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Making New Art Inspired by the Met's Collections with Google Glass

Neal Stimler, Digital Asset Specialist, Digital Media; and Gretchen Andrus Andrew, Artist

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014

«Fellow Google Glass Explorer Gretchen Andrus Andrew—a London-based artist and former Google employee—first contacted me via Twitter last October. She was aware of the Met's experimentation with Google Glass after reading my first post for Digital Underground, and was interested in meeting here at the Museum while she was visiting New York.»

I met Gretchen on a sun-filled day in The Charles Engelhard Court of The American Wing—one of the museum's reflective spaces, featuring American art, sculpture, and other decorative artworks using diverse media. As I approached the court, I discovered Gretchen wearing Google Glass and sketching in the galleries. I was immediately excited to be seeing the type of engagement that I anticipated would take place within the Museum using Google Glass: the study and reflection of the Met's collection as a means to make new art.

Gretchen uses Google Glass to record works that inspire her when visiting museums. She documents her working process of sketching and making notes, which contributes to the creation of her own paintings. While exploring Google Glass in the galleries, Gretchen and I shared an enriching conversation that spanned art history, her artistic practice, and our hopes for further integrating digital technologies into the museum experience. Gretchen was pleased that the Met was on the forefront of engaging digital technologies such as Google Glass, and was excited by our efforts here to understand the convergences between museums and digital media in contemporary life.

Gretchen exemplifies the type of constituent that museums immersed in the digital culture should work to inspire and connect with. I invited Gretchen to join me in making this a collaborative blog post, and am thrilled to have her participate here on Digital Underground.

From Gretchen:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's mission includes "encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts" as a founding principle, and generations of artists have positioned themselves in their own cultural milieu by studying artworks in the Met's collection. Creating new artwork is one of many possible responses to the study of the fine arts, as well as a form of cultural resonance. As a contemporary artist, I consciously define my relationships to the works found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Avenue du Bois

Kees van Dongen (Dutch, 1877–1968). Avenue du Bois, ca. 1925. Oil on machine-primed canvas; 31 7/8 x 39 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.227). © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

When I walk through this Museum, I scan for inspiration. As an artist, I am here to learn, to record, to borrow, to gather inspiration from the art of history to use in my contemporary paintings. Using Google Glass I document colors, forms, and techniques in the Museum's collection to bring back into my studio. For me, the Met is a living museum; its collection has the potential for new life within my work.

As Neal previously mentioned, I brought Google Glass during a recent visit to the Met, and used the technology to capture images of a painting in The Robert Lehman Collection, Kees van Dongen's Avenue du Bois. I was drawn in particular to the man with a bowler hat in the lower right corner. Later, in my studio, I reviewed the content captured with Google Glass and began creating preliminary watercolor sketches inspired by van Dongen's figure.

Left: Kees van Dongen (Dutch, 1877–1968). Avenue du Bois (detail), ca. 1925. Oil on machine-primed canvas; 31 7/8 x 39 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.227). © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

I then transferred the sketches onto a primed cotton canvas using black charcoal. Inspired by the style of Edvard Munch, I created two figures in my composition related to the figure cited from the van Dongen. Once the major forms were drawn, I applied a deep Prussian blue–colored high-solvent oil paint with fluid brush strokes on the canvas. I tipped the canvas at critical points in the process, causing the pigment to cascade in a tonal wash over the picture. I continued to paint wet on wet, not allowing the previous layers to dry before adding new ones.

I titled my new painting Patient Hope in New Snow. The painting's style and subject matter reverently depart from its precedents, resulting in the creation of a new work synthesized from art-historical sources and the development of my own artistic process. In Avenue du Bois, van Dongen's figures are in a crowded mess of other Parisians, horses, and cars in front of the Arc de Triomphe; in my painting, I place the bowler-hatted man within a new figure group emerging from an abstracted and atmospheric landscape. The trees and the sky appear to share in, or are possibly caused by, the emotional aura of the figures. I've transported van Dongen's sense of motion from the bustling city street out into nature—into harmony with humanity's inner life.

Study; Patient Hope in New Snow

Left: Gretchen Andrus Andrew. Study for Patient Hope in New Snow, 2013. Right: Gretchen Andrus Andrew. Patient Hope in New Snow, 2013. Homemade oil on cotton; 36 x 48 in. Creative Commons License These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

With Google Glass I am able to tell the story of how contemporary art comes directly from the study of fine art at institutions like the Met. When contemporary artists use Google Glass to connect with museum collections, they can become more informed and conscious of art history. Digital culture unites dispersed people and connects artists across time, and as an artist, my work is inevitably strengthened by this kind of access to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collections. After leaving the Met, I then enter my studio knowing the story, attempting to write its next chapter.

Gretchen's complementary post on Underscoreg.com
Gretchen's Presentation, "Google Glass & Art: Shareable, Visual Process"

Follow Neal
Twitter: @nealstimler
Google+: Neal Stimler

Follow Gretchen
Twitter: @gretchenandrew
Google+: Gretchen Andrus Andrew


  • Melody says:


    Posted: February 6, 2014, 5:58 p.m.

  • Garland Perkins says:

    Such an incredible and innovative process for composing art and explaining the process others!

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 3:38 p.m.

