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TABLE OF CONTENTS IDENTITY Visual Art, Language, and Feminism Mira Schor by Morgan Southern Cindy Sherman’s Evolution of Identity Cindy Sherman by Zachary Frisch A Battle Between Identities Chuck Close by Laia Casadesus Antonio Racism in Popular Media Through Art Hank Willis Thomas by Austen Schweber Alive, Awake, Aware: Maria Lassnig as a Painter and Feminist Artist Maria Lassnig by Delaney Hoffman Riding The Waves of Identity Rineke Dijkstra by Catie Leonard Nan Goldin: Photographer of Those Passed Nan Goldin by Winifred Palay Racism Redefined Michael Ray Charles by Alexandra La Pinta A Little Taste Outside of African American Women Identity Mickalene Thomas by Heesang Cho Analyzing Whiteness and White Privilege Through Nikki S. Lee’s Yuppie Project Lens Nikki S. Lee by Noelle Cremer Dealing With Negative Stereotypes of the Black Identity David Hammons by Kate Williams Beauty in Simplicity Hiroshi Sugimoto by Dylan Minowa Renaissance Woman Tina Barney by Stephanie Cianci Identity Can Shine Through Art Work Carrie Mae Weems by Mekayla Tucker Art for the Nonconventional Shirin Neshat by Shelby Pernell Bill Viola and Religious Allusion Bill Viola by Jamie Payne No Soy Gringa Delphine Blast by Ashley Llanes PROCESS The Next Generation Artist Daniel Arsham by Eoin Guidas Andreas Gursky and the Aesthetic Utopiaa Andreas Gursky by Aaron Schwartz Greater Than Its Parts? Chuck Close by Nicole Klein Bahama Mama Janine Antoni by Gabriella Rudy Mental Illness is a Process Yayoi Kusama by Ally Sidley

4 5 8 11 14 18 21 24 27 30 32 35 38 41 44 48 52 55 58 59 62 66 69 72

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary Jeff Koons by Jung Soo Auh Sanborn and Secrets Jim Sanborn by Katherine Rice Challenging our Perception of the Contemporary Art World Vik Muniz by Samantha Carpenter Ai Weiwei and the Importance of Symbols Ai Wei Wei by Ivan Yurov All of Existences Should be Valued Wolfgang Tillmans by Zi Ye The Duality of Reality: Truth and Fantasy in Sandy Skoglund’s Work Sandy Skoglund by Emily Recko David LaChapelle’s Spiritual ‘Rebellion’ David LaChapelle by Emiliana Hedderich The Process of Becoming Mel Chin by Layla Saad The Intersection of Art and Spectacle Cai Guo-Qiang by Rebecca Melville The State of Obliteration & Its Role in Yayoi Kusama Mirror Rooms Yayoi Kusama by Carolyn Shipe An Unbelievable Mind Gerhard Richter by Sam Gardner Storytelling in the War Zone Steve McCurry by Ethan Stoler AUDIENCE Jeff Koons and his Elucidation of the American dream Jeff Koons by Longzhe Wang Get Outside! Now! Corey Arnold by Jack Borowiak The Human Element: Empathy in Stephanie Sinclair’s Body of Photojournalistic Work Stephanie Sinclair by Madeline Goldstein Commentary on Apartheid: the Artwork of William Kentridge William Kentridge by Erin Graham A Profile of James Nachtwey James Nachtwey by Isaac Jonas The Misunderstood and Forgotten: Larry Towell’s El Salvador and The Mennonites Larry Towell by Carla Argüello The Beginning of Everything is Nothing Marina Abramovic by Deysy Alvarado-Bonilla Artist, Activist, and Dumpster Diver Vik Muniz by Clare Hasbrouck Honesty in Photography Lauren Greenfield by Chloe Brover Criticism on the Whole, Criticism on the Individual Barbara Kruger by Maddie Shaw My Art is my Activism. My Activism is my Art. Ai Wei Wei by Andrea Aguirre

75 78 80 83 87 89 92 95 98 100 103 105 108 109 111 114 117 120 122 128 133 136 139 142

IDENTITY Identity is the way we perceive and express ourselves. In these essays, the authors explore the factors and conditions which play a role in defining the contemporary artist’s identity and how that is expressed in their art works. Through painting, performance, photography, and multimedia, contemporary artists investigate a range of issues related to identity from gender and sexuality to race and ethnicity.


Visual Art, Language, and Feminism by Morgan Southern Mira Schor is a contemporary artist based in New York. Born into a religious and artistic home, she was surrounded by art as a multifaceted concept and platform from an early age. She describes her father as being “multitalented,1” and the influences of his work on Schor can be seen in her own artwork. The weight of language in Schor’s life stems from her father’s depictions of holy writings and Judaic religion. As women in art become more recognized and influential, Mira Schor stands out as one of the most influential feminist artist of the modern day. Mira Schor has evolved as an artist and a writer by merging art and language to promote feminism both in a linguistic and visual form. She does this by using provocative imagery to address the sexualization, projection, and multifaceted role of women throughout history and in modern times. One of Mira Schor’s most notable pieces is Slit of Paint

(1994). The 12 by 16inch oil on linen painting is a visual representation of the way linguistics can be incorporated into a

ergy arises from the conjunction of language and abstract gesture.3” She mostly uses punctuation (an abstract gesture) to

Slit of Paint, 1994. Oil on linen, 12” x 16”

visual art form to communicate without the use of words. As said by Michael Minelli, “Schor’s ongoing use and interrogation of the written word has informed cultural production via a feminist discourse.2” The first theme communicated throughout Slit of Paint is indeed the use of the written ‘word,’ or in this case, the written punctuation. Constance Mallinson describes the use of punctuation by saying, “a complex syn-

provoke thoughts towards the negative sexualization of women. When viewing Slit of Paint (1994), viewers are immediately confronted with a yonic image, although the female genitalia is not explicitly painted. Created with what appears to be an actual cut in a thick layer of paint, this yonic imagery creates the emotion of pain. In the center of the painting surrounded by a red toned flesh color is a semicolon, placed thickly

and deliberately. Minelli references this aspect of her work when he says “Assuming an assertive, and at times even aggressive, role in the show’s early works, punctuation echoes the body as an orifice, a clitoris, or a cut.4” Many know the semicolon is used within a sentence when a pause more intentional than a comma is required. Though not used in spoken language, it is an important aspect of the English language and pleads for the attention of the reader to pause before finishing the sentence. Slit of Paint embodies this concept as Schor has transformed the semicolon into a symbol of femininity and sexuality. The painting begs viewers to question how feminism and a semicolon coincide, because in many ways they do. Briefly put, the semicolon represents feminism in three ways. First, the semicolon represents silence. Being the silent pause between sentences, it represents the silence that has long


been expected of women throughout history. Second, it represents the way women are so easily sexualized, as Schor is able to produce a sexual image with the simplest form. Third, it represents the story left to tell about feminism and the history

texts aimed at an individual guy,5” Schor creates a mask to merge language and art. When asked to talk about the ways in which she was using language in Hidden Grove and other similar works she responds, “I was thinking

Hidden Grove, Sept. 10, 1977. Ink and Japan gold size on rice paper, 10 1/2” x 8”

yet to be created by and for women. Although it is the silence between a sentence, it is the representation that more is to come. Mira Schor also uses language to analyze the projection of women. Hidden Grove (1977) is an example of Schor’s use of language in a more literal sense. Using what she described as “private

in those days about how women are filled with language, but they are not thought of as being filled with language, but they are as much filled with language as any human being so … whether or not you could read the text you got the impression of language.6” This allows viewers to experience the text as image,

thus blurring the line between the two mediums. Hidden Grove in particular embodies the idea of women being filled with language, but unable to express it. Filling much of a sheet of rice paper is the shape of a mask, oval eye holes burned into place. Scrawled in the background are the unrecognizable words as images. Lastly, and perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the piece there is a large black box placed where the mouth should be. Semi- transparent, this black box transforms an already unsettling mask into an identity of its own. Hidden Grove speaks without words, demanding respect and describing the power that lies within that which is caged. The mask is a direct representation of women filled with language but unable to express that language. The mouth begs to be uncovered, the words long to be read, and yet both remain unchanged. As the title suggests, hidden within the language of women is a grove, a place of rich flourishing ideas and change, and as the female voice begins to be heard, the grove is cultivated and uncovered. Mira Schor expresses what this grove looks like when hidden, and when inequality abounds. She ad-

vocates for language and conveys its power humbly by using a bit of rice paper and turning words into a visual form of art. Women have played various roles throughout history, and for many women, they have played several of these roles throughout their lifetime. Mira Schor is one of those women who understands the role of the women, and she portrays this through her art. Beauty (1991) portrays one of the most prominent and ongoing roles of women, and that is to embody a certain image of societal beauty. Schor begins to do this in Beauty by creating an overall poetic and appealing aesthetic. It behaves like the description of Schor’s work given by Jennifer Liese: “Schor presents history- of feminism and of art- so truthfully, with so much of its original integrity intact, and with so little agenda interference that it can behave like poetry.7” In this oil painting Schor uses language directly by spelling out the word beauty in cursive in the center of the painting. Framing the word are two breasts, unequal in size, forming the word by means of a white string flowing from the elongated nipples. Out of the ‘y’ in beauty a triangle of blood droplets seem to dance, embellishing the idea of beauty. This sug-

gests the pain that comes with beauty, and the way such pain is glamorized. Mira Schor describes this piece in an interview and

word beauty is a crown of thorn, of blood.8” This insight into the painting solidifies the connection between beauty

Beauty, 1991. Oil on canvas, 16” x 20”

says, “It was based on a saying in French ‘Tu dois souffrir d’être belle,’ you have to suffer to be beautiful, but it’s gendered in French so it’s not like you have to suffer to be handsome ... I always thought that was always a very weird imperative about femininity and being a woman, that you had to suffer to be beautiful … so here out of the

and pain while also introducing cultural influence from Europe. This also strengthens Schor’s voice for feminism as it shows her knowledge of feminine struggles of women across the globe. Though overall a simple painting, the visual meaning is bold, addressing several aspects of feminism, visual art, and language all at once.

Because of Mira Schor’s duality as both a writer and a painter she is able to merge language and visual art fluidly. She uses this to express the way words and art interact and to portray a message that can both be literally and visually read. In this way, and by using provocative images, she addresses he sexualization, projection, and multifaceted role of women throughout history and in modern times. She is an advocate for feminism and an example of the form that visual art can take through dichotomy and passion.

2013. 2013 Distinguished Artists’ Interview with Mira Schor (FULL ... - YouTube. ) Minelli, Michael. 2011. “Mira Schor: Paintings From The Nineties To Now.” X-Tra: Contemporary Art Quarterly 14, no. 1: 44-48. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accesses December 5, 2016). 3 Mallinson, Constance. “Mira Schor: CB1.” Art In America, 99, 4, pp. 131-132. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accesses December 5, 2016). 4 See Note 2 5 See Note 1 6 See Note 1 7 Liese, Jennifer. “Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture (Book).” Provincetown Arts 13, (December 1997): 115-117. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accesses December 5, 2016). 8 See Note 1 1 2



Cindy Sherman’s Evolution of Identity by Zachary Frisch

Cindy Sherman’s idiosyncratic collection of untitled works, which accordingly allow the observer to interpret without influence, demonstrates her enthusiasm for producing art but also reveals a more subjective passion for transforming herself into the art. Cindy Sherman’s work has evolved in a natural progression over the years, but most recently she has shifted back to explore her roots and herself. Her “Hollywood” series evokes the “Untitled Film Stills” that made her famous, but “Hollywood” focuses specifically on her identity as she ages. The “Untitled Film Stills” series raised Cindy Sherman to prominence in the art world in the early 1980s. The series, which consisted of 69 black-andwhite photos of ersatz B-movie actresses, set the tone for her successful career in the future1. In her more recent “Hollywood” series, she does something similar, though the photos are

in color and she poses as A-list actresses like Greta Garbo and represents the real, albeit faded, glamour of Hollywood. “Her

sidered an early cornerstone of postmodernism. Yet with each passing year, Ms. Sherman’s art deviates more noticeably

photographs. As Sherman claimed in an interview, “I’m under so many layers of makeup that I’m trying to obliterate myself in the images. I’m not revealing anything.” Perhaps she did not feel it personally reflected her. However, the “Hollywood” series does personally reflect her, says Sherman: “Now she admits to a more “personal aspect” in her images of aging stars: ‘I, as an older woman, am struggling with the idea of being an older woman.’”3 As Cindy Sherman gets older, she’s coming to terms with her age. After she took a break from making art for five years, she created the “Hollywood” series as her debut series of works as her comeback into Cindy Sherman, Hollywood Series (2016), Untitled the art world. Her #581 (2016), Dye Sublimation Metal Print “Hollywood” series is about her more than ‘’Untitled Film Stills’’ se- from a basic postmodern ever. She photographs ries of 1977-80, in which tenet, the so-called death herself posing as starlets she enacted a staggering of the author.”2 In “Film from the Golden Age of array of stereotypical fe- Stills,” she seemed to re- film (“Gloria Swanson, male movie roles, is con- move herself from the Greta Garbo and oth-

ers”) as they would appear to look later, having aged, in the 1960s4. Cindy Sherman inserts herself into this body of work posing as different Hollywood starlets. She posed as starlets from the 1920s and was photographed as they would look in the 1960s, even though the actual photographs were taken in 2016. In Untitled #581, 2016 (Dye Sublimation Metal Print), she is wearing a luxurious embroidered sparkling dress, accurate to the era. She is gazing towards the direction of the light and is wearing a great deal of makeup. Her face is illuminated making her the main focal point in the work just as the main actress would be the star of a movie in the 1920s. The background depicts a snapshot of buildings found in Manhattan that went up in the 1960s. There is a strong contrast with the unclear fuzzy background and the main sharply focused portrait in the foreground. This suggests that the viewer shouldn’t be distracted by the background but to take note of it. Cindy wants you to focus on her, the main subject. After all, she is a star! The background suggests the image was manipulated digitally and is exposed

on another image such as a pattern of tree branches. The branches are stripped of their leaves, and past their prime, just as Hollywood stars from the 1920’s are past their prime

from within.” Sherman’s search for new inspiration like this printing process has followed her throughout her career. The foundation of Cindy Sherman’s art is 5

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #175 (1987), Chromogenic color print, 46 7/8 x 71 1/2” (119.1 x 181.6 cm)

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still Series (1977-1980), Untitled Film Still #21 (1978), Gelatin silver print, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2” (19.1 x 24.1 cm)

in the 1960s. For these images, Sherman uses a new printing process that “cooks a layer of ink on to the metal”, making her newest pictures seem like lightboxes, glowing

her use of imagination to recreate other characters. She fully explores the extent of “playing dressup.” In a New Yorker interview in 1991, she said of her youth, ‘’I

guess whenever I would get moody or depressed, I would spend a couple of hours turning myself into somebody else with makeup or clothes. . . . It was a cathartic thing that I needed to do.’6 Her passion has followed her ever since… even today, “Being in Sherman’s studio inevitably feels a bit like being inside a dressing-up box. There are racks of silk gowns and shelves full of false nails and false eyebrows and prosthetic flesh and horror masks. She fossicks in thrift stores and yard sales for furs and costume jewelery.”7 In the “Film Stills” series, her costume theory revolved about fleeing herself and represented a postmodern play on escapist fantasy. Later, she created work that she did not appear in at all in, such as still lifes made with dolls and mannequins (the “Sex Pictures” series), and other materials or even food (as in “Untitled 175”, a close up photograph of rotting food). In her “Hollywood” series, she finally comes to terms with putting on a costume as self-expression. Even the titles of her work--or their lack thereof--shows her ambivalence about the idea of self-expression. Said



Sherman in an inter- and draw a character up. view “I don’t title them I have little scenarios [the art]. I’m not going in my mind.”9 She sets

Cindy Sherman, Sex Pictures Series (1989-1992), Untitled, #264 (1992), Chromogenic Print, 50 1/16 x 75 1/8 inches (127.2 x 190.8 cm)

to thrust the issues in my work into people’s faces with words.”8 She does not want the audience to come into the work with preconceptions. She wants the viewer to make what they want of the work. In her own method, however, she does have clear motivations “As long as I have a mirror next to the camera, I’m acting enough to go into a kind of trance

fame and her current life. Cindy Sherman’s exploration of identity is a hallmark of her work. In early Untitled series she explored the erasure of identity, and was uncomfortable commenting on herself. In her recent series, “Hollywood” she returns to explore her personal state. Her juxtaposition of herself with her work, whether she is visible or invisible in it, gives the viewer insight into her psyche.

the scene she wants but leaves it to the viewer to interpret. She has over the years experimented with different materials and media, including some moving film images, but the “Hollywood” series is the development of a process she’s used before. It is more personal and self-expressive than her previous work, in part because it is a reference to her own current

Gopnik, Blake. “Cindy Sherman Takes On Aging (Her Own) - The New York Times.” April 21, 2016. Accessed October 31, 2016. 2 Smith, Roberta. “ART REVIEW; The Ever-Shifting Selves of Cindy Sherman, Girlish Vamp to Clown.” May 28, 2004. Accessed October 31, 2016. 3 See Note 1 4 See Note 1 5 Adams, Tim. “Cindy Sherman: ‘Why Am I in These Photos?’” The Guardian, July 3, 2016. 6 See Note 2 7 See Note 5 8 Goldsmith, David. “Cindy Sherman.” Aperture, no. 133 (Fall 1993): 34-43. Accessed October 31, 2016. 9 See Note 8 1


A Battle Between Identities

by Laia Casadesus Antonio Chuck Close is a contemporary artist who was born on July 5, 1940, in Monroe, Washington. Throughout his life, Close has suffered from dyslexia and prosopagnosia, or face- blindness, which prevents him from identifying faces. Later, in 1988, Close experienced another health issue when he underwent the fracture of a spinal artery. He almost ended up entirely paralyzed, which resulted him painting with a brush taped to his wrist1. It may seem contradictory that Close suffers from prosopagnosia because his art mainly consists of portraits of himself and other people. However, as he explained during his interview with Jacqueline Brody, by painting the models through a photograph of them, he can get a better understanding on how they appear and are2. This relates to the idea of identity, and its meaning because he is exploring the person he is painting or photographing through

his art. Personally, identity has two different sides: the appearance, such as gender, race, or

ficial aspects of identity, while his portrait paintings illustrate the complexity of identity.

Lucas II,1987. Figure 1.

ethnicity; and the complicated construction of one’s character, which is composed by distinct factors of the self. To me, the various conditions that Close has encountered have shaped his technique in his art and his identity, resulting his photographs to portray only the super-

Chuck Close divides his paintings into individual pieces in order to get a clear understanding of the person’s identity. The process Close uses is known as the “grid system”, which consists of setting a grid on the model’s photograph as well as on the big canvas as the foundation of the

painting. The end painting is a scaled result of the photograph. Lucas II,1987 is an example of one of Close paintings using the “grid system”. As seen in figure two, the independence between grids is visible, yet the result shown in figure one, illustrates the dependence unity between them. This shows the balance between abstract painting, being all individual grids, and realist painting, being the whole result, in Close’s art3. Identity can be understood in the same way because all pieces, or grids, of identity rely on each other to build the entirety of the person. Therefore, portraying the intricate composition of identity because all grids have to be recognized to get the idea of the whole, just like Lucas II,1987. If one piece is taken out, the whole painting is demolished. Every individual grid conveys information about the subject matter because it is part of a greater outcome. In figure two, the grids are


all composed by different colors, but together form the eye of the larger painting, Lucas II, 1987. This represents that the composition of the eye is what reveals the uniqueness of the identity, not just the eye itself because each person will have the eye composed with different colors. During an interview with Frank Magiera, Close gave a brief explanation on his painting series and said, “It’s a record of decisions. Every single decision I make is right there for the people to look at”4. The approach he takes is portrayed in his paintings for the public to witness, and each “record of decisions” belongs to the construction of the person and its identity. Hence, illustrating the complexity of identity and its formation. In reality one cannot see the deep composition, but just the traditional physicality. In addition, Close uses the “grid system” to explore how far an image can be broken down before it becomes unrecognizable5. Identity can be divided as far as the composition of the person allows it. The complexity of identity relates to this

idea because one does not know how many pieces an identity can have. In this case, Close makes his paintings at the limit where the whole identity of the person is still recognizable. If Lucas II, 1987, was divided into less pieces the message given to the public would be less detailed and more superficial. Therefore,

of paintings, the more one looks, the less one sees6. As one stands closer to Lucas II, 1987 one understands that it does not portray him, and that it is just a composition of different forms and colors mixed together. However, as one looks at Lucas II, 1987 from a farther distance, the person is recognized because the

Figure 4: 2016. Stonehilltaylor.Com. Accessed December 6 2016.

each individual grid is an understanding of the self and it allows the public to learn how one is formed. The upper part of the face is covered by stronger colors, orange and red, and the lower face by colder colors, yellow and green. These variation of colors give the public an opportunity for discussion because specific colors are used to build specific parts of the face. Hence, this shows the struggle of identity and knowing what each color means. In this type

grids collide and become one. Thus, meaning that even though identity can be intricate, it still has an end result that can be understood with detail if the whole is recognized. Chuck Close photograph, Philip Glass, 2006 loses its uniqueness by not illustrating the detail aspects of the person and their identity. In contrast of the painting of Lucas II, 1987, Philip Glass, 2006, depicts the traditional physicality of the person, and the viewer sees only the appear-

ance side of identity. It is difficult to go through the deep composition of its identity because the features portrayed in the photograph are common among everyone. Philip Glass, 2006, is composed of two eyes, eyebrows, one nose, one mouth, two ears, wrinkles, and its hair. Even though, not everyone’s eyes or ears look the same, they are portrayed the same way in the photographs. Unlike in Lucas II, 1987, where eyes are composed by different colors, which is what makes them unique and more complicated to understand. Therefore, just showing the superficial aspects of its appearance identity. Furthermore, with the piece Philip Glass, 2006, the audience cannot see the deep connection between the subject matter and its identity because the viewer just sees a black and white surface that plays as a barrier to the identity. In Lucas II, 1987, the audience understands the physicality of the eye because of the colorful grids that form, which build the relation between the complicated composition and

the superficial aspects of the eye. The different backgrounds of both the painting and the photograph, also, illustrate

detailed and substantial background that merges with the model. This implies that the physical structure needs to rely on

Steve McCurry, digital photograph, The World’s Ride.

both differences. The Philip Glass, 2006, background gives the illusion that the head is floating, but Lucas II, 1987 has a

the intricate side of identity in order for it to be meaningful and understood. If not the superficial matter is just un-

settled physical substance that has no connection to the person’s identity. Although, the outside appearance of people are not the same, how they are portrayed determines the uniqueness of their identity. In conclusion, Chuck Close deals with the meaning of identity in his art, both paintings and photographs. However, different sides of identity are portrayed in the painting Lucas II, 1987, and in the photograph Philip Glass, 2006. The act of painting gives Close the opportunity to deeply explore the person’s identity and show the public its complexity by dividing the painting into grids. With this process, Close portrays that each grid is part of the person and without one of them, the whole identity would not be the same. However, in the other side, the photographs do not thoroughly explore the meaning of identity

because the physical aspects of the photograph are traditionally illustrated. The composition of the eyes, for example, are common to everyone and do not show its uniqueness. Overall, the singularity of oneself is important to determine distinctions among people today. Even though identity is hard to understand, there are many ways to approach it and Chuck Close choses two different ways to do it in today’s contemporary world.

“Chuck Close Biography.” 2015. Accessed December 02, 2016. http://www.biography. com/people/chuck-close-9251491. 2 Chuck Close and Jacqueline Brody. “Innovation Through Process: An Interview.” Art in Print. The Global Journal of Prints and Ideas 2 (April 1998): 18-26. Accessed November 5, 2016.pdf. 3 Kim Levin. “Chuck Close: Decoding the image”. Ebscohost. Accessed November 3, 2016. 4 Frank Magiera. “Portraits of an artist Chuck Close turns the abstract into the concrete: [All Edition]. Search Proquest. December 7, 2000. Accessed November 3, 2016. 5 Grace Glueck. “Artist Chuck Close: I wanted to make images that knock your socks off”. New York Times. June 10, 1981. Accessed November 2, 2016. 6 Rafael Franco. “Chuck Close y los rostros perdidos”. Ebscohot. June 2013. Accessed November 4, 2016. 1



Racism in Popular Media Through Art by Austen Schweber

Hank Willis Thomas is a modern conceptual artist who uses his craft to expose racism in American advertisements. Thomas’s works are created through photographs, sculptures and even a combination of the two in his mixed media series. He creates a conversation around the racism surrounding African Americans through his use of a social commentary on popular culture that exploits the African American race. His social commentaries come in the form of his various art series in which he takes popular advertisements and makes them into commentaries on racism and capitalism present in the U.S. Since the beginning of Thomas’s career when he created Priceless he has been making statements on the immense amount of racism present in society. Thomas’s art career is as well based around the fact that his viewers should feel the need for a conversation around racism. To understand Hank Willis Thomas’s

work in it’s entirety, it is important to look at the progression of his works and to notice the different techniques he utilizes to create the idea of a commentary on racism and capitalism. When Thomas first started to create art he had a clear sense of identity and purpose of the reason he was making art. One of his first pieces, Priceless, created in 2004, deals directly with the combination of American consumerism and racism against African Americans. The image depicts a large African American family at a funeral mourning the death of one of their sons. The image is not only of the funeral however, as Thomas chose to insert text into the image to seemingly give more context to the image as a whole. All the text written are the names of items and following the names are the prices of said items. He wrote the monetary value for a gun, bullet, gold chain, 3-piece suit, and new socks. He is breaking a funeral down to simply how much it costs for the

items involved in it and as well is taking away the feeling of mourning that is being displayed by the family in the image. The last portion of text that Thomas writes however is the most important to understanding his idea of the effects of capitalism and Americans feeling of engulfment in how much things cost. He writes the words “Picking the perfect casket for your son: Priceless”. This text and the MasterCard logo are the signifiers that piece the entire work of art together. He is evidently appropriating the old advertisements of MasterCard in which the company released various advertisements depicting happy scenes where people were interacting with one another in wondrous ways. One such ad was the ad released for Priceless NY which depicted a family with two kids baking and smiling together along with the caption “The pride (and flour) on their faces: Priceless”1. With Thomas’s items on the list being about a funeral and writing that burying ones own son

is “priceless” he is commenting on the way that MasterCard advertisements attempt to make us look at the world through a lens that deals solely with the monetary values and not seeing whats actually happening. While this image deals somewhat with the issue of race, in the work he made the year before, Branded Head (2003), he makes more of a comment on race identity and monetization of race by a popular brand. Thomas’s work utilizes the Nike Brand logo to showcase their exploitative tendencies of African Americans. In Branded Head Thomas photographed an African American male from the side and deliberately cropped his face out of the image. He as well branded a Nike logo onto the side of the mans forehead. When he made the piece in 2003, Nike advertisements were very prevalent all around the U.S. and the models that were used by Nike were all primarily African American. Thomas is making a so-

cial commentary on that fact by branding the logo onto an African American male. He is as well questioning identity in his piece with excluding the face of the man. Through the exclusion of one of the main defining features of a person, Thomas is making the commentary around the fact that a common stereotype around African Americans is that they all look the same and that it is being reinforced by Nike when they utilize them as their primary models for advertisements. This stereotype of the lack of knowledge around African American identities is reinforced in a personal story written by Alessandro Raengo in her article ©amouflauge. The piece as a whole speaks about identity in Thomas’s works but the most important part of her article is when she talks about the time that she was at a panel that was showing the Branded piece. She writes about a conversation that went on between a non-African American woman and an African American man in front of her. She writes how she overheard the woman ask the man “Is that you in the picture?”2. She then goes onto discuss how in that particular moment she realized “ “in that moment Willis

Thomas’s piece had performed it’s cultural work. It had lodged itself in the complicated, power ridden interstices of visual culture where we do not look”3. Raengo’s state-

the racial blindness that Thomas points out in his image. Morrs’s comments on the way she felt after that conversation was had are as well imperative to the further

Hank Willis Thomas and Rashid Johnson, This Negro Voted, 2008

ments provide more insight and even solidifies the theories of racial bias in America. The question she overheard at the panel validates the point that Hank Willis Thomas is trying to make in his Branded Head image. The woman asking the question evidently has

understanding of Thomas’s works. She comments on how the piece “lodged itself in the complicated, power ridden interstices of visual culture where we do not look”4. She is acknowledging the point that Thomas is looking to portray through his images, the fact that

racism is overlooked in visual culture. The theory of racism in Willis’s art is further explored in Matthew Pratt Guterl’s “Seeing Race in Modern America”. He comments as well on the Branded Head piece and in particular what it actually means to have the Nike logo branded on the side of the man’s head and how that pertains to ownership. He writes, “In these cases, the branding of the body is synonymous with the branding of the product. The black body, shilling for Nike, becomes a product offered for sale, desired by white men for purchase, and permanently scarred to reflect the transformation”5. He captures the full essence of the use of the actual act of branding the logo onto the man’s head and how that pertains to monetizing the man. He as well goes into the fact that the man in the image is in turn “desired by white men for purchase”6 which pertains to the times in history when African-Americans were held as slaves, and were offered up for sale. Guterl lastly mentions that it is a “transformation” for the man indicating that he was once free but now that Nike has taken him he no longer has



any freedoms. Thomas’s commentaries on African-African freedoms are not solely touched upon in his Branded

a black suit standing in front of a confederate flag background with the text “THIS NEGRO VOTED.” at the bot-

Hank Willis Thomas, Branded Head, 2003

Head image, he makes a comment on African Americans freedom to vote and what that means in today’s times in his This Negro Voted Piece. This Negro Voted is a collaborative piece made by Thomas and artist Rashid Johnson in 2008. The piece is an image of Thomas donning

tom of the image. At first glance of the image, it appears as if it is poster for a presidential candidate but upon further investigation, the text and background reveal the true meanings behind the image. By looking at an article that Thomas’s mother, Deborah Willis, wrote it becomes easier

to understand the meanings behind the particular elements of the image. She writes “Thomas references Reconstructionera photographs, the Confederate flag, patriotism and notions of dandyism”7. With Deborah Willis writing that the image references “Reconstruction-era photographs” she is explaining how the image relates to when in the 1600’s African Americans were being exploited in photographs and being used for slavery as well. She clarifies her point further with mentioning the specific elements of the image and the fact that it includes the Confederate flag (a flag used by the Confederacy in the 1600’s). By Thomas making the background of the image the Confederate flag he is figuratively and as well literally overcoming racism to be able to vote. He is signifying his freedom to vote despite the presence of racism which is in the form of the Confederate flag. The final most important elements of the image is his attire and the choice of words on the bottom of the image. Thomas is wearing a suit which was unheard of in the time that the Confederate flag was being used, he is insulting the beliefs of the flag in part that African

Americans should have no rights and have no education. By wearing a suit he is establishing himself as a professional and breaking down the racial stereotype. The most powerful part of the image however, is the fact that he utilizes the word “Negro” to describe himself voting. He is using a racial slur that has a deep history of being used against African Americans. Hank Willis Thomas’s effective commentaries on racism against the African American race causes his viewers to have a conversation around the idea of what stereotypes are being pushed upon them by the world of advertising and history. When Thomas himself explains his art and how it is centered around African American males, he speaks about his struggle to understand the meaning behind being an African American male in the U.S. He also takes apart stereotypes of African Americans as a whole and says that “one of the craziest things about blackness is that black people didn’t create it. Europeans with a commercial interest in dehumanizing us created black people, and we’ve been enlisted to make it our own and make it beautiful”8. Willis deconstructs where the idea of racism came from and says that the African

Hank Willis Thomas, Priceless, 2004

American race has “been enlisted to make it our own and make it beautiful”. He is saying that members of the race are meant to own the stereotypes and make them into beauty just like his art does. Thomas’s art takes the racial slurs and stereotypes and makes beauty out of them. Through his art Thomas has revealed portions of racism that were rarely seen or spoken about by society. His art facilitates conversations about rac-

ism and even reveals the lesser known aspects of racism. Thomas’s works of art are pieces that inspire people to have better understanding of what it means to be a member of the African American race and in particular the struggles they go through from the ways that society as a whole views them. From the beginning of Hank Willis Thomas’s career in which he made a statement on racism and consumerism

through Priceless to the middle of his career in which he took on the idea of the exploitation of African Americans by Nike in Branded to one of his latest pieces, This Negro Voted where he establishes himself as a successful African American above the racial stereotypes, he has always kept a consistent theme of creating conversation around race. His pieces, Priceless, Branded, and This Negro Voted, are essential pieces that initiate an essential conversation around race that is currently being overlooked in today’s world.

Mastercard. “Priceless.” Advertisement. August 20, 2012. Accessed December 6, 2016. 2 Raengo, Alessandra. “©amouflage.” in On Not Looking: The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture, e d. Frances Guerin, (Routledge, 2015), 139-163. 3 Ibid 4 Ibid 5 Guterl, Matthew Pratt. Seeing Race in Modern America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina P ress, 2013. 6 Ibid. 7 Willis, Deborah. “Triumph & Image: Hank Willis Thomas.” Aperture no. 209 (Winter2012 2012): 68-73. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed December 6, 2016). 8 Hank Willis Thomas. “Artist Statement.” Callaloo 37, no. 4 (2014): 957-960. (accessed December 6, 2016). 1



Alive, Awake, Aware by Delaney Hoffman

The 2010’s have truly ushered in the era of the self portrait. While it may be more apt to describe contemporary culture as selfie-oriented as opposed to self portrait-oriented, there is little debate that the epoch of constant documentation of self has fallen upon international, connected consciousness. In this time of incessant personal spacial awareness and comparison, the work of Maria Lassnig becomes all the more pertinent. Maria Lassnig (1919-2014) was an Austrian painter, professor and filmmaker. She was an influential contemporary painter and working artist up until her death at the age of 94 in 2014. However, Lassnig’s renown was mostly confined to Germany until 2008, when her work was hosted in a solo show by Serpentine Gallery in London. As an elderly woman she achieved international acclaim, and because she attained this recognition relatively late in her career, Lassnig’s name is

often left out of conversations about feminist art and feminist art practice. Although Maria Lassnig is often not thought of in terms of “feminist art,” her artistic practices, and her concept of “body awareness” are inherently feminist in the way that they

Visually, this video is a feminist piece. This sentiment is primarily communicated through the costuming that Lassnig chooses to don throughout the video, and in turn the way that this costuming progresses throughout the film. She begins

Figure 1

claim personal autonomy and independence. This sense of selfsufficiency is rooted in Lassnig’s upbringing and background, which is discussed at length by the artist herself in the video entitled Kantate, a video released in 1992 in collaboration with Hubert Sielecki composed of the artist herself singing a biographical ballad over animations embellishing on the song’s lyrics.1

relatively conventionally; first in a red velvet jacket, then to a nautical outfit, then to arguably one of her most traditionally feminine ensemble, which is shown in Figure 12. Though understated, the purple tones of her sweater, coupled with the design of the embroidered bees on her top, lend this portion of the video a sense of innocence. It looks like something a child might wear,

while the scarf makes the ensemble a little bit more refined. This is fitting given the context of her outfit is her own adolescence. In Figure 23, Lassnig has moved on past her adolescence into young adulthood. She has proven herself in art school, and after she recounts the ways that she bested her male peers, she dons three things that she can never attain. These would be a wedding veil symbolizing marriage, a Marilyn Monroe tie symbolizing physical beauty, and, most notably, a traditional male clothing ensemble. Androgyny and mixed gender roles are at the forefront of the artist’s consciousness within this scene, and by curating an outfit that is both traditionally male and female, Lassnig is demonstrating a self-emancipation from either role. This is emphasized by the domestic actions taking place behind her in the video, she will not perform the duties of a wife and mother because she has accepted

that those are things she does not want. The video continues, and in Figure 34 Lassnig’s costume is the opposite of that in Figure 2. It is unabashedly feminine, with a garish yellow feather boa and textured tights with a form-fitting leotard, as she sings about her time in Paris. She, once again, speaks to how traditional femininity is not right for her. Conventional ideas of love are not things that seem necessary or attainable, and although this may be read as something sad or tragic, Lassnig’s outfit suggests the opposite. She suggests that she maintains a confidence in her body and a strength in her character without things that are traditionally deemed to be necessary by traditional, family-oriented thought. This theme of strength and confidence in herself as an individual continues to the end of the video, and in Figure 45 she faces the camera decorated in military honors. Here, Lassnig considers herself a soldier. She, as a woman, overcame not only the physical obstacles that society set before her because of her gender, but

the emotional ones too. Lassnig essentially freed herself of the stringent expectations of what European femininity was when she was growing up because she is an empowered female artist. Lassnig’s empow-

that is entirely subversive to the male gaze. Since Lassnig’s body awareness describes “a visual language she invented to depict the invisible aspects of inner sensation”6, there is little to no room for male interpretation or

Figure 2

Figure 3

erment comes, perhaps, from her unique philosophy of making paintings which she refers to, in German, as Körpergefühl or, in English, as “body awareness”. This philosophy of body awareness is a feminist practice in itself, as it presents the female experience in a way

objectification of the artist’s body. She is entirely in control, and she is painting only to communicate the sensations that exist within her body. This practice is feminist because, so often, women are expected to accept the physical pain and uncomfortable sensation

that comes with living; this could mean period cramps, childbirth, or the uncomfortable feeling that grows in the pit of a woman’s stomach when she is acutely aware that she is being objectified, regardless, Lassnig paints the sensations that her body is feeling as an honest truth, making no attempt at sugar-coating or hiding them in order to protect the male ego. The male gaze also becomes futile as Lassnig’s practice involved becoming a voyeur of her own body. Her “art seems driven by a species of existential selfknowledge: ‘I is someone else.’ Her primary subject is herself.”7 In this way, she maintains full control over her work by taking on the role of the viewer and the object simultaneously. Lassnig views herself through the distorted lens that her paintings communicate, she is painting how she feels for the sake of expression, and she makes it difficult for men to sexualize her images. Her later paintings are characterized by the “unsettling similarities between childhood and old age... or poses that describe ir-



rational fear, an emotion experienced disproportionately by both young girls and old women”8 primarily because Maria


of her gender. Lassnig “developed an embryonic feminist consciousness... [her] concern remained

Figure 4

Lassnig makes art that connects to her experience as a woman in order for other women to identify and relate with. Her work seeks to communicate her own experience living in a world which has stripped her of a sense of control be-

the porous relationship between the human body and its environment, a concern now accentuated by the unequal power relations between men and women.”9 As her work developed, this issue of gender and power

struggle became more prevalent. Perhaps this was because she began to achieve notoriety in the face of her male peers. She became the first female painting professor at the Academy of the Arts in Vienna, held several solo shows throughout Germany, and was awarded the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art among other awards and recognitions on a province and state level.10 Ultimately, Maria Lassnig was a feminist painter who consciously skewed gender roles and the male gaze through both her process and her finished works, and that is her legacy.

