New interactive Martin Museum exhibit combines art with music

The Martin Museum of Art offers free admission for all to enjoy the different exhibits. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer Photo credit: Katy Mae Turner

By Matt Kyle | Assistant News Editor

Art and music intertwine in the latest exhibit at the Martin Museum of Art, which features abstract paintings paired with music from multiple famous composers provided by the Baylor School of Music and Baylor Libraries.

The Sound of Color: Art Inspired by Music” is 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 tied to a specific classical composer and meant to represent the composer’s work.

The collection includes paintings meant 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 superimposed over a darkened mix of warm and cool colors. The colors crash together like waves, looking almost like a cosmic cloud adrift in 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 carefully selected to accompany each piece of art.

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

“As I pulled, 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 where there’s what I call turbulence in his image, this kind of almost bubbly section. Then you have the smoothness, the unified colors in the background. This piece has other instruments that are supporting and unified, even though they may have different sounds, which the colors represent. Then you have all the movement happening on top with the main melody dancing around.”

In the painting, a tornado of short and long slashes attack the strings of the instrument, representing the bow attacking the strings at the changing pace of Brahms composition. The instrument and the strokes of the bow take heavy precedence in the piece, just as the strings take the lead in Brahm’s composition.

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

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

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

“Art museums have the tendency of having a reputation of being for the elite, and we want it to be open to students,” Liesch said. “Pretty much everyone who walks in here goes, ‘Oh, a harp!’ and plays 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 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Students needing credit for a Creative Arts Experience can receive one by signing up for a guided tour through the exhibit.

Also on display currently is “Paper Trails,” a collection of poster art from Texas artist Dirk Fowler. Many of the pieces were commissions Fowler created as advertisements for concerts; on display are posters for 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. on September 8 at the Martin Museum of Art.