Archive for ‘March, 2014’ Blog

Green Revolution

March 14th, 2014 by Megan Hancock

On Thursday, February 27th, the Denison Museum opened its doors to a crowd of 300+ that included Denison students, faculty, and Granville residents. If you are one of the sad few who did not attend, then you missed out on delicious tacos and sweets. That’s right; there were tacos, FREE tacos, from the talented people at Taco Sherpa. I bet you feel bad now, don’t you? The good news is that you can still visit the museum to view an exhibit that we are particularly proud of: Green Revolution.




Green Revolution is an exhibit that focuses on the idea of sustainability and being environmentally friendly. It showcases impressive works of art by Denison students that explore what it means to be ”green.” The gallery has been split up into five, distinct sections: Latin American Squatter Settlements; Ocean Acidification; Fracking; Hybrid Housing/The Denison Homestead; and a cushy reception area with couches and books in case you want to do some learning on your own.

We are open Monday-Saturday from 12:00-5:00pm on the first floor of Burke. Come by on your own, or bring friends down the hill to see our exciting new exhibit!


See you at the museum!

A love for the DIY spirit

February 7th, 2014 by Denison Museum

Antelope mask. African, Kurumba tribe, (Burkina Faso), early 20th century. painted wood.		DU1990.32 Rehoused by Wataru Akamatsu ’14 and Kristine Mallinson ’15

Antelope mask. African, Kurumba tribe, (Burkina Faso), early 20th century. painted wood. DU1990.32
Rehoused by Wataru Akamatsu ’14 and Kristine Mallinson ’15

by Wataru Akamatsu ’14

When I was little, I spent most of my childhood at my grandparent’s house. My grandpa and I used to make up stories using puppets. It was very much like an improvisational theater, as all we had in the beginning was a theme such as “an animal island v human island,” “a market,” “pirates,” and anything we could think of, and we went from there, never knowing how the stories would end. For the improvisations, we needed stage sets for the puppets so we started to make things like ships, houses, and airplanes from cardboard. Making three-dimensional objects from one-dimensional material was demanding but very fun.

When I first came to Denison Museum in Fall 2012, I never expected to find a direct connection to this creative activity from my childhood. I thought that museum jobs were about putting up exhibitions, guarding galleries, and taking down the exhibitions in the end. I found that museums are also places where the permanent collections sleep in back storages. So here I am at Denison Museum, responsible for checking records for the collections and making proper beds for them. My fellow teammate, Kristine Mallinson ’15, and I use a variety of materials to make proper storage boxes: including acid free cardboard. This requires a lot of creativity as each object has a unique shape. We always have to come up with a new strategy to keep each object safe and secure.

It was after having worked at Denison Museum for one year that I finally realized there were connections between my childhood experience with my grandpa and my experience at the Museum. I found myself enjoying the making of boxes in the same way I enjoyed making cardboard stage sets with my grandpa. I have always liked creating something from scratch and I had not had a chance to do this type of activity at Denison until I came to the Museum. As my graduation is coming around the corner, I am very grateful for the opportunity at the Museum as it encouraged my life-long love for the DIY spirit.

Working with the unfamiliar

January 23rd, 2014 by Denison Museum

Kristine Mallinson '15

Kristine Mallinson ’15

by Kristine Mallinson ’15

Coming into Denison, I knew that archaeology was in my future. But, I never would have thought I would have found a job on the hill in which I was able to work with artifacts hands on. I first discovered Denison Museum when I took Semiotic Theory with Professor Lele the second semester of my first-year. I was immediately fascinated with the ancient brick collection. When I heard that there were openings at the Museum for the following academic year, I jumped on the opportunity to work with artifacts. To my surprise, I was hired.

All summer I thought about what I was going to be able to do with my job. To my, what was, disappointment, I was not assigned to work with the brick collection, but instead the African and Native American pocket collections with Wataru Akamatsu ‘14. These were both areas of history that I was not familiar with and I was completely scared. How was I going to be able to work with artifacts from cultures I was not familiar with? But, I am so thankful that I was assigned to these two collections because of what I was able to gain from working with the unfamiliar.

While I loved working with the African collection, I am fascinated by the Native American collection at the Museum. Ruth Merhab is the main donor of the collection. She traveled throughout the West and collected tons of objects that she later donated to the Museum. One reason why I love the collection so much is due to the hoops I have had to jump through with the inventory. Last Spring I worked on a total inventory of the collection. I picked up this work with three weeks left of work for the semester, not that much time to finish the total rehousing of a collection. Thus, Wataru and I were hoping that we could just take pictures and then rehouse the objects, but of course that was not the case.