Kantate. Directed by Maria Lassnig. Produced by Hubert Sielecki. Performed by Maria Lassnig. Germany: Hubert Sielecki, 1992. 35mm Film. April 11, 2016. Accessed November 3, 2016. 2 Kantate, screenshot from 2:35. 3 Kantate, screenshot from 3:00. 4 Kantate, screenshot from 4:12. 5 Kantate, screenshot from 5:11. 6 Obrist, Hans Ulrich. “Maria Lassnig.” In Defining Contemporary Art - 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks, 360-361. New York, NY:Phaidon, 2011. 7 Lang, Karen. “Maria Lassnig’s Body Sensation, Body Awareness.” X-tra: Contemporary Art Quarterly 12, no. 2 (November 2009): 66-70. 8 Moyer, Carrie. “Maria Lassnig: The Pitiless Eye.” Art in America, January 1, 2009, 70-75. Accessed November 3, 2016. 9 March-Russell, Paul. “Maria Lassnig, Tate Liverpool, 18 May-18 September 2016.“ Foundation 45, no 124(2016): 99-101. Accessed November 3, 2016. 10 Foundation, Maria Lassnig. “Biography.” Maria Lassnig Stiftung. Accessed December 06, 2016. http:// 1


Riding The Waves of Identity by Catie Leonard Rineke Dijkstra captures the frustration and awkwardness in the discovery of an identity of adolescent figures through pos-

cided to take a photo of myself after swimming.”, Dijkstra states, “Taking a picture just after physical or emotional experience allows you to capture a

Rineke Dijkstra, ‘Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26 1992’ 1992

ture, setting, and camera angles, and lighting in her series Beach Portraits. Dijkstra came up with idea to photograph adolescents at the beach after suffering from a hip injury. “I was swimming everyday and then I de-

more natural pose”.¹ In Dijkstra’s self portrait, her posture helps viewers understand the tone of the entire piece. Viewers can see how her hands are covering her face, with her fingers spread out, her shoulders slight-

ly slumped over, stomach slightly out, dark circles around her face, and finally still appearing wet. This gives viewers the ability to assume that Di-

they pose, she proceeds with slight adjustments, takes the photo, and she’s done. But when viewers take a look at the result, the pose directs this natu-

Rineke Dijkstra, ‘Self Portrait’, 1991

jkstra just finished swimming lapse and is now exhausted. Using this semi- candid technique, Dijkstra captures teens at the beach in a similar fashion. She pulls them aside and asks them if she can photograph them,

ral, yet prevalent uncertainty of identity. Many of the photos in the series have the teen figures in a natural, contrapposto pose; the head is tilted diagonally one way, the shoulders tilt the other way, causing the torso


and hips to balance those contrasts on the body, then the legs end up being asymmetrical to keep the body on both feet. Despite it being an incredibly natural pose, when it’s executed by a human being currently going through puberty, where the body is undergoing many physical changes, it looks very awkward. This, in turn presents the state at which the teenage generation is stuck in; between a stage of not having their own identity, and having one; that awkwardness that teens don’t want others to see². However, it’s not poking fun at this generation, but it’s a way of shedding light on the realistic portrayal of the figure, and what could be the potential for an identity in these teens. Dijkstra states in an interview, “It’s not that I want to get something from someone they don’t want to give or show. It’s just more interesting if they are more themselves, if they don’t think about being photographed.”¹. This natural posture gives way to a more realistic portrayal of one’s physical identity, and it really helps provide attention to the awkward stages of adolescence, when they are trying to discover who they are. After the viewer examines the posture of

the figure, the setting comes into play. Dijkstra shot the entire series at the beach. She positions them, allowing the sky to cover most of the background, followed by a smaller depiction of the sandy or rocky shore, and in between, the moving

as they grow older, past that child stage, they grow not only physically, but mentally, approaching the ocean layer. Similar to the ocean, the children make their way to adolescence in a constant stage of physical and mental motion.

Rineke Dijktsa, Jalta, Ukraine, July 30, 1993

ocean. When the viewer takes the background into consideration, the amount at which the foreground (the shore) the background (in this case the background is separated into two parts: the sky and ocean.). The shore provides what the figure is supported by, and also symbolized, physically and mentally, where they began, in the infant stage. Then,

This “Corresponds to the welling, still changing part of Dijkstra’s subjects as they pass from the boundless space of childhood to the more solid parameters of adult life”³. Finally, the last layer, the sky, represents adulthood. In the series, the viewer can see that the height of the teens correspond with their age and the point at which they will reach adulthood.

This time frame idea is especially noticeable in the piece Jalta, Ukraine, July 30, 1993. Displayed in the photo are three figures- two girls and a boy, each at different heights. As said in the previous paragraph, each figure is posed in a natural state (along with each figure relating to each other through some kind of contact). The shortest figure can be seen as the youngest not only based on height, but also based on the symbolic time frame that Dijkstra set up. From this, the viewer can understand that the youngest is still going through the oceanic state, only brushing through “The more solid parameters of adult life”, whereas the taller figures have come to more of an understanding of the adult world. In another interview from Modern Painters, Dijkstra explains, “With young people, everything is much more on the surface- all the emotions”, connecting this idea to the shore and the ocean, their textures and sitting objects seen on the surface. Then, she continues, explaining that, “When you get older you know how to hide things”³, connecting this idea to the sky and its lack of texture, but abundance of solid color, in each photograph of the series.

The final element of the series, that ultimately completes the series, is the way Rineke Dijkstra chose to angle and light her shot. One piece, for example, with three male figures (on the older side of adolescence), shows a more obvious sense of a slight worms eye view created by Dijkstra. From what has already been analysed here the figures are either in contrapposto or in their natural state, and the layers of the background are in relation to the figure and its encounter with the impeding times of adolescence in order to achieve an identity, the addition of a slight tilt up of the camera can create a positive curve to the idea of uneasiness. If Dijkstra were to photograph her models as if they were directly in front of her, or directly below her, she could be making the statement that the teens before her are either of equal physical and mental standing as her (which would not make much sense with the point she’s trying to make) or she would

consider them lower in a hierarchical, age-based representation (which would make a mockery of what the teens are go-

vides a deeper connection between the subject and the photographer. It also adds a larger than life attitude Looking at the

series, but instead complete it. As said previously in the essay, the posture helped shed light to the awkward reality of being a teen, and now, the light exaggerates this idea, revealing the imperfections of the adolescent figure. Rineke Dijkstra’s Beach reveals the potential for an identity in the adolescent human figure through posture, setting, lighting, and camera angle, enabling the audience to empathize with the individuals using the waves of the ocean to guide them into an unknown future.

Oostende, Belgium, August from Beach Portraits, 1992

ing through). Instead, she photographs the figures from below, looking up, in a form of empathy and generosity to the ever-changing world of a teen. This simple addition to her photograph allows a positive element into her series and pro-

same photograph of the three male figures, there’s an established brighter and artificial light source lighting. The lighting desaturates the image, and washes out the figures in the photo. However, this effect doesn’t harm the photo, or the

Estep, Jan. “Being open: interview with Rineke Dijkstra.” New Art Examiner 28, no. 10 (July 2001): 5059. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost(accessed December 6, 2016). 2 Oddy, Jason. 2006. “Silent Witness.”Modern Painters 86-91Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2016). 3 Cruz, Gemma de. “Rineke Dijkstra.” MAKE Magazine no. 88 (June 2000): 32-33. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed December 6, 2016) 4 St-Gelais, Thérèse. 2001. “Rineke Dijkstra: a community of solitudes.” Parachut eno. 102: 14-31. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2016) 1



Photographer of Those Passed by Winifred Palay During the 1980’s, the infamously labeled ‘gay-cancer’, HIV/AIDS, was responsible for the death of thousands. The introduction of this notorious illness forever changed LGBT culture. In many ways, culture is still adjusting to its impact. Many artists such as Nan Goldin and Avram Finkelstein were forced to watch their friends and family succumb to this horrendous disease. Although Goldin does not have AIDS herself, she was surrounded by those who did. For many people with conservative values, AIDS was something people living an “alternative, high risk” lifestyle deserved. Goldin helped to humanize those who were suffering, to bring attention to the people directly and indirectly affected by the disease. Sarah Ruddy writes about Goldin’s depictions of those who surrounded her in her

article “”A Radiant Eye the gravity of Goldin’s are Reagan-era images. Yearns from Me”: Fig- work in the quote “Gold- The conservatism, hate, and fear that overtook the United States and to an extent the world, resulted in the disappearance of the “abnormal”, the “deviant”, the “ill”. This disappearance took many forms—silence, surrender, death-and Goldin captured them all.” Nan Goldin’s ability to photograph personal moments throughout the LGBT movement during the 1980’s provides an intimate window into her relationships with those of the community. Many of Goldin’s works were windows into the lives of her friends, many who identified as part of the LGBT community. At first glance, Figure 1, Nan Goldin, The Hug, New York City, The Hug, New York 1980, Photography City, 1980 depicts two figures uring Documentary in in’s images—even those in a passionate embrace. the Photography of Nan that came before it and While they initially apGoldin”. Ruddy describes those that came after— pear to be two figures in

this photograph, it looks as if they are only one. There is a sense of ambiguity, as if one person has wrapped their arms around themselves or the two figures have become one. The large shadow behind them further defines them as one figure rather than two. This highlights the intimacy of the moment. Given the

gender constructs in way that doesn’t objectify her subjects, but rather offers an insider’s view of their world to Goldin’s audience. By having a relationship with these people, the photographs take on a deeper, more tangible meaning. By exploring sexuality and gender, Goldin broadens the horizons of her

element of spontaneity, as if Goldin stumbled into the room and captured this moment. Goldin’s photography is organically created; she rarely sets up for a shot, turning her camera to people she knows and loves.2 The Hug, New York City, 1980 was presented along with around 700 of Goldin’s other

the subject of the photographs.3 While this adds an element of informality, it allows the audience to emotionally connect with Goldin’s work on a deeper level. These slideshows act as an event rather than an exhibition of objects. As she has stated previously, “I like the prints buts I don’t worship photographs as

Figure 2, Nan Goldin, Gilles in His Hospital Bed, Paris, 1993, Photography

history of Goldin’s work, the figure in the navy dress may not necessarily be female. Similarly, the figure with the defined arm may not be male. There is a certain degree of gender fluidity to Goldin’s work. Her work is a window into another world that questions gender roles. She explores

audience. In Goldin’s photographs, there is an unspoken third gender. Drag queens are not just merely men dressing up as women.1 In addition, nothing in this photograph is ‘staged’ or prepared. It was taken as a tender moment in time, a snapshot. The light, though extreme, adds an

photographs in a slideshow-style film named ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’. Goldin’s photographs are presented in a way a family might look over a family member’s birthday or wedding; condensed in a slideshow. This creates a direct connection between the audience and

objects. I am interested in content.”, slideshows allow her to get her message across in a more effective and direct way.4 Alongside her slideshows plays music track specifically tailored to her images. By using music in her slideshows, the meaning of her photographs is reinforced. By



coupling certain pictures with certain songs, Goldin is able portray her message in a very direct way, evoking specific emotions from her audience.5 In the photograph, Gilles in His Hospital Bed, Paris, 1993 a single man lays on a bed in a darkened hospital room. Gilles, the man on the bed, is the single subject in this photograph, his face emaciated. There is a green lightning cast over the photograph, enhancing the overall grim tone of the image. Despite this tone, there is a serene stillness to the image, in spite of Gilles’ visible pain. Lighting is crucial in several of Goldin’s works. Christoph Ribbat discusses Goldin’s specific method in his article “Queer and Straight Photography” in the quote— “Goldin argues that she photographs with a “warm eye.” To her, representation does not mean exposing her subjects, but empowering them. The warm colors of her pictures evoke the feel of family snapshots-

which, of course, they are not.”. The various tones of her photographs give the feeling of familiarity despite the fact that they are artistically driven.6 The lack of medical equipment in addition to his gaunt facial features implies that he is terminally ill. Although there is no visual explanation to why Gilles is in the hospital, it can be assumed that Gilles has AIDS. In a way, Goldin’s photographs represent what she has lost.7 By photographing people she has known and loved, it acts as a reminder of who these people were and what they meant to her. Relationships change and fade away, but these photographs will always exist as a memory of what once was. In a way, Gilles is an extension of her artistic and personal history. A large aspect of Nan Goldin’s work reveals the long-hidden anguish felt by those suffering from HIV and AIDS during the 1980’s. The hundreds of snapshot-style images she has

amassed over the decades of her friends, both alive and long passed, define her photography. Her work memorializes those who died and bring attention to those still suffering, shows her audience another side of the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. Her ‘the sky’s the limit’ viewpoint on gender and sexuality provides her audience with a personal perspective of a community facing a particular tumultuous time period. Goldin’s exploration of those affected captures the intimacy and vulnerability of those closest to her.

Ribbat, Christoph. “Queer and Straight Photography.” Amerikastudien / American Studies 46, no. 1 (2001): 36. 2 Reid, Phyllis Thompson. “Nan Goldin - Dark Diary.” Aperture, no. 176 (2004): 65. stable/24473030. 3 Bussard, Katherine, and Lisa Dorin. “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 34, no. 1 (2008): 72. 4 Goldin, Nan, and Mark Holborn. “Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” Aperture, no. 103 (1986): 38. 5 See Note 3 6 See Note 1 7 See Note 3 1


Racism Redefined by Alexandra La Pinta African American history has been criticized for centuries via protests, journals, cinema and art. Between the events of slavery and denial of basic human rights, blacks

who were undeserving of being treated as people. They were looked at ugly, and unequal solely because of their skin color. We have become aware of this through

Michael Ray Charles, The Greatest Show on Earth, 1999, Acrylic, Forever Free

have suffered life times of unjustified cruelty and mistreatment in America. Blacks were portrayed in the media as monsters

historical movements and textbooks however, understanding this history through the eyes of somebody directly affect-

ed offers a more personal perspective than lessons taught by white people who have merely studied it. African American artist Michael Ray Charles uses his personal experience with discrimination as motivation to create art. In order to address the racism and prejudices suffered by African Americans in the twentieth century, Charles recreates common black stereotypes in his paintings to raise awareness about the reality this has brought onto his people. He takes racist depictions that have already been created by society and turns them into political statements by adding his own words to the work. Michael Ray Charles’s personal experience with racism is a driving force behind his art. From a young age he was taught how to exist as a minority being a black boy in a white world. His race has affected every aspect of his life including his friendships. Being close friends with white men in college raised the issue of their societal differences more than ever

before. It was apparent that the white folk he surrounded himself with were not taught how to exist in a world of multiple races. They were not comfortable around black neighborhoods and did not know how to survive outside of their own community. As he stated in an interview they felt “unwelcome and unsafe walking around a black neighborhood at night.”1 The ghettos were advertised as dangerous places that invited harm on white people assuming that every black person has bad intentions. This realization reassured Charles of just how important it is to address this social divide and motivated him to create art that brings attention to the majority’s view on the black population. His Forever Free painting series explores the question: what is freedom in relation to wealth?2 Charles takes the idea of intangible freedoms like religious freedom, economic freedom and spiritual freedom and contrasts it with the lack of freedom African Americans faced. People all over the world have either been freely


practicing these rights or fighting for them while blacks haven’t even had the right to exist as humans. Charles’s paintings speak greatly to challenge this unfairness. He tears apart stereotypes and objectification by the use of words in art. Though at times he includes very little words, what he does decide to write attacks traditional racist attitudes. For example, his painting titled The Greatest Show on Earth is one of many that is inspired by vintage circus banners.3 In this painting there are four white men with black masks on saying, “What up ma nigguz!”, “We be straight up R&B real blac!” and other phrases imitating African American vernacular. By making fun of their slang and painting their faces, these white men are degrading black people by using their culture for entertainment--hence the words “the greatest show on earth” at the bottom of the painting. The “show” in this circumstance can be considered the entire time period of white supremacy in the 20th century. Using the phrase in this sense and calling it the greatest serves as a sarcastic stab at this unfairness. It is intended for white racists to look at and feel embarrassed, perhaps even angry that they are being portrayed poorly for humor for a change.

By showing these phrases literally in the mouths of whites, Charles’s is bringing our attention to the demeaned reality this behavior creates for the minority. Another piece from his Forever Free series, Affirmative Fears, Affirmative Tears, speaks more to the irrational fears whites traditionally had toward black people. This painting depicts a black man in the way ignorant white people claim to see them--terrifying and threatening. Charles paints a giant bloody grin and angry narrowed eyes on this portrait along with a pair of crossed bones behind him, symbolizing gore and death. The message to take away from this is that if people are willing to label an entire race as “scary,” solely because of their skin color, maybe blacks should actually give them a reason to feel this way to justify their terrifying expectations. By painting this man in such an exaggerated way, Charles’s is shining a light on how absurd and false these accusations of African Americans are. He is able to challenge what was once seen as acceptable during times of discrimination by resurfacing it in a modern time where it can be reflected

upon.4 However, seeing these exaggerated cartoons on their own can still seem valid depending on the audience. If a modern racist were to look at these paintings without their words, they wouldn’t think much

tion to the truth behind what we are looking at. Michael Ray Charles’s sculpture, Ideas, Languages and Conversations, stands for the same issues as his paintings in a more metaphorical sense. The sculpture is a mound

Michael Ray Charles, Affirmative Fears, Affirmative Fears, 1997, Acrylic, Forever Free

of it. It is the phrases and slogans in Charles’s paintings that influences the viewer’s interpretation. Their irony and blatancy calls atten-

of crutches interconnected in a way that you cannot tell exactly what they are from afar. It is displayed at the University of Texas at Austin, where

Michael Ray Charles, Ideas, Languages and Conversations, 2016, crutches, steel cables, Forever Free

Charles taught and hangs above a hallway. The decision to use crutches for this site specific, commissioned piece is vital in communicating its meaning.5 The purpose of crutches is to help the disabled and therefore

when we recognize them somewhere we think of restraint. Charles appropriates the object in order to symbolize piecing back together the broken world of the black people. Suspending the sculpture above the viewer puts it

at a level of admiration and strength. We are intended to look up to it as a representation of accomplishment in healing a community of people that have been disabled for far too long. Although this piece does not explicitly have words written on it, it’s title provides context and gives insight into its meaning. The sculpture allows opportunity for open dialogue about the diversities of ideas and language among the two races. It works to ease the tensions of the past and bridge the black and white communities together. Through sharing ideas, having conversations and taking the time to understand the barriers that set blacks and whites apart, we have formed a new society overcomes discrimination. Art that explores the phenomenon of racism is endlessly being created. People will forever express their views on African American history to raise awareness

and work toward keeping the past behind us. In doing so artistically, there are multiple ways to grab people’s attention. Michael Ray Charles’s method of recreating negative stereotypes and pairing them with witty words strikes people in an effective way because it resembles what they have seen before. Attacking traditional racial depictions opens our eyes as Americans to just how degrading and unjustified our ethics had been during this time period. The use of language along with such exaggerated imagery puts the era of prejudice into perspective and leaves us feeling shameful that we once saw this as okay.

Melissa, Taylor. “Michael Ray Charles: Artist Profile.” YouTube video, 05:36. Sept 2012 Ibid. 3 Steven, Heller. “Michael Ray Charles: When Racist Art Was Commercial Art.” Print Magazine, 2012. 4 Kumasi R. Hampton. “Michael Ray Charles (review).” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, 1999. Project Muse. 5 Robert, Faires. “Landmarks Debuts Michael Ray Charles Sculpture at UT.” The Austin Chronicle, 2015. 6 Landmarks. “Michael Ray Charles (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations.” 2015, The University of Texas at Austin. 1 2



Outside of African American Women Identity by Heesand Cho Even after racial segregation must’ve ended decades ago, there has been an endless racial discrimination issues in our society regardless of how much time have passed since the beginning. The big gap between how society treats or view both White and African Americans, which highly afflicted many African American artists to get out of their comfort zone to express their inner thoughts of African American identity. Persistent racial, sexual, and gender inequality, racial discrimination took away inequality for many African Americans. Work of Mickalene Thomas “A Little Taste Outside of Love”, created in 2007 with acrylic, enamel and rhinestones on wood panel.

have depicted the violent struggle African Americans are facing, such as complexity of identity. Mickalene’s goal from her painting is to depict that just like other figures and beauty, African

ining ideas around feminism, beauty, race, sexuality, and gender. The term “Post-black art” is a category of contemporary African American art which expresses race and racism in a form of

nism, race, and sexuality. Analysing Mickalene Thomas’ “A Little Taste of Love” have brought me many joy to explore her variety of techniques and colors she used. A long African American lady figure allies on a decorative sofa, surrounded by beautiful ornament designed pillows and blanket. The woman is in a naked figure showing her back, lying on a sofa with head twisted to the right towards the audience. A Little Taste Outside of Love, 2007 Acrylic, enamel The sofa and rhinestones on wood pane seems very decorative American women iden- way African American with repeated rhythmic tity has its own beauty artists apply. Post- black patterns with colored with different kinds. art articulates frustration combined together to creBorn in 1971 of many young African ate a warm atmosphere, January 28th, Mickalene American generations. I which are yellow, white, Thomas is a contempo- strongly believe Thomas’ brown, or even grey. rary African American artwork “A Little Taste There are variartist widely known for Outside of Love” express- ety of repeated patterns her complex and exam- es the concept of femi- including flowers, zebra

leather, and leaves. Most of them are nature related patterns. Patterns of the pillows are usually grey based flower with white color outlined on the petal. The pillow that fell in front of the figure, placed on the very bottom left of the painting has a leaf pattern outlined with black and grey colors. Next, the blanket the body figure is lying on also has a repeated flower pattern. The flower has layers of petals that gets smaller every layer growing towards the exterior. Moreover, pattern of the blanket where the back of the figure is lying towards to, has a animal pattern that seems like a pattern of zebra and a leopard. The wallpaper behind the figure is also ordered in an interesting order. There are consecutive wallpapers on the left corner of the wall, which has four layers of wallpapers that seems to have a similar pattern. All wallpapers are drawn vertically in different length. Several wallpapers have repeated patterns like black and white shapes drawn vertically. The color of the figure is obviously painted in deep brown. Instead of drawing the figure with any

clothes on, Mickalene decided to draw the figure nude, showing every part of the body. Even though the woman in the paint is lying by showing her back, it’s still clear to see her breasts and her face glancing at the audience. The women has a big funky styled hair. Unlike many beauty standard, the figure of the woman is big and thick compared to many white models or any body figure people consider beautiful, which is slim and skinny body. Instead of women smiling, she’s showing very bluntly still facial expression glancing towards the audience. I suspect her facial expression shows how African American women feel towards the society nowadays. The community we live in now has its own standard of beauty, which people believe afro women cannot be the standard of beauty. Society nowadays affected by what’s displayed behind media screen, slim body figures but not somehow displaying African American beauty in a way how they should be appreciated. The figure staring at the audience bluntly depicts Thomas’ opin-

ion to make the audience understand that black women could be the standard of beauty, but the reality is just simply shameful. African Americans are still neglected from our society and this problem has to be solved. According to Thomas, the background wallpapers painted in muted warm toned yellow expresses untouched and cheap concept of 1970s porn set. I believe Thomas decided to depict the background stage as a porn set to also give the message, that there are some realistically shameful moments in our society when African American women are only depicted as a women in sexual image. Thomas drew naked body figure in a porn film stage background, which degrades the quality of African American women’s identity, that African Americans In my point of view, I believe the background wallpaper also conveys the message that even some community may have the stereotypes that African American beauty can only be depicted sexually assaulting. There are numerous and creative artists out there that have depicted

race identity in their own definition. Thomas’ depiction of post-blackness and women identity have had allured many audience, including me too. Her depiction of this form of art embodied all of characteristics of illustrating post-blackness, African American identity, gender, and even sex difference. Her claim of expressing how she other people view African American women’s identity clearly illustrates, that being a woman with black skin and having the title of “African American” can totally change how race and identity could change who and how they can be viewed.

Murray, Derek Conrad. “Mickalene Thomas: Afro-Kitsch and the Queering of Blackness. (cover story).” American Art 28, no. 1 (Spring2014 2014): Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7th, 2016).Media 2 Valdez, Sarah. “CRYSTAL VISIONS.” Art In America 100, no. 9 (October 2012): 114-121. Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7th, 2016).Media 1



Whiteness and White Privilege by Noelle Cremer An artist’s identity is central to how and why they make art, and it shapes what sort of art they produce, be it political, social, or personal. Some artists show their identity through their art from a clear, particular standpoint, showing the audience exactly who they are; others, like Nikki S. Lee, have decided to make their identity an enigma, displaying to audiences that identity may not be as personal or as rigid as one might expect. Lee’s Projects series does exactly this. Lee ‘hangs out with different communities for months, imitates their semiotic codes of dress, appearance, bodily gestures and postures’1, and in the end has a spontaneous photo taken of her with this particular community, all this in an effort to ‘collapse the boundary between the image… and reality’.2 That is, Lee is able to shape her outward identity (appearance) to fit in any group, proving that identity is more dynamic than we might realize. There are places, however, where this ar-

gument for fluid identity and being able to fit into any group begins to break down. In Lee’s work, one instance of this is in the Yuppie Project, which I argue is a critique on whiteness and white privilege, and it demonstrates that identity is strongly tied to race regardless of outward appearance changes (i.e. dress). When Lee began to prepare to join a particular subculture, she ‘[did not] try to analyze or study [clothing, posture, etc.]’, but rather ‘relied on [her] intuition, probably based on the images from movies that [she] had watched’.3 This method of following her intuition seems to have worked well for previous Projects, where she is practically indistinguishable from the group she has “infiltrated”. This is not so much the case with the Yuppie Project. Her race – East Asian amongst a majority white population – affects her actions and demeanor to such a point that she seems out of place in this group, instead of blending in. Looking at the Projects se-

ries as a whole, Lee is able to demonstrate to the audience that identity can be molded so that we can fit into any category we want. She is a chameleon, and ‘she caricatures how the membership of a particular community is… ‘merely’ about knowing the proper codes, about being able to perform the part’.4 She spends time studying a particular group and then immersing herself to the point of being indistinguishable from the rest, but at the end of the day she can shed that identity and return to her “natural” state. This notion of “fitting in” by knowing the right codes and performances is true for many of her other Projects, and it is not entirely untrue of the Yuppie Project – she does dress and act in the appropriate manner for whom she is imitating – but the difference lies in how well she blends in. Her level of “immersion” in the yuppie group is not as high as with some of her other works – she is still a stark contrast to her peers, which I am arguing is due in large part to her race.

To clarify, a yuppie is a well-paid, young, middle class professional who works in the city and leads a well-off lifestyle. Though it is not in the definition, our standard image of a yuppie is a ‘preppie… fresh-faced, all-American [WASP]’5 – that is, a wealthy white person. Being white is not just about skin color; when I refer to whiteness in relation to this project, I also mean a particular set of values, actions, privileges, customs, and cultural norms afforded to white people because of their whiteness. Lee, being East Asian, is not afforded any of these things, and thus it is difficult for her to blend into this WASPy group. Whiteness is something that is often, especially in Western society, invisible. It is ‘the [model] by which the Western subject judges culture’.6 Whiteness is not questioned, ‘[it] is assumed, while only otherness is pronounced’.7 Whether it is in our daily lives or in art, whiteness, being accepted as “the standard” is hardly given a second thought, espe-


Nikki S. Lee, The Yuppie Project (12), 1998, duraflex print

cially if you are white. White people do not think about how what they do or say or how they act might be different from non-white people, because “whiteness” affords white people privilege, and when one is privileged, it takes great effort to think about how one’s actions or thoughts differ from those who are not. When looking at art, if the entire piece is made up of white people, there is nothing to comment on (the same goes for popular media as well). It is once you start to introduce “others” – other races in particular – that the audience be-

gins to think something is different or amiss. Lee’s Yuppie Project so interesting because it does bring whiteness to the forefront – because Lee sticks out from the group, we are forced to think about why that is since the whole point of the Projects is that she blends in such that you should not be able to tell her apart. Maurice Berger argues in his paper Picturing Whiteness: Nikki S. Lee’s Yuppie Project that ‘though she masquerades in the fashions, make-up, and body language of white yuppies, her Asianness and her visceral discomfort read as distinctly

as their whiteness’.8 I am in agreement with Berger; Lee clearly sticks out despite her similar clothing appearance, because the one thing she cannot shed is her race. For other work in the Projects series, this does not seem to be a problem. Perhaps this is because she joined groups that were made up of mostly people of color (The Hip Hop Project, for example), where even though she is not of the same race, she shares a common non-whiteness. In other series, race may not have been a defining factor (when she became a skateboarder, for example). For the

Yuppie Project, though, being white is, as I mentioned, almost a prerequisite. Lee is unable to recreate that whiteness not just because she is not white outwardly, but also because she does not embody “whiteness” – again, that particular set of values and privileges afforded to white people because they are white. This is seen quite well in The Yuppie Project (12). Lee stands near the front amongst a group of white yuppies, and her uncomfortable facial expression and posture read distinctly compared to the ease with which the others stand behind her. Lee’s


inability to make this shot seem as natural as many of her others is an indication of her struggle to join this predominately white group, which she has simply because she herself is not white. This makes us question the would-otherwise-be invisible whiteness of the photo and how that white privilege works to make Lee stick out as she does. Nikki S. Lee has done some interesting and groundbreaking work on the idea of identity and how we can manipulate our identity to fit into different groups. Identity is often thought of as personal and unique, but Lee has demonstrated in the past that our common conception of identity may not be as personal as we thought, but rather, by following a prescribed set of codes and cues, we have the ability to fit in just about anywhere. However, after analyzing The Yuppie Project, we can also learn

that there are certain aspects of ourselves (in this case, race) that we can never really shed, aspects that can make it difficult or even impossible to join just any group. The fact that Lee is unable to successfully blend in to the yuppie group makes the audience think about why this is case – it is because Lee does not and cannot embody the privilege white people have. As such, this work acts as a good critique on white privilege, not just in the art world but in the world at large, and helps begin a conversation about the usually invisible whiteness that permeates art as a whole. learn that there are certain aspects of ourselves (in this case, race) that we can never really shed, aspects that can make it difficult or even impossible to join just any group. The fact that Lee is unable to successfully blend in to the yuppie group makes the audience think

about why this is case – it is because Lee does not and cannot embody the privilege white people have. As such, this work acts as a good critique on white privilege, not just in the art world but in the world at large, and helps begin a conversation about the usually invisible whiteness that permeates art as a whole.

Lee, Phil. “Indefinite “Nikkis” in a World of Hyperreality: An Interview with Nikki S. Lee.” Chicago Art Journal 18, (January 2008): 76-93. Art and Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed Nov. 3, 2016). 2 See Note 1 3 See Note 1 4 Rutten, Kris, and An van Dienderen. “What is the meaning of a safety pin? Critical literacies and the ethnographic turn in contemporary art.” International Journal of Cultural Studies (2013): 1367877912474561. (accessed Nov. 5, 2016) 5 Berger, Maurice. 2001. Picturing whiteness: Nikki S. Lee’s Yuppie Project. Art Journal 60, (4) (Winter): 54-57, (accessed Nov. 4, 2016). 6 Bowles, John P. “Blinded by the White: Art and History at the Limits of Whiteness.” Art Journal 60, no. 4 (Winter 2001): 38. MAS Ultra – School Edition, EBSCOhost (accessed Nov. 4, 2016). 7 See Note 6 8 See Note 5 1


Dealing With Negative Stereotypes of the Black Identity by Kate Williams David Hammons is an African-American artist who explores his identity and the struggles that he endures with it through his art. David Hammons found a way to connect with his audience by “rejecting the traditional materials associated with canonical fine art, Hammons facilitated an identification with the art object by black audiences, who can see their own social experiences reflected in his media and subject matter.”1 His work investigates and draws attention to the injustices and problems that the black community still encounter today. Hammons exercises a theme in many of his pieces of racial stereotypes the black body faces and struggles with. His work raises awareness of the racial stereotypes that are alive and exposes them for the pain that they cause. He uses stereotypes that are embedded in the AfricanAmerican community to emphasize their negative impact and to serve as a reminder of the history of black suffering. His work also further exhibits the

unrealistic goals and expectations put on people of the African-American community, exposing the damage and negative impact it can have on the next generation. Hammons questions societies standards of race and culture and the need to define each other as either one or the other. Hammons identifies with his audience by raising attention to the hurtful racial stereotypes of black bodies. Hammons’ piece “American Costume”2 reflects his own perception and view of his identity as a black man. The process of the piece included Hammons printing his own face onto the paper then used his own thumbprints to produce his hair and collar. Hair is a significant symbol and representation of black identity. By using his own fingerprints, already intrinsically connected to identity, Hammons emphasizes his African-American decent. His fingerprints connect his hair to being part of his identity. Yet, in the print, Hammons further exaggerates certain physical characteris-

tics and facial features, as well as the texture of the hair, that are attributed to African-Americans. Hammons points out the racial stereotypes that are “deeply imbedded in the American Conscious3 ness” . Hammons’ piece questions what it means to be American. The Title “American Costume” creates tension in that this African-American figure is considered a costume rather than just an American. The word costume evokes the idea of something that is strange or

out of place. This piece draws attention to the exclusion of black people to privileges enjoyed by white Americans. Hammons attempts to identify with his audience by raising awareness of the detrimental effects of racial stereotypes in the black community. His art confronts these racial stereotypes and forces people to see and recognize that they are still a problem in society today. Hammons allows black audiences to see their own experiences with racial stereotyping

American Costume, 1970, Mixed Media on paper; 62.2 x 49.2 cm. Art Institute Chicago. Gift of Lannan Foundation, 1997.111


and the impact that it has the site of the installation “Concerto in uniformity of color of 6 had on their community. were also important to Black and Blue” con- each and every person Pressures from so- the meaning of the work sists of a pitch black in the room brings the ciety and unrealistic role as a whole. It shows the room that flashes blue term color-blindness to models push kids away impact that society has in lights, cautiously bob- life. Hammons “ponders from obtaining an edu- creating these unrealistic bing around in space, whether the predicament cation and rather sway expectations of young blinding viewers, then of race is being put upon them to pursue insur- kids and the misplace- occasionally allowing us by force or whether mountable we willfully goals such as embrace it.”7 being a basHammons ketball star. has created Hammons the ultimate piece “Highexperience er Goals”4 of invisibilraised awareity. It is an ness of the invisibility problem of that has prounrealistic vided insight goals and exon the conpectations of cept of the young black invisibility people. This of race. This sculpture piece raises is an antithe question basketball of what really sculpture. makes us difHigher Goals, 1986, mixed media, 5 units, heights 20’–35′. Pinkney Hammons ferent from Herbert/Jennifer Secor, Courtsey Public Art Fund, NY believes that each other. “basketball Hammons has become a problem in ment of importance of them to partially be able proves that there really the black community be- education versus frivo- to see. The whole room is no difference between cause kids aren’t getting lous fugitive goals. The is disconcerting and the anyone apart from the an education. They’re basketball poles in Ham- viewer never has full vis- color of skin. By taking pawns in someone else’s mons sculpture piece ibility. The viewer is tru- away color and casting game.”5 Importance is are also twenty-five feet ly invisible in the room. all viewers in the same not placed on education high, an unrealistic and The title of the light, Hammons has but rather on the slim unreachable height. This work causes the viewer taken away their differchance that they might emphasizes the futility of to think about its con- ences and made them all become the next Michael these unrealistic goals. By notations to race and the same. Hammons has Jordan. The basketball creating this piece, Ham- culture. Black and blue created an experience in poles are decorated in mons forces his audience refer to a type of skin which he forces his auAfrican textiles, Islamic to think about what goals color, blue-black, which dience to confront and decorations, and thou- they set for themselves is used to describe black question society’s role in sands of bottle caps along and what is expected of people with very dark our values and our views with the random contri- them. He tries to con- skin. All viewers are cast on each other. He poses butions from judges and nect to the younger black in this black-blue light, the question of what reclerks who were around population and persuade regardless of their skin ally makes us any difas it was being installed. them to make higher color. Everyone becomes ferent from each other. The random contribu- goals for themselves the same color in the By stripping the viewtions from people around in life than basketball. black-blue room. The ers of their own color


David Hammons, “Concerto in Black and Blue, Photograph by Katharina Bosse. Originally published in the New Yorker

and subjecting them to nothing but their own presence in a dark room along with the presence of other viewers, Hammons has removed these racial and cultural barriers. Here, racial stereotypes no longer exist, people are just beings. Hammons’ creates masterpieces which force his audience to confront the problems that face his community and the identity issues that mankind faces. His paintings and

sculptures tend to have very blatant messages so as to make sure his audience does not miss his point but rather contemplate the meaning inside of his work. Hammons’ intentions are to raise awareness to the suffering still felt by the black community including the stereotypes and unrealistic goals set before them. He questions the value placed on race and culture and the sense of identity that is connected

to it. Hammons explores his own identity as he forces others to question theirs and their idea of what makes up an identity. Hammons’ exploration of what it means to be black in America and his attempt to connect with the identity of black audiences allows him to reflect on himself and find his own identity through his art.

