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issue 2 spring 2019

kunstkammer Princeton University Undergraduate Journal of Art


NOTE FROM THE EDITORS Dear reader, We are excited to announce the publication of the second issue of Kunstkammer, The Princeton University Undergraduate Journal of Art. The Journal began last year, out of an effort both to provide a space for the publication of high-quality work by undergraduates, and to bridge the gap between art historians and practicing artists. By publishing these two types of submissions side by side, we hope to create meaningful and rich conversations across disciplines and media. The papers published represent a wide variety of geographic, temporal and cultural interests. During the review process, we found there to be a focus on issues of race, sexuality and gender in the papers submitted, which spoke to the emerging intersectionality of the work by undergraduates, and by young people more generally. The need for an equitable, just and sensitive art history was felt very strongly. The visual arts submissions were also expansive in subject matter and medium. Artists used computer graphics, painting, photography and installation art to explore issues of identity and heritage through innovate formal techniques. In all, we were humbled by the strength of the submissions we received. We hope you enjoy this issue of Kunstkammer. Best, Rebecca and Charlotte Co-Editors of Kunstkammer Rebecca Yuste-Golob Princeton University '19

Charlotte Reynders Princeton University '19


Co-Founders Sarah Cho '18 Sarah Rapoport '18 Co-Editors Charlotte Reynders '19 Rebecca Yuste-Golob '19 Peer Reviewers Taylor Kang '19 Bes Arnaout '20 Jianing Zhao '20 Marc Schorin '22 Peer Reviewers Irene Ross '20 Zaza Asatiani '21 Graphic Designer Bes Arnaout '20

ABOUT KUNSTKAMMER

We are looking to provide a platform for thought provoking original content created and reviewed by undergraduate students with a focus on art history, art criticism, and art making.

With our journal, we are hoping to fill a hole in the existing undergraduate journals by publishing visual art, art criticism, and art history. By doing so, we hope to foster closer interaction between studio art and art history here at Princeton and in the undergraduate approach to the discipline of art at large. We are passionate about providing undergraduate students the opportunity to publish, whether scholarly writing or creative work. Our journal looks to accept undergraduate work from across the world that explores new territory and conveys original thought. Our team consists of peer reviewers who have specialized in the field of art history or visual art and are excited about providing publishing opportunities to undergraduates who are at the forefront of the art world. The submissions will undergo a blind peer review process and will then be published on our online journal.

WHAT IS A KUNSTKAMMER?

lt is a German term for a diverse collection of art.

We like to think of our journal as a kunstkammer for the best undergraduate work.


kunstkammer issue 2

CONTENTS Embodied Journeying: Ductus, Medieval Cosmology, and Enchantment in 'Diagram with Zodiac Symbols' by Opicinus de Canistris (1296-ca. 1354) Cecily Chen . . . . . . . . . 6 outstretched Amber Orosco .

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Robert Frank’s Les AmÊricains and The Americans: American Culture on Its Own Terms Farid Djamalov . . . . . . . . .

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To Sleep Annie Ng . .

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untitled Amanda Ba

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The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil: Towards a National Identity for Post-Colonial India Parth Goyal . . . . . . . . untitled Maxwell Fertik .

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One of the Boys: On Joan Mitchell’s Late Period Before, Again IV Sara Carrillo . . . . . . .

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Separate Entities Richard Graham .

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The Power of a Vase: Magic and Astrological Divination in the Medieval Islamic World Maya Kahane . . . . . . . .

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The Self Nicholas Robles .

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Painting their world: Significance of Architectural Representation in Armenian Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Painting Ani Hopkins . . . . . . .

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David Wojnarowicz: Collage, Disidentification & Futurity Tristan Harris . . . . . . . .

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19 Self-Care Tips To Try Out & T(een/eeth/estosterone) Cairo Mo . . . . . . . . .

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Embodied Journeying: Ductus, Medieval Cosmology, and Enchantment in “Diagram with Zodiac Symbols” by Opicinus de Canistris (1296-ca. 1354) Cecily Chen University of Pennsylvania ‘20

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n his influential study Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art, Ernst Kris famously describes the fourteenth-century Italian priest, scribe, and artist Opicinus de

Canistris as “a psychotic artist of the Middle Ages.”1 Arguing that there was a noted disparity between the drawings of Opicinus and contemporaneous modes of expression, Kris recognizes in Opicinus a case study that demonstrated how a period of explosive creativity often followed episodes of psychosis.2 Indebted to and

influenced by Richard Salomon’s assessment of Opicinus’ work as one derived from an egocentric compulsion to articulate internal dialogue and conflict, Kris’ analysis of Opicinus’ oeuvre configures it as an artefact of the personal, one that was not intended for a public audience, and one which was in fact completely severed from public discourse in its visually incomprehensible strangeness.3

1

Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953). 118-127. Kris, 125: “… the play with shapes and the play with words are characteristics of the break-through of the primary process and part of the typical symptomatology of schizophrenic production.” 3 See Kris, 124: “… it is noted by Salomon… the rapid, and at times incoherent, change of images lends to Opicinus’ writings an affinity with the discourse of the prophets, and while he obviously was familiar with their style, the prophetic attitude re-originates, as it were, afresh out of the tenor of his messages… We are, quite obviously, at the border of verbigeration and at times beyond it. It fits into this pattern that hidden meanings abound which can be unraveled only rarely.” and Victoria Mary Morse, “A Complex Terrain: Church, Society, and the Individual in the Works of Opicino de Canistris (1296-ca. 1354)” (PhD Dissertation, University of California, 1996). 10: “[Salomon saw] the manuscript… as a set of confessions, the details of which were so personal and potentially so dangerous, that they had to be seen as an ‘inner dialogue’ rather than a text intended for an external audience.” 2

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Since its initial publication in 1952, Kris’ diagnosis of Opicinus as a psychotic and schizophrenic artist became inextricably attached to the artist’s persona and subsequently delimited the scholarship on Opicinus. As a minor artist within—or perhaps more accurately, neglected by—the canon of art history, scholarship on Opicinus has been few and far between, most of which runs in tandem with the works of Kris and Salomon.4 Even figures such as Michael Camille, who have cautioned against the dangers of “treating the drawings as the results of a pathological condition,” nonetheless argue that the works of Opicinus are fragmented, incoherent, “all about the body and not the mind,” and severed from dominant medieval discourses.5 It is certainly understandable that scholarship on Opicinus has often focused on the dramatic flair that permeates through his life story, as well as the ambiguity surrounding the stability of his mind. Born near Pavia in a small town called Lomello in 1296, Opicinus had a relatively uneventful life as a priest in the papal curia in Avignon until he abruptly fell ill on March 31, 1334. After suffering what modern scholars now believe to be a stroke, Opicinus became slowly paralyzed, starting with his right arm and hand and lost most of his memory, as well as his ability to speak.6 Alongside his physical deterioration, however, was a divine vision from God: “My interior eyes were opened to discern the images of the earth and the sea.”7 As he recovered from his illness and regained the use of his right arm, Opicinus embarked on a mission to 4

For a more comprehensive overview of the state of the field, see Karl Whittington, Body-Worlds: Opicinus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2014). 9-13. 5 Michael Camille, “The Image and the Self: Unwriting Late Medieval Bodies.” In Framing Medieval Bodies, edited by Sarah Kay, Miri Rubin. (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. 1996.) 95: “The importance of Opicinus’ drawings is their refusal to be codified or comprehended intellectually as just another sequence of texts in a rational order of history. They are part of the massive fracturing disorder of life that usually goes unrecorded… It is precisely because of their incoherence that these images are so significant, both for the history of art and for a consideration of how bodies function in history.” 6 For a more detailed account of the biography of Opicinus, see Morse, “A Complex Terrain,” 36-117. 7 Vat. lat. 6435, fol. 53: “aliquantulum apertis oculus meis interioribus ad discernendas ymagines terre et maris et conferendas in conscienta mea secundum libellum declarationis predicte in peciis X papyri composui.” Translation from Karl Whittington, “Experimenting with Opicinus de Canistris (1296-ca. 1354).” Gesta, 50.2 (2012) 147. For other instances when Opicinus discusses his illness, see Morse, “A Complex Terrain,” 112-119.

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materially visualize the vision he had received, creating a collection of large, exceedingly complex, and visually disorienting images now known as the Vaticanus and the Palatinus manuscripts. The air of mythology that surrounds the life story of Opicinus—a minor priest turned visionary mystic—has therefore dominated the critical attention on the artist, viewing the drawings as merely “the typical symptomatology of schizophrenic production.”8 More recent studies, however, have since raised question regarding the validity and indeed usefulness of this mode of interpretation which at once pathologizes the artist and subordinates the art to its creator. Challenging this particular method, medieval art historians such as Karl Whittington, Victoria Mary Morse, and Catherine Harding contend that the pathologizing view of Opicinus and his oeuvre stems from a “fundamental misunderstanding of Opicinus’ relation to fourteenth-century visual culture and an inability to see the logic that governed his work.”9 Such scholars that, in order to understand the internal logic upon which art is hinged, one must return to the formal elements of the drawing itself, as well as the historical and cultural context in which it was created. By focusing on one specific drawing within the surviving manuscript—folio 24 in the Palatinus manuscript, which Whittington entitles “Diagram with Zodiac Symbols”—this paper aligns itself with the more recent genre of analysis, and considers “Diagram with Zodiac Symbols” not as the material manifestation of psychotic delusions, but instead as a synergy of medieval cosmology and visual culture. (Fig. 1) Whereas earlier scholarship focused on how Opicinus the man— whom such scholars saw as a singular individual at once mentally jettisoned from reality and historically marginalized from discourse—speaks through his drawings, this paper focuses on the visual agency of the drawing itself. Breaking away from unhelpful binaries between the marginal and the center, the psychotic and the sane, this paper proposes to consider Opicinus’ work the same way he would have: as a medieval mystic’s attempt to render visual his cosmological visions.10 8

Kris, “Explorations,” 125. Whittington, “Experimenting with Opicinus,” 147. 10 As the manuscripts of Opicinus were only rediscovered in the 1920s, it is reasonable to assume that all inscriptions and images presented in the manuscripts are original and composed by the artist himself. For 9

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Fig. 1 Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Opicinus de Canistris Pal. lat. 1993. folio 24 recto © 2018 Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

more on Opicinus’ own account of his artistic and spiritual process in composing the manuscripts, see Morse, “A Complex Terrain,” 133-136.

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Where the Vaticanus manuscripts are compiled from a series of paper folios Opicinus’ “thoughts on sacred and mundane matters,” the Palatinus manuscripts, in which “Diagram with Zodiac Symbols” is featured, consist of fifty-two images meticulously illustrated on twenty-seven skins of parchment alongside “testimonial writings about the truth as it had been revealed to him.”11 In contrast to the Vaticanus manuscripts, now considered by scholars to be the artist’s day-book, images collected within the Palatinus reflect a much more potent and explicit intention—namely, visually explicit the vision from God which the artist had received. Even among the fifty-two images contained within the Palatinus manuscripts, however, “Diagram with Zodiac Symbols” stands out in its dizzying visual complexity, representative of the artistry of Opicinus at its most innovative, creative, and ambitious. Not only does Opicinus interweave over twenty separate sets of material into one single image,he introduces a wide range of color that is not found in any of his other images.12 While the center of the page alternates between orange, green, and brown in its depiction of the zodiac symbols, the rest of the page is interspersed with red and black inscriptions, imbuing the image with a visual dynamism. Coupled with the vivid color scheme, the dense arrangement of lines and geometric shapes overwhelms viewers and invites them to decipher the image in its full semantic complexity. In this image, form and content are simultaneously distinct and interconnected. Although the zodiacal symbols are the first set of images to stand out due to the vibrancy of their colors and the immediate recognizability of their shapes, they remain peripheral to the main figure of the drawing: a man in the shape of a long oval, whose body comprises a row of six concentric circles that take up most of the drawing, around which Opicinus has meticulously inscribed the Holy dates throughout the year. 11

Catherine Harding, “Opening to God: The Cosmographical Diagrams of Opicinus de Canistris.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 61.1, (1998). 22. 12 Karl Whittington, “Opicinus de Canistris, Vatican Library Pal. Lat. folios 2v, 20r, 24r” in Melanie Holcomb et al., Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009). 154: “The drawing contains more than twenty separate sets of content: the major prophets, minor prophets, planets, two different sets of zodiac symbols, the doctors of the Church, four monastic orders and their founders, months, days, an implied world map, the genealogy of Mary, the Ave Maria, there personifications of the Church, two Crucifixions, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the four types of biblical exegesis, the four Evangelists, the apostles, and the names of the letters to Paul.”

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Above the head of the central figure is a line of inscription written in red, which reads “ymago et similitudo Dei, ecclesia universalis,” or, “image and likeness of God, the universal church,” suggesting that the face at the top of the page is in fact the face of the Church.13 Translating the fullness of “the image and likeness of God” into the physical space of one single piece of parchment, the cosmological diagram expresses the relationship between the divine and the universe (and, more specifically, how the former organizes the latter) by way of a visual interplay between text and image. The six circles that make up the majority of the drawing evoke medieval descriptions of the body as “six heads high,”14 interlocking the cosmos and the body in an effort to “reconcile higher, spiritual forms of understanding within notions of the microcosm.”15 Collapsing the macrocosm of the universe into the microcosm of an individual body, Opicinus presents a body that is all-encompassing and infinitely expansive—the body of God, who “could be defined geometrically as an infinite sphere, its center everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”16 Organizing his drawing as a series of concentric circles, Opicinus therefore taps into a medieval cultural consciousness, analogizing God’s creation of the world to the artist’s organization of space upon a piece of parchment. Far from the fringes of medieval cosmological discourse, the formal makeup of Opicinus’ drawing is clearly influenced by and actively contributed to the medieval visual culture of such discourse, striking a connection between “the humanity of God and the divinity of man” through visual “representations of the micro- and macrocosm.”17 Simply pinpointing the iconographical tradition in which Opicinus participated, however, does not abate the disorienting complexity of the image as a whole. Even after identifying the different sets of content as well as the geometric organizational 13

Morse, “A Complex Terrain,” 258. Morse, “A Complex Terrain,” 261: “… this pattern of six circles recalls the comparison between the proportions of the ark and the human body… the diameter of the circles equals the breadth of the human body that he draws to fill the zone; the six tangential circles thus form a figure six times its breadth.” 15 Harding, “Opening to God,” 20. 16 Michael W. Evans, “The Geometry of the Mind.” Architectural Association Quarterly. 12.4 (1980). 32. 17 Marcia Kupfer, “Reflections in the Ebstorf Map,” in Mapping Medieval Geographies: Geographical Encounters in the Latin West and Beyond, 300‒1600, edited by Keith D. Lilley. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). 108. 14

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principle behind it, the image remains elusive to a unified meaning and difficult to grasp in a single viewing. Rather than using the visual complexity of the image as grounds for a diagnosis of its creator's mental state, this paper contends through a descriptive close reading that the image actively encourages and enhances the disorientation of the viewer’s visual experience. As opposed to a static artefact, Opicinus’ image facilitates dynamic and tactile engagement, at once disorienting viewers and prompting them to follow its visual cues. To that end, the overall structure of the image takes on greater signification— compressed into one long oval shape, the image deliberately eludes a “correct orientation for reading the page… it was meant to be turned and turned again, so that various aspects of its content would strike the viewer in different ways at different times, according to his or her disposition.”18 The formal quality of Opicinus’ drawing therefore rhymes with Mary Carruthers’ explication of the medieval notion of ductus, a rhetorical device that encourages the viewer to “journey through” a work of art, Ductus is the way by which a work leads someone through itself: that quality in a work’s formal patterns which engages an audience and then sets a viewer or auditor or performer in motion within its structures, an experience more like travelling through stages along a route than like perceiving a whole object. The art of the Middle Ages does not hold up a perfect ‘globed fruit’ but leads one in a walk along converging and diverging paths.19 The ductus of a work of art thereby brings the medieval artist into the role of a mapmaker, whose production, “circled by [the artist’s] mental compass, is the pattern, the picture… and the general route to be followed in the composition to come.”20 In the case of Opicinus, however, the interrelation between artist and mapmaker moves from the analogous to the literal. At the lower register of “Diagram with Zodiac Symbols” are two circles which both contain the large windrose of medieval portolan sea charts, as revealed by the vast network of interlinking red and green rhumb lines. Originally used for navigation in medieval portolan charts, such intersecting system of lines serves to 18

Harding, “Opening to God,” 32. Mary Carruthers, Rhetoric Beyond Words: Delight and Persuasion in the Arts of the Middle Ages. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 190. Emphasis mine. 20 Carruthers, Rhetoric Beyond Words, 191. 19

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guide and to lead, inviting the viewer to hold the image up, turn it around, to look closely, and to find the “general route” towards the cosmological vision of the Divine.21 The form of the image as a long oval shape and its content as a portolan chart therefore complement one another, inviting the viewer to enter into an embodied “journey” across the image, with their eyes roaming across the page, hands flipping and turning the map, and minds probing and inching closer towards the “continuous points of connection between the earthly and the divine.”22 Remarking upon the multiplicity of meaning that is etched within medieval cartography, Marcia Kupfer argues that medieval maps were not merely used for purely pragmatic, navigational purposes, but were further underwritten with a semantic plenitude to “integrate temporal and spatial structures.”23 According to Kupfer, “maps were not autonomous objects, but rather elements subsumed within greater pictorial ensembles [and] intellectual projects.”24 Noting the “reciprocal effect of qualifying the different environments into which they were incorporated,” Kupfer writes that medieval cartography “not merely represented or referred to physical space, but reformulated its meaning” in accordance with “variable frameworks.”25 As opposed to modern ideas of what a map is or does, then, medieval cartography is much more malleable, imbued with an open signification that allows the artist-mapmaker to not only delineate physical space but also pose intellectual questions or play with spiritual revelations. Where Kupfer suggests that the open signification of medieval cartography is implicitly interwoven into its formal and cultural framework, however, Opicinus explicitly pushes its protean potential to the extreme, freely incorporating various sets of cultural repertories of visual iconography alongside cartographical elements. In

21

Tony Campbell, “Portolan Charts from the Late Thirteenth Century to 1500,” in The History of Cartography, Vol. 1, Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, edited by J.B. Harley and David Woodward. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.) 371-463. Campbell here identifies the rhumb lines present in portolan charts as the most telling difference that separates them from contemporaneous mappaemundi. 22 Whittington, “Opicinus de Canistris,” 154. 23 Marcia Kupfer, “Medieval World Maps: Embedded Images, Interpretive Frames.” Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry. 10.3 (1994). 262. 24 Marcia Kupfer, “Medieval World Maps: Embedded Images, Interpretive Frames.” 264. 25 Kupfer, “Medieval World Maps,” 264.

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“Diagram with Zodiac Symbols,” tucked within the lower two circles is the depiction of the dual nature of Christ—that is to say, his humanity and divinity. Under the network of interlocking red and green rhumb lines are sketches of mirrored crucifixes, one of Christus mortuus at the top, whose body and head are limp in death, and the other of Christus triumphans, standing tall in triumph. The mirror images are arranged toe-totoe, with the two Christs’ feet overlapping at the meeting point of the two circles, a visual proxy that signals the continuum in the liturgical narrative of Christ. The rhumb lines along which the viewer physically traverses therefore overlay the cycle of Christ’s narrative through which the viewer spiritually and mentally journeys, once more collapsing the macrocosmic vicissitudes of the divine cosmos into the microcosmic scale of the individual and the viewer. In the process, the image at once elevates the mortal sphere to the realm of the divine and brings the divine 'down-to-earth.”26 Beyond the lower register, in the context of the diagram as a whole, the face of the Church emerges as the focal point: situated at the top-center of the image, the face of the Church and divinity looks directly at the viewer, openly displaying his body as the all-encompassing frame of the cosmos, both divine and earthly. He invitingly stretches out his arms to the side of the long oval shape of his body, upon which the zodiacal animals rest. Although the meter-long piece of parchment falls short of the average viewer's stature, the conventions of medieval numerology nonetheless suggests an implicit affinity between the “six head high” figure of the Church and the individual body of the viewer.27 Bringing divinity to eye-level with the viewer, Opicinus’ image 26

For more on the “social practice” of medieval cartography as a means to unite man and God, see Marcia Kupfer, “Mappamundi: Image, Artefact, Social Practice,” in The Hereford World Map: Medieval World Maps and Their Context, edited by P. D. A. Harvey. (London: The British Library, 2006), 265: “The more the multitudinous physical details of the planet and all human activity on it become susceptible to infinitely precise visual capture, the more cartography, in organizing and integrating data, will perform the speculative functions it did in the past. The world may need a cosmic eye to see it, but only the symbolic mediation of a map can transform vision into understanding.” 27 See Evans, 32: “Medieval exegesis was particularly suited to, and to some extent influenced by, diagrammatic exposition; so too was medieval logic, because its most characteristic innovations were formalistic rather than epistemological.” and 40: “The mechanics of the analogy are numerological, but the technique depends on the theory of a harmony between Man and the Universe; the one is a microcosm of the other. Every aspect of the physical world has a parallel in Man, either to his bodily organs or to his faculties; and the theory can be represented according either to its anthropomorphic or cosmic content; either one will imply the other.”

