Art Attack: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Anne Manning

Whether it’s a painting, photograph, or hand-painted ceramic tchotchke from your Aunt Nadine, most everyone has one piece of art that truly resonates with them. We’re putting out the call to ask, “What’s your favorite piece of art?”


Next up is Anne Manning, the deputy director for education and interpretation at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Manning oversees learning and engagement with art. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and Ontario, Canada, she received her BA in art history and Italian from Smith College and an MA in art history from the University of Pittsburgh. Manning landed in the metro in 2015 from Baltimore, Maryland.

With over 30 years of experience working in museums across the country, Manning chose a 2017 abstract piece by Kansas City artist Debra Smith. The red-and-white vintage silk is “pieced together in an intuitive way to create an abstract composition,” she says.

The Eyes Can See by Debra Smith

What’s your fave piece of artwork?
Because of the pandemic, I haven’t gotten to many galleries in the last year and have had a lot of time to stare at the art on my walls at home. So my current favorite piece is called More Than the Eyes Can See. It’s meant to hang vertically, but I currently have it displayed horizontally in my entryway, so it’s the first thing you see when you visit.

What’s the appeal/allure of said artwork to you?
I was attracted to this work because of the strong contrasting colors—the bold red and the soothing shades of cream—that pulsate and shimmer. When you get closer, you realize it is made of repurposed fabric that has been cut, rearranged, and sewn together. I like the idea of something old coming apart and coming back together to create something new and different. As a quilter, I am drawn to textiles and the slow process of sewing by hand. It’s very meditative to me. I also love that it references crafts often associated with women. It makes me think of the many generations of women around the world who expressed themselves through making or manipulating textiles.

Is there a backstory to the artwork?
I purchased this from Haw Contemporary in the Stockyards on my 50th birthday, which was a few years ago. I really like supporting local artists who make Kansas City a vibrant, exciting place to live.

Describe the artwork.
The title suggests that there is more than meets the eye and that we can bring our own meaning to interpreting art. I see different things on different days. I love the curved shapes and lines; if you’ve ever sewn curves, you know that they are much harder than straight lines. Also, the piece is very musical to me and I think of the sounds that the different shapes and colors would make. Another detail I enjoy? The floral pattern in one of the red fabrics, possibly from a vintage kimono.

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