Raymond Hernández-Durán. “American Costume, 1970 by David Hammons.” (1999) American Costume, 1970, Mixed Media on paper; 62.2 x 49.2 cm 3 See Note 1 4 Higher Goals, 1986, mixed media, 5 units, heights 20’–35′. 5 Hoover, Paul. “Stark-Strangled Banjos: Linguistic Doubleness in the Work of David Hammons, Harryette Mullen, and Al Hibbler. 6 David Hammons, “Concerto in Black and Blue, Photograph by Katharina Bosse. Originally published in the New Yorker 7 Tancons, Claire “David Hammons: Concerto in Black and Blue.” p. 94 - 95. (2003) 1 2


Beauty in Simplicity by Dylan Minowa Culture shock, when one is perplexed by the sudden unfamiliar culture or way of life. Hiroshi Sugimoto is one who had to assimilate to a new lifestyle. He was born in 1948 in Tokyo, Japan, however he eventually moved to New York City in 1974. In such a city he was influenced by many beliefs, but that does not necessarily mean he would push his Japanese roots aside. R a t h e r Sugimoto is able to combine both Eastern and Western traditions into his photographs. In many of his series his work stimulates the importance of nature and life itself. The bodies of work mostly consist of ones that stress the concept of time exposure and events in time based

on culture. The work includes subject matters of seascapes and animals in different environments. With these subjects he intends to make the point that we as humans have lost sight of the definition of true beauty. There is

have a lasting impression. Do people ever take the time to discuss past history? Maybe when we are in a museum or learning in school, but then the subject never comes up in conversation again. However,

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Manatee, 1994, Gelatin-Silver Print, Dioramas

still beauty in this world, but people often take it for granted or focus more on the bad in this world. Hiroshi Sugimoto uses his process to influence his audience in a way that will evoke emotion and simultaneously

Sugimoto brings this topic back to the surface to explore the element of time. When he first came to New York Sugimoto was drawn to the many museums that were accessible to the public. The one that stood out

the most was the American Museum of Natural History. The exhibition of animal dioramas influenced his series. He wanted his collection to be a sense of time and demonstrate the meaning of history through the objects.1 Sugimoto took his camera and photographed the animals, sea creatures, plants, and homo sapiens in front of their painted backdrop. However fake the subject, once photographed, it’s as good as real.2 Uniquely Sugimoto was able to transform these lifeless artifacts into reality. As a result these photographs allow the audience to become interactive with his work.3 The realism confuses the viewer to believe as though they were apart of this mo-

ment in time. Instead of quickly gazing at an exhibition Sugimoto intends for the audience to take a closer look at the photograph. Is this actually real? Was the photographer there to capture these moments? His intention of playing with reality and fantasy allows the audience to see the allure that these aspects of time have in our history. In addition to stressing the aesthetic of history he also wants to show the importance of the past. This part of history does not include humans. In a way he does not photograph humans to show how we have become wrapped up in ourselves and how we do not pay attention to our surroundings. Do we ultimately take beauty for granted? In the photograph Manatee the audience sees a mother and child traveling through the water with the rays of the sun beaming through the water. The child is attached to the mother as if it is afraid to travel on its own. The mother acts as a guide trying to lead the way. Sugimoto is able to make it feel as though he captured this image while underwater. The viewer 4

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lake Superior, Point Isabelle, 2003, Gelatin-Silver Print, Seascapes

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Baltic Sea, Rugen, 1996, GelatinSilver Print, Seascapes

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bass Strait, Table Cape, 1997, Gelatin-Silver Print, Seascapes

has a calming experience with the image from the sun rays and movement of the water. The sunlight and position of the manatees give this sense of hope as though they are moving forward to find a home. The sense of beauty represented in this picture is the relationship between mother and child. This relationship is relatable to many people as the care and love between the two adds to the image. Another picture where Sugimoto shows beauty is in the piece Neanderthal. This piece shows a different kind of beauty, one that is raw. In other words the viewer is able to see these cavemen in their natural setting. This natural beauty means overlooking their appearance and seeing their natural actions displayed in the photo. Opposite to today beauty is defined based on looks and Sugimoto wants to redefine it. People do not tend to appreciate the ocean for the beauty it has. Sugimoto emphasizes the beauty of the ocean and his fascination in the paradox of time through his series Seascapes. Through this series he captures tranquility and this sense of meditation



coming from his Eastern cultural background.5 The sea has a soothing effect on the audience which allows them to go into serene state of mind.

in the foreground but in the background it starts to blur creating a deep depth of field. Through this depth of field the audience wonders what is

purpose of the picture. The horizon line in each picture acts as an anchor while the rest of the photo has a free feel. The distinct image of the sea wants to evoke emotion from the viewer but once the series begins to collapse into two rectangles the horizon line disappears.7 With the horizon line gone the image disorients the viewer’s perspective debating what the subject matter is. In doing so Sugimoto creates images of natural and simple beauty. The audience takes this natural Hiroshi Sugimoto, Neanderthal, 1994, Gelatin-Silver beauty and is able to Print, Dioramas use it in everyday life. People should not For each photograph he further in the distance. take the beauty in the uses the same format in The images act as a self- world for granted. There which the horizon line reflection for the viewer. should not be a stanseparates the sky and The photograph itself dard of beauty people water. With each photo is very simple and helps have to follow rather we being similar it makes it the audience to create make our own perspeceasier to point out the dif- their own perspective. tive. Sugimoto uses his ferences since the images Sugimoto wants his au- skills of incorporating begin to become blurred dience to be able to have reality and fantasy to deby atmospheric effects.6 their own thoughts on fine the idea of beauty. The series starts off with the photograph rather photos with a crisp image than explicitly expose the LA FORCE, THESSALY. “Seeing Like A Camera.” Apollo: The International Magazine For Collectors 181, no. 628 (February 2015): 34-38. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2016). 2 Sugimoto, Hiroshi, and Kerry Brougher. Sugimoto. Madrid: Fundación “la Caixa, “, 1998. 3 Sugimoto, Hiroshi, and Takaaki Matsumoto. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Dioramas. New York: Pace Gallery in Association with Damiani, 2014. 4 Hileman, Kristen, and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Hiroshi Sugimoto. Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian, 2006. 5 Petitto, Joshua. “The Oceanic Vision of Sugimoto Hiroshi.” History Of Photography 40, no. 2 (May 2016): 107-128. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost(accessed November 7, 2016) 6 Sugimoto, Hiroshi, and Thomas Kellein. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Exposed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995. 7 See Note 6 1


Renaissance Women by Stephanie Cianci Tina Barney’s photography embraces characteristics of the Italian Renaissance, including respect for humanism in art, attention to fine detail, and never shying away from familial prosperity. Barney’s photography lies between a realm of reality as well as fantasy. She critiques the certainty of one reality existing for the artist to show their audience, giving her work a postmodern flair. Dmitry Shlapentokh writes, “Renaissance culture is eclectic and contradictory in its very essence; it is analytically fractional, composed from struggling elements, each of which strives after its own independence.”1 Barney’s work demonstrates the relationship between the people in the photograph and the context in which they live, shows family values of Renaissance time, and provides strategic mise en scéne,. Walking into any gallery across the country housing a Tina Barney exhibition, one will feel the same monumental effect. Her photographs are all taken on a format

8x10 view camera, which gate every detail, because comparable to the majorallows her to augment nothing is photographed ity of the paintings comthe image to roughly by accident. Walking missioned by the Catholic church, many of these were frescoes, as well as smaller pieces for individual worship at home. These two types of paintings correspond, respectively, to Barney’s large gallery prints, and the smaller versions that could be present in a family photo album. Beyond size, Barney’s use of color is also redolent of Renaissance Figure 2, Tina Barney, Paul and Alexa. 1989 paintings. In the transition from Medieval art to Renaissance art, “canvas supplanted stone, the symbol of the eternity of the world of ideas; colors became sensually rich.”3 Previously, gold leaf was heavily used in painting, with a limited color pallet guiding the work into a powerful, spiritual mood. The use of vivid colors in Renaissance art as well as Tina Barney’s photography is freeing for the viewer, and Beauty, 1991. Oil on canvas, 16” x 20” more inviting. Many of 2 4x5 feet , subsequently along gallery walls, with the photographs, espemagnifying the inten- almost life-sized images, cially those taken inside sity between the viewer each portrait is a win- her family’s estate, have and the subjects in the dow into the lives of her lavish wallpapers, bright photograph. It becomes New England family and fabrics, and incredible possible to approach the friends. These monu- lighting. However, it has photograph and investi- mental photographs are been said that the only


cold aspect of her photographs are the subjects themselves. Tina Barney admits, “When people say that there is a distance, a stiffness in my photographs, that the people look like they do not connect, my answer is, that this is the best we can do. This inability

Child paintings of the Renaissance. In Harriet Basseches’ book review, she analyzes this distant relationship: We also learn that among the well-to-do middle class, the custom was prevalent for mothers to give up, as it were, their offspring who

Figure 3, Titian, Vanity. 1515. Oil on canvas. 38in. x 32 in.

to show physical affection is in our heritage.”4 Commonly mistaken for only depicting wealthy New Englanders, these photographs depict only relatives and friends, which happen to fall under the category of the former. The family depicted is not visibly affectionate nor are they obviously engaged with each other. Especially seen in photographs of parent and child there is an unnerving disconnect, much like many of the Madonna and

were often housed for the first years of life with a wet nurse in a peasant home far from family of origin and for children fairly early (at eight years old, for example) to be apprenticed to masters of some trade or profession. Moreover, perhaps serendipitously or perhaps common practice, several of the greatest of the artists of the Renaissance were illegitimate children. For some, their experience was to have two mothers…5 In The Baby, 1988 (Figure 1) Mother, Father,

child and maid are set outside, all enthralled with the baby. However, the maid is holding the baby and has the only visible smile. The parents are both wearing outdoor clothes, perhaps only stopping by to check on the child briefly. The mother palms the baby’s head assertively, giving all maternal indicators to the maid, reflecting the reality of who is the caretaker in the family. This proves that centuries later, socioeconomics can affect the earliest stage of childhood. This physical remoteness of the parent and child in the 15th– 17th centuries is noticeable in arguably the most famous parent and child, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Rarely is the Madonna ever depicted looking at her son. She focuses attention to the side, blankly ahead, or her eyelids are lowered. One example of Barney’s photographs that encompass this detachment between parent and child is Paul and Alexa, 1989 (Figure 2). Her father holds her with eye lids lowered, accompanied by an unexpressive face. The difference between their skin tones is also jarring. Alexa’s pure white skin is untainted, next to her sun burnt father’s, conveying her potential much like the illustrious subject of Renaissance art, baby Jesus.

Although Tina Barney uses her loved ones as subjects to photograph, they are not always the most crucial to her message. Like the emerging Renaissance culture of the 13th century, Barney is transfixed on detail. Her explanation for the overwhelming size of her photographs, is only answered by her love of specifics, and desire for her audience to generate consciousness of them. In Titian’s Vanity, 1515 (Figure 3), Salome is depicted holding a wooden hand mirror, rendering an idealized beauty. Salome, according to the New Testament is infamous for her request of John the Baptist’s head to her father, and receiving it. In the detail of this painting, that can be easily overlooked, a maid is in the reflection organizing boxes of jewelry. Salome’s face alone can lead you to assume Titian is painting her perfection, but this detail reveals he is really capturing her vanity. Christopher Lyon discovers important detail of Barney’s Beverly, Jill, and Polly, 1982 (Figure 4): Each woman seems to be in her own world, and we begin to imagine the picture as an allegory of beauty, perhaps: the young girl in a reflective moment, unselfconsciously lovely, contrasted with the mother-whose features we cannot quite see in the makeup mirror’s reflec-

tion-attempting to repair her looks.But a disturbing element has been added to this traditional theme: the maid,we now see, is just removing from the bed a fashion magazine whose cover confronts her with an image of beauty in which she can find no reflection: a handsomely madeup older woman across whose forehead we read the bold teaser “OVER 40 & SENSATIONAL!!”6 Both works share similar subject matter, especially conveying the vanity through the smallest of details, and with the use of the maid. In addition, both works’ content is set to reinforce the segregation between the women and the maid, denying the maid of having the privileged characteristic of vanity. Barney’s incorporation of details like this, and possibly all components of the photograph was captured as a nod to Renaissance

detail, and more specifically Titian’s Vanity. Each photograph that Tina Barney produces, depicts a complex relationship of kin. What separates her photographs that are mounted

of The New York Times across the breakfast table, making a business call at the home office, or overseeing a child’s party can become pedagogical once it has been recorded properly. Sinner and

Figure 4, Tina Barney, Beverly, Jill, and Polly. 1982

on museum walls and critically acclaimed, is the detail she makes sure to capture. Within the detail lies the true story, and by capturing the story these seemingly everyday banal activities such as distributing sections

Owen explain this concept with the term light writing. “The relationship between photography and autobiography centers on the shared notion of graphe, which is often translated as “writing,” but also has a broader

meaning of “depiction.” Engaging in photography as depiction attends to the qualities of light writing that embody stories.”7 This gives the Barney grounds to credit herself with telling a biographical—and autobiographical—narrative, instead of simply crediting her with capturing a moment. Renaissance art is about telling a tale, since many people in the dark ages could not read, the art speaks for more than just a mere moment, it introduces a story with a beginning, middle, and end—giving the audience a stronger purpose to view the work. Tina Barney has revolutionized contemporary photography through Renaissance ideologies, and it is no accident. This makes her the most important photographer of our time, because our current society is in need of a rebirth.

Shlapentokh, Dmitry. 1997 “Pavel Florensky: A Postmodernist Vision of Renaissance Art?” Modern Age 29(1):77. 2 Racht, Allison. “The Photography of Tina Barney,” The Smithsonian Studio Arts Blog, November 17, 2010, , accessed December 2, 2016, html. 3 Shlapentokh, “Pavel Florensky: A Postmodernist Vision.” 4 Racht, “The Photography of Tina Barney.” 5 Basseches, Harriet. “Psychoanalysis and Art: The Artistic Representation of the Parent/Child Relationship (Book Review).” Review of Psychoanalysis and Art. Psychoanalysis Division 39 26, no. 3, 76-77. Accessed December 3, 2016. 6 Lyon, Christopher. 1990. “A Talk with Tina Barney. Into the Cookie Jar, into the Icebox.” MoMA 2(3):13-15 7 Sinner, Anita. 2011. “Visual Life Writing: Witnessing Jade’s Story Through Pinhole Photography.” Visual Arts Research 37(2):70-81 1



Identity Can Shine Through Art Work by Mekayla Tucker

When choosing she does so in a way that on Weems’ “Kitchen fourteen descriptions an artist to research, I is intimate and an expres- Table Series” and “Slow under the pictures, may searched for an artist that sion of herself. Through Fade to Black” and an- vary. Some may immewould continue to pull her photography Weems alyzing how it repre- diately see it as a comme into the art world provokes social trans- sents black femininity. ment on feminism, all of and challenge these pictures me to think are set in and see the the kitchen, bigger picwhich some ture. Carrie associate with Mae Weems femininity born in Portand domesland, Oregon ticity. Others in 1953, is may see this an African as a statement American on black femphotographer ininity and who portrays the idea of meaningblack womful societal en’s role exmovements plicitly in the and issues kitchen. The usually dealseries could ing with the also be seen black idenjust in regards tity and repto the huresentation. man relationShe has alships between ways been w o m e n , determined women and to portray the men, women entire picand children, ture, “literally and the reCarrie Mae Weems. “Untitled,” from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of 20 gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. and physicallationship Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York ly”, through with oneself. her art . She While there continues an “on-going formation through selfThe viewers first are many ways this series discussion” in contempo- representation and rep- look at the Carrie Mae can be interpreted, one rary art . Her works raise resentation of the black Weems’ “Kitchen Ta- thing is certain, this work uncomfortable topics that female identity. I will ble Series”, which lays made a lasting impact on many want to bury and be specifically focusing out twenty pictures and not only Weems’ career

but also the audiences produce thought pro- a kitchen, from a social are associated with. Althat viewed it. “Kitchen voking work that grabs “prison” if you will, to though I look at this artTable Series” garnered the audience’s atten- a place where jokes and work through the view Weems labels like “ca- tion and actually moves wisdom can be shared, of interpreting the black reer making” and it is them, maybe even mak- where inner strength female identity, it can considered also be seen the moment in terms of when she fifeminism nally “found and familial her artistic relationships. talent” . In W e e m s the twenty commented images that on the issues Weems’ phothat she was tographed responding she is able to, saying to show the she focused support, on woman’s companionsubjectivship and fraity, woman’s gility that a capacity to specific place revel in her can bring to body, and human rewoman’s lationships. construcT o tion of herunderstand self, and her the relaown image .” tionship beThe images tween Carrie of this strong Mae Weems confident and the sowomen goCarrie Mae Weems. “Untitled,” from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of 20 cial transing through gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courformation these differtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York in her art, ent phases there must are extremely be more knowledge on ing them uncomfortable. can be found, as well as strong. I believe the speher relationship with Weems even talks about love and companionship. cific photographs where black femininity. In fact, the fact that the “Kitchen Social transfor- Weems is pictured starWeems’ “desire to use Table Series” came about mation can be defined ing directly at the camera, her work to inspire so- because she wanted to as societal changes and opening the bird’s cage cial transformation is change and question the a critical stance towards in the corner and lastly grounded in womanism way black women then older notions of the idea the picture where she is and black feminism, each imaged themselves . Al- of development. This completely comfortable of which has focused on though she is the women is exactly what Carrie in the nude, shows how risk taking, eliminating in the pictures, the series Mae Weems does in her she completely transoppression, collective ac- allows her to change the “Kitchen Table Series”, formed the social contion, and giving voice context of black women she challenges the “male notations of how women to marginalized groups.” and their place in the gaze” and transforms and specifically black Through her artwork kitchen. She completely the social structure that women are associated reshe is determined to changes the dynamic of women and the kitchen garding their position in



the kitchen.

cannot tell if they are fadWhen dising in or fadcussing Caring out. At rie Mae just a glance W e e m s ’ it may seem act of social that the notransformatorious piction through ture of Bilblack female lie Holiday identity, with a garone must denia in her discuss her hair is fading work called out but at a “Slow Fade closer glance to Black.” It it can be as is these phoif she is betographs that ing brought Carrie Mae Weems. “Untitled,” from Kitchen Table Series,1989–90. Set of truly make back in. On 20 gelatin-silver prints, 28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches each. © Carrie Mae Weems. some think one level the Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York about what photographs on CDs in my own home, but these amazing artist they mean serve as a and to look past the fact I didn’t hear them or see that had such an impact continued “reminder of that these photographs them much anymore .” on her life and opened the past and continued are not just an appro- She wondered why art- doors for her in a way struggles to remain vispriation. From Kather- ist like Marilyn Monroe were forgotten. Looking ible and relevant in a culine Dunham, Josephine and Frank Sinatra were at these images I am tak- ture that, at best relegated Baker, and Lena Horne, still absolutely revered en aback at the fact that I many of these women to to Billie Holthe sidelines” iday, Nina but also highSimone and lights their Ethel Wa“subjugation, ters, Weems stereotypihighlights the cal roles and complexities lack of finanof the black cial reward, female idento name a tity in regards few, and their to fame. One extraordiof the reasons nary work. this art came T h e s e to be, as said photographs by Weems may not seem herself, is like a lot that “I started but through to realize that them, Weems I rarely heard is highlightmention of ing the unthese women, certainty of CarrieMae Weems. “SLOW FADE TO BLACK”, 2010. Blurry unless I was celebrity and Multicolored prints. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery, New York playing them the identity

of the women that can just disappear once they are no longer “needed” for a particular aesthetic. This artwork is a “literal depiction of the loss of cultural identity” that black women face in society. .It highlights the fact that black women are constantly searching for an identity that is hard to come by. Weems single handedly confronts the hypocrisy of Hollywood and it is another example of how she uses her art to evoke social transformation. She shows again that she is not afraid to take on societal norms and is not afraid to ask questions that may make people feel uncomfortable regarding the very clear struggles black women have in Hollywood, still to this day. I picked both the “Kitchen Table Series” and “Slow Fade to

Black” by Carrie Mae Weems because I felt that as a member of the audience, I could really relate to these two pieces of work. In regards, to the “Kitchen Table Series”, I was immediately interested in it because I saw this black women going through different aspects of her life in the kitchen. Growing up the kitchen has always been a place where I have heard family gossip, wisdom has been passed down to me and it is a place where generations can bond and guide each other. As a black woman this artwork gives me more fulfillment because it shows that we are past the days when black women were only the mammies or domestics in the kitchen, it can now be seen as a place of power and support. In “Slow Fade to Black” I was taken with the idea

that these well-known performers seemed to be fading away. Yet at a closer look I realized that I really couldn’t tell whether the images were really fading in or fading out. I loved the fact that Weems was making a statement on the daily struggles that black celebrities go through trying to validate their identity in a Eurocentric society. In conclusion, both the “Kitchen Table Series” and “Slow Fade to Black” allow Carrie Mae Weems to show social transformation by making a statement on the representation of black female representation. Her artwork is a first hand example of the power art can hold when one changes the gaze of a social construct. Through her artwork she evokes and provokes conversations in the art

world that may not have been brought up. She and other artist of color help the art world continue to be more and more accessible to different groups. In her thirty plus years of creating art, Weems has responded to multitudes of issues that anyone looking at her art can relate too. Weems’ art continues to take her audiences on journeys that reflect every aspect of history whether that be a racial, political or in her case a personal one.

Cotter, Holland. “Carrie Mae Weems Charts the Black Experience in Photographs.” Art & Design (The New York Times), January 23, 2014. 2 “Carrie Mae Weems.”: Bodies of Work. Accessed December 05, 2016. 3 Hilary Moss, “Revisiting Carrie Mae Weems’s Indelible Series — Almost Three Decades Later,” Art (The New York Times), April 15, 2016 4 Stephens, Christiane. 2016. Womanism and black feminism in the work of Carrie Mae Weems. Journal of Arts and Humanities 5, (4) (04): 1-9 5 WOLGAMOTT, KENT L and Lincoln Journal Star. “Weems Talks about Art, Social Changes and the ‘kitchen table.’” April 10, 2010. 6 Environmental, UNESCO 2016 and Social Policies. “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” 2016. Accessed December 6, 2016. 7 Friis-Hansen, Dana. “Carrie Mae Weems.” 2005. Accessed December 6, 2016. 8 Berger, Maurice. “Black Performers, Fading from Frame, and Memory.” Lens (Lens Blog), January 22, 2014. 9 Ibid., paragraph 6 10 MutualArt. “Carrie Mae Weems: Thirty Years of Truth.” Huffington Post (The Huffington Post), October 15, 2013. 1



Art for the Nonconventional by Shelby Pernell Shirin Neshat is an Iranian native and grew up during the “traditional” period, before the political revolution. After twelve years of exile, Neshat traveled back

prominent political and social changes that face her people. Neshat challenges and questions the social stigma of Iranian women, promotes gender equality, and stresses

struggles of Iran. This provokes thought and creates a silent dialogue between her works and the audience. Shirin Neshat’s usage of realism evokes a deeper mean-

ence in both screens. On the left screen, there are men dressed in white sitting in the audience and a male singer dressed in white on stage. The male performer stares

Shirin Neshat, Turbulent, 1998, short film

to Iran and discovered the political and social shifts that occurred. She is inspired by the social changes and created her body of works as a response and reflection to the shifts in Iran. Neshat uses various mediums to reflect and respond to the

the connection of traditional and unconventional ideals. Neshat shares these concepts with her audience through print photography and short films. Neshat’s usage of black and white dichotomy, setting, detail, and focal point redefines the

ing of her works to emotionally connect her audience to the past and present existential issues the people of Iran face. Shirin Neshat’s short film, Turbulent, displays a split screen with a stage, a microphone, and seats for an audi-

directly into the camera as he sings a traditional Iranian song with his back facing his audience. On the right screen, a woman wearing a black hijab patiently stands on stage as she waits for her male counterpart to finish his performance. Her

back is facing the camera and all one can see is her black garment draping her body as she faces an empty audience. As the male performer finishes his song, his all male audience praises him for his performance. The male singer walks to the edge of the stage to bow and receive his praise, but he ceases his bowing because he is captivated by the voice of his female counterpart. The female singer’s performance exudes pain and empowerment through her voice. Her range of vocals consist of highpitched screeches, to mellow moans, smooth humming, and panting. The combination of these sound ranges creates an emotional ballad that comes from the heart. The camera revolves around the woman as she sings so her face becomes visible. As the woman vocalizes her pain, the male singer on the left of the screen is enthralled in her voice as he gazes in awe. Neshat states “Visually and conceptually, I conceived Turbulent around the idea

of opposites- black and white forms, male and female singers, empty and full theaters, stationary and rotating cameras, traditional and nontraditional music.”1 This

and an audience who is open and perceptive to his message. The male singer sings a traditional, Iranian song, which represents the stereotypical role of a male to present

burka, and not having an audience to listen to her message. Both of these singers break this convention. The male is captivated by the woman’s voice and gives her his undivided attention. The woman breaks her expected role as a submissive being and expresses her pain through beautiful sounds. She veers from the traditional Farsi lyrics and background tune. Neshat’s film uses setting and traditional roles as a platform to convey something unconventional and the strength of a woman in her existence. Neshat states “… the very structure of a democratic society is based on an individualistic rather than a collective set of principles, and the equilibrium of productive society seems to rely heavily on the notion of equality between sexes.”2 Shirin Neshat, I Am its Secret, 1993, photograph, This film repreWomen of Allah collection sents how equality of both genfilm projects the typi- a message directly and to ders is important in order cal and expected roles of show little emotion. The to understand and help both genders. There is female initially fulfills her the struggles of the Iraa main theme of “tradi- expected role by being nian people. The female tion” through the male’s quiet as her male coun- strength exudes in this role in the performance terpart sings, wearing a film because the woman



is crying out with her powerful melodies, but there is no one there to applaud her, unlike the male singer. Shirin Neshat’s Women of Allah collection depicts the Muslim woman in a new light. Specifically, Neshat’s photograph, I Am its Secret, presents the mysticism of an Iranian woman in a subtle fashion. In the photograph, a woman is wearing a black hijab. Only her gazing eyes and nose are exposed. There is Farsi text forming a target around her face. Neshat comments “The texts are amalgams of poems and prose works, mostly by contemporary women writers in Iran. These writings express sometimes diametrically opposed political and ideological views, from slogans of martyrdom and self-sacrifice to poetic, sensual, and even sexual meditations.”3 The Farsi text represents liberation, self-awareness, and feminine pride. These concepts contradict and even redefine the stereotypical representation

of the hijab. The text is explains “… a Muslim tion represents the powwritten to form a target- woman projects more erful feminine energy like shape with one word intensely the paradoxical in the woman’s central being, despite being covered with a garment that is seen as oppressive. The eyes are a focal point in the photograph. Her eyes echo mysticism and seduction. Neshat describes “… how expressive the body can be when it is controlled, defined, and limited. For example, I have always been blown away by women who wear the hijab, where only with their eyes exposed, or their lips or their hands… those few limited body elements can be so powerful in communicating.”5 This is critical of the Iranian society and even outside societies focus on the covered instead of the uncovered. The black and white dichotomy also reshapes the popular belief of the Muslim woman. The hijab is black, which can be connoted with darkness and oppresShirin Neshat, Bahram, 2012, photograph, The Book sion. The white of Kings collection contrast in her eyes creates a light in the center between the realities that I am trying effect. This photograph woman’s eyes. Neshat to identify.”4 This forma- depicts that the woman

wears the hijab, but the hijab does not wear her. Shirin Neshat’s The Book of Kings installation is a response to the political turmoil that ran throughout the Muslim world. 6 In this collection, Neshat includes the still portraits of men and their personal struggle in Iran. In the portrait, Bahram, a man sites and is facing directly forward. The man has a portrait of soldiers on horseback, lined up on a battlefield drawn across his chest. His eyes gaze forward presenting vulnerability. The scene of war represents power and control. Yet, the outcome of war results in pain. Because of the male gender role, men see the need to maintain control and power, but it is just covering pain and dissatisfaction. The man is in a very still position, which represents the outer appearance of stability. The vulnerable gaze in his eyes reveal the pain and strife behind the need to dominate and maintain. Neshat states “… nothing is ever beau-

tiful without the disturbance of violence. They are always working hand in hand.”7 The violence that has occurred in Iran has been the result of power struggle. This portrait represents that the power struggle of Iranian men must be overcome in order to enjoy the beauty of Iranian people. The struggle over dominance has stifled the Iranian society. This portrait represents how the human spirit has been numbed because of the struggle for power. Shirin Neshat usage of detail, color dichotomy, and the combination of traditional and unconventional elements help to convey the many aspects of struggle in Iranian society. Neshat challenges stereotypical perspective of the Iranian woman by presenting a traditional setting or predicament, but adding elements of seduction and strength to exude empowerment. She also challenges the issue of power, which is one of the central causes of the Revolution and how it is

detrimental to the existence of the Iranian people. Not only does her work give a voice to Iranian women, but it holds Iranian men accountable to their actions. It calls for the recognition of the spiritual being and place of women; and it calls for men to more vulnerable and perceptive.

Chiu, Melissa and Melissa Ho. Shirin Neshat: Facing History. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2015. 2 Neshat, Shirin. The Last Word. Milano, 2003. 3 See Note 1 4 Sheybani, Shedi. “Women of Allah: A Conversation with Shirin Neshat.” Michigan Quarterly Review 30(1999): 2. url: 5 “Shirin Neshat Interview: The Power Behind the Veil”, YouTube video, 10:20, posted by Louisiana Channel, 6 See Note 1 7 See Note 4 1



Bill Viola and Religious Allusion by Jamie Payne Within the National Portrait Gallery, between hundreds of artworks discussing the genre of portraiture, there is an exhibition filled with moving picture and intense sound. A revolutionary show for the gallery, “Bill Viola: The Moving Portrait” shows off Viola’s experimentation with contemporary portraiture using

Caridad Svich discusses ning in the 1970s Viola him and quickly began to the deeper level of Viola’s pioneered this genre of reproduce experi-ences work, “His work challenges the contemporary art world’s obsession with consumerism by focusing almost exclusively on the spiritual, timeless engagement of and reflection on the most elemental of human experiences.”1 In my article, I will focus on this “most elemental of human ex-

Bill Viola, The Sleepers, 1992, Video installation, Collection Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Photo: Louis Lussier, © Bill Viola

video. Even though his work portrays a wrestling with the idea of portraits, Viola’s work holds much more conceptually. In her article, “A Process of Perception’: A Conversation with Bill Viola”,

periences” and how Viola’s work relays these experiences to the viewer. Bill Viola is arguably one of the most influential individuals in the video, digital, and sound art scene. Begin-

art and is known for his room fill-ing environments that engulf the viewer in a new world of moving images and sound. From an ear-ly age he was influenced by the world he saw around

and sights he witnessed. From 1974 to 1976, Viola worked with a video art production company in Florence, Italy.2 There he was exposed to a large amount of Renaissance art, which has become a

main source of inspiration in his work. After his time in Italy, Viola travelled, experienc-ing and studying non-Western Cultures. After this period of study, Bill Viola’s work now reflects on the sphere of prayer, meditation, and healing.3 Bill Viola’s work does not target a single religion or create conversations pairing one reli-gion with another but rather suggests that all forms of religion morph together in a similar

explains, “How ironic, one might conclude, that the recovery of the human in art should occur without the visual presence of the human, or the world, or religious subject matter. It arose from the perceptions of the artists themselves, working over against the visual depictions that no longer were adequate for defining humanity. How ironic, too, that one of the chief culprits re-quiring a new approach was art with religious subject

trays or follows in his art-work. Bill Viola runs against the beliefs of most contemporary artists and critics. Instead of looking to the future of art and its abilities, his work looks inward and backward - to the self and the past through allusions to the practice of meditation and classical mysticism. Understanding mysticism is a difficult task but through Viola’s work, a viewer can recog-nize the experience in a simple form.

of tempered glass. Each monitor plays a looped video of approximately 30 minutes portraying the face of a person sleeping. Ziad Elmarsafy in his article, “Adapting Sufism to Video Art: Bill Viola and the Sacred, responds to a quote written by French Historians Massignon and Moubarac and reacts to The Sleepers. He comes to this conclusion, “Far from being a banal representation of seven people sleeping, therefore, The Sleepers depicts

Bill Viola, Still from Ocean Without a Shore, 2007, Video and sound installation, running time: approx. 90 minutes

expres-sion of meditation and insight into the human experience. Bill Viola’s work is one of a kind in an art world full of secularism and diversity. Historical theologist John Dillenberger writes about reli-gion and humanity as a subject in the contemporary art world, more specifically in relation to ab-stract art. He

matter.”4 In short, Dillenberger sees that ab-stract art has created the ability to create conversation about human interaction and experience with-out the depiction of a human. He also suggests that artwork with religious subject matter needed a revamp in their use of depiction. This claim is not what Bill Viola por-

When looking through Viola’s oeuvre, there is no lack of works that discuss religious experience but one work stands out from the others. This work is The Sleepers. This video installation consists of seven barrels filled with water. At the bottom of each barrel is a monitor set in a waterproof metal casing sealed with a plate

a moment central to the genesis of Viola’s video art as a medium for the exploration of individuality and communication with God across multiple religions.”5 Elmarsafy’s explains this work and most of Viola’s work with video overall perfectly. “The exploration of in-dividuality” and the “communication with



God across multiple religions”. Furthermore, Viola has created an exploration of individuality by portraying individuals in a sleeping state, a very revealing and defenseless time in a human’s daily life. This choice to portray sleeping figures plays on the idea of meditation because sleep triggers dreams which often drift to fantasy and the unknown. Vi-ola’s choice to use figures in this work convey his attempt to depict ideas wrestling with the con-cept of the unknown and religious aspects or experiences. Another work that embodies Viola’s search for the understanding of spirituality is Ocean without a Shore, which was shown as a part of the 2007 Venice Biennale. The work is installed on the altars of the church of St. Gallo in Venice, described by Viola as an interface between two worlds, life

and death. In his own words, “the origins of Christianity these altars actually are a place where the dead kind of reside and connect with those of us, the living, who are here on earth”.6 The human figures in Ocean without a Shore who approach the spectator from behind a veil of water, break through it, gaze at the camera, turn around, and leave are compared to the souls traveling between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Elmarsafy also comments on this piece saying, “Viola underlines the relationship between initiatory voyage, divine ascension, and the selfknowledge that completes the individual.”7 This voyage and ascension described by Elmarsafy is altogether the question which Viola tackles with his artwork. In conclusion, Viola sees in video the art of the sacred, the art of the di-

vine and with these videos he creates a place for viewers to experience the feelings of mysticism and meditation.

