Posted in Museum

Gary Vikan and His Interesting Life as a Museum Director

Watching all three installments of Ben Stiller’s comedy film “Night at the Museum” makes me realize once again my childhood dream to work in a museum. I always have been curious about what kind of vibe the museum staff encounters every time they roam around the establishment. Are they getting scared sometimes? Is it always excitement and awe for them even if they go to the museum every day?

Good thing I found ExhibiTricks’s exclusive interview just last year with Gary Vikan, a longtime museum director or curator. Vikan served as curator for 28 years. How cool is that? Let’s find out what it’s like to work in a museum for almost three decades!

The Responsibilities of a Museum Director

First, we must understand the work of a museum director, who is also called a curator. Museum directors are responsible for the secured storage and procurement of archives, artifacts and artworks. They also facilitate exhibitions inside the museum. They purchase works of history and art, commonly through negotiations, to serve as the museum’s displays.

All about Gary Vikan

Check out Vikan’s personal and professional life inside and outside the museum through the years:

Background

In the later part of his career, Vikan was the director of Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum since 1994. He ended his work there by 2013. Before getting the director position, he was the assistant director for the same museum’s Curatorial Affairs starting 1985.

When it comes to Vikan’s university life before entering the world of museums, he was the senior associate of Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies. That time, he lived in Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C., not in Baltimore. Vikan achieved his BA in Carleton College. Years later, he accomplished his Ph. D. in Princeton University. Lastly, he was a graduate of the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program and the Harvard Program for Art Museum Directors.

Motivation to Work in Museums

What exactly motivated Vikan to pursue a career in a museum? The curator wanted to share the effect art has on him to other people. When he was a scholar in Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies, he was busy teaching people in the Smithsonian Residents’ Association Program. He aimed to relate with people and use his scholarship for the greater good. In order to connect with a huge group of people, he used his love for art as an inspiration.

Most Favorite Exhibitions

Vikan has two most favorite exhibitions, which are too different from each other when it comes to the subject in focus. His first favorite happened 25 years ago which was called “Holy Image, Holy Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece.” That exhibition was his first most successful event because of the effect it gave to the visitors. Vikan could still remember seeing kiss marks on the Plexiglass of the icons. For him, it was a holy moment.

On the other hand, “Beauty and the Brain” is Vikan’s other favorite exhibition. It happened a few years ago. It was just a simple event, but it remained as Vikan’s one of the most beloved. The exhibition became successful because of its collaboration with one of Johns Hopkins’ neuroscientists. Vikan loved it so much because of how interactive it was. The visitors get to pick their favorite shape among the multitude of shapes with subtle differences. Vikan explained that the visitors eventually realized that they are “hard wired” to connect with specific shapes.

Latest Achievement

Vikan managed to publish his controversial book titled “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director” last year. He aimed to share to the public the darker side of museums because he knew that he lived to tell stories. He had stories that he could not express as a director. Now that he is retired, he is already free to write any book about these stories. He believed that people deserve to know everything about the strange things happening in art museums.

Final Thoughts

Museums are essential to preserve art and history. Without them, humans would have less connection with their forefathers. Museums hold the heart and soul of mankind.

Posted in Music

Music Corner: 11 Experimental Albums for a Unique Vibe

Freedom. Improvisation. Unpredictable. That’s the beauty of experimental music. I have to say, I was a little hesitant at first in listening to an experimental album recommended by my friend. You can’t blame me – the “Ultimate Care II” album of Matmos is mainly based on the sounds of a washing machine. After listening to all the tracks, I was honestly exhilarated that I got to immerse myself into a whole new music experience.

Are you getting curious now? Well, I’m giving you 11 experimental albums you can listen to for a fresh perspective:

“Ultimate Care II” (Matmos)

Okay, let’s start to the beginning of my experimental music experience. I honestly laughed to the idea that one can make music with a washing machine. My friend was giving a mischievous smile, so I gave in and listened to the “Ultimate Care II” album. The whole album is filled with sloshing, drumming and beeping sounds from a washing machine. These sounds are accompanied by an electronic beat. If this is not experimental, I don’t know what is. I was amused the whole time. It was like listening to a musical about doing laundry.

