Object Lessons

Object Lesson: Art and Independence

Many artworks have been created within the context of resistance, and nowhere has this been vividly captured than in a painting by the Nigerian artist, Demas Nwoko (b. 1935), one of the artists featured in Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Though not currently on view in the exhibition, Nwoko’s Nigeria in 1959 was painted within the context of the dawn of independence and nationhood of Nigeria in 1960. Read More

Object Lesson: An Interview with Designer Joyce Lin

A powerful new voice in contemporary craft, Joyce Lin makes work that is both conceptual and beautifully crafted. For her Ghostwood Chair and Table, commissioned by NOMA, Lin collected driftwood nearby in Louisiana’s Bayou Bienvenue Wetlands. The work’s title references a “ghost forest,” the geographical term for marshes where salty water has encroached into once-verdant swamp forests, leaving a landscape of poisoned trees. Read More

Object Lesson: Robert Polidori’s Versailles

Over three decades, renowned photographer Robert Polidori has photographed Versailles. Together, the pictures document the transformation of the complex from a decadent symbol of imperial grandeur to a modern museum, whose architecture and contents are almost impossible to maintain. In these images we witness what Polidori once called “society’s superego,” an attempt to reconstruct the past according to our own contemporary worldview. His photographs probingly peel back the various layers of history, framing the building and its contents as something very much in the making. Read More

Object Lesson: Katherine Choy’s Textiles as “Complete Expression”

NOMA’s exhibition Katherine Choy: Radical Potter in 1950s New Orleans primarily examines distinctive pots made by Katherine Choy, a national leader in evolving ceramics from utilitarian objects into the purview of expressive fine art. While Choy’s radical work in pottery and her founding of the Clay Art Center in New York will be the lasting legacy of her short career, the artist also made award-winning enamels and had an active career in textile design.  Read More

Object Lesson: Doyle Lane

Vibrant glazes bubble lusciously, crack sharply, and drip dangerously off the edges of these meticulous little “Weed” Pots by Doyle Lane. In late 2021, the New Orleans Museum of Art welcomed into the permanent collection these seven extraordinary works by Doyle Lane, including two that come as a gift from NOMA Director Emeritus John Bullard’s exemplary collection of American Studio ceramics. These pots become the first works by the celebrated Black Los Angeles potter to join a public collection in the artist’s birth city. Read More

Object Lesson: Saul Steinberg’s “Parade”

Insightful, funny, wise, and critical, Saul Steinberg’s work often defined profound aspects of the human condition with just a few simple lines of a pencil. At the end of last year, NOMA was the fortunate recipient of a gift of thirty-six works by Steinberg from the Saul Steinberg Foundation. Among them is an excellent group of parade drawings, fitting works for a collection based in New Orleans. Read More

Lunar New Year in NOMA’s Collection of Japanese Art

For China, Vietnam, and other countries across East and Southeast Asia, the Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations on the calendar. While the new year has been celebrated on January 1 in Japan since 1873—due to a shift to the Gregorian calendar—there are several earlier examples of works in NOMA’s Japanese art collection celebrating the Lunar New Year. Read More

Object Lesson: The Arctic Regions

The images in this massive book were the first published photographs from the Arctic. In 1869, William Bradford, an adventuresome painter known for his Arctic seascapes and ship paintings, secured funding from businessman LeGrand Lockwood and chartered a steamship, The Panther, for a voyage to Greenland. He invited photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson to join him on the expedition. During a three-month summer journey, the group produced drawings, texts, and photographs that were published in the lavish tome on display at NOMA in A Brief History of Photography and Transmission. Read More

Object Lesson: Junichi Arai

Innovative fabrics that can be blunt like concrete or ethereal like clouds sprung from the imagination of Japanese designer Junichi Arai, but were made possible through studied innovation and technological experimentation. A shimmering blue and silver textile by the artist is currently on view at NOMA in the exhibition Atomic Number 13: Aluminum in 20th-Century Design, representing the metal’s role in artistic experimentation by the end of the century.  Read More

Object Lesson: Fairyland Lusterware

Wild stories from the imagination of designer Daisy Makeig-Jones come alive on this metallic-glazed “Fairyland Lusterware” vase from NOMA’s collection. This enchanting, and sometimes very strange, luxury porcelain was manufactured by England’s centuries-old Wedgwood ceramic factory. Combining whimsical children’s illustrations with advancements in iridescent glaze chemistry Fairyland Luster became enormously popular in the 1920s. Read More

Anthropomorphic Rice Ladle with Janus Head Handle (wunkirmian or wa ke mia)

Object Lesson: Wunkirmian/Wakemia (Ceremonial Ladle)

Dan ceremonial ladles known as wunkirmian or wakemia (spoon associated with feasts) are badges of prestige that acknowledge a woman for her invaluable generosity to her family and the entire community. These objects were created to serve as symbols of status and the bearer of spiritual powers. The complex design and craftsmanship of these ladles are the mark of their relevance. Read More

Object Lesson: Hills Brothers Coffee Can by Ansel Adams

Photographer Ansel Adams is famous around the world for his dramatic black-and-white landscape photography, in particular views of the American West. Self-taught, Adams played an outsized role in the history of American art photography. He helped found Aperture magazine and the Center for Creative Photography in Arizona, and served as an advisor during the beginnings of the photography program at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the early 1930s, Adams was also a founding member of Group f/64, a collective of photographers (including Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston) who helped to define American modernism through their preference for precise focus and attention to composition. Read More