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therefore situates itself within the “long-entrenched association of medieval cartography with the cosmic vision and monastic speculation,” encoding “both God’s standpoint opposite us and our own apprehension per speculum of the divine gaze” into its formal qualities.28 Between the cartographical elements of the image and its central anthropomorphic representation of the Church, however, an internal disjunction emerges. On one hand, the image enables the viewer to come face-to-face with divinity, whose “six head high” build is not unlike that of the typical medieval viewer. On the other hand, the oval shape of the drawing and the density of the inscriptions that fill every inch of the parchment implicitly disrupt the unity of the viewer’s experience, disorienting the viewer once more in their endeavor to understand the image in its fullness. The lack of a unified perspective vis-à-vis the God-Man nexus and the cartographical structure of the image introduces questions of agency and vision: Who is seeing whom? Is the viewer looking at divinity, vice versa, or is the viewer in fact looking at the world through the eyes of God? It is germane to this analysis to recognize that, beyond a matter of iconographical convention, the human forms that the Church and divinity take on in the image also induce is an “intersubjectivity between persons and indexes.”29 Enabling the viewer to come face-to-face with divinity and a higher cosmological vision, Opicinus’ drawing invokes Alfred Gell’s formulation on the agency of art, which views a work of religious art as the mediating agent that infuses the experience of devotion and worship with an internal intersubjective reciprocity: “The gaze directed towards the worshipper confers his blessing; conversely, the worshipper reaches out and touches the god. The result is union with the god, a merging of consciousness according to the devotionalist 28

Marcia Kupfer, Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300. (New Haven, London: Yale University Press. 2016). 173. Kupfer here argues against Karl Whittington’s view of portolan charts as a cartographical form that contain greater empirical and scientific authority, using Opicinus’ drawings as an example to establish a dialogic relationship between marine portolan charts and medieval mappaemundi. 29 Alfred Gell, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). 117. Although Gell here borrows from the language of Hinduism such as Darshan in his explication, the bulk of his analysis in fact applies more generally to all forms of art, not merely devotional art from the Eastern tradition. See Gell, 117-120.

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interpretation.”30 Just as the formal quality of the image is enmeshed in a broad network of cultural repertoires of visual representation, the agency of Opicinus’ image similarly manifests itself in a multitude of manners. It possesses not only a rhetorical potential that invites the viewer to journey around and through the cosmological framework set up by the image, but also an ocular agency that looks back at the viewer—no matter how the viewer turns and rotates the page, the direct gaze of the Church remains fixated on the viewer. The ductus and agency of Opicinus’ drawing therefore direct the viewer at once mentally, physically, and spiritually, inviting them to enter into an “intertwining of viewer and viewed” with the art object.31 In light of Gell’s theory of the art object as an active agent that bridges an intertwining reciprocity between the viewer and the image as a point of departure, then, contradiction and conflict within Opicinus’ drawing need not engender incoherency. Couched within a polysemic density, the meaning and function of Opicinus’ image constantly metamorphose in accordance with the viewer—to behold Opicinus’ drawings is therefore not an immediate process, but one that is iterative and continuously constructive. As Karl Whittington theorizes, The portolan charts necessarily depict the earth from a “God’s-eye view”… The chart’s self-conscious geometry could have reinforced this concept, creating a view of the earth as it was measured and plotted by humans, but according to divine laws and drawn from a divine perspective… The complex gridding and geometry on the charts [therefore] suggests that the principles of human vision have been ascribed to a view from above… The grids’ forms both measure space and instruct the viewer how to perceive and contextualize that space.32 Thus, Opicinus' image not only sets up a relationship between the viewer and the image being viewed, but also serves as the platform upon which the viewer is able to expand and elevate their vision into the realm of the divine. The perspective of the

30

Gell, “Art and Agency,” 118. Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). 30. Quoted in Alexa Sand, “Visuality.” Studies in Iconography, 33. (2012). 92. 32 Whittington, “Body-Worlds,” 44. Emphasis mine. 31

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viewer and the vision from God encroach on each other, slowly conjoining into a unified visual experience. Confronted with the gaze of the Church at the top of the image, the viewer at first stands indisputably outside of and against the image. As viewers freely reorient both their body and the parchment in alignment with the ductus of the image, however, the direct gaze of the Church slowly elides into the perspective of the viewer, forging a bond between the divine image and the viewer that validates both at once. The ductus within Opicinus’ image both directs the viewer’s gaze to roam across the image and invites the viewer to physically embody the vision that the image represents. As opposed to Kris and Salomon’s earlier views of Opicinus’ works as personal artefacts severed from dominant medieval discourse and public viewership, then, Opicinus’ work shows the potential to serve a meaningful function for an external audience. Its internal structure taps into various reservoirs within medieval visual culture and actively directs the viewer’s gaze towards a higher vision. In the process, the image orients their spirituality towards an enlightened, embodied domain, one which the artist himself was gifted. Beyond its directive and instructive quality, Opicinus’ images are endowed with a potential for what Gell describes as “enchantment.” Participating in and contingent upon “the social consequences which ensue from the productions of [the work of art],” Opicinus’ drawings—at once complex, beautiful, and strange— illuminate for their viewers the cosmological visions of a medieval mystic, “casting a spell over us so that we see the real world in an enchanted form.”33

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Alfred Gell, “The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology,” in Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics, edited by Jeremy Coote and Anthony Shelton. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992). 44.

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Bibliography Campbell, Tony. “Portolan Charts from the Late Thirteenth Century to 1500,” in The History of Cartography, Vol. 1, Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, edited by J.B. Harley and David Woodward. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. 371-463. Camille, Michael. “The Image and the Self: Unwriting Late Medieval Bodies.” In Framing Medieval Bodies, edited by Sarah Kay, Miri Rubin. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. 1996. 62-99. Carruthers, Mary. Rhetoric Beyond Words: Delight and Persuasion in the Arts of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2010. Evans, Michael W. “The Geometry of the Mind.” Architectural Association Quarterly. 12.4 (1980). 32-55. Gell, Alfred. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1998. Gell, Alfred. “The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology,” in Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics, edited by Jeremy Coote and Anthony Shelton. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. 40-63. Harding, Catherine. “Opening to God: The Cosmographical Diagrams of Opicinus de Canistris.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 61.1, (1998). 18-39. Kris, Ernst. Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953. 118-127. Kupfer, Marcia. “Medieval World Maps: Embedded Images, Interpretive Frames.” Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry. 10.3 (1994). 262-288. Kupfer, Marcia. “Reflections in the Ebstorf Map,” in Mapping Medieval Geographies: Geographical Encounters in the Latin West and Beyond, 300‒1600, edited by Keith D. Lilley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2013. 100-126. Kupfer, Marcia. “Mappaemundi: Image, Artefact, Social Practice.” in The Hereford World Map: Medieval World Maps and Their Context, edited by P. D. A. Harvey. London: The British Library. 2006. 253-267. Kupfer, Marcia. Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2016. Sand, Alexa. “Visuality.” Studies in Iconography, 33. (2012). 89-95. Victoria Mary Morse. “A Complex Terrain: Church, Society, and the Individual in the Works of Opicino de Canistris (1296-ca. 1354)” PhD Dissertation, University of California, 1996. Whittington, Karl. “Experimenting with Opicinus de Canistris (1296-ca. 1354)” Gesta, 50.2 (2012) 147-173. Whittington, Karl. Body-Worlds: Opicinus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2014. Whittington, “Opicinus de Canistris, Vatican Library Pal. Lat. folio 24r.” in Melanie Holcomb et al., Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. 154.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Amber Orosco Bowdoin College '19

“I am attracted to the mundane. Every tear, crack, and fold is made from the pressure of my own body. The compression of the material makes my muscles exert force, leaving me with aches that remind me of the work I have done. It becomes a full-body experience as I crush pieces of cardboard with my arms, my feet, my legs. I take advantage of my body. My body is a tool. This piece is a product of the marks my body can make, it is the physical record of experimentation and problem solving. The decisions I make with the motions of my body directly influence the visual product.�

( p re v i o u s p a g e & b e l o w ) outstretched Amber Orosco

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Robert Frank’s Les Américains and The Americans: American Culture on Its Own Terms Farid Djamalov Dartmouth College ‘21

I

n 1955, Robert Frank secured a Guggenheim fellowship with the mission of photographing “freely throughout the United States” and making “a broad

voluminous picture record of things American,” as he stated in his application.34 In a

one-and-a-half-year documentary photography expedition, Frank traveled the country and captured 27,000 photos of which he selected 83 for his series The Americans.35 However, the vision of American society that he expressed through his photographs did not bear much affinity to the uplifting one presented contemporaneously in Life Magazine. While dreamy film stills of Sophia Loren, Rock Hudson and Greta Garbo graced the front covers of Life, Frank shed light on subjects that were excluded from the American Dream: Puerto Rican transvestites in New York, segregated black passengers in a New Orleans Trolley and factory workers in Detroit. At the time, Frank’s work was not well received. In Frank’s words, people thought it was “terrible – anti-American, un-American, dirty, overexposed, crooked.”36 Initially published in France, The Americans had to be reformatted multiple times to overcome American censure and attract the national acclaim it knows today. In order to prove that point, I will elaborate on the initial reception of Frank’s photographs, present and compare the

34

Anabeth Guthrie, “Robert Frank,” National Gallery of Art. Guthrie, “Robert Frank,” National Gallery of Art.. 36 Barbara Tannenbaum, Robert Frank and American politics (Akron, Ohio: Akron Art Museum, 198): 6. 35

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French and American editions of the book and discuss the inherent conflict that emerges between text and image in both editions.

Fig. 1 Robert Frank Rodeo – Detroit, 1955 Gelatin silver print, 20.3 × 25.4 cm © Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan. ARTSTOR.

To better grasp why The Americans was initially received negatively in the United States, it is important to first understand how Frank was perceived in an American cultural context. Frank was a Swiss immigrant, which predisposed Americans to perceive his work as European derision of American culture. Fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe, Frank moved to the United States merely seven years prior to undertaking his

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Guggenheim project.37 Through the lens of an immigrant, Frank had a unique capacity to pinpoint blindspots in American society through his photography. For instance, his work shed light on the unpleasant realities of racial division and of perceptions of the Cold War in the United States. At the same time, his immigrant status, delegitimized his photography in the eyes of Americans, and many viewed his photography as an assault on American values. Since Frank was producing his work at the peak of McCarthyism, his foreigner status raised questions about his communist affiliations. The photographer was even arrested in Arkansas by police officers who suspected him to be a spy.38 In a way, Frank was a spy. As art historian Jno Cook aptly put it, Frank’s work “dealt with culture. That is, it dealt with our culture, but not on our terms.”39 Those who perceived Frank's work as an attack on American values took issue not only with the subjects Frank selected but also with the unorthodox formal qualities of his photos. Popular Photography, for instance, criticized Frank’s work for its “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness.”40 As a result, although Frank was supported by the well-respected John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, American publishers refused to print The Americans.41 Serendipitously, the French art publisher Robert Delpire was willing to print Frank’s book in France. The French edition, Les Américains, had its cover illustrated by Saul Steinberg and had an anthology of texts accompanying the photos selected by poet Alain Bosquet. Bosquet drew on the works of French and American writers alike, including himself, Alex de Tocqueville, Simone de Beauvoir, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Henry Miller and John Steinbeck. Placed side-by-side with the photos, the texts contextualized American society for French readers – or at least, the America that Bosquet knew. The poet’s view of American culture is clear from the first pages, where he relentlessly rebukes it, mirroring the arrogant reproach that Americans 37

Robert Frank and Anne Tucker, Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia. Boston: Little, Brown. (Houston: Museum of Houston, 1986): 9. 38 Robert Frank and Anne Tucker, Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia: 25. 39 Jno Cook, “Robert Frank’s America,” American Suburb X, December, 09, 2015. 40 Philip Gefter, “‘The Americans’of the '50s through the Lens of Robert Frank,” New York Times, November, 15, 2008. 41 Jno Cook, “Robert Frank’s America.”

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feared Frank was imposing on them with his photographs. He othered Americans by addressing them in the second person as a monolithic “vous.” In a handful of caustic telegram-styled essays that he penned himself, Bosquet described the American to be dull and bereft of any imagination or charm: “Abstraction is forbidden to you, and by extension, wit.” 42 Bosquet goes on with an anecdote: “More or less ordinary people (car, television, etc.) to whom I talked about poetry all told me: ‘Nice hobby.’ If I insisted that it was more than that, they asked me, ‘How much do you earn doing that?’)43 This cynical view of a mercenary America reverberates throughout the book.44 The juxtaposition of text and image influences how readers interpret the photographs. For instance, in Detroit, Michigan (referred to as Rodeo – Detroit in the American edition of the book), three adult figures gaze towards the viewer's right, and a boy, blurred in the background, faces the opposite direction (Fig 1). The women wear heavy makeup, whereas the man smokes a cigar. Both the man and one of the women wear cowboy hats – emblems of American culture – that are similar in style but different in shade. This photo corresponds to the first time in Frank's book in which he makes a clear statement on the topic of femininity. Since the hats are similar but sit on two different, gendered heads, the reader projects Bosquet’s gender critique onto the image: A young woman from the Middle West for whom I held out her coat said to me, ‘I can do that myself.’ That was to indicate that we were equals and that she didn't have to submit to my European gallantry, which was a little insulting to her. As she was kind and well-meaning, she quickly understood that I didn’t want to put her in an inferior position. We left the town in a car, and the car - as is proper - served as a shelter. In your country, it is rarely a question to undress to make love. One feigns surprise, that surprise one fears much. Therefore, love resembles rape, without the violence of rape. Tenderness too is interchangeable. I wanted to ask

42

Robert Frank and Alain Bosquet, Les Américains (Paris: Delpire, 1958): 8. Original text: “L’abstraction vous est interdite et, partant, les jeux de l’esprit” 43 Ibid. Original text: Les gens plus ou moins ordinaires (voiture, television, etc.) à qui j’ai parlé de poésie m’ont tous dit: “Gentil passe-temps.” Si j’insistais que c’était davantage, on me demandait: “Vous gagnez combien avec ça?” 44 Jonathan Day, Robert Frank's The Americans: the art of documentary photography (Bristol: Intellect, 2011): 61.

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my companion: ‘Are you sure that we haven't loved each other somewhere else already?’)45 Bosquet suggests that in the U.S., gender equality entails sacrificing femininity and killing romanticism. Bosquet’s reading of the photo becomes the lens through which the French reader appreciates Rodeo – Detroit. However, in Les Américains, Bosquet uses Frank's photographs to illustrate the textual content, not the other way around. Frank, like his mentor, Walker Evans, believed in the autonomy of photography. He said that he wanted to create “a document, the visual impact of which will nullify explanation.”46 The book as a whole becomes merely a voyeuristic foray into American culture guided by Alain Bosquet with a set of critical European values. Frank finally published his book in the U.S. a year later, in 1959, by tactically repositioning himself as part of the Beat generation. The Beat generation was a literary movement comprised of mostly male writers who rejected materialism and standard narrative values for sexual liberation and exploration of Eastern and American religions. The Grove Press, an avant-garde publishing house that supported Beat writers, was willing to publish Frank’s The Americans. Since most American viewers were unfamiliar with the French edition, Frank was able to restart the dialogue.47 The American edition of the book was formatted differently than the French one. Bosquet’s polemic texts, un-American in tone, were retracted. Instead, the book emulated Walker Evans’ format of American Photographs. Not only did Evans write one of Frank’s reference letters for the Guggenheim fellowship, but Frank also cited him as an influence.48 Evans was a strong proponent of decontextualized

45

Robert Frank and Alain Bosquet, Les Américains (Paris: Delpire, 1958): 12. Original text: Une jeune femme du Middle West à qui je tendais son manteau, m’a répondu: ‘Je peux le prendre moi-même.’ C’était marqueur que nous étions égaux et qu’elle n’avait pas à subir ma galantrie européene, un peu insultante pour elle. Comme elle était gentille et bien-veillante elle a vite compris que je ne voulais pas la mettre en état d'infériorité. Nous nous sommes éloignés de la ville en auto, et l'auto - comme il se doit nous a servi d’alcôve. Il est rarement question de se déshabiller pour faire l'amour chez vous. On simule la surprise, cette surprise qu’on craint tant. Ainsi l'amour ressemble à un viol, sans la violence du viol. Les tendresses aussi sont interchangeables. J’avais envie de demander à ma compagne: ‘Vous êtes sure que nous ne nous sommes pas déjà aimés quelque part?’ 46 Jonathan Day, Robert Frank's The Americans: 59. 47 Jno Cook, “Robert Frank’s America.” 48 Jonathan Day, Robert Frank's The Americans: 60.

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photography, as was attested in his one-man show curated by Beaumont Newhall. As Evans claimed: “For the thousandth time, it must be said that pictures speak for themselves, wordlessly, visually, or they fail.”49 While the American edition of Frank’s book seemingly dispensed with context, Frank elaborated on his titles to give them some, albeit terse, background. For instance, Hoboken, New Jersey became Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey in the new edition. Furthermore, as in Walker Evans’ American Photography, Frank decided to have a writer preface the book. Although Frank considered Evans, he chose iconic Beat writer Kerouac instead. Kerouac, who also struggled finding a publisher for his book On The Road due to its un-American sentiment, was printed just a year earlier by the same Grove Press.50 By repositioning himself, Frank attempted to become more palatable to the American public. The Beat movement criticized American society, but the critique came from within. In Cook’s words, Beat writers “dealt with [American] culture, but not on [American] terms.”51 In his preface, Kerouac vouched for the photographer: Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the poets of the world. To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes.52 No longer an outsider trampling on American values, Frank earned the Beat movement's approval. Kerouac later acknowledged in his preface “the humor, the sadness, the everything-ness and American-ness of [Frank’s] pictures.”53 Kerouac’s introduction Americanized the book. In comparison to the French edition, it may seem that the American book decontextualized Frank’s work and let the photographs speak for themselves, in the style of Walker Evans’ work. However, in his crucial introduction, Kerouac imposed a Beat reading onto Frank’s work. He emphasized the most Beat-like qualities in Frank’s 49

Ibid.: 59. George Cotkin, "The Photographer in the Beat-hipster Idiom: Robert Frank's the Americans." American Studies 26, no. 1 (1985): 21. 51 Jno Cook, “Robert Frank’s America.” 52 Robert Frank, The Americans. (New York: Grove Press, 1986). 53 Frank, The Americans. 50

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photographs to make it seem as though Frank had been part of the Beat movement all along: That crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the streets and music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral, that is what Robert Frank has captured in tremendous photographs taken as he traveled on the road around practically forty-eight states in an old used car (on Guggenheim Fellowship) and with agility, mystery, genius, sadness, and strange secrecy of a shadow photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film.54 Kerouac used iconic Beat vernacular to describe Frank’s work: “crazy feeling . . . music . . . traveled on the road . . . old used car . . . agility, mystery, genius, sadness and strange secrecy.”55 As a result, Kerouac puts readers in the Beat mindset when they interpret Frank’s work. The influence of Kerouac’s text on the interpretation of the images is best exemplified in U.S. 285, New Mexico (Fig. 2). Frank presents an offcentre photo of a highway road in New Mexico. White dividing lines reach into the abyss towards the glowing horizon, and a small car is visible in the distance. As dusk will soon turn into night, the scenery hints at the dawn of white stripes and stars, a reification of the American flag. Walker Evans claimed that “in this picture, instantly you find the continent. […] The whole page is haunted with American scale and space, which the mind fills automatically.”56 Kerouac, however, aligned the photograph with his Beat vision. He saw Frank’s photography project as a journey. “Long shot night road arrowing forlorn into immensities and flat of impossible-to-believe America in New Mexico under the prisoner’s moon.”57 Kerouac’s reading is inextricably linked to the way Americans perceived the photographs in the American edition. While Frank’s “European dourness and pessimistic wit," as described by writer Joyce Johnson, sheds its foreignness through Kerouac's commentary, the differences between Frank and the Beat movement should not be collapsed. While the Beat movement sought liberation from social conventions by taking the road, Frank disregarded conventions

54

Frank, The Americans. George Cotkin, "The Photographer in the Beat-hipster Idiom.”: 22. 56 Jno Cook, “Robert Frank’s America.” 57 Cook, “Robert Frank’s America.” 55

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in his own way: by diverging from the standards of photography.58 Therefore, readers must think critically about Robert Frank's approach and avoid overemphasizing the undercurrents of Beat thought that pervade the American edition of the book. The solution might seem clear: we could adopt Evans’ way of thinking and strip photos of all context to let them speak for themselves. However, such a conclusion would be too easy; without words there can be no context that helps viewers to extend beyond facile readings of the photos. As documentary photographer and historian Jonathan Day points out, contemporary readers of The Americans struggle to find much meaning in any of Frank’s work.59 Fig. 2 Frank, Robert U.S. 285, New Mexico. 1955 Gelatin silver print, 29.2 x 19.2 cm. © The Art Institute of Chicago, Illanois. ARTSTOR.