“Serpent Music” (Yves Tumor)

Strange artist name, strange music. But, this is actually one of my most favorite experimental albums. No wonder the tracks have different moods because the album is based on soul and relationships. The tracks are intelligently done due to the smart mix of nature sounds, percussion, guitars and some falsetto voices. The whole album has an exotic vibe. What got to me was the last two tracks. I recommend not listening to them at night. “Face of a Demon” and “Perdition” – go figure.

“Sunergy” (Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith/Suzanne Ciani)

The album has three tracks and every one of them has a nostalgic blend of electronic beat, drone and white noise. For me, listening to it was like basking underneath the sun while having a psychedelic experience near the beach. Seems I got the right mood because the composers met in a coastal town in California.

“blisters” (serpentwithfeet)

The album may seem chaotic for some people, but “blisters” has a certain beauty on its own. The idea of mixing a shaky R&B voice to orchestra instruments and electronic sounds is a brave move. I think this album captures emotional turmoil perfectly.

“Zelalem” (Mikael Seifu)

Mikael Seifu comes from Ethiopia. That’s why his “Zelalem” album evolves on local instruments such as masinko and krar. These instruments are combined with synthesizer sounds and an electronic vibe. Other than these sounds, the album also has a lot of dialogue and crowd noises. These additional noises probably came from real-life recordings while Seifu visited his hometown again.

“Fetish Bones” (Moor Mother)

When it comes to an album with purpose, “Fetish Bones” can certainly fit that type. All tracks have poetic lines, delivered through simple dialogue, rap or indefinite singing. The lines have powerful messages, some even go for angst. The theme of the album goes back to the composer behind it. Camae Ayewa is an activist. Naturally, she presented serious issues like mistreatment, sufferings of immigrants, discrimination and racism in her tracks. To capture the picture through sound, she used dissonant noise and sounds from recordings.

“On Behalf of Nature” (Meredith Monk)

Honestly, some parts of this album are humorous enough that you might laugh a bit. But, I think it is because of the element of surprise. For example, a relaxing ambient music emerges when suddenly, a loud human noise interrupts such as a hum, a laugh, a scream and other distracting sounds. I could even hear baby coos and chants. But overall, the message behind “On Behalf of Nature” is powerful. It celebrates the gift of human voice, which we sometimes take for granted.

“Varmints” (Anna Meredith)

Aside from “Serpent Music,” “Varmints” is another one of my favorite experimental albums. Like, Yves Tumor’s album, Anna Meredith composed tracks that have different moods. But, Meredith’s album is more on the optimistic and lighter side. Most of the tracks are upbeat and adorable to listen to. I can also hear a hint of classical music in the background. That’s because of Meredith’s experience in classical concert halls. When the composer wanted more spice in her music, she went through with it by creating this album.

“For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)” (Huerco S.)

For a unique yet relaxing music experience, listen to this album by Huerco. Listening to the tracks makes you feel that time is getting slower, and that the place is getting smoky or windy. The composer’s different moods of ambient music can make you trigger memories, good or bad. Some of the tracks are haunting while some are romantic. It is beautiful how the tracks lack any beat and percussion sounds.

“Love Streams” (Tim Hecker)

Sometimes, some instrumental tracks have texture. I can’t explain it exactly. Maybe it’s because of sounds that remind you of actual objects. Whenever I’m listening to “Love Streams,” I can imagine a chisel being rubbed on a surface or a knife being sharpened. The overall vibe of Tim Hecker’s album is dreamy, at least in my opinion. I can have good dreams with some obstacles and misfit objects along the way. The album’s tracks are similar to that as well. Smooth background music with sudden electronic noises. This album perfectly represents experimental music.

“Schaum” (Masayoshi Fujita/Jan Jelinek)

I love listening to “Schaum” when I want to feel relaxed or just simply sleep. Nature is the focal point of this album. You can imagine being surrounded by trees. I, for one, can imagine sleeping in the middle of the forest whenever I listen to the tracks. I love that the album has no ups and downs. The tracks flow into one harmonious and continuous album. Everything is relaxing and gentle to the ears.

Final Thoughts

Experimental music is definitely not for everyone. Not all of us are comfortable in trying new things. Listening to experimental music is like tasting exotic food – you can either hate it or love it. Since I love diving into new experiences, I have no regrets listening to music coming from the washing machine.

