Michael Corris: Incidents on a Page: Dallas-Venice Dreamscapes: 1976-2020 Online exhibition opening May 2020
The Hawn Gallery is pleased to present an online exhibition, Incidents on a Page: Dallas-Venice Dreamscapes, 1976-2020, of new works by artist, writer and SMU professor of art,Michael Corris. Corris has been active as an artist since the early 1970s, first as a member of the collective Art & Language in New York, and later, as a founding editor of the publications The Fox and Red Herring. Subsequently, he began teaching art criticism and art history in England, and eventually came to Dallas as Chair of the Division of Art at SMU in 2009. His expansive practice is not easily distilled into distinct categories or media, but rather maintains a sustained engagement with and critical analysis of the conditions of production and dissemination of art. Over the course of his career Corris’s work has taken many forms, including but not limited to essayistic writing, graphic design, curation, public intervention, community activism and organization, and education, responding to the needs of a given circumstance or lived situation. Thus, when faced with the necessary closure of the SMU campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—like the many artists whose exhibitions were suddenly put on hold—Corris was quick to adapt the work to a digital environment.
Renowned Texas artist Edward G. Eisenlohr (1872-1961) captured a record of his life, art, and honors from childhood through his later years in his scrapbook, which he titled “Mainly Concerning Myself.” Though Eisenlohr was born in Ohio, he migrated to Texas with his family when he was very young, and his love for Texas, Dallas, and his Oak Cliff neighborhood – as well as his deep appreciation for New Mexico — is reflected in the items that he saved.
His achievements began early. He saved his third-grade diploma of honor from Temple Emanu-El School, which shows that “Eddie” Eisenlohr had an overall average of 96 percent. Among numerous newspaper clippings, an article from the Dallas Morning News notes that the Texas State Fair’s Golden Jubilee in 1936 is also Eisenlohr’s. He was also awarded a first prize of $10 in the Fair’s very first exhibition for a hand-drawn map at age sixteen.
Numerous smaller clippings show Eisenlohr’s engagement with the local art scene. He had many groups come by his studio to visit, and stopped by to give talks to a variety of local groups, mentioned here and here.
“Mainly Concerning Myself” is held by the Bywaters Special Collections, a unit of SMU’s Hamon Arts Library, as part of the Edward Gustav Eisenlohr Art Work and Papers. The 45-page (plus 2 covers) scrapbook was digitized in the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions’ photography lab using a Hasselblad H6D-100C camera. Prior to digitization, the scrapbook was conserved at SMU’s Bridwell Library conservation lab. The scrapbook was a gift from Gertrude Helmle and the digitization project was supported by the Helmle-Shaw Foundation.
Karen Weiner, gallery owner and curator of The Reading Room, recently interviewed artist, Allyson Packer, about her exhibition, Sounding, which opened in the Hawn Gallery and the Hamon Arts Library on February 7. Prior to the SMU campus closing in March 2020, Weiner walked through the exhibition installed on all four floors of the Library. To get a broader experience of the exhibition, readers may now watch a video walkthrough of Sounding hosted by Glasstire on its splendid Five-minute Tours series of Texas exhibitions.
1) How is this project different from previous work or is it?
This show feels significant in that it operates in a way that is similar to some of my previous work, but it also takes some departures. This space challenged me to expand the mode I’ve been working in for the past few years and find some new strategies.
I’ve been working in this format, with maps and text that direct a viewer to move around a site, for the past four or five years. The goal with these pieces has always been the same: to choreograph a set of experiences that reveal some sort of latent idea embedded in the space. These ideas are typically abstract, like infinity in the case of this show, but they are made tangible through the physical and perceptual engagement the work requires. My partner recently told me that the work “reasserts the viewer as the protagonist” in their own narrative, which I really like. I think he meant that the work makes the viewer aware of their body and what’s happening in their environment, and how they’re participating in it. I’ve noticed that when a viewer is really engaged with the work, they enter this mode of hyper-awareness where they’re noticing all the subtle details of everything around them, whether it’s part of the work or not. It’s really gratifying.
Because the work is so engaged with perception and subtle experience, it’s tough, and also really important, to find the perfect tone with the text—I’m essentially trying to direct someone to look at something just the right way. If they do, a whole new world opens up and if they don’t it just feels confusing. That’s never something I want my viewers to feel.