Due to the opacity of the book, it has been accepted by photographers of widely differing interests. Both the French and American versions of The Americans illustrate that

because Frank has not elaborated upon his photography in writing, other critics and writers have done so on their own terms. Thus, viewers ought to read Frank's

58

George Cotkin, "The Photographer in the Beat-hipster Idiom.”: 20. Jonathan Day, Robert Frank's The Americans: the art of documentary photography (Bristol: Intellect, 2011): 61. 59

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photographs critically and at a distance from the readings imposed by both Bosquet and Kerouac. Bibliography Cook, Jno. "Robert Frank's America (1982)." American Suburb X. December 09, 2015. Accessed June 09, 2018. https://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/01/theory-robert-franks-america.html. Cotkin, George. "The Photographer in the Beat-hipster Idiom: Robert Frank's the Americans." American Studies 26, no. 1 (1985): 19-33. Day, Jonathan. 2011. Robert Frank's The Americans: the art of documentary photography. Bristol: Intellect. Frank, Robert, and Alain Bosquet. 1958. Les Américains. Frank, Robert, and Anne Tucker. 1986. Robert Frank: New York to Nova Scotia. Boston: Little, Brown. Frank, Robert. 1986. The Americans. Gefter, Philip. “‘The Americans’ of the ‘50s through the Lens of Robert Frank.” The New York Times. November 15, 2008. Accessed June 09, 2018. Guthrie, Anabeth. "Robert Frank." National Gallery of Art. Accessed June 09, 2018. https://www.nga.gov/press/biographies/bio-robertfrank.html. Tannenbaum, Barbara. 1985. Robert Frank and American politics. Akron, Ohio (70 E. Market St., Akron 44308): Akron Art Museum.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Annie Ng

Stanford University '20 Ng is a digital artist whose work explores ideas of sentiment and security. Self-portrait collage To Sleep depicts her in real sleeping positions in an exploration of a highly vulnerable,obtuse, and private state of human being. Trust is placed in the audience in allowing the image to be viewed. Yet at the same time, the artist is immersed, and involved, in herself alone. Sleep, and To Sleep, are at once personal, gentle, and sinister.

To S l e e p Annie Ng

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Amanda Ba Columbia University '20

“I was born in the States, but was sent back to live with my grandparents in Hefei, China at the age of one. My parents were strangers to me for the first five years of my life, and in turn my grandparents filled that role. During these five years I formed a deep bond with my grandparents and with China— the old China, the slow China, the China filled with remnants from the Cultural Revolution, not the new, bustling, speeding, ever-expanding China. Homesickness has developed as a result of me grappling with my Chinese-American identity, and I find myself constantly being drawn back to Chinese people from my grandparents’ generation, people who live in a world that changed faster than them.My paintings are a manifestation of my attempts to understand the boundaries of generational gaps in Chinese society, and to reconnect these generations through images. My fascination with the human form in oil paint comes from a fascination with people themselves, and the way that we connect so deeply and intensely with portrayals of the human figure, particularly if they are emotionally ambiguous.”

untitled Amanda Ba

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The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil: Towards a National Identity for Post-Colonial India Parth Goyal Emory University '20

“M

y criticism of art in India is levelled against clinging to traditions that were once vital, sincere and splendid and which are now merely empty

formulae,” wrote Amrita Sher-Gil for The Tribune in 1937.60 “I should like to see the art of India break away from both [imitation of Western and Ancient Indian art] and produce something vital, connected to the soil, yet essentially Indian,” she continues, “I am personally trying to be, through the medium of line, colour and design, an interpreter of the life of the people, particularly the life of the poor and the sad.”61 Here, Sher-Gil’s use of the word ‘interpreter’ — as opposed to something like ‘representative,’ which (falsely) suggests an objective, impartial rendering of the subject in any intellectual or political discourse — should be emphasized as the artist implicitly admits to a process of biased and intuitive negotiation of the subject’s position in her artistic depictions. Having been being born to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, an Indian aristocrat and scholar, and Marie Antoinette, a Hungarian Opera singer and socialite, in Budapest, Hungary in January 1913, Sher-Gil surely inhabited an alien world compared to that of India’s “poor” and “sad.” Yet, she demonstrated a keen sensitivity to the plight of her subjects and came to formulate an idiosyncratic artistic style and vocabulary that was especially suited to articulating and contesting 60

Amrita Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self-Portrait in Letters & Writings, compiled by Vivan Sundaram (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2010), 421. 61 Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil, 422.

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the Indian anti-colonial nationalists’ syncretized and complex vision for the country’s future as an independent, modern nation-state. As such, she was making an effective feminist intervention in discourses on the idea of modernity in India through her art. For as independence from British rule dawned upon a country once divided — split between various princely states and territories — the question arose of what kinds of ideals India should orient itself towards. If India’s modernity was to mimic that of a European nation-state’s, based on emulation of Western society’s cultural and political practices, what would remain of the Indian landscape’s own socio-cultural inheritance? What would the new Indian identity be and what elements from the West could be incorporated here without loss of local tradition and culture? Also, there was the overbearing women’s question — what would the place and role of women be in the new society? This essay will examine not only how Sher-Gil complicated the vision of Indian modernity by conflating and synthesizing artistic styles and practices from across Europe and Asia, but also her insertion and treatment of the rural woman’s subjecthood in her new and unique style of modernist painting. By calling attention to the prevalent issues of poverty, casteism, child-marriage and widowhood in rural South-India, she contributed to evolving the ideals of the Indian nation-state. Through allusion to the works of major European artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and drawing upon the compositional and coloring strategies of local Indian artistic traditions, Sher-Gil’s paintings disrupt the white male artist’s dominance over the depiction of female subjecthood and propel Indian art towards a new modernist artistic style that destabilizes the binary distinction between East and West, or Thirdworld and First-World. Setting the Scene: Paris Years and Self-Identity Sher-Gil spent her early childhood with her family in Hungary, first in Budapest and then near her mother’s family home in Dunaharaszti—moving there for the sake of economy during a period of troubling financial means for the family as scarcity prevailed throughout the war and inter-war period (1914-18, and onwards into the

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1920s).62 Sher-Gil was of Jewish ancestry on her mother’s side and the anti-semitic driven rhetoric and violence of the inter-war period must have signalled the need for change to the family. The communist regime of Béla Kun and Admiral Miklós Horthy’s subsequent fascist reign of terror created an unstable and toxic atmosphere across Hungary, and finally seeking haven in safer and more hospitable community, the family moved to Simla, India in 1921, where Sher-Gil’s artistic education would begin.63 She was trained under a succession of painters and transferred amongst Catholic schools between India and Italy — she was almost expelled from her school in the latter for painting a nude.64 Eventually, her work was be presented before her uncle Ervin Baktay who was a prominent Indologist and a painter in the Nagybanya artists’ colony in Hungary whose members drew their influence from the French impressionists and further emphasized a rich color palette that was near consist with the work of the Henri Matisse and the Fauvists.65 Baktay introduced Sher-Gil to plein air painting and encouraged her to “develop a sense of autonomy, and to make careful observations of the reality around her and transfer this to her work.”66 Always rebellious against tradition and rigid ritual processes, Sher-Gil was never a conventional painter, and she continued to develop a keen sensitivity to reality — especially that which was stark and melancholy — in her work. With the Baktay’s recommendation, Sher-Gil’s family embarked upon a voyage to Europe in 1929 to find a haven in which young Amrita’s talents could blossom. At the age of sixteen, Sher-Gil first studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and thereafter was accepted as a student under Lucien Simon at the École des Beaux Arts, which was then the most significant educational institution of the flourishing Parisian art world. Simon played an influential role in the development of her artistic and intellectual outlook. As Sher-Gil wrote in her essay Evolution of My Art, 62

Yashodhara Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2006),12. Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil, 16. 64 Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil, 19. 65 Éva Forgács, "The Safe Haven of a New Classicism: The Quest for a New Aesthetics in Hungary 19041912," Studies in East European Thought 60, no. 1/2 (2008): 93. 66 Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil, 25. 63

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“Lucien Simon never ‘taught.’ He made us think for ourselves and solve technical and pictorial problems ourselves, merely encouraging each of those pupils whose work interested him, in his or her own form of self-expression.”67

Fig. 1 Amrita Sher-Gil Self-Portrait (5), 1932. Oil on canvas, 43cm x 54.5cm © National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Photograph from Google Arts and Culture, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/self-portrait-5/awHPegT-qt-hUg accessed December 16, 2018. 67

Yashodhara Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: Art and Life; A Reader (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014), 3.

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Sher-Gil formulated her self-expression by emphasizing her identity as biracial, female artist in the male-dominated art world of Europe. Her portraits and self-portraits provide glimpses into her artistic, emotional, and social sensibilities that reveal her struggles with her racial and professional identity. Her Self Portrait (5) (1932) (Figure 1) depicts herself caught in the act of painting. Here, we see her caught in the act of painting. Her left hand, raised to the canvas, can be seen merging with it, and her body becomes a fuzzy blend of lines and color so as to distort the distinction between the painted and the painter, the subject and the artist. Moreover, Sher-Gil confronts the gaze of the viewer, as if to challenging him or her to question her position as an artist. The work is reminiscent of the seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (or simply, La Pittura) (c. 1638). Gentileschi was also a female painter in a maledominated artistic society: painting herself as the embodiment and

Fig. 2 Amrtia Sher-Gil Self-Portrait as a Tahitian, 1934 Oil on canvas Š Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

allegory of painting (La Pittura), she confronted the patriarchal institutes

Photograph from Google Arts and Culture, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/self-portraitas-a-tahitian/dAGHEww-Rs-bkw accessed December 16, 2018.

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of the art world. As art critic Mary Garrard writes, “As if to combat the misogynistic stereotype of woman as unintellectual, Gentileschi depicts


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herself, the artist, not as a coquettish mannequin, but as intensely and thoughtfully absorbed in her work.”68 Sher-Gil was similarly confronting societal resistance against her identity as a half-Indian female artist in the world of Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso: through her confrontational self-portraits she demands her deserved attention and admiration, and she paints herself into the annals of art history. Just as in La Pittura, “painter, model and concept are one and the same,”69 in Self Portrait (5) too the woman as painter is the core concept and theme of the work. Thus, by the very act of daring to paint herself as an artist, Sher-Gil mounts a critique of the patriarchal institutes of the European art scene. In her Self-Portrait as Tahitian (1934) (Figure 2), consciously evoking the work of Gauguin through the title, Sher-Gil grapples with her identity as an “exotic” woman in Europe. She casts herself against a background that appears to be a Japanese mural, and a shadow reflection of a man (likely Gauguin or Van Gogh)70 outlines her figure. Sher-Gil stands bare-chested with a stoic, almost contemplative look on her face, quitely reminiscent of Gauguin’s numerous renderings of Tahitian models. Here, SherGil may be making a commentary on the Western tradition of eroticizing and sexualizing colored women, while herself negotiating the space she occupied as a biracial and bicultural artist in Europe. As Saloni Mathur argues: In general, Sher-Gil’s sexuality is not depicted through the terms of the French male painter’s preoccupation with the ripe fertility of Tahitian women, which he symbolized, for example, through the freshness of a flower—its readiness, if you like, to be plucked. Sher-Gil’s body is not offered for consumption in the manner of the fearful, reclining nude of Nevermore (1897) or the rearview portrait of Mana’o tupa-pa’u (The Spirit of the Dead Watching) (1892).71

68

Mary D Garrard, "Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting," The Art Bulletin 62, no. 1 (1980): 108. 69 Garrard, "Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting," 106. 70 Saloni Mathur, "A Retake of Sher-Gil's Self-Portrait as Tahitian," Critical Inquiry 37, no. 3 (2011): 534. 71 Mathur, "A Retake of Sher-Gil's Self-Portrait as Tahitian," 521.

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As such, Sher-Gil resists being primitivized or eroticized: as she stands in-profile, she looks away from the viewer unlike Gauguin’s Tahitian women (see Figure 3, Two Tahitian Women [1899]), posed with her arms crossed across her lap as if to block access to her body. The Asian art in the background may be a note to how the East and the West converge not only in herself but also in the work of artists across Europe and India: Japanese art was influential on the modernist, nineteenth-to-twentieth century Bengal School of Painting in India, just as it was on the post-Impressionists of Europe.72 Sher-Gil, however, faces away from the mural and away from whichever post-Impressionist casts his shadow upon her to suggest that she takes her art in a different direction. She goes beyond merely Eastern and Western traditions, but configures the two to fashion her own artistic and individual identity. This conceptualization of her self-identity through her art would come to prefigure her stark, melancholic portraits of rural India as she drew upon elements from both spheres of her world to present a style wholly new. Yet, India would take her work in a slightly different direction: while she may have been perceived as an “exotic” woman in France, her upperclass, European and urban sensibilities

Fig. 3 Paul Gauguin Two Tahitian Women, 1899 Oil on canvas, 94 x 72.4 cm © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

72

would position her as an other in her father’s homeland.

Mathur, "A Retake of Sher-Gil's Self-Portrait as Tahitian," 27-28.

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In India Having garnered some acclaim in Europe as her painting Young Girls (1932) won the Gold Medal at the Paris Salon, and feeling “haunted by an intense longing to return to India, feeling in some strange inexplicable way that there lay [her] destiny as a painter,”73 Sher-Gil departed for India in 1935. Her instructor, Lucien Simon, had advised Sher-Gil to find her artistic personality not in the grey palette of Europe, but in the “color and light of the east.”74 Once she reached India, however, the landscape left a rather different impression on her: “It was the vision of a winter in India— desolate, yet strangely beautiful,” she wrote, “—of endless tracks of luminous yellowgrey land, of dark-bodied, sad-faced, incredibly thin men and women, who move silently looking almost like silhouettes over which an indefinable melancholy reigns.”75 Sher-Gil, like Simon, was likely subject to Orientalist discourses that fashioned the East through Western eyes: in Europe, she would have been familiar with Goethe and Byron and Hugo’s restructurings of the East as contradictory land of great beauty and equal savagery. As wrote Edward Said, “the ‘real’ Orient provoked a writer to his vision; it very rarely guided it.”76 And so, Sher-Gil sought after her imagined India, only to be surprised to find a country shrouded in fatigue rather than brimming with light and color. This “melancholy” of the people forever stuck with her and came to dominate the mood of her later works. After touring India and its artistic legacy—from the folk paintings in Ajanta to the modern works of the Bengali school of Painters—Sher-Gil found just as much elation as disillusion. The ancient murals of Ajanta in Maharashtra, India enthralled her: in a letter to her parents she wrote, “Ajanta was wonderful. I have, for the first time since my return to India, learnt something wonderful.”77 And from the paintings in the cavetemple of Ellora, she drew upon the magnificent sense of “silence” and “desolation.”78 73

Tariro Mzezewa, "Overlooked No More: Amrita Sher-Gil, a Pioneer of Indian Art," The New York Times, June 21, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/obituaries/amrita-shergil-dead.html. 74 Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: Art and Life; A Reader, 5. 75 Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: Art and Life; A Reader, 5. 76 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 22. 77 Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil, 267. 78 Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil, 265.

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Of Mughal Painting (prominent during 16th to 18th century India), she admired the stylization of peoples and their faces.79 SherGil largely expressed disdain, however, for modern painting emerging in India, especially for the Bengal School that was largely led by Abanindranath Tagore in late-eighteenth to early-nineteenth centuries. The Bengal painters turned inwards towards folk and religious mythology and local artistic styles in their reclamation of Indian tradition for the nationalistic Indian art movement. Tagore’s most famed work, Mother India (1905) (Figure 4) depicts a divinely glowing, multiarmed woman recalling images of Hindu deities. She is modestly clad in saffron (an auspicious Hindu color) garments, bearing symbolistic items like a script as motif for her education and religiosity, and grain as representative of her fertility. The flatness and lack of perspective in the painting draw upon ancient and Mughal Indian artistic traditions. The elevation of an Indian woman to the status of a Goddess represented the Indian nationalists’ ideals of womanhood—pious,

Fig. 4 Abanindranath Tagore Mother India [Bharat Mata], 1905 Watercolor on paper, 26.7 x 15.2 cm © Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata www.museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/re cord/vmh_kolRBS27ANT-16706, accessed December 16, 2018

modest, chaste and educated.80

79

Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil, 333. Partha Chatterjee, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question, in Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press): 238-9. 80

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Of course, the reality facing women in India was quite different. Patriarchal, casteist and religious oppression put them in a place of entrapped subordination. Sher-Gil wrote in an article for The Hindu, “The [Bengal School of] Indian art committed the mistake of feeding almost exclusively on the tradition of mythology and romance.”81 As such, much of the work of the Bengal School of painters was inadvertently romanticizing the otherwise harrowing life experiences of Indian women. Grasping the untruth in such euphemized narratives of Indian womanhood and rural life, Sher-Gil took to uncovering and portraying the harsh realities that lay beneath. She wrote in another letter, “I realized my artistic mission then: to interpret the life of Indians and particularly of the poor Indians pictorially, to paint those silent images of infinite submission and patience, to depict their angular brown bodies.”82 Perhaps it was the distance from India that she had acquired during her long sojourn abroad that allowed her to see the nation with a certain objectivity, with a sense of detachment from the effusive nationalist idealisms and utopian narratives. That is not to say that she was unsympathetic to India’s anti-colonial movement. While Sher-Gil maintained a close relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru (one of the most prominent nationalists and independent India’s first Prime Minister),83 she was able to pose questions to his nationalist outlook, reminding the anti-colonial movement of the need for great reform with regards to overcoming traditional and native sensibilities. As one who was othered in Europe, as an artist who saw colored women depicted as Gauguin’s Tahitian girls were, Sher-Gil could find a certain solidarity with the oppressed women of rural India, who remained subjects constructed through the male vision. Inspired by her tour of South India, Sher-Gil came to paint a series of social-realist themed paintings depicting issues of poverty, gender inequality and casteism in the country. In her diary entry dated 1st August, 1925, Sher-Gil recounts her dreary impressions of a child-marriage ceremony. A bride of thirteen years of age, whom she describes as looking “forlorn” with an “expression of weariness in [her] lovely liquid 81

K. C Chitrabanu, "An Indian Rhapsody," The Hindu, February 07, 2013, https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/an-indian-rhapsody/article4389013.ece. 82 Mzezewa, "Overlooked No More: Amrita Sher-Gil, a Pioneer of Indian Art," June 21, 2018. 83 As attested to by numerous letters to him

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dark eyes,”84 was being wedded to a fifty-five-year-old man. Even at this time, when she would have been a mere twelve years of age, Sher-Gil demonstrates deep feeling for the emotional state of her subjects. The child-bride’s sadness would have especially been striking to Sher-Gil considering that the two were of a similar age: the sight of the bride’s condition would have been a reminder of her privileged life experience that exempted her from being put in the same subjugated position. In her acclaimed painting The Bride’s Toilet (1937) (Figure 5), then, Sher-Gil depicts a marriage scene that recalls her impressions of the child-bride. In the painting, the fairskinned, beautiful young bride sits in the center looking forlorn, as if given into her fate, strictly gazing outward at the viewer. Her gaze is confrontational, like that of the woman in Edouard Manet’s controversial painting Luncheon on the Grass (1862). Here, however, the bride is neither entirely nude nor entirely comfortable—this is neither an assertive woman who flaunts her sexuality, nor is she accustomed to the company of men. Women in rural (and often in urban) India were confined to interior spaces, ideally living an existence invisible to adult men: while they elevated to the position of Goddesses as in Tagore’s Mother India, the effect of the matter, writes Partha Chatterjee, was to “erase [their] sexuality in the world outside the home.”85 So, we visit the bride her in her toilet, in a private interior space, in the sole company of women and children. Note how markedly different this bride appears compared to Manet’s sexually liberated woman set in the public space of a park or garden.86 Perhaps this contrast is exactly what Sher-Gil was striving to evoke: here, she calls attention to the drab condition of women in rural India. The vibrant hues and colors inspired by Indian artistic traditions clash with the dreary, melancholic expressions of the subjects. Just as the painting’s own style contends with its subject’s condition, so 84

Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil, 29. Partha Chatterjee, The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question, in Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press): 249. 86 On the other hand, one may interpret this comparison as Sher-Gil’s way of commenting on the backwardness and ignorance of Indian society. As such, Sher-Gil would be primitivizing her subject while elevating the Western woman to the status of being emancipated and enlightened. Such a contrast ignorantly presumes the West to be the sole center of progress and undercuts the contributions of the world (the East and Africa and the Americas and so on) towards the formation of the “modern” and “modernity.” 85

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the Indian nationalists’ ideals for modern post-colonial India conflict with socio-cultural baggage weighing down upon the future bearings of the country.