We opened the first box of objects, Box W as it is known as, and right away we found objects that were never given a catalog number. Within a box of around forty pieces of jewelry, we had about fifteen objects without a catalog number. This means that these objects were never formally put into the collection or our database system. After talking with Anna Cannizzo, the Curator of Collections, we decided to develop a new catalog protocol.

The objects would be given FIM (Found In Museum) numbers. I have been able to assign fifty-three objects a FIM number and they will be put into our database system during Denison Museum’s upcoming Institute of Museum and Library Services: Museums for America grant project. Being able to assign a catalog system and giving these objects a place to have information gathered about them has been so rewarding. I am able to give life back to these objects and am forming a pathway for further research to be done on them. Thus, I like to think of it as a different form of archaeology. ‘Digging up’ these objects from our storage and connecting them with information so that we can learn more about our Native American collection.

Surprising Connections

January 21st, 2014 by Denison Museum

Khari Saffo '15 with Tod Polson's "The Noble Approach" and Rockwell Kent's "Twilight of Man"

Khari Saffo ’15 with Tod Polson’s “The Noble Approach” and Rockwell Kent’s “Twilight of Man”

by Khari Saffo ‘15

Denison Museum is full of surprises and connections, you never know what you are going to find. I began to work at the Museum this past Fall semester and have been learning about collecting and cataloguing art pieces. Knowing my particular interest in animation art, Curator of Collections Anna Cannizzo suggested that I take a look at the book The Noble Approach by Tod Polson. I would soon find that the book, about legendary animation layout artist Maurice Noble, had a direct connection to Denison Museum’s works on paper collection.

Maurice Noble is most acknowledged for his background designs in director Chuck Jones cartoons at Warner Brothers Studios in the 1950s. His work can be found in the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, as well as some of the most famous Bugs Bunny cartoons such as What’s Opera Doc (1957), known to be regarded as the best cartoon of all time by one thousand professionals in the field of animation.1 Noble has a very recognizable art style that consists of the use of simple shapes and distorting perspectives. In The Noble Approach, Tod Polson goes into detail about Noble’s approach to style and designing. Polson discusses Noble’s use of “value” in regards to dark/light contrast and focus. The work of artist Rockwell Kent was of great influence to Noble’s use of value and Polson uses one of Kent’s woodblock prints as a visual aide in his explanation of “Stacking Value”.2 It was here that I noticed the Rockwell Kent woodblock print featured was Twilight of Man from Denison Museum’s collection. It was a wonderful discovery to find that Denison some how was involved with The Noble Approach.

Through my connection to Denison Museum I got the opportunity to interview the author of The Noble Approach, Tod Polson. Tod gave me helpful advice to achieve a career in animation. He encouraged me to constantly draw, make films, and to use the internet as a tool to share my work. Tod explained to me that at a young age he had also been interested in cartoons and animation. While in high school he drew a comic strip for the school paper and experimented with many of his own films using cutout paper animation. In college, Polson studied experimental animation and eventually obtained a job working under Maurice Noble. Tod told me that Maurice was more of a teacher than boss and discussed with Tod his approach to design.

Prior to his death in 2001, Maurice Noble had begun work on a manuscript about himself and his drawing process. He was never able to finish but before he died, he asked Tod to continue his work. During the making of the book, Tod collected pieces of art to include. It took years to acquire all of the artwork used in the book. Many of Maurice’s rough pencil sketches used in the book were from Maurice’s own personal collection. As the word spread about the book, people who loved Maurice’s work and knew him personally donated the use of art pieces. Many of the museums Tod came in contact with were extremely generous; Tod noted that the crew at Denison Museum made a lot of materials available to him that he was not able to fit it all in his book. I was thrilled and engaged to learn that I am now apart of something that helped out in the crafting of a book about the master animation designer Maurice Noble.

  1. Jerry Beck, The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals, (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1994.
  2. Tod Polson, The Noble Approach, (San Franscisco: Chronicle Books, 2013, 91.

