Posted on May 12, 2020
Collection Connection: Ian Dawson
Alexis Meldrum, Semmes Foundation Intern in Museum Studies
What is a work of art in the McNay Collection that you have a connection to?
On my very first day working at the McNay, I was assigned a research project on the artist Ian Dawson. Several months later, the artwork Henri and Henrietta joined the McNay’s permanent collection as a gift.
As the artwork went through the acquisition process, I assisted the curatorial team with research and writing about Ian Dawson’s altered, found object sculptures and other artists in the YBA (also known as the Young British Artists).
What is something you know about this work of art that others might not know?
This particular Dawson sculpture once belonged to the British pop singer George Michael! The very same artist that sang in Wham! and had supermodels starring in his “Freedom” music video also had an affinity for collecting British contemporary art. In the study of art and art history, the list of an artwork’s former owners and owning institutions is called the “provenance.”
Ian Dawson, Henri and Henrietta, 2004. Polyethylene. Gift of Jerann and Holland Chaney, Collection of the McNay Art Museum.
What are you still curious about?
I wonder how the artist landed on hippos specifically, and what significance that choice might have for the artist personally. Of all the found objects Dawson has altered with heat and centrifugal force, this artwork resembles a living creature more than his other work!
"There is something very physical about putting fire to a petrochemical substance and then seeing the chemical reaction. It was the weird science of seeing a molecular structure being altered before your eyes that really got me into melting."
– Ian Dawson
More about George Michael’s Art Collection HERE.
Tell us a bit about you and what you do at the McNay.
My name is Alexis Meldrum, and as the Semmes Foundation Intern in Museum Studies for 2019-2020, I work directly with our Head of Curatorial Affairs René Paul Barilleaux. In my day to day, I assist the curatorial department with artist research, label writing, programming, and other projects related to special exhibitions and the McNay’s Collection.
What are you most looking forward to when the McNay reopens? Or what are you doing to exercise creativity during isolation?
When we return, one of many things I look forward to is hearing the playlists in our beautiful gallery spaces throughout my workday. Not all museums consider soundscapes when putting on exhibitions, and I feel lucky to hear Selena’s Como La Flor in the Octagon, or the beautiful opera voices floating down the stairwell all the way to our offices from the Tobin Theatre Arts Galleries.
JUST before this period of shelter-at-home started, I decided I wanted to pick up the craft of embroidery! For a few weeks, I’ve been trying my hand at stitching floral details.