Harn Museum of Art An analysis of art and the good life: by Gabriella Steele

Hello, everyone! My name is Gabriella Steele, but most just call me Gabby or Gabzy. I'm an animal-lover, scientist, and people-lover. I'm more of a listener than a talker, and all that quiet time leads to some pretty deep thoughts. There was quite a lot of said deep moments when I visited the Harn Museum of Art last Tuesday. Now, let's analyze some art together!

This untitled piece of artwork was my chosen subject for analyzing the medium of the art. Approaching it, the piece looked like a crumpled ball of metal; but there was more to it than that. John Chamberlain, an American artist, created it in the 1950s. The medium was fascinating to me, because it is made of crushed junk cars! Chamberlain made most of his art with Americans' "discarded materials." I have a great appreciation for this art style, because it conserves materials while also drawing attention to our country's trash crisis. Humans have discarded so much trash, that it's enough to form a new layer of crust on the Earth. Fortunately it's concentrated into dumps, but much of it escapes and ends up in nature, especially in the ocean... We've all seen photographs of marine creatures choking on plastic soda rings. Seeing it at this deeper level, I felt some sadness, but also an appreciation for its aesthetics and creativity. Any time trash is used in art, it contains profound significance, especially for me on a personal level, as a nature and animal lover.
The design of the museum itself certainly added to its appeal! I loved the architecture, and this entrance in particular called to me. Yes, the museum's garden area and spatial use were nice too, but spatial use is more subtle, and the day was too hot for me to spend much time in the garden. Though perhaps childish, I enjoyed weaving in and out of the sides of this archway. It really does exemplify the Harn's unique design! Within this lovely entrance was another unexpected surprise; a dance ceremony video playing o the walls, by a projector on the ceiling. The image hit one wall, and was reflected onto the other by a parallel mirror. It really was a creative design, and a very nice introduction to the African continent's art. It made me feel happy! I was with my best friend, Jess, and thus naturally inclined to be more outwardly expressive with my joy.
This simple but lovely piece of art is called "Family," by Agustin Cardenas. He sculpted it of bronze, in 1991. This piece invoked happiness and nostalgia in me. It gives me wonderful memories of the family I hold so dear. Much like Antigone, I hold my family above all else. My love for them is in itself a core value, and appropriately they also taught me my most precious core values like compassion, honesty, integrity, and humility. So, this artwork represents all of those for me. Like my own family, this piece is brimming with love, and acceptance. The figures are ambiguous; the parents could be a man and a woman, two men, or two women. All that matters to them is that they have each other, including the child who sits happily in their laps. Analyzing this piece helped me bettie understand that there are many other people out there who love their families just as much as I love mine. Growing up, my friends and classmates usually only spoke of what irritated them about their families, to the point that it seemed they hated them. But surely, at the heart all those complaints, was love.
This gruesome work of art was a piece by the Igbo people of Nigeria, made in 1970. It is made of wood, nails, paint, and a few feathers. This traditional mask was used in Igbo ceremonies, and represents many aspects of the good life, both directly and indirectly. Directly, it represents community and kinship experienced by people during these ceremonies. But to me, its more powerful effect is indirect. The mask is meant to represent masculinity, and with it the ideas associated with it; ugliness, chaos, danger, and obscurity, among other things. The wearers of these masks would chase after women and children, threatening them with paddles and knives. A normal occurrence in festivals, which was meant to enforce the patriarchy and male dominance. To women in the United States, this would be a complete injustice. Rather than heed tradition, we demand equality and have made a path for ourselves. We refuse to back down in the face of inequality, and there is still much progress to be made. To me, this Igbo mask represents fighting for the good life. It shows justices which many people around the world lack, and in such both teaches me to be grateful for what I have, and also makes me want to help women struggling under oppressive patriarchies. Reading about it gave me a bit of anger, but also left me with pride.

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