Category Archives: Art

My own, my opinions and my adventures in these classes.

#occupymuseums

As a young, liberal-minded person, I’ve been generally following the #occupy movement. While appreciating the sentiment, I feel the movement mostly leaves the actual action of the activism to a  body that is made up of the same breed of rich, white, male-bodied people whom the movement is protesting against. So while not participating directly because of the lack of organization and generally the method of activism, I do hope, someday, that taxes will make more sense, even if that means that I, as an upper middle person, will be taxed more.

That aside, what really caught my attention this week was an article on the Washington Post’s website about the #occupymuseums movement.

The idea is that museums perpetuate “cultural elitism.” And yes, they do. But I don’t think the tagline of the #occupy movement applies to art museums. That one percent of the world is represented in those museums and the ninety-nine percent isn’t. Whether we like it or not, “museum art” is a part of our Western cultural consciousness and the story we tell about ourselves. I am very pro-museum institution. But I am also very pro-art outside of museums. There are art and artists who actively break down museums in their work, whether they are participating in the museum system or not.

I originally saw a mention of this movement on my tumblr (my favorite micro-blogging platform). It was paired with a Barbara Kruger piece “You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece.” Kruger is an example of an artist who breaks down the cultural elitism of museums by working in the museum system.

"You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece," Barbara Kruger, 1982, MoMA

I believe museums are less culturally elite than the prospect of these pieces of art being in the private homes of the true 1%. Maybe art is elitist because there is such a thing as art and Art, and I believe that good art exists. I believe in the canon, as much as I believe in breaking open the canon. Like I said in my post about the Barnes Foundation (An Opinion: The Barnes Foundation), the absolute most important thing to me is that people have access to art. Large, urban museums provide that. Anyone can walk into the Metropolitan Museum of Art  and see a large portion of art history. And I think that the more pressing issue which the #occupymuseums movement may be missing is that art exists outside museums. By protesting the institution, they are giving power to the institutions, by legitimatizing the notion that because museums are elitist and rich, they monopolize the best art. But there is among the best art outside of museums as well.  As an extremely canonical person (I want to study Renaissance art and Victorian literature, for God’s sake), I do tend to prioritize art that is in museums. But I also actively seek out art outside of the museum system, and I think encouraging that would help break down the elitism more.

You can’t change the institution by being angry at it; you can change it by providing it with competition. Let great art exists in museums, make great art outside of museums and provide access to everyone. That’s how you make the art world equal opportunity.

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Book Review: Sargent’s Daughters

Sargent's Daughters: A Biography of a Painting by Erica E. Hirschler

I picked up this book at the Agnes Scott Library after feeling a hole in my life that can only be filled by John Singer Sargent. My love of the expatriate is no secret. One of my first art history related posts was about The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit. Two of his paintings are among my top ten favorite pieces of art. I have a weakness for figural representations and society portraits. I love knowing the stories of models and the distinction between someone posing as something else and a portrait.

I’ve read a book about one of Sargent’s paintings before-Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis. That book was a wonderfully engaging story about a woman whose reputation and notoriety had been eclipsed by the man who painted her. I would recommend that book to any one interested in the subject, however the same does not go for Sargent’s Daughters.

I enjoyed the book a lot and learned quite a bit. But in an effort to be completely inclusive in the history of the Boit family through at least three generations, John Singer Sargent, the Gilded Age in Boston, London and Paris, and the art surrounding this time period, while containing the tome to little over 200 pages, the pace comes off as manic. Also, lots of names are thrown about and within a background in understanding of the art, it is hard to find a grasp on the context because the other context provided is society names. Also the art discussed is not the stuff of intro level survey, or even upper level classes in most undergraduate programs. John Singer Sargent is the stand out of Victorian and Edwardian art who firmly was not any of the avant-garde styles surging through Paris. So the other names mentioned are not commonly discussed outside of this circle of expatriates not participating in the avant-garde.