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

December 4th, 2013 by Denison Museum
Timothy Cole. "Lady Weighing Pearls" (after Vermeer) American, late 19th-early 20th century. Engraving DU1946.303 Denison Museum Collection

Timothy Cole. “Lady Weighing Pearls” (after Vermeer)
American, late 19th-early 20th century. Engraving
Denison Museum Collection

by Marisa Zemesarajs ’15

Questions regarding the reproduction of artworks have become increasingly relevant, especially in our image-driven culture. These questions have been discussed more recently with the advent of photography and lithography (not to mention that you can buy a Van Gogh patterned umbrella nowadays), but image reproduction is not a new game. In principle, a work of art has always been somewhat reproducible; an object produced by man, can certainly be imitated by man.1 But what happens to a work of art when there are copies and copies of it circulating around? Applying the theory of Walter Benjamin, in his “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” the aura, or what makes an art object of value is affected.2 Thinking in simple economic terms, the more reproductions of an image, the less of value it is. However, the opposite can also hold true; if people are bombarded with a certain image, like a Starry Night umbrella, the original realizes a celebrity-like status. It becomes more valuable as it gains popularity and thus, accessibility. These questions of reproduction and value come into play when looking at Timothy Cole’s Lady Weighing Pearls, a black and white engraving that replicates Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance; currently on display at Denison Museum.

When I first passed this engraving, I thought to myself “how could someone get away with this, and so successfully at that?” It’s an interesting question to pose. Cole’s engraving marks a special case in reproduction. Unlike the Mona Lisa, which was originally painted by Da Vinci only to later be reproduced on postcards, prints, tote bags (or what have you,) by large, modern corporations in search of profit, Cole usurped the right to imitate Vermeer. Cole even assumed some sense of authority by making it his own, taking a colorful oil painting and assigning it a place in the mechanical world. What’s truly fascinating is that Cole was commissioned by a publishing company in 1883 to engrave a set of blocks after the old, European masters. His reproductions of Italian, Dutch, Flemish, and English artworks were published in book form, and achieved Cole brilliant success. So it’s obvious that there was a demand for these reproductions.

The original by Vermeer has been variously interpreted as a representation of divine truth or justice, while Cole’s reproduction gives us a somewhat skewed image of the “truth” within the piece. The translation of a painting into a black and white engraving changes everything. The graceful woman obtains a darker, eerie quality, while the body of Christ in the depiction of the Last Judgement is intensely illuminated. Reproductions are interesting in this way, they bring different elements to life and also see others to an end. Perhaps reproductions are popular because each one alters our perception and makes us see the original differently. Perhaps we just love the idea of the original so much that its actual originality doesn’t matter. Or maybe we’re just consuming images, as we do.

  1. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Translated by Harry Zohn in Hannah Arendt (ed) Illuminations, New York: Schoken Books, 1968, p. 218.
  2. Walter Benjamin, p. 221.

Green Revolution

December 1st, 2013 by Denison Museum

Green Revolution web
Exhibition Dates: February 20, 2014 – May 17, 2014
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 27th, 4:30pm – 7:00pm, Denison Museum, Burke Hall

Green Revolution is a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition used jointly by Denison University and The Works in Newark to create and promote local environmental awareness and accountability through multidisciplinary hands-on experiences and community partnerships. Last September 27, Denison service learning students lent a hand to Green Revolution Licking County for a Clean Up Downtown Newark Day. This spring, Denison Museum and The Works invite you to visit our galleries for exhibitions focused on sustainable living. At Denison Museum, Museum staff and student employees are proud to unveil a series of “eco-zibits” conceived, designed, assembled, and interpreted by a diverse team of students, faculty and staff. Participants come from a variety of Denison programs including Studio Art, Education, and Environmental Studies, as well as Denison Sustainability, Denison Chemical Society, Denison Science and Art Interest Group, Denison Libraries, and The Homestead. The Works presents “From Ditch to Dazzling”, a recycling-themed art exhibition curated by local artist and art educator Todd Camp, that features imaginative artworks created by area artists, individuals, and collaborative partners who received support from Licking County schools and businesses.


For more information about special events and programs sponsored by our Green Revolution partner The Works in Newark, visit Green Revolution Licking County.

Want to learn more about the topics in Green Revolution?
Check out the Denison Library page dedicated to Green Rev.

This version of Green Revolution is based on an exhibition originally created by the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago and its Black Creativity Council and is made available by Smithsonian Institution Traveling Service.

Black on Black Pottery and Finals Week Stress

December 1st, 2013 by Denison Museum

Maria Martinez  Native American. 20th century Black-on-black pottery DU1966.8. Gift of Henry J. Skipp Denison Museum Collection

Maria Martinez
Native American. 20th century
Black-on-black pottery
DU1966.8. Gift of Henry J. Skipp
Denison Museum Collection

by Jackson Lesch ’15

A few weeks ago, I was given the task of finding anything in the Museum that I find interesting and blogging about it. This was open-ended to say the least. I am not involved in any kind of art and, honestly, I know nothing about art. However, as I wandered through the storage space looking for something appealing, I found a piece of pottery that pleased my philistine senses. It was made in a style called black on black. Pretty straightforward.

