Reflect & Remix

In this episode of Free Admissions, Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director, details her favorite object in the collection. Meanwhile, curators Lynley Anne Herbert and Earl Martin walk us through the museum’s newest exhibition, Reflect and Remix: Art Inspiring Artists.

Episode Segments

The Melanchthon Watch with Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director of the Walters Art Museum
Overview of Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists
Interview with Lynley Herbert, Robert and Nancy Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Earl Martin, Deborah and Philip English Curator of Decorative Arts, Design, and Material Culture.
Hidden gems from the 19th century collection with Aric Dietrich, Visitor Experience Associate

[00:00:00] Karena Ingram: Welcome to Free Admissions, the Walters Art Museum Podcast where we bring art and people of every background together to inspire creativity, curiosity, and connection. I’m your host, Karena Ingram, and in this episode, the Walters collection is spinning back as we look closely at our latest exhibition, Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists.

We’ll chat more about this exhibition with co-curators Lynley Herbert, the Robert and Nancy Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Earl Martin, the Deborah and Philip English Curator of Decorative Arts, Design, and Material Culture. We’ll also share a few hidden gems from the Walters collection that you can see on your next visit.

There’s more art in connection to come, but first we’re kicking the episode off with a word from the Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director of the Walters Art Museum, Julia Marciari-Alexander about her favorite object in the collection.

[00:01:01] Julia Marciari-Alexander: It’s been said that it’s not right to choose a favorite child. But in my time as the Executive Director of the Walters Art Museum, no one has ever said anything to me about not being allowed to choose a favorite artwork. In the museum’s collection of more than 36, 000 works of art, I have, after 11 years, landed definitively on one object as my favorite. It’s a timepiece commonly known as the “Melanchthon Watch.”

Made in Nuremberg, Germany, by the person who is now thought of as the inventor of watches, Peter Henlein, this spherical, beautifully smithed work in gold is inscribed on the bottom with, quote, “Philip Melanchthon, to God alone, the glory. 1530.” This engraved dedication likely suggests that this watch was gifted to Melanchthon in 1530, the year of his most important publication, The Augsburg Confession.

This is arguably the most significant theological text on the Protestant Reformation. This publication was a kind of summary of Melanchthon’s death and Martin Luther’s theological beliefs, and just as an aside, I often think of Melanchthon as kind of Luther’s brain trust, with Luther being the front man who consequently and largely receives most of the credit for their joint work. This watch, therefore, is a physical manifestation of one of the most significant moments in the history of Western Judeo-Christian society.

The first half of the 16th century, and especially the 1530s, were tumultuous times. Henry VIII in England was battling the Vatican in Rome for supremacy of faith and independent rule. European culture as a whole was spreading itself outward across the globe and technology, like the invention of movable type or this watch, was evolving. Altogether, these things allowed people more control over their connections to others, to nature, and to their built environment.

Time was no longer told only by the sun, sundials, or church bells. Timepieces would eventually become ubiquitous in elite society, and quickly so at the end of the 16th century. But this watch, the “Melanchthon Watch,” the first spherical mechanical timepiece ever made, was meant to be held in your hand. And so, when I look at this incredible object, I see the actual moment when humankind quite literally took time into its own grasp.

Advancements in technology eventually led us to now, to our moment, when you might be listening to me speak on this podcast on your own iPhone that you hold in your hand, or any other so-called smart device that not only tells time, but takes pictures, interprets languages, and holds your life in pictures and family world, and so much more.

So, I’m sure you’re saying to yourselves, “Thank you so much for this light and lively art history lesson, Julia.” And you are welcome. But I want to make sure that we all understand that history is important. And that is a tremendous understatement. It’s only when we look back that we know where we are going, and we can appreciate then, where we have been in order to make a better future for ourselves.

So, I’ve been reflecting on the passing of time quite a bit lately. I announced in April that after 11 years, I will be departing from the Walters Art Museum at the end of this summer in order to assume the position of president of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Throughout my time at the Walters, I’ve been reminded regularly of how special this institution is, and the many ways in which it is beloved.