However, once the author establishes context and then dives into the lives of the Boits and Sargent and the life of the painting after its patrons and painter, the pace calms and the book becomes much more interesting.

I also enjoyed the very feminist historical approach at the sisters’ lives after the painting. Long as it been remarked on  “how sad” it is that none of the sisters ever married. But Hirschler looks at their lives, as well as the lives of many unmarried women in the Boston age, and determined that they were not doomed to unfulfilled lives simply for their lack of marriage, especially since their fortunes allowed them to live with the pressure to be married.

Overall, I would recommend this book to someone who knows a little bit about expatriates from the Gilded Age (read any Edith Wharton or Henry James) and has an interest in Sargent. It made me appreciate both him and this painting even more.

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How to Pick Up a (Straight and Female) Art History Major

Let’s face it, Art History majors are really awesome. They are looking at a future of designing really great class powerpoints, wearing funky jewelery, and lamenting to no one who cares about people who just can’t see the difference between Baroque and Rococo (or Modern and Contemporary art). Plus they generally have very good taste in nail polish, have good hair, dress really well, and think in a different way than pretty much any other undergraduate major.  So who wouldn’t want to date one?

So here is a list of things to do and things to avoid in order to pick up your feisty art historian.

DO

1. When choosing between staying over night at an aquarium or a museum, choose the museum. Take note, Jim Halpert. (See S2E18 “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” of The Office)

2. It might help to look like one of these Art History hotties

Theodore Gericault

Once called the “Justin Bieber” of the Romantics by a hilarious University of Pennsylvania art history professor.

Raphael's Self-Portrait

The boy wonder of the Renaissance. Also according to the world’s biggest fangirl, Giorgio Vasari, Raphael died from having too much sex. Just going to leave that tidbit right there.

Lewis Paine by Alexander Gardner

One of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination, Paine (real name Powell) was convicted and hung for an assassination attempt of Secretary of State William Seward. And he was widely considered the most attractive man in the images from my History of Photography class.

Albrecht Durer Self Portrait

Albrecht Durer: Jesus Face

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Bernini managed to be a sasspost and a sexpot. And he is single handedly responsible for 70% of the sex appeal of the Catholic Church.

For more hotties from art history check out these blogs: Hotties of Art History and My Daguerrotype Boyfriend

3. Get to know her specific interests in art. Art History majors love Judy Chicago, Clement Greenberg and Jasper Johns. You know why? Because the Art History professor that she aspires to be, who has cool coats/vests/jewelry, likes these people.* And until she graduates these interests are as important if nor more so than her personal art interests.

4. Learn to appreciate scarves. Art History classes are often in the dark. And often early in the morning. Sometimes the only thing keeping you awake and paying attention to Borromini subverting the classical orders is the warmth around your neck and being able to think “my scarf is way more awesome than anyone else’s in the room. Except maybe the scarf that the professor with the cool coats is wearing.” So Art History majors love scarves. This is potential topic of conversation.

While bored, I made this collage of scarves I like, as evidence of how awesome they are and how much art history majors love them.***

Bitches Love Scarves
5. Use Netflix for good. There are some killer art history documentaries on there, with dopey reenactments and interviews with lots of white old men. Worth it, if you can recommend one to her.
Recommended by this Art History Major to you: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Empires: The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, Van Gogh: Brush with Genius, The Art of the Steal, Art 21: Art of the Twenty-First Century, Herb and Dorothy and seriously so many more.

DON’T

1. Don’t call him “da Vinci.” Just like in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s Leonardo. No need to complicate things with errors.

2. Related, don’t let cartoons be your source of art history knowledge.

Like this, this is completely ridiculous. (artist: yours truly)****

3. Don’t go to a museum and then make fun of the art. If you know less than her, this is not the time to show off your humor chops. Listen and discuss things. That’s why museums are fun. Also: museum dates are not a must. If you cannot handle museums (seriously, not everyone can), it would be better to not go, then then to go and make a fool of yourself. Art History majors have hobbies. Anyways, she’s probably been to the local museum bunches of times, so if you do go, make sure there is a special exhibit in town. It especially helps if it is one you are interested in.

