Staff Show 2013: Michelle Lisa Herman

In this series, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator Emily Bray profiles participants in the 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show. Join us for the Staff Show reception on October 10, from 5:30 to 8 pm.

michelle lisa herman_carnivale

Michelle Lisa Herman, Carnivale, 2013, Sumi ink and acrylic on mylar with a paper

Michelle Lisa Herman is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Washington, DC. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008 with a BFA in general fine art and art history. Her work spans a variety of media, from abstract painting to interactive installation, often exploring ideas of communication and a desire for connection in the digital age. She has exhibited her work nationally in a variety of spaces including the Smithsonian Institution International Gallery, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC Arts Center, Artisphere, and the Washington Project for the Arts. Michelle Lisa Herman is a member of the Sparkplug artist collective sponsored by the DC Arts Center.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?
I am the Digital Media Manager. One of the most interesting parts of my job is how it ends up overlapping with my art—sometimes I’ll be researching something for a piece and think of how it could be used at the Phillips or vice versa. I think being an artist has helped with a lot of larger projects as I have grown pretty skilled at seeing how individual, disparate elements will all come together.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?
Two of my favorite artists in our collection are Odilon Redon and Francis Bacon.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2013 Staff Show?
In my paintings I explore the essence of chance using a technique of painting called ‘decalcomania.’ By pressing ink or paint between two surfaces and then pulling them apart, I am able to create complex fractal patterns that upon deeper observation can take on a variety of interpretations—from mountainous landscapes to mythical creatures. I am fascinated with this method of painting as it allows me to remove the artist’s hand from a material that compels it.

The 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view September 23, 2013 through October 20, 2013. The show features artwork from Phillips Collection staff.

Emily Bray, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator

Georges Braque: A Closer Look

In conjunction with the exhibition Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928-1945, colleagues from digital media, audio visual support, curatorial, and communications departments created a collection of short videos based on the technical examinations of four Braque paintings in our collection. These studies revealed new discoveries about Braque’s working methods, his palette, pigments, and the layering structure and composition of his materials. The videos are organized into chapters and feature associate conservator Patricia Favero narrating her findings. She examines paintings in visible, raking, and ultraviolet light and with a stereo-microscope and an infrared camera.

When Does Art Become Multimedia?

Two visitors sit on a bench in the middle of the Rothko Room at the Phillips

Oil on canvas or multimedia? Image: The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Photo: Benjamin Resine

Recent discussions of Bernhard Hildebrandt’s A Conjugation of Verb both here and elsewhere have encouraged me to reconsider the idea of “multimedia” art. The installation is a clear multimedia experience, combining visual art with sound and video to convey meaning. When visiting the exhibition last week, a friend commented that he found the work especially interesting within the context of a collection dominated by more straightforward examples of visual art. His remark prompted me to consider the extent to which many, if not all, pieces of art in the Phillips can actually be seen as multimedia works.

Take, for example, the Rothko Room. Unlike some of the Phillips’s more open galleries, this space is very small and intimate, eliciting silence and contemplation. The layout of the room is also of note; when Rothko visited the Phillips in 1961, he requested that the furniture in the space be limited to a single bench. In this sense, though the four Rothko paintings are remarkable and evocative on their own, the experience of viewing them at the Phillips is inseparable from the experience of inhabiting the gallery itself. The space—from its size and attributes to its ambience and furnishings (or lack thereof)—can be considered not only a vehicle for viewing the medium of art, but a medium itself.

We often don’t consider the ways in which the color of a wall or the lighting of a room affects our interpretation of an artwork. Yet all of these media, though traditionally seen as external to the artwork, form a context inextricably tied to our perceptions. With its carefully mediated spaces, Hildebrandt’s installation seems to make that concept explicit. What experiences have you had when place came together with art?

Marissa Medansky, Director’s Office Intern