I showed the piece to Anna Cannizzo, Curator of Collections, and she was able to tell me that the pottery was made by Maria Martinez, apparently it is embarrassing that I have never heard of her. For those of you who are cultureless slobs (like me), Maria Martinez is an internationally known ceramic artist. She is famous for her black ware pottery, which is traditionally dark, black, ceramic art with lighter black patterns that stand out against the first layer of matte. This style of pottery was popularized in New Mexico and evolved from traditional pueblo pottery. Do not mistake me for someone who knows what they are talking about. It took a few google searches and Wikipedia articles to know these things, I don’t have any privileged information. Speaking as someone who has no idea what they are talking about, I do want to say that this minimalistic pottery is kind of incredible. I mean that. It is visually pleasing to a level that is difficult to believe.

While we do not have this piece on display currently, there are plenty of great attractions at our fabled house of art. Right now we are in the middle of an exhibition called “Personal Space.” There are videos and other mixed media pieces that have really seemed to affect some of our visitors. I know that it is almost finals week, but if you need to take a break from studying, you should come down the hill and check us out, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Elementary, Ms. Cannizzo.

November 20th, 2013 by Denison Museum

Jenny Murphy '15 with Leadenhall Market brick. Gift of William H. Hunt. DU1945.59.6 Denison Museum Collection

Jenny Murphy ’15 with Leadenhall Market brick.
Gift of William H. Hunt. DU1945.59.6
Denison Museum Collection

by Jenny Murphy ’15

I started working at the Museum over a year ago now, at the beginning of my Sophomore year. As an English Literature major, being surrounded with Classics and Art History majors who already had experience working in museums was pretty intimidating. I felt a little out of my element. But we got to work immediately. I was partnered with a senior, Karly Etz ’13, and together we were assigned to work on the William Hunt Collection of ancient bricks. The bricks had previously been poorly labeled and stored, so it was our job to research the history of the collection and the story of each brick.

“Think of it like an investigation,” the Curator of Collections, Anna Cannizzo, told us. “You’re Sherlock Holmes – It’s your job to find out the mystery behind these bricks. Find evidence, connect the dots, solve the puzzle.” And with that, Anna wished us good luck and left us to the stack of documents.

We spent weeks reading through the documents and familiarizing ourselves with the bricks. At the same time, I was trying to learn all the museum jargon and cataloguing systems and protocol that my co-workers already knew. It was challenging, but fun. I had to keep reminding myself that one day I would be as familiar with museum work as I was with my books.

It wasn’t until later that semester that everything began to fall into place. It started with an unidentified brick. Not one of the “cool” bricks from Pompeii, or the Roman Coliseum, or even the Great Wall of China –we had already identified those. It was a small, brown brick, about the size of your hand, with a faded piece of paper on it.

The writing on the paper was nearly unintelligible, but after re-creating the letters over and over on a piece of paper, I was able to make out a few words. “Roman,” “Leadenhall Market,” and “1881 January.” From this, a quick internet search gave me my answer.

In London, Leadenhall Market stands as an ornate, colorful market with a glass ceiling. But before that, it was made of brick. Leadenhall Market itself dates back to the 14th century and was located in the center of what was Roman London. Architect Sir Horace Jones tore down and re-built the market using more modern materials in 1881. It is very likely that William Hunt, who himself lived in the late 19th century, may have picked up this brick from his contacts or travels. Who would have guessed we had a little piece of Roman London history right in Denison’s own backyard?

From inconsequential brick, to an important piece of London history. It’s amazing the new things I’ve been able to find out and learn by working in the Denison Museum. I may not be a Classics or Art History major, but being able to solve the mysteries of these tiny bricks makes my Literature heart swoon – my work was more like Sherlock Holmes’s investigations than I had thought.

Jennifer Nuss: The Honest Storyteller

November 13th, 2013 by Denison Museum

Left to Right:  Jennifer Nuss. "The Conqueror" and "Eating Her Prey". Photogravure, collage, hand-colored On view as part of Denison Museum's exhibition "Personal Space"  curated by Tommy White.