In the coming months, I know that I will have much to say about my time here, and not nearly enough time to say it. But for now, I want to make it known that I am so deeply grateful for the time that you, the Walters community, staff, volunteers, donors, trustees, and visitors alike have given generously to this incredibly special place. Your collective and continued passion for art and education and for the Walters unique role in that space is a source of inspiration that I will grasp onto tightly through all of my future endeavors.

[00:05:41] Karena Ingram: Thanks so much again to Julia Marciari-Alexander. You can see this work on view at the Walters on the second floor of our Charles Street building in the Collector’s Study.

In 1934, the Walters Art Museum opened its doors to the public with a foundational collection of 22,000 objects. Over 90 years, the Walters has continued to acquire new art while revisiting the works in the historic collection with fresh eyes.

Now, the museum’s distinctive collection has grown to more than 36,000 works spanning seven millennia of history from locations and cultures around the world. These acquisitions have positioned the Walters to explore the connections found between artists of the past and relative present. Now, Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists highlights the visual and material resonance between groupings of works of art, creating dialogues between artists separated by time.

Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists features more than 60 works arranged to present an active conversation between the objects about their subjects, materials, or artists who created them. Visitors will see enamel, mosaics, ceramics, paintings, manuscripts, metalwork, and sculptures in stone and bronze, presented in a way that encourages viewers to find the links between the works. Some objects speak to the expansion of earlier techniques and materials to create something new, while others speak to the artistic process demonstrating that some artists found inspiration in historic art and created something new through their imagination and ingenuity.

Works by contemporary artists will also be on view, including Jesse DeSantis, Roberto Lugo, Herb Massie, and Kehinde Wiley. These artists draw upon their heritage and artistic lineage to create artworks that both resonate with the past while reflecting their own present moment.

I’m thrilled to be sitting with the co curators of this expansive exhibition Lynley Herbert, the Robert and Nancy Hall Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Earl Martin, the Deborah and Philip English Curator of Decorative Arts, Design, and Material Culture. Lynley and Earl, welcome to the podcast.

[00:07:44] Earl Martin: Thanks.

[00:07:45] Lynley Herbert: Thank you.

[00:07:45] Karena Ingram: Of course. I’m very excited to dive deeper into Reflect & Remix with the two of you today, but first for our listeners, can you just share your name again, talk about how long you’ve been at the Walters, and what exactly you do here.

[00:07:56] Lynley Herbert: Great, so I’m Lynley, I’ve been here 14 years, and as you said, I’m the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, so I oversee about 4,500 books, about 1,000 manuscripts, and 3,500 printed books from the time of Gutenberg up to the 20th century, so it’s a really fantastic and very rich collection.

[00:08:12] Earl Martin: And I’m Earl Martin. I’m a Curator of Decorative Arts and Design here. I actually don’t know the number, several thousand, but of objects in my collection, and that ranges from anything including ceramics, metalwork, textiles, glass. Anything really that’s not paintings and sculpture, and sometimes there’s overlap there too, so.

[00:08:33] Karena Ingram: That’s still a vast array.

[00:08:34] Earl Martin: Yeah.

[00:08:35] Karena Ingram: It’s interesting having you two on the podcast because of not necessarily dealing with paintings and sculptures, and what may be people’s first thoughts when they think about museums. So, I’m very excited to dive into how you both collaborated on Reflect & Remix. Could you tell us a little bit about the concept of the exhibition, and how it came to be?

[00:08:54] Lynley Herbert: Sure. So, we kind of set out to think about how artists across time and cultures have often kind of looked for ways to connect with art of the past. And sometimes that’s as a critique. Sometimes they’re looking for a way to kind of find their own voice in conversation with, you know, those that came before.

So, one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about is the fact that the museum’s founders, William and Henry, really sought out works of contemporary artists of their own moment. And they were really, like, recognizing that there’s an important dialogue that was happening between works that were being created in their time and earlier works as well.

So, that was something that they really explored in their acquisitions, and it’s something we’re still doing today. And so, we thought it’d be really interesting to kind of dig into that a little bit. And this is our 90th anniversary in 2024, so, we’re kind of in a moment where we’re looking back across the collection and trying to cast a little bit of a different light on it and try to think about it holistically, but also looking forward to the future and thinking about like, where are we going with our collection and with growing it?

