acropolis Fall 2015 Color Issue Editor Linda Moses Staff Caroline Creasey Rebecca Schectman Miranda Elliott Joseph Malanson Colum Bowyer Chengli Huang Jun Shi Cover art by Mia Christopher The Temporary Favorite, 2015
Mark Rothko, Green and Maroon, 1953
Mark Rothko: Meaning in Abstraction by Heather Dady “Modernism draws on a myriad of philosophical bases, with theoretical reflexivity ranging from the rhetorically ‘rigorous’ to the rhetorically loopy.” Multiple philosophies that surround Modernist art, specifically, Abstract Expressionism, validate Jonathan Harris’s claim to variation in regards to the modernist artist. While we can digest the notion that an endless search for meaning in radical abstraction is the objective, it may be enough to just diagnose this dilemma of endless inquisition without a definitive answer. Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz, remains one of the most famous and esteemed members of the New York School of Art, yet his restless exploration for meaningful validation holds no exception. Using the impeccably accurate and timeless
Rothko Room of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and its three Rothko compositions (Green and Maroon; Green and Tangerine on Red; Orange and Red on Red), in tandem with the philosophical ideals of Martin Heidegger, Jean Paul Sartre, and R. Rosenblum, among others, I aim to search for the roots, motivation, and outcomes of meaning in abstraction. To aid in this endeavor, I will also use two of Jackson Pollock’s paintings – one from his figural representation paintings, The Flame, and one of the legendary drip paintings, No. 1, to interpret the implications behind abstraction. During the 1950’s, Rothko began to realize “with the utmost reluctance” that the figure was no longer necessary in expressing 6
significance. His classic geometric compositions of bold colorplay express the value of his own philosophies far better than any recognizable form is able to do. “Modernist writings had seen Rothko’s paintings as abstract works which raise, embody, or imply mystical, metaphysical or transcendental themes: the life of human beings in relation to questions of The Infinite (God, Life/Death, etc).” In Green and Maroon, I argue that Rothko’s quest to communicate fundamental human sensations stems from Jean-Paul Sartre’s ideal that “nothingness is a nonbeing, a negation of all the entities in the world, which comes into ‘existence’ through human consciousness.” Martin Heidegger’s belief that nothingness forms human psyches and acts as a “prerequisite” for everything that is proves that a meaningful and effective abstraction stems not only from that innate fear of evident meaning but embodying that fear in such an abstraction. Green and Maroon is a composition of layers, moody blue hues and stark pure reds, which symbolize the mask that is created in Rothko’s works. Here lies a level of uncertainty in the painting, a mixture of color from cool to warm as one
travels the canvas, which makes it difficult to discern contours, forms, and lines. Where does the background end and where does the foreground begin? An uncertainty of perception corresponds to the uncertainty of nothingness that we humans face: “Heidegger’s account of the encounter with nothingness and in particular his notion of the ‘slipping away of the whole’ perfectly describes Rothko’s paintings.” This conviction of innate fear that we consciously or subconsciously come across imitates the idea of masks: We try to repress the idea of nothingness, just as Rothko conveys in his layering of color. But as Kosoi astutely recognizes, “Rothko’s paintings simulate what we experience when encountering nothingness and thus make us face what we normally try to repress: that it is the certainty of death that makes us the way we are.” Rothko exposes the gloomy side of human emotion to express fear of nothingness as seen above, but he also contrasts that despondency with human emotion on the other end of the spectrum: elation. Green and Tangerine on Red contains two rectangles of a blue-green and tangerine tinge engulfed in a neutral 7
Orange and Red on Red, 1957
rectangle. Marjorie Phillips of the Phillips Collection made note of Rothko’s intentions that “the striking tangerine tone of the lower section of [Green and Tangerine on Red] could symbolize the normal, happier side of living; and in proportion the dark, bluegreen rectangle above it could stand for the black clouds or worries that always hang over us.”
experience in this life: pleasure/ pain, passion/apathy, fear/courage, and so on. Mark Rothko knowingly enjoyed an outward expression of emotion from his followers, claiming that he loved to see people cry in front of his works, “maintaining that these viewers were sharing the ‘religious’ experience of ‘tragedy, ecstasy, and doom’ that he himself felt when making them.” Meaning is transparent in this work as it correlates directly to the emotions of human existence – the basis of all of Rothko’s intentions.