Fig. 5 Amrita Sher-Gil Bride’s Toilet, 1937 Oil on Canvas, 146 x 88.8 cm © National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Photograph from Google Arts and Culture, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/bride-s-toilet/xQFBEtHIb8eQDg, accessed December 16, 2018.

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Fig. 6 Amrita Sher-Gil Woman on Charpai, 1940 Oil on canvas, 87.5 x 74.5cm National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.

Fig. 7 Edouard Manet Olympia, 1863 Oil on canvas, 130 x 190cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Another comparison of Sher-Gil’s depictions of female sexuality with Manet’s can be drawn between their respective paintings Woman on Charpai (1940) (Figure 6) and Olympia (1863) (Figure 7). Both paintings show reclining women in private spaces accompanied by a doting companion. In Charpai, however, the woman remains fully clothed, although her open legs are suggestive of sensuality. While she faces the viewer, her eyes are closed and she almost appears to be reluctantly awaiting a sexual advance towards her. Manet’s Olympia is a much more legible work: the woman, probably a sex worker, asserts her sexual freedom by covering her genitalia. Her gaze directly confronts that of the viewer, and her sense of independence may be unnerving to the male viewer as it certainly was in 1860s France. How, then, does Sher-Gil render her female subject differently? Most significantly, she does not ascribe power or a sense of agency to this woman. Rather, the subject is made weak before the male gaze: even if she is no sex worker, even if she is moderately wealthy and has a servant to fan her, she remains a tool to be exploited for the pleasure of the male viewer. As such, Sher-Gil adds a pictorial appendage to the Indian nationalists’ debate surrounding the women’s question. She presents the rural Indian woman’s dreary reality, lived in confinement and through sexual repression and exploitation. And she does this while filling her canvas with vibrant colors and composing her paintings with the flatness and lack of perspective in the manner of traditional and folk Indian art, and as such, she continues to highlight the contrast between the bright landscape and the dull, fatigued reality of its inhabitants. This socialist-realist manner of portraying her subjects is found across her later collection of works. Her painting Mother India (1935) (Figure 8) may be consciously invoking Abanindranath Tagore’s famed painting of the same name. Here, however, the figurative Mother India is no glowing Goddess: she is a poor, dejected, emaciated mother of two. This is the image of India that many overlooked, that many perhaps did not want to confront. Motherhood and poverty feature also in Sher-Gil’s Fruit Vendors (1937) (Figure 9)—another striking depiction of poverty and feminine struggles in India. The family is likely lower-caste (signified by dark-skin and the bare-chested girls) and in mourning (as signified by their white clothing)—perhaps for a male

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protector figure like a husband or a father. Such startling images with subjects like the rural poor were rarely figured in Indian painting previously. The Bengal School was preoccupied with mythology, and more traditional art forms were modeled to suit their monarchal patronage and as such depicted lives of splendor and wealth. Sher-Gil’s art did not portray an ideal India—it represented the country as she saw it, as it needed to be seen for the sake of positive reform. From Western art, she called upon motifs and symbols to aid in her work’s legibility through allusion, and from local Indian arts she drew upon color and composition to create an artistic vocabulary suited to representing the contradictions within Indian culture and society such as the people's bright and elegant clothes but bleak lives. Indeed, it is as Sher-Gil evaluated her style when she wrote: I am an individualist, evolving a new technique, which, though not necessarily Indian in the traditional sense of the word, will yet be fundamentally Indian in spirit. With the eternal significance of form and colour I interpret India and, principally, the life of the Indian poor on the plane that transcends the plane of mere sentimental interest.87

Fig. 8 Amrita Sher-Gil Mother India, 1935 Oil on canvas, 65 x 81.8 cm © National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi Photograph from Google Arts and Culture, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/motherindia/4wEg15tTOJU0-Aindia/4wEg15tTOJU0accessed December 17, 2018. 87

Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: Art and Life; A Reader, 8.

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Concluding Thoughts Amrita Sher-Gil was as conflicted with her self-identity as her proclaimed homeland was with its own: India wanted to draw upon the material advances of the West and remain fundamentally Indian, just as Sher-Gil would draw upon motifs from the works of post-impressionists in her works that presented Indian subjects in an Indian landscape. As such, Sher-Gil’s struggles with herself in her art resounded with implications for the identity of independent, post-colonial India. And the country indeed resonated with her; she wrote in a letter to the art critic Karl Khandalavala, “I can only paint in India. Elsewhere I am not natural, I have no self-confidence. Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and many others. India belongs only to me.”88 Yet, it is likely that Sher-Gil could have not captured India so remarkably, with that beautiful hint of objectivity, were it not for her distance from the country owing to her diverse upbringing and education in Europe. Sher-Gil did not separate the spheres of East and West, but brought them together in a way that produced an artistic style most appropriate to her

Fig. 9 Amrita Sher-Gil Fruit Vendors, 1937 Oil on canvas, 104 x 73 cm Private Collection of Vivian Sundaram

interpretations of her subjects. She purported towards social change by giving India (and Europe) a sense of direction as it attempted to situate itself

Photograph from Wikiart https://www.wikiart.org/en/amritasher-gil/fruit-vendors accessed December 17, 2018. 88

in the expanded horizons of the globe.

Sher-Gil, Amrita Sher-Gil, 491.

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The nuances of social tensions that plagued rural India were not remiss for her either: she presented before her viewers the treacherous plight of Indian women and villagers. Sher-Gil challenged the rigidity of the art world and of society at large, and called for change within and without. Just as Picasso overturned the doctrines of classical Western painting through the appropriation of African artforms in his work, Sher-Gil turned to Indian artistic traditions and rural subjects to confront the dominant narratives and ideals of nationhood and racial identity through her syncretized modernist style of painting. Bibliography Chatterjee, Partha. "The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question." In Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History, edited by Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, 233-253. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990. Chitrabanu, K. C. "An Indian Rhapsody." The Hindu. February 07, 2013. https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/an-indian-rhapsody/article4389013.ece. Dalmia, Yashodhara. Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2006. Dalmia, Yashodhara. Amrita Sher-Gil: Art and Life; A Reader. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. Forgåcs, Éva. "The Safe Haven of a New Classicism: The Quest for a New Aesthetics in Hungary 1904-1912." Studies in East European Thought 60, no. 1/2 (2008): 75-95. Garrard, Mary D. "Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting." The Art Bulletin 62, no. 1 (1980): 97-112. doi:10.2307/3049963. Mathur, Saloni. "A Retake of Sher-Gil's Self-Portrait as Tahitian." Critical Inquiry 37, no. 3 (2011): 515-44. doi:10.1086/659356. Mzezewa, Tariro. "Overlooked No More: Amrita Sher-Gil, a Pioneer of Indian Art." The New York Times. June 21, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/obituaries/amrita-shergildead.html. Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979. Sher-Gil, Amrita. Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self-Portrait in Letters & Writings. Compiled by Vivan Sundaram. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2010.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Maxwell Fertik Trinity College '19

untitled Maxwell Fertik

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untitled Maxwell Fertik

“My artwork does not seek to be political. Rather, my paintings are in a constant state of visual dynamism, loaded with feelings of drama, love, fear and friendship. Each inch of the canvas presents a distinct relationship of color, form and emotion, layered on top of one another, creating shadow-like records of an encounter. Often referencing de Kooning, Matisse and Motherwell as key influences, I choose not to shy away from this clear homage to contemporary and modern art history. Engaging as well with architecture in form and jazz in terms of improvisation, I seek to load my paintings with possibilities, taking just a glimpse of everything and quickly throwing it onto a canvas. Each painting depicts a specific moment or dream supplemented by research and engagement with nature.�

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One of the Boys: On Joan Mitchell’s Late-Period Before, Again IV Sara Carrillo Stanford University ‘20

I

n the May 13, 1957 issue of Life magazine, art editor Dorothy Seiberling published “Women Artists in Ascendance”, a four-page feature of the five most critically

acclaimed young female painters of the time: Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Wilson, and Nell Blaine.89 In the March preceding the article’s

release, however, Mitchell, perturbed by this title, sent a message to Seiberling: “I urgently request you withdraw my photograph from your forthcoming story on five women painters.”90 It seemed to have been entirely disregarded, as the article ran anyway along with full-page photographs of Frankenthaler, Wilson, and Hartigan as well as smaller photos of Blaine and Mitchell. Never one to settle, Mitchell did not take the small size of her photograph particularly well and, when she saw Jane Wilson after the article’s release, Mitchell demanded, “YOU! Why is your picture bigger than mine?”91 Though the Life article lauds these five women, “they have won acclaim not as notable women artists but as notable artists who happen to be women,”92 Mitchell’s dissatisfaction with being one of the women artists- whom Mitchell dismissed as ‘lady painters’ early in her career- remains indicative of a lifetime trying to evade this classification, for ultimately the ‘woman artist’ was not perceived as a true artist. She often openly expressed her disdain toward Grace Hartigan and Helen Frankenthaler, perhaps the most well-known female Abstract Expressionists of their time. Instead, 89

Dorothy Seiberling, "Women Artists in Ascendance," Life, March 13, 1957. Patricia Albers, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter (New York: Knopf, 2011), 244-245. 91 Albers, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter, 244-245. 92 Seiberling, "Women Artists in Ascendance," March 13, 1957. 90

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she turned to Willem de Kooning, Frank Stella, Robert Motherwell, and the rest of ‘the boys’ that gathered for drinks in Greenwich Village’s Cedar Tavern for companionship, validation, and support, regarding herself as one of them. This paper will argue that Joan Mitchell’s selfidentification with the male Abstract Expressionists influenced her action painting techniques. I advance this argument through both an analysis of her 1985 painting Before, Again IV and a brief discussion of the impact of her battles with cancer in the 1980s (Fig. 1). The distinction between ‘artist’ and ‘woman artist’ was never exclusively applied to the Abstract Expressionists,

Fig. 1 Joan Mitchell Before, Again IV, 1985 Oil on canvas, 110 x 78 3/4 in. Anderson Collection at Stanford University, Gift of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson, and Mary Patricia Anderson Pence. © Estate of Joan Mitchell.

and in fact was used to categorize artists from the 19th century like Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, who were known as two of ‘les trois grandes dames’ of Impressionism.93 Still, it remained an

important issue with which many artists contemporary to Mitchell were forced to grapple. In her essay Woman as Artist, Judy Chicago, a second-wave feminist artist working predominantly in the sixties and seventies, argues that the woman artist is inclined to resist “being identified with women because to be female is to be an object of contempt.”94 We see this in several statements from female artists during the years 93

Geffroy, Gustave (1894), "Histoire de l'Impressionnisme", La Vie Artistique: 268. Judy Chicago, "Woman as Artist," in Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968-2014, 2nd ed. (John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 223-224. 94

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of Abstract Expressionism (Lee Krasner, prominent Abstract Expressionist painter and wife of Jackson Pollock, famously declared, “I’m an artist, not a woman artist”95). This sentiment drove Mitchell’s artistic career, too: the desire to not only exist independently of the femininity that was written onto how she was understood but to utterly reject the feminine from her identity altogether. Further, Chicago contends that for a woman artist to be ‘successful’ in the 20thcentury art world, she must first accept the framework of art-making dictated by men. Those who concede to working within this male-centric framework, those female artists deemed an anomalous few by Chicago, are successful because they are attempting to paint or make art like a male artist.96 I argue that Mitchell is one of the principal figures that comprised this very group of women. Moreover, Mitchell’s sizable oeuvre of large-scale action paintings seem to corroborate Chicago’s polemic, “The woman artist tries to prove that she’s as good as a man… by creating work that is extreme in scale, ambition, or scope. She tries to impress with her drive, determination, her toughness, or her integrity.”97 This desire to produce ‘extreme’ work in order to impress plays an influential role over how Mitchell’s action painting techniques manifest on canvas. Having a deeply rooted understanding of the importance of physical involvement with the painting process, it did not take Mitchell long to develop a characteristically vigorous and hands-on method of dealing with her paints. It seems that the artist’s devotion to the physicality of her painting style was part of the reason she was not fond of Helen Frankenthaler. Deeming Frankenthaler, her public persona- the uptown darling of the mid-century art world, and her soak-staining technique far too feminine, Mitchell famously called Frankenthaler “that kotex painter”.98 Perhaps the act of pouring turpentine-thinned paints onto canvases was too reactionary to earn Mitchell’s 95

Michael Kernan, "Lee Krasner," The Washington Post, October 23, 1983 https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/style/1983/10/23/lee-krasner/cfe27fbd-8017-483f-bc08039ab666f5a8/?utm_term=.ed61d99c94dd. 96 Chicago, "Woman as Artist,” 223-224. 97 Chicago, "Woman as Artist,” 223-224. 98 Mark Stevens, Willem De Kooning, and Annalyn Swan, De Kooning: An American Master (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 345.

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respect. Still, Mitchell’s dismissal of Helen Frankenthaler is complicated by her approval of Jackson Pollock, whose drip paintings were created using a process similar to Frankenthaler’s; it is likely that Mitchell ultimately dismissed her (and not Pollock) simply because she was not one of the boys. And just as she lived her life- full of a commanding presence that at times turned eruptive and violent- Mitchell was known for attacking her enormous canvases with powerful energy and bursts of movement; she is recognized for employing a wide range of techniques that art critic Klaus Kertess refers to as the ‘hand’s direct intervention.’99 Whereas the paintbrush is considered the typical intervening tool between artist and canvas, in Mitchell’s case her hand acts as the primary applicator of paint to the canvas; she has exploited just about every manner of direct, manual paint application: finger smearing, paint flinging, paint dripping, paint squeezed directly from the tube, and brush-stroking. In the words of Kertess himself, “so urgent did her need to paint seem to be that the meditation of the paintbrush was largely denied its conventional primacy in favor of the hand’s direct intervention.”100 He goes on to argue for the ‘exploitative’ nature of Mitchell’s relationship with painting and with her inventive technique. Though Pollock’s drip technique created a paradigm shift in our understanding of painting as such, it still relied on the paintbrush as the primary modifier of the canvas, unlike Mitchell’s manually manipulated works. There is a valuable connection to be made between Mitchell’s manual intervention technique and Judy Chicago’s assertion regarding the ‘extreme’ and impassioned work of the female artist. This is not to say that the way she painted is modeled exclusively after techniques associated with the male artists at the time, nor is it to say that Mitchell was creating work in this way simply to garner the success she thought she deserved (that of a man’s). Instead, this connection serves to reinforce the idea that Mitchell’s estrangement from her identity as a woman altered the physical

99

Joan Mitchell, Klaus Kertess, and Christopher Burke, Joan Mitchell: Frémicourt Paintings, 1960-62 (New York: Cheim & Read, 2005), n.p. 100 Ibid.

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composition of her canvases as she attempted to move away from ‘feminine’ traditions of painting and onto equal footing with her male counterparts. Even late into her career, Mitchell still created works using her ‘hand’s direct intervention’ style, Before, Again IV is part of a cycle of six works from 1985 that were all composed of these smears, drips, and flings. One of Mitchell’s larger horizontal single-panel paintings, measuring nearly nine by seven feet, Before, Again IV (1985) is an oil on canvas painting completed during Mitchell’s later years in Vetheuil, France. Taken as a whole, the painting’s grandiose presence is intensified by the alloverness of the composition- not a single space of the canvas goes unpainted (see Fig. 1). Yellow, orange, pink, red, and Mitchell’s signature cobalt blue strike and slash across the canvas. Art critic Harold Rosenberg, who coined the term ‘action painting’ in his 1952 essay titled The American Action Painters, noted that for the action painters the canvas was transformed into an “arena in which to act.”101 Before, Again IV is Mitchell’s arena, and each and every bold stroke and form is evidence of her physical gestures. Moreover, since every square inch of the massive nine by seven foot canvas has been painted with intention, we can see the relationship between the artist and her canvas as a battle-turned-victory for Mitchell. She has conquered her daunting opponent and left her mark everywhere she could, but it was not a painless victory. The upper right corner of the canvas (plate I) had been painted with darker blue pigments which were then scraped off entirely, painted over using white paint, then smeared around with what appears to be her finger, resulting in lightly pigmented cloud-like forms. They lack the visual information that the other strokes have, yet are uniquely hazy and deprive the viewer of clarity. These artist-versus-materials battles with her massive canvases imply two things; first, that they can be likened to her clashes with the art world’s desire to classify her as a ‘woman painter’ and second,

101

Harold Rosenberg, "The American Action Painters." ARTnews, January 1952, 22-50.

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that they required an extraordinary amount of physical and mental assertion on her behalf. It is here that it becomes evident that Mitchell’s action painting was as much a literal physical expression of aggression and emotion as it was her painterly style. The thick impasto reds marks (plate II) that are scattered throughout were likely done without a brush entirely, instead accomplished by squeezing paint directly from the tube onto the canvas and smearing the paint with a finger. Initially, this appears to be an accident: perhaps Mitchell simply knocked over and spilled her red paint onto her canvas, a closer look, however, reveals intentional brushstrokes painted over the red forms. This was, in fact, a deliberate choice, because tube-squeezing had been part of her manual intervention repertoire for decades.102 Though these red droplets gesture to birds in the sky or surreal rain, the physical action of crushing a tube of paint is rather violent as is ‘throwing out’ the palette and brush in a moment of creative explosion. This impulse to overturn painting conventions and simply Plates I, II and III respectively Before, Again IV, details

express oneself by any means necessary is one that would have been read as ‘masculine,’ since

102

"Now Contemporary Art Evening Auction," Mitchell, Joan, Two Sunflowers, Contemporary Art Sotheby's, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2010/contemporary-art-evening-auctionn08636/lot.18.html.; Joan Mitchell, Klaus Kertess, and Christopher Burke, Joan Mitchell: Frémicourt Paintings, 1960-62 (New York: Cheim & Read, 2005).

