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LAUREL HAUSLER’s “No Trace of the Woman”/ FRANCES GLESSNER LEE and “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”

18 Oct

As many of you may recall, artist LAUREL HAUSLER created an exciting series of paintings and sculptures of felted wood in her solo exhibition “No Trace of the Woman” inspired by FRANCES GLESSNER LEE’s 1940’s dollhouse rendering of “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”, composite crime scene models recreated on a one-inch-to-one-foot scale. Inspired by Glessner Lee’s visionary and zealous passion for forensics in a time when women were unable to become detectives, Hausler selects needles and fiber as her medium to honor traditional notions of “women’s art” or “craft”, mirroring Glessner Lee’s own meticulous attention to detail, down to every last hand-crafted clue, of the “Nutshell Studies”.

 

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About LAUREL HAUSLER:
A Washington, DC native, LAUREL HAUSLER‘s love of literature, antiquity, unsolved mysteries and the obscure inspire the stories behind her work.  Working in a subtractive and additive process, she creates the surface of her felt sculpted paintings by layering strands of felted wool. Admired for resisting a self-conscious approach to process, Hausler reveals lines, veils and gestures on her surfaces that demonstrate her decision-making process through the work’s evolution to its finished state.
Please contact Morton Fine Art for acquisition of artwork from “No Trace of the Woman”.
Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 628-2787
mortonfineart@gmail.com

 

Opening Friday, October 20, 2017 at the Renwick Gallery      

(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

 

October 20, 2017 – January 28, 2018

Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW)
Interior detail of red bedroom study

Red Bedroom, Frances Glessner Lee, mixed media

This rare public display explores the unexpected intersection between craft and forensic science.

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science. It also tells the story of how a woman co-opted traditionally feminine crafts to advance the male-dominated field of police investigation and to establish herself as one of its leading voices.

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true crimes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of homicide investigation.

Lee, the first female police captain in the U.S., is considered the “mother of forensic science” and helped to found the first-of-its kind Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University when the field of forensics was in its infancy. At the time, there was very little training for investigators, meaning that they often overlooked or mishandled key evidence, or irrevocably tampered with crime scenes. Few had any medical training that would allow them to determine cause of death. As Lee and her colleagues at Harvard worked to change this, tools were needed to help trainees scientifically approach their search for truth. Lee was a talented artist as well as criminologist, and used the craft of miniature-making that she had learned as a young girl to solve this problem. She constructed the Nutshells beginning in the 1940s to teach investigators to properly canvass a crime scene to effectively uncover and understand evidence. The equivalent to “virtual reality” in their time, her masterfully crafted dioramas feature handmade objects to render scenes with exacting accuracy and meticulous detail.

Every element of the dioramas—from the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the placement of latches on widows, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

A photograph of a nutshell study of unexplained death showing a detail of a burned cabin.

Frances Glessner Lee, Burned Cabin (detail), about 1944-48. Collection of the Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, MD

Showcasing the Nutshells at the Renwick allows visitors to appreciate them as works of art and material culture in addition to understanding their importance as forensic tools, and to see Lee’s genius for telling complex stories through the expressive potential of simple materials. While the Nutshells represent composites of real and extremely challenging cases featuring homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths, Lee imagined and designed each setting herself. She was both exacting and highly creative in her pursuit of detail—knitting tiny stocking by hand with straight pins, hand-rolling tiny tobacco-filled cigarettes and burning the ends, writing tiny letters with a single-hair paintbrush, and creating working locks for windows and doors.

The exhibition also highlights the subtly subversive quality of Lee’s work, especially the way her dioramas challenge the association of femininity with domestic bliss and upend the expected uses for miniature making, sewing, an other crafts considered to be “women’s work.” Also evident is her purposeful focus on society’s “invisible victims,” whose cases she championed. Lee was devoted to the search for truth and justice for everyone, and she often featured victims such as women, the poor, and and people living on the fringes of society, whose cases might be overlooked or tainted with prejudice on the part of the investigator. She wanted trainees to recognize and overcome any unconscious biases and to treat each case with rigor, regardless of the victim.

As the Nutshells are still active training tools, the solutions to each remain secret. However, the crime scene “reports” (written by Lee to accompany each case) given to forensic trainees are presented alongside each diorama to encourage visitors to approach the Nutshells the way an investigator would.

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is the first public display of the complete series of nineteen studies still known to exist. For the first time since 1966, 18 pieces on loan to the museum from the Harvard Medical School via the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, will be reunited with the “lost nutshell,” on loan from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, courtesy of the Bethlehem Heritage Society. The exhibition is organized by Nora Atkinson, The Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft.

Lee’s hyperreal constructions inspired contemporary artist and scenic designer Rick Araluce, whose immersive, large-scale installation is presented in the adjoining gallery. Rick Aracluce: The Final Stop opens concurrently with Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death on October 20th.