Kosoi echoes the notion that “nothingness evokes anxiety and the sublime horror mixed with pleasure.” Rothko combines the two colors to ultimately merge the dissimilar feelings that we
To briefly touch on the final com8
Green and Tangerine on Red, 1956
position of The Rothko Room, Orange and Red on Red, there exists an assembly of the two theories already encountered: human existence constantly experiences a flux of ecstasy and its opposite counterpart, tragedy, and Rothko’s innate ability to unravel such masked emotions through layering of color expose humanity’s intrinsic fear of nothingness. Will we ever be certain of life’s worth and amount? In Orange and Red on Red, Rothko treats color as the ubiquitous mask we are familiar with, using a pale and shallow orange hue to project transcendence and the sublime. This timid tint is smothered by the intense and confident vibrancy of a rich ruby-red that effaces the borders of the composition, directly speaking to ideas of transcendence and infinity. “With the light and emptiness on his canvas, Rothko places us on the threshold of ‘formless’ infinity, a subject of the aesthetician of the sublime.” In “The Tragedy of Human Existence,” we are privy to the ideas of a likeminded theorist: “R. Rosenblum emphasizes the light and emptiness of the color fields, seeing in them a similarity to the also almost empty landscape paintings with veiled light from the Romantic period.”
The Romantics cared for the sublime just as much as Rothko did, and the “experience of transcendence” was the most importance conviction. While philosophy aids the daunting process of finding the roots of meaning in Rothko’s works, it is beneficial to experience the works of other artists in a similar field: Jackson Pollock of the New York School. Pollock became notorious for his drip paintings as Rothko became famous for his geometric forms, yet both prisms reside in the symbolically loaded field of abstraction. To begin, The Flame is often noted to have a representative value or connotation reminiscent of Rothko, among others of the early New York School. Like Green and Tangerine on Red, The Flame seems to organize itself into divisions of light and dark, maintaining energy and movement and gravity in the small-bordered sphere of the canvas. Evocative of Rothko’s use of geometric encompassment, these movements allow the composition to escape the confines of traditional existence and explore transcendence. A vague yet apparent notion of cave painting images are shrouded by the recurring flames which 10
speak to Pollock’s fixation on primitive times and primitive myths: “In his works, he wanted to depict the eternal symbols of the ‘human drama,’ the ‘tragic and timeless,’ the tragedy of human existence that he saw especially in the myths of ancient peoples.” Rothko’s hunger for existential meaning and human tragedy parallels Pollock’s efforts at evoking a similar message.
using the old myths to depict the tragedy of human existence has to do with what Rothko observed in 1947: those who viewed his paintings were no longer familiar with ritual and with the transcendent experience common in ancient societies when “the urgent necessity of the transcendent experience was understood and given an official status.” One of Pollock’s most famous drips, No. 1, effaces such a fear and proves that the compositional ambiguity serves a valuable meaning. When first encountering No. 1, the viewer’s eyes flash across the canvas, looking at the chaos and the energy and the vigor. A novice of Pollock’s intentions may presume random splashes of dark and evasive neutrals, but when looked at closely, such chaotic drips actually act as strategic forces. The drips tend to pull back from the edge of the canvas in a curvilinear motion, almost as if they are responding to the limits of the canvas. One can view this imaginative motion as Pollock’s way of using the canvas as a “compositional tool.” It is a framed, bordered, closedoff, and finite work, and Pollock deliberately addresses these strict confines in his work. In the upper
Like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock’s earlier works centered around a figural scene. For Rothko, such figures were placed in subway stations and busy street corners – crowded spaces with lonely and empty connections. Pollock’s figures evaded the realistic and appeared in flames, still vague yet noticeable and defined. His movement away from a compositional focus reveals his confidence in the meaning behind his works. Prior to his drip paintings, there was always a necessity for some kind of systematic and constructive pictorial intelligence. Whether this fear indicates a lack of confidence in his work, or rather a fear of meaninglessness is debatable. Mark Rothko directly addressed Pollock’s movement away from figural representations: “The reason for no longer 11
The Flame, c. 1934-1938 No. 1, 1948
right hand corner of this composition, handprints blur between the background and foreground among the various neutral drips. These handprints nod toward the idea that Pollock is literally feeling and searching for the edge of the canvas while also acting as an illusion to cave painting techniques. A possible connection to the primitive method of facture, or qualitative execution, that he was engrossed in, speak to both his concern to incorporate a figural presence – a deliberate attempt here - to induce meaning into his works, as well as the conquest for human existence and emotion.
lusions of existence versus blatant expressions of transcendence; which one provides the most meaning, the most value, the most sense? These are the questions that art historians have been struggling to answer since the works were first created, yet is it not enough to recognize the quest as meaningful in and of itself ? It is apparent that Rothko was absorbed in the realm of human existence: who surpasses that realm, which stays inside of that realm, and so on. Jean Paul Sartre’s theory of nothingness parallels Rothko’s search for human value, or rather, questions it. Jackson Pollock’s fear of hollow expression speaks directly to art historians’ continual search for a specific meaning behind abstract expressionist works and R. Rosenblum’s emphasis on emptiness and the sublime. It is evident that meaning not only lies in the eye of the beholder, but also in the expression of the artist. This explains the continual struggle for answers; we are predisposed to assume a factual status when a subjective status is the answer.