All of these things have been more or less true of all the installations I’ve done over the past few years, including Sounding. When I first started making this kind of work, I had to rely a lot on my intuition because I’d found this form that people really responded to, but I didn’t really know how it worked yet. When I was making the early installations, I would spend a lot of time writing and trying things out until I found something that felt like it resonated. I would basically build the whole show this way without really knowing where I was leading the viewer until I was near the end of the process. The past couple of shows have been different though. I can get a sense of a space much more quickly and know what I want to pull out of it. Especially with Sounding, I knew almost right away the kind of understanding of the space I wanted someone to walk away with, and where in the space I wanted to direct the viewer’s attention in order to achieve this. I developed and refined these ideas over the time I worked at Hamon, of course, but knowing this so quickly allowed me try new and additional things.
Working with light and text have been standard in my practice for a long time, but incorporating imagery (the JMW Turner books, the videos, and the scanned images printed on vinyl) is new for me. These were some of the later pieces that I produced and came after I had finished all the text and had a solid idea of what the show was about. I realized that even though I like my work to be subtle, I needed the installation to differentiate itself from its surroundings a little more or else it was going to get swallowed up by the library. There’s already so much text in the space, that I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to expand my approach. Incorporating images, some of them large-scale, gave it the kind of presence it needed.
I was very careful about where these images appeared in the building. I’m always trying to get the viewer to notice how they’re interfacing with the language and rhythm of a space, and I’ve become very comfortable with using text to do this. It allows you to direct the viewer’s attention so precisely. In this show, I had to find a way to get the imagery to speak to what the viewer’s body is doing. I ended up using a lot of installation strategies that engage with the scale and movement of a body in the building: placing the vinyl at the end of long corridor-like areas so that you can feel yourself falling into an infinite space, or increasing the scale of the slow-motion fountain video so that you’re enveloped in that sense of looping time. It’s scary to do something new when you have a method that already works, but I think it’s really important to have these experiences that demand something different from you.
2) You refer to your practice as “precarious” (as defined by Anna Dezeuze) which seems especially pertinent at the moment. This denotes the possibility of failure. Have any of your projects failed or taken a turn that you didn’t expect?
Pretty much all of them in one way or another! Whenever I begin an installation in a space, I have a plan, but a lot of the work is invariably generated by spending time on-site and noticing phenomena that I could never have planned for. I’ve also learned that in almost every show, there’s something that viewers focus their attention on that was unintended on my part. It’s not always bad though, it’s just more information about what people pay attention to, which can be useful. When you make work that asks for such a high level of focus, you can’t expect that focus to stay completely trained on what you want all of the time. In this show, the way we angled the projector in the Hawn gallery created this totally unexpected reaction with the mirrored vinyl text, where this watery reflection appeared on the wall. I was so stressed getting everything done before the opening, that I barely noticed it, but it ended up being this thing that everyone commented on. It was great, and I think I’ll use it in my work again.
In terms of precarity, Dezeuze tells us that precarious artwork runs the risk of “sometimes disappearing completely into the very fabric of the viewer’s everyday.” Much of my work could be described this way. I really like pushing and pulling on that fabric, making something feel significant for a moment and then letting it collapse back into the everyday. The danger implied here is that something doesn’t get pulled out enough, or collapses too quickly, but sometimes I think that’s ok. Precarious work is anti-spectacular and always vulnerable in some way to the people who encounter it. One of its major vulnerabilities is to being ignored. The idea that the number of people who notice the work equates with its success is actually really tied up with spectacle, I think, so I like to push back on that. When I’m making an installation I usually try to have a combination of pieces that are more accessible to the viewer and a few things that only a couple of people will pick up on. I try to be intentional about what kind of audience each piece needs, and I like the idea of different pieces for people who are engaged in different ways. It creates an interesting rhythm within the installation.
3) Tell us about the title Sounding.