Svich, Caridad. “’A Process of Perception’: A Conversation with Bill Viola.” Contemporary Theatre Review 14(2) (2004): 72-81. doi:10.1080/10267160410001684959. 2 Wainwright, Lisa S. “Bill Viola.” Encyclopædia Britannica. October 20, 2011. Accessed December 4, 2016. 3 See Note 2 4 Dillenberger, John. “Visual arts and religion: modern and contemporary contours.” Journal Of The American Academy Of Religion 56, no. 2 (1988): 199-212. ATLA Religion Database with AT-LASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 6, 2016). 5 Elmarsafy, Ziad, and ‫يفصرملا دايز‬. “Adapting Sufism to Video Art: Bill Viola and the Sacred / ‫تايلجت‬ ‫ويديڤلا نف يف فوصتلا‬: ‫سدقملاو الويڤ ليب‬.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, no. 28 (2008): 127-49. 6 “Bill Viola - Ocean Without a Shore - Venice Biennale 2007.” YouTube. 2008. Accessed December 06, 2016. 7 See Note 5 1


No Soy Gringa by Ashley Llanes

French photog- attention to a minority hood of the young girl, still actively carry out rapher, Delphine Blast, and culture that therefore rather than a setting the traditions of a throwphotographs an impor- wouldn’t get enough or dressed up enough to ing a Quinces. Keeping tant demographic when any attention. This series match the gown.1 This this culture and tradishe takes her lens to the touches on the intersec- creates a visual dynam- tion alive is something community of Bogotá. tional identity of Lati- ic and statement about remarkable and defiBlast’s series Quincea- nax women, the societal the financial sacrifice nitely notable, especially ñera speculates the pressures that come with that was made in order in an unstable financial amount of money put the expectations of the for the subject to even state where cultural ideninto the celebration of a coming of age and the be in said ball gown.2 tity is held above finan“Quinceañera” cial security. in Cololmbia. The work A Quinceñera itself speaks to is a coming of a very particage celebraular and valid tion, for young identity. The girls in the Latinax idenLatinax comtity comes munity. When with many they turn the struggles of age of 15. it’s own, as it The tradition is an intersecof a Quince’s tional idencomes with a tity that deals lot of expectawith two mations from both jor minorities. the parents and Young Latina the QuinceaAmericanas ñera. Though specifically Blast herself is deal with the 2 French, and “gringa” asLaura Cristina Zarta poses in her Quincenera Dress, at her parents’ home in the southern suburb of Bogotá ( Delphine) cannot identify pect, and the with the issues “not Latina of the Latinax population, gender roles of the cele- In these photographs enough” card. Constantly she respectfully repre- bration and culture itself. Blast is reaching out to having to prove an idensents their issues through Delphine Blast a specific audience, and tity with tropes and tricks her medium, and pres- photographs young Co- speaking to a very spe- but when it comes to the ents valid topics and is- lombian women in their cial demographic. This the truest form of being sues about the struggle of impressive ball gowns, would be the Latinax Latina it is not accepted maintaining culture and and takes them out of youth and their strug- or considered distasteful traditions even among context by taking the gling families. Whether by the white community. the more impoverished portrait in the modest in America or countries In the book Hijas Amerifamilies. This also brings setting of the neighbor- in Latin America that canas by Rosie Molinary


it speaks from the perspective of a fifteen-yearold Puerto Rican, Latina Americana who feels the need to constantly prove her Latina identity, due to the fact that her friends and colleagues persistently deny and invalidate her Puerto Rican identity. She then goes forth trying to prove to herself and her family how she is “not a gringa”. With this, she has different encounters of micro-aggressive racist acts and retaliations to her proving her identity. Molinary speaks about how she cannot please everyone, because each person is raised with a different preconceived notion about to what a Latina, or in her case, Puerto Rican should look and sound like. This affects social aspects like dating and making friends, making it difficult for “the only Puerto Rican girl” to accommodate in school. She talks about a specific incident where her academic advisor, despite her fantastic grades, looked over opportuni-

ties as a student to excel just due to her race.³ There becomes this balance of wanting to be proud of the Latina identity but wanting to hide it because of fear of retaliation or how others


Blast’s work definitely speaks to that strange middle place of wanting to be fully Latina and at the same time just wanting to be normal so you don’t have to be the “one latina girl”

Luna Valentina Arias Beltran, Bogota, November 2014

will act in general. For years, women of color play their identities and cultural affluences down just in order to blend in or ignore retaliation of white people. It’s important for one to remind themselves that they are in fact “not a gringa” and owning that Latina identity, or wherever they are from is valid and should be accepted as such.

and face the discriminations of the majority of people. Identifying as any minority is difficult for this very reason. Blast visualizes this sentiment by placing her young Latinas in the middle of their homes, and their ball gowns. Practically exclaiming their identity while standing in their home and community. The photographs them-

selves are captioned with descriptions of the situation and circumstances of the Quinceañera, as well as the cost of the party. For example, one of the portraits is of Luna Valentina Arias Beltran, and tells the story about how her father is a shoemaker and her other a recycler. They saved up enough money for a celebration.4 This speaks to the Latino struggle but also to the pressures put on the Quinceañera and the parents in order to have a traditional celebration. A controversial matter in this series of work is that the photographer herself is French and identifies as “Anglo Saxon”. Some people may see this as an appropriative body of work coming from a white woman. It is imperative to recognize that the artist is not publishing these works with any first person perspective but she is instead using her privilege as a white artist in order to give a voice to the Latinax community and their struggles as a

community. She may be able to relate to them as a woman but the intersectionality of being Latina and a woman is something that Delphine, as an Anglo Saxon identifying artist cannot relate to. With that said, Marivel T. Danielson in Homecoming Queers talks about using art as a weapon to speak out against the patriarchy and being heard as a minority. One could argue that Blast uses her work to punch the patriarchy and to remain politically and socially conscious. She also uses her work to spread awareness about the struggles of the Latinax community and therefor is being politically and socially informative to the general community. It is important for her, as a French artist, to bring her work back to her community in order to raise awareness about the socioeconomical state of young girls in Bogotá in 2014.5 In order to sympathize with the Latino community, it’s important for one to understand how they view and understand the world. A lot of the Latino family culture and upbringing

revolves around traditional Catholic morals, and spirituality, the idea that the elderly will be taken care of by their children rather than being placed in an elderly home. A Latino child must be “bien educados” meaning well mannered. It is a a highly pressured cultural system that uses emotional manipulation in order to achieve a well rounded child. Within this “highly pressured cultural system” also referred to as La Familia there are a lot of hierarchies, roles, and scripts to follow. Keeping expectations about “respeto” for elders is imperative. Each member of the family has their intricate role. There are multiple faceted roles that go into it, making it an entirely convoluted social system. Certain factors like, being an only child, birth order, independence, immigration, stereotypes of the “machismo” father and how that affects the gender roles in the entire family. Marianismo in particular a social behavior associated with Catholicism and the Virgin Mary that is sets the expectations and mindsets for young girls that sets gender

roles such as expecting a woman to “know her place”, not forsake tradition, be dependent, not discuss personal problems, depend on a men and become a housewife. The dangerous part is that it is learned by both men and women, so not only are women expected to behave this way but men are, in fact, reinforcing this ideology.6 The social pressures from the complex Latino cultural influences is definitive in the Blast’s photographs. The captions discuss what the girls aspire to be, and how hard the parents worked to put the production on. Some of them costing millions of pesos. This again reinforces the gender and social pressures delegated to an adolescent latina.

Remezcla Rosie Molinary, Hijas Americanas (17-22) 5 Marivel T. Danielson, Homecoming Queers (168-170) 6 Patricia Arredondo, Maritza Gallardo-Cooper, Edward A. Delgado-Romero, Angela L. Zapata, Culturally Responsive Counseling with Latina/os (15-23) 1 3


PROCESS Process is a determining factor in art. It involves thought, skills, materials, a space in which to work, and the intention to create art. In this section of our catalogue the authors explore aspects of process, from the techniques of photography to the politics of performance, in relation to the work of contemporary artists.


The Next Generation Artist by Eoin Guidas In a world with rapid technological advancement, global connectivity, and mounting expectations for promising professionals, many people struggle to adapt to the high levels of pressure associated with succeeding. Ambition is an integral part of success, and no other artist today has more ambition than 36-yearold artist Daniel Arsham. By combining interests, influences and curiosity across many fields, Arsham actively strives to gain as much knowledge as he can, and apply it to his professional artwork. However; his artwork cannot be simply placed into a single category, he crosses and overlaps a myriad of mediums, and his process draw inspiration from dozens of unique creative outlets. In one interview Arsham states that “Even now I don’t

feel quite a part of the art world in a way. Or at least the New York art world. It can be difficult to place what I’m doing, because I’m working in scenic design, and I’m working in architecture. My work doesn’t fit into these con-

sham represents a new breed of artists whose interests expand past making art for people to view, by collaborating to make experienced based work in addition to 2D art, 3D art performance, and film. He does this by

cise boxes, and it’s a little bit harder to place. But I didn’t do these things because I was trying to be a renegade. I just like them, and they kept things interesting in the studio.”1 I have concluded that multidisciplinary visual artist Daniel Ar-

creating works of art that transcend one specific media and branches out into various fields while remaining connected by sharing similar visual elements as well as thematic qualities. Arsham combines formal elements of design with his love

for architectural form, in order to integrate art and design in a literal way. Arsham is clearly an innovator in his current capacity because of his ability to overcome challenges and produce interesting works of art that push the boundaries of art, architecture and design. All together Daniel Arsham takes command of his tools and forms works of art that are unique from anything else being made today. New York based artist Daniel Arsham straddles the line between art, architecture and performance.2 A line taken out of Daniel Arsham’s bio from his own website highlights his multidisciplinary approach to art. Having over interests is by no means a new concept. For artists, being interested in other subjects besides the main focus of your work is essential for


developing context, giving meanings, and enhancing the overall value of the work. Daniel Arsham takes this idea to the next level by combining and intertwining all of his interests into a seemingly singular thread of creative ideas. Arsham combines the meanings of his 2-D works and transformed them into 3-D sculptures. From there he has used these ideas for installation works as well, and it doesn’t stop there. Arsham’s story has shifted into his film work as well, and the films still follow the ideas set forth in his initial 2-D works. This unified theme is an interesting approach for a modern artist to take, but there is more to Daniel Arsham’s story as it has been adapted for set design as well. Arsham said in one interview “In some ways I imagine all my work the same. Making paintings, making sculpture, making works of architecture or design,

making stage design, making film and taking photographs, they all feel the same to me. They all require the same attention and thinking.”3 Collaboration is a crucial method of work for Arsham, and it has allowed him to expand his work into areas

of art that it might not otherwise reach. This includes his set design work for performance works for art. His collaboration efforts are what ultimately make him the artist of the future. Architecture plays a key role in Arsham’s work and career. Many

of his artwork borrow architectural elements in order to establish or develop an aesthetic. One of the highlights of Daniel Arsham’s career is his company known as Snarkitecture. To give some context about the company’s

describing an “impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.” Snarkitecture investigates the unknown within architecture – the indefinable moments created by manipulating and reinterpreting existing materials, structures and programs to spectacular effect. Exploring the boundaries of disciplines, the studio designs permanent, architectural scale projects and functional objects with new and imaginative purposes. Snarkitecture’s approach focuses on the viewer’s experience and memory, creating moments of wonder and i n t e ra c t i o n that allow people to engage directly with their surrounding environgoals here is a portion ment. By transforming of the information they the familiar into the exgive on their website traordinary, Snarkitecture makes architecture Snarkitecture is a collabora- perform the unexpected.4 tive and experimental practice operating in territories This project is a direct between art and architecture. representation of DanThe name is drawn from iel Arsham’s love for arLewis Carroll’s The Hunt- chitecture and how it ing of The Snark, a poem integrates with design.

He uses the platform to create and develop new works and installation pieces for high-end clients. Arsham utilizes interesting and unique materials in order to surprise his audience, and making real illusions, while simultaneously transforming artistic works into functional architectural pieces. Architectural elements in Arsham’s portfolio blend into realms of design fundamentals including form, composition, and color. Color is one of the most important tools for an artist, and the ability to see and distinguish color is seemingly necessary for an artist to accurately achieve his or her goal. For Daniel Arsham; however, color has been a tricky subject for him to tackle. “I’m color blind. It doesn’t mean that I don’t see color, but the range that I see is drastically reduced from what you would see.”5 Colorblindness has greatly influenced the

way Arsham has viewed his critical element of art. Many of his early works are dichromatic paintings and sculptural forms only consisting of the scale of colors between black and white. This limited use of color can have different effects on the attitude of the artwork. In Arsham’s case, these early works were an attempt at establishing an individual style aesthetic, but they also speak to his “disability” and how it may have held him back in terms of his confidence level involving utilizing color. Known for his use of white in artwork and installations, the artist has introduced color into his work for the first time at the Circa 2345 exhibition.6 Arsham’s work has reached new points recently as he has experienced his first solo exhibition show in New York City. In this exhibition Arsham revealed, for the first time, his use of bright, intense colors. This transition high-

lights the dynamic qualities of Daniel Arsham, and it also allows viewers to examine the messages Arsham is trying to spread from a different point of view. “Daniel Arsham, Colorblind Artist: In Full Color.”7 Is a short film/documentary about Arsham’s struggles with colorblindness, and this video provides a truly interesting perspective on how an artist views colorblindness. Daniel Arsham successful combines his abilities for art with his love for design, and his emphasis on collaboration in order to cement himself as a next generation of artists. His ability to overcome challenges due to color, and his creativity when it comes to materials allow Arsham to stand out as a truly unique person. A visual artist endures a great deal of adversity in today’s society, but because of Daniel Arsham’s pure ambition in the art world, he has the oppor-

tunity to have his voice and ideas heard by a very wide spread audience. His work has the capability to reach artists, designers, architects, clothing designers, and many more. This type of range of capabilities is so important in terms of being able to succeed. I predict the next generation of artist will be more like Daniel Arsham in order to reach a wide audience and guide art and design and creative avenues forward into the future.

William J. Simmons “Daniel Arsham’s Semaine.” Nov 5, 2016, stories/daniel-arsham 2 “Daniel Arsham” Nov 3, 2016 3 David Hellquist. “Daniel Arsham on #Recollections, Architecture and More.” Dec 17, 2014, 4 “Snarkitecture.” Nov 01, 2015, 5 Paige Silvera. “An Exclusive Interview with Daniel Arsham in his Studio, New York.” Purple.Fr. Jul 1, 2016, 6 Dan Howarth. “Daniel Arsham creates colorful cave from molded sports balls at Galerie Perrotin.” Dezeen. com. Sep 20, 2016, 7 Semaine. “Daniel Arsham, Colorblind Artist: In Full Color.” Filmed [2016]. YouTube Video, 27:41. Posted [Sept 2016]. 1



Andreas Gursky and the Aesthetic Utopiaa by Aaron Schwartz

Figure 1: Andreas Gusky, Rhein II, 1999, Rhein River Edition, C-Print mounted to acrylic glass

In 2011, German artist and photographer Andreas Gursky sold his photograph Rhine II, a serene portion of the Rhine River for approximately 4.3 million dollars1. At the time, the photograph was the most expensive photograph ever sold, only to be surpassed in 2014. What made Gursky’s achievement even more extraordinary is that the portion of the river in the photograph does not exist. Instead, Gursky’s photo is a composite2. Gursky used multiple images at different places on the Rhine river, then stitched them together to create a

dreamlike, peaceful portion of the Rhine River that one cannot out of Gursky’s work. Rhine II is introspective of many Andreas Gursky’s works. Gursky’s photography can turn the world, whether it be postindustrialized or natural landscapes, into an abstract, yet aesthetically pleasing utopia. Many of the techniques that Gursky continues to utilize were the ones taught by the ones closest to him. Andreas Gursky was born in 1955 in East Germany, he was surrounded by photography and art

from the start: Gursky was born into a family of photographer parents and grandparents3. He was a student of photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, best known

for their industrialized monochromatic photography4. In comparing the work of the Bechers with that of Gursky, one art critic noted that Gursky’s earliest works

Figure 2: Andreas Gursky, F1 Boxxenstopp I, 2007, F1 Boxxenstopp Edition, C-Print

could be “interpreted as an extension of his teachers’ aesthetic.”5 In the era of Photoshop and advanced post-processing software, Gursky’s technique ex-

store is shown depicted. No customers are shown, and the shelves are packed with products elegantly displayed linear lines and near perfect spacing. The spotless interior displays

photograph in which this change in perspective from what humans see in his photograph is in his photo Atlanta (Figure 5), in which a cross section of the Hyatt Re-

offer viewers perspectives that they would not be able to see otherwise. Whether digitally manipulated or not, these views are all powerful, and work to make us feel

Figure 3: Andreas Gursky, Media Markt, 2016, C-Print

panded into manipulating his photos into the aesthetic utopias. Gursky’s technique involves making his objects look simple and tranquil. He bends angles to make them more pleasing to the eye6. Even in cases where digital manipulation was not utilized, Gursky took advantage of unique viewpoints and angles to portray an aesthetic picture, one which the human eye cannot often see. For example, in the piece Media Markt (Figure 3), a home improvement and décor

immaculately positioned products with little error to be found. To achieve this, Gursky shoots dozens of photos of a subject, then expertly changes and warps angles, removing or adding in elements he feels add to the narrative of the image7. Gursky shoots on medium format film, then scanning and uploading the negatives to piece them together as he sees fit8. These manipulations are an example of how photography has transcended the idea what a photograph is to humans. One

gency Hotel in Atlanta is dissected from one of the floors. The result is a series of parallel lines of the floors and ceilings of each floor running parallel to each other for the length of the photo. While this might be the interesting to look at, it is not how the Hyatt locale looks to the naked eye. The focal length and large format camera Gursky uses enables him to eliminate any natural curves that the viewer would experience if standing in the same spot (Figures 4-5). Gursky’s photos

small and insignificant. Reviewer Alix Ohlin wrote that Gursky’s work holds “a grand power in the face of which we feel our smallness. We are in Burke’s term, “annihilated””9. In the face of utter beauty that we can never truly see, Ohlin implies that our perception is forever inferior to Gursky’s photos. This “annihilated” perspective is also present in another one of Gursky’s photographs. In the photograph Amazon (Figure 6). Inside one of Amazon’s massive warehouses, Gursky captures



Figure 4: 2016. Stonehilltaylor.Com. Accessed December 6 2016.

the entirety of the madness, while still managing to make the chaos look organized and synchronous. The overall result is comparable to his other photos, with straight

Gursky manages to turn a warehouse full of boxes into a masterpiece. Gursky’s photos can sometimes seem like stills from a Hollywood movie. Both the aspect

Figure 5: Andreas Gursky, Atlanta, 2016, C-Print

graph F1 Boxenstopp I (Figure 2), two pit crews work quickly to change the tires and service their team’s racecar. The lighting is focused on each of the teams, and darker on

Gursky’s tableau. All the workers elegantly frozen in place, with lighting and colors that seem to mimic those of the Renaissance. To achieve all the action in one shot,

Figure 6: Andreas Gursky, Amazon, 2016, C-Print

parallel lines running lengthwise for the entirety of the photo. Overlooking a sea of products and boxes to be shipped at a moment’s notice,

ratio of the photo, and the isolated and crisp details of the photo’s subjects make the photo seem staged and fake. For instance, in his photo-

the corners, giving the picture a highly staged aspect. The madness of everyone frantically moving around in the pit stop is not evidenced in

Gursky stitched dozens of photographs together in different bits and pieces to create the desired picture10. Gursky’s manipulation techniques are

a prime example of how media in the digital age continues to outsmart and outperform our natural senses. Photographers like Gursky who bend reality to create abstract utopian photographs are changing how we respond to certain photography. It has become necessary to wonder if every picture in front of you was manipulated in any way, photo shopped or post processed. Thus, Gursky’s images are an example of the dawn of a new era in media, an era where it’s necessary to question the authenticity and accuracy of the media you are consuming. Gursky’s photos attest to the immense power that post processing techniques have, allowing for Gursky to flawlessly morph his photos into angles that we never experience naturally. In his own words, Gursky is striving for “a condensation of reality”11. In conclusion,

there is no single reason why Gursky’s work is beautiful, or why some of his pieces are worth upwards of 4 million dollars. Perhaps the photo’s value may also be influenced by the reaction it draws from the viewer. While the structures that Gursky uses as his subjects are real, they don’t look quite the way they do to the naked eye. This difference in viewpoints is a piece what makes Gursky’s art extraordinary.

Grossman, Samantha. 2014. “This Is Officially The Most Expensive Photo Ever”. Accessed November 26 2016. 2 “Blumberg, Naomi | “Andreas Gursky; German Photographer”. 2015. Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed November 26 2016.3^ 4 ^ 5 Galassi, Peter. “Gursky’s World.” MoMA 4, no. 2 (2001): 6-9. 6 Nanay, Bence. “The Macro and the Micro: Andreas Gursky’s Aesthetics.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70, no. 1 (2012): 91-100.7“Beyst, Stefan - ‘From A World’s Spirit’s Eye View’ (2007)”. 2011. American Suburb X. Accessed December 1 2016. 8 Tousley, Nancy. Andreas Gursky: Interview with insight. in Canadian Art [database online]. 2009 [cited November 6 2016]. (accessed 11/06/16).9Ohlin, Alix. “Andreas Gursky and the Contemporary Sublime.” Art Journal 61, no. 4 (2002): 23-35. 10 See Note 7 11 ^ 1



Greater Than Its Parts? by Nicole Klein Chuck Close’s work and career demonstrate the importance of artistic process and how different approaches alter the final product. Close’s personal experiences have had a tremendous impact on his career, inspiring his use of Polaroid photographs and colored blocks in his paintings. By recycling the same photographs and subjectssubjects including himself and several of his close friends- Close’s work asserts the significance of process and meaning rather than the subject of each piece. Close’s portraits go beyond capturing the physical likeness of the subject to convey themes of identity and emotion through the use of grid, color, and size. Close’s early life

and career are impor- fostered their son’s apti- painting portraits to this tant to understanding his tude for art.1 At a young facial blindness, explainwork. He was born in age, Close was diagnosed ing, “In real life- threedimensionally- if you move your head half an inch, to me it’s a whole new head… but if I flatten their image out, and scan it, I have photographic memory. Photographic memory of flat things; no memory of things in dimension… I just have to translate from one flat surface to another.” Due to this condition, Close takes various Polaroid photographs of his friends and peers to use as reference for his Chuck Close, Big Self Portrait, 1968, paintings. The acrylic on canvas. Walker Art Center photographs are crucial in Washington to two cre- with both dyslexia and determining Close’s next ative, working-class par- facial blindness. He ac- major project; he chooses ents, who supported and credits his interest in based on photograph, not

on subject. “There’s some people I really want to paint and I don’t have a photograph that demands to be painted,” Close says, when describing his inspiration and decision-making process.2 Graduating with an MFA from Yale in the mid1960s meant that Close’s formal training came from mostly Abstract Expressionist painters. Portraits were considered an archaic and pointless enterprise. Nonetheless, Close gave up on his own abstract paintings and turned toward portraiture. He rejected the idea that he was “breath[ing] new life into… 19thcentury notions”, instead pursuing “a contemporary painting that could only be made at that moment.”3 Utilizing photography allowed him to do just that. Each of Close’s photographs- and subsequently, paintings- is a snapshot of a person existing within a unique and individual moment. These snapshots subvert the classical idea of portraiture and the tradition of

commissioning and sitting for formal paintings. One defining characteristic of Close’s paintings is his grid technique. This systematic approach to working gives Close, who strug-

feature a visible grid of carefully colored blocks that come together to form a realistic portrait. The pieces look abstract when viewed up close, similar to Impressionist paintings of the likes of

Chuck Close, Self Portrait, 2007, screenprint. Museum of Modern Art

gled with dyslexia as a child, a “built-in sense of discipline.”4 In his earlier paintings, the grid is not seen, instead functioning as a tool during the painting process. His more recent works, however,

Monet and Cezanne. It becomes evident that the whole of Close’s portraits is not greater than its parts; the parts are crucial building blocks. “You use the same brick to build a cathedral or a slaughter-

house,” says Close. “It’s all in the way you stack those suckers up. I like the one-brick- at-a-time process.”5 The viewer is forced to consider color and shape, and how these elements work together to create features, facial planes, and lighting. The development of Close’s style becomes most evident when comparing his approaches to the same subject in his portraits. The transition from stunningly accurate “photorealism” (Close personally rejects the label, saying, “I chafe under the term realist; the work is, I suppose, about reality, but it’s also highly artificial. It’s the artificiality which really interests me, the fact that it’s this distribution of colored dirt on a flat surface”6) to colorful abstraction is clear in two of his selfportraits, the first created in 1968 and the second in 2007. Big Self Portrait (1968), a rather unflattering and unflinchingly honest snapshot of himself smoking a cigarette, encapsulates Close’s “mug-shot” style



portraits. He plays with focus and detail, creating sense of depth similar to that of a high-quality photograph. Viewers are often startled to discover that the piece is in fact a painting. Big Self Portrait’s massive dimensions (107.5 inches by 83.5 inches) also function to arrest and surprise the viewer; the viewer feels directly challenged by this unsettlingly large and detailed portrait of the artist. 2007’s Self Portrait, created thirty-nine years later, reflects not only the physical aging of the artist, but the change in his style and technique as well. The portrait is composed of many diagonal squares with a variety of shapes and colors within them. Close’s beard is made up of a wide range of colors, which work together to form a sense of texture. Even the background, which appears from a distance to be a solid, deep blue, contains browns and reds. This adds vibrancy and movement to the piece, and the way the edges of Close’s head

appear to dissolve into the background force the viewer’s focus onto the center of the face. In addition to a change in style, Close’s process in 2007’s Self Portrait was vastly different than in Big Self Portrait. In 1988, Close suffered a collapsed spinal artery that left him paralyzed. Through intensive rehab and therapy, he was able to regain use of his upper body and arms. Now confined to a wheelchair, Close uses an innovative mechanical system that raises, lowers, and rotates his canvases to meet him where he can work, rather than moving around the canvas himself. This enables Close to continue working at a large scale; 2007’s Self Portrait is 74.5 inches by 57.75 inches. Close explains his decision to work at this size: “I wanted to make big, aggressive, confrontational images but didn’t want to use big, aggressive, powerful brush strokes. I wanted the thrust to come from the way all the incremental bits stack to build something powerful and aggressive.”7

Chuck Close’s body of work emphasizes process over subject, and how one’s history and experiences are integral to his or her development as an artist. Close’s interest in creating portraits and his approach in doing so- utilizing Polaroids, a grid technique, colored blocks, and a motorized canvas- are all influenced by his “deficits”, including facial blindness, dyslexia, and partial paralyzation. “What kind of personal urgency do you have any more than dealing with your deficits?” he asks. “That’s who I am. I am that person with these major deficits.”8

Cragin, Liam. “Chuck Close.” How Creatives Work “In the Studio With Chuck Close” White Cube video 3 Gomez, Edward M. “Painting Up Close.” 86-90 4 See Note 3 5 DeLoach, Douglass. “UP CLOSE: An Interview with Chuck Close.” 2-3 6 Backus, Jessica. “Beyond the Portrait: The Many Categories of Chuck Close.” Artsy. 2013 7 See Note 4 8 See Note 2 1 2


Bahama Mama by Gabriella Rudy Janine Antoni’s emphasis on creative development and process throughout her artwork was engendered by the culture shock she experienced when moving to America from the Bahamas. In an interview

for Antoni’s artistic style arose from her experience moving from one culture to a drastically different one during her formative years. This acclimation engendered Antoni’s success as an artist because it sparked a strong

move from the Bahamas created a need for her to find an alternative way to physically express herself, as her previous means of communication were suppressed by American society. The dynamic process that is character-

Janine Antoni, Gnaw, 1992, Instillation with Chocolate (left) and Lard (right)

with Marcel Odenbach, Antoni reveals: “When I first came to America, I became painfully aware that my body language was inappropriate. This situation is what brought me to use my body as a tool.”1 The inspiration

emotional desire for Antoni to find alternative ways to express herself, gave rise to a more unified community, and caused Antoni to find an artistic way to feel in control of her emotions. Janine Antoni’s

istic of Antoni’s success served as a method of cultural adaptation for Antoni by allowing her to use her body in a way that felt natural to her despite her change in culture. Antoni’s piece “Tear” is characteristic of

her ability to relate the physical and metaphysical by utilizing her own bodily rhythm and imposing it upon a tangible medium. When looking at this piece (which is housed at the Anderson Gallery in Richmond, Virginia), one sees a large screen playing a video of a blinking eye with a cement ball attached to a chain that sits just a few feet in front of the screen. The cement ball is not perfectly round and its surface is covered in craters. With each blink of her eyelid, a loud, crashing sound erupts from speakers to represent the lead, wrecking ball smashing though a cement building synchronized with the blinking of her eyelid. This unique pairing of her blinking pattern with the oppressive lead ball serves as a bridge between the physical and metaphysical.6 This integration of performance and sculpture is perhaps the most distinctive attribute of Antoni’s artwork and is also present in her piece, Gnaw. Antoni sculpts 600 pound blocks of chocolate and


lard with her mouth and body, respectively.7 Housed at the Sandra Gering Gallery in SoHo, New York, Gnaw is the piece that exemplifies the extent to which Antoni uses her body as a tool to sculpt with as the block of chocolate took her over a month and a half to nibble on and lick.8 Furthermore, these actions may even directly symbolize the parts of her body that she can no longer use to express herself in the same way that she once did in the Bahamas. For example, public displays of affections such as hugging and kissing are culturally acceptable in the Bahamas, whereas they may be considered less appropriate in America.5 Adaptation is something that every human must go through at one point in his or her life, which makes Antoni’s artwork very relatable, and therefore admired by many people. Antoni creates art using an experimental process, in which she interacts with her environment to discover things about herself. For this reason, much of her art also has inherent traits and during her process “She navigates between a raw, female, primal desire to gnaw as a means of knowing (as a baby puts things in its mouth to explore them, and as Eve bit

the apple) and as a culturally structured expression of (sexual) desire in candies and shiny red lips.”4 Another important aspect of Antoni’s art is that she puts so much time and passion into the process of creating each piece, thereby exposing so much of herself. This adds strength to the idea that her art is really being created in order for her to continue her process of adapting to America. As her artwork progresses, her artistic processes become more and more specific. Her pieces begin using processes for the purpose of expressing her emotions using her body, and hone in on issues pertinent to American culture, such

as gender identity. In 2002, Antoni creates her piece, Touch, in which she walks along a tightrope. She describes the process as “like learning to walk again”. She also speaks about improving her balance, and adjusting to becoming more comfortable with the feeling of imbalance. The meaning of this one piece exemplifies much of her artwork upon first arriving in America. Feeling lost, imbalanced, and out of place, Antoni created pieces that made her feel uncomfortable, which served as an analogy to her vulnerability.3 The fact that Antoni is so involved both physically and emotionally in every piece that

she creates places her in a vulnerable light, which she purposefully does as a coping mechanism to overcome her struggle in adapting to American culture. Her move and getting acclimated to America was clearly a huge challenge for her, and her self-inflicted vulnerability was empowering for her as it increased the control she had over her own emotions. In Antoni’s piece, Gnaw, as mentioned above, she sculpts a 600-pound block of chocolate with her teeth. In the process of making this, she is struck by both temptation and disgust, as the chocolate becomes increasingly nauseating to taste. Antoni utilizes the

J anine Antoni, Tear, 2009, Film, Lead, Steel 4,182 pound wrecking ball 33inch diameter

process of nibbling on the chocolate in order to explore the very real and intimate problems she is facing concerning gender and weight. Unlike in the Bahamas, women in American culture are battling with the pressure to stay thin, which is made particularly challenging as a result of US consumer culture. Antoni is not used to this pressure, and faces it in a head-on way in order to remain in control of her adaptation process.2 While Antoni’s creative means of cultural adaptation can be appreciated by virtually all viewers, I personally can associate with her works on a deeper level.

Moving to the United States at age 7, after being brought up in London, England, I experienced a culture change. Societal pressures changed, as did political, racial, and gender ideologies. Being that I was so young, these issues weren’t particularly relevant to me and the largest cultural hurdle for

me to vanquish was that I spoke with a different accent than my American counterparts. Similar to Janine Antoni’s use of her body to overcome the cultural difference in body language, I used my voice to overcome my obstacle. As I cannot sing, I became very interested in public speaking

and acting, embracing my accent in an effort to recover my confidence through my vulnerability. Janine Antoni’s move sparked her emphasis on the process by which she creates her artwork and ended up surpassing her ability to adapt to American culture. Antoni’s process of assimilating into American culture enabled her to reach her potential as an artist because it provided a need for her to physically express herself in new ways, promoted public unification, and resulted in her placing herself in a vulnerable position.

Janine Antoni, Touch, 2002, Single-channel video projection, color, sound

Antoni, Janine. Interview with Marcel Odenbach. Advertisement for Myself. PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 1999. 2 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, “Antoni’s Difference,” A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (2001): 129-131 3 Janine Antoni: “Touch” and “Moor,” Art21, 2016, 4 Laura Heon, “Janine Antoni’s Gnawing Idea,” Gastronomica, Vol.1, No.2 (2001): 5-8 5 Lucy Debenham, “Etiquette in the Bahamas,” Travel Etiquette, September 30, 2016. 6 MacCash, Doug. Artist Janine Antoni Considers Demolition. New Orleans: The Times- Picayune, 2008. 7 O’Sullivan, Michael. Janine Antoni at the Phillips Collection. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post, 2012. 8Smith, Roberta. Janine Antoni: Sandra Gering Gallery 476 Broome Street SoHo Through tomorrow. New York: ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, 1994. 1



Mental Illness is a Process by Ally Sidley

Yayoi Kusama was born on March 22nd, 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan. Kusama began doing art when she was a little girl, and when she got older she attended Nihonga to study traditional Japanese art.1 As her studies developed, so did her mental illness and she began displaying her mental illness through the techniques of her art.2 Yayoi Kusama’s global art career began in the late 1950s.3 Kusama has been back and forth between Japan and the US, throughout her art career. Kusama’s career was developed through three different stages, Japan-New York-Japan, and these stages represent where she has lived in her career.4 Yayoi Kusama’s work covers a various spectrum of mediums, which is constantly changing depending on what project she is working on. Her work is

dependent on her life ex- her mind. Her hallucina- art.5 Kusama’s mental periences, and mainly the tions, which are caused state causes her to obmental illness that she has from her mental illness, sess, which drivers her artistic capabilities, and motivates her use of repetition when creating art. The obsessive personality coming from Kusama’s mental state is shown through an extreme sense of repetition in her works. The series, Infinity Net paintings, were not only the beginning of her career and success in the United States of America, Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Nets, 1959, Painting. but also the beginning of her success as an artist suffering from mental illness.6 Kusama’s severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was a primary factor in the creation of this series. These large scale paintings that make up this series, directly shows how repetition is Kusama’s Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Nets No. 2, 1959, Painting. primary technique when creating suffered throughout her were and continue to be art. Her repetitive techentire life. A major fac- a dominating factor in nique when creating tor of her work is to calm the development of her these works are obsessive

and meditative for her. The eight paintings that made up the 1959 series of Infinity Nets, are large scaled canvases that contain different variations and textures of gray dots all over the canvas. The creation of these images contain the same brush strokes used repetitively throughout the entire image. The textured images were created by the layering the brush strokes, which provide another element to each of the paintings. The creation of this series was also driven by the idea of infinity, which also led to her madness.8 The hallucinations that influenced Kusama’s creation of Infinity Nets, showed infinite repeating patterns, which continued to spread and multiply, until they created an obliteration to the physical universe.9 These hallucinations drove her creative process of repetition, which was executed due to her obsessive compulsive disorder.10 The repetition that she displays 7

through her work is solely caused by her mental illness, and gives the viewer a look into her thoughts, hallucinations, and obsessions with textures and dots all over the canvas. Kusama’s Infinity

Rooms, which are rooms that contain mirrors and reflective surfaces all over it. These rooms reflect her obsession with dots, objects, and lights. Kusama’s rooms try to get the audience involved and

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room Pumpkin, Room with mirrors and paint, 1991.

Net paintings continued as an obsessional series for many more years, and had color integrated in some of its pieces. Kusama’s use of repetition is driven by her mental state, and has caused her to create work which the process is influenced by her mental illness. Kusama also displayed her obsession through another medium of art. The alternative medium Kusama uses to expresses her obsession is through the use of mirrors in a room. She created these Infinity Mirror

interact with her works, to show the obsession that she has with creating repetition. The way the dots, lights, and figures, surround the audience in the Infinity Mirror Rooms gives the audience a glimpse into living with an obsessive disorder, such as the one Kusama is living with. Kusama worked with these mirrors to show the audience how her hallucinations feel, and how they consume her, just as the mirrors and objects consume the rooms.11 The large amount of the mir-

rors covering every part of the room was Kusama’s way of showing the audience how hard it is living with a mental disorder, and how it causes her to do specific things, and work with specific techniques when creating her art. The Infinity Mirror Rooms, also connect to her curiosity of an infinity and how it drives her crazy. These environments that Kusama creates, construct endless, infinite s p a c e s . 12 Infinity, and infinite thoughts are an aspect to this series of works because as the audience looks into the mirrors they are seeing and experiencing endless repetition and reflection of whatever is in the room at that moment. These rooms express Kusama’s mental state, and how her mental state causes the use of repetition as a significant method that is used throughout her work. Yayoi Kusama’s work has been in the contemporary art world since the 1950s and con-



Yayoi Kusama, Phalis Field, Room with mirrors and sculptures, 1965.

tinues to affect and push boundaries in the contemporary art world today. Kusama has battled Obsessive Compulsive Disorder her entire life, and has used art as a therapeutic way to cope with her mental illness. Donald Judd, another American artist, discussed Kusama’s meth-

ods stating that madness was the driving force-the “driving image”-not the goal or end purpose of Kusama’s art.13 Illness and its symptoms were not the subject of her work, but what made it proceed forwards.14 That’s what is so significant about Kusama’s work. Her mental illness didn’t hold

Yayoi Kusama, The Souls of Millions, Room with mirrors, lights, and water 2013, The Broad Collective.

her back it has helped and continues to help her progress forward. Her obsessive personality is the primary influence to the methods and techniques she uses to create works. The work she creates puts the audience in her hallucinations, and obsessive breakouts, and allows them to feel

what she’s feeling. Her work is driven by madness, and that madness leads to obsession and repetition. Yayoi Kusama’s illness doesn’t officially define her work, it defines her process.

