Intended & Unintended Meanings of the American Monument

The moment of the unveiling of a public monument marks the end of a process. The need for commemoration was felt, an artist engaged to express the idea, and the means found to bring the project to realization. Whatever the intended meaning, once in the public eye an installation acquires its own history. The interpretation of its symbolic expression evolves and the original intent of the monument becomes only one of its meanings. A significant early Virginia monument is Houdon’s mid-1780s marble Washington, with its allusions to the story of Cincinnatus. A long century of monuments referencing classical themes followed, epitomized by the sculptor Crawford’s giant 1850s female warrior with a bird-helmet and pom-pom trim, standing today atop the U.S. Capitol. The monuments that marked the Civil War turned to more of an American-rooted symbolism.

The History of Early Video Games

This presentation discusses the evolution of the video game from the 1960s through the late 1990s, with a focus on Atari and Nintendo.

In The Round: Sculpture in America

This presentation is designed to create a greater aesthetic understanding and appreciation of sculpture in America. We will delve into sculptural works of art across eras and genres, forms and subject matters, and methods and materials of American sculptors.

Armchair Travel: How to See England Without Leaving the U.S.

Love to visit England, but hate the jet lag? Then let Executive Director, Anne Kenny-Urban, lead you through a tour of “England in America”. From the comfort of your seat, travel from Connecticut to Nevada in search of English architectural treasures, like Agecroft Hall, that have made the journey from the Old World to the New. Hear the incredible stories of why and how the structures were transported to America and what purpose they serve now.

Forbidden City

This program explores imperial rituals, court painting, family life, and religion in the Forbidden City, home to 24 of China’s emperors from the Ming (1368-1644) through the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Utilizing selected objects from the Palace Museum, Beijing, in addition to works from VMFA’s permanent collection, this talk explores the visual and cultural landscape established by Chinese imperial patronage in a rapidly globalizing world. This program will also discuss the Forbidden City’s architecture and construction, as well as the influence of Italian painters on the court painting style of the Qing dynasty.

Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa

This program will explore the practice of masking as it appears across the vast and culturally diverse Congolese region of Central Africa, where masks function as performance objects, works of art, educational tools, and ritual objects of devotion. Utilizing selected objects from VMFA’s Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa exhibition, masks will be examined and discussed as representations of the artisans and performers who brought them to life, as well as varied communities, belief systems, and natural resources. The program will also make use of original field photography, which helps to properly contextualize the diversity of masking performances, ecosystems, and cultures found throughout the immense Congo Basin.

Spirit Photos, Fairy Photos and the Comfort of Belief

“The series of incidents set forth…represent either the most elaborate and ingenious hoax ever played upon the public, or else they constitute an event in human history which may in future appear to have been epoch-making in its character.” This quote by Arthur Conan Doyle could just as easily apply to the spirit photographs of William Mumler as it does to his investigations into the fairy photographs of two English cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Write.

In 1862, while casualties were mounting on the battlefields of the Civil War, William Mumler developed a photo with a ghostly image visible beside the principle subject. This image led Mumler to a new career as a photographer-medium. His mysterious process brought comfort to hundreds of sitters who claimed to recognize the features of deceased loved ones in Mumler’s portraits; but it also brought Mumler before the bench of a New York City judge on charges of fraud.

In 1917, Yorkshire, England, while the carnage of the Great War raged, two young cousins, Elsie Write and Frances Griffiths, appear to capture on film what had never been photographed before, a group of fairies and a gnome. After coming to the attention of author Arthur Conan Doyle, his account in the Strand Magazine of the photos caused a sensation and not entirely welcome attention to the cousins.

This program will explore the similarities between the two cases and the power of art to give physical form to the beliefs of the viewer.

Pencil and Powder: Combat Artists of the Civil War

“A total disregard for personal safety and comfort; an owl-like propensity to sit up all night; and a hawky style of vigilance during the day.”

These were the qualities possessed by the Special Artists of the “Bohemian Brigade.”
During the Civil War, the art of photography was still in its infancy. The long exposure times meant that cameras were unable to capture movement and photos could not be reproduced in the newspaper. The job of providing the public with images of battle and camp life fell to brave men known as Special Artists. These newspapermen called themselves the “Bohemian Brigade” and with pencil, crayon, and brush they produced firsthand depictions of the American Iliad. This program will shine light on the adventurous lives of such Special Artists as Winslow Homer, Alfred Waud, and Frank Vizetelly and the methods used to bring their images to the public.

Singing the Sights How do you sing a horse, or polka dots, or a sunset?

Voices communicate beyond words. Singing has a visual aspect. We’ll explore vocal tone and expression and use non-verbal aspects of singing to describe and convey elements of visual art such as color, texture, mood, and form. How does sound link to sights? We’ll draw what we hear and sing what we see.

Collaborative Song-making: How are songs made?

Group/collaborative song-making is a social and approachable way of exploring the craft. We’ll engage in playful aspects of the creative mind in sourcing song topics, lyrics, chord progressions, and melodies. Together we’ll create a song or songs based on a chosen theme or simply pull from the vast realm of imagination. Tools shared can easily be applied to developing a personal songwriting practice. Participants are encouraged to bring a musical instrument, though knowledge of music theory or the ability to play an instrument is not required.