A Visit to the Mattatuck Museum
I had a fantastic trip to the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury last Saturday. This was the second weekend in a row that I’d been to the Matt.
There were four exhibits on view and I had an art group meeting with my Connecticut friends from SAQA at the Mattatuck Museum.
SAQA Meeting at the Mattatuck Museum
I made a short presentation to my group about our upcoming Inspired by Science Exhibition. I encouraged members to create and submit their works and answered a few questions. After our meeting, we got a tour of all four shows, which was wond-er-ful.
Some artists often struggle with how to get inspired in order to create new work. And I like to say that inspiration is every where. But one of the specific ways to get inspired is so obvious I wonder how anyone can miss it. To get inspired just look at other people’s work. Simple!!!
I had an awesome time at the Mattatuck Museum. As I was looking at the artworks I was also thinking about ways in which I could translate some of them into textiles.
Winslow Homer’s Exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum
One exhibit, in particular, was interesting to me in the sense that I could easily see how that would work in my style. It was Winslow Homer’s engravings.
Although Homer is mostly known for his oil and water color paintings, earlier in his life he took to printmaking and engravings.
To create the engravings, he drew on wooden blocks and then all the areas between the lines were carefully cut out to make the lines themselves stand out in relief. This then becomes a wood block/stamp used in printing copies of his drawings, mostly in newspapers.
The repeated straight lines looked like my stitch lines and I thought to myself, “that’s something I can do with thread”. So, I wasn’t surprised when one of my SAQA friends found me studying a Homer engraving said, “wow, that looks like the kind of work you do.”
Dmitri Wright’s Exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum
Another exhibition that I enjoyed at the Mattatuck Museum, was Dmitri Wright’s which was located on the second floor of the Matt. Wright’s was a retrospective of a lot of the work he’d done over his art career.
Some of the pieces were on loan from collectors while others were supplied by the artist himself. He uses a bright color palette which elicits joy and excitement.
Although I love Dmitri’s bright color palette, I was most intrigued by one of his pieces called, “Nocture”. It was contrary to his signature bright color.This color scheme was very dark, mostly dark blues, but it had a presence around it that was just engulfing.
Important Observations from The Mattatuck Museum
I made two important observations from both the Homer Exhibit and the Wright exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum.
It Takes Practice to Find Your Voice
The first was that with all the talk about finding your voice as an artist and sticking to it, the retrospective of these two artists show that they both worked on different things prior to finding the voices for which they were eventually known for.
It Takes Time to Find Your Voice
Secondly, I noticed that it took at least 10 years for each artist to dabble in different techniques until they found the voices for which they’ll later be remembered.
I think these are two very important observations which should be helpful to anyone who is still on their path of discovering their voices.
In his early career, Winslow Homer created engravings and later paintings. Early in Wright’s life he painted portraits and some stills. But later, he focused on landscapes in the impressionist style.
Wright is a poet in addition to being a painter. Here’s one of his poems:
Dmitri Wright’s Poem
Painting with the eye simply makes one a camera
Painting with the intellect makes one a philosopher
Painting with the heart makes one a poet
Painting with the spirit touches the divine ~ Dmitri Wright
Wright’s writings also reminded me of the importance of keeping notes in your daily sketchbook practice.
The Makings of an Enthralling Museum Visit
I must admit that I was so enthralled with Wright’s paintings that the first time I saw the exhibit, I spent over an hour on the second floor just enjoying his works alone. Also, his writings, poems, and artist statements created a wonderfully engaging experience. When I stepped out of the door of the second-floor gallery, I suddenly realized I’d come back to reality.
It was so surreal. I’d never before felt this way seeing art. It’s the kind of feeling you get when you’re so engrossed in a fiction book. And then suddenly someone interrupts you and you realize you’re still sitting in a chair in a very familiar place and not in a scene in the book you’re reading. It was a good feeling.
This is explained in the Sept/Oct issue of Art New England, in an article entitled “Our Brains on Art: Neuroscientists Investigate“. In it, Emily Avery-Miller, the author, explains why museums should aim at engaging museum visitors on multiple senses because it makes for a better experience. I couldn’t agree with her more.
Now, let’s talk about the textile installation, which was the main reason for our SAQA meeting at the Mattatuck Museum. It is breathtaking.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been getting interested in textile installations. If you’re on my mailing list, you know I often find and showcase installation artists in my weekly notes.
Nenne Okore’s Exhibit at the Mattatuck Museum
The artist for this installation is Nenne Okore. Nenne was born in Autralia, raised in Nigeria and now lives and works in Chicago. The title of her installation is “Ututu“. It is comprised of handmade paper, burlap, wax, dye, wire, and yarn.
Okore frays burlap and other fabrics. Then she dyes, stiffens and dries them for hours to create her installations. These time-consuming processes are reminiscent of many laborious women tasks which she encountered daily during her formative years in Nigeria.
“Ututu“, the title of her installation means “morning”, or new beginning. The objects on the floor are belly castings from different stages of her two pregnancies.
To make serious work you have to be able to articulate what you are doing and why. ~ Joe Cunningham
The Undeniable Lesson to be Learned
To Create Engaging Works, You Must Articulate What You’re Doing and Why
That quote right there is what these three exhibits display. For each of them, there was a narrative articulating a storyline – the why behind the artworks. So that when you’re viewing the exhibit, you’re enjoying the exhibit on more than one level – not just visually.
By the time, I got to the fourth exhibit which was by the Valley Girls, I’d been so visually stimulated, I couldn’t take in much more.
I enjoyed two pieces of work in that exhibit. One was a paper collage which had been made from cutouts and a watercolor of colanders.
I must admit I may have missed some other great pieces in this exhibit because, by this time, I was visually exhausted and ready for a break.
All-in-all, it was a good day. A good time with friends and great artwork to see.
Get behind the scenes and learn more about my art practice, events, exhibitions and release of new artworks
Also published on Medium.
Laura Bundesen says
Thanks Clara – inspiring article and it makes me want to hightail it to the museum!
Clara Nartey says
You’re welcome, Laura. There’s definitely something about seeing art that makes you want to run into your studio and create some more art. 🙂
I really like the way Dmitri Wright uses colors — has me thinking about a silk piecing project on my ideas list. I really want to see the Okore pieces in person, so maybe I can make it down to Waterbury while both installations are still there?
Clara Nartey says
If you can make it to Waterbury to see the exhibits, do!!! There’s so much inspiration to be had. Dmitri’s is excellent- so many pieces and so much to take in. Okore’s installation is breathtaking!