Tag Archives: Dallas Museum of Art

Relief Art

Feeling anxious or upset?  A number of things exist to help you out – reading, walking, meditation, exercise.  But have you ever thought of visiting a museum to ease that apprehension?  Turns out that patronizing a museum might be one avenue of relief for anguished souls.  A University of Pennsylvania study entitled “Art Museums as Institutions for Human Flourishing” published in the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates as much.

The relatively new field of “positive psychology” studies “the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”  It draws on research from a variety of academic disciplines while examining how the arts and humanities affect the human condition.

“We believe our collaborative and interdisciplinary work is all the more vital at a time when so many individuals and communities lack the levels of well-being they need to thrive,” said James O. Pawelski of UPenn.

Pawelski and colleague Katherine Cotter had already planned to study the effects of museums on people’s mental health when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  Since so many museums were forced to shut down, the duo compiled and reviewed over 100 research articles and government and foundation reports.

They discovered that visiting a museum reduced stress levels, frequent visits decreased anxiety, and viewing figurative art lowered blood pressure. They also found that museum visits lowered the intensity of chronic pain, increased a person’s life span, and lessened the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia.  And those living with dementia saw mental and physical benefits as well: Spending time in a museum induced more dynamic stress responses, higher cognitive function, and improvements in the symptoms of depression.

Going to a museum also left elementary schoolers feeling “restored” and even made medical residents feel less emotionally exhausted.

To most artists, this shouldn’t be surprising.  Writers, painters, musicians and the like have always had the ability to unite people when politicians couldn’t.  And now, our desires to make people’s lives better has been vindicated once again.

Image: Dallas Museum of Art

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The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient México

Codex Seldan, Western México

Beginning July 29, 2012, the Dallas Museum of Art will present “The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient México,” an artistic exploration of indigenous Mexican societies and one of their most prominent deities, Quetzalcoatl, an incarnation of the spirit forces of wind and rain and the real-life quetzal bird.  The quetzal is native to Central America and southern México and is best known for its resplendent colors and twin tail feathers that grow up to 3 feet on the males.  The bird has always been sacred to the indigenous peoples of these regions.  Mayan and Aztec royalty and religious leaders adorned themselves with the quetzal’s lengthy tail feathers during ceremonies.

The exhibition features 150 objects – such as painted codices, turquoise mosaics and gold ornaments – loaned from museums and private collections in México, Europe and the United States.  The artworks in the “Plumed Serpent” collection trace the development of Mesoamerican societies and prove how complex and advanced they were.

They include the “Codex Zouche-Nuttall,” one of a small number of known Mexican codices dating to pre-Hispanic times.  Codex is the technical name for an ancient book or manuscript, before the invention of the printing press.  Mesoamerican societies recorded various events and religious ceremonies using this technique, sometimes in rock or stone.  A writing system arose in central México around 600 B.C.; one of only two places in the world that historians have identified where writing appeared completely and independently of any outside influences.  Mesopotamia is the other.  Europeans destroyed many Mesoamerican codices, believing they bore some satanic elements.

The “Codex Zouche-Nuttall” is made of deer skin and comprises forty-seven leaves.  One side relates the history of important centers in the Mixtec region, while the other side records the genealogy, marriages and political and military feats of the Mixtec ruler “Eight Deer Jaguar-Claw.”  First published in 1902, the “Codex Zouche-Nuttall” is one of the few Mesoamerican pictorial documents to have escaped destruction.

“The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient México” was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The Dallas exhibit runs through November 25, 2012.



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