Volunteer Spotlight: Michael D. Farley

In this series, Education Department Coordinator Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. The Phillips Collection volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concert, assisting patrons in the Library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Michael D. Farley, Art Information Volunteer Mentor/Phillips after 5 Volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight - Michael Farley

Michael D. Farley

What year did you start volunteering at The Phillips Collection?
2013

What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?
Supporting the Phillips, working with staff & guests, learning about the collection.

 What do you do when you are not volunteering at The Phillips Collection?
Chief Development Officer-American Society of International Law

What is your favorite room or painting here?
Jacob Lawrence & Rothko room

If you had to choose one word to describe Phillips, what would it be?
Dynamic

Share a fun fact about you!
My first nonprofit job was as a Development Director of the Portland Art Museum in Portland, OR, in 1986, and there I created the popular “Museum After Hours” program still going strong today, very similar to Phillips After 5.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
Enjoy Thursday evening volunteering and working the Will Call desk

The Dancing Trees of Milton Avery’s Imagination

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Milton Avery, Dancing Trees, 1960. Oil on canvas, 52 x 66 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection © 2015 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In his mid-seventies, Milton Avery brought decades of visual experience to bear on his perceptions of the world and an inclination toward simplification that may have intensified with his advancing age. At times, the artist’s late paintings veer so close to pure abstraction that only their titles enable the viewer to recognize the scene that has stirred Avery’s imagination. Such is the case here: three monumental cones swaying in the wind take flight as trees en pointe, their girth making for a comic ballet.

A few weeks ago, prompted by a free-writing exercise based around this piece, we asked visitors to Seeing Nature and social media followers what they saw in this work without providing the title. Answers included floating pizza slices, icebergs, a gnome village, stingrays, and more. What do you see?

The Last View of a Childhood Imagination

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Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903. Oil on canvas, 42 1/4 x 42 1/4 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

In the Seeing Nature exhibition, the Phillips invites visitors to contribute new, imagined conservation discoveries at our interpretive station, “Seeing Beyond the Frame.” For the month of March, exhibition-goers responded to Birch Forest, painted by Gustav Klimt in 1903.

Perhaps due to the poetic quality of Klimt’s work—the way shapes seem to shift from observed forms to an abstracted tapestry of patterns—or perhaps inspired by the recent poetry reading with Mark Doty and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, poetry abounds in this month’s responses. See more or share your own ideas with #SeeingNature.

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Inspired by the poetry of images in the exhibition, visitors have submitted a wide variety of poetic responses to Klimt’s Birch Forest.

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