Dispatches: Drawing with Children in Morocco, Part 1

Last year, Phillips Head Librarian Karen Schneider spent time in the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco, teaching drawing to school children. She recounts the experience in this two-part blog post.

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The view!

From Marrakesh, it was a journey of an hour and a half to the Ouirgane Valley in the High Atlas Mountains, a remote, little visited region of Morocco. We were deep in the countryside when the driver pulled up to a grove of olive, fig and pomegranate trees. There we met with a guide who asked me if I was okay with walking to our destination, the only primary school in the area, where my travel agent had made arrangements for me to teach drawing to children. As I entered the Marigha school, it took me a moment to adjust from the bright sunlight to the dark and dingy interior.

Thirty-two pairs of eyes were fixed on me with a mixture of curiosity and shock. The school didn’t have drawing paper, crayons, magic markers or art supplies in general, my travel agent alerted me in advance. I came with all of the above and the teacher, Abdellah Ait Ougadir, a relaxed, friendly man who had excellent rapport with the students, helped me to distribute art supplies as did my guide and the driver.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2.

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Students at work

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Students at work

When Art Becomes Yoga

What happens when we enter into an art room? I am not just talking about a gallery in a museum where there are various works on the walls, but rather a room that in itself becomes the work. A room in which when we enter, time seems to stop, all of our senses are expanded to their edge, and we take a minute to reflect. How do we get this meditative experience from art?

There are a couple of spaces like this in the Phillips: the Rothko Room and the Laib Wax Room. Maybe it is because of my roots in yoga, but these meditative spaces continue to be my favorite to frequent. I still remember the first time I stepped into each of them. Somehow, everything became clear to me, yet nothing made sense. This feeling never goes away, no matter how many times I enter and exit. Part of me feels trapped in this time and space, yet I am perfectly comfortable being there. I feel so comfortable because the art supports me. As I slowly drift into my own thoughts, the art is a crutch that remains a constant focal point for what I am experiencing.

These spaces achieve this in a different way:

Rothko provides a variety of images to rest the eyes on, allowing the viewer the ability to take a closer look inward. In yoga instructor terms, this is called “holding the space,” when a teacher creates a safe space for participants to relax fully.

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The Rothko Room at The Phillips Collection. Photo: Benjamin Resine

Laib does the meditation for you. When one enters his room, the surrounding hue of gold and sweet but subtle smell of wax mutes your senses, and your thoughts soon follow. This creates a buzz of relaxation and meditation that makes the space so pleasing.

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The Laib Wax Room at The Phillips Collection

This experience looks different to every visitor. Just like every yogi needs and takes something different from the practice, each visitor is in need of something different when they come to these rooms. They allow for viewers to engage with art in a way that is deeply personal and that is just as beautiful as the art itself.

Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern

Toulouse-Lautrec’s First Print

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque, on view Feb. 4 through April 30, 2017.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (left) Moulin Rouge, La Goulue, 1891. Brush and spatter lithograph, printed in black on two sheets of wove paper. Trial proof, 65 3/4 × 46 7⁄16 in. Private collection (right) Moulin Rouge, La Goulue, 1891. Brush and spatter lithograph, printed in four colors. Key stone printed in black, color stones in yellow, red, and blue on three sheets of wove paper, 75 3⁄16 × 46 1⁄6 in. Private collection

The newspapers have been very kind to our offspring. I’m sending you a clipping written in honey ground in incense. My poster has been a success on the walls.—Toulouse-Lautrec to his mother, 1891

Toulouse-Lautrec’s first attempt at printmaking was this poster used to advertise Montmartre’s entertainment hotspot. With it, he innovatively transformed an image drawn from popular culture into an iconic work of art marked by its modernity. It was the first to feature a star attraction, dancer La Goulue (The Glutton) who took erotic provocation to the extreme, delighting audiences with the chahut, a vigorous cancan. She was described in Le Figaro Illustré as “bending her body so much to convince you she was about to break in half, the folds of her dress were on fire.”

For the poster, Toulouse-Lautrec created sketches and a nearly full-size drawing. He transferred the image onto the lithographic stone with brush and crayon, and worked closely with printers to correct proofs produced from four separately inked stones. Due to its size, the work was printed on three sheets of paper. The nuanced tone of dance partner Valentin le Désossé (The Boneless), the figure in the foreground, was achieved through an inventive spatter technique. The silhouetted onlookers include the artist’s cousin Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran, dancer Jane Avril, artist William Warrener, and others. A unique trial proof in black and white (with the essential design) and an extremely rare version of the poster (before final lettering) are presented here. Comparing the images shows Toulouse-Lautrec’s inventive use of color and design to highlight the dizzying atmosphere of the cabaret and to accentuate the hair and dress of La Goulue. The performer’s most alluring traits (her risqué style and notorious legs) are emphasized in a larger-than-life-size work that secured her celebrity and brought Toulouse-Lautrec fame.

This poster stunned the public when it premiered in some 3,000 impressions throughout Paris. Artist Francis Jourdain recalled, “the shock…. This highly original poster, was, I remembered, carried along the Avenue de l’Opera on a kind of small cart, and I was so enchanted that I walked alongside it.” Critic Félix Fénéon declared posters to be “real art, by God! and it cries out, it’s part of life itself, it’s art that doesn’t fool around and real guys can get it.”