Staring Back: The Creation and Legacy of Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon


Jenn Karson is a project collaborator on this exhibition and created two sound installations for it. Learn more in the exhibition catalog:

Staring Back:  The Creation and Legacy of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon
February 3 – June 21, 2015
Fleming Museum Burlington, Vermont

Opening Reception
Hosted by UVM President Thomas Sullivan,
Fleming Director Janie Cohen, and the Fleming Museum’s Board of Directors
Cash bar, hors d’oeuvres and music
Tuesday February 10, 5:30-7:00 PM


Picasso’s major 1907 painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, created an uproar in the Paris art world and laid the foundation for the development of Cubism. This spring, the Fleming Museum presents an exhibition that explores Picasso’s extraordinary process in creating the painting, through innovative installations and advanced technologies that transform the museum experience. The painting’s ongoing legacy is examined through the work of a diverse group of American, African, and European contemporary artists. While Demoiselles does not travel from its home in the Museum of Modern Art, it will be represented at the Fleming in an unprecedented manner.

Visitors will be introduced to the painting in an environment that evokes Picasso’s studio at the “Bateau Lavoir,” where he first showed Demoiselles to his close friends and colleagues in 1907; their reactions may be heard against a background of ambient sounds that would have echoed through the streets of Montmartre at the time. Augmented reality will enable visitors to view images of Picasso’s studies for the individual figures and the full composition in the context of the painting, and to understand its evolution.

Picasso found inspiration for Demoiselles in art history and contemporary visual culture. Through a variety of new visual technologies, visitors will understand how he synthesized and transformed these diverse sources – from Iberian, African, Oceanic, and Egyptian art to Baroque painting, Cezanne’s and Gauguin’s work, and colonial photographers’ images of African women – to launch a radically new artistic vocabulary.

The largest section of the exhibition highlights the continuing pull of the painting – over 100 years after its creation – as evidenced in the work of international artists, including Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Gerri Davis, Damian Elwes, Julian Friedler, Kathleen Gilje, Carlo Maria Mariani, Sophie Matisse, Stas Orlovski, and Jackson Tupper.

STARING BACK was conceived and curated by Janie Cohen, Director of the Fleming Museum of Art. The exhibition is informed by the work of numerous Picasso scholars, including Cohen, who has published on Picasso for over thirty years and whose new research on anthropometric-style colonial African photography and Demoiselles will be published in the journal Photography and Culture in March, 2015. Cohen’s project collaborators are Coberlin Brownell, Assistant Professor, Emergent Media Program at Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont; and Jenn Karson, Sound Artist; Lecturer, UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; and Founder, Vermont Makers, Burlington, Vermont.

Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Endowment Fund; the Walter Cerf Exhibitions Fund; Rolf Kielman and Stephanie Spencer; TruexCullins Architecture and Interior Design; Kimberley Adams, M.D., and Mark Depman, M.D.; Neil and Ursula Owre Masterson ’89; the Offices of the President and the Provost at the University of Vermont; and the Fleming Contemporary Art Fund.


Review: “The Wayfinders” by Wade Davis

“Imagine for a moment if all the genius and intellect of all generations that have come before you had been concentrated on a single set of tasks, focused exclusively on knowing a particular piece of ground, not only plants and animals but every ecological, climatic, geographic detail, the pulse of every sentient creature, the rhythm of every breath of wind, the patterns of every season. This was the norm in Aboriginal Australia.”

-Wade Davis
The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World

There are many ways to know a place and live ones life within it. The Wayfinders, by Wade Davis, makes a very strong case for what everyone stands to gain from both learning and exploring the different ways that cultures around the globe understand themselves and their relationships to the earth and the universe.

Wade is an astonishing writer – there are many gorgeous paragraphs in this book and it often reads like poetry. He’s also a remarkable communicator. His point of view is clearly stated and yet he does not assume that you will agree with him. Sometimes he even spars with the reader, which makes it an even more engaging read, as he senses your doubts and cynicism and responds to them directly.

