In a new Q&A series, we profile members of the McNay staff to show a behind-the-scenes look at all the people who make the McNay what it is! This week: Liz Paris from the Collections Department.
What is your role at the McNay? Walk us through a typical day in your shoes.
I’m the Assistant Registrar for Collections, and it’s commonly said that there isn’t a completely nailed down definition of my position because there are so many responsibilities which vary from museum to museum, but everything I do relates to the care of our collection. My typical day-to-day responsibilities may include: condition reporting, loan agreements, accessions, photographing and cataloging objects, accompanying objects as a courier, ordering supplies, maintaining object documentation, creating reports/receipts/gallery and exhibition checklists, maintaining the collection database, analyzing browser traffic, and conducting research on various objects in the collection. I’m often quite busy, but I feel privileged to work so closely with our collection.
What do you like to do outside of work? What are your favorite things to do and places to go in San Antonio?
A lot of staff members at the McNay are heavily involved in San Antonio’s greater art community, and I love going to First Friday and Second Saturday to see local gallery openings and spend time talking to the artists and curators. In my spare time, I curate for Revenant Gallery, and I enjoy being able to maintain my close relationship with art outside work—I believe the work I do for the gallery grants me valuable insight into what’s happening outside the museum in the community at large.
Outside of the arts, I frequent patios in Midtown, Southtown, Dignowity Hill, and North St. Mary’s. I’m an avid tattoo enthusiast, and I enjoy going to various flea markets and antique shops around town. Although I’ve lived all over Texas, I’m a San Antonio native, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
What has been your favorite exhibition at the McNay so far? Tell us why.
In 2010, I saw a collection-based exhibition at the McNay called Neither Model nor Muse: Women as Artists. The exhibition featured powerful works of art by artists like Helen Torr, Louise Nevelson, Käthe Kollwitz, and Dorothy Hood, and it’s always a pleasure to see an all-women show. At the McNay, we talk about art as a transformative experience, and a painting in this show was the first art object to make me cry. It’s an oil painting by Abstract Expressionist artist Joan Mitchell called Woods/Country, and although the subject matter is completely abstract, something about this painting transported me to a place of perceiving without seeing. I believe art can have this effect on any visitor, and having that filter of assumptions or rules of understanding that we carry around with us temporarily lifted is a beneficial experience.
What is one thing about the McNay you wish everyone knew?
Typically, museums only display between 2 and 4 percent of what is in their collection. A fantastic way to get to know our collection better is to use the searchable online collection browser. Over 13,500 of our objects are featured online, and we add new objects all the time!
I think it’s also important to know that we’re discovering new things about our collection every single day. I always joke that “Every day is a school day,” and this is true here. We’re always actively engaging with and learning about what we have at the McNay, and I truly enjoy sharing that information with our community.
Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish, 1930-2017). Seated Figure on Iron Frame II, 1990. Burlap, synthetic resin, and iron. Jeanne and Irving Mathews Collection. Currently on view.