How does Mark Rothko substantiate Jackson Pollock, and vice versa? More importantly, how do the compositions of these two artists work in tandem with philosophical justifications to render meaning behind vague abstraction? Rothko was steadfast in the notion that figures hindered, not helped, his quest for value in human life. Pollock suffered insecurities that lingered in his figural works in hopes of an evident - even tangible meaning - that would become transparent through the canvas into the minds of the viewers. Masked il13
The Desperate Man, 1843
Courbetâ€™s Self Portraits: Establishing Identity by Nicole Croft Courbetâ€™s early life as a painter was plagued by insecurity both of the financial and personal variety. In an investigation of his self14
portraits, one can see his struggle for an authentic identity both as a man and an artist. Perhaps this is due to the fact that he disregarded established institutions such as the church, the state, the Salon, and even the wishes of his own family. Even his artistic style flew in the face of previous tradi-
tions and so Courbet had to paint himself anew, and he had no model except his own self-reliance and beliefs from which to craft his new identity.
who searches for principles of his own to hang on to.” At the time this work was created, Courbet had been sending paintings to the Salon without success. Before 1848, he tried no less than eighteen times, and the jury rejected all but three. In attempts to make ends meet, Courbet continued with his art education and began a series of portraits of various patrons. He caved to the conventions of the time but not without some reservations. Courbet noted that “women want portraits with all the shadows eliminated, and men want to be painted in their Sunday best. Better to turn a crank mechanically then earn a living with such daubs; at least one would not have to compromise one’s principles.”
The first work to examine is The Desperate Man. This portrait was painted in his early years before he was awarded any kind of success for his art. Here we see Courbet from the shoulders up wearing a loose fitting white blouse with an open collar and the buttons undone. He is facing the viewer head on with both hands tearing at his dark, disheveled hair. His cheeks are rosy perhaps with heat or frustration. His facial hair is generally unkempt. The overall lighting is olive colored while a shadowy void engulfs the background. The most compelling feature, however, is his frantic gaze and wide-eyed expression.
It is important to note that Courbet really struggled inwardly with the decision to paint these works, but he had to earn a living. During this period when he was simply relying upon commissions, Courbet had time to think about and craft his own identity separate from these everyday “daubs.” By having them as a point of comparison, he was able to devise his own sort of counter-
One can infer that this is a portrait of a man who is experiencing a kind of panic. In the case of Courbet, it can be interpreted as a kind of existential crisis. Courbet himself described The Desperate Man as “the portrait of a fanatic, an ascetic…the portrait of a man disillusioned with the foolishness that made up his education, and 15
Man With a Pipe, 1848
The Wounded Man, 1844
is modest with a white blouse paired beneath a forest green jacket, and he is shown from the shoulders up. A pipe hangs loosely from the corner of his mouth in a nonchalant posture, and it looks like there is a little cloud of bluish purple smoke above it. Perhaps it contains tobacco or even opium. The background is difficult to interpret as it is mostly in shadow, and this becomes a trademark of his work. The overall mood seems to be trance-like as Courbet is completely self-absorbed.
By the late 1840s, Courbet’s career began to turn around. He completed a series of works in which he studied the art of the past, particularly Rembrandts and Zurbarans from the seventeenth century. Courbet painted subjects as they occurred naturally without any sort of embellishment or idealism. This realism developed as kind of empirical and scientific observation of the world. Within this new tradition, Courbet declared himself to be free of “any school, church, institution, academy, or regime except the regime of Liberty.” He fully embraced his own personal motto and began to paint with a clearer vision of himself and his ideals.
This piece harbors a sense of rebellion. Courbet is finally starting to make his way in the world. He does not quite make direct eye contact with the beholder, and he is lost in his own thought as he smokes his pipe and disregards the exterior world. This self-portrait is about inner thought and identification. He is becoming surer of himself and is more defiant towards outsiders and their opinions of him.