The book introduced me to cultures I knew little to nothing about. I found the chapter on Polynesian sea navigation the most captivating:

“The navigator must process an endless flow of data, intuitions and insights derived from observation and the dynamic rhythms and interactions of wind, waves, clouds, stars, sun, moon, the flight of birds, a bed of kelp, the constantly changing world of weather and the sea.”

The above is just a snippet of this 249 paged book. I often found myself  just reading a few pages per sitting.  The subject matter was so rich, I chose to take my time with it, to let it all sink in.

As an artist who explores how people and nature negotiate, I found this book a thrilling and educational read – refreshing, inspiring and humbling. I highly recommend it. I would loan you my copy if only I could part with it – I can’t.

The Wayfinders on

Seminars on Long-Term Thinking with the Long Now Foundation. Wade Davis talk. Video.

Mapping the Gulf Oil Spill

NASA AVIRIS map used to asses Gulf Oil Spill

A few weeks ago I came across the Gulf Oil Tracker Widget (below), a widget that observes the real-time spillage of oil in the Gulf. This little widget can be embedded into any website, providing a live window to the heart of the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis.

The video takes a few moments to load, but it is worth the wait. There’s another version of the widget that does not have the video. It loads more quickly and still provides useful live calculations of the spill.This widget comes via PBS and NPR.

Intrigued, I did some research to see how maps are being used in new and traditional media to describe and explain the spill. Many of the maps that I found are doing more than helping the viewer “navigate a space.” Drawing on the ideas of the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, these maps are also “scores” that show events taking place over time.  These visuals are helping us understand how the Gulf Oil Spill is unfolding over days, weeks and months.

Here are the best maps I found online:

Map Time

No matter what your politics or how you feel about Rachel Maddow, you may be surprised to see how much oil production in is going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now. I was. This online video of her news feature “Map Time” features a still map that tells a riveting story.

Rachel Maddow Gulf Oil Drilling Map:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Citizen Reporting Smartphone App

This smartphone application allows anyone to post reports on the oil spill: photos, videos and field notes.

Map The Spill

BP Oilspill Multitouch Map

Ideum application for touch tables uses a combination of existing Google maps and photos from a Flickr Group. You may start to see this in museums and science centers that have multi-touch tables.

BP Oilspill Multitouch Map Table Demo


The NASA Satellite images are sophisticated and include detailed descriptions.

NASA Satellite Images

New York Times

The New York Times website has maps about where oil has made landfall, effects on wildlife, live video and more.

New York Times: Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf


The earliest map image is a few days old. It features overlays of NOAA oil spill forecasts, YouTube videos, emergency fishing closures, satellite imagery and more.

Google Map and Gulf Oil Spill Layers

Have you found an interesting Gulf Oil Spill map that is not listed here? Please post it below.

Views of Your Email from the Street

Google Street View vehicles traveled the world collecting private digital data from behind the curtains and doors of private homes and businesses.

Google Street Views around Lake Champlain
Vermont & New York, USA
Street views are available for the routes in blue
(click here for larger image)

After successfully launching an effort to capture street views from around the globe, Google is saying that it accidentally also captured information that included Wi-Fi passwords and email. Google says it didn’t mean to capture this information and that it did nothing illegal. Google is not evil, right? But how does one launch such a huge and expensive effort and not know all its bells and whistles? Wouldn’t that have been part of the pitch? How does one make a mistake like this, yet within the strict lines of the law? How do the engineers at Google, the best in the world, not discover this “mistake” until it is pointed out to them?

Google Street View Status of Investigations, June 18, 2010
(click here for larger image)

Part of the premise of Google Street Views is that it only shows (and captures) what any person “walking down the street” would see – it merely captures and distributes what is already on public view. Digital images of physical “public spaces” are digitally distributed to a wider public. Now we know more, aside from making what was public more public, Google Street View vehicles traveled the world collecting private digital data from behind the curtains and doors of private homes and businesses. Those cute little buggies with ostrich-necked cameras don’t seem so cute anymore.

If you give Google the benefit of the doubt that they are not interested in violating privacy laws, this question persists: What did they stand to gain from gathering private information from private spaces if it wasn’t to make it public?


“States Ready Joint Probe of Google Data Collection,” The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2010