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this artistic revolution has been historically attributed to Jackson Pollock and his drip painting technique. Like Pollock’s drip paintings, Mitchell’s Before, Again IV is covered in paint drips (plate III). Unlike Pollock’s paintings which were composed entirely of paint drippings, however, the paint drips in Mitchell’s work are just one of the direct intervention techniques that Kertess notes in her body of work. In plate III, the viewer gets the sense of the collective movement of the paint drippings throughout the canvas: they are like a torrential rain that emerges from the brushstrokes and plummets downward, in some cases off of the visible surface of the canvas entirely, and contribute significantly to the work’s frenzied energy. Because the drips run on top of other brushstrokes, it is likely that Mitchell periodically hung the canvas to let certain layers of brushstrokes drip and dry, only to continue laying different pigments on top of them. Toward the bottom half of the painting is a large, black calligraphic form upon which runs lime green, periwinkle blue, and off white paints; it is both concealed and highlighted by these paint drippings, both protected and consumed. The tension between this form and the drips seems to exist between a sort of ‘feminine’ protection and ‘masculine’ consumption. Even still, Mitchell’s drippings communicate the internal/societal tension that the artist was working through as she tackled her work. Still, Mitchell’s Before, Again IV painting is more complex than just an artistic manifestation of her crusade against being considered a ‘woman artist.’ The Before, Again series, from which Before, Again IV originated, was painted during her 2 year battle with cancer and illnesses which were certainly the result of a lifetime of heavy drinking and chain-smoking. The Joan Mitchell Foundation considers the artist’s late career to span from 1981 to 1992, which covers the years that Mitchell was ill until she died of lung cancer in Paris in October of 1992.103 Mitchell’s initial battle with cancer began in 1984 when she was diagnosed with oral cancer and had surgery that left her with a dead jawbone. The following year, she was hospitalized for hip surgery to try to

103

Joan Mitchell Foundation. Artist Timeline.

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correct osteoporosis and painted the Between series and the Faded Air I and II diptychs while in rehabilitation.104 Over the following months, Mitchell would find herself in and out of a series of operations and treatments, increasingly aware of and depressed by her finite mortality; it is during this time that she paints the A Few Days(After James Schuyler) series, the Before, Again series, and the Then, Last Time series, which reflect Mitchell’s psychological changes from living with cancer. And while she remained impressively prolific during this painful time, painting had become its own demon for the ailing artist. Patricia Albers’s biography explains that Mitchell’s late-period paintings were accomplished by her unwavering determination; though she could barely walk, she continued to paint these nine-foot-tall paintings by clambering up on a metal stool to place a stroke or two, she would then get off her stool, study the results, and then do it all again. Mitchell believed that getting discouraged did nothing but waste time, and not even two rounds of late-stage cancer were going to get in her way.105 Instead, she channeled her experiences and painted them, working against the requests of her friends and doctors and did not stop until her cancer finally won. It would seem that a conflict would arise between her internalized identity as a ‘male artist’ and her ultimately lost battle with cancer, but it is exactly the thing that kept her motivated to fight on. Without a doubt, there is a sense of finality in Before, Again IV, but Mitchell’s color-filled style is as unperturbed as ever. Chicago argues that the female artist “demands ever greater acrobatics of herself, or she becomes a ‘lady artist’ content with a minor position in the art world,”106 and though Chicago says this as a warning, I believe that for Mitchell it is what saved her from being content with giving up on painting and, of course, what saved her from becoming a ‘lady painter.’ Mitchell’s adamant refusal to have her work be read as ‘feminine’ seemed to greatly shape both her painterly technique (and relationship to the canvas) as well as her understanding of herself as an artist. These concepts of, I posit, self-fashioning, 104

Ibid. Patricia Albers, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter (New York: Knopf, 2011), 384-385. 106 Judy Chicago, "Woman as Artist," in Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968-2014, 2nd ed. (John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 223-224. 105

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are complicated by the artist’s later battles with cancer and their relation to her aversion to being seen as a ‘lady painter.’ Joan Mitchell left behind over 1,000 completed works, most of them measuring in at eight or nine feet tall. Albers retells one of the artist’s final days, “In her studio one morning that August she had carefully arranged her brushes and visually caressed her paints, reassured by the fact that looking at them made her yearn to paint, which meant she existed. She could no longer unscrew the caps on her paint tubes, so someone did it for her, and could no longer climb a ladder, so she used extra-long brushes.”107 In the late summer of 1992 came Mitchell’s remarkable swan-song work: these final two paintings, titled Ici and Merci, measuring an impressive nine by thirteen feet, pulsate with color, movement, and life. Bibliography Albers, Patricia. Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter. New York: Knopf, 2011. Chicago, Judy. "Woman as Artist." In Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968-2014, 223-24. Second ed. John Wiley & Sons, 2015. Geffroy, Gustave, "Histoire de l'Impressionnisme", In La Vie Artistique, 268, 1894. Joan Mitchell Foundation. Artist Timeline, http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/work/artist/timeline. Kernan, Michael. "Lee Krasner." The Washington Post. October 23, 1983. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/style/1983/10/23/lee-krasner/cfe27fbd-8017483f-bc08-039ab666f5a8/?utm_term=.ed61d99c94dd. Mitchell, Joan, Klaus Kertess, and Christopher Burke. Joan Mitchell: Frémicourt Paintings, 196062. New York: Cheim & Read, 2005. "Now Contemporary Art Evening Auction," Mitchell, Joan. Two Sunflowers, Contemporary Art Sotheby's http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2010/contemporary-art-eveningauction-n08636/lot.18.html. Rosenberg, Harold. "The American Action Painters." ARTnews, January 1952, 22-50. Seiberling, Dorothy. "Women Artists in Ascendance." Life, March 13, 1957, 74-77. Stevens, Mark, Willem De Kooning, and Annalyn Swan. De Kooning: An American Master (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013). 345.

107

Patricia Albers, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter (New York: Knopf, 2011), 429.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Richard Graham

Macalester College '19

Separate Entities Richard Graham 62


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“This piece is an investigation into the relationship between people and the environment, and the mindset that what humans do is somehow separate from the idea of nature. We too frequently see ourselves and the natural environment as separate entities, and even many environmentalists think of nature as something that happens far from wherever we are, something that requires a long drive away from the city to experience, something that you can only go to on a vacation. This piece is my argument against that mentality, a reflection of my own sense of place and my experience in the world.� Note: These images are a selection from a broader series.

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The Power of a Vase: Magic and Astrological Divination in the Medieval Islamic World Maya Kahane Johns Hopkins University ‘19

B

etween the ninth and thirteenth century, the scientific fields of astronomy and

astrology were tightly intertwined in the medieval Islamic world. It was only around the mid-thirteenth-century that a clear distinction between the two fields was made.108 Astronomy, referred to in Arabic as ‘ilm al-

nujūm or “the science of the stars,” was thereafter categorized as a mathematical science, one that scientifically calculates the motions and positions of planets and stars. In contrast, astrology, referred to in Arabic as ʻilm aḥkām al-nujūm or “the science of the judgments of the stars,” was categorized more akin to the modern concept of pseudoscience, in that it seeks to understand how those same motions and positions of planets and stars 108

Vase A Unidentified Iranian artist Vase, ca. 12th-early 13th century Brass, inlaid with silver and bituminous black filler, 16.83 x 12.86 cm © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

George Saliba, A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam (New York: New York University Press, 1994), 66.

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affect the lives of human beings and events on Earth, most namely in the form of twelve Zodiac signs.109 Because of its foretelling nature and occult powers, the study of astrology became popular in the medieval Islamic world, as demonstrated by the many decorative works of art with cosmological and zodiacal imagery produced during this period. Vase A—with its inscribed signs of the Zodiac—is one example of astrologically influenced artistic production. Through its intended use, Arabic inscriptions, and zodiacal imagery, this vase reveals medieval Islamic beliefs in magic and astrological divination.

Vase B Unidentified artist Jug decorated with hunters, animal combats, seated drinkers and musicians, ca. 1200 Sheet rass, inlaid with silver and gold and with incised decoration, H: 15.3 cm © The British Museum, London

Vase C Unidentified artist Ewer, ca. 1180-1210 Brass; raised, repoussé, inlaid with silver and a black compound, 40 x 19.1 cm © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

109

Stefano Carboni, Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013), 3.

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Housed in the Walters Art Museum, this work was produced by an unidentified Iranian artist from the Khorasan region (modern day Iran) during the medieval Islamic period (twelfth or early-thirteenth-century).110 The shape of the vase consists of a wide neck on the top, a rounded body in the middle, and a smaller foot on the bottom. At its most basic level, the vase can be divided into three sections: the top section, which includes the neck and upper parts of the body, contains two sets of Arabic inscriptions; the middle section contains figural representations of different Zodiac signs in individual medallions; and the bottom section contains knotted roundels and small circles extending from the lower portion of the body to the foot of the vase. In this manner, the three sections seem to be arranged in a type of hierarchical structure with the most highly regarded form of Islamic art—the word of God—appearing at the top of the object, figural imagery appearing in the middle, and simple geometric forms appearing at the bottom. The shape of this vase is consistent with other decorative objects produced during this time, such as the jug shown in Vase B. Although the necks found in both the vase and the jug are wide, they are not particularly tall or spout-like when compared to the necks of ewers produced within this same period (Vase C). Because of this difference, the vase and the jug were probably not used in the pouring of liquids. Even more so, the fact that both of these objects lack any form of handle, also suggests that they would not have been suitable for pouring liquids. Rather, it is more likely that these objects—based on their relatively small size: Vase A at 16.8 cm tall and Vase B at 15.3 cm tall—were used as drinking cups.111 This use of the vase as a drinking cup is further corroborated by the scalloped indentations located around its body. It is possible that these indentations were used for better gripping of the vase while drinking. The medium of the vase—brass with inlaid silver—also suggests that this drinking cup was most likely owned and used by wealthy Persians. 110

"Vase with Signs of the Zodiac." The Walters Art Museum·Works of Art. Accessed December 3, 2017. http://art.thewalters.org/detail/40304/vase-58/. 111 Rachel Ward, Islamic Metalwork (London: British Museum Press, 1993), 33.

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During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, brass with inlaid silver became a popular artistic medium for Islamic metalwork among the wealthy Persian classes.112 This rise of popularity in brass manufacturing was the result of a widespread silver shortage during the early twelfth century that caused silversmiths all across the Islamic world to start working with brass.113 Working only with brass—a more costeffective but less elegant medium than gold and silver—Islamic craftsmen searched for decorative techniques to increase the aesthetic and monetary value of their objects. Such techniques, most notably the metal inlay technique, were likely introduced during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when copper and silver inlays from Kashmir and north-east India were introduced to Islamic metalworkers through the eastern expansion of the Ghaznavid and Ghurid sultanates of Afghanistan.114 Islamic craftsmen later replaced copper with silver for a more ornate appearance and slightly altered the metal inlaying technique into two types. Art historian Finbarr Barry Flood in “Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World,” describes these two metal inlay techniques, linear inlay and spatial inlay: “…linear inlay was usually hammered into place along incised and chiseled lines that were undercut…for spatial inlay the edges of inlaid areas were undercut, the inlay sheet laid in position, and the lip of the cut hammered into place over it…[in spatial inlay] the brass matrix overlies the edges of the silver or copper and holds it in place…one might also add the use of a bituminous black substance…to provide striking visual effects while aiding the legibility of surface designs”115 This spatial inlay technique is found in Vase A, as evidenced by its silver inlay and bituminous black filler.116 Now transformed into an object of luxury, this vase—like 112

Ward, Islamic Metalwork, 71. James Wilson Allan, Persian Metal Technology: 700-1300 AD (London: Ithaca Press, 1979), 45. 114 Finbarr Barry Flood, “Gilding, Inlay and the Mobility of Metallurgy: a Case of Fraud in Medieval Kashmir,” in Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World: Art, Craft and Text (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd 2012), 132. 115 Flood, “Gilding, Inlay and the Mobility of Metallurgy,” 133-134. 116 "Vase with Signs of the Zodiac." The Walters Art Museum·Works of Art. Accessed December 3, 2017. http://art.thewalters.org/detail/40304/vase-58/. 113

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other inlay objects produced during this time—competed with objects made exclusively from gold and silver for the consumption of wealthy Persians.117 Through its size and artistic medium, the vase’s intended use and users can be more clearly understood. Aside from their brass and silver inlay, many objects like the vase were also sought after by wealthy Persians because of the Arabic inscriptions and zodiacal imagery found on their surface. After separating from astronomy in the mid-thirteenth-century, astrology became a popular branch of science due to its ability to predict the influence planets and stars have on human beings and events on Earth. Basing their knowledge on translated ancient Greek sources, Islamic astrologers in the medieval period believed that the Earth was surrounded by eight main Spheres; the first seven Spheres belonged to the seven known planets at this time: the Moon (al-qamar), Mercury (‘uṭārid), Venus (al-zuhara), the Sun (al-shams), Mars (al-mirrikh), Jupiter (almushtari), and Saturn (zuḥal).118 The eighth Sphere was where all of the 48 constellations in the universe rotated, including the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.119 All of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac were associated with a different sign, and each sign possessed certain attributes, qualities, and traits. Islamic astrologers believed that at the time of a person’s birth, a specific horoscope was given to him or her based on the arrangement of the planets within the constellations; these horoscopes were later used to predict the various personality traits and qualities found within an individual. Horoscopes were also used more extensively to determine whether a certain day would be auspicious or inauspicious based on the relative position of the planets and the stars on that day, or to identify the proper course of action a ruler should take in order to grant him good fortune.120 Because of its predictive and supernatural powers, astrology was closely connected with magic and divination. In the medieval Islamic world, magic was 117

Ward, Islamic Metalwork, 71. Stefano Carboni, Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013), 3. 119 Carboni, Following the Stars, 4. 120 Emilie Savage-Smith, Magic and Divination in Early Islam (Great Britain: Ashgate/Variorum, 2004), xxxvii. 118

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defined as the calling upon superhuman forces, such as God or one of His intercessors, in order provide protection from sickness, bad luck, or evil.121 Astrological divination was defined as the prediction of future events based on the relative position of the planets and stars in the universe at a given time.122 Understanding the associations astrology had within the medieval Islamic period, allows us to better understand the Arabic inscriptions and zodiacal imagery found on Vase A. Inscriptions written in Arabic are found on the neck and upper body of this vase. On the neck of the vase the inscription reads, “Glory, prosperity, wealth, contentment, glory, [Muhammad’s intercession], favor and long life, perpetual;’ on the body of the vase the inscription reads, ‘Victory, blessing, ascendancy, well-being, prosperity, gratitude, perpetuity, [Muhammad’s intercession], and long life always.’123 Both of these inscriptions are consistent with the Islamic belief in magic,” in that they call upon a superhuman force to provide auspiciousness to the vase’s user. These inscriptions also help transform the vase into a talisman, or an object that is imbued with healing and protective powers through its inscribed blessings.124 In the Islamic world, the most effective talismans were believed to be those that contained prayers invoking God or the Prophet Muhammad.125 Referencing the intercession of the Prophet Muhammad in its inscribed prayers, the vase becomes an efficacious talisman that acts as an intermediary between the physical realm of its user and the spiritual realm of the Prophet. Compared to the second inscription, the uppermost inscription on the vase is slightly larger in scale. The uppermost inscription also contains abstract human faces embedded within its Arabic letters (Figure 1). Depicted in an almost identical manner, 121

Savage-Smith, Magic and Divination in Early Islam xvii. Stefano Carboni, Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013), 3. 123 "Vase with Signs of the Zodiac." The Walters Art Museum·Works of Art. Accessed December 3, 2017. http://art.thewalters.org/detail/40304/vase-58/. 124 Christiane Gruber, “From Prayer to Protection: Amulets and Talismans in the Islamic World,” in Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016), 33. 125 Al-Saleh, “Amulets and Talismans from the Islamic World: In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,” (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-). 122

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these human faces are relatively the same height and are shown in the three-quarters profile position. The inscription seems to run from right to left, since all of the human faces are looking toward the left. Despite their abstraction and missing bodies, these “humanized� letters do have identifiable facial features such as eyes, eyebrows, a nose and a mouth.

Fig. 1 Vase, detail

A similar humanized inscription appears on the base of the jug in Vase D, another Khorasan object producing during the twelfth or thirteenth century. In both the vase and the jug, the inscriptions are inlaid with silver and are written in the Naskh style of calligraphy.126 Stylistically compared to the box-like and rectangular letters of Kufic

126

Stefano Carboni, Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013), 24.

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script, the letters of Naskh script are more curved and end in an upright hook. In the Naskh script found on the vase and the jug, the upright hook of the letters end in human faces. This animated or “human-headed” script is different from the second band of inscription found on the vase. Although the upright hook of these letters ends in some form of abstracted face, they are visually more similar to plain or unanimated Naskh script. The medieval Islamic concept of physiognomy may explain the inclusion of human-headed inscriptions on this vase. Known in Arabic as firāsa, physiognomy is a separate branch of astrological divination that relies on the appearance of human faces for the gaining of information into things unseen

Vase D Unidentified artist Jug (Mashaba) with Human-Headed Inscription and Zodiac Signs, ca. late 12th-early 13th century Copper alloy, engraved, inlaid and overlaid with silver, 14 x 13.3 cm © Brooklyn Museum, New York

and the passing of knowledge between the unknown and the known.127 This concept of physiognomy helps explain why the twelve signs of the Zodiac were often personified and given human faces; through this personification, the twelve constellations of the Zodiac could more effectively predict certain attributes about an individual and what he or she may experience in the future. Knowing this, perhaps the human-headed Naskh script found on the vase served more than a decorative purpose. Instead, it is possible that these “humanized” inscriptions aided in the transmitting of blessings from the unknown supernatural realm to the known earthly realm of the vase’s user.

127

Emilie Savage-Smith, Magic and Divination in Early Islam (Great Britain: Ashgate/Variorum, 2004), xli.

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The zodiacal imagery found on the body of the vase may also suggest medieval Islamic beliefs in magic and astrological divination. It can be speculated that, much like its Arabic inscriptions, the Zodiac signs depicted on the vase were thought to invoke good wishes and place its user under the auspicious influence of the stars.128 Looking at the object in the round, ten of the twelve Zodiac signs are depicted in decorative medallions with leafy borders. The zodiacal cycle is shown in the correct order, beginning with the sign of Aries and moving Fig. 2 Vase, detail

clockwise around the fluted body of the vase. All of the figural representations within each roundel give the Zodiac sign and its respective Planetary Lord a human appearance similar to the human-headed Arabic letters in the inscriptions. This personification of the Zodiac signs and the planets follows a standard visual iconography that was first created by ancient Greek astrologers.129 Consistent with this standard iconography, Aries (al- ḥamal, “the Ram”) shows Mars, the Planetary Lord of Aries, riding on top of a ram (Figure 2).130 The next roundel represents Taurus (al-thawr, “the

Fig. 3 Vase, detail

Bull”). This roundel shows Venus, the Planetary Lord of Taurus, riding a bull and playing the lute (Figure 3).131 Next to Taurus is the sign of Gemini

128

Sheila Blair, Text and Image in Medieval Persian Art (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), 94. 129 Stefano Carboni, Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013), 6. 130 Carboni, Following the Stars, 25. 131 Carboni, Following the Stars, 27.

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(al-tawa’mān, “the Twins”). The figural representation of Gemini includes two male twins holding a stick with the head of a dragon on top; according to standard astrological iconography, the dragon represents the pseudo-planet Jawzahr (Figure 4).132 To the left of Gemini is the roundel depicting Cancer (al-saratān, “the Crab”). Two crabs interlocking their claws into the shape of a heart visually represent Cancer. Although faded now, this figural representation of Cancer shows the Moon, its Planetary Lord, in the center of these interlocking claws, a pictorial gesture more clearly seen in a detail from Inkwell with Zodiac Fig. 4 Vase, detail

Signs (Figure 5). The subsequent signs

of the Zodiac are also individually personified. Moving clockwise, the next roundel represents Leo (al-asad, “the Lion”). Leo is considered the most powerful sign among the twelve signs of the Zodiac because it has the Sun as its Planetary Lord.133 Therefore, this roundel depicts a lion in front of a shining Sun (Figure 6). The next roundel represents Virgo (al-sunbula). Unlike its standard representations as a female figure, the sign of Virgo in the Islamic Zodiac is represented as a male figure, the Planetary Lord Mercury, who is shown slashing ears of corn with a crescent-shaped tool (Figure 7).134 This change in figural representation is explained by the fact 132

Carboni, Following the Stars, 29. Carboni, Following the Stars, 33. 134 Carboni, Following the Stars, 35. 133

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Fig. 5 Unidentified artist Inkwell with Zodiac Signs, (detail), ca. early 13th century Brass; cast, inlaid with silver, copper and black compound, 14.9 x 11.6 cm. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


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that when assigning a constellation to Virgo, Islamic astrologers named the sign after another constellation in the sky, sunbula, meaning “ear [of corn],” instead of al-‘adhrā’, a translation of its name in traditional Ancient Greek mythology meaning “the Virgin.”135

Fig. 6 (left), Fig. 7 (right) Vase, detail

Fig. 8 (left), Fig. 9 (right) Vase, detail

Fig. 10 (left), Fig. 11 (right) Vase, detail 135

Carboni, Following the Stars, 35.