So good luck! And of course there is something else you could do…register for art history classes! They are amazing and unlike any other class offered in an undergraduate program.

*This list may or may not be satirical.
**This may be Agnes Scott specific. Find the professor with the best coat/jewelry combo on campus. Odds, that one is the one she is idolizing.
***We also love collages of our own creation.
****Apparently Botticelli had ADD. And hated non-Italian Renaissances as much as I do.

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An Opinion: The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation, in case you don’t know, was founded by Albert Barnes, a great Philadelphia art collector. It is widely considered the greatest collection of Post-Impressionism and Modern Art. Barnes had a great eye, and as a result he amassed a very concentrated collection of true masterpieces. When he first showed his collection, it was met with poor reviews by the Philadelphia art establishment, leading to animosity between Barnes himself and this establishment that would so want to be apart of his collection later.

Before he died, Barnes wrote his will to insure that his collection would be remain as he intended it, in Lower Merion, which is about five miles outside of the city. It is now in the process of being moved to Benjamin Franklin Parkway, very close to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. How did this happen? Political maneuvering and some corrupt legal dealings, honestly. And some people are very upset with the indenture being changed.

But does it matter? To me, no. While I understand that the institution of museums is something that kind of problematic and can dilute the experience of art, the most important thing about art is that people, all people, having access to it. And large institutions in large cities lend themselves to that.

Another argument against moving the Barnes is the unique style of curating that Barnes used in his Foundation. But again, for me, placing curating over the actual experience of seeing an individual work of art is a problem. Why does this curating get to be preserved with other works get put into different shows all the time? While the dialogues created by Barnes are important, why do they take precedence over any other dialogues creates by contemporary curators?

I want to hear this dialogue in the art world. Art people arguing for accessible Barnes. Instead, we see the people in charge in the city versus the people who care about art. The city people want tourism. The people who care about art want the Barnes to stay the same. I understand that the politics may not be pure, but still I am pro-Barnes in the city.

Lastly, the Barnes has no money. The money was lost in political legal dealings, but that doesn’t make it any less lost. It would be better to have the collection together in Philadelphia, then a watered down Foundation in Merion. People suggest that if they have enough money for the new building then they would have had enough money to keep it in Merion. But a museum needs a source of income. They need a political and social elite people to see it and be aware of it and give them money. I think using the money to keep in it in Merion is a temporary fix. And I still argue that prioritizing the dialogues between art created by Barnes is elitist and poorly nostalgic in its own way.

I feel like you cannot exploit art if people are getting to see it. And if you say that institutions do that, then you are giving too much power to the institution. Instead give the power to the art, by seeing it, and talking about it and allowing it to exist where people can interact with it.

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Spring Break: Day 1-3

So I’m in Philadelphia!

I came to visit my twin brother at his school in Philadelphia for my spring break. One of my tasks this break is to do my interview for an internship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

And I’ve already had a really productive week! I’ve visited the PMA in Philadelphia yesterday, and took a bus to New York to see the Frick Collection and the Museum of Modern Art with my cousin.

I didn’t quite finish the PMA because I headed back there on Wednesday for my interview. But we saw the Constantine tapestries! Granted, you can’t go the museum without seeing them. They are huge; there are 13 of them; and they are wrapped around the Great Stair case when you have to walk through to get anywhere, except maybe the special exhibition space. Seeing those was amazing because I’d never seen the work that inspired my interest in patronage!

In New York, I definitely preferred the Frick Collection to the MoMA just because I liked the cozy environment. It really is an overlooked jewel box in the city. You go and you turn a corner and there’s a Ingres! and there’s a Rembrandt! and there’s a Goya! It was like I assume Europe will be like. The interior design was also interesting and lighting concept was phenomenal.

