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This post comes to us from Jenna Collins, Curatorial Intern

Morrill Rowena, Twilight Terrors, National Lampoon Vacation cover

Rowena, A. Morrill, Twilight Terrors, 1979. Oil on illustration board. National Lampoon Vacation cover, ca. 1980.

Currently displayed in the New Britain Museum of American Art, Rowena A. Morrill’s Twilight Terrors was commissioned in 1979 for the National Lampoon Vacation cover. It depicts the wild imagination of a young boy who envisions a terrifying dragon reaching out for him as he walks along a road at night. This charming painting captured my heart and imagination as it brought me back to a time when I, too, would fill the empty darkness of my room with wild imaginings of beasts and dragons.

As a child I was fascinated with the exciting and fanciful worlds created within the books I brought home from the library each week. The thrill and allure of a chilling mystery or a heroic adventure always kept me reading way past my bed time, filling my imagination with visions of monsters and worlds beyond the stars. Those nail biting epics inspired my love for illustration and I became intrigued by the artists who could transform these fantastical descriptions of monsters and their worlds into an illustration that captures not only an image but also the energy of the character. Continue Reading »

This post comes to us from Sarah Schaller, Curatorial Intern.

Installation artist Soo Sunny Park has always been intrigued by the space between the physical and imaginary worlds. Her work consistently explores that liminal, or in-between, space with her use of light and shadow. The New Britain Museum of American Art is excited to exhibit her new installation Boundary Conditions in the LeWitt staircase.

sunny-blog

Soo Sunny Park’s Boundary Conditions , 2013-2014. Stainless steel, Plexiglass, paint. Commissioned through the Alice Osborne Bristol Fund. Photo by Nick Artymiak.

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This post is brought to you by Anna Rogulina, Assistant Curator.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of catching up with Kathleen Kolb and finding out a little more about what drives the art of this talented Vermont-based painter.

Kathleen Kolb Twilit House

Kathleen’s Twilit House (2013), Winner of Viewers’ Choice Award! Oil on panel, 18 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Anna Rogulina (AR): What first inspired you to become an artist? What compels you to make art?

Kathleen Kolb (KK): Two things come to mind: beauty and illusion.  I have always found beauty compelling and transfixing.  And what I’ve been compelled to do is to try to transfix my experience of beauty to share with others.  I’ve also found visual illusions delightful since I was young.  Once when I was 4 I woke up early on Sunday morning and was playing with my brothers before our parents got up.  We rearranged some small bookshelves and a table to create a little playhouse and were having a wonderful time.  Then I got the brilliant idea that if I drew pictures of my brothers on the backs of the bookshelves (facing out), (imaginary) passers-by would believe those were windows and that they were seeing my brothers inside!  This I commenced to do with the total belief that the illusion would be absolutely convincing!

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NBMAA Caption Contest

Caption Conetst OctoberThis October, we’re challenging our visitors and readers to submit a creative caption for Don Maitz’s illustration for Balance of Power.

Fill out a caption card and drop it in the box hanging in the gallery or simply write in the comment section below. Don’t forget to leave us your contact information so we can send you a free year-long family membership if you are the winner. Take a look below to see who you’re up against!

I control space and time, but my skirt is still too short.

August

These are my favorite bouncy balls; I got them at Target. Aren’t they fabulous?

Josh Blumenthal

What comes from the Earth must rise to the sky.

Heather MacFarlane

You can never find a taxi-cab in absolute reality when you really need one!

Howard Brender

The ferocity of art transcends time and space.

Magdalena Kinga

So many worlds to conquer and just so little time. It’s exausting, really.

Lisa Merrill

Is there a choice?

Katherine Corbett

I am the world!

Nicole Maisto

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.

Aron

You get the best of both worlds.

Kendra Madia

I have more issues than Vogue!

Emma Edwards

Time does not exist.

Annette Tillmann

This post comes to us from Rena Tobey, Speaker, Wednesday’s at 1 p.m. 

Woman with Book, ca. 1910.  William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941).  Oil on canvas on board.  1981.16.