Left to Right: Jennifer Nuss. “The Conqueror” and “Eating Her Prey”. Photogravure, collage, hand-colored
On view as part of Denison Museum’s exhibition “Personal Space” curated by Tommy White.

by Drew Jepson ’16

As you enter Denison Museum this semester, your gaze will undoubtedly be drawn to two works usurping an entire wall. You walk closer and your eyebrows draw together in puzzlement, you start to feel slightly uncomfortable, wanting to glance away, yet unable to as you are totally enraptured. This is the intention of the artist, Jennifer Nuss. Based in New York, Nuss creates magnificently large works on paper that force an intimacy with the grotesque most modern audiences shy away from on instinct. Earlier this month Nuss visited Denison to explain her artistic process, her inspiration, and her upcoming projects.

Trained as a traditional painter, Nuss began her journey into the texturized world of paper 15 years ago. During her residency in Austria, Nuss attended an exhibit featuring the works of Mexican-American artist Martin Ramirez. The rawness and uninhibited emotions Ramirez captured has to this day continued to inspire Nuss in her own works as she attempts to represent the honesty of the world that is often repressed and ignored. This is one of the primary reasons she chooses to work with the medium of paper. Her works are collage-like, created by the layering of her variously dyed and texturized papers. Nuss’s detailing in this process is exquisite and can only be appreciated at close distance, creating this intimacy that may not feel all together natural to the viewer.

When looking at multiple pieces of Nuss’s work you can easily distinguish a reoccurring character, an animalistic, but beautiful woman with dark, unclear features. She is generally the central figure throughout Nuss’s works, and while not necessarily autobiographical, the woman’s character evolves through the pieces, mirroring Nuss’s evolution as an artist. Nuss continuously builds upon her older works, never seeing a piece as completely finished. The more familiar you are with a story, the more the meaning changes personally. Nuss takes this concept and applies it to her pieces, altering them as she furthers her continuous narrative. This is what I find most intriguing about Nuss as an artist. She does not necessarily have a vision for her pieces or even fully understand what they are about. She presents what she feels, what she knows, and what she wants the audience to understand. Unlike a majority of postmodern artists, Nuss does not hide behind symbolism or conceptual representation. Her works achieve the honesty she strives for because they are personal not only to her, but to also the viewer.

Currently, Nuss is working on a waterfall series that portrays the story of a bride that loses her groom on the day of their wedding as he chooses to plummet off of Niagara Falls. She has taken her static works and transformed them into an animated featurette that she hopes to one-day transform into a feature length film. Six of Nuss’s works are currently on display in Denison Museum’s exhibition “Personal Space” as her storytelling captures the campus wide theme of questioning the existence and relevance of a utopia.

“Personal Space”, curated by Tommy White, will be on view through December 7th.

Special Guest Visits Denison Museum

October 22nd, 2013 by Denison Museum
Visiting Scholar, Mary Hirsch, examines a Chinese Shadow Puppet from Denison Museum's Permanent Collection

Visiting Scholar, Mary Hirsch, examines a Chinese Shadow Puppet from Denison Museum’s Permanent Collection

by Jackson Lesch ’15

About two weeks ago, Denison Museum was visited by traveling scholar: Mary Hirsch. Hirsch has a long history of studying Chinese art. It has been her professional focus for more than two decades. She has worked with numerous Asian art collections, namely the Seattle Art Museum and, most recently, as Guest Curator of the East Asian Library at Princeton University.

While Hirsch is interested in all kinds of Asian art, it was Denison’s collection of Chinese Shadow Puppets that brought her to Granville. The collection was originally found by Daniel Sheets Dye (class of 1907) who brought these pieces to Denison in the late 1960s from his visits to China. Apart from the brief exhibition Between Light & Shadow, Denison’s shadow puppet collection had been relatively untouched for about 40 years, waiting for Hirsch to carefully study them and explain their significance.

Watching Hirsch unwrap and digest each piece was like watching a master artisan; I didn’t understand everything she did or said, but I knew it was important and, more importantly, I knew not to disrupt the process. For a period it felt as if she almost forgot I was there, handling each piece like a child would a maze; starting at the end and working backwards. Unlike a maze, Hirsch was not navigating around walls, she was navigating through history. She would talk to herself occasionally about what each puppet meant, and what their role might have been. I was mesmerized for an hour and a half, appreciating the rare opportunity to watch a master work at her craft.

For more information about Denison Museum’s Chinese Shadow Puppets please visit:

“This internship gave me the incredible privilege of working extensively with the work of very famous artists, and I was even given the opportunity to perform conservation treatment on one of the museum's Pablo Picasso prints.”

— Allison Woods '11