So really, when we started digging into this, we looked at the whole collection and across all the collection areas and across time. And so, the exhibition actually spans 2,600 years in the objects that we chose and across geographies and cultures. And it just really highlights sort of these visual and material resonances between works that were not made close in time to really think about how they are in conversation with each other.

[00:10:19] Karena Ingram: It’s incredible to think about that amount of time being reflected in this exhibition. You know, no pun intended. What were some common themes that the two of you were coming across when comparing these works that are separated by time?

[00:10:32] Earl Martin: Well, I think as curators, we really started with the things, the objects, the art. That’s sort of where we go, I think, as curators. And we were seeing maybe, recognizing dialogues because that was sort of our focus, thinking about groupings or pairs. But then we kind of got together with a group here, a team here at the museum called the Gallery Experience Team, and they really kind of helped to focus on the visitor’s experience in the galleries with art, with the exhibitions, and really try to shape it to be a friendly, inviting space and to bring people in.

And so, they really helped us think through as a team, a larger team with the gallery experience and the curators, Lynley and I, these groupings, these pairs, these things that you’ll see in the exhibition and certain common themes kept bubbling up to the top. And there’s a four of those and I can list those out.

So, art inspires artists to imagine. Art inspires artists to think critically about their world. Art inspires artists to extend historic techniques into new moments in time or bring something new from what they’ve been inspired from. And then fourth, art inspires artists to connect to ancient heritage.

[00:11:45] Karena Ingram: And it’s incredible to know that art can bring an artist to all these different directions and self-expression and sharing that expression with the community. And of course, artists do that in a multitude of ways. There are many different mediums that are represented in this exhibition, including, but not limited to, glass, enamel, manuscripts, metalwork, sculptures, and bronze and stone.

How did your combined backgrounds of decorative arts and books and manuscripts come influence how these artworks are selected? Or maybe did you collaborate with other curators to kind of help narrow down our vast collection to the ones that people will see in the exhibition?

[00:12:21] Earl Martin: Well, I’m going to let Lynley start because Lynley actually started on this exhibition a little bit before I kind of joined on the team.

[00:12:28] Lynley Herbert: Well, of course, you know, my very first instinct was to look at the books and to think across those. And then I started to kind of think more holistically about the collection. And I really wanted to make sure that we were cutting across every collection area that felt very important. And so, you know, honestly, we kind of searched through storage.

There’s so much in our vaults that we don’t usually bring out either because they’re light sensitive, or just because there hasn’t been an obvious reason to bring into the galleries or into an exhibition. So, there’s a lot that has like really never been seen. Or maybe for 50 years it hasn’t been out.

So, that was actually something that we kind of focused in on, was trying to bring things out that people didn’t know we had, put things together across different collection areas that no one would ever expect to see side by side, but that actually did have some kind of really interesting synergy. So.

That was kind of the approach was to kind of think really differently, look at these things from a different perspective. Because I’m a book curator, a lot of these objects are not actually in my collection area that I oversee, and the other curators have been very generous about allowing us to play a little bit and to find those interesting juxtapositions that maybe no one had seen there before.

[00:13:41] Earl Martin: And I think I can help to build a little bit on that because I was a sort of a newer person here, and there hadn’t really been someone so focused on decorative arts or design in the last few decades, really. So, I think I found some things that were hiding away, and of course Lynley did as well. And then we did have some suggestions that came through our very knowledgeable colleagues of things that they had already kind of like, made their own pairs or groups of things that talked to each other across time and kind of generously suggested those to us.

And then, of course, there’s one of the really wonderful parts of the exhibition is we’re able to bring in many of the more recently acquired contemporary art pieces and have them here to really talk in these conversations and paired them with historic objects that, you know, maybe were here since 1931, given by Henry Walters, so.

[00:14:32] Karena Ingram: Personally, that’s what I’m the most excited to see, is these works that have been in the collection that probably haven’t been on view for a while or maybe ever at all. And I’m glad that Earl brought up recent acquisitions because it’s a beautiful segue into the process of acquiring new artworks into the collection and adding it in comparison with again, works that are separated by time.

Could you talk a little bit more of the process of these new works? We have a Jesse DeSantis work will be in the exhibition. Kehinde Wiley will also be featured.