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The subsequent signs of the Zodiac are easily identifiable because they remain consistent with their pictorial representations and interpretations in Ancient Greek mythology. Next to Virgo is the sign of Libra (al-mizān, “the Scale”). In this roundel, Libra’s Planetary Lord Venus is shown playing a musical instrument as she sits in between a balanced scale (Figure 8).136 The next roundel represents Scorpio (al‘aqrab, “the Scorpion”). The figural representation of Scorpio shows its Planetary Lord Mars holding two scorpions in opposite directions (Figure 9).137 Next to Scorpio is the sign of Sagittarius (al-qaws, “the Archer”). In this roundel a centaur, believed to be the Planetary Lord Jupiter, is shooting an arrow; the tail of the centaur ends in a dragon’s head, evoking the pseudo-planet Jawzahr (Figure 10).138 The last roundel represents Capricorn (al-jady, “the Kid”). This sign shows Saturn, the Planetary Lord of Capricorn, sitting on top of a small goat and holding a large pickaxe in his left hand (Figure 11).139 It is important to notice that the last two signs of the Zodiac, Aquarius and Pisces, are not included on the body of the vase. Aquarius (al-dalw, “the Water Bucket”) and Pisces (al-ḥūt, “the Big Fish”) are both aquatic signs, dealing with notions of water and its effect on human beings and events on Earth. In standard iconography, as shown through the Vaso Vescovali (Vase E), the sign of Aquarius shows its Planetary Lord Saturn either raising or lowering a water bucket into a well (Figure 12).140 In Vase E, the sign of Pisces shows its Planetary Lord Jupiter sitting crosslegged and floating above one or two large fish (Figure 13).141 The absence of these two water-based Zodiac signs returns us to the original question of the vase’s intended use. It has already been established that based on its height and shape, this vase was mostly used as a drinking cup. It has also been established that based on its glittering brass and silver inlay, this vase was mostly

136

Carboni, Following the Stars, 37. Carboni, Following the Stars, 39. 138 Carboni, Following the Stars, 41. 139 Carboni, Following the Stars, 43. 140 Carboni, Following the Stars, 45. 141 Carboni, Following the Stars, 47. 137

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likely owned and used by wealthy Persians.142 This leads us to the relation question of what the significance of drinking from the vase would have been. This significance can be ascertained by comparing this vase to other bowls and vases from the medieval Islamic period. A magic-medicinal bowl produced in Syria during the twelfth century contains an inscription that reads, ‘If one drinks water or oil or milk from it, then one will be cured by the help of God Almighty,’ (Figure 14).143 In Vase E Unidentified artist The Vaso Vescovali, ca. 1200 High tin bronze, engraved and inlaid with silver, 21.5 x 18.5 cm © The British Museum, London.

other words, the physical act of drinking from this bowl aids in the magical healing of its user.

Fig. 12 The Vaso Vescovali, detail Fig. 14 Magic-medicinal bowl, ca. 1169-1170 Copper alloy, cast and turned, 7.5 x 19.0 cm © The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London. Photograph from Maddison and SavageSmith, Science, Tools & Magic: Part One (London: The Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press, 1997), 83.

Fig. 13 The Vaso Vescovali, detail 142

Ward, Islamic Metalwork, 71. Francesca Leoni, “Sacred Words, Sacred Power: Qur’anic and Pious Phrases as Sources of Healing and Protection,” in Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016), 60. 143

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Acting as a talisman, this vase with its Arabic inscriptions and zodiacal imagery would have already been imbued with protective and healing powers. However, as shown by the magic-medicinal bowl, these powers could have only been transmitted to the vase’s user through the physical act of drinking. Therefore, the absence of Aquarius and Pisces on this vase potentially serves a twofold purpose: firstly, these missing aquatic elements probably suggest that water, unlike oil or milk, would have been the primary liquid placed within this drinking cup and secondly, the entire vase seems to transform into the sign of Aquarius, becoming a “water bucket” that calls upon its user to physically drink its contents. This is not to say, however, that an object with the signs of Aquarius and Pisces would have not served a magic-medicinal purpose. As shown by Figures 12 and 13, the Vaso Vescovali lidded bowl (Vase E) contains all twelve signs of the Zodiac and has Arabic inscriptions written around its body. Like the Vaso Vescovali, the highspouted ewer (Vase C) also contains all twelve Zodiac signs and Arabic inscriptions. However, both the Vaso Vescovali and the ewer would have transmitted its magicmedicinal powers indirectly to its user through either the act of serving or the act of pouring into another drinking cup. In other words, the user would not have directly drunk from these objects. Therefore, the Vaso Vescovali, ewer, and vase all contain magic-medicinal properties, but the direct act of drinking from the vase made the transmitting of these properties more effective and powerful. The absence of Aquarius and Pisces also speaks to the power of the vase. The absence of Aquarius calls upon the vase to take on the meaning of this sign. By becoming the “water bucket,” this vase has essentially integrated itself within the Zodiac cycle; the vase is no longer under the auspicious and protective influence of the stars, for it has become figuratively embedded within them; an unprecedented symbol of power that cannot physically be expressed in either the Vaso Vescovali or Ewer. When combined all together, these three elements—Arabic inscriptions, zodiacal imagery, and intended use—reveal medieval Islamic beliefs in magic and astrological divination. It was only through the power of word, the power of imagery, and the power

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of direct action, that the auspiciousness and protection imbued into this vase could be most effectively transmitted to its user. Bibliography Al-Saleh, Yasmine. “Amulets and Talismans from the Islamic World.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000—. Allan, James Wilson. Persian Metal Technology: 700-1300 AD. London: Ithaca Press, 1979. Blair, Sheila S. Text and Image in Medieval Persian Art. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. Carboni, Stefano. Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013. Leoni, Francesca, Pierre Lory, Christiane Gruber, Farouk Yahya, and Venetia Porter. Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2016. Maddison, Francis, Emilie Savage-Smith, Ralph H. Pinder-Wilson, and Tim Stanley. Science, Tools & Magic: Part One. London, England: The Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press, 1997. Porter, Venetia, and Mariam Rosser-Owen. Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World: Art, Craft, and Text. London: I B Tauris & Co Ltd, 2012. Saliba, George. A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam. New York: New York University Press, 1994. Savage-Smith, Emilie. Magic and Divination in Early Islam. Aldershot, Hants, Great Britain: Ashgate/Variorum, 2004. "Vase with Signs of the Zodiac." The Walters Art Museum·Works of Art. Accessed December 10, 2017. http://art.thewalters.org/detail/40304/vase-58/ Ward, Rachel. Islamic Metalwork. London: British Museum Press, 1993.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Nicholas Robles Stanford University '20

“The Self is a self-portraiture concentration investigating the theme of consciousness. Consciousness is an unquantifiable state of the human being, and my efforts were to try to portray my understanding of and journey with exploring consciousness. In my photographs, I employ multiplicity and reflection to grapple with visually portraying the idea of consciousness. The role of the viewer is important in my work, and the level of engagement and thought from the viewer adds to and subtracts from the messages I lay forwards for them.� Note: This image is a selection from a broader series.

The Self Nicholas Robles

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Painting their world: Significance of Architectural Representation in Armenian Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Painting Ani Hopkins Tufts University ‘19

E

xisting scholarship in the field of Armenian art history tends to focus either on the history of Armenian manuscripts or on the architecture of ecclesiastical

buildings, in large part because these are the most conspicuously abundant artifacts of Armenian cultural history.144Despite the indisputable significance of both manuscript

painting and ecclesiastical architecture to Armenian art, the intersection of these artistic forms, and the impact of the latter upon the former, has been largely ignored up to the present. Given the status of both architecture and manuscript painting as critical elements of Armenian cultural identity, this neglect by art historians seems unwise. While the purpose of this study is certainly not to reach an understanding of the reasons for this neglect, we may identify some likely reasons for this scholarly omission. Representation of architecture in Armenian manuscript is realized in a wide range of styles, and often diverges from the understood stylistic conventions of its period. Additionally, its relationship to actual physical architecture is often complex and difficult to understand, given the interpretive, representational nature of manuscript painting and the turbulent cultural history of Armenia.

144

See Jean-Michel Thierry and Patrick DonabÊdian’s Armenian Art (1988).

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The very reasons for the scholarly neglect of this field, however, are also among the most convincing arguments for why the scholarship must be expanded to include this important aspect of Armenian art. In addition, the connection between these representations and the physical architecture cannot be ignored. Armenian ecclesiastical architecture is and has been a critical part of the identity of the Armenian people since at least the 10th century, and likely as early as the 7th.145,⁠ 146 The ways in which Armenian manuscripts do or do not reflect this culturally important architecture are themselves, therefore, necessarily significant. This study will argue that these representations served as projections and reflections of ethno-religious Armenian identity during times of cultural flux and upheaval. Agetangełos’s 5th century Agatangeła Patmutiun Hayots (History of the Armenians), contains a record of a miraculous vision beheld by St. Grigor Lusavorich, the converting saint of Armenia, supposedly in Grigor’s own words: 736. And I saw... a circular base of gold... and on it an exceedingly tall column of fire, and of cloud, and on top of that a cross of light. 737. And I looked up and saw three other bases... and the columns were of cloud and the capitals of fire. And on top of the three columns were crosses... And the crosses of these columns were level with the capital of the column of light, for that one was higher than they. And from the four columns, above the crosses, marvelous vaults fitted into each other. And above this I saw a canopy of cloud... in the form of a dome... 738. At the summit of this edifice I saw a wonderful and divine throne of fire with the Lord’s cross above it… And the column made of light shone out among the bases of the lower columns.⁠147

145

Alice Taylor, “Armenian Art and Armenian Identity,” in Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Art, Religion, and Society, ed. Thomas Mathews and Roger Wieck (New York: Morgan Library, 1994), 133–34. 146 Richard Krautheimer and Slobodan Ćurčić, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture, Yale University Press, 4th ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), 322–23. Although Taylor only extends the cultural significance of Armenian church architectures as far back as the tenth century with th th the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Aght’amar, Krautheimer notes that as early as the 6 and 7 centuries, Armenian church forms had departed substantially from the surrounding architectural environment. We may assume that this would, at the time, have been seen as a cultural separation from the local Byzantine milieu. 147 Agathangełos, “History of the Armenians,” in The Heritage of Armenian Literature, ed. Agop Hacikyan et al., vol. 1 (Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2000), 139–40.

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According to the legend, following this vision, Grigor and Trdat III, the newlyconverted king of Armenia, went on to convert the rest of the nation to Christianity. This included a campaign of extensive iconoclasm, demolishing Zoroastrian temples and dedicating the land to the Church, even repurposing the wealth and acolytes of the pagan temples in the service of the Church.⁠148 The emphasis of the story is a strong one which has been noted in the scholarship before: Architecture is holy.⁠149 In fact, not only is architecture holy, but it forms part of a visionary vocabulary, one that bridges the gap between the sacred and the profane and is capable of symbolizing the very might of God Himself. In this context, depictions of architecture, too, are as powerful as the buildings themselves, for they represent part of this visionary vocabulary. The “Spatial” Style The majority of architectural depictions in Armenian manuscript paintings are of a fairly predictable style: either they are architectonic (using architectural elements to delineate or emphasize page space, but not actually representing a particular structure), such as the columns used to divide canon tables, or they represent a structure but make only a vague gesture toward doing so (Figure 1). This paper will mostly ignore architectonic examples, as we are focusing on the relationship between depicted and real architecture. The other abundant type of architectural representation is the most common prior to 1600. This is what may be called the “spatial” 148

Fig. 1 T’oros Roslin Presentation of Christ at the temple T’oros Roslin Gospels, (detail) 1262. Paint & gold leaf on parchment, ca. 10 x 14 cm © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Agathangełos, 145–48. Christina Maranci, The Art of Armenia: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 131– 32. 149

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style. Spatial representations focus either on defining with clean, smooth lines and solid surfaces the shape of the spatial volumes contained within them, or on noting the presence of an architectural element (a building, a tomb, or a door, for instance) without paying heed to how such an element would be constructed. In the T’oros Roslin Gospel (Walters Ms. 539, W539), the temple is depicted in the Presentation of Christ150 as a baldachin rising above an altar (Figure 1). This baldachin is supported by four columns, each of a uniform blue material. The capitals of each column are composed of a golden orb inscribed with a floral pattern, and held between an abacus on top and bottom. The roof of the baldachin rises in two levels: A smooth, rectangular green skirt surmounted by a pyramid of the same material as the columns. The underside of this skirt, the ceiling of the temple, is decorated with an abstract pattern of amorphous shapes and dark, crisscrossing lines (potentially representing vaults). This pattern is bordered around its lower edge by a fringe of acanthus leaves. The pyramidal roof of the baldachin is decorated with a stylized Star of David. From the ceiling hang three oil lamps. The space within the temple is denoted by a deep blue background, contrasting with the gold background of the area outside of the temple. Anna, shown on the far left, is given a relatively minor role in the scripture. She is shown here speaking, holding a scroll and looking adoringly towards Jesus. Joseph, on the far right, has a similarly minor role in this scene. He carries the two turtledoves which are to be sacrificed in the purification rites. Simeon, directly to Jesus’ left, leans toward the center of the image, receiving and holding the Christ child tenderly in both arms. Mary, on the right, holds the hands of Jesus as he rests in Simeon’s arms. Although Jesus’ body is oriented entirely towards Mary, his arms extending towards her, he turns his head and directs his gaze towards Simeon. This interaction between Jesus and Simeon, the old man looking at the child with a mix of sorrow and awe, the child turning away from his mother to meet Simeon’s gaze, is the crux of the image. Simeon knows that this is the Lord’s Christ, and that he would

150

cf. Luke 2:24-38.

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not die until he had beheld the child himself. He offers a prayer to God, saying “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”151 Jesus, in turn, meets this pronouncement with a cool demeanor, perhaps to be seen as reassuring Simeon of his salvation. The depiction of the temple in this scene exists for two purposes: to define the location in which the Presentation is taking place, and to define the space within it as holy. The first goal is accomplished in part by association with the neighboring text. The text speaks of the Presentation at the temple, so what other structure could this be? Every detail of the text is presented here (the turtledoves, the cast of characters, the altar marking this as a place of worship), and the roof of the temple bears the Star of David, lest there be any final doubt. The second goal may be seen in the positioning of the characters. Anna and Joseph, crowded to the periphery, make no contact with the structure of the temple. In the story, they have minor roles as well. Anna gives thanks to the Lord and goes on to preach the divinity of Jesus, but her words are not recorded, nor her emotional reaction to seeing Jesus in the flesh. Joseph, likewise, exists in this passage as little more than a foil to the other characters, or as Mary’s accompaniment.152 Simeon and Mary, however, are of great importance here. They share contact with Jesus and lean in towards him from opposite sides of the altar. The structure of the temple wholly envelops Jesus, but both Mary and Simeon stand with their feet planted on the ground outside, only their upper bodies reaching into the space they share with Jesus. In this tableau, Mary and Simeon are leaning in towards Jesus, towards divinity, and they are partially within the holy space defined by the temple, and partially outside in the profane world. Architectural representation of the “spatial” type defines

151

Luke 2:29-32. In fact, Joseph’s only mention in this passage is as follows: “And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.” (KJV Luke 2:33). 152

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space on the page or introduces the viewer to the presence of a building in a way that does not distract from the critical components of the scene; namely, the characters. The “Ani” Style The “Ani” style, named after the medieval city of Ani where production of manuscripts bearing this type of architectural representation appears to have centered, is characterized by a focus on readily identifiable features of Armenian architecture. The most common identifying feature, employed almost universally among works in this style, is a high drum surmounted by a conical, ribbed dome. The drum usually sits atop the body of a larger structure, distinguishing it from a simple baldachin or triangular-roofed building. The second-most common feature is a focus on external colonnades, slim windows with “eyebrow” molding, or other external articulating features of Armenian architecture. Other features are represented rarely and sparsely enough that they may be considered as individual cases and not grouped as general trends. For an example of this style in action, we will focus on the so-called “Red Gospels,” (Goodspeed Ms. 949) so named due to the heavy use of red pigment in their pages.153 Specific observations on the Red Gospels are few and far between. Alice Taylor’s commentary154 on the historical relationship between Armenian art and Armenian identity focuses in part on this gospels. She argues that certain details in the scene of the Crucifixion point to this manuscript being, in part, a defense of Chalcedonian thought in the Armenian church. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Armenian church diverged to a radical degree from its neighbors. The primary conflict was over a Christological detail, namely how humanity and divinity were (or were not) present in Christ. The Council adopted a diophysite position, holding that Christ had at once two natures, human and divine, both of which were maintained within his body, both entirely whole and entirely distinct. The Byzantine church and affiliated denominations, including the Georgian Orthodox church, accepted the Council’s ruling. Armenia, along with the Syriac and 153 154

Chicago, University of Chicago Library, Special Collections, Goodspeed Ms. 949 Taylor, “Armenian Art and Armenian Identity,” 133-146.

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Coptic churches (collectively the Eastern Orthodox churches) rejected this teaching, adopting instead a miaphysite position. They held that Christ had one nature which was at once fully human and fully divine, united without detriment to either.

Fig. 2 Red Gospels of Gandzasar fol. 6v Crucifixion, (detail), prior to 1237. Paint and ink on parchment, ca. 24 x 15 cm . © Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, Ms. 9496, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, Chicago.

Fig. 3 Red Gospels of Gandzasar fol. 1v Annunciation, (detail), prior to 1237 Paint and ink on parchment, ca. 24 x 14 cm © © Goodspeed Manuscript Collection, Ms. 9496, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library, Chicago

Taylor bases her argument on a single image in the scene of the Crucifixion (Figure 2). In this scene, as Christ dies on the cross, the soldiers crucifying him pierce his side with a spear, and he bleeds both blood and water from his chest cavity.155 In the Red Gospels’ depiction of this event, a small figure to Jesus’ left holds up a cup, 155

John 19:34.

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catching the blood and water together. Taylor interprets this as a defense of the Chalcedonian practice of mixing water with the Eucharistic wine, a practice vehemently denied by the non-Chalcedonian Armenian church.⁠156 ⁠ Despite giving a persuasive argument, Taylor has perhaps not gone as far as she could in justifying this claim. Attention to architectural detail in this manuscript reveals additional supporting factors for its identification as a defense of Chalcedonian Armenian identity, and that it in fact argues for the inclusion of certain elements of the Byzantine liturgy in the Armenian church. The manuscript begins with a miniature of the Annunciation to Mary, a common theme in early Medieval Armenian cycles of manuscript painting (Figure 3). Mary sits in her chair, her back to the wall from which Gabriel has arrived. A brilliant red thread runs from Mary’s left hand to her right, where it then winds around what appears to be a weighted spindle. This is a clear allusion to the Armenian Infancy Gospel, in which the priests of the Temple decide to have a tabernacle curtain woven. They summon twelve virgins who had previously been in the care of the Temple (among them Mary), and cast lots for who is to spin which color of thread. Mary draws the purple and scarlet, and is spinning the scarlet thread in her home when the Annunciation occurs.⁠157 Behind Mary and Gabriel stands a structure in red stone rising in tiers. The first level, partially obscured behind Mary’s residence, is divided by a series of engaged arcades. In the spaces inside these arcades, small dark lines represent tall windows. This level is the main facade of a building. Above this, a second, shorter tier represents the roof, divided by a tighter pattern of dark vertical ribs. At the center of the roof, rising from the level of the top of the facade, a rectangular structure (most likely a composite transept and drum) opens onto what is evidently an interior space inside the building. Inside this space, a red curtain has been gathered and drawn up and away, to the left. The drum-transept is surmounted by an unmistakably Armenian 156

Taylor, “Armenian Art and Armenian Identity,” 135. Abraham Terian, trans., The Armenian Gospel of the Infancy, With Three Early Versions of the Protoevangelium of James (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 16–20.