Woman with Book, ca. 1910. William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941). Oil on canvas on board. 1981.16.

Woman with Book by William McGregor Paxton, currently hanging in the NBMAA Impressionist Gallery, was painted the same year as his wife Elizabeth Okie Paxton made The Breakfast Tray.  Come join us for Wednesday’s at 1 p.m. on October 23, 2013 as we explore a very provocative painting, a very modern marriage, and one of the better American artists who is likely to be brand new to you.

To tease you further, I cannot show you an image of The Breakfast Tray here.  It resides in a private collection, and I do not have permission to “publish” it in this blog post.  Now, you have to come to the talk, which will be filled with images galore!

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NBMAA has its Own Armory Show

This post comes to us from artist and NBMAA docent Ronald Abbe.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912 by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) was among the most radical works exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show. Oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 35 1/8 in. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

One hundred years ago New Yorkers reacted with shock and awe to the Armory Show of 1913. This was their first encounter with European modernism as represented most notably by Picasso and Matisse.  When the show moved on to Boston and Chicago the reception slipped to actual dismay.  Students at the Art Institute of Chicago burned paintings by Matisse (in effigy).

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Have you recently ventured into the Contemporary Gallery at the NBMAA? Wondering what the futuristic sound-dome is all about? LIsten in as the artist-mastermind behind The Road Not Taken, Jason Huff, and Curatorial Intern, Emily Sesko, discuss  the work and muse about art and life.

Emily Sesko (ES): A few of your projects “zoom in” on an interaction between literature and algorithmic computer functions. How would you say your experiences with these projects, like “AutoSummarize” or “The Road Not Taken” have affected your perspective on literature, or have they not?

Jason Huff (JH): I think about literature differently now. I keep trying to imagine the 30 million or more books on Google Books, plus all of the other texts on sites like Project Gutenberg, and it’s overwhelming. When I created “AutoSummarize,” I was interested in Markov string generators and how computer algorithms could learn English-language grammars. I was curious to find the algorithms’ limits.

In “AutoSummarize,” I use Microsoft Word’s summary algorithm to create the summaries. It was absurd to me that software engineers had built a tool that would let users summarize any body of text to 1% of its original length. (Maybe it makes sense for business documents, but I’m still not convinced.) When I started using Word to summarize entire books, the results were unexpected. Suddenly, I was reminded of all the Cliffs Notes I read in high school, of classic books, only these summaries were even more succinct — ridiculously so. The summaries felt like parodies of the originals, but also true to the way reading and writing has changed over the years.

Microsoft added AutoSummarize to Word in 1997. Each new version includes some upgraded version of the function. There are some basic rules that apply to the summaries; word count, capitalization, etc. Outside of those rules, the algorithm is a bit of a mystery. Making the work was my way of trying to understand two things: one, how Word’s AutoSummarize function produces its summaries, and two, how an algorithm can tell stories.

To me, it is fascinating that algorithms are making content decisions. It’s not a big secret; everyone knows that algorithms power things like Google Search and grammar-correcting word-processing programs. What is interesting is how often people take these complicated equations for granted. If we start to think of them as authors of content — or co-authors — that collaborate with us to generate meaning and poetry, things start to get a lot more interesting. “The Road Not Taken” really points to this idea. It asks viewers to pause and think about the millions of other people and entities who co-create search suggestions, including the algorithm itself, their own personal search histories and current location notwithstanding. The scale of conditional factors is really tremendous, and the way the resulting prosaic language (in the case of Google search suggestions) is presented is meant to feel like a default choice. It’s designed to be seen and clicked, but not really thought about. It’s like Google saying, “Follow the easy paths. We know you like them.”

So I think there is a second author hiding in plain sight, and remixing not only our very interesting historic literature, but also the everyday junk language we use to search the Web. I think phenomena like Google search suggestions are just as influential to pop culture as a pop-novelist whose writing reflects a particular moment. Our own everyday story is being told back to us in these fractured web- and software interfaces all the time. It is its own kind of literature. Continue Reading »

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