Posted in Art

The Beauty Of Street Art: Mindblowing Street Installations

While the world provides the best canvass and media which visual artists can use to showcase their one-in-a-million skill, there is no denying that art started as an act of vandalism. The earliest forms of visual art that has been discovered are the cave paintings which depicted the simple hunting life of the earliest human caucus.
As time goes by and technology advances, people found more effective ways and venue where art can be rendered. Famous paintings and murals are now immortalized in fabric canvas or smooth walls and ceilings of equally-stunning architectural buildings. However, if you guys also noticed, these types of visual art mostly were and are created only for the eyes of the elites and those who can afford. If not privately owned by the richest people, they are displayed on highly guarded museums and government establishments.

True art is not meant to be that way though, it is supposed to be shared to the world and be appreciated by the many. Because historical forms of art are now priced and guarded, modern art started to act in defiance of what was set by the powerful. Ironically, art goes back to vandalism and street art was born. Street art, though tagged as forms of vandalism at first, became so famous and highly regarded that the world started to accept it as formal venues for free expression. Slowly through time, street artists are being recognized and are contracted by the government and private institutions to create masterpieces on walls and public spaces allotted for it. Not only that this movement paved way to the evolution of visual art, it also opens visual art back to the masses which is supposedly the true objective of such.

A sneak-peak of Street Art History:

Street art started in the 1920s and 1930s, and gained its popularity in early 1980s. It is often associated with the peak of graffiti art. Graffiti of protest slogans painted on open walls, trains and even cars are regarded as the forerunners of street art.

Street art started as simple shapes and line forms. During the peak of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st, street art has progressed into intricate interdisciplinary form of imaginative expression – from wall slogans, graffiti, murals and stencils to large-scale contemporary artworks and street installations.

Here are some of the breathtaking street art pieces done in different cities around the world:

Hawaii

Sean Yoro, or best known as Hula, is an NYC-based self taught artist and the genius behind these stunning portraits. These incredible murals were painted on brick walls that separate the dry land from the ocean.


Hula endeavors to bring life to empty and forgotten spaces. Shipwrecks, abandoned docks and lonesome walls are some of his favorite canvasses. He prefers to use oil paint along with conventional painting techniques.


Look how the portraits unite with its reflections on the water, truly awesome! It’s undeniably a brilliant approach of Hula in showcasing the exquisiteness of his works and of course the beauty of Hawaii itself. His masterpieces will surely leave you with a range of emotions.

France


In a warehouse situated in Lyon, France, you’ll find a cleverly painted sleeping giant. This work of art was created by Ella & Pitr, French artists that are also a couple. Most of their works involve sleepy-head giants, large birds with heavy wings, piles of stones, children, burnt trunks or chairs.
One of their famous works is the “Les Papiers Peintres” which uses the technique called anamorphosis and applied large scale interventions.


“Reload” is another awesome masterpiece that can be found in France. This was painted by Levalet, a well recognized French artist. His approaches in street paintings are surreal and contemporary.

Also found in the streets of France is a stunning art installation entitled “Ants”. Pejac, the artist behind the incredible work showcases his love for the minimal designs. The mural portrays two silhouettes of curious and somewhat mean kids inspecting the tiny insect species underneath them.

Mexico

This gigantic interconnecting masterpieces is a collective effort of a Germen crew and the Mexican government in rehabilitating and at the same time revamping the Palmistas borough in Pachuca, Mexico. This project consisted of 209 painted houses (Wow! That’s quite grueling!).

The primary purpose of this project is to promote social transformation.

Portugal

In a busy street of Belem, Portugal, you’ll find this eye-catching raccoon that will surely make you pause and stare for a while. This splendid street installation was done by Bordalo II, a Portuguese artist who is renowned for his towering 3D murals. He was able to utilize other people’s trash into massive striking animal portraits. Indeed, it is such an awesome way of creating life through recyclables.

Next on the list is a contemporary mural famously called as “Crossroads” which is painted on a 10 story building facade situated in Lisbon, Portugal. This cartoonish fresco showing an old lady surrounded by animals was done by Sainer, a Polish artist.

Spain

This thought- inflaming and arresting street installation entitled “CRISIS” can be found on the streets of Bilbao, Spain. The masterpiece was created by SpY, a Spanish artist. This was composed of 2-cent coins amounting to 1000 Euros. Can you imagine the intricacy of this work and the persistence of the artist? Beyond doubt, this work of art deserves a global shout out!

Canada

This cleverly painted work of genius was completed by Julien Malland, widely known as “Seth GlobePainter”. The wall painting consist of two kids running toward each other. The contrasting usage of bricks and clouds is purely mind blowing!