157

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dome roof, ribbed and conical. This building closely resembles the hypothesized 13th century appearance of the Cathedral of Ani, with external engaged arcades and colonnades articulating the walls, windows occupying the space beneath the arcades, a cross transept, a high drum, and a conical dome. Although the exact location and date of the Red Gospels’ production are not known, it is thought that it was produced in the 12th or 13th century, definitely prior to 1237, possibly at Ani.158,159 The presence of nearby monasteries and Ani’s status at the time as a cultural and political hub lend weight to this theory. Presuming that the manuscript was painted at or near Ani, the artist who worked on its characteristic red miniatures would have been in contact with these architectural elements, and would have understood them as the Armenian cultural symbols that they were. Around (or just before) the time of the creation of the Red Gospel, Chalcedonian Armenian thought had won several small victories in its struggle against Armenian Orthodoxy. Although Chalcedonian (and therefore both Byzantine and Georgian) theology was still anathemized by the Armenian Orthodox church, the 12th century saw several liturgical features from the Byzantine rite incorporated into the Armenian rite. Specifically, a number of prayers from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and St. John Chrysostom’s version of the Byzantine prothesis (the ritual preparation of the sanctuary and offerings for the Eucharist).⁠160 Stylianos Muksuris offers a translation of the rituals immediately preceding the Prothesis in the Byzantine liturgy. The prayers of the celebrants include the following: The deacon: Glory to the Father. Lord, have mercy on us, for we have hoped in you; do not be exceedingly angry with us, nor remember our transgressions; but look upon us now as the compassionate one and rescue us from our enemies; for you are our God, and

158

Taylor, “Armenian Art and Armenian Identity,” 136. Chicago, University of Chicago Library, Special Collections, Goodspeed Ms. 949, 160 Krikor Maksoudian, “The Religion of Armenia,” in Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. Thomas Mathews and Rogers Wieck (New York: Pierpont Morgan Gallery, 1994), 32. 159

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we are your people, (we are) all the works of your hands, and we have called upon your name. The priest: Both now. Open to us the gate of compassion (and the veil of the Beautiful Gate is opened), O blessed Theotokos; hoping in you, may we not fail; through you may we be delivered from tribulations; for you are the salvation of the generation of Christians. The deacon: Lord, have mercy (12 times)⁠161 The incarnational, narrative aspect of this part of the ritual cannot be overstated. Beginning with a prayer for salvation and divine compassion, the answer to the prayer is the opening of the Beautiful Gate, the revelation of the icons behind it, and the access of the earthly clergy to the divine realm of the sanctuary. The beginning of Christ’s life, works and, by extension, salvation of humanity, is understood as occurring at the moment of His birth (a fact on which the Armenian Orthodox church, with its heavy focus on the Incarnation, is very definite). However, we may speculate as to whether the drawn back curtain in the interior of the church behind Mary and Gabriel is a reference to the opening of the veil of the Beautiful Gate in the Byzantine (Chalcedonian) liturgy. Gabriel is revealing to Mary the divine mystery of the immaculate conception, and the architecture in the world of the miniature conveys this to the viewer via a Chalcedonian liturgical reference. The references to Armenian architecture are not limited to this miniature, however. The Entry into Jerusalem and the aforementioned Crucifixion both include buildings that bear a striking resemblance to the one depicted in the background of the Annunciation. Taylor notes as well that in the Evangelist portrait of Mark, a youth wearing what is recognizably traditional Armenian dress of the period (the same worn by the figure catching the mixed blood and water at Christ’s side) appears to offer a piece of fruit to the lion. Taylor interprets this as the Armenian youth being placed in closer contact with the symbol of the Evangelist than the Evangelist himself is. What 161

Stylianos Muksuris, “Economia and Eschatology: The Mystagogical Significance of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy’s Prothesis Rite in the Commentaries of Saints Nicholas Cabasilas and Symeon Thessalonike” (Durham University, 2008), http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/1960/.

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we have here, then, is a manuscript which asserts the correctness of Chalcedonian thought while placing itself, over and over again, in an Armenian context. Not only does attention to architectural detail help us understand this, but it plays an important role in the creation of the Armenian vocabulary laced throughout the manuscript. What, then, does this manuscript tell us about the Ani style of architectural representation? The Red Gospels were created at a time of cultural conflict, at a location firmly inside of Greater Armenia, surrounded by abundant historical Armenian architecture. The Ani style thrives in these contexts and serves as a means to connect the works in which it is employed to a locally prevalent understanding of Armenian architecture, reinforcing a threatened cultural identity.162 The “Constantinople” Style While neither the Ani style of architectural representation nor the spatial style is tied to a particular time period, the third and final style we will discuss, the “Constantinople” style, is. The name is something of a misnomer, as the style grew from the scriptoria of Constantinople in the early-to-mid

Fig. 4 Hymnal, Walters Ms. 547, fol 38v Evangelist Portrait of Peter and Paul, (detail), 1678. Paint, ink and gold leaf on parchment, ca. 5 x 7 cm © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

17th century, but has since then spread to encompass almost every scriptorium producing painted Armenian manuscripts.

The Constantinople style of architectural representation is characterized by a distinctive structure, repeated again and again across manuscripts and contexts. This structure is exemplified by an evangelist portrait in a hymnal of 1678, produced in 162

For another excellent example of this style, consider the Entry Into Jerusalem as painted in the Haghpat Gospels, Matenadaran Ms. 6288.

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Constantinople (Figure 4).163 Peter (on the left) and Paul (on the right) hold their respective symbols in one hand, Peter his keys and Paul a bible. They face each other and, with their free hand, hold up a building. Their gazes are both directed upwards and centrally, towards the building’s spire The building has a red tiled roof in the shape of a hemispherical dome. Out of the center of this roof rises a short, polygonal drum with three windows. This drum is surmounted by a smaller, ribbed, hemispherical dome. The smaller dome is blue, and from its zenith protrudes a blue spire. From the left and right limbs of the red dome (or from just behind it) rise a pair of slender towers. These have one high, narrow window each, and flare outwards slightly just under their roofs. The roof of each is red, tiled, and conical. This structure, or some version of it, is repeated ad infinitum in Armenian manuscripts painted from the early-to-mid 17th century onwards. Sometimes the dome is broader, or the towers stand wholly separate from the dome. Sometimes the towers are only present in the far background, or are entirely smooth and not flared at all. Windows vary in number or existence, the form of the drum of the upper dome varies or it is omitted entirely. The basic elements common to all, however are as follows: A large dome with a smaller dome rising from its zenith, and two towers with pointed roofs, one to the left and one to the right of the central domes. This structure is so universal, so widely used in 17th century (and onward) Armenian manuscript painting that it cannot be tied to a specific building, place, or meaning. Most often it seems to represent the Church, as in the evangelist portrait. On one occasion, in a manuscript of uncertain (but definitely 17th century) provenance (Walters Ms. 546), it appears as the Temple in a scene of the Cleansing of the Temple. Other occurrences, however, use it simply as a backdrop, or omit it from

163

Philadelphia, Walters Art Gallery, Walters Ms. 547.

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scenes where its usage as the Temple or the Church would make sense. In other words, although it has many uses, this structure does not appear to have had a single, agreed-upon interpretation. Whatever it needed to be, it was that. No known building like this exists in Greater Armenia, nor in Constantinople. The form is so specific, emerges so fully formed, and is so oftrepeated, that emergence as a spontaneous combination of existing features seems unlikely. Rather, we must interpret this structure as an external influence or combination of external influences which have been translated into the Armenian milieu. Although further work is required to determine an exact provenance (a determination which may not now even be possible) for this form, we may explore the possibilities. It is known that the seventeenth century was a time of increasing Western influence on Armenian art. Block printing and engraving were flooding into the region through trade with Europe, and the art of Armenia reflects this. Figures become simplified, their lines flowing together and becoming thicker. Noses are continued directly from foreheads in one smooth curve,

Fig. 5. Christoffel Van Sichem (II) Title page, Oskan Bible, (detail), 1666. Woodcut print on paper, ca. 8 x 3 cm Š Library of Congress

possibly a reflection of the appearance of the European engraved figures.â A European origin, then, might be plausible for the dome/tower structure. One of the most significant contacts between Armenian manuscript traditions and the West is the Oskan Bible, printed in 1666. This was the first Armenian-language printed bible,

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and one of the first books printed in Armenian at all. Immediately, in the margins of the title page, we find part of what we are looking for: the two-tiered dome structure, here realized as a baldachin sheltering a personification of the Church (Figure 5). Examples of this structure in Armenian manuscripts, however, pre-date the publishing of the Oskan Bible, such as the evangelist portrait of Matthew in the Hovhannes Gospels of 1654 (Goodspeed Ms. 234).

Fig. 6. Punishment of a pedophile while a crowd watches a juggler, Five Poems, 1721 Paint, ink, and gold leaf on paper, ca. 14 x 12 cm © Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

For more context, we may turn to the engraving work of Christoffel Van Sichem II, one of the men responsible for the many

engravings that appear in the Oskan Bible.⁠164 Some form of the double-domed building appears in the background of many of his engravings in other published volumes, suggesting that this was a fairly standard image at the time. Indeed, a number of 16th century and earlier European churches had domes constructed in this or similar forms, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Cathedral of Florence. The double dome, then, appears to be a direct European import, a common style of church roofing in major cities that found its way to the Armenian world via a flow of printed material into the Ottoman Empire. Surely a particular example of this form exists (or did once), one that emphasized this building and was then copied. Further

164

Christina Maranci, The Art of Armenia: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 172.

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work must be undertaken, however, before we can ascertain its true identity, or whether it is still extant. What of the towers flanking the domes, then? To be sure, there do exist churches with a similar structure in Europe as well, specifically the church of Il Redentore in Venice. Il Redentore, in fact, is possessed of both the double dome and the twin towers of the Constantinople style’s signature structure. Additionally, the form of the towers in many manuscripts bears a striking resemblance to that of many minarets. A later, 18th century Ottoman manuscript provides a good example of the depiction of minarets in a manuscript (Figure 6). Perhaps, then, a combination of European and Ottoman influences led to the creation of an Armenian manuscript featuring this structure prominently enough that, when it was copied as a model by future generations of manuscript painters, the structure entered the lexicon of standard elements in Armenian manuscript painting. As has been said several times previously, much more work is needed to identify the true source of this form. However, it may be cautiously interpreted without full knowledge of its history. The Constantinople style reflects the influence of both the West and the occupying Ottomans on representations of architecture in Armenian manuscripts. Armenian artists synthesized a wholly new, and uniquely Armenian, feature of their art from external influences. This, then, is the lesson of observing Armenian manuscript painters’ depictions of architecture. When the validity and sovereignty of their culture and faith were threatened, they turned to depicting their own architecture as the signal of their ethnoreligious Armenian identity. When their culture was subsumed by dominant forces, they created a new type of building for their manuscripts, one that was Armenian in the truest way something can be: By being created by Armenians. The modern scholarship would therefore do well to include the architectural representations of Armenian artists in its analyses of Armenian art.

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Bibliography Agathangełos. “History of the Armenians.” In The Heritage of Armenian Literature, edited by Agop Hacikyan, Gabriel Basmajian, Edward Franchuk, and Nourhan Ouzonian, 1:117–48. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2000. Krautheimer, Richard, and Slobodan Ćurčić. Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture. Yale University Press. 4th ed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986. Maksoudian, Krikor. “The Religion of Armenia.” In Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts, edited by Thomas Mathews and Rogers Wieck, 24–38. New York: Pierpont Morgan Gallery, 1994. Maranci, Christina. The Art of Armenia: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Muksuris, Stylianos. “Economia and Eschatology: The Mystagogical Significance of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy’s Prothesis Rite in the Commentaries of Saints Nicholas Cabasilas and Symeon Thessalonike.” Durham University, 2008. http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/ 1960/. Taylor, Alice. “Armenian Art and Armenian Identity.” In Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Art, Religion, and Society, edited by Thomas Mathews and Roger Wieck, 133–46. New York: Morgan Library, 1994. Terian, Abraham, trans. The Armenian Gospel of the Infancy, With Three Early Versions of the Protoevangelium of James. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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David Wojnarowicz: Collage, Disidentification & Futurity Tristan Harris Brown University ‘20

U

ntil the Whitney’s 2018 retrospective of his work, David Wojnarowicz had often been under-considered within academic and arts institutions. Wojnarowicz died

in 1992, at the age of 37, from AIDS-related complications. During his life, he struggled to find visual culture that aligned with his experience of the world. Wojnarowicz held apprehensions with engaging established sites of power, and his creative energies often escape straight-forward historical and genre-based narratives. Such a position, however, strongly invites an analysis of his work with the support of queer theory’s methodologies and comparison with other artists who equally took themselves to be contesting carefully laid boundaries of identity, sex, and discipline within their work. Wojnarowicz’s work reflects a particular artistic strategy of interrogating representation as a political act during the AIDS epidemic via unsettling and refiguring dominant cultural figures and signs through a collage practice. In order to create a culture reflective of his own experience of the world, Wojnarowicz utilized disidentificatory practices, as theorized by José Esteban Muñoz, to create a queer existence within the oppressive American monolith of the 1980s. Additionally, his work carves out the potential for a queer future within the here-and-now viewing of his work. The role of art in combating the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s was often brought into question as it became increasingly clear that scientific interventions would be the only way to stop the deaths caused by the virus. Art historian Douglas Crimp, writing in 1987, highlights such a sentiment in quoting curator Robert Rosenblum: “by now, in

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the 1980s, we are all disenchanted enough to know that no work of art, no matter how much it may fortify the spirit or nourish the eye and mind, has the slightest power to save a life.”165 Crimp, however, commits to an art practice that positions itself as lifesaving – he calls for “cultural practices actively participating in the struggle against AIDS.”166 The loss of lives around Wojnarowicz, and eventually the loss of his own, at the hands of government inaction put very real demands on Wojnarowicz’s art production in the 1980s. Cynthia Carr, friend and biographer of Wojnarowicz, succinctly captures the life Wojnarowicz lived with her title Fire in the Belly. Carr’s research reveals that Wojnarowicz’s own life was so destabilized that he often misremembered aspects of his childhood. Carr’s telling of his biography foregrounds the incredible creative drive that came from within Wojnarowicz. Hanya Yanagihara, writing about Wojnarowicz, reflects “how charged, how exhausting, it must have been to live when your life was always flashing before your eyes, and not just your life, but your friend’s lives.”167 Wojnarowicz was born in Redbank, New Jersey to an abusive father and an incredibly unstable home life, which included time spent at an orphanage.168 He began hustling in Times Square at the age of nine and was only formally educated through high school.169 Wojnarowicz met photographer Peter Hujar in 1981 and took up painting under his encouragement. Wojnarowicz described Hujar as “my brother my father my emotional link to the world.”170 A combination of his upbringing, his queerness, and the AIDS crisis he experienced first-hand (and ultimately died from) contributed to Wojnarwoicz’s obsession with trying to fill the holes within the American economic and cultural patchwork.

165

Douglas Crimp, Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 31. 166 Ibid, 33. 167 David Breslin and David Kiehl, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night (New York: Yale University Press, 2018), 67. 168 Cynthia Carr, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2014), 7-23. 169 Lucy R. Lippard, David Wojnarowicz: Brush Fires in the Social Landscape (New York: Aperture, 2015), 18. 170 Breslin, Kiehl, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night, 58.

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Bad Moon Rising

Fig. 1 David Wojnarowicz Bad Moon Rising, 1989 © Collection of Steve Johnson and Walter Sudol Courtesy of the Second Ward Foundation, ARTSTOR.

Bad Moon Rising (1989), created shortly after his diagnosis, reflects Wojnarowicz’s commitment to interrogating representation with artistic and aesthetic strategies (Figure 1). The work, described by the Whitney Museum’s wall label as “four blackand–white photographs, acrylic, string, and collage on Masonite,” reveals the failure in taking a single angle of approach in consideration of Wojnarowicz’s work.171 Common 171

Ibid, 257.

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to Wojnarowicz’s practice, the work incorporates found materials, including low-cost, repurposed Masonite that the work uses as a base. Additionally, two of the “black-andwhite photographs” are images of homosexual sex taken from Hujar’s porn collection. The combination of the images, and the loaded associations they entail, allow for meaning beyond any one of the work’s constituent elements. In bringing together conflicting representations of American life, Bad Moon Rising destabilizes otherwise stable signs of American life. U.S. currency constitutes the background of the work, with bills upside down, and many cut-off by the edges of the work. Saint Sebastian, a clock face, blood cells as seen through a microscope, and fractured half-clock & half-blood cells are all painted onto the currency background. Saint Sebastian, an early Christian martyr, is punctured with arrows with two trees standing above him, and the tree’s roots stretched-out below him. Saint Sebastian was ordered to death for covertly converting Roman soldiers in the 3rd century. Despite being tied to a tree and left for dead after pierced by the arrows of archers, he survived to be found by a Christian widow who nursed him back to health.172 In Wojnarowicz’s depiction, tree roots extend from the Saint’s body – almost becoming part of the body’s venous system. An eerie connection to be drawn, since the same system was newly circulating the HIV virus throughout the body of Wojnarowicz. In rendering Western capitalism’s tool of exchange, together with an invocation of Christian belief, the work foregrounds two dominant American ideologies of the late 1980s. Deployment of Saint Sebastian’s image in Bad Moon Rising is an especially pertinent element of the work. Wojnarowicz’s move to deploy the Saint in a gay context fits into a larger movement of queer deployments of the Saint’s image. Richard Kaye, Associate Professor of English at CUNY, considers how throughout the 1900s primarily homosexual artists became attached to the Saint’s depiction in Renaissance paintings as “ecstatically receptive to arrows,” suggesting a “desire for penetration.”173 172

"Saint Sebastian," Encyclopædia Britannica, September 29, 2008, accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Sebastian. 173 Richard Kaye, "Losing His Religion: Saint Sebastian as Contemporary Gay Martyr," in Outlooks Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1996), 89.