Nilesh Patel, “The Self-Obliteration of Yayoi Kusama”, Culture Trip, December 5th, 2016. See Note 1 3 Kathy Cottong, Yayoi Kusama: Obsessional Vision, Foreword, The Arts Club of Chicago 1997, 2. 4 Francis Morris, Yayoi Kusama, Introduction, Tate Publishing 2012, 2. 5 Akira Shibutami, Yayoi Kusama, Respite for the Spirit, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo 2004, 282. 6 Rachel Taylor, Yayoi Kusama, Coming to America: Infinity Net Paintings, 1957-1961, Tate Publishing, 2012, 44-45. 7 See Note 6 8 Éric Troncy, Yayoi Kusama, Infinite, 6th Caribbean Biennial, 2001, 61. 9 Alexandra Munroe, Radical Will: Yayoi Kusama and the International Avant Garde, Tokyo: Fuji Television Gallery, 1991. 10 Judith Russi Kirshner, Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama: The Comeback Artist, The Arts Club of Chicago 1997, 3. 11 See Note 7 12 See Note 7 13 Vincent Pécoil, Yayoi Kusama, “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World”, 6th Caribbean Biennial, 50. 14 See Note 13 1 2


Making the Ordinary Extraordinary by Jung Soo Auh Jeff

Koons, a unique contemporary American artist, became popular due to his ability to transform banal objects into fascinating artworks. Koons imbues energy into the inanimate; for example, his stainless steel balloon sculptures, one (see fig 1) of which sold for $58.4 million dollars1 provide a good example of life breathed into the lifeless. The idiosyncratic nature of Koon’s work inspired me to explore and analyze the sculptor’s creations, and to translate the artist’s beliefs and messages, which have helped him claim fame. Koon’s simplicity may arguably cause many to misunderstand the deeper meaning of his work. Furthermore, Koons has made significant contributions to contemporary art; for instance, he reinvented

the definition of ‘Kitsch art’ that symbolizes artworks made using cheap materials, which were considered low class or junk art prior to Koon’s intervention. Koons revolutionized the concept

the second richest artist in the world with a personal wealth of about $500 million.4 Ironically, despite the heavy price tags that make his works out of the reach of most, he remains incredibly popular

Fig 1: Balloon Dog (Orange)2

into something that is now held to a high regard, which veteran arts writer Carol Vogel supports by revealing one of Koon’s works, Balloon Dog (Orange), is “the most expensive work by a living artist sold at auction.”3 Consequently, Koons is now ranked as

with the general public. Therefore, the ultimate goal of this paper is to uncover how Jeff Koons gained and maintains his great fame amongst the general public. Koons showed talent from an early age when he enjoyed mimicking old master paint-

ings, signing them “Jeffrey Koons” and then selling them at his father’s furniture shop. After graduating Maryland Institute College of Art in 1976, he went to New York where he worked on the information desk at the Museum of Modern Art. During this time Koons continued to develop himself as an artist, and finally in the 1980s he earned awareness amongst the general public. Koons was part of an artistic movement that questioned art in a mediasaturated environment. He started a factory system studio which had 30 assistants in SOHO, New York. It was a totally novel way of producing art which Hunt explains “took familiar, everyday items and gave them art status.”5 These everyday items included celebri-


ties, and one famous example was a porcelain figure of Michael Jackson with his chimpanzee (see fig 2) which sold for $5.6 million6. What is clear is that Koons was and has continued to exploit popular culture, and this has enabled him to

plicity and size to grab its audience, and then once captivated, it promotes thought about potential inner messages. Furthermore, Koons has had the ability to transform Kitsch art from something that was considered junk into a machine that

the finished article. This es. Koons supports this shows the reputation he theory by stating that he has built and the brand wanted to “communicate value his name carries with the masses”9 and in the market today. provide them with “conMany agree that fidence and security.”10 Jeff Koon’s ‘Puppy’ (see Prior to Koons, fig 3) from 1992 was the many artists tried to or artwork which ignited simply confused people his fame and reputation. with their artworks due Due to the size their ambiguous natures; and popular- for example, Jackson Polity of this sculp- lack and Richard Sella ture, Koons was used complexity to conable to build his fuse the audience, which worldwide ac- meant that if one does claim. If one not have background glances at this knowledge, they canartwork, it not understand their art might appear world. However, Jeff like a huge col- Koon’s art world is much lection of junk; more open and leaves the however, if one audience capable of makstands back a ing their own interprelittle and takes tations. This style allows 7 a long look, it for a bigger audience and Fig 2: Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculpture represents, in appeals to the masses; as garner fame and money. has generated millions of my opinion, a huge re- with the ability to read Fig 2: Michael Jackson dollars. The term ‘Kitsch’ bellion to the upper class- the art, it is more likely and Bubbles sculpture means playing with Alongside con- mud and also connects necting with popular with the word ‘sketch’, culture, Jeff Koons works which shows that it are generally simplistic in was not even considstyle, yet big and strik- ered main stream art ing. A salient example are in the past. However, the artworks that make Koons revolutionized up his Celebration series, the concept and made which involves sculpt- it popular amongst the ed stainless steel objects masses as well as the that are reflective and upper classes who have shiny. Although seem- spent millions of dolingly simplistic on first lars to be the owners of inspection, Koons sug- his masterpieces. Pergests that his art is “very haps more remarkable metaphysical,”8 which is the fact that many could be a reason why it of Koons’ reactionary captures the attention of artworks were proso many. Compared to duced mostly by his traditional art, I believe assistants at his studio Koon’s work uses sim- with Koons signing Fig 3: Puppy11

to capture their attention. This strategy along with limiting production, helped Koons to attract bigger returns for each of his artworks. Finally, Jeff Koons’ Ballon Rabbit (see fig 4) reiterates how Koons dominated the modern art market. Some might say this artwork is overrated, but that shows naivety in my opinion. From a personal perspective, the shape of the rabbit reminds me of my younger time. Furthermore, I considered how art began and how the civilized and modernized world has eroded its origin. Yet, Koons is the one who went back the origins of art and tried to be as natural as he possibly could. In my opinion, lots of people

comprehended this con- fore, I can conclude by ested in art; therefore, he sciously or unconsciously saying he understands can make artworks that satisfy the general public at large. Jeff Koons has used popular culture, appeal to the masses, simplicity, size and supply limitation to grow very successful, and these are the reasons he will continue to be revered for years to come. Quite simply, he made the ordinary extraordinary.

Fig 4: Balloon Rabbit12

which aided his rise and the psychological status continued fame. There- of people who are inter-

Olivia Waxman “An Orange Balloon Dog Sold for $58.4M So Here Are 10 Other Cool Jeff Koons Balloon Pieces.” Time. Last Modified November 14, 2013, 2 Ibid 3 Carol Vogel “At $142.4 Million, Triptych Is the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold at an Auction.” The New York Times. Last Modified November 12, 2013, bacons-study-of-freud-sells-for-more-than-142-million.html 4 Anon “Top 10 World’s Richest Living Artists.” Design Museum. Last Modified unknown http://www. 5 Jilly Hunt Popular Culture: 1980-1990 (UK: Raintree, 2013), pg. 20. 6 Ibid 7 Anon “Top 10 World’s Richest Living Artists.” Design Museum. Last Modified unknown http://www. 8 Anon “Jeff Koons: Biography” Artsy. Last Modified unknown 9 Anon “Collection Online Jeff Koons: Puppy” Guggenheim. Last Modified Unknown 10 Ibid 11 Ibid 12 Jeff Koons “Balloon Rabbit” Jeff Koons. Last Modified unknown balloon-rabbit 1



Sanborn and Secrets by Katherine Rice Mysteries are inherently interesting, as is art. So, when the two are combined, the result is overwhelmingly intriguing. Washington, D.C. born artist Jim Sanborn works in large exhibition installations. Jim Sanborn’s meticulous works monumentalize the power of the secret, specifically those kept from the citizens by the United States’ government, as seen in his sculptural installations Critical Assembly and Kryptos. Critical Assembly, Sanborn’s recreation of the infamous Los Alamos lab, connects to the artist’s secretive streak through the installation’s content and meticulous creation. Sanborn went into the project wanting to create the sense that the audience was visiting the original lab in which the Manhattan Project developed. To pursue this dream, he searched for original items from the Los Alamos laboratory.1 Choosing this experiment and place as the content of his work was Sanborn’s first act of monumentalizing government secrets in the project. The Manhattan Project during

which the atomic bomb was constructed and tested, was a well-kept government secret. Within Sanborn’s rendition the secret is unveiled. Audience quite literally bear witness to the equipment used to make the Trinity device. With machinery from the original Labs, Sanborn envelops the audience in one of the United States’ best kept secrets. In the installation the walls were covered in blue radium dials set

the Trinity device’s detonation time on July 16, 1945. Around the room lights blinked and meters spun, audience member’s senses were completely engaged as the Geiger counters continuously clicked. Sanborn’s meticulousness mimics the careful nature of secrets in general. Every detail was painstakingly taken into consideration- every movement carefully calculated. By creating an auditory as well as vi-

Jim Sanborn, Critical Assembly, 2003, laboratory equipment, “Atomic Time: Pure Science and Seduction.”

Jim Sanborn, Kryptos, 1990, copper, petrified wood.

sual experience, Sanborn considers the obsessive, engulfing nature of secrets. They take over all aspects of life as the installation takes over every sense. The Critical Assembly experience juxtaposes with the original civilian experience of the Manhattan Project. The general public was blind to the government funded science experiment, but in Sanborn’s laboratory the secret is experienced on every sensory level. In Critical Assembly “the seductive nature of nuclear science is reinforced by the stunningly powerful imagery it can produce”.2 The mystery induced by the glowing scientific apparatus mirrors the intrigue at the center of every secret. Though that core is usually invisible, the Trinity device in Critical Assembly shines, attracting audiences like moths to a flame. Sanborn achieved his desired goal, bringing secrets to the audience’s attention and having experts call Critical Assembly “the most accurate representations ever made of the innards of the first atomic explosive, the Trinity device”.3 In a literal sense,

the original atomic secret of the Manhattan Project was powerful enough to destroy life of all forms. In Sanborn’s authentic recreation, the secret becomes more than a news article to the public- they become a part of the science behind the horrific history. There the audience can be at the heart of a government secret after being shut out for so long. When everyone is in on it, the secret, and the government, holds less power. In 1988 Sanborn was offered $250,000 to create an installation for the C.I.A. headquarters.4 After two years of carving over 2,000 characters out of four curving copper panels, Sanborn installed the “S” shaped Kryptos. The four total panels are divided into two sections- one with a two panel long key and the other with four unique passages, each with their own different encryptions.5 Sanborn’s attention to detail reveals itself

again in his meticulous method of hand carving the characters (which include a combination of 26 characters and a total of four question marks) with a jig saw. When dealing with secrets, every detail is important. Though a key is included people have struggled to solve Sanborn’s secret without help. Over the past decades, Sanborn has received 6 tons of paper pulp consisting of the C.I.A.’s discarded secret documents in return for Kryptos clues.6 Most recently, Sanborn revealed the first 6 letters of the final 97-character passage as BERLIN.7 Sanborn has made the codes as difficult as possible, saying that the final results won’t even make sense: “They will be able to read what I wrote, but what I wrote is a mystery itself. There are still things they have to discover once it’s deciphered. There are things in there they will never discover the true meaning of. People will always

say, `What did he mean by that?’ What I wrote out were clues to a larger mystery”.8 Mystery in fact is a major theme connecting to the institution that the work resides within. The director of the C.I.A. admitted this, saying, “Mr. Sanborn… you have captured much of what this agency is all about. We like to be tested and we enjoy a challenge”.9 Sanborn himself admits that he has purposely spelt words in the codes wrong to increase difficulty.10 Even though these encoded messages hold no relevance to the world, people are obsessed. Sanborn states “Anybody holding a secret has a positon of power, even if it’s a trivial secret”.11 In the contest of Kryptos, Sanborn holds all authority. The public’s obsession with finding the sculpture’s answers- even though the answers may not make sense- proves a secret’s ability to control. In the wrong hands, secrets can

manipulate people into betrayal and violent acts, all in order to be privy to a possibly insignificant piece of information. Like keeping a secret, Sanborn’s methods for both Critical Assembly and Kryptos are meticulous and detail oriented. The content of Critical Assembly, the Los Alamos laboratory, is a powerful secret in and of itself where methods of destruction were developed and tested. The power Sanborn places in his own hands with Kryptos portrays a secret’s ability to manipulate followers. With these sculptural installations, Sanborn warns of the perils of secrets. He is quoted saying “Secrecy is power even if it is just a little something kept from view, buried, so to speak, in the matrix of everyday life”.12

Michael Flynn, “But is it art?” Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists 60 no. 1: 6-8. Yin Ho, “Hidden Information: The Work of Jim Sanborn”, Rhizome, January 26 2012 3 See Note 1 4 Robert M Andrews, “Sculpture With Code Poses Mystery at the CIA Art: Only the designer and the spy agency’s director have the keys to the secret message.”, Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2011. 5 John Schwartz, “Clues to Stubborn Secret in C.I.A.’s Backyard”, The New York Times, 2010. 6 See Note 4 7 See Note 5 8 See Note 5 9 See Note 6 10 See Note 5 11 See Note 5 12 See Note 2 1 2



Challenging our Perception of the Contemporary Art World by Samantha Carpenter For more than twenty years, Vik Muniz has recreated works of art using sugar, chocolate, found objects and other items. Muniz alludes to the image-saturated twenty-first century and suggests that in this new age of contemporary art, nothing is real. Muniz’s belief that all art is artificial is a radical viewpoint that continues to remain

controversial. In his argument, Muniz states that all art is merely a replica of a replica made out of replicas. Through this statement Muniz calls his viewers to reject commercialism and question their surroundings and the effects of mass media’s culture. Muniz employs themes of appropriation, perception, and modernization throughout his

work to define what it means to live in our media-based culture today. Born in 1961, Muniz grew up in São Paulo, Brazil with his family. From a young age he expressed himself through art. In particular his habit of drawing tiny hieroglyphic pictures eventually won him a scholarship to attend an art school6, where he went on to study advertising.1 The influence and background of studying advertising has a direct link to Muniz’s creative process today. Muniz’s constant use of appropriation highlights the way in which the advertising world plays a key role in how Figure 1, Vik Muniz, Marilyn Monroe, Actress, NY City, we view May 6, 1957, After Richard Avedon, 2007, and inChromographic Print, National Gallery of Art


with images. While Muniz considers himself to be an American artist, his use of imagery comes from his experiences in Brazil. Growing up in a country under military dictatorship, Muniz learned to adapt how he created art. Living under this dictatorship, there was a huge mistrust of information out of fear that it had been censored by the government.2 Muniz and many other Brazilians were determined to not let the government stop them from creating meaningful artwork as a result many artists as well as Muniz became resourceful and innovative with how they communicated their message to the public. The use of underlying metaphors, symbols, and double meanings allowed for artists to speak out and voice their opinions without being censored. Muniz’s past has heavily influenced how he creates works today. In some of Muniz’s most recent works his focus has been on the appropriation of iconic images. The pieces Marilyn Monroe, Actress, NY City,


Figure 2, Vik Muniz, New York City, after George Bellows (Pictures of Magazines 2), 2011, Digital C-Print, National Gallery of Art

May 6, 1957, After Richard Avedon (Figure 1) and New York City, after George Bellows (Pictures of Magazines 2), 2011 (Figure 2) are both prime examples as to how Muniz uses appropriation to expose the effects of living in a media based-culture. The work, Marilyn Monroe, Actress, NY City, May 6, 1957, After Richard Avedon is a reconstruction of Richard Avedon’s celebrated and iconic Marilyn Monroe photograph. Marilyn Monroe was seen as an iconic symbol of fame, sex, and glamour. Monroe lived her life in the public eye and as a result the media only showed brief snippets of her luxurious lifestyle. Muniz appropriates this icon by collaging segments of puzzle pieces

together. For Muniz the puzzle pieces showcase all the bits and pieces that the public received from the media about Monroe. Never the full picture Muniz calls out the media for skewing our perception of a Marilyn Monroe’s glamorized lifestyle. This work today hangs at the National Gallery of Art in the collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker. This collection of works includes photographs that have been revolutionary in exploring originality and individuality.4 Another work that encompasses these three themes also hangs at the National Gallery of Art, New York City, after George Bellows (Pictures of Magazines 2), 2011 is a collage that was inspired

by George Bellows 1911 painting of New York. Muniz reinvents this painting by tearing up magazines to make an appropriated collage. He then photographs his collage and prints the image on a gigantic scale.7 Muniz this piece from various collage images that all alludes to the image-saturated twentyfirst century. Muniz’s attitude suggests that in this new age of contemporary art the idea of the copy is very prevalent. Muniz views his art and other works as merely copies of copies, his radical perspective built upon the rejection of originality and ultimate celebration of individuality.3” As an artist expresses their individuality it is essential for the view-

er to understand the artist’s intentions. In order to understand these intentions perception plays a key role in how the artist and audience interact with one another. In this electronic “the immateriality of vehicles connecting people with facts has been dramatically changing the way we perceive reality.”5 This new perception of reality is what drives Muniz’s work and his message to always question one’s surroundings. While visiting the Caribbean Muniz’s created a series called Sugar Children. In this series of work Muniz calls out the big sugar companies and how they have negatively affected the lives of Caribbean children3. Muniz soon realizes that these sugar companies


are removing the sweetness of childhood up by making children work in fields- strenuous and intensive labor that no child should have to endure. Muniz’s critique of big sugar companies ultimately takes form in portraits of children made out of sugar. Secondly, Muniz furthers the viewer’s perception by also exploiting the audience. Bringing awareness to the fact that many viewers use sugar in their daily lives calls his audience to question their biases and perceptions. Muniz employs the theme of perception throughout his works and wants his audience to be aware of the messages behind his work. Muniz hopes that his work can transcend just awareness of the issues today and be captivating enough to prompt his audience to engage and interact directly with these problems.

In our modern day society the media has become increasingly immaterial. The negative result that Muniz points out is that often times we cease to notice the effect of the media’s filters. Alongside this we lose our ability to discern what is real and authentic.5 Muniz learned to become very distrustful of any information he was given growing up in censored Brazil. But his fear has now shifted to mass media culture and its effects.5 Modernization is a theme that is seen in how artists have evolved over the years. Muniz believes that as an artist in this modern society those who create and write their own software and who make their own digital art tools are the most successful.1 As the competition for artists becomes more competitive artists who are innovative and create new

forms of digital art are better able to thrive in this modern and media based society. For Muniz “he questions the nature and traditions of visual representations by ingeniously using unlikely materials to ‘draw’ the subjects of his conventional gelatinsilver prints.6” Through his works Muniz questions the culture and society that surrounds him and his cutting-edge art allows him to easily stand out. Modernization is an ever-present theme in the contemporary art world Muniz hopes to show the relationship between reality and material manipulation and how the media can regularly alter our relationship with our surroundings.5 Muniz’s commitment to the embodiment of appropriation, perception, and modernization throughout his work are informed by his lived experiences of growing

up in Brazil. Through these experiences, Muniz learned to question his surroundings and all information he was given: censorship of art and identity play a crucial role in his work.2 Muniz’s belief that all art is artificial, merely a replica of replicas made out of replicas, is a radical view that calls to question our perception of originality. Ultimately, in his artwork, Muniz invites the audience to reject commercialism and question our image-saturated surroundings. In the contemporary art field Muniz continues to inspire his audiences to challenge the way they view and interact with the world.

Susan Kismaric. “New Photography 13.” MoMA, no. 26 (1997): 22-25. Katz, Vincent, and Vik Muniz. “The Cunning Artificer: An Interview with Vik Muniz.” On Paper 1, no. 4 (1997): 26-31. 3 Kino, Carol. “Where Art Meets Trash and Transforms Life.” The New York Times. 2010. Accessed November 06, 2016. 4 “Photography Reinvented.” The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker. National Gallery of Art, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2016. 5 “Vik Muniz New York City, after George Bellows.” Artsy, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016. 6 Magill, Mark, and Vik Muniz. “Vik Muniz.” BOMB, no. 73 (2000): 28-35. 7 Muniz, Vik. Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer. New York: Aperture, 2005. 8 See Note 6 9 See Note 7 10 See Note 2 11 See Note 1 12 See Note 7 13 See Note 3 1 2


Ai Wei Wei and the Importance of Symbols by Ivan Youov

Ai Weiwei is one of the main Chinese dissidents and a multi-media artist, who fuses traditional Chinese culture with modernity. He does it by using recent events and applies them to traditional art such as theatre of calligraphy, creating new symbols to question the authority of current government of the People’s Republic of China, provoking a response. Weiwei finds inspiration from the evils of the authoritarian regime, which suppresses the individual rights and destroys work of the past, as in architecture and cultural while building up power as posing as irreplaceable. What he does is simply fight back for justice and to keep state at bay before it becomes more aggressive. Ai Weiwei is a Chinese conceptual artist and a dissident, changing the current direction of contemporary art in China. Constructivism and Dadaism influenced his art style he studied in

Beijing Film Academy, pop-art fused constructivism experience from his 1981 to 1993 stay in the USA, and his father’s strong dissident position, aimed on critique of lack of freedom and radical changes. Moreover, Ai Weiwei saw the difference in attitude towards people in 1989 when Tiananmen Square Massa-

mous Chinese poet, who struggled for freedom during Chinese republic and was arrested for criticizing Kuomintang. Later he was exiled during Mao’s rule for same cause of freedom after Hundred Flowers campaign despite being loyal. In his exile, Qing was forced to clean village toilets, which showed a

Ai Weiwei (as assistant), Bird’s Nest Stadium, 2007, concrete

cre and Iran-Contra case were aired on different channel, with one being censored in all state media and the second was broadcasted in public as, accepting mistakes of the past, as seen in biographic film ‘Ai Weiwei: Never sorry’. Weiwei’s father, Ai Qing was a fa-

lesson about state’s oppressive nature based on its attitude to freedom and diversity of opinions, and a dedication to your creation. Ai Weiwei work in variety of art genres, from architecture to musician, working to bring tradition and modernity

together as a completely new symbol. For example, his 2012 play ‘Heaven and Earth’ is done in traditional genre of the Chinese opera with continuous high pitch singing, but takes place in contemporary Chinese court with all the dresses and tables, and is based on imagined tax case and the actors sometimes return to the regular speech. Overall, this bizarre image leads to a critic of the Chinese judicial system, which is under state control and is essentially like a theatre, giving form to state orders to arrest Ai Weiwei in April 2011 on charges of tax evasion. His years in America and father’s experience made him aware of power at different levels, becoming cautious of it. 1995-2003 photo series called ‘Study of Perspective’, where a middle finger of a left hand is seen in focus with some object of power in background. The object could be of any kind of power, political (Tianan-


men), economic (Hong Kong), and cultural (Eifel Tower). By doing this, Ai Weiwei shows the attitude to power as an individual, who is beyond those realms and wants to retain some form of independence, as said by him in an interview to CBC. His resistance to authority made him more of a dissident than a regular artist, as no other artist in China is as harsh, nor as recognizable to the common ear. Another Chinese-known artist Liu

the state, fighting against biggest crime of dictatorship, which is ‘to eradicate human feelings from people’. His real confrontation began after the Sichuan Earthquake in May 2008, when many schools collapsed, killing at least 5385 children, but the government covered the fact of bad quality of schools shifting worldwide attention to the Olympics, where Ai Weiwei participated in creating a Bird’s Nest Beijing National Sta-

to prove his innocence and keep Sichuan school case active. Ai Weiwei later found internal brain bleeding, having a brain scan and operation he later turned into an art ‘Brain Inflation’, which is his brain tomography and a symbol of him experiencing pressure from the state. Later, he was put under house arrest and was imprisoned for 81 days, and who knows about the length had there not been protests both abroad and in Chi-

who exactly is ‘dumbass’? Is it the repressive system, which is ‘ready to strike’ and there is no hold against opponents, who are dumbasses for daring to oppose the system much stronger than any human? Or is it Ai Weiwei himself feels this way about for opposition figures, who believe in peaceful change and transition, being ready to cooperate only to be discarded later? The opening seems more plausible as the lyrics alongside

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995, seies of photographs, Courtesy of Ai Weiwei

Xiaodong simply offers a grievance with his paintings of ‘Three Gorges’ Dam, when people had to relocate from soon to be flooded areas, usually painting the life of modern changing China. Liu Xiaobo, human rights activist and a Nobel Prize in Literature is harder to attract popular attention abroad, as literature takes time to translate and read than other forms of art. Ai Weiwei offers more direct and aggressive confrontation with

dium, using Weiwei’s art to show the glory of the state. He strikes back with ‘Remembering’, a calligraphy made of rucksacks with extract from a letter of parents of one of the girl who perished. The state was furious, prompting to pressure Ai Weiwei for exposing the weak points. Ai Weiwei was beaten by undercover policemen, preventing him from reaching court to help Tan Zuoren, another human right activist,

na, becoming a symbol of struggle himself, which made him arrest a damage on China’s image as rational and efficient governmental machine. After arrest and until July 2015 Ai Weiwei had his passport confiscated, essentially remaining under total surveillance during that period. As a person of strong will and no compromise with totalitarian state, writing a song ‘Dumbass’ in 2013, not being afraid to use harsh words. But

video show the hardships Ai Weiwei experienced, that prison made him another person, and how they can’t break ‘lowlife’, who is standing at the frontline, referencing Weiwei’s active position. The expose of Chinese state’s symbol of dominance serves as an example of the importance of symbols to the public. Even since Communists took power, their leaders argued that ‘destruction is the key to renewal’ , replacing old


Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective series, 1995-2003, series of photographs, Ai Weiwei Studio

imperial Chinese symbols with new reformed. Mao, the architect of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ planned the destruction of old theatres, temples, monuments, and scholars, creating an irreparable damage, desacralized past, becoming the main symbol of China. Even after his death and significant change in economic policies under successor Deng Xiaoping, Mao remained the head figure, which might have had some bad ideas, but mainly was a great person, remaining in mausoleum, continuing the trend of ‘Lenin effect’, as Russia experienced greater change of symbols, as the Soviet Union collapsed, but Lenin still calmly lies in his mausoleum near walls of the Kremlin. So, what is so offensive about Ai Weiwei’s ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’ photo series, where he documents the destruction of

Ai Weiwei, Brain Inflation, 2009, tomography scan/ photography, Ai Weiwei Studio

ancient vase. This performance, immortalized in photography shows the process of this destruction & replacement with similar objects, but without sense, which were built on remains of individuals destroyed work. Overall, ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Vase’ symbolizes destruction and re-urbanization on former ruins of Chinese past intentionally, much harsher than in the USA, as China has millenniums of history instead of centuries buildings existed. Finally, what is important in Ai Weiwei’s symbolism is his ability to question the myth of rationality of Chinese state, breaking ‘revolutionary privilege’, explained in Horvath Robert’s article ““The Solzhenitsyn Effect”: East European Dissidents and the Demise of the ‘revolutionary Privilege’. Ever since the French Revolution, intellectuals embraced


the revolutionary states despite their violent and repressive nature, justifying it on principle of rationality of building a better future, guided by humanistic principles, and therefore, opposed only by reactionaries, who were an acceptable sacrifice for the good of many. Even when those regimes committed horrible atrocities like Holodomor or the ‘Great Leap Forward’, blinded by belief in righteousness of revolutionary struggle. Then in 1972, Solzhenit-

syn broke that illusion, exposing absurd nature of repressions in the Soviet Union, beginning from the foundations, forcing intellectuals to focus on human rights in new regions and to acknowledge ‘revolutionary privilege’ and be more active in keeping non-Western regimes accountable. Ai Weiwei along Liu Xiaobo make similar work, questioning the rationality of totalitarian state, and encourage the rest of the world to influence Chinese government

As demonstrated by looking at Ai Weiwei’s approach to art, which involves cooperation between ancient history of China and contemporary art to create symbols of individualism in current authoritarian People’s Republic of China. Many of his works, such as ‘Remembering’ and ‘Heaven and Earth’ provide a clear attack on state for not taking the proper care in school building security and using ‘non-political cases’ to silence the opposition voices. Ai Wei-

wei mirrors some of the government’s actions, showing the darker sides of revolutionary struggle, which partly continues after the change of economic policies while keeping the old political way of ensuring control by harsh means. Therefore, it makes Ai Weiwei a Solzhenitsyn of China and modernity, keeping the world aware of what China is doing inside, keeping it from becoming more oppressive, as the ‘revolutionary privilege’ starts to wane.

Ai Weiwei, Remembering, 2009, installation from rucksacks(textile), temporary at Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany

1) Notes from lecture ‘Contemporary Asian Art’ CAH 1090A taught by Prof. Lipinski, September 26 2) Wydra Harald, “The Power of Symbols—Communism and Beyond”, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 25.1 (September 2012): 49-69, doi:10.1007/s10767-011-9116-x 3)Minky Wordem, “Ai Weiwei, Art, and Rights in China”, Social Research 83.1 (Spring 2016): 179182,225. 4) Gill Graeme, “‘Lenin Lives’: Or Does He? Symbols and the Transition from Socialism,” Europe-Asia Studies 60.2 (2008), 5)“China artist Ai Weiwei says he regrets designing Beijing Olympics Bird’s Nest,” Telegraph, 5 Mar 2012 6) Horvath Robert, ““The Solzhenitsyn Effect”: East European Dissidents and the Demise of the Revolutionary Privilege,” Human Rights Quarterly 29.4 (Nov 2007): 879-907. 7) Klayman, Alison, Adam Schlesinger, Ilan Isakov, Weiwei Ai, Danqing Chen, and Ying Gao. 2012. “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” 8) Erickson, Britta “Ai Weiwei”, Grove Art Online (22 Sept 2005)


All of Existences Should Be Valued by Zi Ye

Wolfgang Tillmans, one of the photographers who redefined the art of photography in the 21st century, has his unique way of observing the world. Though his works of landscapes, portraitures, and stilllives, Tillmans creates the feeling of triviality and randomness. However, it is also his unusual way of looking at the surroundings that makes Tillmans different. To photographers or even artists, the meaning of an artwork is never shown on the surface but hidden behind the work itself. But where does the meaning comes from? As Tillmans said, “You are free to use your eyes and attribute value to things the way you want. The eyes are a great subversive tool because they technically don’t underlie any control, they are free when used freely.” (Tillmans 2006)1 Thus, the most significant value of an artwork is not about the object itself, the location or the appearance, but about how the artist of the work uses his or her eyes to give meaning to things he or she saw. In

terms of Tillmans, the uniqueness of the way he observes things around him is that he doesn’t usually look at those socalled eternities and classics but rather pays attention to things that are spontaneous and fleeting. Wolfgang Tillmans uses his photographs to declare that all the things that exist should be valued equally no matter how insignificant they seem. As Tillmans stated that eyes should be used freely, the works done by Tillman never fall into any social rules or restrictions. He saw something meaningful, understood it and then recorded it by using his camera. For instance, in his work anti-homeless device 2000, the objects in the picture are simply a homeless person and a luggage cart typically using in airports or train stations. The homeless person lies, possibly asleep, on the concrete ground beside the cart, with two legs twisted together and his body curled up. The cart is a commonly pointed cart with a triangular and inclined base which is designed for passengers

Anti-homeless Device, 2000, c-type print

to transport their luggage conveniently. The two objects, a homeless person and a luggage cart, are not unusual at all. Even when the two appear together, it might also be a normal scene ignored by people who pass by them every day. Just like the two people who are walking forward from the left edge of the picture who will possibly just walk by this scene without any emotional change. However, things are different in Tillmans’s eyes. From one perspective, the combination of two normal objects in his mind should also be valued and must have

some meaning behind them. In Tillmans’s understanding, the scene is critical and sarcastic. Thus he titled the photograph anti-homeless device. The convenience of carts is only entitled to a particular group of people in society, but on the other hand, the design of the carts is unintentionally adverse to homeless people. From another perspective, the photographs reflect the unreasonable things that still exist in our society. Indeed, the development of society is shown in many ways around us, but that’s not enough. The photograph itself might


be regarded as meaningless by some people since it’s just a coincidence of combination. However, Tillmans catches the incidental moment and as he once said, “I never underestimate the importance of the fleeting moment; potentially a good thing can happen at any time and only reveal its full relevance over the course of time.” (Tillmans and Tate gallery (Londres). Ed 2003)2 All the existences should not be ignored. Tillmans did not ignore them. Furthermore, one of the representative works of Tillmans, untitled (La Gomera), conveys an entirely different subject. The photograph appears strange or even absurd and the audience can’t clearly understand what is happening in the scene. The main focus is two men who are crawling on the beach and creating a mysterious pattern on the sand, and a white dog who is running behind them, following the pattern they created. While searching for clues of what is happening in the picture, audiences might then notice the

small back shadows of meaningfulness might If One Thing Matters, another man and a dog not refer to the purpose Everything Matters] is all on the top left corner of of the activity happen- about the audacity implicit in the attempt to make a map of my world, something that can never be drawn or defined.”3 Also, extended from the photographs Tillmans took, he also preferred to arrange his photography exhibition by himself for many years. As Adrin described after he saw Tillmans ’s exihibition, “When we encounter these images, they are already mobile objects that have gone through processes of construction, framing, dislodging and re-inscription in exhibition contexts and global networks.”4 (Adrin 2014, 377-392) Even the arrangement and installation are treated seriously Untitled (La Gomera), 1997, c-type print by Tillmans which also the photo who are walk- ing in the scene but rath- demonstrates the strong ing away. The composi- er to the atmosphere it beliefs Tillmans holds tion and the color of the brings, the strong myste- not only when he takes picture convey a sense of rious feeling the picture photos but also in the harmony, and the ratio gives to the audience. way he deals with all the and position of sea, sand, Beyond the two details that are relevant. and rocks in the picture works above, all of Till- Tillmans uses his way to form a beauty of sym- mans’s photographs seem make the audience folmetry at the same time. to not have a fixed top- low his guide and go Tillmans took the picture ic or rules. The reason into his unique world. in a perfect moment and might be what Tillmans Over there, all existences made a seemingly absurd explained in an inter- have meanings, and all action meaningful. The view, “...[the exhibition things are valued equally.

Tillmans, Wolfgang, Julie Ault, Daniel Birnbaum, Russell Ferguson, Dominic Molon, and et al. Wolfgang Tillmans. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2006 2 Tillmans, Wolfgang and Tate gallery (Londres). Ed. If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters. London: Tate Publishing, 2003. 3 Blank, Gil, and Tillmans, Wolfgang. “Gil Blank and Wolfgang Tillmans in Conversation”, Influence, Issue 2 (2004): 110 -121 4 Adrin, Francisco-J Hernndez. “Wolfgang Tillmans’ Still Islands.” Third Text 28, no. 4 (Jul, 2014): 377392. 1


The Duality of Reality by Emily Recko Even though it may only take a split second to take a photograph, the impact of such images can stay with us forever. Think of Dorthea Lange’s Migrant Mother or Steve Mccurry’s Afghan Girl. These two examples take a more journalistic approach to photography, but this medium can be used in other ways. Artist Sandy Skoglund takes a conceptual approach to photography to create surrealist work. Sandy Skoglund utilizes installation photography to showcase tableaux which straddle a thin line between imagination and reality, forcing viewers to slow down and confront the bizarreness of mundane objects. Sandy Skoglund was born in 1946 in North Weymouth, Massachusetts, where she lived for six years. Skoglund’s family moved around on the East Coast before settling in Anaheim, California, where Skoglund went to high school1. At Smith College, Skoglund studied studio art, history, and fine art and graduated in 1968. She then went on to the University of Iowa, where she earned

her MA in 1971 and her MFA in 1972. After graduate school, Skoglund worked in New York as a conceptual artist and then turned to photography in 19782. Skoglund’s process can hardly be described as ordinary. She creates all of the props for her installations herself. Linda Muehlig, Smith College’s curator of Skoglund’s 1998 retrospective Reality Under Siege, comments: “rather than merely seeking the end product, Skoglund needs to explore the process of her work ... In the large color photograph Walking on Eggshells (1997), the artist learned how to fabricate and cast in paper to create the toilet, bathtub, and basin.”3 Skoglund creates scenes using resin sculptures, food, ceramics, and live models. A few of her photographs feature unconventional

materials, such as ground beef, cheese doodles, popcorn, and eggshells. Once the scene is created, Skoglund photographs it, producing a tableau. Of her process, Skoglund notes that it seems backwards. In an interview with Lois Tarlow for Art

other artists who create sculptures from photographs. Her process also illuminates some of the themes behind her work, such as the mixing of imagination and reality. Skoglund mixes these two seemingly unrelated concepts by using a pro-

Figure 1, Sandy Skoglund, Radioactive Cats, 1980

New England, Skoglund states “I have read that the photographs generally come first. Well, the sculpture has to be done for the photograph to exist ... I look at them as mirror images of each other. They are about the duality that is reality.”4 Skoglund describes her process and how it may seem backwards to

cess that forces viewers to slow down and take a closer look. The objects in Skoglund’s tableaux are ordinary, but the way in which she places them creates a juxtaposition. Skoglund’s process also combines reality and imagination. Her subjects are often mundane objects, but the process of photography is “unnatu-


ral”. Skoglund notes her work takes into account “this relentless staring eye of the camera in all its pervasiveness and in all its unnaturalness. I’m using the word “natural” to mean how people see the world. We don’t see the world that way. Our eyes are moving constantly, so it’s very unnatural to have that stare placed on the world.”5 Because our eyes are always moving, photography by nature is abnormal. Skoglund attempts to change the way people see the world through her artwork. Her staged scenes depict her subject frozen in limbo. In this way, by depicting stillness, Skoglund changes our perception and begs us to examine the peculiarity of her tableaux. Skoglund’s work harkens back to the Pop art movement. In the article “Sandy Skoglund” for ArtForum International, Kyle Macmillan writes “Taking her cue from the exploding consumer culture of the 1960s and ‘70s and inspiration from, among other elements of firstwave Pop ... Skoglund

describes herself as a “post-Pop” artist, seeking beauty in the seemingly banal.”6 Skoglund is heavily influenced by the Pop Art movement, which mocks materialism. Pop Art also mimics advertisements, and Skoglund incorporates this into her work. The stillness of her tableaux is similar to the stillness

rendered in perfect detail”7 Much like advertisements are used to showcase ordinary objects, so does Skoglund’s work. Ads use techniques to show the grandiosity of the object being advertised, and Skoglund uses these same techniques to show the fantasy of the subjects of

Figure 2, Sandy Skoglund, Fox Games, 1981

of advertisements from her photographs. In this mid-century America. way, Skoglund’s inspiraSkoglund incorporates tion becomes her process. this into her work, saying: Skoglund’s most famous work, Radioactive “We, who saw television in Cats, depicts an elderly the fifties and saw the be- couple with their backs ginning of the advertising to the viewer (see Figaesthetic as it developed in ure 1). The couple is clad the sixties, have that look in in grey clothes to match our unconscious. Nowadays, their grey surroundings. advertising is imitating fine The woman reaches into art, so that the strategy is a refrigerator while a man no longer so single-minded. is seated at the table. The In the early days, it was pair seem oblivious to the very airless, everything multitude of bright green was in sharp focus and cats invading the scene.

