Paint the Eyes Softer - Exhibition Press: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Paint the Eyes Softer - Exhibition Press

Media coverage of the exhibition Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt running at The Block Museum of Art, January 13, 2018 to April 22, 2018

Chicago Reader
"No matter how sophisticated our technology becomes, it's doubtful that a device will ever be invented to explain the impulse to render the human image for posterity. The desire to make a picture in which we recognize our own faces is as basic to the human condition as the need for food or shelter. The 2,000-year-old ancestors looking out from the walls of the Block Museum are a reminder of that. Even if they were originally meant as death masks, these portraits look as alive as you or me." - Dmitry Samarov”
Dmitry Samarov, January 23, 2018
Chicago Tonight
"I think that this is quintessentially Northwestern, to be able to bring together multidisciplinary aspects and create something new out of it. But at the Block Museum in particular, it’s the nexus of these activities, bringing these crosscurrents together so we can actually explore one theme in depth from a number of different perspectives, giving a richer view of the subject matter." -Marc Walton”
Marc Vitali, January 24, 2018
The Daily Northwestern
“I don’t think in any other kind of museum you could go to a professor at the medical school to see if you could get the mummy scanned at the hospital,” Rönkkö said. “It’s one of those examples of what an academic museum can do on a campus.” - Andrea Michelson”
Andrea Michelson, January 18, 2018
Discovery Channel: Daily Planet
A daily science magazine show that delivers a fascinating mix of documentaries and features, with hosts Ziya Tong and Dan Riskin.”
Discovery Channel, February 20, 2018
Mental Floss
"The exhibit is titled 'Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt,' a reference to a note to the artist that was discovered with one of the sketches. The portraits, drawn in ink, chalk, or paint, were fastened to the subjects they represented with the same linens used to wrap the bodies." -Michele Debczak”
Michele Debczak, February 25, 2018
Science News
"The mummy was the first ever to be brought to the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, where it was exposed to synchrotron radiation from the lab’s Advanced Photon Source. High-energy X-ray beams could offer new information about the mummy." -Howard Wolinsky”
Howard Wolinsky, February 19, 2018
NewCity Art
"Gallery signage tells us that an edict by the Roman Emperor Diocletian listed panel painters as among the most highly-paid craftsmen in the empire, and it’s not hard to see why...Despite the differences in age, gender and proportion, each volumetric face seems to be saying 'Here I am.'" -Chris Miller”
Chris Miller, February 15, 2018
North by Northwestern
"One section of the exhibition celebrated the extremely talented “panel painters” of the ancient world. Of the later masks, three of the portraits on display are possibly from the same workshop...Even though these funerary masks are essentially the only art to have survived from then to now, the exhibition overall is an interesting delve into a form of portraiture." -Kathryn Rothstein”
Kathryn Rothstein, February 13, 2018
The Washington Post
"The free exhibition has plenty of portraits to explore but also delves into the scientific mysteries of the mummies. Intact mummy portraits are very rare, and in November the university took one of its specimens to the nearby Argonne National Laboratory for an X-ray experiment that revealed information about the workshop that probably did the painting and about the materials inside the mummy." -Erin Blakemore”
Erin Blakemore, February 10, 2018
Medill Reports Chicago
"'We really wanted something that was subtle…and respectful,' Rönkkö said, describing the final choice. 'Thomas’s [track] really captured what we had in mind beautifully.'" -Jourdan Kerl”
Jourdan Kerl, February 1, 2018
Northwestern Magazine
This is a unique experiment, a 3-D puzzle,' says Stuart Stock, a professor of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine who led the experiment at Argonne. He hopes their analysis can help researchers understand more about the mummy's history and how best to conserve it.”
April 1, 2018
Splash Magazines
"[The Block exhibition] was also a good introduction to techniques that are being used broadly to investigate previously unknown “secrets” about what lay underneath the wrappings of the mummies." -Barbara Keer ”
Barbara Keer, April 7, 2018
Northwestern Research
"The exhibit, 'Pain the Eyes Softer,' features mummy portraits produced in Egypt during the Roman period, a complete intact portrait mummy, and other archeological finds from the Fayum region. Combining expertise from across the University—including from classics, materials science, medicine, archeology, art history, and molecular biology—this groundbreaking installation explores how interdisciplinary partnerships can deliver new insights into ancient mysteries." ”
April 12, 2018
Daily Planet
"I always feel like a super-sleuth with the work that I'm doing, and science is a good tool to be able to better understand the historic record." -Marc Walton ”
Marc Walton, May 2, 2018
PBS News Hour
"The added benefit of these cutting-edge tools is their non-invasive nature–a mummy can be analyzed without unwrapping it...By using these noninvasive scientific instruments, art historians can make sure they are respecting mummified remains while sharing that humbling joy of discovery for generations to come."”
