum owns that even people who work here are surprised to discover. The Renaissance to Goya exhibition has generated a lot of interest in the artist, Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes. Goya (1746 - 1828) died almost 200 years ago, yet he seems to gain popularity by the day. Going through the museum’s exhibition files, I found this was not the first time Goya’s works have been shown at our museum. In early 1989, the traveling exhibition Goya: The Disasters of War came to what was then called the Museum of Fine Arts. That exhibition included a rare, first edition set of prints on loan from the collection of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation in Houston, TX. The timing of the exhibition was significant because it may have been the first time these etchings came to New Mexico. Around the same time, Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, an exhibition organized by the Prado and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston traveled to Boston and New York City.  Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment was unprecedented for its time, bringing together a wide variety of drawings, prints and paintings by Goya to illustrate his relationship with progressive intellectual trends of his time. Between Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment and Goya: The Disasters of War, a Pasatiempo article from the time called 1989 the worldwide “Year of Goya.”

Mariano Cabailos (from the Tauromaquia series, Plate 23)
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes
Spanish, 1746 - 1828
Etching and aquatint
Gift of the Richard James Dillingham Estate, 1994

Although the works from the previous and current Goya exhibitions at the museum were borrowed from other institutions, the museum does own nine prints made by Goya. You can see them any time on the Searchable Art Museum.

Remembering the Holocaust - 1/23/2014

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27th International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is held every year on January 27th, the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of the Auschwitz death camp, where over a million Jews and members of other minorities perished during World War II.

Many artists have used their work to tell the stories of the Holocaust, trying to remember and comprehend it. Gay Block and Malka Drucker spent 3 years interviewing 105 ordinary people who risked their own lives to save Jews marked for death, a project which they documented in Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust. Our museum owns one of the photographs Gay Block took for the project, Pieter and Joyce Miedema, The Netherlands/Canada (from the series Rescuers). This poignant portrait offers some insight into one of the few glimpses of light in an otherwise dark tale.

Judy Chicago is another local artist who has visited the subject of Holocaust in her work. In 1985, she and her husband, photographer Donald Woodman, embarked on the multimedia Holocaust Project. They also documented the project in the book Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light. Some of these works from this project will be on view here for our Judy Chicago exhibition this summer. Until then, you can get a feel for this remarkable project by watching the film From Darkness into Light: Creating the Holocaust Project.



Happy birthday Alfred Stieglitz! - 1/1/2014

Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz by Gertrude Käsebier taken 1902, Courtesy Library of Congress

Photographer Alfred Stieglitz was born on January 1, 1864, making him 150 years old on New Year's Day. Stieglitz is largely credited for helping to establish photography as an art form in the United States. He was not just a great photographer, he was also a discoverer and promoter of artists who worked in various mediums, as well as a publisher, art patron and collector. He was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Camera Work, a magazine devoted to photography and modernist art. He operated a series of four exhibition spaces in New York City in which he featured the work of international photographers he admired and a variety of modern artists he championed, including the American painters Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, and his second wife, Georgia O’Keeffe.  A pioneer of sharp-focus photography, his work encompassed urban scenes, portraits and Equivalents, his photographs of clouds representing emotional equivalents.  Our museum has several photographs taken by Stieglitz and the artists he helped promote, which you can view online at the Searchable Art Museum.

In honor of Stieglitz’s 150th birthday, this year the museum will be holding a yearlong series of exhibitions focusing on photography from March of this year to March of next year. The entire second floor of the museum will be dedicated to photography. There will be four exhibitions around a specific theme, 4 one-person photographer exhibitions and a photography-based resource area that will be the location of several photography-themed events throughout the year. Local artists and amateur photography enthusiasts are invited to join informal discussions about a particular topic in photography that will be moderated by our Curator of Photography. In the space there will be both photographs in display as well as resources for people to consult for inspiration or education. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting new initiative!

Call for guest authors! - 12/11/13

Do you like art and want to tell everyone how much?  Of course you do!  We're looking for people who are interested in writing a guest post for the blog. No formal training is required, only an interest in the museum.  Guest posts can be any length, although shorter is preferable to longer.  Subject matter can be anything that is pertinent to the museum.  For example, a work of art in the galleries that sparked your interest, the history of the museum, the building, something in the library or archives that you were suprised to learn, an employee or volunteer who you found helpful etc.  If you are intersted please submit your full legal name, any relevant information about yourself (profession, where you live etc.) and what topic you would like to write about to Rebecca Potance.  We will then contact you to let know know if your idea has been accepted.  Guest posts are subject to approval by museum staff and will be edited for obscenity if necessary.  Guest authors will be credited for their words on the post.  If you have any questions about what we are looking for please contact Rebecca Potance 505-476-5061.

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