Because of the way I work, I often have to come up with a title for a show before I really know what the work’s going to be. That was what happened with this show, but I had a strong sense of the direction I wanted to take things, so it worked out. From the very beginning I had this image of blue-black water in my head, like looking into a very deep lake. I knew that I wanted the title to reference depth in some way, and after a frantic research process I arrived at Sounding. Sounding is the act of determining the depth of a body of water. Typically, you’d use sonar to do this, but it can also refer to more manual processes, like tying an anchor to a rope and measuring how much rope it takes for the anchor to hit bottom. I think it parallels how the show is trying to create a connection to the immense depths of the library.
Etymologically, sounding is related to a sound as in a body of water, but not a sound as in an audible vibration. I love that bit of confusion. I think it makes you pay closer attention. I get excited about any sort of title that does something unexpected with language—palindromes, misspellings, homonyms, double-valences, slang, truncations… It gives the show a kind of voice without totally explaining the work to you. I always find myself drawn to one-word titles. They’re really elegant if you can find the right word.
Researching the word sounding also unexpectedly taught me a little bit about my own work. Sounding falls under the larger category of “remote sensing,” which is basically any method of gathering information about something without physically making contact with it. It occurred to me that this is a way of explaining something that I often do in my work, which is to give viewers a way to experience something that usually seems too large, too distant, or too abstract to perceive. It’s been really helpful to have this language as a way to further articulate my work and to further connect this show to the broader themes in my practice.
4) Water is a recurring element in several of your projects. Is this related to environmental concerns or geography or other issues for you?
I keep coming back to water, as well as breath/air and light, because they’re some of the primary materials through which a body relates to its surroundings. We constantly experience them in small, direct, physical ways, like washing our hands, taking a breath, feeling the sun on our skin. But they can also provide a link to something really massive, like an ocean, a jet stream, the distance between the earth and the sun. (Many of these things fall under what Timothy Morton calls “hyperobjects.” It’s not a term I use much, but it may be applicable here). I do this thing a lot in my work, where I’ll ask a viewer to consider something very small, and then very large, or something very near, and then very far. It’s a way of having people become aware of their location through their proximity to these things. Water, breath/air, and light are very convenient materials in this way. They’re easily broken down into small parts, which can then be understood as part of something much larger. In Sounding, you see this happening in several places, including the fountains and the blinking lights, where these familiar objects become an entryway to the infinite.
I think a lot about how these materials are always with us as part of our bodies and part of any environment we’re in. I’m really enamored with making work that only uses what the viewer has when they enter a space: the basic conditions of that space and whatever the viewer’s presence brings to it. Water, breath/air, and light are always available in a space and can be used in all kinds of ways without having to introduce any other objects—like how can you get someone to consider a dripping faucet or the condensation of their own breath on a window, and then realize this room they previously thought was empty is actually full of water vapor? When this works well, it creates a real physical presence that people can sense. It’s like making a sculpture out of nothing. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of thinking this way in the past and still helps me form some of the foundational pieces in my more recent installations. Before I’m ready to introduce any objects to the space, I’m always trying to make work with what’s already there.
I often wish that these materials didn’t feel so poetic. While water certainly has a metaphorical function in Sounding, I’m actually typically more interested in encouraging viewers to think about them in a literal sense. Like, observing how the angle of light coming through a window tells us about the way architecture mediates our relationship to the sun is so much more interesting to me than reading the light as a metaphor for knowledge or something. But I suppose any sort of omnipresent material carries a whole human history’s worth of baggage with it, so I’m making my peace.
5) The waterlogged books were especially evocative for me, as objects with no legible content aside from the abstract water stains. How did this come about?
That’s so great to hear—a couple of people have told me that they really responded to those, which is interesting because I had felt unsure of them before the show went up.
They’re an extension of the repeating Turner books that you see on the lower floors, but they also came out of thinking about how I wanted to deal with the top floor of the building. I wanted the pieces there to push into the further reaches of some of the ideas present in the rest of the show. If the lower floors ask the viewer to look into the infinite depths of the library, the top floor asks them to lift their heads and look out onto an infinite horizon. To me, looking at all of those empty pages feels vast. It’s a reminder that emptiness is still a space we have to contend with after it all.
This part of the installation allowed me to incorporate the books while taking a break from text and imagery. They’re objects, but not fetishized in the way that the book-as-object usually is. They become a sort of field or a texture that creates a continuity among that mismatched set of display tables. The decision to use water-damaged books was intuitive. It may have to do with the transition I was speaking about before that I wanted to create on the top floor—pulling away from the deep water.