Germany

Meanwhile in Germany, a British muralist widely known as “Phlegm” showcased his illustrative and minimal artwork portraying iconic characters and cluster of machineries on an accordion styled wall in the street of Berlin. The artist loves to create surreal storybook-like imageries using his very own imagination.

USA

On the other hand, Martin Whatson, a much known Norwegian artist, created the “Behind The Curtain” mural in Miami, Florida. This awesome ocular illusion mural comprises of stencil and radiant graffiti.

Likewise, this mind-boggling metallic mural can also be found in Miami. The artist behind this awesome masterpiece is Bikismo, a Spanish artist who is fond of using spray-paint.

Poland

This gigantic wall painting with an illusion of a girl watering an existing plant was done by Natalia Rak. Most of her murals are about women in dreamlike vivid setting.

United Kingdom

In Cheltenham, UK, you will find these three government secret agents who seem to be discreetly spying on a phone dialogue. Banksy, the artist accountable for this ingenious work, made use of the existing and old phone booth and added life to it by painting government spies behind it.

Posted in Art

Artist Appreciation Nook: David Hockney and His Pop Art Innovations

One thing I love about art is innovation. As observed through the years, new artists emerged to provide another interesting style on the canvas. I think they make art even more interesting because, well, they put out something new and relevant to current social issues. That’s why when I heard news about a David Hockney art exhibition this year, I want to go to Tate Gallery pronto.

 

Who Is David Hockney?

Well, David Hockney is one of the most influential pop art contributors. Being tagged as an “influential” artist is definitely not something to be gained in a snap. Hockney really came out of his way to present bold and meaningful artworks for how many years. The now 79-year-old British artist has received so many prominent accolades. For one, he gained the Order of Merit and the Order of the Companions of Honour. He is also acknowledged by the members of the exclusive Royal Academy of Arts.

 

Best Works

Interestingly, David Hockney is not just a painter. He is also a photographer, a stage designer, a printmaker and a draughtsman. Yes, he is really a perfect example of an all-around artist.

What makes me even more excited about Hockney’s art exhibition is the inclusion of his works as a student in the early 1960s. The retrospective of how Hockney developed as an artist from those early works is a great opportunity to know him more. Most of Hockney’s memorable works have something to do with portraits, homosexuality, landscapes and sophisticated photo collages.

Paintings of Homosexuality (1961-1963)

“We Two Boys Together Clinging” (1961)

David Hockney is a homosexual. He is a brave artist, painting about his affection for men. Two of his famous works that have something to do with his sexuality are “We Two Boys Together Clinging” and “Domestic Scene, Los Angeles.”

“Domestic Scene, Los Angeles” (1963)

 

Portraits (1968-1976)

“Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy” (1971)

Most of David Hockney’s early works are portraits. Hockney loved painting his parents, relatives, friends, lovers and inspirations. He managed to paint fellow artist Mo McDermott, fashion designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, art dealer Nicholas Wilder, curator Henry Geldzahler, and ballet dancer Wayne Sleep.

“Mo McDermott” (1976)

 

“Joiners” (1980s)

“My Mother, Bolton Abbey” (1982)

This is when David Hockney decided to start with photo collages. Hockney called those works “joiners.” He made small patches from photographs to form a unified image. The final result of his joiners is similar to Cubism. Hockney’s first photo collage is inspired by his mother. He continued to do portraits like “Kasmin.” Then, he switched to landscapes like “Pearblossom Highway # 2.”

“Pearblossom Highway # 2” (1986)

 

Vogue Cover (December 1985)

Because of David Hockney’s stylish art, French Vogue magazine used his Celia Birtwell portrait as the cover design. The cover seems like an abstract painting. But, it resembles Birtwell’s face.

“Celia Birtwell” for Vogue (December 1985)

 

“Bigger Trees Near Warter” (2007)

This is considered to be David Hockney’s biggest painting. The artwork measures 15 by 40 feet. Hockney’s Yorkshire home inspired this painting. On 50 separate canvases, Hockney painted specific parts of the big picture. The finished work is a nostalgic image of big trees.

“Bigger Trees Near Warter” (2007)

 

Final Thoughts

Paintings may just be eye-candy for some spectators. But, artists put their heart and soul into their artworks. David Hockney is definitely no exception. His daring, stylish and innovative personality is clearly depicted on his works.