[00:14:58] Lynley Herbert: Sure. I mean, it’s different every piece we acquire. But in general, we’re really looking for works that kind of allow us to tell new stories, and that bring kind of different voices into the collection that maybe aren’t well represented or just have a different perspective.

And that’s both with our historic and our contemporary art. We acquire historic art as well, but we’ve been trying to find contemporary pieces that allow people to connect with our historic art in new ways and try to find something that can bridge between the past and the present for our public.

So, we’re always kind of looking for those things, and there’s different ways that we do that. Sometimes we’re building on our own strengths that we already have in the collection. Sometimes we’re recognizing that we have holes in the collection, like there’s entire cultures or time periods that are not represented. And so that’s something that we’re actively trying to fill. We’re never going to fill everything out, but to try to make sure that there’s as much representation as possible. And then we look for things that bridge the gap between sort of the high art, you know, what we think of as like the traditional arts and sort of lived experience for people.

So, sometimes I think in more recent years, we’ve looked for things that people actually used, you know, to have a more like, a story that more people can relate to versus some like object that was set in a church, you know, where nobody touched it. But then also bringing in, you know, living artists. who are working today who are inspired by this earlier art in different ways to kind of, like I said, bridge between the collection that Henry Walters left the city and our lived experience today.

[00:16:29] Karena Ingram: Were there any challenges that either of you ran into when putting this exhibition together?

[00:16:34] Earl Martin: Um, I, yeah, I mean, I think there always are challenges. I would say we did have sort of a compressed time frame from when this decision was made to go ahead with this exhibition, more than sort of maybe ideally, but we’re never in the ideal world. We’re in the real world. So, you know, that is what it is.

And I think one of the challenges and new experiences that, especially for the two of us, and I was speaking for you Lynley, sorry. But we were tasked with kind of having an exhibition that maybe did something different that was sort of approaching things in a slightly newer way, and to really work with our friends and gallery experience to kind of provide a more interactive and more friendly, playful even, experience in the galleries, and we really worked intensely with that team as a group.

Often curators are kind of in their little desks and typing away, but this was really sitting around a table and throwing ideas back and forth and kind of coming down to the major themes that we touched on before. And I think that was really fruitful and really, I hope, gonna be fun and exciting for people to experience something a little different from the Walters that they may know and love, but think is always one way.

[00:17:47] Karena Ingram: I certainly think that people will have a blast in Reflect & Remix, especially with the interactives that our Gallery Experience Team has been working on in collaboration with this, but I’m sure people also would like to know what you two think the star objects of this show are.

[00:18:04] Lynley Herbert: There’s a lot of great things, and a lot of things that haven’t been seen, so this was actually like a kind of a hard one; people keep asking us that. I mean, I think the Kehinde Wiley stained glass piece is just a showstopper, and it’s new, so I think it’s really spectacular. And it will be something that will kind of greet people as they come into the exhibition, and so that’s really exciting. And as you mentioned, the Jesse DeSantis painting, which has not been out yet. We just acquired it and it’s really fantastic. And it’s with one of our works from the ancient Americas to sort of speak to it. So, that is something that’s brand new that people don’t even know we have yet, and it’s really fun.

[00:18:39] Karena Ingram: Hear that you guys are getting exclusives.

[00:18:45] Earl Martin: Well, I’ll just say that I, I don’t like to pick favorites. They’re all my children, you know.

[00:18:49] Karena Ingram: It’s a very hard, very hard thing to do.

[00:18:52] Earl Martin: No, but I, I really, I love a case that we’ll see soon in the installed, which is going to have a lot of beautiful things made with enamel work. So, glass that is kind of adhered to metal. In this case, and there’s some beautiful things by a French artist named Fernand Thesmar where the enamel has kind of been put in a metal frame, and then the outside of the metal has been taken away with acid. And so, it’s almost like miniature stained glass in a bowl form, so it’s really cool. So that’s, that’s maybe mine. One of mine.

[00:19:27] Lynley Herbert: I think mine has to be. It’s a very tiny book. When it was made in the 1950s, it was the smallest book printed in the world. It’s so tiny that you can barely see it in the palm of my hand. And so, the text is microscopic, and it was created by the Gutenberg Museum in Germany after World War II, the museum was damaged during the war.