6) It was encouraging to see younger people exploring the Hamon library during your opening. How has the library and the way it is used been reframed by digital culture?
Yes, it was! Shows at institutions can be really great in that way. The reach seems to be a bit wider.
As any librarian will tell you, the collection of physical items is only part of what they manage and provide. This was on my mind as I was considering the library’s depth, although it didn’t make it into the show so much. The repetition of imagery in digital culture is very interesting to me. It’s like a hyper-version of the repeating images of Turner paintings that I collected. The internet is a great place to go looking for the sublime.
The piece I made for the computer desktops starts to touch on this a little bit. That piece first came about because every time I would go to spend time at Hamon, I would find myself looking at that image of the cave that’s on the desktop screens. It draws you in. The way the cave frames the landscape makes it feel like you’re really looking out a window. At first, though, I didn’t think I was going to use it for anything, because it felt too obvious. In the midst of putting this show together, however, I took a trip back east. I was in a hotel in Washington DC and I peeked behind the front desk as I was walking to my room, and I saw that all their computers had that same image on them. I was so shocked for a moment. But then it dawned on me that of course they have that same image on them. It’s the standard lock screen image for every computer with Microsoft 10. Millions and millions of computers. And that’s when I realized what was important about it: not that the ocean horizon suggests infinity, but that so many millions of people are having the same experience of looking out this “window” every day.
That experience led to the text and image piece I made that’s on the Hamon computers now, but it also highlights something that is very compelling to me about the internet, or maybe just technology in general: that it progresses towards more and more individualized user experience, but also creates these synchronous experiences that I find transporting. Libraries are transporting too, but for the opposite reasons. The objects in a library feel singular and you can go deep inside yourself. I hope this piece holds these experiences, and the fact that you can access them in the library, up next to each other.
In the process of making this piece, I also found the actual location for the photo that’s used on the lock screen. It’s at Wharariki Beach in New Zealand. I searched that location on Flickr and Instagram and found hundreds of people’s vacation photos of the same view, basically approximating the Windows 10 image. A couple of them had even taken a screenshot on their own computer and then set it next to their vacation photo for comparison, like Here I am, finally outside the window I look out every day! I think I would find that experience quite exhilarating, actually… These photos didn’t make it into the show, even though I really like them. I’m finishing up a PDF right now, however, that I’m calling “study notes” (basically a supplementary text for the show that has some writing and imagery from my research), and they make an appearance there. Although it’s not digital, I ended up creating what I think of as an analog version of this same idea with the repeating images from the Turner books.
7) The infinitude suggested by Jorge Luis Borges in his short story, “The Library of Babel,” is serious but also absurd. Comment?
The infinite is terrifying. And absurdity and terror actually feel quite close together to me—they’re both produced through the defiance of a logical progression of events.
8) The inability to encompass all that a library offers is also true of internet content. Do you think of the two as compatible systems or antagonistic?
I’m optimistic that they can be compatible, probably because of their differences. They certainly seem to be in my own research practice. I was just watching Chloé Galibert-Laîné’s short film Flânerie 2.0, which talks about being a flâneur on the internet, and that resonates with me. It’s not how I feel when I’m in a library, though. The internet often leads me to the library, but rarely vice-versa.
I sometimes think about the way in which we conceive of digital spaces, and how they often bear the trace of particular physical spaces. Like the way our computers have desktops, files, and folders, or the way that the layers in a photoshop document are based on the layers of acetate that graphic designers used to use. There are lots of examples and I love finding them. I wonder what traces of the library the internet might bear. I do believe their structures are fundamentally different, but I suppose I could conceive of them as parallel, or maybe layers of each other. If the library is infinitely deep, is the internet infinitely vast? I tend to think of a library’s structure as being more linear, while the internet is a web, but then again, Borges’ library is honeycombed. I may be digging myself into a hole trying to turn this into a spatial relationship….
This also begs the question, at least for me, what is the shape of a library’s digital presence? I wonder what it would be like to intervene in that space and how I might apply some of the same strategies that I used in Sounding to examine it.
9) There is a photograph on your website that features a note saying “Stay Alive”. Perhaps we should end by hearing a bit about that.
