Staff Show 2014: Emily Francisco

In this series, Assistant to the Education Department Emily Bray profiles participants in the 2014 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show.

Emily Francisco is a sculptress specializing in the creation of interactive objects that generate sound. Born in Honolulu, raised in an isolated mid-western town, educated in Saint Louis and the District of Columbia—she is a former Artist in Residence at Artisphere, and will be in Residence at Montgomery College starting in January of 2015. She kicked off Flashpoint Gallery’s 2014-2015 season with a solo exhibition titled Something Slightly Familiar, and lectured at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art as part of the Luce Foundation Center’s Art + Coffee Series. She was also a Visiting Artist and Guest Lecturer at Webster University in Saint Louis as part of the Sculpture City 2014 initiative. Emily recently participated in Transformer Gallery’s Exercises for Emerging Artists Program, contributing work for the Coda of Fermata, the region’s largest exhibition dedicated entirely to sound. She currently lives and works in the DC area.

Emily Francisco, Nevermore, 2014, archival ink on paper

Emily Francisco, Nevermore, 2014, archival ink on paper

What do you do at The Phillips Collection?  Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I am a Museum and Audio Visual Assistant. When I am not guarding the collection or setting up audio and visual technical support for events, I am working on digitizing the media archives within the museum’s library.

Who is/are your favorite artist/artists in the collection?

As a sculptress and installation artist, I always root for the object/environment makers. While I enjoy the museum’s collection of Calder mobiles and various bronze sculptures, the Laib Wax Room is my favorite part of the collection. Although Bernardi Roig’s Intersections pieces are not part of the permanent collection, I will be sad to see them all go, especially An Illuminated Head for Blinky P. (The Gun).

What is your favorite gallery/space within The Phillips Collection?

I had read a number of essays by Joseph Beuys throughout my preliminary education in art, so I was naturally drawn to the Laib Wax Room when I started working for the Phillips. I visit the Wax Room during the quiet times in the galleries. The galleries located within Phillips’s original house are also some of my favorite spaces in the building.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2014 Staff Show (i.e. subject matter, materials, process, etc)?

A widow had delivered a grand piano to my studio. She wanted her husband’s piano to become something new—I accepted the challenge. I have always considered objects to be more than what they are made of, so by accepting her husband’s piano, it felt as if I had agreed to serve as a mediator of mourning. In considering the metaphorical weight of sentimental objects, I frequently render somewhat fantastical situations. Ravens are often depicted as mediators between life and death, which is why I chose to illustrate a flock, collectively, transporting an enormous weight through the sky.

The 2014 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view December 16, 2014 through January 19, 2015. The show features artwork from Phillips Collection staff.

What Happened to that Negative?

The image that Intersections artist Vesna Pavlović created with the deteriorated 8 x 10 negative from the museum archives is mysterious and fascinating to look at. But what happened to it?

Vesna Pavlović, Untitled (Swiss Peasant art exhibition, 1957.4) (2014), 40 x 50 in. Framed archival pigment print. Ed. of 5. Courtesy of the artist and G Fine Art

The installation shots of the Phillips’s 1957 show, Swiss Peasant Art, were taken using large format cellulose triacetate sheet film or safety film (so called because it was less flammable than the previously available nitrate film.) The film captured clear, detailed images but over time the acetate film base shrunk, pulling away from the emulsion and causing bubbles and an effect called channeling. Thankfully, the archives has a full set of 8 x 10 contact prints (created by sandwiching photographic paper and the negative, generating a print the same size as the negative and preserving detail).

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1927. This is the print from the deteriorated negative appropriated by Vesna Pavlovic. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1957. This is the print from the deteriorated negative adapted by Vesna Pavlović. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Swiss Peasant Art might seem like an unusual show for the Phillips, and it was. Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services—or SITES—the show was called “one of the most heartwarming exhibitions to be seen in Washington in a long time” in a review from The Washington Post. The objects were selected from Appenzell and Toggenburg and focused on the ceremony of Alpenaufzug, the annual upward trek of herds to the springtime mountain pastures. The show included paintings, wooden milk pails, cut brass, a clock, and other decorative items.

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1927. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Swiss Peasant Art exhibition at the Phillips, June 9-July 2, 1957. Photo: The Phillips Collection Archives, Washington DC.

Mining the Archives

Pavlovic_Phillips Flashback

(Left) Vesna Pavlović, Untitled (Swiss Peasant art exhibition, 1957.4), (2014). Courtesy of the artist and G Fine Art (Right) Vesna Pavlović, Installation view of Untitled (Annex, Giacometti exhibition, 1963), 2014. Photo: Mica Scalin

Intersections artist Vesna Pavlović, whose installation Illuminated Archive opened at the Phillips last week, mined the museum’s archival materials to create new works exploring the idea of transparency. The works above feature photographic negatives from exhibitions throughout Phillips history, altered in a variety of ways and to varying degrees.

What I love most about the work at right, a 35-foot curtain made up of digitally manipulated negatives from a 1963 Alberto Giacometti exhibition, is how necessary uncontrollable elements—weather, sunlight, time—are to the viewer experience. Pass by this work at high noon on a sunny day, and the curtain is nearly clear. Chance upon it at dawn or dusk, however, and the details of light and shadow are revealed. It feels like a secret, intimate moment shared between viewer and artwork; a playful approach to the idea of transparency and our perception of it.

Amy Wike, Marketing Manager