New Art at the Peabody

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

Johnny Yates, lalá, 2021

We are pleased to announce that the Peabody has installed an interactive artwork by Jonny Yates (aka Jonny White Bull).  Jonny is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and lives in McLaughlin, South Dakota. He is a talented jewelry maker, stylist, and chef, known for his own version of General Tso’s Chicken, burger dogs, nachos with homemade chips, and other delicacies.

The piece, titled lalá, or grandfather, in the Lakota language, is a reference to Jonny’s ancestor Sitting Bull, who is depicted here. Jonny is the consummate “maker,” who loves creating carved and painted bone jewelry, drawings, and three-dimensional pieces made from cardboard, milk jugs, and other found materials.

Jonny invites everyone to spin his kinetic artwork and reflect on your own ancestors. You can find lalá in the Hornblower Gallery on the first floor of the Peabody.

CONTEMPORARY ART AT THE PEABODY

Jonny Yate’s piece joins a small but growing collection of contemporary Native art at the Peabody. When possible, the Peabody has purchased and commissioned artwork from Native artists with the support of donors and members of the Peabody Advisory Community. Artists with work in the collection include Dominique Toya, Maxine Toya, Bessie Yepa, Jeremy Frey, and Jason Garcia. These artists highlight some of the unique relationships that have developed between the Peabody and Native artists over the years. As an example, the Andover community has been fortunate to have several visits by Pueblo potters Dominique, Maxine, and Mia Toya over the years. During these visits, the Toyas share traditional pottery methods with students in Thayer Zaeder’s ceramics classes. They are very talented artists and quite passionate educators. You can read more about their most recent visit here.

Contemporary art in the Peabody Collection. From upper left: Jason Garcia, Jeremy Frey, Maxine Toya, Dominique Toya, and Bessie Yepa.

THE INSTALL

Hanging Jonny’s kinetic artwork presented a unique challenge; how could we make the piece available for a hands-on experience for students and visitors while keeping it safely installed. Research institutions, such as the Peabody, do not normally put collections on display, so we carefully considered our options. We chose to use cleats to secure the piece to the wall and a makeshift security clip to keep the piece from sliding out of the cleat. In place of a detailed narrative of the installation process, here are a series of photos of how we chose to approach the process. We hope you come by sometime and experience it for yourself.

lalá arrived hanging in a travel case
Access to the back was necessary for adding hanging hardware. The piece was safely removed before cutting a hole in the travel case, it was then re-hung.
Cleats were installed on the back top and bottom.
A receiving cleat was anchored to the drywall to secure the artwork.
Security clip (screw and washer) ensures that the artwork won’t slip off the receiving cleat while being spun.

3D Printing and Human Origins

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

The return to in-person classes means that this fall’s Human Origins includes many of the hands-on project-based assignments that have become a hallmark of the course.

Makerspace guru Claudia Wessner introduces Human Origins students to 3D printing.

Students in Human Origins—an interdisciplinary science elective—visited with Claudia Wessner, Oliver Wendell Holmes Library Makerspace guru—who introduced the class to our hominin 3D printing project, including different 3D printing technologies, some of the ways that archaeologists use 3D printing and scanning, and Virtual Reality (VR) technology. Ms. Wessner also showed students how to use the Makerspace 3D printers for their projects.

An assortment of 3D hominin prints.

Each project team will select a fossil hominin to 3D print in the Makerspace. Hominins are humans and their close extinct ancestors, including fossils dating back about 6 to 7 million years ago. Students will present their scaled prints, along with basic info on the fossil, during class in a few weeks. This project was inspired by the inclusion of 3D scans of Homo naledi in Morphosource, a database of 3D scans of fossils and biological specimens hosted by Duke University. Since the Homo naledi scans were made available in 2015, many additional fossil scans have been added, including other hominins.

CT scan of a Neanderthal from Duke University’s Morphosource databank.

During our September 2021 visit to the Makerspace, Ms. Wessner introduced us to Nefertari: Journey to Eternity-A Tombscale VR Experience. VR technology uses a headset interface so users can experience a virtual world, in this case an Egyptian tomb that has been scanned and recreated. We also discussed The Dawn of Art, Google’s VR version of Chauvet Cave in France, featuring some of the world’s oldest cave paintings.

Human Origins students got to explore Nefertari’s tomb in VR or Virtual Reality.

To learn more about 3D scanning and printing in paleontology and archaeology take a look at the Virtual Curation Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University and University of South Florida’s Digital Heritage and Humanities Collection, each featuring different ways that 3D technology is used today.

Check back as we update this blog with the student 3D prints!

Hopping into the Collection

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Several months ago, I was connected with a PA alum who wished to donate a piece of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican jewelry to the Peabody Institute. It is a gold pendant in the shape of a frog with a slightly unclear origin. It had been passed down within the family and was variably attributed to the Maya, as well as cultures in Panama and Columbia. The owner had the pendant appraised for insurance purposes in the 1960s and again in the 1980s. Each appraisal identified a different culture of origin and left me a little confused.  

Now, admittedly, I know relatively little about Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican jewelry and was out of my depth to evaluate this potential donation. Thank goodness for networking!

My first step was to reach out to a couple members of the Peabody Advisory Committee who have expertise in Mesoamerica and Peru. Even if they could not identify the cultural origin of the pendant, I knew they could point me in the right direction. In collaboration with the Peabody’s director, Ryan Wheeler, it was decided that I should reach out to a professor emeritus, Dr. John Scott, at the University of Florida for evaluation. That was a solid plan.

Lots of photos were taken of every part of the frog pendant. 

The final piece of the puzzle was to determine if the frog was actually made of gold. Again, that is outside of my expertise and I needed to find some help. Fortunately, Andover is home to several amazing jewelry stores. The wonderfully helpful Vice President of Service at Royal Jewelers, Dina, came to my rescue. She hooked me up with a jeweler who had technology to identify the metallurgic components of the pendant without causing any damage.  Technology is great!

The result is that the frog is a mixture of gold and copper that is typical of tumbaga. Tumbaga is the name for a non-specific alloy of gold and copper that is very common in Lower Central American manufacture. The frog is 1,200-500 years old and probably originated in the Central Highlands or Atlantic Slope of Costa Rica.

The next step is to present all this information to the Peabody Collections Oversight Committee (PCOC) in October. The PCOC will then vote on whether or not to formally accept it into the collection. Hopefully, this frog will be making an appearance in a classroom soon!

Note – if you would like to learn more about Latin American art, check out some of Dr. Scott’s publications:

Before Cortes: Sculpture of Middle America by Elizabeth Kennedy Easby and John Scott (1971)

Latin American Art: Ancient to Modern (1999)