So here’s the story with that text. It’s taken on a bit of a life of its own.
I relocated to Texas last summer to teach at UNT. Things were really crazy when I first started and I felt like my brain just didn’t have the bandwidth to do the same kind of writing I normally do as part of my practice, so I started looking around for found text I could use in my work. When I was walking the dog early one morning, I noticed some graffiti written on the wall outside a middle school near our house. It said “STAY ALIVE.” It was scrawled in pencil with these skinny letters that were maybe 5 inches high. It would be pretty easy to miss—a precarious artwork.
I could just imagine some kid taking a pencil from the bottom of their backpack and writing it one day after school. It resonated with me so much. Those words seemed to perfectly impart that sense of dismay at being 13, at your peers, and at authority, but also the drive to carry on through all of that and maintain solidarity with yourself. I remember that feeling well and I can still tap into it sometimes. The words “STAY ALIVE” felt very personal in that way and walking by them became this affirmative act for me.
I eventually incorporated them into a sculpture that’s been shown a few times: a pair of Converse sneakers with “STAY ALIVE” written on their soles in the same handwriting from the wall. When they’re shown, they have their laces tied together and are hung suspended above the viewer’s head, so as to emulate shoes hanging on a telephone wire. The words also found their way into a performance I did this winter at my gallery, and I think they’ve held meaning for a lot of people beyond myself. They’re hopeful. I wish I could thank the person who wrote them.
Thank you to Allyson Packer and Karen Weiner for this interview, and to Allison Klion, Hawn Gallery Project Manager, for her assistance.
On the Hamon blog in March, Ellen Buie Niewyk discussed the history of Octavio Medellin’s murals for the the Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Dallas and the drawings held in Bywaters Special Collections. Medellin donated these drawings to Bywaters Special Collections in 1996 where these drawings have been rolled in storage for many years. Niewyk contacted paper conservator Cheryl Carrabba to carefully unroll and repair these drawings. Carrabba, who lives in Austin, works as a conservator for museums, libraries, archives and other institutions. In this post, she details decisions she made in her conservation and her intricate process to restore them.
The Octavio Medellin project included twelve mural sketches for his “Stations of the Cross” mosaic in the St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church in Dallas. Four of the sketches are executed in colored pencil on medium weight, white paper. Eight are graphite on thin, lightweight, wood-based paper.
All of the drawings arrived in the lab rolled in brown paper backing sheets. Their condition indicated they were exposed directly to standing water, causing damage to all twelve sheets. In addition to pigment bleeding, severe discoloration, and hard water staining, the paper exhibited creasing, fold overs, and losses to corners bearing image details. Disfiguring tears and insect soiling were also present. Image visibility was compromised. The reverse of all these drawings were stained and mottled with animal glue deposits. Inherent aging had caused adhesives to bind the image-bearing sheets to the backing sheets.
After photography and documentation, all surface debris was removed using rubber erasers and soot sponges in preparation for washing. The paper was flattened and cleaned with absorbent blotters and salt solutions consisting of calcium, ammonium, and sodium. These chemicals swell the papers and help release the residue caused by prolonged dampness in storage. After the surface debris was removed, multiple applications of calcium hydroxide, ammonium dibasic, and sodium borohydride were carefully applied to diminish tidelines or pooling of liquid. Tears were delicately mended with sheer-toned Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.
The graphite sketches were lined using two layers of Japanese paper: Yamakozo Hidura and Tenjugo. Linings were attached to the reverse of the sheets with wheat starch paste using a polyester cloth pasted to a Formica table surface in a tension drying method. The result of this process can be seen in the featured image. Because the colored drawings are on a stronger weight paper made from a mixed blend of cotton and wood fiber, they did not require lining. To fill losses at the edges, we used the original blank backing paper. This mend assured that the fills were the same weight, tone, and fiber as the drawings themselves.
The conservation process not only improved the appearance of the Medellin sketches, but raised the pH of the paper to alkaline, promoting longevity. This step is especially important for wood-based papers. Together with archival framing methods, storage, and high resolution scanning, the art is preserved to ensure future stability.
Feature image: Example of tension drying method. Polyester cloth is adhered to the Formica table surface, on which Japanese paper is pasted underneath the drawings. This method flattens the sheets and allows the lining to be attached to the reverse.