The cats sit on the refrigerator, jump on the table, and knock over a chair, all to the unawareness of the couple. The scene has almost a tired feel to it: the man is leaning over in his chair and the woman is hunched over looking in the fridge. Ironically, the inanimate plaster cat sculptures seems to be the only element of life in this tableau. The contrast of life and stillness invoke a sense that something is missing- the woman is searching for something in the refrigerator and the cats seem to be exploring their surroundings in search of something as well. However, the man and women seem to be at the end of their search, while the cats seem to be at the beginning. Perhaps what the couple is searching for is new life, yet they are totally oblivious to the lively cats surrounding them. Skoglund’s Fox Games has a similar theme of animals disrupting everyday life (See Figure 2). Like Radioactive Cats, the scene in Fox Games is grey and drab. A lone couple sits at a table in an empty restaurant while

a waiter stands by them with their food. The only color in this scene is in the form of vermillion orange epoxy resin foxes, which are jumping around the restaurant and play-fighting. There is one lone grey fox in the center of the scene who does not engage in the other foxes’ antic but instead seems to be observing. The foxes bring a sense of playfulness to the drab and formal dining scene. Again, the humans in the scene are oblivious to the animals, similar to how adults can be oblivious to children’s sense of wonder and playfulness. The formality of this dining scene is contrasted with the friskiness of the foxes, adding a sense of life and intrigue to an otherwise boring scene. Walking on Eggshells seems to be in contrast with Skoglund’s other works (see Figure 3). Instead of featur-

ing a monochromatic scene with a punch of color, Walking on Eggshells feature hues of golden browns. Two nude women face away from the camera in this scene depicting a bath-

the figure have already stepped. Surrounding the figures are epoxy resin snakes and hares, and the walls are decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Because the women are nude and in a bathroom

Figure 3, Sandy Skoglund, Walking on Eggshells, 1997

room. One women is climbing into a bathtub while the other stands by a sink. The two are taking large exaggerated steps to avoid crunching the eggshells, however we can see imprints of footprints in the eggshells indicating where

together, the viewer can extrapolate some kind of intimate, possibly romantic, connection. The title is a phrase that implies speaking and acting carefully so as not to offend someone, so the meaning behind this piece could be the taboo

subject of lesbian love. Just as the women in this scene are walking carefully so as not to break the eggshells, society walks carefully around the subject of queerness to avoid confronting it. Sandy Skoglund hopes to liberate the imagination with her work.8 In an age where science and technology is on the rise, the need for fantasy thinking seems to be declining. However, Skoglund contradicts that with the whimsy of her artwork. Her work proves that images that stay with us forever do not have to be raw moments captured impulsively solely for the purpose of journalism, Instead, imaginative scenes can be just as lasting. These scenes inspire us to dream, push the boundaries of reality, and see a little magic in the world that we hadn’t seen before.

Lois Tarlow. “Sandy Skoglund.” Art New England, October/November 1998, 25. “Sandy Skoglund.” Famous Photographers. Accessed December 07, 2016. 3 Paul Bloomfield. “Sandy Skoglund: Radioactive Cats.” Art New England, August/September 2008, 39. 4 Lois Tarlow 5 Ibid. 6 Kyle Macmillan. “Sandy Skoglund.” ArtForum International, April 2012, 218. 7 Tarlow 8 PBS Video. Accessed December 07, 2016. 1 2



David LaChapelle’s Spiritual ‘Rebellion’ by Emiliana Hedderich Photographer, music video and film director David LaChapelle, is one of the most modern and original artists of contemporary art. LaChapelle had never been more sure in his life about what he wanted to do, than when he first picked up a camera and had a sense of the artist he would become later in his life. After being recruited by Andy Warhol, he began exploring his

dozens of pieces from 1995 to 2005, LaChapelle changed his focus and vision on his art. His early art was plentiful in nudity, religion, fashion, artistic icons and celebrities; and his new art shares some of these features too, except for the bareness of the ones being photographed and the fashion sense he gave to his photographs. David LaChapelle shifted from skin, fashion and mate-

with a strong, but deliberate, dose of kitsch. Magazines rebelled, but so did the photographer, making a break with the fashion sphere that lead him to a much happier place – art.”1 The professional artist sees his art as a form of visual language; he believes in a visual communication that should be as strong as the spoken language. Throughout his work, he has gone beyond the

formal composition of the work of art, or some might focus on both but give more importance to one, rather than giving equal importance to both. David LaChapelle considers the conceptual meaning of a piece as important as the formal and material composition of it, specially right in this fine art period of transition where his interest focused on aesthetics and conceptualism. “The

David LaChapelle, Deluge, 2006, chromogenic print, After The Deluge, Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

imagination and creativity to create his own work and to grown and experience different kinds of perspectives throughout his career, which led him to where he is today. After creating

rialism to just clothes, aesthetics and conceptualism after “Deluge”. “LaChapelle’s style grew graphic, using sex, fetishism, and taboo as a part of his usual language, along

material world to appreciate more the conceptual meaning of art itself. Every artist around the world creates their art focusing on a conceptual idea or setting the spotlight on the

clarity of the images is very important, not just in terms of the actual image being free of grain or pixels or how exactly I want it technically, but also clarity of purpose, of meaning, clarity of the

concept or what I want to communicate. That’s equally important. Along with that is the balance of the aesthetics, the way things look, the beauty of them.”2 The incredible portrayal of surrealism and pop art, the craft art, the lighting, the engaging colors contrasted with the human body compliment the deep meaning

spired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, although the similarities between the surreal scene and the Renaissance painting on the ceiling of the Vatican Chapel are small. It is characterized by its vast number of nude models posing in different styles, meaning this is one example of the pre-Deluge period. The photograph

when it becomes completely unbalanced, then you’re living a decadent life. And when that happens on a global scale, you’re living in a decadent world. This mass obsession with owning things… I’m questioning those values.”3 The conceptual meaning of the image is displayed by the engaging happening

world-famous photographer, and provides you with a visual reference that marks the end of one artistic period and the beginning of another.”4 “After the Deluge: Cathedral”, is a chromogenic print produced in 2007, which marked the beginning of the artist’s turning point. The differences between the

David LaChapelle, After the Deluge: Cathedral, 2007, chromogenic print, After The Deluge, Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

behind the masterpieces. Both “Deluge” and “Cathedral” are art works that visually communicate the formal and conceptual differences between the two periods, the before and the after of David LaChapelle’s transition from 2006 and forward. The “Deluge”, is a major art work finished in 2006 and in-

wants to transmit what humans are capable of; the lack of kindness, patience and empathy towards others; the loss of spiritual values; and the gain of material attachment people living on earth are now experiencing. “We use fashion for status and to beautify and there’s nothing wrong with that, but

created with an incredible scenery that makes it look more realistic; the amazing colors such as the intense green also makes the scene more extreme and fierce so the message David is trying to transmit can be better understood. The masterwork made a colossal impact on the observers that “…introduces you to this

first work of art discussed and this one are quite noticeable. In Cathedral the models wear clothes, but not the typical fashion statements LaChapelle used to make in his early works, but simple clothes. Religion is too, an evident characteristic that describes the scene. One of the most remarkable attributes and one



that cannot go unnoticed is the lighting in it and how all the scenery is amazingly well positioned so the photograph can look exactly as what the artist wants to transmit, which is something majestic and mysterious. David LaChapelle’s work in “Cathedral” is so impeccable it makes you question how deep the meaning is being represented. “…fear, death, the meaning of the existence itself, the presence of the divine and the idea of the sublime. With the ideas as his driving force, revisiting style and contents, he has become one of the most important interpreters of all time, and he creates images with an extraordinary evocative strength.”5 LaChapelle produces his photographs and films by making the work of art a narrative and an engaging story worth knowing of. The transition after the “Del-

uge” marks the end of an artistic period and the beginning of another one. The end of commercial photography and the comeback of fine art photography. The decrease of the material world and the increase of the conceptual world. “LaChapelle pushed his aesthetics to the limit, but in 2006 walked out on the fashion scene. He turned away from the worldliness in order to live in a wild island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…”6. He made the most of his career as a commercial photographer, only to prepare for this new conceptual fine art beginning.

Ana Bambic Kostov, “David LaChapelle’s Erotica”, Widewalls. 2 LaChapelle Studio, “David LaChapelle For Artishock: “Your Intuition Is Your GPS”. Last modified September 7, 2015. Accessed November 17, 2016. 3 Elizabeth Day, David LaChapelle: ‘Fashion, beauty and glamour are the mark of civilisation’, theguardian, February 18, 2012. 4 Margaux MacNeil, David LaChapell “After The Deluge”, Romeing, June 19, 2015. http://www.romeing. it/david-lachapelle-exhibition-rome/ 5 Palazzo Reale, David LaChapelle, September, 2017. palazzo-reale-museum/?ss=video 6 Art Limited TEAM, After the Deluge, Art Limited, July 17, 2015. david-lachapelle-after-the-deluge-palazzo-delle-esposizioni-rome-exhibition/en/7582694 1


The Process of Becoming by Layla Saad

“I’m back here again, y’all,” sighed contemporary artist Mel Chin, glancing down at the stage of the Armand Hammer Auditorium at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C. “I was standing right here twenty seven years ago when a group of students and I made Forgetting Tiananmen . . . It was very political and I remember the backlash against me for doing it, but the students needed me and it was important; and I remember sending them to re-do the wreaths because they weren’t well made. In the end, the wreaths were covered in plaster, broken. Who cares what they look like? But sometimes it’s about the memory, the thought and care put into things. Memorializing. If you don’t care enough to do it right, why should

I care to be here?”1 The performance-cum-sculpture, Forgetting Tiananmen (1989, Fig. 1), that Chin referenced during his talk at the Corcoran, is comprised of three plaster slabs that were the end result of a performance

in their towering rigidity and rectilinear structure. The off-white surface is covered in stains, a combination which references antiquity, while the hollow circular indentations at the top of each slab hints at loss. Another sculp-

Figure 1, Forgetting Tiananmen, 1989, hydrostone, steel, calla lily, pine, daisy, carnation plants 80 x 30 W x 6 inches each

with students. The sculptures were created on stage through a ritualistic process in which the students created beautiful flower wreaths, cast them in plaster, and smashed the casts open with hammers. These six and a half foot slabs stand tall, intimidating

ture by Mel Chin that shares three very important tra its with Forgetting Tiananmen is the monumental Cabinet of Craving (2012, Fig. 2). This sculpture addresses addiction, with specific references to Opium addiction, the Opium War, and both symbolic and

literal connections between England and China. At slightly over 14 feet tall, this dark brown, carved wooden spider looms above the viewer, reinforcing thoughts of inevitability and growing influence. The carving on the face of the spider combines features from a Chinese taotie mask with a bulldog that wraps around to join with the abdomen, a bowed glass cabinet housing an antique 19th century porcelain tea set and silver tray. Although initially, a hulking, carved arthropod and flat blocks of plaster seem to share very few commonalities, these works are far more related than is obvious. In these two sculptures, we see evidence of three key truths about Mel Chin: he is equally concerned with the craft (materials,


process, and quality) as with the concept (intellectual foundation) of his work; every artwork he produces has an underlying theme of ‘memory’; and he cannot disconnect his identity from what he produces, thus imparting a large portion of his identity into his work.

ed something to the best calla lilies signify rebirth, lists the wood as “white of your ability, as well a staple belief in much of oak,” however, he is so as respecting the pro- the East; light red carna- concerned with “doing cess of memorialization.3 tions represent admira- it right”4 that he worked Memory is the pri- tion, while white ones specifically with English mary theme in this work, symbolize innocence. white oak, from England. and the crafting process To that point, he has reflects this on a struc- Cabinet of Craving commented “Sometimes tural level; the wreaths C o n c e p t u a l l y , it has nothing to do with physically changed the this sculpture is focused concept or statement or structure of the sculp- on addiction with spe- symbolism, it’s just all ture’s foundation, much cific reference to Opium, about the actual, physical Forgetting Tiananmen like memories as they England, and China, process of working the The concept of leave behind their signa- and remembering the material. That’s the statethis work ment right is twofold; there, even memorialif no one izing the ever knows. events at Don’t tell Tiananmen anyone, just Square in let it be. China, and Covert.”5 standing as This sculpa physical ture also representadeals with tion of cerMel Chin’s tain actions personal by the Chiconnection nese govto Opium ernment. addiction The craft through an and process uncle he reof creating calls from Figure 2, Cabinet of Craving, 2012, white oak, antique English bone ware this work childhood (circa 1843), footed silver tray, steel, pigmented dye, shellac, 9 x 14 x 14 feet reinforced whom no the concept one in his and re-enacted many ture. Mel Chin’s heritage struggle. Every aspect of family would mention. ‘conceptual keywords’ is Chinese, and this work the material construc- As he grew older, Chin surrounding the historic incorporates a significant tion and process mani- struggled to reconcile his event, such as beauty, life, aspect of his identity. fests his concept, from feelings about the man fragility, “government Many of the elements in the face carving which who had become a taboo, crackdowns”, weight, vi- this sculpture not only fuses Eastern and West- a forgotten memory. olence, death, and “动乱 cater specifically to the ern styles and symbolism, Chin says the sculpture (dong luan)”2. Regard- events of Tiananmen to the acquisition and illustrates how addiction ing his insistence that Square, but speak to Chi- use of country specific can “pop up out of nothe wreaths were made nese rituals and beliefs, and historically impor- where, unexpected and “right”, Mel Chin says such as wreaths which tant material like English monstrous” – an everythat the motivation was are the floral elements at white oak. The wood is a day piece of furniture, about the personal em- traditional Eastern fu- perfect example of Chin’s now black and looming. powerment that comes nerals, or the meanings practice regarding craft; Through the with knowing you creat- behind the flowers used: on his website, he simply concept which draws

influence from both his Eastern heritage and his Western upbringing, and his use of the sculpture as a quasi-memorial to his uncle’s struggles with addiction, and his own pursuit to crack the wall of silence surrounding him, Chin imbues this work with the distinct color of his identity. Memories Craft the Concept of Identity Just as Mel Chin cannot escape his identity, his identity cannot escape his memories; past experience (and “the past” as an entity itself) crafts the future self. Perhaps the dual nature of his identity cultivated his ability to understand the necessity of both concept and craft, and to build each work upon this foundation. Linda Weintraub says that Mel Chin dispels long held notions of art and frequently challenges the ways in which “... the merits of a work of art are often judged,” through his concepts, but also his dedication to

craft and process. Hyperallergic writer John d’Addario comments “For some conceptual artists, art is less about the objects that are produced than the ideas and processes involved in creating them. But Chin is no barren theorist. . . . Chin is so routinely referred to as a “conceptual artist” that it’s easy to forget how appealing (and occasionally gorgeous) his work can be.”7 John Ruskin wrote that a successful artist paints that which he has experienced and that which he remembers;8 Chin’s work embodies this concept and takes it one step further. The balance of equality of concept and craft, memory, and identity defines Mel Chin’s work as much as it defines him as an artist. As Mel Chin himself says “Most people think when they graduate school they’ll ‘be an artist’.... I’m still in that process of becoming.” 6

Mel Chin, “And You Will Never Know” (Artist’s Talk, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, October 26, 2016) 2 动乱 (dong luan) is a term associated with Tiananmen Square, meaning “turmoil / chaos / unrest” 3 Mel Chin in discussion with the author, November 2016 4 See Note 1 5 Layla Saad, “Personal Communication with Mel Chin” (Lecture Series, Washington, DC, August-December 2016) 6 Linda Weintraub, Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art’s Meaning in Contemporary Society, 1970s-1990s (Litchfield: Art Insights, Incorporated. 1996), 48 7 John d’Addario, “Mel Chin’s Media Hacks and Conceptual Beauty” Hyperallergic (March 3, 2014) 8 John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, Volume 7 (London: G. Allen. 1905) 1



The Intersection of Art and Spectacle by Rebecca Melville

A 1,650 foot-tall tion time at dusk, this time erworldly experience. as “painting in the cosladder held aloft by a giant the ladder rose toward the Sky Ladder (2015) mos3.” The experimentaballoon and rigged with morning sun, carrying hope. represents a pinnacle of tion with these mediums, explosives floats high in Guo-Qiang’s work mix- however, has always been the purple morning twi- Much of Guo-Qiang’s ing spectacle, history, an examination of Guolight above the waters of work follows an ap- and a narrative together. Qiang’s Chinese heritage Quanzhou, China. The proach similar to Born in Quanzhou, the through the significance massive sculpture ignites, Sky Ladder (2015). work is his personal hom- of fireworks and guncreating a magnifipowder historically cent fiery vision that in Chinese culture. majestically ascends The firework ladthe heavens. This der begins in the sea is the Sky Ladder and moves upward (2015), Cai Guointo the sky as each Qiang’s most ambiunit of firework is tious, meticulously ignited and catacrafted, and continlyzes the next set. uously refined projBy moving upwards ects since the beginin this way, Guoning of his career in Qiang creates a tan1 1986 . Guo-Qiang gible bond between has attempted the the earth and the project three other heavens that signitimes, first in Bath fies the connection in 1994, then in between “individuCai Guo-Qiang, Sky Ladder, fireworks, realized at Huiyu Island HarShanghai in 2001, als and the unibour, Quanzhou, Fujian, June 15, 2015 at 4:49 am, approximately 2min and then in Los verse4.” The work and 30sec. Photos by Lin Yi & Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio. 2 Angeles in 2012 . was performed in Upon the successful reThough he works age to his home where the early morning with alization of this project, with immersive sculp- important figures in his only a small crowd of Guo-Qiang was elated: ture and wall art as well, life such as his father and friends and family to witGuo-Qiang’s focus on grandmother once lived. ness the display itself, emMy earlier proposals were fireworks and gunpow- Guo-Qiang’s use of fire- phasizing the emotional either more abstract or cer- der as a medium allows works and gunpowder uniqueness of his piece; a emonial. Sky Ladder today him to tell a compel- began as an exploration piece that he struggled to is tender, and touches my ling, emotional narra- of explosives on a can- create for most of his life. heart deeply: it carries af- tive that incorporates his vas and eventually trans- The deep intimacy of fection for my hometown, own love for his Chinese formed to a more perfor- Sky Ladder (2015) sets it my relatives and my friends. heritage while cultivat- mative exploration of art apart from most of GuoIn contrast to my other at- ing an ethereal, evoca- through actual firework Qiang’s other works, tempts, which set the igni- tive, emotional, and oth- displays that he refers to which are often viewed

by many individuals at a time, and often characterized as spectacles. Cai Guo-Qiang was commissioned to create One Night Stand (2013), a collection of conceptual pyrotechnic images pertaining to the romantic history of France. His work was presented in a three part series of fireworks presenting love and passion in metaphorical eruptions, though some were more literal, as dem-

balance art and spectacle as “challenging the status quo” of art because it so borders entertainment. This aside, Guo-Qiang’s use of technology to precisely time when and how his fireworks will go off6 represents the collision of an ancient art form with modern technology. Regardless of whether or not it is considered a spectacle or an art piece, the harmonious marriage of these two forms under-

a fifteen-minute show of fireworks that begin as two separate entities and end as one unified continuous explosion of color and cascading sparkles. The separation and eventual togetherness of the fireworks mimics the emotional and physical escalation of two lovers that culminates in an overwhelmingly brilliant display that can only be described as orgasmic. By doing so, Guo-Qiang cultivates an experience

tion represents more than just the transformation of a readymade; it is reclamation and a statement. It is reclamation in the sense that Guo-Qiang uses an ancient art particular to his own heritage to underscore beliefs of his heritage; breathing new artistic life into it that transforms it from its conventional western use as a form of celebration. The use of the firework is also a statement because Guo-Qiang combines

Cai Guo-Qiang, One Night Stand: Explosion Event for Nuit Blanche, fireworks, realized on October 5 on the Seine River, Paris, France, 2013, Photo by Thierry Nava

onstrated in the image above. Works like this are classified more as “pop art merging with entertainment5” because the grandeur of his displays, which often draw large crowds. In his documentary, Sky Ladder, the Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, Guo-Qiang’s friends and partners in the art world describe his struggle to

scores a deeper connection between the old and the new to create something uniquely beautiful. Visually, his fireworks in One Night Stand (2013) are used to accentuate and emphasize the beauty of other pieces during the show, as well as standalone pieces themselves. The opening display features

that is emotional and comprehensible to viewers, even those who have not experienced love, romance, or unabashed sex. Guo-Qiang is a noteworthy artist because of his re-imagination of the ancient Chinese art of fireworks. His reconceptualization of the firework for art rather than just celebra-

deep Chinese tradition with new technology. If one is to derive any singular meaning from GuoQiang’s work, it is harmony: harmony of color and space, emotion and spectacle, old and new.

Artist’s Bio, Cai Guo-Qiang. Retrieved from Cacchione, Orianna. “Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder.” Yishu International (Taipei) (Nov. 2012), pp. 103109. 3 Yurko Saito (2011). The Aesthetics of Emptiness: Sky Art. Society and Space pp. 502 4 See Note 2 5 Fisher, Stevens, Murdoch, Wendi Deng, Shong, Hugo, 2016. Sky Ladder. United States, Netflix 6 See Note 5 1 2



The State of Obliteration & Its Role in Yayoi Kusama Mirror Rooms by Carolyn Shipe For centuries, the world and the highest regarded scholars and philosophers believed earth was the center of the universe and that a end existed to it as well. In 1929 an astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is ever expanding, destroying the geocentric thinking that had existed and proving the minuscule scale of humans compared to the infinite universe. In a modern society, where individuals can feel like the center of the universe due to social-media, it is rare to find an artist or person to challenge the egotistical ideology and make a viewer feel obliterated, causing them to disappear or become imper-

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room Pumpkin, Room with mirrors and paint, 1991.

ceptible1. Yayoi Kusama examines the state of obliteration in her installations Mirror Room (Pumpkin) and Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away: creating an environment for viewers to challenge their understanding of existence, through the use of light, material and structure. T h e eighty-seven year old and short statured Japanese multimedia artist, Yayoi Kusama is the image of the avant-garde movement and one to bring multi-dimensional meaning to her works of art. Growing up in a complicated home environment, Kusama developed childhood hallucinations that en-

compassed images and patterns of the universe, which she would practice and evolve for years2. Kusama’s work ethic has motivated a greater consciousness of the her own death and the value of art3. While creating her works of art, Kusama has been found to enter a state

Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away light is used more than just to illuminate a space. Specifically in Mirror Room (Pumpkin), Kusama uses light to create a vignette around the pumpkins located in the inner room. These shadows create a

the role of stars, viewers are immersed in the realistic portrayal of infinite stars, which distracts from the body and personhood in the room. Lighting would not have accomplished as much success exploring the state of obliteration within both works, without

101 repeated pattern of the pumpkins placed on the grounds that seems to go on forever, due to no visible and definite ending. With no for seeable end, the viewer can question the scale their own self plays in the infinite space, creating a feeling of disappearing. That same

Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013, 113 1/4 x 163 1/2 x 163 1/2 in, wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water

of obliteration, meaning that she reaches a point while working that she becomes so involved and obsessed4. The state of obliteration becomes a consistent theme in other aspects of her works of art than just process, like the use of light. In Kusama’s participatory works, Mirror Room (Pumpkin) and

dark and infinite horizon to the repeated polka dot pumpkins. The darkness of the infinite horizon creates a disappearing and removing feeling to the participants and viewers. In Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away light accomplishes to realistically portray the stars in space. By taking

Kusama’s use of material. By reflecting mirrors on each other, creating an infinite pattern, Kusama makes use of one of her favorite processes, repetition, while touching on Edwin Hubble’s theory of an infinite universe. As a viewer places their head in the viewing spaces, in Mirror Room (Pumpkin), they see a

repetitive nature of the mirrors is used in Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, instead creates a realistic depiction of the never ending universe. As the viewer looks into the never ending mirrors, the undeniable association to the universe is felt, creating another disappearing act.

102 The room and box like structure of both works, helped further contextualize the feeling of obliteration, which was a strong choice by Kusama. As someone who has been able to participate in one of Kusama’s piece, the structure is one of the strongest aspects of the two works. In Mirror Room (Pumpkin), the viewer enters a room covered in a repeated polka dot pattern, then drawn further to a box shape opening on another structure. As the viewer looks into the hole, the mirror room with polka dot pumpkins can be seen. The act of entering a room to then partly enter another gives the feeling of Russian Nesting Dolls, collapsing the viewer into the space. While, Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away lets the viewer entered the room, follow a carpet path that ends in the center. When the viewer enters the room, with all mirrored surfaces and no

visible door, the realistic nature of the infinite universe is taken a step further. From my own experience of visiting The Broad museums Yayoi Kusama work in 2015, I looked around 360 degrees and felt immersed in the infinite feeling. The Broad’s piece attracted many more viewers from across the world, like the singer Adele. In a video interview, Adele mentions she “felt like standing in that room for an hour, I saw things in myself and of myself that I haven’t noticed before,” a type of revelation that might have only been accomplished with the preceding feeling of obliteration5. Kusama is able to lead viewers to a type of spiritual revelation, when she examines the state of obliteration. Though Mirror Room (Pumpkin) and Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, were created more than a decade a part, Kusama has the ability to adapt her decades long use of

repetition and examine complicated philosophical ideas like the state of obliteration, through her use of light, material and structure.

“Obliterate.” Accessed December 6, 2016. dictionary/obliterate. 2 Keehan, Reuben. “Yayoi Kusama: TENACIOUS BEAUTY.” Flash Art International 45, no. 285 (July 2012): 67-69. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2016). 3 CORKILL, EDAN. “Yayoi Kusama.” Artasiapacific no. 83 (May 2013): 207-210. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 4, 2016). 4 See Note 3 5 Kale, Sirin. “Adele Performs inside a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrored Room.” Dazed. March 5, 2016. Accessed November 5, 2016. performs-inside-ayayoi-kusama-infinity-mirrored-room. 1


An Unbelievable Mind by Sam Gardner Gerhard Richter, an artist who is thriving and also still living, sells most of his works throughout Europe and occasionally the United States. He was born on February 9th, 1932 in Dresden-Neustadt Hospital. Just one year later after his birth, Adolf Hitler becomes the Chancellor and they are forced to move three years later eventually to have himself a younger sister named, Gisela. Richter starts his art career at a very young age, just fourteen to be exact he tried drawing his first nude from a book. Many years later he starts to attend classes with painters such as Heinz Lohmar. As a young boy, Richter’s father left his family eventually coming back in 1946 only to go to college four years later at, Dresden Art Academy1 after he attended a trade school in Zittau getting his diploma two years later in 1948. In 1949 he decided to work with a sign painter also in Zittau. This is where Richter’s art career really started to form, all of these years were like his baby steps before he

could walk, and walking would be where he is today, as one of the most famous painters around the world. Gerhard Richter, as a complex artist, experiments with different kinds of materials to make an art that intrigues people and makes them think about how this piece is really making an impact on a

Ren é Descartes addressed this in the 17th century but the idea also has ties from Aristotle and Plato. Proof of people thinking he is not a complex artist is shown in almost all of his interviews. Gerhard Richter is interviewed many times and is always asked if his art is real art which he answers very thoughtfully. Mark Ste-

Gerhard Richter, Party, 1963, Mixed Media, Catalogue Raisonne: 2-1

person and what it means to them . He has many pieces that have loads of meaning behind them for example his Rhombus painting. The Rhombus is a painting that asks if a non-physical entity, our mind, can control a physical entity, our body.

vens2 was given the opportunity to write about Gerhard and he goes into Richter’s work ethic and his actual work on why he is an artist. Christian Fauné was not given the opportunity to talk to Gerhard Richter, but he wrote an online article

about what he would say to him if he was able to speak to him, he goes into depth on how Gerhards work. Gerhard Richter is in fact a contemporary artist who and has done many modern pieces over his life. Throughout Richter’s life, he has been interviewed endless times and has told each interviewer the same thing which is that all of his artwork from start to finish is contemporary art. Mary Lane is the one who interviewed him this time and she really goes into depth about certain pieces and why they could and also could not be works of contemporary art. Lane really tried to break Gerhard Richter down into trying to find why his work ethic always switches and what people think of it. She sits down with him and realizes that Richter’s method always changes because, well it seems he gets bored very very quickly. He goes from painting, for example, a 10’ painting and then goes to a 2” little sculpture to performance art, etc. He is always chang-

104 ing his work ethic and it is very fascinating to Mary Lane, the readers of the article and also people around the globe who have seen his work. Richter though was an extremely motivated artist, he wanted to catchup to Duchamp, the artist who made the Fountain 1917. He wantedto make objects out of signs with titles that confronted his audience, the world, with beauty that no man can comprehend that it could take away the horrors of many individuals modern lives. The very first sentence starting off the article before the interview pretty much explains all of Gerhard Richter, “In 1982, Gerhard Richter, a middleaged defector from communist East Germany, described the capitalistic West German art world as “one vast scene of pettiness, lies, deceit, depravity, wretchedness, stupidity, nonsense, impudence,” 3. Gerhard Richter thinks normal art is boring, he can go on for hours on why a normal artist who paints landscapes and people to life, will be no where near as interesting as someone who paints, sculpts and performs straight from his/ her imagination. An

example of this could be Gerhard’s Party painting, when I looked at this painting, at first I did not see anything special. It just looked like a bunch of people sitting down enjoying their drinks laughing when then I saw the mans mouth. There was blood pouring out of it into his glass acting as his drink, then I looked at everyone else and the whole painting has stitch marks and little bits of blood pouring out of them. Some other marks were gold scratches that took up most of the bottom left corner while the rest of the painting is dominated by the stitches. Gerhard Richter’s work fascinates people and makes them wonder, why does he paint like this? Why does he do work like this and there is no answer. “The problem is now that all of nature, everything, is captured in photographs, so there is nothing to paint. This, for me, puts some fantasy back into it,” ~ Gerhard Richter. He is exactly right, being an artist who mixes up all of his mediums in today’s world, it is very hard for him to paint something he loves because it has probably already been

taken in a photograph. Even though Richter hate painting off realism, he actually does it every now and then and what comes out usually does not look like what he was staring at. One man named Christian Fauné was lucky enough to end up in a gallery where Richter was showing off his work, he was able to meet him but did not have a chance to get in a conversation. Until he was given a chance to meet the great artist, Christian ended up next to Gerhard only to impress the artist. Before he met him though, he asked one of his friends this, “What do you say to Picasso,”4. The Linda Pellegrini, the galleries communications director, asked encouraged that he approached Gerhard Richter which he ended up doing. One of his friends from Copenhagen texted to ask what the experience of meeting the great Gerhard Richter and getting to talk to him in person for a good while. His answer was that “Freund, wherever great art appears, the earth moves.” Gerhard Richter even amazes people with all of his work while others who have not seen it in person judge it and say

that it is not good art. Overall Gerhard Richter has gone from rock bottom as a young boy by being affected by the war, to becoming one of the most famous artists in the world. Gerhard Richter, one of the most successful complex artists in the world, decided to play with many types of art to see how people would react. Going back to the Rhombus painting, we see that it is just a normal orange Rhombus in the middle of a white canvas. What we don’t see are the many layers of paint underneath it. This goes back to the Aristotle and Plato. They ask the world if our mind, a non-physical entity,can control our body, a physical entity. So that is what this painting really means, how can you see the many different layers underneath the orange, or can you even see the colors? It also is not about the color, the paint will be super thick and clumpy in person because of all the layers that Gerhard Richter is giving this piece. It is like he is almost giving his Rhombus piece and all of his other works souls, they feel, alive.

Gerhard Richter, Chronology of Gerhard Richter, 2016 Mark Stevens, Paint by Numbers, November 1st, 2013 3 Mary Lane, Gerhard Richter at 82: Art Is Still ‘Sublime’, October 15th, 2014 4 Christian Viveros-Fauné , The Experience of Meeting Gerhard Richter: Seismic, May 6, 2016 1 2


Storytelling in the War Zone by Ethan Stoler Like any other form of art, photography has many facets to it. Some use it in a more creative way, as fine art photographers do with advertisements and marketing purposes. Others use it in a more journalistic way as photojournalists do for newspapers, magazines, and blogs among other information sources. The craft of photojournalism is using the medium of photography to capture a moment in time that tells a story about the subject without the need for writing. It should be powerful enough to pretty much speak for itself. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Steve McCurry is one of those who uses the art of photography for photojournalistic purposes. His work focuses on documenting people’s lives in hard-hit countries and

expressing some of the ries of the people who struggles they face daily. may not be able to share For countries like Af- their stories themselves. ghanistan, he shows how Photojournal-

Steve McCurry, digital photograph, The World’s Ride.

people and their families and children are affected by the war and constant fighting with numerous photos showing guns. Going out and capturing these raw stories and raw emotions and sharing them is what being a photojournalist means. Steve McCurry uses his skills as a photographer and a photojournalist to bring back images from his travels and share with the world what he experienced and tell the sto-

ism is really just another medium for storytelling except through the use of photographs. Photojournalists are storytellers. This art that they create focuses on those impacted in the world. Whether it be by the hardships of life in the middle east, the celebrations and protests that came because of the election or any other huge event, or just how bread is incorporated into everyone’s everyday lives. The art that is pho-

tojournalism is focusing on the story and sharing it with the world. It’s what allows those screams that may not be heard by anyone and giving them some time in the spotlight on a global scale. It’s to expose the issues in the world but find poetry in everyday life. It’s work that hopefully makes an impact on at least one person’s life, changes their mood, raises hope, shows different perspectives, teaches something new. But most of all, it’s the raw emotion and authenticity that makes the story and makes people intrigued by the photograph that tells it1. These types of photos are so unique in the fact that how much power they have on impacting people. Steve McCurry is one of these storytellers that goes out into the world to share the lives

106 and the stories of the people living in the depths of these war ones of the middle east and beyond. He has traveled to countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Nepal, along with the Philip-

In other series, McCurry focuses on the individual themselves. In his ‘Work’ series, he simply shows everything from the small family owned shops to the massive and collective jobs of building.

Steve McCurry, digital photograph, Work.

pines and Italy. His work is all about the people, whether it be through the use of portraits or candid shots or people working or interacting with others and their environment. He takes a lot of photographs of the youth and how they are affected by what goes on right outside their doorstep and they deal with it. One of his series called ‘School’ explicitly shows young men and women in schools and classrooms learning and studying. This series was shot across numerous countries with very different social and cultural backgrounds and you can see the differences between them.

Throughout them, he shows the people as part of their normal routine so as not to interfere with telling the story. His photos are not explicitly staged photos, they are more of an in the moment snapshot that conveys the feeling and atmosphere as it was. This is extremely important because it gives the story authenticity and validity since most

people aren’t able to experience these situations. Focusing specifically on one of his series ‘Our Daily Bread’, McCurry has gone around the world documenting how bread is incorporated into everyone’s daily lives. From people making bread to people selling bread, walking around with bread, eating bread, he has followed this simple concept and found it among all different cultures all over the world. This series

able photograph though is of the Afghan girl. In an article by National Geographic editor Cathy Newman, she describes the girl in the photos as the entire world say her, “Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war.” She continues to talk about how no one knew who this girl was until McCurry sought out to find her 17 years later. When he did eventually find her, she was completely unaware of just how much of an impact her photo depicting how she was impacted by the war had on the world2. During the reunion Mc-

Steve McCurry, digital photograph, Our Daily Bread.

shows that even though we are all different and in different places with different beliefs, there are things that we all have in common, such as bread. His most notice-

Curry took another photo of her and seeing both of them side by side, you can see just how much she has changed. You can see what all the fighting and the struggle has

done to her, you can see the sadness and tiredness in her expression, the worn-down look of her clothes. The photo of her when she was young told the story of her anger; the photo of her now shows the despair she has been left with. In an article by a professor

at Western Washington University, she tells about how the photo has had an effect on the world, “By rhetorically defining and managing commonly held assumptions about Americanness, the Afghan Girl image evokes civic identity for US audiences”3. And

Steve McCurry, digital photograph, The Afghan Girl.

the girl, Sharbat Gula, had no idea whatsoever, which just increases the magnitude of her story. With over four decades of work under his belt, photojournalist Steve McCurry has been telling the stories of individuals in some of the hard-hit countries in the world; stories that otherwise would not have been able to have been told. Through his numerous series and more notable photos McCurry has shared the stories of many different people from many different backgrounds and cultures and given them a worldwide stage. When asked about what drew him to the war-stricken country of Afghanistan, McCurry answered, “People you know are killed: local people you’ve befriended and other correspondents, photographers, assistants or translators. The story of what is happening there becomes part of your story too”4. Storytelling is what drives him to do the incredible work that he does, even if it means diving head first

107 into the heat of things. He sees what is actually going on in these areas, captures it, and shares it for all to see, even if it hurts. Steve McCurry is a dedicated photographer, but more importantly, a dedicated storyteller.

