The Martin Museum’s new interactive exhibition combines art and music

The Martin Museum of Art offers free admission for everyone to enjoy the various exhibitions. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer Photo credit: Katy Mae Turner

By Matt Kyle | Associate Editor

Art and music intertwine in the Martin Museum of Art’s latest exhibition, which features abstract paintings paired with music by several famous composers provided by the Baylor School of Music and Baylor Libraries.

The sound of color: art inspired by musicis a 1976 collection of seven paintings by Mexican artist Leonardo Nierman. Nierman was a violinist for 20 years before becoming an artist, and each of the pieces in the collection is Nierman’s visual representation of music. Each painting is linked to a specific classical composer and intended to represent the composer’s work.

The collection includes paintings intended to represent the work of Claude Debussy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel, Gustav Mahler and Igor Stravinksy.

Nierman’s style is abstract and almost surreal; each painting features one or more stringed instruments layered over a dark mix of warm and cool colors. The colors collide like waves, almost resembling a cosmic cloud drifting through space. QR codes next to each of the paintings allow visitors to listen to a recording of a Baylor performance of a piece by each composer, which museum staff have carefully selected to accompany each artwork.

Elisa Crowder, education coordinator at the Martin Museum of Art, said the musical pieces were chosen based on their complementarity with the painting. For example, the Brahms piece chosen to accompany his painting, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5has a tempo that picks up speed in some parts and slows down in others.

“In shooting, I was trying to find pieces that would reflect what I knew about them and what I could see happening,” Crowder said. “In this piece, there are times when there is what I call turbulence in its image, this kind of almost sparkling passage. Then you have the soft, unified colors in the background. This piece has other instruments that support and unify, even though they may sound different, what the colors represent. Then you have all the movement happening up top with the main melody dancing around.

In the painting, a tornado of short and long slashes attacks the strings of the instrument, representing the bow attacking the strings in the changing rhythm of Brahms’ composition. The instrument and the bowing take center stage in the piece, just as the strings take center stage in Brahm’s composition.

Woodlands graduate student Melissa Liesch helps find new exhibits for the museum. While researching pieces for the museum’s upcoming exhibit, she found “The Sound of Color” and said the color of the pieces, as well as connections to different composers, piqued her interest.

Liesch also said she was excited about the opportunity to host an interactive exhibit — the first the museum has ever done. In addition to being able to listen to music while viewing each painting, the exhibit features instruments such as treble tubes, harps, and kalimbas that visitors can play music with.

By having interactive elements, Liesch said it’s easier to get students interested in art and the museum.

“Art museums tend to have a reputation for being reserved for the elite, and we want them to be open to students,” Liesch said. “Almost everyone who walks in here says, ‘Oh, a harp!’ and play it. I just wanted to bring that element of play and fun into the museum.

“The Sound of Color: Art Inspired by Music” will be on display until October 2. The Martin Museum of Art is located in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Students needing credit for a Creative arts experience can receive one by registering for a guided tour of the exhibition.

Also on display is currently “paper traces», a collection of posters by Texan artist Dirk Fowler. Many of the pieces were commissions created by Fowler as advertisements for concerts; on display are posters by artists like Tame Impala, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson.

“Paper Trails” will be on display until Fowler visits for a reception and lecture at 5:30 p.m. September 8 at the Martin Museum of Art.

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