Free First Thursday: The Concept of Time
What is time? How can we experience that in art? Was the artist inspired by time? Three TMA curators reflected on the idea of time in artworks belonging to three different collection areas: Latin American, Contemporary, and Indigenous Arts. Coincidentally, two community voice labels on view also talk about time in some form. Can you relate to any of the texts?
Aztec, Central Mexico, Maize Goddess, volcanic stone, 1400-1520 A.D., Collection of I. Michael and Beth Kasser.
Chicomecóatl diosa del maíz, corn goddess. Bless us in the harvest, feed us in the winter. Bendícenos en la cosecha, aliméntanos en el invierno. The life of the corn is in the Nahuatl culture, compared to that of a woman. Green coverings, still young and later in life the lady with “the old skirt” when the husks are dry and off yellow.
Bardo Padilla, Kasser Family Wing Community Advisory Committee Representative
One of the things that makes a museum such a complex place is that it has a way of folding time, bringing objects from moments deep in history to the time when we encounter them in the gallery today. When we look at a sculpture created in the ancient Aztec empire, we are seeing an object displaced from its moment across 500 years of history. Ancient Mesoamerican peoples thought about these folds in the fabric of time too. In the Aztec world, artists would look back to even deeper times for inspiration – sometimes recreating very old works of art and styles in their own moment. Like many of us, Aztec artists found guidance and models for creativity in art from deep antiquity.
Dr. Kristopher Driggers, Assistant Curator, Schmidt Curator of Latin American Art
Fausto Fernandez, It’s what you do with time that heals, 2010, mixed media collage on canvas. Collection of the Tucson Museum of Art. Gift of the Artist. 2011.20.1
As a curator, my life is anchored in ideas about time. Every artwork I acquire for the TMA collection or select for an exhibition involves research into the history of the piece, the artist who made it, and the connection it has to art history, as well as to local, national, and world events in its time. A good work of art should be timeless, but the meaning behind it and the context in which it was made helps to make the visual experience an even greater learning experience. I believe that a big part of my job is to bring the past to life through art and to honor artists and art of the present by presenting exhibitions that will become part of our region’s history.
Dr. Julie Sasse, Chief Curator, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Reuben Naranjo, Taṣ kuint, O’odham Haha’atadkam (Time counter, O’odham potters), 2021, wood and baling wire. On loan from the Artist.
Taṣ kuint, O’odham Haha’atadkam, Time counter, O’odham potters.
“…This work is derived from the ancient O’odham process of recording family, communal, local significant history via calendar sticks. Taṣ Kuint means ‘Time counter or keeper…’
This piece honors early Tohono O’odham potters, women who would travel from the reservation to downtown Tucson to sell their wares…Each part relates to a significant historical newspaper event of their comings and goings including the conflicts that arose because of unwanted Tucson photographers. My hope is to give light and story to their hard work—in O’odham culture being industrious was rewarded with praise terms such as s-wagima uwi or Industrious woman.”
Dr. Reuben Naranjo, Community Curator and Artist
(Label excerpt, to see the full text visit the Indigenous Arts exhibition now on view at TMA)
As a curator, I’ve often considered how the concept of time is present in an exhibition. How do we properly convey points of time from works of art on view and make sense of them from our 2021 perspective? What meanings can change or are lost over time? Artists also look at time and find ways to understand the past and present while conveying relevant ideas. Naranjo’s artistic approach includes extensive research in library and archives to find newspaper stories of O’odham potters printed more than 100 years ago, bringing to light people and events that were long forgotten. From this research, he created his work based from an O’odham calendar stick, or time keeper, that recorded important events for O’odham people. In this way, he looks at the past and uses symbols of the past to convey messages in modern context.
Christine Brindza, Senior Curator, Glasser Curator of Art of the American West
Create a haiku inspired by time. Consider how things move or how time passes, or imagine what it would be to fast forward ahead or rewind backwards to any point in your life. Haikus are three lines that alternate between five syllables (first line), seven syllables (second line), and lastly, five syllables (third line).
This time-inspired haiku was shared by a TMA member:
back then those two hands
would drag hours into days
or was it just me?
For this month’s art-making prompt, think of time as a theme. How can time be captured in an artwork? One way is through the element of movement. We can see movement in videos; what medium would it be fitting in executing your idea? Artworks can also capture a moment in time or a specific historical event. Are there other ways to view time? How would you interpret time?
In this art activity, time can be interpreted by the action of bubbles forming and bursting.
What you’ll need:
- Liquid watercolors (or any other paint)
- Watercolor paper
1. Gather your materials.
2. Pour paint in soapy water and stir to combine.
3. Begin blowing bubbles.
4. When the bubbles look like they will spill over, put a piece of paper on top of the cup.
5. Repeat with the same color or layer different colors.
6. Repeat until you achieve the desired saturation of color.
Share your work on social media by using #TMAFreeFirstThursday.
Wednesday – Sunday,
10 am – 5 pm