Carol Guzy. Public lecture at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, November 7, 2016. Cathy Newman, “A Life Revealed,” National Geographic (2009) 3 Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre, “Portraying the Political: National Geographic’s 1985 Afghan Girl and a US Alibi for Aid,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 27.4 (2010): 336-256 4 Steve McCurry, “In love with a country at war,” The Daily Telegraph (2014) Steve McCurry. Accessed October 26, 2016. 1 2

AUDIENCE In this section of the catalogue the authors consider contemporary artists whose work addresses the public and a multitude of different viewers. Through photography, performance, installation, and design these artists seeks to tell stories and enlighten viewers about social, political, and economic issues.


Jeff Koons and his Elucidation of the American Dream by Longzhe Wang Our era is the age of superstars. For contemporary art, especially contemporary commercialized art, Jeffrey Koons is the superstar artist. “Jeff Koons wasn’t always convinced that he could make it big in the art world. Now even his critics have to admit he’s a superstar”4. He is not only famous for his high price art work, but for his challenging attitude of contemporary art. I do not want to research how Jeff can reach a world record of artwork auction, but I do interested in Jeff’s once saying, he said his artworks have no hidden meanings, nor any critiques. So now I want to analyze one of his artwork: the One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, one in the series of Jeff’s artwork: The Equilibrium Series; and to elucidate its “surface meaning” that I think Jeff Koons want to tell. The One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is a challenge to common sense and rule, is a disdain of the trend, and a metaphor of the different levels of people in the US. The series: The Equilibrium, is one of the

early period work of Jeff, usually used basketball as material to create some art work that “unreasonable” and “impossible” in common sense. Tanks in The Equilibrium, which been filled or half filled by water, were put into

ter, but inside the water. The artwork was using a common pitfalls that basketball was aerated. The appearance of this art work is “ a water-filled tank in which a solitary basketball would articulate an uncanny balance

Jeff Koons, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series), 1985. Glass, steel, sodium chloride reagent, distilled water and basketball. 64 3/4 x 32 3/4 x 15 1/2 in.

basketballs that float in impossible status. One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is one of the series and the first artwork in this series that using full water tank. One basketball was floating in the middle of the water. Yes, not on the surface of wa-

between coveted dreams and existential reality by neither floating to its top nor sinking to its bottom, but hovering perpetually in an ‘ultimate’ state of equilibrium at its centre”5. To achieve this artwork, Jeff got some help from the Nobel Prize-

winning physicist, Dr. Richard P. Feynman. In her article, Dina claimed that: “Koons consulted with the Nobel Prizewinning physicist, Dr. Richard P. Feynman, and was able to suspend the basketball by filling more than half the tank with a solution of refined salt and distilled water. He also filled the ball itself with distilled water so that it would be supported by the heavier saline mixture. Then Koons slowly poured more water into the top part of the tank so that the ball floats in the liquid instead of on its surface”1. This fragile equilibrium state is hard to become eternal because of the temperature, fluctuations and vibrations. So what Jeff want to express by this artwork? Why he use basketball? I find several explanations of One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, some from audience feedback, some from introduction files of the museum and exhibition, some from the interview of Jeff. Among the analysis, one of them is almost same as what I am think-

110 ing when I see this art. Some people believed that One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is a metaphor of “ the origin of life”. Dina Helal in her article, describe this art work as “ something very, very pure, just like an embryo would be and water within the womb”1. In her eyes, One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is the process of born of life, basketball is floating in the water like baby, the original of life; or like the original universe that never big bang. Just like all new life, One Ball Total Equilibrium is brittle, easy to change and break because of external environment. It is unknown what will birth from the embryo, some critics even think the embryo will never be born since Jeff design a serious environment for it. A few people concluded that the embryo basketball is a fake: a story about the fragility of life. Another group people hold a even tarter opinion, they believe One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank was just used

to laugh at the common sense. This censure is not unverifiable. As a senior expert of contemporary art, as well as a strong admirer of past art, Jeff’s works are profound and exotic, and attacks past “art world” theory. His work not only challenges critics, but query acutely of sense and value of art. Like Salvador Dali, his predecessor, Jeff overturns traditional values through torture the materialistic, and identify the shaping of self by mass media to create more possibilities. One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is one artwork that create at that time. “Created in 1985, at a time when the contemporary art world was dominated by the wild and emotive splashes of Neo-Expressionist painting and the raw energy of graffiti art, this deceptively simple, readymade-like work is one that ran directly counter to the prevailing tendency of its time” 5. Some critics claimed that One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, or even all artworks in the series

Equilibrium, are works that “mesmerises its audience and holds them enthralled through a combination of the ordinary, the familiar and the seemingly impossible”5. Critics comment that Jeff Koons want to defy the rule of gravity. However they cannot explain neither why Jeff chose basketball, not football; nor admitted by Jeff himself. The third commentary of One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, start with the key role: basketball. Before I write this essay, I made a small research to explore how American people think about basketball. The top three choices are “fame”, “way to success” and “rich”. Jeff Koons also mentioned during the interview that “ Basketball was a means for people to rise up to a different level in society”5. “Sport took on in lower-class communities. By using this ‘symbol of optimism’, Koons references socio-economics, American capitalism’s enduring promise of social mobility and the

power of the advertising industry that manipulates this dream, exemplified in the popular Nike posters of the 1980s” 5. I believe this is what Jeff really want to talk about, because this is what I think for this artwork. One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank is a still life metaphor of what is so called, in my country, a “American dream”. It want to show that everyone have a chance to make a great achievement. It won’t be easy, since there will always challenge that may break the plan, just like shake the tank and break the equilibrium. But there is nothing cannot happened, even the gravity can be revolt by human’s wisdom. Jeff might want to use One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank to encourage people that complain about levels and difference, just as what he said during interview: ‘I love how art can change your life’. And that would be wonderful.

Helal, Dina, 2014. ON VIEW: ONE BALL TOTAL EQUILIBRIUM. EducationBlog/OnViewOneBallTotalEquilibrium 2 AFP news agency, 2008. Jeff Koons brings pop art revolution to Versailles. (video). com/watch?v=-Jl_a5UQjUc 3 Koons, Jeff, 1985. One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (image). 4 Cook, William,2016, Jeff Koons: ‘I love how art can change your life’. Jeff-Koons-interviewed-I-love-how-art-can-change-your-life-7223-1.aspx 5 Christie’s Daily, 2016, POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART(video and article). http://www.christies. com/features/Jeff-Koons-One-Ball-Total-Equilibrium-Tank-7307-3.aspx 1


Get Outside! Now! by Jack Borowiak

Photography has the power to protect, prove, and celebrate. Photographer Corey Arnold had documented projects and stories on the global fishing industry along with his most recent work on National Parks. In a world that is online and always connected, it is important to disconnect and enjoy nature because of the positive effects it has on the human brain.3 Corey addressed this situation in the October 2016 cover story for National Geographic Magazine titled “Can the Selfie Generation Unplug and Get Into Parks?� His series of images on millennials in the National Parks effectively inspires other people in the younger

generation to venture out into our National Parks and want to protect them because they can relate to seeing pictures of other millennials. The National Geographic story follows a writer and his son on their journey to experience the Grand Canyon as well as other parks. The father Timothy wants his son Casey to enjoy the time unplugged from electronics. T i m o thy claims that in a fast paced world, it is

a good thing to slow down and experience nature.1 These stories that show family and friends inspiring each other is what helps protect the environment. When people experience nature first hand like Tim and Casey did, it creates a deeper sense of connection and a stronger desire to preserve it. Photographer Corey Arnold’s images accompany this story because he traveled to U.S. National Parks and photographed the ways millennials interact with and enjoy the wilderness.

There was a thoughtful process photographer Corey Arnold went through for this assignment covering millennials in the National Parks. The easiest way to find out who was enjoying the outdoors and where they were, Corey turned to Instagram. Not only did he find a plethora of millennials sharing photos of their outdoor adventures, they were willing to share their story and have him photograph their adventures.2 Their were many responses to his Instagram post asking people to share their itineraries with him. From the plethora of responses, he pin pointed diverse and interesting people to showcase their enjoy-

112 ment of the outdoors through photography.2 One of Corey’s goals was to raise awareness that these beautiful places exist and are ready to be enjoyed by all generations. Although, it is up to millennials to preserve them in the coming years. Many of images in magazine story focus on the enjoyment millennials have in the outdoors. There are both portraits of millennials and landscapes included in the story. The two pages have a grid of thirty-two photographs of young people all doing different things. By showing portraits of people from all different backgrounds, he is relating to a broader audience and thus, inspiring more people to spend time in the outdoors. After returning from time in the wilderness, sharing photos on social media, especially for millennials is an effective way to inspire friends

to do the same. When Corey Arnold travels to National Parks to listen to and photograph millennials, and then shares his images, he is communicating his message that nature is a place to enjoy and want to protect for future generations. His use of visual elements in his photographs such as moment and expression help convey his message of the need for environmental conservation within millennials. One of the photographs are two young park rangers taking a selfie with the beautiful landscape in the background. By including this image in the magazine story, Corey shows that millennials can relate and might even want to visit the park because they saw how enjoyable and beautiful it looked. With his landscape photographs of mountains he uses leading lines to draw the viewer into the

picture and aspire to go there. His composition of the photograph often includes the subject in the foreground with the environment in the background. Giving this context is important because it shows the many different types of people that visit the vast array of places within the National Park Service. His style of operating works well on millennials. He does not take the pictures and wait for them to be reviewed and published. Throughout the process of photographing his series of images, he shared them shared them on social media such as Instagram.2 Having millennials as the subjects of his photos along with engaging them online is an effective way to communicate his goal of getting millennials into the parks. He also inspires the next generation to protect them. Corey Arnold’s series of images show the enjoyment and positive feelings people experience when in National Parks. Nature is known to have many positive effects on the human

brain and body such as feeling more alive and energized, relieving depression symptoms, and having increased creativity and focus.3 Nature provides comfort when people need it most and also provides peace for the mind. These are all feelings Corey is trying to evoke through a series of nature photographs. More studies are showing that nature has a positive influence on the brain. A Washington Post article explained that there are benefits of simply looking at a photo of green grass during a quick minute work break.4 The research said the workers had improved focus and increased performance on the task at hand. The article focuses on how it is important to have an increase in nature within urban places such as cities.4 Supported by science and visual appeal, Corey’s images of National Parks effectively inspire and encourage millennials to get out into nature and experience the benefits of the parks first-hand. Photography is a powerful medi-

um that can reveal places to people and inspire them to protect it. Corey showcased the National Parks in hope that millennials will want to protect them. He successfully used photography as a way to communicate that humans should enjoy the National Parks and want to protect them for future generations.


Eagan, Timothy, and Casey Eagan. “”Can the Selfie Generation Unplug and Get Into Parks?”” National Geographic Magazine, October 1, 2016. 2 Harlan, Becky. “Where Are Millennials in the Great Outdoors? Look on Instagram.” National Geographic. 2016. Accessed December 05, 2016. 3 Holmes, Lindsay. “This Is Your Brain On Nature.” Huffington Post. October 8, 2015. Accessed December 5, 2016. 4 Mooney, Chris. ”Just Looking at Nature Can Help Your Brain Work Better, Study Finds.” Washington Post. May 26, 2015. Accessed December 5, 2016. 1


The Human Element by Madeline Goldstein For the past several decades, Stephanie Sinclair has been photographing women and girls around the globe. Recently, Sinclair’s work has focused on the issues that affect women

craft intimate portraits that challenge her viewers’ assumptions and preconceptions about the roles of women and girls in different communities throughout the world. Sinclair’s abil-

photography is empathy. Sinclair explains that she attempts “to photograph with as much compassion as [she] can” and stresses “it’s so important to make images that are respectful.”1 Fundamen-

achieve that trust Sinclair spends several months or even years documenting and becoming intimately familiar with her subjects and their communities. Sinclair lived for over five years in Iraq

Stephanie Sinclair, Female Circumcision in Indonesia, April 2006, Digital Photography

worldwide including child marriage, female genital mutilation, and domestic abuse. In her works, Stephanie Sinclair’s commitment to empathy allows her to

ity to foster visual intimacy in her portraits stems from her process behind the camera, before she even begins to photograph her subjects. At the heart of Sinclair’s

tal to Sinclair’s artistic process is her ability to ingrate into different communities around the globe and gain the trust of her subjects in those communities. In order to

and Afghanistan documenting the U.S. invasion of the region and its effect on women.2 Similarly, Sinclair spent eighteen months in Fundamentalist Church of

Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) communities before publishing a series on polygamy and child marriage in America.3 When engaging with a new community Sinclair approaches her potential subjects with complete transparency often explaining to them

ploration, Sinclair avoids the condescending exploitation common in photojournalism that documents the developing world and instead encourages empathy and respect for her subjects’ lives and experiences. One series that exemplifies Sinclair’s

eral developing nations around the world.5 In Indonesia alone 96% of surveyed families report that their daughter have undergone some form of circumcision before they turn 14.6 Regardless of her own Western opinions of FGM, Sinclair’s photojournalistic series

115 sion procedure while a midwife attempts to comfort her. The photograph focuses on the midwife who smiles at the girl with abundant pride and love. The light in the image sources from a single surgical lamp and falls most directly on the midwife produc-

Stephanie Sinclair, Polygamists, August 2009, Digital Photography, National Geographic

that “[they’re] working together, hopefully, to bring solutions and to help their communities prosper.”4 As a whole, Sinclair’s dedication to respect and honesty allows her photographs to examine and not simply capture the lives of her subjects. Because her process centers on ex-

commitment to visual honesty and empathy is her documentation of a mass female circumcision ceremony in Indonesia in 2006. At this ceremony over 200 girls underwent a procedure that many in the West call female genital mutilation (FGM), an ordeal that remains a fact of life for women in sev-

on the Indonesian ceremony reflects the deeply engrained cultural importance of the procedure and the love and affection the women involved have for the girls undergoing the circumcision. One photograph in particular depicts a girl, in clear agony, undergoing the circumci-

ing an almost prophetic halo around the woman, while the girl’s face is entirely bathed in light emphasizing her excruciated expression. Because of this composition the viewer’s eye travels first to the midwife, then to the little girl’s face, and finally down the girl’s body to where the cir-

116 cumcision is taking place and to the midwives who are conducting the procedure. This photograph captures with adequate nuance a practice that the West understands as a blanket atrocity stemming from extreme misogyny. In this photograph Sinclair effectively portrays the true dichotomy of FGM; while the World Health Organization has condemned the practice as unnecessary and cruel, the women who carry out the procedure do so with apparent affection and care. Sinclair’s series on FGM does not ask the viewer to simply condemn the practice but instead begs the question of how to educate these communities “to keep the values of their cultures and traditions, while also protecting the inalienable human rights of these young girls.”7 Sinclair’s documentation of North American FLDS communities in 2008 also employs empathy to challenge her viewers’

assumptions about the women in these communities. This series began in the wake of the highly publicized case against Warren Jeffs, the FLDS leader charged and convicted as an accomplice to ape for arranging the marriages of underage girls.8 The case thrust FLDS communities into the public consciousness for the first time in over a century and their conservative religious beliefs, especially their practice of polygamy, garnered hostility from much of the American public.9 After gaining more intimate access to FLDS communities than any photographer or reporter before her, Sinclair compassionately documented the lives of women in polygamist marriages and the results often challenge the public’s monolithic, derogatory view of polygamy and polygamist women. One of the most compelling photographs from the series depicts six sisters playing in a swimming hole with their fa-

ther standing far behind them on dry land.10 The women all wear soaking wet ankle length prairie dresses, but they play freely supporting their youngest sister as she climbs on another sister’s back. The photograph’s colors appear muted and the women almost seem part of the landscape. The photograph focuses on the sister’s relationships with one other, their father only constitutes an out of focus figure in the background. In a culture often perceived as entirely oppressive of women, this photograph depicts a strength and supportive sisterhood that contradicts popular perceptions of polygamist women. Furthermore the photograph portrays playful and free polygamist women, an idea many people may have originally considered hyperbolic. Sinclair’s honest and empathetic depiction of these women highlights individuality in a culture too often portrayed as homogenous. Like her work on FGM,

Sinclair’s series on women in FLDS polygamist communities confronts another complicated issue often oversimplified in the media; adult FLDS women seem largely empowered by their polygamist lifestyle, but the cultural justification for that lifestyle also leaves children vulnerable to sexual abuse and young girls susceptible to child marriages. Stephanie Sinclair’s empathetically honest photojournalism encourages her viewers to consider the nuances of different cultures and to transcend the limiting paradigms through which they may implicitly perceive those cultures.

Amanpour, Christiane. 2013. Paying your debt with your daughter; examining afghan opium brides; imagine a world. Amanpour (Aug 29) 2 Conan, Neal. 2010. Photojournalist Captures ‘Polygamy in America.’ National Public Radio (Feb 17) 3 Ibid. 4 Amanpour, Paying Your Debt With Your Daughter. 5 Corbett, Sara. “A Cutting Tradition.” Magazine (The New York Times), January 20, 2008. 6 Ibid. 7 Sinclair, Stephanie. “INNOCENCE FORFEITED.” Aperture, no. 207 (2012): 54-61. 8 Conan, Photojournalist Captures ‘Polygamy in America.’ 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 1


Commentary on Apartheid: the Artwork of William Kentridge by Erin Graham When most western audiences consider segregation and oppression of races, they tend to jump to American history. However, similar injustices pervaded the country South Africa during Apartheid. One of the most prominent contemporary artists, William Kentridge, recounts the horrors of Apartheid through his artwork. Kentridge is a contemporary South African fine artist who uses charcoal illustrations and animations to present commentary on Apartheid in South Africa and the scar that it left on the country’s history. Apartheid is the Afrikaans word meaning “apartness,” which describes a legal system in South Africa that was based on racial discrimination and segregation. From 1948 until 1994, South Africa adopted Apartheid to separate the population by race. The Popular Registration Act of 1950 segregated South Africans by sorting them into categories that were determined by race. These groups were called “Bantu” (Blacks), “Co-

loureds” (those of mixed race), and “White.” Later on, a fourth category was added to distinguish Asians. “Throughout the 1950s regulations created separate residency areas, job categories, public facilities, transportation, education, and health systems, with social contact between the races strictly prohibited.”1 The segregation of South Africa had disastrous effects as it lead to the dehumanization and oppression of racial groups. Moreover, Apartheid as a whole consisted of massive injustices that accompanied the segregation of the population. Kentridge’s father was an anti-Apartheid lawyer, which influenced his stance as a caucasian South African. As his father fought for the rights of the segregated populations, Kentridge grew up learning to recognize the denial of basic human rights that Apartheid entailed.2 In terms of Kentridge’s artistic process, his career in the visual arts began in college. There, he developed a passion for theater, which translated to

his films through the histrionic characterization of his subjects, as well as the plots in his films.3 Furthermore, his films were distinguished by his use of charcoal drawings to compose each frame. Much of Kentridge’s work was informed by satirists, such as “Daumier, Goya and Hogarth [...] and he also often used European classical themes as frameworks for contemporary African subjects. Kentridge’s fusion of Expressionism, art and theatre finds its context in the interests of South Africa’s Resistance Art movement of the 1980s, and his work was largely unknown outside the country until he established an international reputation in the early 1990s.”4 His unique approach to animation captured audiences and the stark imagery of the horrors of Apartheid engaged viewers worldwide as many audiences have had similar experiences of injustice within their own countries. Furthermore, Kentridge’s work has a means of relating to audiences across a multitude

of cultures. Kentridge actually directed a play in the late nineteen-nineties entitled “Ubu and the Truth Commission.” This production was created in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was a post-Apartheid directive that aimed to right the wrongs of Apartheid by directly stating violations of human rights and holding specific parties accountable. “Ubu and the Truth Commission” toured worldwide and garnered a similar response of relatability amongst audiences. Kentridge stated, “Wherever we have taken it people have said, well I don’t know how people in the rest of Europe will understand it. But in Germany it is perfect, because it is about the Stasi in East Berlin, and then we did it in Colombia in Bogota and they said, well I don’t know if it makes sense anywhere else, but for us it is all about our negotiations with the FARC rebels… so in that sense, it has not a universalism but an ongoing specifically local reference, that echoes with very partic-

118 ular, but similar circumstances.”5 The relatable nature of Kentridge’s work is what makes is so pervasive across cultures. His ability to communicate messages that shun Apartheid and the injustices that it encompassed visually in this aspect lead to his worldwide success. To create his animations, Kentridge sets his charcoal drawings to music. The drawings are modified through erasing and redrawing the images so that traces of the previous frames translate to the following ones. Each frame is photographed to compose an animated narrative.6 He draws these frames with charcoal quite heavy-handedly; the broad, dark lines cut across the pages. Combined with the shaky nature of the animation, Kentridge’s drawings create a jarring effect. Specifically, Kentridge uses his animation Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After

Paris (1989) to illustrate the history of the city. Within this animation, he presents the inequities that are rooted deeply in the history of Johannesburg as rich Caucasians

to construct a narrative. Through this visual storytelling, Kentridge depicts the dehumanization of the impoverished Black community as they mine the gold in Johan-

The characters that Kentridge created are used in many of his films. In an interview with Apollo, an established art magazine, Kentridge states that his characters “now function like Commedia dell’arte – they can be pulled out of the cupboard and perform whatever role, they can inhabit whatever film I want to make. They are a vector through which the world can be looked at.”8 These recurring characters play similar roles from film to film. Soho is the symbol of White greed and power, whereas Felix is the alterego, characterized by his humane and loving nature. Also, a key element of many of his films is depictions of the atrocities that were committed against racial groups, suppressed the Black nesburg, which fuels specifically the Black poppopulation during Apart- Soho Eckstein’s wealth. ulation of South Africa. heid. In this animation Moreover, Soho uses this The films that featured and many others, he uses wealth to maintain his these characters were characters, such as Soho power over the work- mostly part of the series Eckstein, Mrs. Eckstein, ers and further oppress Drawings for Projecand Felix Teitelbaum and dehumanize them.7 tion, which Kentridge

is most well known for. The animations in this series are distinguished by the rumination on the landscape of South Africa. The barren terrain is marked by dilapidated mines and machinery that evokes sadness in the viewer.9 This mood serves as a poignant reminder of how Apartheid ravaged South African history. Furthermore, Kentridge illustrates the direct suppression of the Black population throughout the films in this series, as well as the violence that was brought upon them through Apartheid. For example, in Felix in Exile,10 the fifth film of Drawings for Projection, there are stark images of the corpses of Black individuals, often lying in pools of their own blood, then fading

into the landscape. In the narrative of this video, Felix Teitelbaum pours over the landscape drawings made by Nandi. She is an African woman who creates these drawings throughout the film, and by the end, she herself dies violently and sinks into the landscape, just as the others did themselves. A strong motif in this film is running water, especially at the end of the film, where it turns red with Nandi’s death. The water symbolizes tears shed over the violence of Apartheid, as well as renewal that can come with its end. In fact, Kentridge stated, “Felix in Exile was made at the time just before the first general election in South Africa, and questioned the way in which the people who had died on the journey

to this new dispensation would be remembered.”11 In this manner, Kentridge uses his films to speak out against Apartheid, especially as the era came to a close. Kentridge’s works in this series are a crucial reminder of the toll that Apartheid took on the country. In fact, Rosalind Krauss, a notable American art critic writes, “Kentridge has spoken about the danger for him, as for any South African artist, of addressing the catastrophe of apartheid head-on, of making a work either fixated on its record of dehumanization or invested in the image of a possible redemption.”12 Similarly, Kentridge’s means of illustrating the plethora of violence and oppression that defined Apartheid is

119 handled with great care. L i k e w i s e , throughout Kentridge’s career as a visual artist, he constructs a form of visual storytelling that describes the destruction that Apartheid wrought on the oppressed. His work connects to audiences worldwide through the pervasive message that his work carries in warning against systems that promote segregation, dehumanization, and oppression, such as Apartheid. Kentridge approaches his artwork with tact in constructing meaningful narratives to demonstrate how Apartheid had such a negative effect on South Africa through the oppression that it entailed in hopes that the country’s history will not be forgotten.

“Apartheid (1948-1994).” 5 Dec. 2016 enc_apartheid_1948_1994/. 2 2015. William Kentridge | South African artist and filmmaker | https://www.britannica. com/biography/William-Kentridge. 3 2012. William Kentridge born 1955 | Tate. 4 See Note 3 5 2015. Black & White: Interview with William Kentridge - Apollo Magazine. 6 2014. William Kentridge - 382 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy. 7 2014. Johannesburg -1989 by William Kentridge - YouTube. watch?v=s95x7CYAYhw. 8 See Note 5 9 2012. ‘Felix in Exile’, William Kentridge, 1994 | Tate. 10 2014. Felix in Exile William Kentridge - YouTube. 11 See Note 9 12 Krauss, R. 2000. “The Rock”: William Kentridge’s Drawings for Projection - JStor. https://www.jstor. org/stable/779231. 1


A Profile of James Nachetway by Isaac Jonas

James Nachetwey, “West Bank, 2001” Date Unknown, Photograph, “Israel”

What James Nachetwey produces is politically and morally necessary for the average person to view. While other works of art strive to help the artist’s life or whomever views the work, Nachetwey’s work actively tries to bring the viewer back down to reality by depicting the grotesque reality of war and pain. His work is not intended to improve the life of the viewer, but to inspire social change by actively disturbing people with the truth. Nachetwey’s photographs are inherently disturbing. They depict soldiers in agony, or civilians under attack. Nachetwey’s photographs show neighbors

firing upon each other in civil wars and starving children in Sub-Saharan Africa. These photographs are not intended for the pleasure of the viewer, but rather to be entirely informative. As Nachetwey claims himself on the landing page of his portfolio website; “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated”1 Nachetwey does not view his work as a benefit to society in that it adds to the human experience, but rather that it is important for him to work entirely so that people can see the true horrors of

humanity and know not to repeat them. Compared to other photographers of his generation, Nachetwey certainly stands out. While other photographers may attempt to bring out beauty in their work, Nachetwey makes no such attempt. As Susie Linfield puts it in her book, The Cruel Radiance, “In showing us the many ways that the human body can be destroyed, Nachetwey’s pictures can inspire revulsion more easily than empathy. I have been shaken, shocked, and moved by some of Nachetwey’s photographs, but the man has never taken a picture that I love.”2 Linfield points out that, as opposed to other art, Nachetwey does not provide pleasure but rather insight. While other artists may make work that viewers love, Nachetwey focuses on creating work that viewers should, by all means, actively dislike. Nachetwey’s focus is on shaking and disturbing the viewer as opposed to creating a piece

that viewers should love or appreciate. This dichotomy of creating art that a view should dislike is what separates photojournalism from other forms of art; photojournalism is not necessarily intended to be beautiful, but to point out very real and unfortunate circumstances. It is important to analyze Nachetwey’s work itself to understand his process. For instance, from his work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the majority of his photos, composition seems to take a back seat. One of the photos depict a Palestinian man digging through rubble in the West Bank.3 This photograph places the man in the center of the frame, flanked by shadows against the remains of a yellow wall, with blue sky above him. The main colors are yellow, blue, white and gray. While the photograph is compositionally pleasing, the well-known laws of photographic composition dictate that, if composition was given more thought, the subject may have been

placed in a third of the frame, and the sky would be given more room. A second example would be the work that Nachetwey produced immediately following the events of September 11, 2001.4 Many of the photos that Nachetwey produced were incredibly striking. This one, in particular, shows the rubble and ruins left after the attacks on the twin towers in New York City. The photo is composed with the rubble in the bottom half of the frame, and smoke rising in the back to blot out the sky. In the bottom left of the frame, a fireman is seen searching through the rubble. This photo, while incredibly moving and wellcomposed, also seems to have been made on-the-fly: it is another example of Nachetwey relying on intuition to create informative photographs before making pretty photographs. At this point, James Nachetwey has built up a reputation and his work is widely con-

sidered some of the bestLinfield even makes the claim that Nachetwey is the famed photographer Robert Capa’s heir.5 After years of experience, James Nachetwey is now a well-known name in the photojournalism community. As a result, Nachetwey speaks at events worldwide. These speeches and talks can

they put their lives on the line, because they believe your opinions and your influence matter. They aim their pictures at your best instincts, generosity, a sense of right and wrong, the ability and the willingness to identify with others, the refusal to accept the unacceptable” 6 Nachetwey is saying what makes his craft is so

James Nachetwey, “Ground Zero,” 9/11/01, Photograph, “9-11-01”

provide powerful insight into Nachetwey’s process and views on his work. At a TED talk in 2007, Nachetwey stated that; “Photographers go to the extreme edges of human experience to show people what’s going on. Sometimes

important: because what is most important is for people to hold their own opinions on major news events, rather than having their opinions formed for them by others. Nachetwey’s process is unlike other photographers. Rather than

121 carefully composing each shot, like most photographers are likely trained to do, Nachetwey instead relies on intuition to get his photographs. As he said in the British Journal of Photography; “I believe in the basic elements of photography. I’m not interested in making a statement about photography. I’m interested in using photography to make statements about people.”7 Nachetwey only believes in the very basic elements of photography, such as composition and light. While taking the time to properly compose the proper elements of a photograph, in Nachetwey’s line of work, the opportunity to line up a shot may not appear as much as it should; as a result, Nachetwey must rely on intuition to get the shot. Nachetwey relies more on telling the story then making the photograph well-composed, which is an important distinction most photojournalists face today.

“James Nachetwey,” Accessed November 2, 2016 Susie Linfield, “James Nachetwey: The Catastrophist,” 3 Refer to Figure 1 4 Refer to Figure 2 5 Susie Linfield, “James Nachetwey: The Catastrophist,” 6 James Nachetwey: “Let My Photographs Bear Witness” 7 Tom Seymor “James Nachetwey – The Improviser” British Journal of Photography 1 2


The Misunderstood and Forgotten by Carla Argüello In his works El Salvador, and The Mennonites, Larry Towell conveys a complex mélange between chaos, beauty, and hardship which surround him as he dwells amid Salvadorans and Mennonites in Ontario and Mexico to chronicle the ongoing events in these areas, and eliminate ignorance by telling stories. During the early 1900’s, El Salvador underwent ongoing conflict between socioeconomic classes, where 95% of the country’s income was distributed amongst only 2% of the population. Such injustice ignited the rebellion, consisting of 98% of the population--Indians and indigenous people led by the Central American So-

cialist Party’s leader, Au- an-looking citizens, and gustin Farabundo Marti. obvious supporters. This Consequently, the Salva- first massive massacre

ization. Although chaos increased, the government managed to maintain a certain “control” over rebel attacks, by making unfulfilling promises to all citizens. The five main guerilla groups and landless people fought to change the governmental status quo until 1979. These rebels were considered threats by the US administration, who consistently backed repressive regimes of Central and South America1. The war finally came to an end in 1992 when “Salvadoran rebels and president Afredo Cristiani came together in Chapultepec Palace in Mexico City doran government sup- killed over 30,000 peo- and signed the peace ported “killing squads” to ple, including Marti, and treaty officially puteliminate all Indian/Indi- lead to relentless terror- ting an end to war”.2

Larry Towell visited El Salvador and began photographing in 1986 up to 1995; ultimately capturing the war’s repercussions on the country and its people. The collection of images portrays a timeline divided into five sections: rebellion and military presence, gruesome violence, missing limbs,

the muddy floor as they wait for the clothes hanging from tree branches to dry. Amongst these women watches a young uniformed man holding a machine gun. “Dawn, guerillas. Morazán, 4 1989” captures two young uniformed adolescent girls wearing a pin with the initials FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí

the innate beauty amidst chaos. One of the most, if not the most gruesome image of the collection is seen in the second section “Guerillas mutilated, November Offensive. San Salvador, 1989”5; portrayed are two young boys’ dead on the dirt with scars on their faces, emptied pockets, and lifted shirts. The impli-

graves and graveyards, and pollution within poverty. As seen on the picture of the first section, “Santa Maria, Cabañas 1991”3, a group of females of all age groups, are preparing tortillas alongside a river, others are walking back towards a rocky path of a mountain carrying bags over their heads, or sitting on

para la Liberación Nacional), meaning The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, above a logo saying “ejercito nacional para la democracia”, meaning national army for the democracy. The girl closer to the camera holds a small mirror and admires herself, touching her bottom lip; this demonstrating

cations of the image are extremely intense and violent as the boy on the left is not only missing a hand, but he carries it on top of his stomach. The portrait following this picture presents a violated, beaten up woman breastfeeding her threeyear-old son; this demonstrates the maternal figure protecting her

123 children at all costs, as not even the young ones are exempt from murder. The third section of the collection demonstrates a set of pictures with a reappearance of missing limbs on people of all ages; even the torso of a cadaver is photographed. “Displaced Family living in cemetery, San Salvador, 1988”6, captures an older w o m a n carrying a young girl accompanied by two kids sitting in filled and disorganized cemetery with handwritten gravestones and crosses. Lastly image 115 titled Gloria ( p re g n a n t ) living in abandoned trailer, San Salvador city dump7, portrays a young adolescent girl resting against a “wall” with her stomach covered by a religious painting held by a young boy. Although Towell’s works are usually violent, he is simultaneously able to capture a certain fragility in his images, a beauty depicted through the people. After the United

124 Nations Truth Commission “estimated that the right-wing, military-led government was responsible for 85 percent of the violence”8, global attention, specifically United States involvement diminished as there were

ing, hoping to fill their stomachs. Of course, in America one no longer sees such images. In America the searchlight has passed on”10. Towell tells the daily star, “I wasn’t serious about photography until I vis-

they are free from modernism, and any change. The first Mennonites in Canada were Swiss originated, and traveled to America seeking religious freedom but ended up in Ontario, Canada. Canada’s population in-

home which led to fines, and ultimately bankruptcy. “In 1922, ten percent of their Canadian population loaded horses and buggies onto trains and headed for Mexico.”12, where they were promised religious freedoms in

no more headlines, or stories. Despite the lack of attention Salvadorians received after such tragedy, Towell remained in his efforts to capture the lives of Salvadoran people in order to hopefully “educate the people on what they do not want to hear”9. Preceding the Salvadoran civil war, the United States feared a rise in Soviet communism around the world: specifically, a new “settlement” in El Salvador. The world moved on yet people continued to suffer: “Towell shows us, there is too much that has stayed the same: flocks of children still pick their way through the garbage dumps each morn-

ited Central America in the early 1980s”11; he was not only able to make others sympathize and learn about El Salvador but also was able to personally grow from his meaningful experiences there. As defined by, a Mennonite is: “(chiefly in the US and Canada) a member of a Protestant sect originating in Friesland in the 16th century, emphasizing adult baptism and rejecting church organization, military service, and public office.” Mennonites live secluded from the world, in their own little world, where

creased when Russian Mennonites migrated after World War I. Once in Canada, the Mennonites were forced to public school education which caused great controversy to their beliefs. Consequently, many Mennonites rebelled and kept their children at

exchange for field labor. Due to industrialization and technological advancements, Mennonites have been restrained from many jobs or have violated their beliefs; regardless “both options nurture bitterness, alienation, and an inner scattering”13. In 1989 Larry

Towell encountered a group of them near his home in Ontario, befriended them, and entered into their daily lives where he was able to learn and teach others

about their lifestyle and culture. As his interest and curiosity grew further, he decided to take on a 10-year journey following them between Ontario and Canada.

