Legitimate Likenesses: how museum objects inspire
February 6, 2015 - Alice Dansey-Wright
Alice Dansey-Wright, Artist & Illustrator, writes about how the American Museum collection has inspired and influenced her work.
I found out about the American Museum in Britain by chance – I happened to pick up a greetings card when I was travelling through Oxford which had a quilt on the front of it. I was intrigued by the museum as much of the inspiration for my work comes from folk art and I feel that it has many similarities with contemporary illustration. To me, they are both more concerned with the integrity of endeavour and presence of personality rather than academic correctness (certainly in terms of scale and proportion). I also create a lot of textile designs so I was very interested in visiting the textile collection at the museum.
I submitted a proposal to the Glasgow Visual Arts and Craft Award Scheme run by Glasgow City Council and Creative Scotland and received a grant to take a short research trip to Bath which would allow me spend a couple of days immersed in the collections- to see them first-hand and conduct primary research. I had a wonderful time at the museum and received lots of information and help from Curatorial Assistant Beatrice Goddard. During my trip I spent time sketching, photographing and taking notes and was particularly enthused by the textile collection, the scrimshaw artefacts and the Renaissance map collection.
I soon had lots of ideas for new work that I wanted to make, directly inspired by my visit to the museum and I submitted a proposal to The Lighthouse – Glasgow (Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture) for an exhibition in their review gallery. I created an exhibition for the gallery entitled ‘Legitimate Likenesses’ which ran from November 2014- January 2015. The exhibition title referred to the folk art portraits but also to the map collection at the museum, many of which claim to be (legitimate) likenesses of the New World.
The work created for the exhibition included 24 digital prints influenced by the background and hidden detailing in quilt designs; a selection of hand-painted porcelain inspired by the etched Scrimshaw at the Museum; and some textile designs and vinyl pieces which explored the map collection. Alongside my work, the American Museum sent me a selection of books about the collections for visitors to the exhibition to look through, and I also showed the animated Folk Art Gallery film at the entrance to the gallery. During the exhibition period I was also lucky to be able to conduct two workshops which focussed on collaborative painting onto fabric, directly inspired by the group activity of quilt-making. Finally, leading up to the Christmas period, I held some pop up shops selling products relating to the exhibition including jewellery, embossed leather purses and risograph prints.
Alice Dansey-Wright, Artist & Illustrator, Glasgow
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