  • Luke Bornheimer says:

    This is really awesome! What a great collaboration between The Met and an innovative and up-and-coming artist like Gretchen!

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 3:39 p.m.

  • M Bell says:

    Excited to see _g sctending her reach! Awesome job, MET and _g!

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 4:14 p.m.

  • Jane says:

    Fascinating - Andrus Andrew is a very talented artist. I love how she combines respect for the masters with new technologies. Exciting direction for art's future!

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 4:53 p.m.

  • Eddie says:

    Loved the line about digital culture uniting dispersed people and connecting artists across time. It's cool to think that digital culture also connects across geography today. Even if one can't get to NYC, being able to walk though the Met's collection online or to skip across the world's great museums with projects like the Google Cultural Institute (www.google.com/culturalinstitute) can inspire anyone with a passion for art and a modem.

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 5:15 p.m.

  • John Belbute says:

    This is really amazing work! Absolutely love it and thrilled to see it recognized. Congratulations to you and the Met

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 5:34 p.m.

  • Forbes says:

    I really enjoyed seeing the process involved in making the final piece. It gives me a deeper appreciation for the final product because for me the creative mechanics of how a piece is constructed is nearly as important as the final product. It also serves as a interesting way to draw attention to nuances that might otherwise be overlooked in a cursory review.

    Posted: February 7, 2014, 5:43 p.m.

  • Andrew says:

    Very interesting piece. It's great to see the MET investing in content like this. Always fascinating to hear more about an artists inspiration - nice to see a new model for sharing that insight.

    Posted: February 8, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

  • Jim says:

    Technology, as in Google Glass, is always a means to an end. In this case, the end is the creation of more and better art and the greater dissemination and understanding of that art.

    Posted: February 8, 2014, 10:09 a.m.

  • Vanessa says:

    While I do think it is an innovative way to mesh technology and art, the video showing the process of creating the painting along with seeing where the inspiration came from is what I found truly awe inspiring. In fact, I will probably show my students so they can see what creativity and critical thinking can create!

    Posted: February 8, 2014, 10:31 a.m.

  • Dwyer says:

    What a unique and interesting fusion between technology and art!

    Posted: February 8, 2014, 10:54 a.m.

  • Ann says:

    A whole new museum experience is emerging and influencing artist's beyond just viewing by using available technology to aid in absorbing technique, references and relationships, and history of vast museum collections. Gretchen and her art are a leading examples of the convergence of the art world and that of technology.

    Posted: February 8, 2014, 12:27 p.m.

  • Cayla says:

    What a great initiative to use a piece of technology like Glass to share art as well as the art journey. I am always impressed by final product, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the the whole process. I can't wait to see more of what's to come!

    Posted: February 9, 2014, 6:45 a.m.

  • Lauren says:

    Truly incredible to be able to trace the life of a piece of work through Glass. It makes the viewer or buyer's connection to a piece so much stronger. Love it!

    Posted: February 10, 2014, 10:44 a.m.

  • Alex Hall says:

    I think what Gretchen is doing is much more than writing the next chapter; She's growing new branches into the life of these original works. I know Gretchen will continue to challenge not only our view of art in the past, and the present, but the potential it has in the future.

    Posted: February 11, 2014, 8:34 a.m.

  • Lauren Johnston says:

    Brilliant insight and beautiful art work! Gretchen's artwork is impressive. I am also impressed by the way Gretchen has integrated her technical knowledge of digital media into her paintings. There is always more to a painting than meets the eye with an initial glance. Gretchen's strategy of sharing the story of a painting's creation makes her paintings all that much more meaningful!

    Posted: February 13, 2014, 11:10 a.m.

  • Meggie Sullivan says:

    Gretchen's work here truly resurrects and reshapes the past. Were van Dogen alive today, I think he would have not only been impressed by Gretchen's persepctive but hopeful for the future, because it lies in such intelligent hands.

    Posted: February 17, 2014, 10:20 a.m.

  • Frequent Met Visitor says:

    The Met's security (guy stationed near the basement entrance near the educational center) didn't allow me to wear my Google Glass inside the museum. So much for the Met being in "the forefront of engaging digital technologies such as Google Glass." You may want to clarify your policy.

    Posted: March 22, 2014, 6:13 p.m.

  • Sree Sreenivasan says:

    Thank you for letting us know about this incident. When you have an institution as large and as careful as the Met, it can take a while to get the word out about technology as new and confusing as Glass. We are in the midst of establishing visitor policies for Glass and similar products and letting our staff know that Glass is permitted within the Museum. For now, as with smartphones, you're welcome to shoot still photos for non-commercial purposes (unless you see a "no photography" sign), but shooting videos isn't allowed.

    Sree Sreenivasan
    Chief Digital Officer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Posted: March 24, 2014, 4:01 p.m.

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About the Authors

Neal Stimler is a digital asset specialist in the Digital Media Department.

Guest blogger Gretchen Andrus Andrew is an artist based in London, England.

About this Blog

The Digital Department leads the creation, production, presentation, and dissemination of multimedia content to support the viewing and understanding of the Met's collection and exhibitions, both within the galleries and online. This blog discusses a few of the activities of the department, and invites your questions and comments about the Museum's digital initiatives.