And so, it was a fundraiser, and they made these tiny books. It’s kind of a novelty, but they’re so, so amazing. And, and so we have like a magnifying glass, so you can try to see it better and everything. But the behind-the-scenes story is that it had been given to us as sort of a novelty when it came out in the 1950s, and it was put into a desk drawer and tucked away. And we didn’t know it was here and after the last curator left, and I was taking over. I was cleaning out the desk and I found it in a tiny little glass vial because it’s so small that it actually would just get lost if you try to put it in anything else. So, I discovered it in this drawer and we didn’t know we had it, and I had to research and figure out what it was, and it’s just this fantastic little object that we now can show.

[00:20:32] Karena Ingram: So many cool gems for people to find in Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists. Lynley and Earl, thank you so much again for talking with us today.

[00:20:41] Earl Martin, Lynley Herbert: Thank you.

[00:20:42] Karena Ingram: Thanks so much again to Lynley and Earl for guiding us through Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists, an installation that is generously made possible by supporters of the Walters Art Museum. The exhibition will be on view through September 8th, 2024.

It’s no secret that the Walters Art Museum collection holds thousands of artworks spanning over seven millennia, so it can be easy to get so enamored by our collection that you gloss over a few objects, or maybe several. But fear not! Aric Dietrich, our Visitor Experience Associate, will walk you through some hidden gems to look for during your next visit to the Walters Art Museum.

[00:21:26] Aric Dietrich: Hi, I’m Aric Dietrich. I’m the Visitor Experience Associate at the Walters Art Museum. In interacting with visitors, and I’ve been here for now five years, one of the most beloved collections is arguably our 19th-century American and European art, particularly our Impressionist pieces and our landscapes.

While a lot of that is currently not on view as we prepare it for upcoming exhibitions, I did want to focus on a place that I do direct visitors to and that I enjoy spending time in. It’s a small gallery in our Charles Street building with about 16 objects, paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. And one of my favorite landscapes and one that’s a more recent acquisition is a river scene by an artist named Robert Duncanson.

Duncanson was classically trained, and he was sort of the next wave of the Hudson River Valley artist. And the scene is of the Ohio River, and there is a group of Black folks, he was African American, and they are on the banks of the river. And it’s just a very serene, beautiful setting. And I really am interested in the juxtaposition of the painting because he was a staunch abolitionist, and Ohio was also very strongly in support of the abolitionist movement. But the river on the other side, you have Kentucky, which was, as we all know, a secessionist state. And I think that while Duncanson didn’t explicitly bring up race in his work, there are some things to unpack here about the setting and the way that he structured it with the individuals in the painting.

And the other piece that has always struck me is by a sculptor named Edmonia Lewis. She was small and mighty. She was under five feet, maybe even closer to four and a half. She was an artist, and she was also trained classically in her case in Rome, and she did leave to go to Rome to escape some of the racism she encountered here in the United States.

The bust that we have by her is of a Dr. Dio Lewis, and there’s no relation there, but he was sort of a pioneering doctor in physical hygiene, preventative medicine, and a support of women’s rights. Interestingly enough, Edmonia Lewis was featured on a postage stamp for the U. S. Postal Service last year.

So, the next time you’re here, I do hope that you will stop and say hello to us in the Visitor Experience Department, as well as make your way to this gallery and look at this beautifully curated exhibit.

[00:24:06] Karena Ingram: Thanks so much, Aric.

Free access to the Walters Art Museum online and in person is made possible through the combined generosity of individual donors, foundations, corporations, and grants from the city of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, citizens of Baltimore County, and Howard County Government and Howard County Arts Council. To learn more about engaging with or supporting the Walters, visit

A big thanks to Julia Marciari-Alexander, Lynley Herbert, Earl Martin, and Aric Dietrich for talking with us today. Free Admissions, the Walters Art Museum Podcast is made possible by Marketing and Communications Director Connie McAllister, Communications Manager Sydney Adamson, Head of Design Tony Venne, Graphic Designer Rachel Minier, IT Specialist Frank Dickerson, and edited and hosted by me, Karena Ingram.

We hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please leave us a review and share this episode with your friends. You can visit for more information and plan your visit. Again, I’m your host, Karena Ingram. Until next time.