With this renewed sense of vigor and allegiance to his own persona, we begin to see a change in his self-portraits. First, consider Man with a Pipe. Like The Desperate Man, Courbet’s hair is long, dark, and unkempt. His face is illuminated but his eyes are dark, perhaps even half closed. It is difficult to discern his gaze. His position to the picture plane is oblique, with his head cocked slightly to the right. Similarly to other self-portraits, his dress
In The Wounded Man, Courbet is a martyred figure left to the whims of the wild. This is a self-portrait in which he has lost consciousness and is supported only by a tree trunk while he slowly bleeds out from a mortal chest wound. 18
He is painted outside in natural lighting in the forest with a sword posed to his right. Perhaps he has just lost a duel. He is clothed in that characteristic white blouse and heavier brown cloak which he clutches with his left hand. His eyes are closed and his head is tipped back in a position of surrender. He is posed from the torso upwards, but it is assumed that his lower body and legs spill out from the bottom of the canvas. Like Man with a Pipe, the beholder views Courbet in an oblique position, the position of looking up at him as his lower body is closer than his head and shoulders.
institutions), and he refused to marry her under any circumstances. Originally, this painting used to include a female figure that he clutched in his arms, her head resting upon his left shoulder, but he painted over this composition, adding the sword and more foliage in the background. Losing Binet undoubtedly changed the trajectory of this work. Just note the placement of his injury - his heart is literally bleeding. Courbet constantly needed to re-affirm himself in his work, particularly his self-portraits as these provide glimpses into his identity as a man and an artist. By this point in his career Courbet was thirty-five and had been studying art for fifteen years. With a range of life experiences under his belt (from losing the woman he loved to witnessing the Revolution of 1848), Courbet was well equipped to draw upon his own principles regarding certain events for inspiration for his work. In The Wounded Man in particular, Courbet gives us a clear window into his own point of view. He invites the beholder into his personal space. By looking up at his dying figure, one has an extremely intimate, albeit oblique, view of the subject.
Unlike his previous portraits, Courbet worked on this for ten years, quite a long time for a work that seems similar to others he had produced. Upon closer inspection, however, this painting is loaded with greater symbolic meaning. It was also reworked several times as events in his personal life evoked emotional distress that affected his painting. In 1853, the mother of his son, Virginie Binet, left him for a proper husband. Though they had been lovers for several years, Courbet detested the institution of marriage (much like he detested most 19
Courbet does a fantastic job of integrating the exterior world of the viewer with the internal world of the painting by breaking down any sort of barriers that the picture plane typically imposes. Courbet wished to remove all distance between his presence in the painting, and the presence of viewing it. The Wounded Man marks a shift in emotional maturity for the artist and the recognition of his own values as a painter.
in The Wounded Man he breaks down the barrier between canvas and beholder to tell a story of heartbreak and martyrdom. By the end of the 1850s, he had clearly established an identity for himself in his work.
Throughout his early life, Courbet struggled to find a clear voice in his work. His self-portraits are not just portraits; they represent identities, all of which coalesce to create the Courbet we know in historical tradition today. In The Desperate Man, he had not yet grasped who he was and with that wide-eyed expression of angst, he petitions the beholder to tell him. This work is the perfect metaphor for a kind of identity crisis that occurred early on in his psychological and emotional development as a creative. But as he became more confident in himself, in his studies, and abilities as a painter, Courbet began to produce works that were more characteristic of his true self. In Man with a Pipe he is the Bohemian freethinker, and 20
April Zheng, Delimitation
Haley Radvany, White Cow
Haley Radvany, Death in the Woods
Chengli Huang, Red
Liam Corcoran, Nonnis
Liam Corcoran, View from the Hill
Linda Moses, Pencils
Colors are unhappy: Stuck in paintbox grids Labeled by hue, value, etc. Right color in the right place ... What if orange wants to be cold What if yellow is calm and quiet instead of active What if red words fell in love with blue background What if grids are tear down arrangements are cleared phrases like â€œfit inâ€? retire from dictionary colors hug and dance whenever wherever and with whoever they want What if invasive and dominant triangle grows up to be tolerant and good tempered circle just like the beam of colorless sunlight where all colors can be found where origin embraces destination where after freeing from bound stretching out the whole selves all can breathe love fly under the sun
Ke Xu, Metamorphosis 34
Colum Bowyer, Seoul (series)
Beatrice Chessman, Nutcracker and Jug
Beatrice Chessman, Yellow Felt Hat
Katie Fee, assorted cups and platters
Ethan Davis, Untitled
Kareem Obey, Room Portrait
Kareem Obey, Yellow Portrait
Faculty Feature: Professor John Lee
Paint itself is a great medium for learning to see and use color because one has to physically mix the pigment together by hand, which helps one to understand how color interacts. The flexibility of paint is also important. Paint can exist on the canvas as a solid plane or a washy stain. It can be opaque, translucent, fluid, or semi-sculptural. One can scrape it back and/ or layer over it repeatedly.