“The Nutshells are essentially about teaching people how to see. … So much of our culture has gone digital, and that’s where craft shines, because it’s three-dimensional. You can’t really understand it from the Internet, or from a flat page; you have to investigate it fully in the round.” – Nora Atkinson

Click HERE for more info on Murder is Her Hobby : Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Diaries of Unexplained Death at the Renwick Gallery

MAYA FREELON ASANTE’s amazing artwork featured in Fine Art Focus on Design Sponge

12 Jan

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FINE ART FOCUS: MAYA FREELON ASANTE

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Over the past 12 years of blogging here at Design*Sponge, I’ve read and written about thousands of artists and designers. A small handful will always stand out to me for their innovation and bold choices in color and technique, but few have made a mark as powerful as mixed-media artist,Maya Freelon Asante.

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Maya is based in Baltimore, MD where she creates absolutely breathtaking installations using tissue paper. After talking last week about the way tissue paper can be used to create things like paper flowers, I love seeing how such a beautiful but humble material can be transformed into something as significant and moving as these pieces that Maya crafts. Back in 2005, Maya discovered a stack of tissue paper in her grandmother’s basement. Water in the basement had leaked into the paper and left a “bleeding” stain that so transfixed Maya that she decided to change her artistic focus to create work with this type of paper. Maya’s work has been shown internationally and is now displayed in the collections of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the U.S. State Department. Read on below to learn more about her gorgeous artwork. xo, grace

Artist: Maya Freelon Asante
About: Maya lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her BA from Lafayette College and her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Work: Maya is a mixed-media artist who makes stunning, abstract sculptures and installations from tissue paper. Her work was described as, “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being,” by Maya Angelou.
More: You can read more about Maya’s work here, here, here, here andhere.

All artwork (c) Maya Freelon Asante. Images via maya-freelonasante.squarespace.com. Portrait by Greg Powers.

Hand+Made

  1. These images are stunning! I’m smitten with the green piece, and I bet they’re even lovelier in person. And always love seeing artists from my hometown!

  2. Absolutely gorgeous art. It looks like it has so much depth. These would be the perfect starting point for any room design!

    Click HERE to view the article in full.

     

    Contact Morton Fine Art for details and pricing for these featured artworks and others by MAYA FREELON ASANTE.

    http://www.mortonfineart.com, mortonfineart@gmail.com , (202) 628-2787

Scattered to the Wind – kinetic art performance by MAYA FREELON ASANTE in Baltimore 4/27/13 at 1pm

18 Apr
Scattered to the Wind
A one-of-a-kind kinetic art performance by MAYA FREELON ASANTE
 
PERFORMANCE
Saturday, April 27th at 1pm sharp
Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower
21 S. Eutaw St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
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   maya scattered representational image web
MAYA FREELON ASANTE, accompanied by the natural environment of Baltimore City, presents Scattered to the Wind on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at 1:00pm. A one-of-a-kind kinetic art performance which boasts free-falling art for all, at Bromo Selzter Arts Tower, located at 21 S. Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.

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Come and witness the act of letting go and the beauty of now, as MAYA FREELON ASANTE leads us through an interactive experience that highlights both the fragility and strength of art. The performance will take place outdoors from approximately 1:00pm-1:30pm.
Let go with me
Make room for Joy!
The weightlessness
of forgiveness
Seeks peace
With love
– Maya Freelon Asante
About MAYA FREELON ASANTE:
MAYA FREELON ASANTE is an award-winning artist whose artwork was described by poet Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being.” Her unique tissue paper art has been described by the International Review of African American Art as a “vibrant, beating assemblage of color” and she was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of D.C. 2013 and by the Huffington Post’s “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know”.
She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including Paris, Ghana, and US Embassies in Madagascar, Italy, Jamaica, and Swaziland. She has been a professor of art at Towson University and has attended numerous residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Korobitey Institute and Brandywine Workshop. She earned a BA from Lafayette College and an MFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“Material Girls” Exhibition at The Lewis in Baltimore

29 Mar

“Material Girls” – a wonderful group exhibition of Contemporary Black Women Artists – is currently on view at the  Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, MD. The exciting show runs  through October 16, 2011 and is most definitely worth a trip!  The 8 participating artists use materials as varied as wood, metal, glass, manufactured and re-purposed materials including plastic bags, tissue paper, rubber tires, combs and human hair. As the museum notes, “The materials they prod, ply and piece together play on a range of cultural meanings, personal memories, and social agendas.”

Featured contemporary artists include:

  • Chakaia Booker
  • Sonya Clark
  • Torkwase Dyson
  • Maya Freelon Asante (soon to be shown in MFA’s ‘Stories that Breathe’ which opens next week at MFA in DC)
  • Maren Hassinger
  • Martha Jackson Jarvis
  • Joyce J. Scott
  • Renee Stout

Additional details:

“Material Girls”, Contemporary Black Women Artists, Curated by Michelle Joan Wilkinson, PhD

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American Culture & History, 830 E. Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21202

Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m.
Thursday (June to August), open until 8 p.m.
Sunday Noon to 5 p.m.