Meet Our Spring Interns: Alessia, Kyrie, Oscar

As our spring interns wrap up their time at the Phillips, they share what they hoped to achieve during their internships and what they have been working on over the past few months.

Alessia Amato, Georgetown University

“My name is Alessia Amato. I recently moved to Washington, DC, from Long Island, New York, and am a second semester graduate student in the Art and Museum Studies program at Georgetown University. While I appreciate the contributions of all departments within a museum, I am most interested in the Development Department. As a Development Intern at The Phillips Collection, I researched current and prospective art donors while managing the art donor project, compiling and organizing data regarding artwork that was donated to the museum. This project was a major component of the Phillips’s fundraising and strategic plan. My experience in this department solidified my interest in advancing in a career in development, especially at an art museum. During my free time, I enjoy vintage shopping, hiking, making clay jewelry, and visiting museums and galleries (when they’re open).”

Kyrie Blackman, Morehouse College

“My name is Kyrie Blackman, and I am a 2020 graduate of Morehouse College where I earned my bachelor’s in Sociology. I am a Los Angeles native and transferred to Morehouse after earning my associates degree from Cerritos College. I am passionate in the arts and curating after spending my free time volunteering and interning at various museums. I am very excited for this internship opportunity and to work with the DEAI Department (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion) and I hope to gain even more insight into how museum institutions function. Though the pandemic has shifted our lives very abruptly, I am thankful for the opportunity it has presented me in connecting with the Phillips and its diverse staff. From the insightful dialogue with members of my cohort, unique activities within our anti-racism trainings, and personal check-ins with my mentor Yolanda Hester, I have amassed great knowledge and warm energy at the Phillips. I have been given the opportunity to create a newsletter centered around DEAI inspired news and information that I am grateful for. As the DEAI Intern I was also tasked to reach out to past interns and fellows to conduct the 2021 alumni survey.”

Oscar Flores-Montero, Elon University

“My name is Oscar Flores-Montero and I recently graduated from Elon University with a bachelor’s degree in arts administration and minor in business administration and studio visual arts. Raised in Durham, North Carolina, I am thrilled to be setting my sights on Washington, DC. Furthermore, I’m incredibly excited and honored to be interning at The Phillips Collection during its 100th year celebration. As an aspiring curator, I look forward to learning all there is to know about representation within 21st century modern art throughout my internship. The Phillips Collection has an incredibly multi-talented museum staff and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to learn from and work beside them this spring. I hope to broaden my knowledge of modern art, learn from their experiences working at The Phillips Collection, and look forward to surrounding myself with others who love modern art. While at the Phillips, I have had the privilege of working in the Curatorial Department. I’ve worked on public programming for our upcoming Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle exhibition, as well as working to support our other upcoming shows such as the juried exhibition. Many of my day-to-day tasks involve research, meeting with other departments to discuss future programs, and helping my supervisors with editing.”

Seeing Differently: John Akomfrah

The Phillips Collection engages with local voices by asking community members to write labels in response to works in the collection. Read some here on the blog and also in the galleries of Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century. How do these perspectives help you see differently? What would you write about these artworks?

John Akomfrah, Transfigured Night, 2013, Two channel HD color video installation, 5.1 sound, 26 minutes 31 seconds, Ed. 2 of 5, The Phillips Collection, The Dreier Fund for Acquisitions, 2019

A passionate string sextet, a Late Romantic poem in five stanzas, “Five Allegories on the Narcoleptic State.”

What unites these contradictory visions?

What truths of human existence are reflected?

Transfigured night.

Darkness to light. Fear to love. Sacrifice to redemption. Misery to ecstasy. Immanence to transcendence.

Or is it the opposite?

A retrograde inversion?

A forgotten or neglected promise.

Emancipation. Democracy. Freedom. Self-sustainability. The Land. Equality. Justice. Unalienable rights. Life. Liberty. Happiness.

Fast forward to 2020 and one too many brutal police slayings of an African-American.

There is beauty and truth in ambiguity. Contrasting colors, sounds, and rhythms. Motion and stasis, darkness and light. Multi-dominance—like the myriad contrasting patterns and colors in much African art and music. The non-linear/cyclical narrative.

Holding a mirror to Romantic and Democratic ideals.

