Friday, September 28, 2007

Nosotros por Nosotros: Latinos in Nevada Tell Their History

In an effort to promote cross-cultural understanding and awareness, the Latino Research Center of the University of Nevada, Reno, recently distributed five hundred disposable cameras to Nevada’s Latino communities, asking them to tell their stories using photographs. Second-grade soccer players, middle-aged casino workers, and seasoned professionals captured their daily experiences, creating a rich and diverse language of imagery. Nosotros por Nosotros features a selection of these photographs and investigates the traditions and transitions experienced by Nevada’s Latino community.

The essence of the phrase “Nosotros por Nosotros” cannot be translated, but even its literal Spanish meaning—“us by us”—implies a strong sense of personal identity and community. The project was envisioned as a way to empower Latinos to create, rather than adopt, their own cultural identities—ones untainted by stereotypical labels placed upon them by others. At the same time, the images provide non-Latino populations with an opportunity to dispel their misperceptions about Hispanic cultures.

This exhibition is presented in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration that runs from September 15 to October 14, 2007. As a part of the Nosotros por Nosotros project, the Latino Research Center will create a publication and accompanying CD with additional images and oral histories. These materials will be distributed to every library in the state of Nevada. In this way, the Latino Research Center hopes to sustain the message of the Nosotros por Nosotros project: to capture and reveal the interwoven voices of Nevada’s Latino population.

The Nosotros por Nosotros project is generously funded by the Hart Foundation and the University of Nevada, Reno, College of Liberal Arts.

Kate Raudenbush :: Guardian of Eden

Artist Kate Raudenbush’s large-scale, outdoor sculpture, Guardian of Eden, is an intricately designed twelve-petal lotus flower made from plasma-cut steel. It stands over nineteen feet in diameter, and nearly eighteen feet high, and is inspired by Hindu creation myths and Egyptian and Buddhist symbolism. It contains twelve white l.e.d. lights inside of glass globes on the tips of each petal, as well as a blue-green light that emanates from beneath the sculpture, casting watery, organic shadows across the ground. You’ll find more information about the sculpture at the artist’s Web site and the Guardian of Eden Web site, and information about the background of the Egyptian and Hindu myths informing its creation at these Web sites about the Flower of Life and Vishnu’s sacred lotus, Padma.

Guardian of Eden was designed to express the Burning Man theme for 2007, The Green Man. As Raudenbush explains, “Guardian of Eden frames our current ecological crisis within the petals of the sacred lotus flower—the mythological seat of creation and the symbol of enlightenment. In Hindu creation mythology, a new era of time is created after a lotus flower blooms. As a meditation on our own era of time, this steel lotus flower blooms before us as a physical reflection of the fierceness and beauty of our planet under threat. She is the guardian of the Eden that once was. At night, the ancient Egyptian Flower of Life symbol radiates from the heart of the lotus reminding us of the interconnectedness of all life. Guardian of Eden is a gathering space for us to consider our role in this turbulent age and to recognize that [Earth’s] survival is intimately connected to our own. It is up to us to define what this new era of time will be. It is we who are the Guardians of Eden.”

Raudenbush is an interactive installation sculptor, green-furniture designer, and photographer living in New York. In her eleven-year career as a photographer, she has collaborated with musicians, theaters, and a range of corporate clients. A graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Raudenbush also studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C., The International Center of Photography in New York, and The School of Visual Arts in New York. Guardian of Eden is the artist’s fourth sculpture to receive a grant from the Burning Man organization.

Guardian of Eden was commissioned by the Burning Man organization; the NMA thanks Burning Man for their support of this exhibition.

NMActivity: Mystery Texture Box

Activity Overview
As an element of design, texture is an important component of any art object, but one of the more difficult elements to analyze because it can be either real—as in the actual feel of a surface area (e.g. encaustic, impressionist oil paint strokes, or impasto [in which paint is applied so heavily that it feels, or would feel, rough to the touch]), or implied—as in the appearance or illusion of texture on a flat surface (e.g. the appearance of texture in a watercolor painting). Real texture is the appearance and the actual feel of an object’s surface. Implied textures simulate real texture by changing values, shapes, and lines. After using only their sense of touch to explore the real textures of objects in a “mystery box,” guests will use language arts and vocabulary skills to describe the textures of the objects in the “mystery box,” and then use their newfound language to discuss the texture—real or implied— of a work of art in a gallery.