Blog post: Courtesy of Cheryl Carrabba, Senior Conservator at Carrabba Conservation
Image credits: Cheryl Carrabba
SMU Libraries and staff of the Hamon Arts Library mourn the loss of our friend and patron, Jeff Gordon, who recently passed away after a sudden illness. A longtime film historian, enthusiast, and collector, Jeff served on the SMU Libraries Executive Board since 2016. For all who knew Jeff, he had an outgoing and effervescent personality and readily shared a limitless supply of accounts and anecdotes about film and cinema history, its mid-20th century stars, or even Jeff himself. Indeed, his great passions were film and dogs.
Jeff was loyal and dedicated to the Hamon Arts Library and supported us in so many ways. He regularly attended library lectures, exhibition openings, and participated in fundraising events for the Meadows School of the Arts and SMU Libraries’ annual Tables of Content. He collaborated with Hamon staff on a 2013 Hawn Gallery exhibition, Linda Darnell: from Dallas to Hollywood — Selections from the Jeff Gordon Collection, which included a selection of his film posters on the Dallas native actor. In conjunction with the opening, he delivered a well-received lecture on Darnell. Always ready to loan his collection to Hamon, he worked with Georgia Erger, former Hawn Gallery fellow, on an installation of his rare movie posters throughout Hamon and discussed their significance in the Hamon blog in September 2016.
Having grown up and lived in New York City and later Knoxville, Tennessee, Jeff arrived in Dallas in 2016, where he formed a network of friends and acquaintances who equally shared his enthusiasm for film. In addition to his participation in other film circles, Jeff formed his own series of screenings held in his newly-remodeled detached garage. There the participants enjoyed thematic screening events, which Jeff curated from his collection of films, TV shows, and serials. He began each event with an introduction, which included stories, some personal, about the cast, producers, scriptwriters, and always accompanied the evening with an exhibit of photos and posters from his extraordinary collections. Regulars could count on visits from one of his 4 “pups,” who always managed to find a welcoming lap and seemed to enjoy the company as much as Jeff. Jeff, from everyone at Hamon Library and throughout the Meadows School of the Arts and SMU Libraries, we will miss you dearly.
In attempting to complete both archival work and schooling a first grader while also caring for a toddler (Hi toddler parents, I see you!!)….I figured I might as well experiment with using Bywaters Special Collections digital images with the K-12 crowd (i.e. my 7-year-old son). I quickly deduced that our online digital collections, while amazing for older kids and adults, are not easily browsable or readable for early readers. Instead, I’ll be searching and selecting specific images to showcase.
My first idea is to use images of animals from the DeForrest Judd sketchbooks for a lesson on native Texas animals. For our activity we’ll walk around our neighborhood to look for animals. Assignment is to draw an animal that we saw on our walk.
Thank goodness for a warm sunny day to complete this activity. The three of us took a long walk and saw birds, squirrels, dogs, tadpoles, butterflies, daddy long legs, yellow jackets (!), hawks, and cats and talked about the armadillos, deer, coyotes, bobcats, skunks and rabbits that we’ve seen before. After some lunch and nap time for little sister, my son drew a picture of Texas animals (including a couple we didn’t see on our walk- like beavers and a fawn).
The heart of the Texas Regionalism movement in the 1930s was creating art based on your local surroundings. As we shelter-in-place here in the Dallas area in 2020, I think we can all take this to heart and appreciate the beauty of our immediate surroundings – and attempt to teach and share that appreciation with others.
Image: Untitled by DeForrest Judd, watercolor and ink on paper
“The art of this church has been the largest and most important commission given to me in the 30 years that I have been pioneering art in Texas.”
On December 7, 1958, the Dallas Morning News published the above quote by Octavio Medellin in reference to his commission at the Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church, soon to open at 1404 Old Gate Lane in Dallas. The artist was commissioned to design two large murals on opposite sides of the church’s interior depicting the fourteen Stations of the Cross, each measuring eighty-seven feet in length and five feet in height. In collaboration with artist, Michael Kozlowski, Medellin began preliminary designs for the murals in the summer of 1957. For eight months the artists worked to create the large murals with small glass tiles. Together, the two artists hand cut the small smalti (sing. smalto), which are specialized mosaic tesserae made from richly colored glass. The glass was designed by specification and imported from Murano, Italy.