Towell’s new friendships allowed him to access a controversial prejudiced world, allowing him to capture the Mennonite’s daily struggles to remain truthful to their beliefs despite society’s negative influence. He chronicles this through his photographs and writing within a period of 10 years; capturing their intense values and culture. His documentation abides the themes of: reflection and selfdiscovery, tradition and culture through family and unison, and poverty, and barrenness through land. In his image “MEXICO. Durango. 1994. Durango Colony. Mennonite”14, Towell captures a young girl examining a car’s mirror reflecting a darker skinned man (most likely native Mexican). Behind her stands an older Mennonite sitting on a carriage tied by a horse, next to a car. By the details present in the picture Towell demonstrates the persistency of the older

125 Mennonites in abiding to their tradition despite new developments, cars, yet demonstrating the youth’s curiosity and temptation. “MEXICO. Durango. 1998. Durango Colony. Mennonite”15 portrays a young white boy observing himself in the mirror in the middle of a farmland, with wrinkled eyebrows, following the themes of curiosity. “MEXICO. La Batea. Zacatecas. 1994. Mennonites”16 shows a family of seven children, a young adolescent, and a mother and father, sitting in an empty dining table; the older woman cannot offer sufficient food. As part of the same theme a similar looking family is also pictured “MEXICO. La Batea. 1998. Zacatecas. Mennonites.”17, however there is another of a smiling family picture. Towell shows Mennonites value family, tradition and culture despite difficulties, and economic standings. Lastly Towell photographs land, or the field “CANADA. Ontario. Elgin County. 1998. Mennonites”18 demonstrating the agricultural world were adults and children dwell. The dust cloud images like the “MEXICO. Durango. Young Mennonite women feeling a cloud of dust. 1994.”19 display a group of women shielding themselves from the dust with their hats. Through


his collection of images in The Mennonites Towell captures the struggles of the Mennonite communities in order to passionately preserve their traditions and culture. Through his work, The Mennonites Towell is able to educate people by creating “a unique and intimate portrait of an often-misunderstood people”.20 Additionally, he further inspires different ethnic groups to stay true to their beliefs. During his journey, Towell was able to see change within the communities, were previously they were influenced by government and societal pressure to modernize, and “only the

recently-established of Campeche State, plus the three smallest and most isolated of the north, have managed to survive the economy and the pressures for change.”21 Towell’s open-mindedness immerse himself as he able to gain appreciation and respect for Mennonite tradition. Towell writes: “When a Mennonite loses his land, a bit of human dignity is forfeited; so is his financial solvency. He becomes a migrant worker, an exile who will spend the rest of his life drifting among fruit trees and vegetable vines, dreaming of owning his own farm someday. But for these who struggle with God at the

end of a hoe, the refuge of land, Church, and community may be at least a generation away”. Despite the loss of dignity and socio-economic status Mennonite’s are loyal, and modest towards their religion and their people. Towell is able to capture an amalgam of emotions through his different works, specifically El Salvador, and The Mennonites. Through these he tells stories of different groups of people where he portrays daily struggles, and chaos in their surroundings. Nevertheless, he depicts the beauty and simplicity within the people by chronicling events and furthermore effectively

culturing the unaware. Towell skillfully educates his audience on the oftenmisunderstood, The Mennonites, and the forgotten people of El Salvador.


Dailystarnews. “Photography Gave Meaning to My Life” The Daily Star. 2015. http://www.thedailystar. met/photograohy-gave-meaning-to-my-life-64296 2 Towell, Larry. El Salvador. New York: W W Norton & Co, 1997. 3 “Santa Maria, Cabañas 1991” Towell, Larry. El Salvador. New York: W W Norton & Co, 1997. 4 See Note 2 5 “Guerillas mutilated, November Offensive. San Salvador, 1989” Towell, Larry. El Salvador. New York: W W Norton & Co, 1997. 6 Displaced Family living in cemetery, San Salvador, 1988, Towell, Larry. El Salvador. New York: W W Norton & Co, 1997. 7 Gloria (pregnant) living in abandoned trailer, San Salvador city dump Towell, Larry. El Salvador. New York: W W Norton & Co, 1997. 8 Baluja, Tamara. A visionary photojournalist ahead of his time: Q&A with Larry Towell, Canada’s first member of Magnum Photos. By: Mark Taylor. J Source The Canadian Journalist Project. February 07, 2014. 9 See Note 2 10 See Note 2 11 dailystarnews. “Photography Gave Meaning to My Life” The Daily Star. 2015. http://www.thedailystar. met/photograohy-gave-meaning-to-my-life-64296 12 See Note 2 13 Larry Towell. “The Mennonites” Filmed [March 2012]. Vimeo video, 7:26. Posted [March 2012]. https:// 14 “MEXICO. Durango. 1994. Durango Colony. Mennonite” Towell, Larry. The Mennonites. London: Phaidon Press, 2000. 15 See Note 14 16 See Note 13 17 “MEXICO. La Batea. 1998. Zacatecas. Mennonites.” Towell, Larry. The Mennonites. London: Phaidon Press, 2000. 18 “CANADA. Ontario. Elgin County. 1998. Mennonites” Towell, Larry. The Mennonites. London: Phaidon Press, 2000. 19 “MEXICO. Durango. Young Mennonite women feeling a cloud of dust. 1994.” Towell, Larry. The Mennonites. London: Phaidon Press, 2000. 20 See Note 13 21 Towell, Larry. The Mennonites. London: Phaidon Press, 2000. 1


The Beginning of Everything is Nothing by Deysy Alvarado-Bonilla Envision yourself sitting completely still for 7 and a half hours, 6 days a week for three months or self-harming yourself

stamina and strength to do those actions for the sake of art. This superhuman of an artist is Serbian-born Marina

Marina Abramović, Rhythm 5, 1974, performance4

Marina Abramović, Rhythm 10, 1973, performance3

in the nude for everyone to see; would your body take it? It’s hard to believe that a human being can withhold so much

Abramović, the “grandmother” of performance art. She uses her own body as her medium and manipulates it in extreme

Marina Abramović, Rhythm 0, 1974, performance5

ways like inflicting harm onto herself to communicate with her audience. Another key and prominent concept in her work is the interaction with her audience. She pushes this element in her work continuously, because she wants her audience to truly be connected with her work and make them question their own individuality by just luring them into an “energy relationship”. Most of her performances focus on her self-discovery and how she has gotten to know her body’s limits through her experiences while traveling with her former partner of 12 years, Ulay. Throughout, vulnerability is an issue she tackles in every single of her works as well. Ultimately, she creates this universal message: “No one is left unmoved.”1 Abramović does not develop the ideas for her performances like other typical artists would. Her process is not clearly defined because she can’t start a project without, “a single strong vision in mind.”2 She often starts off with a vague image of what she wants the message of her work to be and makes that the

Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present, March 14 May 31, 2010, performance9

129 center of her work. Most of performances in the beginning of her career included the repetition of destructive actions upon herself. For example, with her Rhythm series in the 70s, in Rhythm 10 she would stab between her fingers aware that she would injure herself and every time she would stab her finger, she would change the knife, and in Rhythm 5 there was a point where she suffocated and passed out in a star of fire. Her last performance of the series was Rhythm 0, where she took the critiques of the viewers saying that she was insane or did nothing interesting, and translated that criticism into a work where the audience had the power to do whatever they wanted with her body with 72 objects laid on a table, which included flowers, scissors, a scalpel and a pistol. She pushes her body to the limit, in a way that she diminishes her fears, which were learned meditation techniques from Sufi rites, that allow the body to make a mental leap in order to eliminate the fear of pain or death.6 These extreme performances

130 were obviously not received well by some viewers for the raunchiness and discomfort of them. Even then, she took that negative feedback and used it as constructive criticism. She believes failure is essential for an artist’s growth because, “it involves a learning process and it enables you to get to a new level and to other ways of seeing your work.”7 Another crucial aspect to her process is the fact that it is in the present. She believes that her body must stay in the present and that an artist should be present in their art in general. By doing all these shocking actions that provoke thought, she feels as if she fulfills her purpose. The audience is one of the most prominent factors that she takes into consideration when creating these performances. The amount of physical and mental capacity she has really depends on “the field of energy generated together with the audience.”⁸ Her relationship with the audience is what motivates her to endure the stillness and difficulty of some of her performances. For example, in The Artist is Present, she challenges herself to sit motionless for 7 and a half hours, 6 days a week for three months straight across her each one of the members in her vast au-

dience. Once each person sits down across from her, she engages in what seems like an everlasting gaze, which brings people to tears in some occasions. She feels like it is important to make her performances participatory because she wants it to be a collaborative effort between

ing emotion that comes over them because they realize more about their own well-being. This is the exact response Marina wanted to get out of this piece, so even if she has to sacrifice her time sitting motionless for the course of three months; it’s all worth it to her in the end. Her relationship

her universal message of leaving no one unmoved. She creates these controversial and unthought-of performances that ignite emotion and curiosity among her viewers which is something that not many can do so easily as she can, which is why she is such an icon in the performance art world.

Marina Abramović and Ulay, Imponderabilia, 1977, performance12

herself and her audience that “might make use of the work in new ways for themselves.”10 This idea is especially prevalent in The Artist is Present because people come in not knowing what exactly to expect from gazing into her eyes. In a way, it’s like they are staring at a reflection of themselves and it provokes this sort of overwhelm-

with her audience is so sacred to her, because she feels a sense of purpose by doing these transformative actions, “to elevate viewers’ spirits and give them courage…if [she] can go through a door of pain to embrace life on the other side, they can too.”¹¹ With that type of performance that includes the audience more, she delves more into

Self-discovery is ultimately one of the most meaningful factors behind her work. Discovering herself comes in various ways, whether she is testing her body and mind’s limits or living a nomadic lifestyle with her former lover Ulay. Her collaborative work with Ulay had all similar elements from her previous performances,

like the inflicting of pain, motionless gestures and enduring the physical and mental tolls. In Imponderabilia, Marina and Ulay make themselves extremely vulnerable by standing motionlessly naked while visitors have to maneuver their way through a tight entrance that requires them to touch Marina and Ulay’s naked bodies. In a sense, it is supposed to cause people discomfort and it goes to show that people are not completely comfortable with our bare human bodies because it seems scandalous. In Rest Energy, the factor of “playing with death” is brought up again and they both must remain completely still even though the recording of their heartbeats racing is unsettling. Trust is a main theme in this performance as well because Marina basically put her life in Ulay’s

hands, and she can’t escape her fate if Ulay lets go of the arrow. In instances like those, Marina says she prepares for death but there are three things she wants to do which

performance which then turned into a break up performance. They traveled from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, Marina from the Yellow Sea and Ulay from

Marina Abramović and Ulay, Rest Energy, 1980, performance13

are: “not to die angry, not to die in fear, and to die consciously.”14 By risking her life for the sake of art, she wants her death to be purposeful and she wants to make sure she did as much as she could to affect people in ways they haven’t before. Her final work with Ulay was The Lovers, which was originally their marriage

the Gobi Desert. They both went into this performance wanting to get different takeaways, for Ulay it was “a search for identity”15 and for Marina it was “a test of [her] physical and mental capacities.”15 Marina has always been fascinated with the power of the body and with all these different experiences, she

131 has been able to understand her body in ways that other people have never explored. She has obviously uncovered that she is a radical person that can withhold so many obstacles. The rituals in her work are taken very seriously and she definitely values the energy that is radiating off her performances. She once said, “The more I think about energy, the simpler my art becomes, because it is just about pure prese n c e . ” 17 Over the course of her career, she has made it key to send a message to her audience about just being. The best way to discover yourself in her opinion is to forget about all the technologies and other factors holding us back from just being ourselves. Marina is definitely an artist that you don’t come across often, that is why her work is so astounding and life changing. It makes you

132 wonder about every aspect of life and pushes you to explore your mind and body the way no one else has made

you think about. From her vague processes, you would never imagine that someone would be able to create such com-

plex concepts about human nature. Another rare aspect about Marina is her relationship with her audience; she truly connects with her audience by including them in some of her performances, which is not something artist typically do because they want to manipulate their work a certain way. But with Marina, she strives off the energy of the audience because they are what gives her strength to pull off her performances. 16 Ultimately, Marina Abramović and Ulay, The Lovers, June 3, 1988, performance

she wants leave a lasting impression on the people around her and make them think of things they never have encountered before. Her intentions are to move people, because that’s what she imagines is her purpose for living.

Nadine Wojcik, “Blood and pain: Extreme performance artist Marina Abramović turns 70,” Deutsche Welle, November 30, 2016. 2 Marina Abramović, 512 Hours, trans. Sophie O’ Brien (London: Koenig Books, 2014), 35. 3 Marina Abramović, Abramović, trans. Friedrich Meschede (Stuttgart: Edition Cantz, 1993), 44. 4 Abramović, Abramović, 54. 5 Abramović, Abramović, 83. 6 Marina Abramović and Dobrila De Negri, Performing Body (Milan: Charta, 1998), 18. 7 Abramović, 512 Hours, 50. 8 Abramović and De Negri, Performing Body, 18. 9 Marina Abramović, Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre (2012; New York: Music Box Films, 2012), streamed video. 10 Abramović, 512 Hours, 34. 11 Judith Thurman, “Walking Through Walls,” The New Yorker, March 8, 2010. 12 Abramović, Abramović, 131. 13 Abramović, Abramović, 169. 14 Wojcik, “Blood and pain: Extreme performance artist Marina Abramović turns 70.” 15 Abramović and De Negri, Performing Body, 21. 16 Abramović, Abramović, 196. 17 Thurman, “Walking through Walls.” 1


Artist, Activist, and Dumpster Diver by Clare Hasbrouck In this day and age, oppression and fear seem to be everywhere. People around the world struggle with how to voice the pain and fear they feel. Unfortunately, this can lead to unstable situations, with violence and anger in the streets. For many, this is the easiest way to express how they feel. Whether they use a picket line or an online portal to convey their opinion, people will use the language that they are most comfortable with when discussing difficult or incendiary topics. It is for this exact reason that so many artists react by creating art. Artists like Ai Wei Wei and Banksy use their artistic platforms to put forth their opinions on social and political issues. Art is their protest language. Another artist who uses his art in activism is Vik Muniz. Born into poverty in Brazil, Vik Muniz began his life at the bot-

tom of the sociological food chain. His creativity as a child won him an art scholarship and set

gan his fine art career, unaffected by this critiheadlining a number cism, and his work conof shows and winning tinues to draw crowds. many awards. Some arDespite his overarching success, Muniz manages to stay close to his roots by creating work that “change[s] the lives of people with the same materials they deal with every day.”1 He has developed a unique style of photography that combines drawing, painting, and multimedia work. “The Sugar Children Series” was the first collections of work where he utilized this new method. Muniz took photos of young children in St. Kitts whose parents worked on the sugar plantations. When he arrived home in New York, he recreated those portraits usWoman Ironing (Isis). From the series Pictures Of Garbage, 2008. ing grains of sugDigital C-Print. 253.74 x 180.34 cm. Burger Collection, Hong Kong ar.2 Muniz has since the tone for what could gue that his work is too used similar methods to be considered the typi- straightforward, due to recreate countless other cal rags-to-riches success the pop-art influences images, such as Elizastory. Muniz moved to that have shaped his style. beth Taylor sketched in New York City and be- However, Muniz seems diamonds, or an image of

134 Jackson Pollock depicted in chocolate syrup. These works are provocative and intriguing. However, they lack any real sort of societal punch. Most recently, Muniz made headlines for his work “Pictures of Garbage.” These photographs are a return to the art activism that Muniz did in St. Kitts. This time, instead of highlighting children, Muniz found another marginalized group he could assist. In Sao Paolo, Muniz’s home town, there is no recycling infrastructure. This created a subculture of people who are paid by the government to pick through the trash at the largest dump, Jardin Gramacho. These people are called catadores, and they are the poorest of the poor. Many women become catadores in order to escape prostitution, and men join in order to escape the drug trade.3 These men and

women spend their days walking through mountains of trash, searching for recyclables. Muniz and his team decided that they could use this opportunity to call atten-

ing (Isis). Both pieces are works of appropriation, and both pieces work to highlight the plight of the catadores. In order to create these works, Muniz collected hundreds

Marat (Sebastião), From Pictures of Garbage, 2008. Digital C-Print. Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

tion to two problems, the lack of recycling infrastructure and the oppression of the catadores. The two works from this collection that I analyzed are Marat (Sebastião) and Woman Iron-

of bags of recyclables. He then laid them out in the image of the photograph he already took. He poses the catadores in positions similar to classical paintings by Picasso. However, these images

are made of trash, which robs them of the luxury that most fine art oozes. In Marat (Sebastião), Muniz uses shading to differentiate the main figure from the original painting of Marat’s dead body. The eerie feeling is still there, as one knows that this image is supposed to be of a dead man. Sebastião, the man who posed for this work, is fully committed to his portrayal of Marat. One might almost believe him to be dead. The background is littered with old toilet seats and discarded tires, and the dirt shading the skin of the man adds to the discomfort the viewer feels. Wo m a n Ironing (Isis) also conveys this dirty weariness that is not apparent in the original Picasso painting. Isis, the subject of this work, lacks the peaceful visage of the woman depicted in the original work. It is obvious to the viewer that this woman is used

to hard labor, but is not content with this work. The background of this piece contains much more color than the other, with green bottles as the main component throughout. Although the image is scaled down to resemble the original, it is evident that the scale of the work was massive, due to the materials used. Both of these works use dirt and trash to depict objects of beauty. Rather than reaching for oil paints or watercolors, Muniz decided to surround the catadores with what is familiar to them. Their lives have been shaped by trash, and their images as well. Unlike the classics they are based on, these images breathe life and strength into the work. The viewer is forced to confront the uncomfortable reality of poverty throughout the world, although they are viewing something beautiful. The beauty of a commonplace object such as a bottle or a traffic cone comes through in these images, because they are

a part of the whole picture. These people who are overlooked are paired with the objects that are overlooked in a way that is beautiful and haunting. “Pictures of Garbage” is an important piece of art activism in its effectiveness. Since the premier of the show and the subsequent documentary, many catadores have found jobs outside the landfill. Muniz himself donated $267,000 to an organization that teaches and provides for the catadores. Perhaps the largest triumph accomplished by this work is the closing of Jardim Gramacho in 2014.4 The appropriation that is the thread throughout many of Muniz’s pieces seems to work in his favor for “Pictures of Garbage.” The work feels authentic in a way that his recreations of Marylin Monroe did not, and it lends a deeper air of credibility to his work, despite how incredibly straightforward he continues to be. It distinguishes him from his contemporaries.

He chose to work with a personal cause that he felt needed assistance, and his work greatly affected the outcome of many lives. The unique combination of environmental activism and social activism is what makes this collection of works stand out from any other. Fine art can be inspiring and compelling, it need not confuse and confound the viewer. In conclusion, Vik Muniz created a wonderful selection of artworks that also conveyed the exact message he sought to convey. Muniz used his affluence and fame to benefit those who needed it most, in a way that felt important to him. He used his artistic voice to call attention to a problem that many had no idea even existed. This is the purpose of protest and activism. Artist who can bring forth change in a world where so much is wrong are the ones who are truly activists.


Kino, Carol. “The Photographer Vik Muniz in ‘Waste Land.’” The New York Times, October 21, 2010. 2 “ | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1997 | New Photo 13 | Vik Muniz.” Accessed December 6, 2016. 3 “The Benevolent Ringmaster: Vik Muniz and His Portraits in Garbage.” Artcritical, January 8–8, 2011. 4 CNN, By Marilia Brocchetto and Azadeh Ansari. “Landfill’s Closure Changing Lives in Rio -” CNN. Accessed December 6, 2016. 1


Honesty in Photography by Chloe Brover Lauren Greenfield is a documentary photographer whose work creates a commentary on the subjects she photographs. She creates bodies of work that have a central theme, to highlight the point she is trying to make about her subjects. She generally utilizes photography to reveal a concern she has about a group of people. Lauren Greenfield’s doc-

umentary-style photography provides a truthful glimpse into people’s lives without sugarcoating the issues she sees that are not openly discussed in our society such as eating disorders, mental health, and children growing up too quickly. The raw quality of Greenfield’s work challenges other artists to not romanticize these problems but rather to shed light on the se-

rious implications they have on their subjects. In Greenfield’s series of photographs, Thin (2006), she reveals the pain eating disorders inflict on women and their struggle to regain their health by photographing several women at the Renfrew Center in South Florida. Thin is a book as well as an HBO documentary that gives faces to this life alter-

Lauren Greenfield, Untitled, 2006, Photograph, Thin

ing disorder. Laura Evans describes the series as a “stark examination… that does not shy away from exposing the ugliness, fear, and oppression of eating disorders and their effects on the sufferers, their families, friends, and on society, in general.”¹ It is clear that Greenfield addresses a very important issue in a way that . In this book, Joan Jacobs Brumberg


Lauren Greenfield, Untitled, 1997, Photograph, Fast Forward

provides an introduction to the series. She describes Greenfield’s skill as being able to “get up-close and personal in a sympathetic way without romanticizing the pathological behavior that is central to this story.”² Greenfield is able to show this incredible problem for what it is. She provides provocative yet visuals to address a disorder that need to be discussed openly, and usually isn’t. Greenfield took a photo of the girls during a Mindful Eating therapy session where they have to eat a junk food, specifically a “fear food,” and talk about their experience. The image consists of nine girls sit-

ting around a sterile blue table. The composition of this photo is not perfect. The horizontal lines are not parallel with the edge of the photo, and neither are the vertical lines. This lack of perfection gives the sense that it was taken very spur of the moment, which provides the raw, unedited, truthful quality that is so characteristic of Greenfield’s work. Greenfield captures how fearful and anxious the residents are about this challenge through the closed off body language they all display. All of the girls are crossing their arms in one way or another, giving the photo a very uncomfortable aura.

A daunting box of Pop Tarts sits in the bottom right corner of the frame opposite a resident biting her nails, half of whose body is abruptly cut off by the left edge of the frame. The viewer’s eye is immediately attracted to her, as she is the forefront of this photo, then follows her gaze to the box of Pop Tarts and finally around the table to look at multiple chewed up styrofoam cups as well as the other girls’ expressions and body language. This is an extremely impactful image because it gives new meaning to the seemingly ordinary box of Pop Tarts. It is made obvious that

while people who do not struggle with eating disorders would normally overlook this object, it is a symbol of so much more to these patients. This photo is shot in a way that is very matterof-fact but has very emotional content, which can be disturbing for the viewer because we do not often talk about the reality of eating disorders. Greenfield does not beat around the bush with the issues her photography reveals, which is prevalent in this body of work. Another body of work that displays Greenfield’s truthful documentary-style photography is Fast Forward:

138 Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood (1997). This book is a series of images and stories that depict children of various ages growing up in Los Angeles. Greenfield focuses on the effect Hollywood has on how fast these kids grow up and what they value. She also provides commentary from their parents, who are obviously biased. She isn’t afraid to view these children in a critical way in order to reveal what is wrong with the culture they are growing up in. In a review written about Fast Forward, Leslie Sherr says “Greenfield is a realist at heart. She inscribes the media’s potent mythologies in her images, telling a story of inner vacuity miraculously contradicted by youth’s ability to invent itself as it wishes to be seen, no matter how superficial or profine.”³ Greenfield’s images provide a truthful look into the lives of these children and the affect “growing up in the shadow of Hollywood” has had on them. One of the photos in the series is taken of 13 year old Ashleigh standing on a scale with her friend sit-

ting behind her while her parents watch from the doorway. Greenfield captures the absurdity of this girl being conscious about her weight at such a young age. Ashleigh is dressed in a black lace dress, with black tights and pearls around her neck. Her mother is also wearing all black, signifying that Ashleigh is looking up to her mother and perhaps emulating the culture her mother is a part of, living in Santa Monica. Greenfield includes a lot of information in this photo, which in a technical sense could be considered cluttered, but it actually provides a more realistic portrayal of the subjects’ lives giving it a sense of truth. Sherr says, “...her straightforward treatment avoids the melodrama other photojournalists have brought to such subjects.”⁴ Greenfield’s work stands out in that it is honest and to the point. This particular series sheds light on what our society values through innocent subjects embodying these values. Lauren Greenfield’s work is striking and to the point. She

does not attempt to hide any of the issues she addresses by focusing too much on the formal qualities of her photos, and instead reveals truths regarding uncomfortable problems in our society.

Evans, Laura. “Body Language: A Feminist-informed Analysis of Visitors’ Narrative Responses to THIN.” International Journal Of The Inclusive Museum 6, no. 1 (January 2013): 121-130. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2016). ² Greenfield, Lauren, and Michael Strober. Thin. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006. ³ Sherr, Leslie. “Fast forward (Book Review).” Print 51, (September 1997): 12. Art & Architecture Source, EBSCOhost (accessed November 3, 2016). ⁴ Ibid ¹


Criticism on the Whole, Criticism on the Individual by Maddie Shaw When producing a work of art, the artist can only hope that in its reception there is an impact made on the viewer. Most well recognized artists in contemporary art don’t create art for the sake of art, but rather with the desire of creating a piece of art that allows the viewer to reflect on a particular issue whether it be a larger issue within the general community or one more specific. In the case of Barbara Kruger, her art often is able to reflect both. Her pieces, most notable for their feminist stance and critique on society, are often able to to convey a message that reflects a social or political issue seen in the general public but can also be perceived as an attack on the individual, or the viewer. Kruger is able to achieve this effect

through what has been called her “manipulation” of the language and visuals in advertising as well

a uniquely distinct look allowing it to be easily identifiable in attribution to the artist. The work’s

is in minimal in color (usually black and white) with bold, simple text plastered across the front of the image. The images often resemble those from advertisements or are depictions of commonly stereotyped images that hold connotative meaning. The works are very graphic. The picture, dark in setting, high in contrast, and often zoomed up allowing the image to fill the frame, have a striking presence. The text pasted flatly across the images are within red rectangles and in a white Futura Bold font. Both the selected font and images lack personality to them which contributes to the advertisement effect Barbara Kruger, Untitled (LOSER), 2016, magazine print, N/A Kruger utilizes. Barbara as in her careful consid- resonance with a wide Kruger’s style and the eration of the context her audience is due to the chosen issues she prespieces are displayed in. style in which Kruger ents in her work can be Kruger’s work has designs her pieces which greatly accredited to her

140 own history. Barbara’s previous professional life is important to look at in evaluation of her work and understanding why she poses the questions of society that she does. According to Kruger in an interview with Interview Magazine, she can thank much of the stylistic choices she makes in her artwork to her grueling experiences and training as an artist through her full-time job as a designer with Made-

she has gone about creating art and has informed her “authoritative style.” As for the images chosen in the work, though they also correspond with the advertisement sort of aesthetic, Kruger has stated that photography holds an “abusive power” as it often uses the “contempt and ecoticism that you might feel within yourself” and ends up “projecting it out to others.” This idea of strong authority through photog-

to the individual viewer is achieved through the “raucous, pithy, and often ironic aphorisms” that are printed in a loud red across the black and white photo. There is a certain disconnect between the image and the text which is stressed through the stark contrast created between the two characteristics of the piece. While the text can sometimes relate to the image in the background, the statements are often either declarative, stating a general fact or idea, or imperative and demanding with the inclusion of pronouns. The two different types of sentence structures create different effects within the works. The declarative statements are often seen in images that point to larger issues politically or socially in critiques of “systems of power, capitalism, Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989, and oppression” photographic silkscreen on vinyl, “The Inaugural Installation” at and can appear The Broad, Los Angeles to be more opinmoiselle magazine that raphy evidently correlates ionated or biased. For exshe began in 1966 after with the nearly scolding ample her work Untitled a year studying in New and accusatory quality of (Pro-life for the unborn, York at Parsons School Kruger’s pieces. Pro-death for the born), of Design. It’s clear that The way in which has this message plasthe “early layout tech- Kruger’s work is able to tered across the face of niques of bold graphics” pose a question to both George Bush. Similarly, have influenced the way society as a whole and she created the cover

for New York Magazine (published October 28, 2016) that depicted an extremely zoomed in shot of Donald Trump with the word “LOSER” printed across his face in Kruger’s classic white and red Futura Bold text. Both these works allow the viewer to question the issue being presented directly in front of them, in these examples being issues of politics. Other pieces for which Kruger is most notable for, including Untitled (Your body is a battleground) and Untitled (I shop therefore I am), become more personal to the viewer with the use of pronouns which “implicates viewers by confounding any clear notion of who is speaking.” The viewer is forced to take a step back and consider what the image is referring to and to whom. In these sorts of pieces, more general and impersonal images are used as the focus of the work such as the mannequin-like woman’s face used in Untitled (Your body is a battleground) and the hand that appears to be holding a white square frame with the title (Untitled (I shop therefore I am)) positioned inside it. Even in the select pieces with the pronouns “I” in the text, works like these still appear distanced from the artist therefore seeming like more of an attack

on the viewer and society. This sort of Kruger’s work very much creates an “internal identity confusion” making the viewer both uncomfortable and inexplicably fascinated in the artwork’s viewing. The power Barbara Kruger’s artwork has in its ability to pose questions to the viewers of both themselves and the general public and reach such a broad audience is also incredibly reliant on the way the work is displayed and where. While much of Kruger’s work is presented in museums and galleries, she is also recognized as an artist who has made efforts in creating public installations that can be found at train stations, buildings, parks, and on billboards and buses across the globe. By the images being “startling graphic accusations,” loud, and mimicking the style of advertisement, it’s easy

to grab the attention of passerbys in public areas. Considering how much of Kruger’s work can be viewed as critical and even satirical, the exact

billboard was placed right next to Kruger’s work with the image of an 8 month old fetus. This is a perfect example of the power location can in-

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (I shop therefore I am), 1987, photographic silkscreen on vinyl, collection unknown

placement of her public pieces is important in what message the image will convey. Her piece Untitled (Your body is a battleground) first went up in Columbus, Ohio. 12 hours later, a pro-life

duce. Kruger’s billboard already had meaning to begin with, but to get a literal response from the public with another visual created even more meaning in her work. Kruger broke

141 onto the art scene with a new approach to art. While modern art has shown its broad spectrum and varying definitions, Kruger managed to bring yet another new style and manner of creating art and evoking a message. Her bold and seemingly simple graphic images put in both a gallery and public setting enabled the ability to reach new audiences as the works proved to be so striking as to grab the attention of anyone within the artwork’s reach. Using text as such a focal point within a work of art was something new to the artworld. While the text alone certainly poses a question to the viewer and society, the way in which it is presented and how in relation to the image proves how not-so seemingly simple Kruger’s process is.

“Barbara Kruger - Feminist Artist - the Art History Archive.” 2007. Accessed November 6, 2016. Bollen, Christopher. “Barbara Kruger.” Interview Magazine. February 28, 2013. Accessed November 06, 2016. 3 Cumming, Laura. “Barbara Kruger Review – Everything Is Infinitely More Complex Than This.” The Guardian (The Guardian), July 6, 2014. 4 Frank, Priscilla. “Artist Barbara Kruger Calls Trump A Loser On The Cover Of ...” The Huffington Post. October 31, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2016. 5 Kim, Adela H. “Your Body Is a Battleground | Arts | The Harvard Crimson.” Your Body Is a Battleground | Arts | The Harvard Crimson. April 19, 2014. Accessed November 06, 2016. 1 2


My Art is my Activism. My Activism is my Art. by Andrea Aguirre While referring to fellow artist Andy Warhol, Ai Weiwei once said, “understand him, and you will understand the United States”1 Similarly by analyzing and understanding Weiwei’s artistic journey, one is able to understand the struggle that contemporary artists like him face in China today and the censorship that they constantly fight against. Ai Weiwei has been a witness to political struggle since birth, and this struggle has consumed him as an artist transforming him from an up and coming minimalist to a worldwide human rights activist. Originally, Ai Weiwei used his art as a form of political expression and rebellion, but gradually he became so consumed with his fight against the Chinese government that his art became intertwined with his way of life completely blurring the line between artist and self. As Ai Weiwei once said, “my art is activism. My activism is art.”2 Ai Weiwei grew up in an extremely remote northwest Chinese

province of Xinjiang where he was a witness to the Cultural Revolution that began in China in 1966. The leader Mao Zedong was trying to reignite the faith in true Communism by violent purges of people and ideas that he believed were weakening the government. He was trying to inspire a proletarian society rejecting everything he perceived as related to capitalism or individuality. Weiwei’s father, an extremely educated poet and non-conformist, was forced to perform the humiliating task of cleaning communal toilets as punishment for his ideology. Mao also organized the removal and destruction of the “Four Olds” which included old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits, anything that would pose a threat to his ideological revolution. The Red Guard army destroyed priceless pieces from China’s long history including art, architecture, books, and other artifacts. Weiwei recognized that Mao’s ideals represented “the gap between the leader’s benevolent rhetoric and

the violent reality of oppressive state power.”3 The Revolution stripped Chinese people of their identity and made them disposable and reproducible, just like the style of Chinese Art that the Government at the time valued and appreciated. After living in New York for 12 years, Weiwei returned to China in 1993 to take care of his sick father. Upon his return, he became one of the country’s leading Avant Guard artists and is credited for introducing contemporary art to China. He introduced three books4 exposing this style of art to a younger Chinese generation. Only 3000 copies of the book were published but they exerted great influence and acted as catalogues to exhibitions that didn’t exist. By 1995, his work centered around the theme of the individual rebelling against the imposed government censorship.5 Unlike other artists “Ai play(ed) games with the whole system both political and artistic”6 and very quickly learned loopholes in regards to

the Chinese censorship. In one of these catalogues (The white cover book) Wei published a Triptych (Dropping a Han dynasty Urn - 1995), which illustrates the artist dropping and in turn smashing a 2000-yearold ceremonial urn. This piece served as a reenactment of the violence associated with the Cultural Revolution and for the artist, it highlighted the ongoing “destruction” of culture in China. Ai Weiwei’s love for his country was always intertwined with pain at the violations and loss it suffered under Mao. In 1994 he photographed his girlfriend in Tiananmen Square, China’s most sacred space, lifting her skirt next to the famous photo of Mao. In 1995, he did a series called A Study of Perspectives where he reputedly gives the middle finger to multiple symbols of power including the White House, Reichstag, and Tiananmen Square.7 This shows clear messages of disrespect in relation to established centers of authority and government. These im-

ages are very direct and self-explanatory which is a common theme in all of Weiwei’s work. He wants the common person to understand his message. Although this series is “not literally disruptive, these photographs are full of iconoclast fury against cultural

standards and collapsed during the earthquake that hit Sichuan China in 2008.10 Weiwei was convinced that had the public schools been build correctly the schoolchildren could have survived. Chinese officials refused to give out accurate information on the number

the official casualty figures. He also clandestinely bought bent and twisted rebar (steel bars) from rubble and spent 4 years straightening each one by hand back to its original shape. He then created the massive installation “Straight”, with its message that

143 at half actual size that show with figures how degrading and claustrophobic his detention was. Furthermore, in Brain Inflation, 2009, he uses his own MRI scan that shows the brain hemorrhage that formed following an assault by the Chinese police officer.12

and political landmarks.”8 From 2008 onwards, his work began to focus specifically on human rights violations. He began launching demonstrations against the government and made a name for himself as a fighter for human rights and as a dissident and political hero.9 Due to government corruption many buildings were not built to correct

of children casualties. In fact, they paid the victims large amounts of money if they promised to remain silent about the incident. Weiwei interviewed the families, collecting one by one all of the children’s names in order to establish an official list. He created the film 4851, which lists the names scrolling in the form of film credits in order to challenge

anything, even bent and destroyed steel, can be molded back to its original shape.11 Ai Weiwei created this piece as an analogy to the individual human spirit and its potential for reconstruction. In 2011, Weiwei was arrested and illegally detained at a secret location for 81 days. In his piece, S.A.C.R.E.D, 2011-2013, he recreates exact models of his cell

“By using a medical image of his own brain as evidence of State violence, Weiwei implies that art should not only express an individual’s psyche but reveal some kind of social, external truth”13 When the artist discovered cameras and listening devices in his studio, he took control of his surveillance by installing cameras inside his home and provided a

144 live feed for viewers and the government to watch on He declared that he had no secrets, and by providing his own video feed, he undermined the government’s need to spy on him. While the project was on, it received over 5.2 million views but was shut down by the authorities only 46 hours after the site went live.14 As an individual whose “identities are circumscribed by the state and the art worlds,”15 Ai Weiwei creates “autobiographical work to disrupt and reposition understandings of his identities that are beyond his control.”16 By doing so he has turned his art and himself into a political manifesto exposing social injustice and artistic oppression in China and

human rights violations around the world. In an interview with Daniel Birnbaum in 2012, Ai Weiwei states that he does not have the liberty or luxury to choose a future and when asked for advice for young artist in China Weiwei surprisingly responded with something that shows his clear shift from artist to human rights activist: “Fight for freedom. Forget about Art”17

Delany, Max, Eric C. Shiner, and John J. Curley. Andy Warhol, Ai Weiwei. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. P. 73 2 Ai, Weiwei, Lionel Bovier, and Salome Schnetz. Ai Weiwei: Fairytale: A Reader. Zürich, Switzerland: JRP/Ringier Kunstverlag AG, 2012. P 110 3 Delany, Max, Eric C. Shiner, and John J. Curley Op.cit. p147 4 Black cover book (1994), White cover book (1995), Grey cover book (1997) 5 Delany, Max, Eric C. Shiner, and John J. Curley Op.cit p122 6 Ibid p.121 7 Ibid p.135 8 Ibid p.154 9 Ibid p.123 10 Ai, Weiwei, Lionel Bovier, and Salome Schnetz Op.cit p.8 11 Ibid p.21 12 Delany, Max, Eric C. Shiner, and John J. Curley Op.cit p.153 13 Ibid 14 Ai, Weiwei, Lionel Bovier, and Salome Schnetz Op.cit p.8 15 Delany, Max, Eric C. Shiner, and John J. Curley Op.cit. p.179 16 Ibid 17 Ai, Weiwei, Lionel Bovier, and Salome Schnetz Op.cit. p. 113 1

Art Now  

CAH 1090 - Fall 2016 - Artist Essay Catalogue

Art Now  

CAH 1090 - Fall 2016 - Artist Essay Catalogue