Good Life Tour of the Harn By: Desi Ferber

This morning I woke up early to go do this tour of the art museum. Frankly, I would have enjoyed it far more if I was allowed to ruminate freely on the art work instead of inside the oppressive constraints of an assignment for a class required by the establishment, but whatever. Hope you enjoy grading the fruits of my labors.

So I haven't actually gotten the chance to do an in-depth tour of the Harn (and I still haven't gotten to look at it as much as I'd like to) but I was greatly impressed by the sophistication of the museum- it had a lot of wonderful and famous artwork that was on par with the quality of some of the country's more acclaimed museums- for a university museum, that's pretty good. I was awed by the beauty of the Asian and African art in particular, especially the ceramics. I will most definitely have to go back to spend the afternoon in the cozy library sometime- the collection of books had me salivating. Can't wait to go back and explore without having an assignment due- for me, such things oftentimes diminish the value of individual learning.

Untitled, John Chamgerlain, 1973, and the other artwork, Desi Ferber, 1998. Picture taken by Desi Ferber, February 23, 2017

Here we've got a super rad colored tinfoil-like abstract art made of, you guessed it, aluminum foil, plus some acrylic, lacquer, and polyresin, because tinfoil on it's own can barely outlast your leftovers. It's kinda pretty when the light hits it, and it gives you nostalgic memories of preschool art projects. I could give you some cock-and-bull analysis like how it represents that life is often messy, and yet despite all the wrinkles it is still beautiful and colorful, or how it looks like a piece of trash that didn't deserve to be thrown away because it was beautiful and colorful and this is a metaphor for the degeneration of society and whatnot, but I used up all my bullshitting capacity in TOK last year for IB. So the truth is, it's just a colorful foil ball that was made by a dude who was probably still coming down from the high of all the LSD's in the sixties. Somehow, though, the fact that it's just a rainbow ball of foil that looks pretty when the sunlight hits it makes it mean more to me. This little ball of foil somehow blustered its way into a fancy museum with hardwood floors on the basis of an abstract work with a deeper meaning when it should probably be in a hippy's garage, and it therefore represents my philosophy in life: fake it 'til you make it. You see, I would not have been able to spontaneously generate the above paragraph if I had merely seen a picture of the art and not observed the sunlight from the windows and the lemon-polish shine of the wood floors under this lovely chewed gum-wrapper creation. The fact that it was made out of everyday construction materials instead of high quality oil paints made from the pressed olives of Sicily mixed with the tears of blessed virgins is even better. It's like in puss in boots: average Joe manages to convince everyone he's the Marquis de Lafayette (or a meaningful masterpiece of creation, in this case) when really, he's just a ball of tinfoil. I admire his tenacity and cunning. I therefore have dubbed him Lafayette.

Harn Museum of Art, window display. Picture by Desi Ferber, February 23, 2017

I loved the way that the museum, while fancy, felt very open and inviting. There were lots of window displays to the gardens, the art was separated by country, time period, or region, the architecture was clean and simple so as not to distract from the art itself, and the lighting was warm and natural. I liked feeling safe and warm while being able to admire the pretty gardens. I liked the square design of the building and all the sharp corners. The compartmentalization of exhibits and displays helps me compartmentalize the knowledge in my mind- which art belongs to which region or time period, what style it was, etc. I really loved the library in the museum, to be honest- there were tactile pieces by local artists on display, and there were cozy couches, natural light, and lots of books. For the girl on the eternal search for the world's best reading nook, this was heaven. Shame I had class and didn't get to stay there forever reading books about Asian art history.

African Masquerade figure, photo taken by Desi Ferber, February 23, 2017

Art and core values: Africa is and was a very vivid, spiritual culture. This figure represents the traditional African masquerade, with a mask and the home-spun, colorful costumes for dancing and spiritual festivals. While I am not by any stretch of the imagination African or of African origin (see pasty white face, above), I appreciate and cherish the values of African tribal cultures: family, community, culture, spirituality. I love how these tribes celebrated their spirituality not with organized religion or long sermons, which I am not fond of, but with festivals of dance and praise to spirits of nature and of ancestors. I love colors, crafts, anything that does not fit the traditional aesthetic of uniform angles and perfect scale. This art simply reminds me of everything I love about individuality, but at the same time community: families, friends, and loved ones come together for a common celebration that means something a little different to all of them, an idea reflected in the vivid costumes of varying colors and designs. Seeing art that is so far from my own culture yet so close to so many of my values reminds me that at the core, we are all human, and can see the connection between us if we only bother to look.

Cuarteto Habanero. Cundo Bermúdez, 1991. Photo taken by Desi Ferber, 2/23/17

Much of the good life is enjoyment of art: this is art within art... a painting of Cuban dudes playing music on traditional instruments. This is celebrating the good life: you have people being together as a community to play and enjoy the music. It is beautiful because there is brotherhood, cultural tradition, and yet the music (and the painting) is perceived and enjoyed by everyone a bit differently. It is like Beethoven's Ode to Joy: we are all hearing the same thing, but equating it to different memories and experiences. This painting makes me think of my trips to the Spanish islands in the Caribbean: the memories of enjoying the music and the bright colors and the beautiful culture of la familia and the way everyone made you feel welcome. For someone else, it might bring forth memories of nostalgia or of the revolution in Cuba or of fleeing on a raft to a better life. No matter what, it celebrates looking back on the past with fondness whilst still moving foreward.

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