Today, the preliminary drawings for these murals are housed in Bywaters Special Collections. In 1989, Octavio Medellin began donating his personal papers and works on paper to Bywaters Special Collections. This initial donation established the Octavio Medellin Collection. He continued donations, and in 1996 he gave his twelve large-format drawings, which were preliminary designs for the murals. The drawings had been tightly rolled for many years. To safely unroll the drawings and repair any damages that may have occurred over time, these works were sent to Carrabba Conservation, Inc. in Austin. Following conservation, the drawings were scanned and uploaded to the Octavio Medellin Art Work and Papers site in SMU Libraries Digital Collections: https://www.smu.edu/libraries/digitalcollections/med
On the Hamon blog in April, conservator, Cheryl Carrabba, will explain the conservation process for these drawings.
Blog post: Ellen Buie Niewyk, Curator, Bywaters Special Collections.
We thankfully survived the fall and winter months of 2019, so that we can ring in the new year and celebrate the Jones Collection’s 50th anniversary!
Reporter Chris Sadeghi, along with a film crew from WFAA, came down to the vault to film a promotional piece for Sadeghi’s REWIND series, which features footage from our WFAA Newsfilm archive. Check that out here!
Two SMU classes, David Sedman’s Introduction to Film and Mike Morris’ 16mm Film Production, toured our facilities in October. For Sedman’s course, Jones Collection curator, Jeremy Spracklen, gave a presentation on the history collection to the class and showed samples of 35mm films from our vault. Morris’ students came back towards the end of the semester and had their films digitized and color corrected. These students showed their films, along with a Jones Collection 16mm print of UN CHIEN ANDALOU, at Top Ten Records in December!
KERA’s FRAME OF MIND latest season included an episode on Norm Hitzges, which featured footage from our collection. NORM HITZGES: AN OPINIONATED HISTORY OF DALLAS SPORTS had a special advanced screening at the Alamo Drafthouse before premiering on KERA in November.
Jones Collection curator Jeremy Spracklen attended the 2019 Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference in Baltimore. While there, as part of the festival’s archival screening night, Spracklen showcased our footage of the Velvet Underground at a Vietnam War protest on Dallas’ White Rock Lake.
One of the collection’s highlights this fall was the digitization of a WFAA audio reel,entitled “A Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Dallas. Please give it a listen and read some of the Dallas Morning News’ Robert Wilonsky much needed context here.
The Video Association of Dallas donated over 30 years of media materials to the Jones Collection, including features and shorts from its storied local festival, VIdeofest. We at the Jones Collection couldn’t be more excited about this donation! Stay tuned for a more formal announcement to come!;
As we mentioned, this is the Collection’s 50th Anniversary, and we’ve had a number of exciting events in store including:
January 19, 2020 at 7:00 pm – The historic Texas Theatre will screen our beautiful 35mm print of the 1947 Bogart & Bacall noir, DARK PASSAGE. Tickets and info can be found here.
January 30, 2020 – The Jones Collection will offer tour of our facilities for attendees of the World Languages and Literature Department 2020 Film Festival, followed by a panel discussion and a screening of JUKE JOINT, which will be introduced by SMU film faculty member, Kevin Heffernan.
February 6, 2020 – The Jones Collection and the SMU’s Friends of the Library are so excited to host an evening with WFAA’s Tracey Rowlett, Doug Fox, Byron Harris, and John Sparks, discussing their favorite stories from the 1970s and behind-the-scenes tales from newsroom, along with footage from our collection. Current WFAA reporter, Chris Sadeghi, will moderate.
For more information on these and other events in 2020, check out our Facebook and Twitter.