Will our night be transfigured?

Will we ever stop striving? Yearning?

Myra Melford, Pianist and Composer

Dandelion Clock’s Meditative Aura 

Sherman Fairchild Fellow Ariana Kaye on Jeanne Silverthorne’s artistic process.

On March 24, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual meditation and spotlight on Jeanne Silverthorne’s Dandelion Clock, guided by yoga teacher Aparna Sadananda and Phillips educator Donna Jonte as part of their weekly meditation series. This week was particularly special, as we got to hear from the artist herself after deep reflection and contemplation of her work.

Jeanne Silverthorne, Dandelion Clock, 2012, Platinum silicone rubber, phosphorescent pigment, and wire, 33 x 29 x 16 in., The Phillips Collection, Purchase, The Hereward Lester Cooke Memorial Fund, 2014 

Jeanne Silverthorne first presented her work at the Phillips in 2013 as part of Intersections, a series in which contemporary artists engage the museum’s collection and architecture in different ways, creating aesthetically and conceptually diverse projects and employing varied media and approaches. Silverthorne paired 15 of her sculptures with 10 still life paintings from The Phillips Collection for her “intersection.” She titled it Vanitas!, referring to the transience of life and our mortality, while suggesting renewal and possibility, a “becoming and an undoing.” The clock in the title refers to the becoming and undoing of the dandelion, between its inception and its disappearance in nature.

During the spotlight talk, Silverthorne shared her artistic practice. She began using rubber in the 1970s after she walked into an art supply store and saw a bottle of latex rubber. She had previously been using hard plaster, but it was heavy and brittle, so after using latex rubber one time, she loved it. It is a material that cannot be broken, retains a sense of liquidity, and resembles a flesh-like material as it flops around unless it is arranged it in a particular shape. To create her rubber sculptures, Silverthorne starts with clay, modeling the shape of what she wants to create. On top of the clay, she constructs a rubber mold. When the mold is hard, she removes the clay, leaving a negative impression of the rubber. She then adds a release agent (such as Vaseline) so that what she pours into the mold doesn’t stick to it. She pours premium silicone rubber into the mold in different colors and leaves it in for 30 minutes to 16 hours.

The mixing table in Silverthorne’s studio, courtesy of the artist: “What is pictured are the buckets for the two-part silicone rubber, some silicone thinner to make the rubber flow better into narrow spaces, various pigments, and a couple of newly cast rubber hemlock flowers, part of a piece under construction.”

Silverthorne has been casting dandelions out of rubber for years. The flowers of the dandelion are made through a meticulous process of coating each white part of the flower in rubber, and the brown parts of the stem are cast in a mold replicated over 20 times. The rubber has phosphorus in it, making it glow in the dark, which, for Silverthorne, represents the perseverance of life after darkness and hardship. At the end of a tough time, there is hope.

The work itself is an enlargement of the dandelion. Silverthorne makes most of her works either in miniature or extra large. She quotes her rationale from William James: “We learn most of the thing from viewing it under a microscope or in its most exaggerated form.” By looking at the dandelion in its large form, we learn about the intricacies of the flower. Silverthorne recently found out that you can make rubber itself from a dandelion! Dandelions emit a juice of latex, and latex is rubber. The juice that dandelions emit presents a hope for the use of more eco-friendly materials. Silverthorne mentioned that people have been using plants to make rubber for centuries.

The artist also shared the vast historical significance of dandelions as well as some interesting facts about the plant: Dandelions can remain in place for up to 16 years. Each piece of fluff can make hundreds more dandelions. Flowers are common symbols: roses connote love; dandelions signify fate and chance. The game “She loves me, she loves me not” (now usually played with a flower with petals) used to be played on a dandelion: A person would think about someone, then blow on each fluff, ending up with a prophecy about whether or not they are loved by the person they were thinking about. Additionally, the dandelion (in its flower form) was called the “shepherd’s timepiece” or the “shepherd’s clock” because the petals of the dandelion open when the sun rises and close during darkness. Shepherds were so attuned to this process that it helped them figure out the time of day.

To learn more about artists from the collection through a lens of wellness, join us for Aparna Sadananda and Donna Jonte’s weekly meditation, every Wednesday at 12:45 pm on Zoom.