Learning Objectives
Students should be able to:

  • Define texture
  • Explain the difference between real and implied texture in a work of art
  • Explain how texture affects the meaning, mood, or expression in an artwork


  • Mystery box or bag (opaque, such that guests can’t see through it)
  • Varied materials: gourds, tufa, rocks, tulle, velvet, sandpaper, feathers, foil, metal

Activity Steps
Pass the “mystery box” around the gallery, and invite guests to reach into the box (without looking) and feel the objects inside. Ask guests to choose one of the objects in the box, making sure they know not to pull it out of the box, feel it, and then pass the box along to the next person. Ask guests to use words to describe the texture of the “mystery box” object on which they had settled. Record their responses on paper, or by noting responses in a call-and-response format, and discuss the descriptive language used to describe the objects. Ask guests to speculate about what the object in the box might be. Explain that texture in artwork can be described using similar language.

Invite guests to sit in front of a work of art and to study it for a few moments. Then ask the group to use words to describe the texture—whether real or implied—of the artwork. If guests seem unsure of their ability to give the “right answer,” assure them that any response will be helpful, and ask directed questions to help them respond, such as:

  • What words would you use to describe the texture of the rocks in this painting?
  • How does the artist create the texture of the snow in this painting?
  • Does the material in the figure’s dress look soft or stiff in the painting of the dancer?
  • Does the basket look like it would feel smooth or rough? Why?

Talk about the artist’s use of materials in a work of art, and their use of tools in the application of texture. For example, invite guests to touch “Two Bears” downstairs in the lobby, and use the opportunity to discuss how the artist created the texture of the bears’ fur. Invite guests to speculate about what tools Maynard Dixon or Lovell Birge Harrison might have used to apply paint to their paintings “Sand Hill Camp” (Sierra Nevada / Great Basin Gallery) or “The Loggers” (E.L. Wiegand Gallery), respectively.

Review the objectives of the activity with guests at the conclusion of the tour. Ask them what they have learned during their time in the museum. Review the elements and principles of design, the definition of texture, its uses, and the idea that texture can be explained using descriptive language, especially adjectives.

Monday, September 10, 2007

NMActivity: 30-Second Look

Activity Overview

Museum researchers have found that 30 seconds is the average amount of time visitors spend in front of works of art. After looking at a work of art for only 30 seconds, guests will use their visual recall skills to discuss what they noticed in order to demonstrate that really seeing and reflecting on a work of art requires time.

Learning Objectives
Students should be able to:

  • Give reasons why more than 30 seconds is required to look at a work of art in order to gain an understanding of it
  • Give reasons why discussing a work of art with others increases everyone’s understanding of it


  • Pencils and paper (if desired—these are not necessary)

Activity Steps

Ask guests to estimate the average amount of time they think museum goers spend looking at an individual work of art. Record their responses on paper, or by noting responses in a call-and-response format, and discuss the factors the group believes affect the amount of time people spend looking at an artwork. Ask student guests how long they think adults spend, on average, looking at a work of art compared to their own time spent looking. Discuss some of the responses and why there might be a difference between an adult’s and a child’s looking. After students have responded, explain that museum researchers have observed that the average amount of time that adults spend looking at one object in a museum is less than 30 seconds. Is 30 seconds an adequate amount of time to spend looking at a work of art? Why or why not? Try the following experiment to illustrate and test guests’ responses.

Invite students to sit in front of a work of art and to study it for no longer than 30 seconds. Then ask the group to turn their backs to the artwork at which they have been looking.

While guests are turned away, ask them to list what they noticed in the work of art. Ask directed questions to help them recall, such as:

  • How many people are represented in the artwork?
  • How would you describe them?
  • How was each figure dressed?
  • What kind of setting is depicted?
  • Is the scene tidy or chaotic?
  • Are there any animals in the work of art?
  • How would you describe them?
  • What is the subject of the work of art?
  • What kind of mood has the artist created?

Ask guests to describe the one aspect of the artwork that they remember most vividly. Encourage all guests to share and discuss their responses. Did everyone notice the same things, or did they notice different elements? Comment on the variety of responses.

Invite guests turn back around and face the artwork once more. Ask them what they see that they did not notice the first time they looked. Guide guests through a careful re-examination of the artwork.

Ask guests to share their ideas about what the work of art may be about. If the work of art is narrative in nature, encourage students to speculate on the story. If the work is more abstract, encourage guests to speculate about what the artist may have been trying to present.

Ask guests to consider how much longer they spent looking at the artwork the second time. Was their first glance sufficient? Ask guests if discussing and comparing their observations with other people helped them to understand the work of art differently or better. Encourage guests to explain their responses.


Review the objectives of the activity with student guests at the conclusion of a tour. Ask student guests what they have learned during their time in the museum. Review the benefits of spending more than the average of 30 seconds looking at works of art.