The Jones Collection screened prints for SMU classes, continued its monthly series at the historic Texas Theatre, and had several prints travel nationally and abroad. These include:
DEADLY SPAWN – 35mm – The Texas Theatre
THE BLOOD OF JESUS – DCP – Zurich
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER – 35mm – SMU
BLOOD OF A POET – 16mm – Top Ten Records
UN CHIEN ANDALOU – 16mm – Top Ten Records
And we’ve got some big 2020 films lined up for classes at SMU and public screenings beyond, including:
SULPHUR SPRINGS SILENT FILMS
I AM A FUGITIVE ON THE CHAIN GANG
LET THERE BE LIGHT
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
I AM JOAQUIN
In the Media
The Jones Collection was more than busy in the final quarter of 2019, and our footage could be seen everywhere! Here are just a few of the notable highlights:
Allyson Packer: Sounding On view February 7 – March 29, 2020
Monday – Thursday | 9 AM – 9 PM
Friday | 9 AM – 6 PM
Saturday | 12 – 5 PM
Sunday | 2 – 9 PM
Opening Reception with the artist | Friday, February 7 | 5 – 7 pm
The Hawn Gallery is pleased to present Allyson Packer: Sounding, a site-specific, interactive installation spanning all four floors of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU. With looping video, text-based instructions, and subtle interventions into the architecture and resources of the library, Packer offers viewers an encounter with the possibility of the infinite. While infinity may only exist as a concept, spaces like libraries, Packer argues, can suggest it. The building itself has clearly defined boundaries, and at any given time the physical and digital materials that make up its collection of resources can be quantified numerically. There is a sense of impalpable depth too contained within The Hamon Library, the sublime potential of what is already known, what could be known, what is not yet known, and what is unknowable. The exhibition’s title, Sounding, describes the process of measuring— originally with lead and line, today with sonar— the depth of a body of water, without making direct physical contact with it. Likening the contents of the library to a body of water, the pieces included in this installation act as sounding instruments to plumb the collection’s literal and metaphorical depths. Water, in many different forms, recurs thematically across the whole exhibition. It appears in direct citation of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings, in reference to a fountain outside of the library, in imagery based on folders containing sheet music from the Hamon stacks, and on the public computer desktops.
For several months, Packer has visited the library regularly. She spent long afternoons wandering the stacks, getting to know Hamon’s internal and external rhythms and overlooked quirks. This extended visitation with no other purpose allows her to develop an outsider’s peculiar knowledge of the place that’s at once intimate and remote. The resulting interventions into the space deviate only slightly from a patron’s usual experience of the library. Most are subtle to the point of precarity— the term that French art historian, Anna Dezeuze, in Almost nothing: Observations on precarious practices in contemporary art, uses to describe artworks that exist on the verge of disappearing into the fabric of the everyday (5). By existing on the border between perceptible and imperceptible, Packer’s work redirects viewers’ attention to their own bodies, and their awareness of their presence in a space.
Allyson Packer will speak about her work at the opening reception on Friday, February 7.
Allyson Packer makes artwork that engages viewers in an examination of the myths and values embedded in the built environment. Her installations and performances have been shown at Nahmad Projects (London), Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago), and Birds + Richard (Berlin), among other venues. Her upcoming solo exhibition, Inland Sea, will open at the Las Cruces Art Museum’s Brannigan Cultural Center in July 2020. Packer earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in Denton, Texas, where she is a faculty member in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas.
Image courtesy of the artist.
Dezeuze, Anna. Almost Nothing : Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017.
We in the Hamon Arts Library were saddened by the news that our friend Professor Emanuel Borok passed away on January 4. Among others, there have been many wonderful tributes to Mr. Borok by the Meadows School of the Arts and the Dallas Symphony, detailing accomplishments both in artistry as violinist and in teaching throughout his remarkable musical career.
Additional online forums and social media sites mentioned Mr. Borok’s kindness and beneficence as colleague, teacher, and friend. In Hamon, we experienced the same. It was always a pleasure to assist him when he visited. Simple library transactions—requests for purchasing or locating specific performing editions of music–invariably morphed into friendly chats, many times switching playfully from English to German or some other language. Topics ranged from travel stories, to favorite composers, and on one occasion, a recommendation for the Martin Scorsese film documentary My Voyage to Italy. He also supported the library by donating music scores and recordings to the Hamon collections.
I addressed Mr. Borok as “Il Maestro” and he would gently shake his head against such grandeur in address. But the designation was entirely appropriate. Merriam-Webster defines maestro as “a master, usually in an art” including an “eminent…teacher of music.” He met all of these distinctions and did so as a generous, kind person. It was a privilege to know him and he will be missed.
We invite our readers to share their remembrances in the comments, below.