by Linda Moses John Lee teaches all of the painting courses at the College: Expression, Structure, and Advanced Painting. How do you encourage students to begin thinking about color in the medium of paint? Color is an important element to both painting itself and my teaching of painting. In order to get students to think like a colorist, I will have them paint a subject using a specific palette or color scheme. This may involve limiting them to using only the primary colors with white, or it might be having them pre-mix a range of tones using a pair of complementary colors. Further, I will force them to think abstractly by having them address a specific portion of the subject so that they see only the color interaction and not the nameable object before them (like a person or object in a still life).
Which artists have most influenced the way you think about color? Many painters have influenced the way I see and think about color, but by far the most important are Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Paul Cezanne. Is color an abstract or a scientific term? I believe that color is both an abstract and a scientific term. From a scientific standpoint, I have learned a lot about how color works by studing color theory, optics, and the psychology of seeing. However, at the end of the day, color truly follows no rules and becomes, for a painter, a completely felt and intuited experience.
How do you believe that color in painting is expressed differently from color in other mediums? 47
Photograph by Eliot Dudik
Faculty Feature: Professor Joshua Gert by Joseph Malanson Professor Joshua Gert is the Francis S. Haserot Professor of Philosophy at the College, and was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about his research interest in the philosophy of color. Color is a mysterious property, and philosophy of color examines how color fits into the natural world (if at all), and the nature of color properties. Professor Gert first became interested in the philosophy of color due to his interest in ethical theory (for example, “What is goodness?” or “What is badness?”). In exploring those questions, philosophers often draw analogies to color.
produce emotional responses. In the field of philosophy of color, one area Professor Gert looks at is color constancy. If you imagine a plain gray shirt, as a whole you would say it’s all one color, but if you were to pinpoint different parts of it you might find variation in color due to shadow or texture. Things change in appearance, and research in color constancy dives into the issues of perception that surround this. Additionally, Professor Gert is interested in the nature of color properties. He believes that color can’t be reduced to scientific properties, but we also shouldn’t think of them as weird or mysterious properties either. He refers to them as categorical or primi-
Humans connect to colors in certain ways that are similar to how they respond to ethics, as both
tive properties and continues to do research into what this means for our understanding and perception of color. Professor Gert sees many connections between the philosophy of color and the nature of the mind, or the external world, of perception, and of language. Just as one example, what is the relationship between the word we use for the things and the things themselves? How does the word “red” and the property “red” interact?
work of art is great due to a very specific color choice or color contrast. While for one individual that may make it great, philosophy of color reminds us to be modest and recognize that while we think of our perceptions as representing things as they are, a lot of variation exists among individuals. If philosophy of color has piqued your interest, Professor Gert has taught a course in it here at the College and hopes to do so again the future.
In regards to art, Professor Gert cautions all our inner art critics about making generalizations. We need to remember that variation in normal color perception is so great among individuals that we cannot really claim that some
Mia Christopher, Not Your Problem
Cover Feature: Interview with Artist Mia Christopher by Caroline Creasey Tucked away in a studio in San Francisco’s Portrero Hill neighborhood, pools of hardened nail enamel cling to the surface of a wooden table, the glossy, cracked forms beckoning in passivity to be coaxed up like scabs. Suspended in midair, flecks of glitter sparkle in a slant of sunlight before settling on the paint-splattered floor. Tubes of paint, pages of stickers, and jars housing collections of markers, gel pens, and colored pencils neatly line the back of a desk. A sketchbook rests before them, open to two fresh, creamy pages. In this workspace, Mia Christopher pours her vibrant personality out onto paper, canvas, sketchbook pages, and granite. Though tiny, her studio is a haven for curiosity and experimentation, an outlet in which indulgence becomes cathartic.
house paints. She fills me in on one of her trade secrets: “I get a lot of the paint cans that they’ve mixed for people and then if people choose not to buy them after they mix the color, they’ll sell gallons of paint for, like, two dollars.” On top of this, Christopher has amassed a treasure trove of dollar store trinkets both for inspiration and for use in finished pieces: collections of jewels, cheap cosmetics, various nail polishes, stickers, etc. This abundance of materials underscores the grandness and decadence characteristic of Christopher’s work. “I feel like the work needs me to accept this opulence,” she relays. “I just want to go for it, I just want to squeeze out a whole tube of paint for this one [piece] or pour out a whole bottle of nail polish or whatever and not be concerned with the mark that that’s making...When I started doing more work like that, it felt really good. I felt like I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be.”
