Harn Museum of Art Angela George


My roommate Arein and I ventured to the Harn Museum of Art on a Tuesday afternoon; neither of us had ever been there before. Arein is a junior, so she did not "have" to go, but we both wanted to check out the museum regardless. We both ended up loving it; there are so many interesting pieces from so many different eras conveying so many different human emotions and representing countless different cultures. We had a lot of fun wandering around and reading artists' descriptions, going into the gardens, and ultimately absorbing the essence of the museum. There were a few setbacks, however... including when I got locked out by myself in the gardens right before closing:

Here you see Arein laughing inside (I told her to stay inside in the off-chance we got locked out, but I ended up getting locked out anyways. The irony is not lost here), my facial expression whilst realizing I was trapped outside, and the 'light at the end of the tunnel' after an employee rescued me from the outdoors.

medium of art

A piece from the Dan People, Côte d'Ivoire: "Face Mask (gunyege) from the 20th century in the Elusive Spirits: African Masquerades exhibit.

There were several masks in the Elusive Spirits: African Masquerades exhibit, but the one shown above was one of my favorites and I think it best exemplified a medium appreciated best whilst in person. The face mask is dated to the 20th century, and is crudely fashioned from wood, white metal, and assorted fibers. From the front, the mask appears roughly equivalent to the size of a human head, but when viewed from either side, the mask spans an anomalous and unexpected distance backwards to form a sculpture with a significant amount of deviation from the true human form. What surprised me most about this piece was that although it is rather rudimentary and made from primitive materials, it is rather humanlike in expression. I think it's fascinating that so many aspects and genres of human art, both primitive and modern, are centered around capturing both the human form and human emotion. Humans are innately vapid in this respect and posses an inherent fascination with themselves, as we were able to realize early on that our heads contain the most important aspects that facilitate human development and sociality. Feeling wise, this piece influenced me to feel appreciative of this innate human desire: to understand our outsides as well as our insides, both contingent upon the existence of one another.

museum design

The electric open spaces of the Guerrilla Girls/Womens' Exhibit, splattered with sparse and colorful artworks: even the wallspace helps in making a political/social/psychological statement

The section of the Harn Museum of Art that was most striking to me, due both to its meaning and intentional design, was the "Intra-Action: Women Artists from the Harn Museum". Upon walking into the exhibit, the stark difference between it and those previous is quite significant, as the majority of the prior exhibits harbored older, less colorful pieces. The negative, white space on the walls with sparse, dramatic pieces full of graffiti, color, bold text, etc. (as shown below).

From Left to Right: "Dear Art Collector" (2007), "Disturbing the Peace" (2009), "We Sell White Bread" (1987), "Anatomically Correct Oscar Billboard" (2002)

The Guerilla Girls arose in the 1980s following an art show, the International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture, which featured only 13 women out of 169. It is an anonymous feminist art society that intends to focus on their message rather than the members themselves

As one can assume, the point of this Guerilla Girls exhibit is to abruptly confront visitors with the starkness and caustic truth of their pieces, as it does in the Harn. The largest piece, shown above as "Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get into the Met Museum?", is considerably the most accosting: its bright yellow hue and confrontational lines of nudity and blatant sexism is the first thing one sees upon entering the exhibit. Of course, this placement, color, and forefronted political statement is entirely intentional, as it is meant to grab attention and keep it as well. Whether intentioned to insight anger, humor, sadness, or a little of all three, the ultimate clinical arrangement of these pieces helps to make this statement, which will inevitably vary from individual to individual.

art and core values

"Disturbing the Peace" (2009) and my initial response to the quotes emphasized in the piece (also my response to taking pictures of myself in public, I can't take myself seriously).

Rather than this piece appealing to my core values, as stated in the directions, it appeals to my vehement rejection of the values portrayed by multiple quotes from different men across several centuries. Such men include, but are not limited to: 'esteemed' radio host Rush Limbaugh, Confucius and Pythagoras, Frank Sinatra, and, of course, we cannot forget the ironic inclusion (much before his presidency, I may add) the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. I am a strong supporter of the equality of women in all societies and ardently oppose the notion that males are superior based solely upon their possession of a certain genitalia, so naturally, this piece is intended to get under my skin. I have never once in my life felt less-than due to my sex because I have been granted the ability to do so, and I wish for every woman on the planet to feel this same security and fortified confidence in their everyday lives. I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have been born into a society that, more or less, grants women entirely equal rights to those of men. In the United States, women are appreciated, respected, and valued much more than ever in history and significantly more than women in other cultures. I'm definitely not saying there isn't still work to be done, because there is, and this is epitomized by the quotes in the above artwork. These negative attitudes towards women have always existed, and will only die out with the people that harbor them, as blunt as it may be. You cannot change someone's intrinsic beliefs; only wait for them to be invalidated. However, the different quotes from men throughout history have gradually become less severe, which does show progress, but nowhere close to total and complete egalitarianism of the sexes.

art and the good life

Some of my favorites from the "Bits of Borno": Surviving Boko Haram exhibit, photographs by Fati Abubakar in Nigeria
"Looking ahead..." The only piece in the current "Bits of Borno" photography exhibit without a caption; a nameless piece for much more than just a nameless face (Who wore it better? Hint: definitely her).

The reason I picked this particular photograph, the only piece in the temporary photography exhibit "Bits of Borno" without a title/name/caption/anything, is because it does not necessarily explicitly encompass what one may define as the 'good life'. As a woman living in the industrialized and consumerized West, I am accustomed to the commodities of urban living. Actions such as what the woman in the photograph is doing are often viewed as primitive and rudimentary by those such as I; not so much as a discrimination, but rather a preconceived notion set forth by the commonplace acclimations of consumerist society. However, the woman in the photograph may not think any of this at all, and, in fact, may be content with her ways of life because she does not need anything else. I believe that this photograph epitomizes the duality of the 'good life' because it may represent the antithesis of what the 'good life' means for others. Most students enrolled in this class likely define the good life as living a life of happiness, with a well-paying job, a family, and a nice house in a suburb on the outskirts of some city. I think it is safe to state that this may define the 'good life' for everyone in Western civilization: making enough money to be 'happy' in postmodern consumerist culture. So, naturally, those that are accustomed to western privilege may view the life of other cultures, in this case West Africa, as undesirable and may even display empathy or sadness for those not born into the same privilege. But, the point I want to make is that the 'good life' is not confined to living exactly how life is set out for you and it is not confined to the bias that Western culture is superior and should be everyone's goal for the 'good life'. Although I do not have the capacity to understand life without the innate privileges that have been granted to me, I do think that advances in technology or Western societal expectations do not invalidate the cultures of the foreground.

Created By
Angela George

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