Of course I still loved the MoMA! It was really cool to see things like William de Kooning’s Women I, a Jackson Pollack, Water Lilies, The Starry Night, some Futurism, a Jasper Johns. But mostly it was like I liked seeing things I recognized. I’d like to go back sometime and look at the lesser things instead of just things I was taught in Survey or Contemporary Art.

One thing I’ve noticed in sort of moving through history: I haven’t given the Impressionists enough credit. I saw a Velazquez at the Frick and I was surprised about how not emphasized his brush strokes are. In Baroque art we talked about the “painterly” quality of especially Velazquez. But when you are looking at the piece, while there is a difference in the literal picture being depicted, I couldn’t really see the brush strokes in a way that you can in the Impressionists and after. So that was jarring, but wonderful because it helped me finally “get” what the big deal about Impressionism was/is.

MoMA was really fun because I got to go with my cousin, Sarah. And it was awesome to see art we learned about in Contemporary Art and Theory. Also, I loved the photography exhibits that were being shown: Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960 and Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography which are pretty directly related to what I want to do my research for History of Photography.

Overall so far my trip has been amazing!

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Studio Art

I really wish I could take a Studio Art class next semester. I really miss it so much.

Which is weird. For all my own personal anti-creative writing sentiment (not anti-the art, just anti-me ever pursuing or attempting to pursue it), I loved all my studio art classes in high school. Actually I took studio art before I was even interested in Art History as a field.

This has nothing to do with my skill as a visual artist, which is no more than my skills as a creative writing.

I am actually taking a class that is called Methods in Art and Art History, which from what I understand is actually part Art History, part Studio, part ridiculously hard. But I am super excited. And I should be able to take the required studio class, Visual Thinking, next fall.

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end of the semester and merry christmas!

I have not blogged in a very long time. I’ve been so crazily busy with my research papers (1, 2, 3, 4 of them!) that I haven’t really thought about it.

But the semester ended pretty well. So far I know I got an A- on both my Tempest paper and my Barberini paper. Which is kind of weird because I feel like I worked incredibly hard on my Barberini paper, while no so much on my Tempest paper. I checked out books early from the library and I took notes, formed outlines, went to go see my professors, worked on my paper with my writing center tutor.  Basically all the things you are supposed to do when writing a research paper.

Then for my Tempest paper, I wrote the proposal that was due earlier than the paper. And that was it. My Jane Austen paper was due 9am on Wednesday, and I had researched a lot on that paper and even wrote some of it, but it was very long (16 pages). That turned into an all nighter, basically working from 5pm, when my journal review for my Contemporary Art class was due (so I thought, it was actually due a week later), until 6:30am, when I took a two hour nap and turned in my paper. I then slept for about 5 hours and worked on my Tempest paper (research and writing) from 2 until midnight. One good thing that happened was that I thought my Tempest paper was supposed to be 10-12 pages, but actually it was only supposed to be 8-10, so I could turn in my healthy nine page paper in without any shame.

I don’t know what I got on either my Jane Austen paper or my Contemporary Art and Theory exhibit design because those were both hard copies of papers turned in later in the exam period, so professors got them right as break began.

But it is also my birthday/Christmas week! and I got some wonderful things, mainly a Kindle! I love it so much already. The first book I got was Dark Water, which I started reading before exams but I had to return to the library because it was on inter-library loan. I also got all of Jane Austen, Vasari and Sherlock Holmes. Yay public domain!

Also, two of my textbooks are available for Kindle!

I really do need to watch how I spend my money on it though. I could easily imagine myself buying a hundred dollars worth of e-books that I don’t really even care about.

Other gifts I got include a Philadelphia Flyers shirt (which is a little ironic because I work at Philips Arena for the Thrashers, so…don’t tell my boss!), a travel mug as I cannot walk and drink out of a normal cup at the same time and the Art History department at Agnes has a penchant for 8:30 classes, and a few books about Florence, including Rick Steves’ Florence and Tuscany.

So Merry Christmas to everyone! and I’ll be back at school January 18th, so I think I’ll be back blogging then too, though I may write a review of this wonderful book that I am finally going to finish!

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