Fedor Kossakovski, November 28, 2017
Chicago Tribune
"The high-powered beams of the Argonne machine will give researchers molecular information about what is inside the mummy, including the girl's bones, burial materials and what has become of her remains. The powerful synchotron allows scientists a noninvasive way of probing the mummy, offering snapshots of its contents at a near-atomic level."”
Patrick M. O'Connell, November 28, 2017
The Washington Post
"Scientists examined the rare find on Monday in the hopes of learning more about how the girl died. And they say studying the wrapping materials may shed new light on ancient Egyptian culture." ”
November 29, 2017
Art Daily
"The study of this rare archeological object, owned by Garrett-Evangelical, is part of an interdisciplinary class at Northwestern focused, in part, on filling out the contextual story of where this mummy came from and who she was." ”
November 29, 2017
“'Our main motivation is to use the physical sciences to be able to unpack the technology of art,' Marc Walton, a materials scientist at Northwestern and one of the project’s leaders, told PBS. 'We’re trying to get into the mind of the artist to understand why they’re making certain choices based upon the economics of the materials, their physical structure, and then use that information to be able to rewrite history.'” ”
Kastalia Medrano, November 29, 2017
Picture this Post
"'This exhibit is just one of the many ways we are continuing to expand the intersection between art and engineering,' said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School. 'In addition to providing the tools of engineering to study the history of art, our partnership provides opportunities for engineers and artists to learn how each other works and thinks, expanding their own abilities in the process.'””
November 30, 2017
Tech Times
"The mummy, who wears gold jewelry and crimson tunic, also has an embedded portrait, a lifelike painting of the individual incorporated into the wrappings. The mummy is only one of about 100 worldwide with such a painted portrait that was embedded in the wrapping above where its head should be. This style is introduced by the Romans, so, the analysis of the mummy will also offer researchers clues about Roman-Egyptian mummy portraits, which have a different style from those of the more familiar Egyptian mummies."”
Allan Adamson, November 30, 2017
'We’re basically able to go back to an excavation that happened more than 100 years ago and reconstruct it with our contemporary analysis techniques,' said Marc Walton, research professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering. 'All the information we find will help us enrich the entire historic context of this young girl mummy and the Roman period in Egypt.'”
Brid-Aine Parnell, November 30, 2017
VOA News
"Researchers from Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago are using advanced technology to unwrap the mysteries of an 1,800-year-old mummy."”
November 29, 2017
BBC News
"This is the first time that such a high intensity synchrotron X-ray will have been used on a mummy, with the aim of producing an extremely detailed three-dimensional analysis of the body and any other objects hidden below the linen bindings." ”
Sean Coughlan, December 6, 2017
Splash Magazines
"It is fascinating to observe the ways in which Blake’s protests against the conventions of his day were inspirational for many young Americans disillusioned by perceived cultural tendencies of social uniformity, materialism and consumerism, racial and gender discrimination, and environmental degradation. This was a generation that sought in Blake a model of independence, imagination, and resistance to authority."”
Barbara Keer, December 11, 2017
Time Out Chicago
"In the late ’60s, Sam Gilliam was part of a group of painters who began experimenting with color, making it the primary focus of their canvases. Gilliam developed "drape" paintings, featuring an unstretched canvas that was covered with paint and presented as a hanging sculpture. To celebrate the recent gift of Gilliam's painting "One," the Block Museum will present an exhibit devoted to his work, accompanied by pieces by contemporaries Alan Shields and Frank Stella."”
Zach Long, December 29, 2017
Wall Street International
"The exhibition will foreground innovative techniques for the scientific study of objects and reveal to the public how partnerships between art historians, archaeologists, and material scientists can provide new revelations about these ancient artworks."”
September 2, 2017