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Such a depiction of Saint Sebastian was cinematically propagated in Derek Jarman’s film Sebastiane (1976). At the start of the AIDS epidemic, Kaye maps how Saint Sebastian came to represent the “militant, newly politicized homosexual, beautifully exposed to his fate but non-passively.”174 As the epidemic progressed, however, the Saint took on a new symbolism as the body left to die at the hands of government inaction. Crimp writes that the Saint symbolically encapsulates two components of gay culture during the AIDS crisis “the labor of mourning and the work of political activism.”175 In utilizing Saint Sebastian’s image in his work, Wojnarowicz further figures the Saint as a gay martyr, while also tapping into a broader movement of his appropriating icons from “high culture.” Bad Moon Rising also incorporates images of disintegration to re-signify otherwise stable meanings of the domestic home. Two pornographic images of gay sex fail to index to the sexual relations of the American domestic home. Meanwhile, the other two black-and-white images show a small house overrun by ants in the upper-left of the image, while the bottom-right depicts a home’s obliteration during an atomic weapon test. Ants feature prominently within Wojnarowicz’s work and are described by Brown University Assistant Professor Leon Hilton as a reflection of the artist’s commitment to “finding beauty in the abject, the marginal, and the subterranean… [signaling] a kind of return of the repressed.”176 Images of the home being overrun by small insects and atomic power both undermine the home’s larger cultural status as an enclave of safety and stability. Paired with images of gay sex, the stability and persistence of the heterosexual, domestic home is made unstable. Symbols of time and commodification highlight critical issues of concern during the AIDS epidemic within the work. The whole-clock invokes an awareness of time – something that would have been newly limited given Wojnarowicz’s diagnosis. Connected via a shared shape, the microscopic depiction of blood cells, a couple of cells altered with a color tint, denote infection within the body. Merging these two in 174

Ibid, 98. Ibid, 98. 176 Leon Hilton, "X-Ray of Civilization," Social Text, December 13, 2010, accessed December 11, 2018, https://socialtextjournal.org/x-ray-of-civilization/. 175

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the fractured half-clock & half-blood cells inexorably links the overtaking of the body with infection that will come with the passing of time. The painted image of Saint Sebastian, however, makes the viewer question whether the body “left to die” might still have a chance of survival. Survival wholly being dependent on pharmaceutical companies and the government seeing the financial value in prioritizing research for AIDS. The work is all the more confusing in the way the black-and-white images are stitched into the canvas with string. While American capitalism promises stability and prosperity, Wojnarowicz’s work reveals that such an economic system can carefully delimit to who provides its benefits. In their precarious insertion into the background of dollar bills, the images are seemingly left just outside of America’s economic support. Collage is a central element to the artistic operation of Bad Moon Rising and is present within many of Wojnarowicz’s works. Such a practice creates an unexpected link to the Surrealists. Gregg Bordowitz, Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, highlights that Wojnarowicz “captured the simultaneous movement of reality and the very consciousness that formed his reality.”177 Collage allows Wojnarowicz to doubly interrogate the construction of the reality around him, while also prefiguring how his own reality might be pushed onto the outside world. Wojnarowicz had some knowledge of, and openly drew artistic inspiration from, the Surrealists as revealed by his Arthur Rimbaud in New York series. Bordowtitz argues that “like Breton and many of the Surrealists, Wojnarowicz wanted to change the world and to inhabit an imaginary world of his own invention – to get out from under the ‘pre-invented world.”178 Professor Emerita of French Literature and Visual Culture at University of London, Eliza Adamowicz, writing about the Surrealist’s use of collage, outlines that “as a technique, collage is a material mode of cutting and pasting distant elements – or indeed a simulation of that process.”179 In this understanding of collage as a technique, Bad Moon Rising adheres by bringing together found porn images with a painting of Saint Sebastian. 177

Breslin, Kiehl, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night, 51. Ibid. 179 Elza Adamowicz, Surrealist Collage in Text and Image: Dissecting the Exquisite Corpse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 13. 178

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Pasting together of disparate elements occurs in many of Wojnarowicz’s other visual works, and also in his own writing, revealing a larger commitment to the practice. Bad Moon Rising also provides an incredibly strong example of Adamowicz’s consideration of collage “as a subversive act, it is an instrument of detournement of pre-formed messages…. [and] as a creative act, it involves the transformation of these messages.”180 Wojnarowicz’s myth as a self-trained artist outside of the art-world has caused scholars to be wary of placing his work into dominant art-historical contexts. Instead, his works are best understood as fitting into underground artistic traditions, often comprised of those existing at the margins of society, while drawing from a variety of movements, such as beat literature and surrealism. The use of collage in Bad Moon Rising, and Wojnarowicz’s other works, allows Wojnarowicz to consider art as a tool to perform how things come to signify and gain cultural power within society. Additionally, via the way collage allows disparate symbols to co-exist, Wojnarowicz prefigures a transgressive, fictional space utilizing existing pictorial and linguistic codes. Adamowicz stresses the importance of collage as located in its paradoxical structure, specifically “as the collation of copresence of disparate elements, and its legibility as a configuration of signs, in a dynamic process of multiple meanings and hovering significations constantly reactivated.”181 By inhering legibility onto disparate images within a single work, collage is able to take account of both production and reception of images. Additionally, collage practice can work to prefigure of an ulterior space as “it dramatizes fragmentation and the arbitrary assemblage of elements, and it suggests the irretrievable presence of otherness, in dynamic tensions rather than oppositions resolved.”182 In bringing together images of gay sex and a representation of Saint Sebastian, Wojnarowicz creates a work that simultaneously reveals the instability of religion and the state in light of an epidemic, while also enacting a space where the Catholic Church might pray for the HIV-infected individual via their own Christian martyr. Collage in Wojnarowicz’s work foregrounds 180

Ibid. Ibid, 25. 182 Ibid, 192. 181

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the power that visual imagery has in forming one’s reality, while how images can be reworked to create new realities. Returning to Crimp’s demand for art that stops people from dying, Bad Moon Rising presents a particularly unique response. Crimp’s article cites a work done by ACT UP (Gran Fury) at the New Museum, Let the Record Show (1987) as in-line with his conception of good, activist AIDS art. The work specifically calls out individuals, such as William F. Buckley, and provides statistics within a public realm, therefore operating almost as a public educational device.183 Via a methodology of collage, Wojnarowicz utilizes an artistic intervention to reveal how the reception of imagery occurs and also provides “information about government inaction and repressive intentions… [which] can (contra Rosenblum) save lives.”184 Wojnarowicz’s work reveals government inaction and repressive intention, but goes a step beyond Crimp’s demand by avoiding the limits of representation provided by larger society. If one’s activist artworks via the dominant culture’s representations, then visibility might serve to make one even more open to the predetermined, controlling elements of culture. Wojnarowicz, considered within the context of an activist artist, provides a superior model by avoiding the trap of visibility, which can cause work to lose its critical potential by becoming hyper-visible. Lauren DeLand, scholar of contemporary and modern art, acknowledges that “visibility… is a trap, especially for marginalized subjects… who lack the political power to set the terms of their own representation.”185 In taking disparate images from American society and collaging them together, Wojnarowicz creates new fields for the queer, HIV positive body to exist within a subversive, ulterior space.

183

Crimp, Melancholia and Moralism, 35. Ibid, 38. 185 Ibid. 184

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Arthur Rimbaud in New York

Fig. 2. David Wojnarowicz Arthur Rimbaud in New York, 1978-79. © Collection of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz Courtesy of P.P.O.W., New York. ARTSTOR.

Before Wojnarowicz was a painter, he was an aspiring writer who took up the work of authors, such as William Burroughs, Jean Genet, and Arthur Rimbaud. While Bad Moon Rising presents a particular approach to thinking about the world that lacks the overt political charge of Wojnarowicz’s later visual works, Arthur Rimbaud in New York (1978-79) reveals that Wojnarowicz was already thinking about how one comes to identify and be understood within space before the AIDS epidemic hit New York (Figure 2). For the series, Wojnarowicz utilized a copier to create a life-size mask of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud from a paperback edition of Rimbaud’s Illuminations.186 He then photographed friends wearing the mask in places that he 186

Breslin, Kiehl, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night, 114.

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identified within New York City, such as the subway, Times Square, Coney Island, diners, the Hudson River piers, and the Meatpacking District.187 Photographs from the series engender a visuality to urban existence that is at once personal to Wojnarowicz’s experience, while also shared by many modernist writers and thinkers. Identification with Rimbaud would have been a concerted choice. David Breslin, Whitney Curator of Wojnarowicz’s 2018 Retrospective, identifies the shocking similarities that Rimbaud and Wojnarowicz hold: both were born almost a century apart, both were sons of sailor fathers, both made their queerness subjects of their work, both knowingly acknowledged their status as outsider, both abandoned poetry, and both died at the age of thirty-seven.188 Wojnarowicz’s identification with Rimbaud helps to understand his later visual work better, and further supports a reading of his work as seeking to carve out queer futurity as theorized by Jose Muñoz’s work. Use of a mask and the invocation of a Rimbaud encourages a brief return to consideration of the Surrealists. Adamwoicz writes that the Surrealists sought to “transcend the self towards a state of depersonalization… [a] metamorphic space,” the mask serving as “the figure of alterity, exploring the limits of the body.”189 In freeing the body of a specificity within time and space via the alterity provided by the mask, Wojnarowicz can envision a “metamorphic space” within his own urban spaces. Simultaneously, he is capturing a kind of photographic autobiography, while also freeing his body of specificity within these spaces – enacting a temporal drag. Lucy Lippard argues that with the series, Wojnarowicz “was playing with the ideas of compression of ‘historical time and activity’ and fusing the French poet’s identity with modern New York urban activities mostly illegal in nature.”190 Such an illegal urban activity would have been cruising, an activity Wojnarowicz participated in frequently along the Hudson River piers. Wojnarowicz’s use of the mask within areas that were often used by gay men to “cruise,” encourages comparison of how the two actions relate to one’s body, and 187

Ibid. Ibid, 21. 189 Adamowicz, Surrealist Collage in Text and Image, 156. 190 Lippard, Brush Fires in the Social Landscape, 17. 188

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identity, within space. The Surrealist Max Ernst often dealt with masks in his work in order to “inhabit a fictional space that is essentially transgressive and disruptive, an ambivalent ‘paramythical’ space – suggested by the Greek prefix para which means both ‘against’ and ‘beside.”191 Meanwhile, cruising during the 1970s and early 1980s allowed for a space to conduct public sex that undermined the reproductive and personal elements of sexual coupling as established by heterosexual America. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner argue that “heterosexual culture achieves much of its metacultural intelligibility through the ideologies and institutions of intimacy… community is imagined through scenes of intimacy, coupling, and kinship.”192 Whereas the mask in the Arthur Rimbaud series disrupts the legibility of the body’s identity within space via a mediation, cruising refigures the intimacy that occurs via the immediate interaction of bodies within space, while embracing illegibility. Queer Futurity While the operations of Wojnarowicz’s work have been considered to this point, his work can be further understood via a more theoretical consideration of Muñoz’s writings on disidentification and queer futurity. Muñoz’s seminal text Disidentifications considers how artists and performers “misidentify” with monolithic structures within their work. Disidentifications, more generally, considers how those outside the racial and sexual mainstream negotiate dominant culture by transforming culture to their own experiences – thus, disidentifying from the dominant culture by injecting their own identities into its reformation. Muñoz writes primarily on queers of color in his book, thus requiring some care as to how Muñoz’s conception of disidentification is used to analyze Wojnarwoicz’s work. A working explanation of Muñoz’s concept of “disidentification” is provided as “disidentificatory performances resist the social matrix of dominant publicity by exposing the rhetorical/ideological context of state power.”193 Specifically focusing on Wojnarowicz’s use of collage reveals how Wojnarowicz can

191

Adamowicz, Surrealist Collage in Text and Image, 186. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, "Sex in Public," Critical Inquiry 24, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 553. 193 José Esteban Muñoz, Disidentifications Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 168. 192

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be better elucidated via a disidentificatory reading practice. In negotiating images and ideas from dominant American culture via culture, Wojnarowicz reworks American society to align with his outsider experience. Muñoz considers the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, an artist who sought to break free from the controlling powers of representation, but worked within the more concretized visuality of minimalism. In use of minimalism, Torres seeks to avoid participation in a “representational economy.” Torres’ Untitled (America) (1994), is a conceptual work that entitles and instructs its owner to install a string of lights – seemingly apolitical in nature. Torres’s adapting of minimalism comes from the fact that bodies are “represented through chains of lightbulbs that burn out one by one” connoting the death of individuals during the AIDS crisis.194 Muñoz argues that Torres “depended on a minimalist symbolic lexicon that disidentified with minimalism’s own self-referentiality… using the minimalist style to speak to a larger social order and to expanded issues of identity.”195 Torres was able to counteridentify within the selfreferentially of minimalist art practices by re-negotiating minimalism with his own identity and demonstrate how one might be able to exist within a space free from dominant representations, while carving out one’s own narrative and existence within such a space. Expanding the notion of disidentification to Wojnarowicz reveals how his work creates openings within the dominant monolith via his unique reworking of subjectivity and reality within his present. As has been considered via use of collage in Bad Moon Rising, Wojnarowicz constructs a visuality around AIDS that undermines dominant narratives. Such a subversion of overpowering narratives operates according to Muñoz’s conception of disidentification as resisting dominant ideologies of state power. Furthermore, in the dually subversive and alternatively constructive meanings that Wojnarowicz’s collage enacts, Bad Moon Rising sits interestingly in-between identification and counteridentification. Muñoz describes such as state of negotiation between identification and counteridentification as “a mode of critical performativity, 194 195

Ibid, 178. Ibid, 165.

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one that I am identifying as tactical misrecognition of the public/private grids that structure the social.”196 Wojnarowicz’s work seeks to restructure public/private grids via subversion and détournement of images of state and religious stability. Wojnarwoicz’s work can be considered as rehearsing and prefiguring a queer future within the present. Muñoz, writing in Cruising Utopia, writes that “a queer aesthetic can potentially function like a great refusal because art manifests itself in such a way that the political imagination can spark new ways of perceiving and acting on a reality.”197 As previous consideration of Crimp suggests, art’s power is limited in the direct impact it can have in the world. Nonetheless, art has a powerful ability to fashion and interrogate new ways of existing and acting in the world. Arthur Rimbaud in New York, for example, can be seen as a way of rethinking how the self exists within space. David Halperin, quoted by Muñoz, considers that to “practice a stylistics of the self ultimately means to cultivate that part of oneself that leads beyond oneself, that transcends oneself.”198 Via use of the mask, Wojnarwoicz is enacting a disidentification with the present by collapsing time between Rimbaud and the moment the photographs are taken. Additionally, in blocking the face, the series has the impact of causing a consideration of the individual’s position within these politically and historically charged spaces. In a particular reading, the series acts as a rehearsal, enactment, and communication of disidentification. Muñoz draws from Ernst Bloch to consider how horizons within the here and now are crucial to a queer futurity. Muñoz highlights that Bloch proposes daydreaming and imagination to configure a “version of heaven on earth that… helps one think of another place where our Eros is not conscripted in the fashion that civilization demands.”199 Wojnarowicz realizes that the here and now is open to change and that “culture forces the individual to behave in predetermined ways.”200 He aims to reveal that structures of power and culture are arbitrary and can be reformatted. Wojnarowicz 196

Ibid, 172. Jose Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 135. 198 Muñoz, Disidentifications, 178. 199 Muñoz, Cruising Utopia, 144. 200 Breslin, Kiehl, David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night, 56. 197

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often uses the language of the “pre-invented world” to discuss such a conception of how the world operates: “we are born into a pre-invented existence within a tribal nation of zombies and in that illusion of a one-tribe nation there are real tribes.”201 At a minimum, Wojnarowicz’s works can be seen as attempting to “awake” individuals to the structures of the world. A stronger reading of Wojnarowicz’s work, however, reveals the possible forms that a re-figuration of culture might take. Wojnarowicz’s desire to break free of the illusion of a one-tribe nation also operates as a uniquely queer project. Eve Sedgewick, writing in her chapter Queer and Now, positions queerness as a space where meanings do not always line up cleanly. When specifically discussing gender, she argues that queer can refer to “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses, and excess of meaning” when gender/sex does not signify monolithically.202 In many ways, Wojnarowicz’s work operates similarly by performing a queer world view in his work by bringing together disparate identities, cultural objects, and periods of history that do not always come together cleanly. Viewers are able to visually identify with and experience a queer conception of the world. In creating objects that are made for an audience’s reception, Wojnarowicz crucially engages with a broader community through his work. Wojnarowicz wrote that “if I make something and leave it in public for any period of time, I can create an environment where that object or writing acts as a magnet and draws others with a similar frame of reference out of silence or invisibility.”203 In the height of the AIDS crisis, such an audience was a community of other East Village artists and activist looking for ways to cope with and combat the death occurring around them. Wojnarowicz was a founding member of ACT UP in Manhattan, and his work inevitably became a place where his fellow activists turned when looking for strategies to combat government inaction. Rage was a particularly crucial aspect of Wojnarowicz’s work that would have resonated with fellow ACT UP advocates. Judith 201

Ibid. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Queer and Now," in Tendencies (London: Routledge, 1994), 7. 203 Melissa Jacques, "Making Cruising Dwelling," Performance Research 10, no. 4 (2005): 156. 202

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Halberstam argues that Wojnarowicz reveals the power of imagined violence as a tool for creating “a new form of political response that is sensitive to and exploitive of the blurred boundaries between representations and realities.”204 The legacy of Wojnarowicz after his death demonstrates the power his work had in pushing people to action at a time when death seemed insurmountable. Wojnarowicz Today After his death, Wojnarowicz’s artwork continues to influence audiences. The Whitney Museum of Art gave Wojnarowicz his first comprehensive museum retrospective under the exhibition title History Keeps Me Awake at Night in 2018. Many of Wojnarowicz’s works are held in private collections, and the Exhibition was a chance for a new generation to encounter Wojnarowicz’s work. The exhibition also created a space for those who knew Wojnarowicz to come together to reconnect and reflect on the period. The AIDS crisis did not die with Wojnarowicz, and his strategies and the alternative conceptions of reality suggested by his work are still applicable today. A group of about a dozen members of ACT UP’s New York chapter conducted an action during the exhibition’s run highlighting the ongoing challenges with HIV, such as “insufficient access to treatment & prevention” and “denialism of modern HIV science.”205 Wojnarowicz’s work can continue to serve as a tool for considering how dominant cultural narratives can be undermined in order to protect lives as his artistic and critical interventions are not restricted only to the AIDS crisis of the 1980-90s. Wojnarowicz’s work makes a compelling case for art’s role in envisioning and prefiguring a queer world. He also demonstrates art’s ability to enact a political refiguring with potentially lifesaving consequences. Bad Moon Rising and Arthur Rimbaud in New York present two particular ways of thinking about how cultural and political monoliths can be subverted via a surrealist collage practice. Muñoz provides a

204

Judith Halberstam, "Imagined Violence/Queer Violence: Representation, Rage, and Resistance," Social Text, no. 37 (Winter 1993): 190. 205 Sarah Cascone, "'AIDS Is Not History': ACT UP Members Protest the Whitney Museum's David Wojnarowicz Show, Claiming It Ignores an Ongoing Crisis," Artnet News, August 06, 2018, accessed December 12, 2018.

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toolkit to realize how these works give the viewer the ability to look forward towards a new existence, especially at a time when many saw no way out. Wojnarowicz’s body of work, and its impact, has far exceeded the AIDS epidemic. Wojnarowicz’s call to break free of dominant, homogenizing understanding of self, culture, time, and space still resonant loudly audiences both new and old to his work. Bibliography Adamowicz, Elza. Surrealist Collage in Text and Image: Dissecting the Exquisite Corpse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. "Sex in Public." Critical Inquiry 24, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 54766. Breslin, David, and David Kiehl. David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night. New York: Yale University Press, 2018. Carr, Cynthia. Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2014. Cascone, Sarah. "'AIDS Is Not History': ACT UP Members Protest the Whitney Museum's David Wojnarowicz Show, Claiming It Ignores an Ongoing Crisis." Artnet News. August 06, 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/act-up-whitney-museumdavid-wojnarowicz-1325891. Crimp, Douglas. Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. Halberstam, Judith. "Imagined Violence/Queer Violence: Representation, Rage, and Resistance." Social Text, no. 37 (Winter 1993): 187-201. Hilton, Leon. "X-Ray of Civilization." Social Text. December 13, 2010. Accessed December 11, 2018. https://socialtextjournal.org/x-ray-of-civilization/. Jacques, Melissa. "Making Cruising Dwelling." Performance Research 10, no. 4 (2005): 155-69. Kaye, Richard. "Losing His Religion: Saint Sebastian as Contemporary Gay Martyr." In Outlooks Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Culture, 86-105. London: Routledge, 1996. Lippard, Lucy R. David Wojnarowicz: Brush Fires in the Social Landscape. New York: Aperture, 2015. Munoz, Jose Esteban. Cruising Utopia The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: NYU Press, 2009. Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. "Saint Sebastian." Encyclopædia Britannica. September 29, 2008. Accessed December 11, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Sebastian. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Queer and Now." In Tendencies, 1-19. London: Routledge, 1994.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

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Cairo Mo

Stanford University '20

1 9 S e l f - C a r e T i p s To Tr y O u t Cairo Mo 113


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"19 Self-Care Tips To Try Out is a painting of a knife fight with myself. Two versions of me grapple and wrestle for control, but both end up symmetrically and simultaneously triumphant and defeated. Despite being literally impaled on knives, each figure reaches to the other in a caress. With depictions of care and violence so intricately and intrinsically linked, I attempt to subvert the mainstream trans narrative of hating one's body and to portray my own relationship with my body in a more nuanced way than just love or hate. Committing violence on my body can turn my body into something. I love, but not without destroying it in the process. And trying to love my body as it is cannot be possible without destroying myself. As the self devours the body, the body devours the self — a snake swallowing its own tail.” “T(een/eeth/estosterone) draws on the lushly layered digital compositions of Kei Imazu, and the macabre application of paint of Jenny Saville. With these influences, I composed and painted this image about my body, myself, and being transgender. The teeth motif functions as a symbol for my inner self. Teeth are a part of the skeleton, which is usually hidden beneath our skin and bone and muscle. To expose my teeth is to expose the structure that keeps my body together. The various teeth motifs, from the dental diagrams to the baby teeth in a child's skull, all serve as different representations and views that people have about teeth, and about my body. That something as private and hidden as teeth can be studied, codified, and removed from its bodily context, speaks to my experience as a trans person. Through the cisgender gaze on both this painting and my body, I feel as if my body has been alienated from myself.”

T(een/eeth/estosterone) Cairo Mo

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2019 spring issue  

2019 spring issue  

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