The most readily striking element of Christopher’s work lies in her use of unlikely media. In addition to the basics – pencils, pens, and acrylic paints – Christopher pays visits to hardware stores to stock up on a key material: discarded
I reflect on the tactile giddiness 52
derived from scooping large handfuls of glitter onto wet paint, the novelty of pouring out an entire container of Elmer’s glue onto a table and, hours later, peeling up the dried form. Both artists and non-artists can relate to the pleasure invoked in creating these indulgent forms, but our enthusiasm typically falters over time as we become more aware of the wasteful implications of our playful creations. This isn’t so in Christopher’s case – while an awareness of wastefulness contributes to what she deems a “constant internal struggle,” her consumption is by its very nature inseparable from her refined craft. Fueled perhaps by the artist’s intuition, Christopher’s work winds its way towards a resolution for this struggle. A sensation of balance is palpable in her finished works – the small, intimate scale of her pieces serves as a means of reigning in any excessive opulence.
inal component in future works, rethinking a byproduct of previous processes and casting it in a new light. In a pair of complementary pieces, Decent Deterrent and As You Once Were, Christopher transforms the everyday process of taking inventory of her nail polish collection into two finished works. “A lot of [the polishes] just had enough for one little mark...it’s sort of like paying gratitude, it was my way of saying goodbye, giving each of the colors its last hurrah.” Christopher lets the colors speak for themselves – aside from her decision to make separate warm and cool pieces, the progression of the marks was primarily intuitive. “I guess you could compare it to a physical activity like running or swimming, you do one motion and that motion intuitively triggers the next motion,” she elaborates. This idea of paying homage to her materials and processes plays an instrumental role in helping Christopher navigate the line between capturing the liberating looseness of her material practices and tensing the instinctual controls she places on her process to diminish the potential waste tied to the very endeavor of making.
She mediates the dichotomy between richness and waste behind the scenes as well – “I weirdly do this thing where every time I sweep the floor, I save [the sweepings]. It’s really pretty dust – I use a lot of glitter in my process and I like the colors that I use from cut paper and this and that, so I save all these remnants.” Christopher uses the “studio dust” as an orig-
At the outset, Christopher’s catalog of work seems full of stereotypically “feminine” elements – 53
As You Once Were
Learning to Temper Intensity
pastel Easter egg hues, glitter and sparkles, shimmery stickers, nail polish – but beneath the surface, Christopher’s pieces subtly delve into the complexities of gender. Gendered art is certainly a sticky topic, and Christopher refers to the “masculine” and the “feminine” discerningly, taking care to relegate outdated, hackneyed stereotypes to the past in order to make way for her more progressive take on gender. She views the colors and materials she uses “definitely as feminine or things I am emotionally gravitating towards,” but considers other elements of her process to be more traditionally masculine.
Christopher stands by the guiding force of her intuition. She’s thoughtful, but she makes a point not to second-guess herself at the expense of her work. Her pieces are intricate and relational, showcasing her innate ability to synthesize a variety of media with her personal ideology. “As an artist, you should do what feels right...I’m actively always trying to challenge myself and stand up for myself and my choices,” she tells me. Christopher makes it clear that her works are open to interpretation, and often rely on a viewer’s own instinctive perception of the piece. “People think there’s a wrong answer...I feel like people just bring their personal histories into everything, and I feel really comfortable with there being room for people to bring their [own opinions].”
“If you’re comparing masculine and feminine, historically what we think of as ‘masculine’ is being more decisive, and I feel like ‘feminine’ has this connotation of being wishy-washy or timid,” she explains. “I feel like when I use materials in a very direct way or kind of a one-note motion, that feels powerful.” Christopher’s resistance to gendered historical barriers doesn’t mean she circumvents or rejects her own femininity, though. “It’s an exercise for me in not seeing shame in liking [stereotypically feminine] things, or not thinking that those things are weak or to be less respected,” she clarifies. 56
Published on Nov 28, 2015
Acropolis art journal features the artwork and art historical writing of students at the College of William and Mary. This semester's issue...