"La Esfera (The Sphere)" by Fanny Rabel
Out of all the works on display in the Harn Museum, this one is the most striking in part due to its presentation. The sketch sits to the side of a small wall, alone save for a small description which informs visitors of its background. It is adequately held in a dark frame consistent with its content. The sketch depicts a lonesome figure, surrounded by darkness save for a small tinge of light radiating from a bird in a cage. When looked at closely one can observe the change of light as the sketch approaches the bird. Upon reflection it seems that the figure is surrounded by despondency, and the bird provides a glimpse of happiness, a small fissure into the life of the living. Instead of observing the bird from afar in its natural environment the figure instead keeps it trapped in a cage. I found this to represent the selfishness of human nature along with its weakness. The figure must know and understand that the bird is not happy encaged, and yet it keeps him trapped. It does so because releasing it would mean releasing the only glimmer of hope and happiness present in its life. It does so because although he is causing the bird harm, he needs this bird to stay alive. Overall the display brought me a sense of melancholy as I reflected these thoughts into myself and those around me. I recognized the figure's need to hold on to what brings it happiness, but also accepted that this act is not healthy. This whole interpretation is based on the artist's use of darkness and light, and the symbolism behind the cage and the bird.
Entrance to the Asian art wing
The entrance to the Asian wing exhibit is particularly striking due to the contrast it poses with the previous exhibit. Upon entrance, as seen in the above image, one is greeted by wall to wall dark wood, bright lights, and encased artifacts. The space is set up in such a way that you are surrounded by artifacts of different shapes and colors on all side. This arrangement produces a deep appreciation for the displays as it eases them into the line of vision. The second I stepped into the area I felt as if I was in a new place, foreign to any I had been before. The main reason for this was the quiet ambiance and, once again, the use of bright lights reflected on dark wood. The different sets of artwork are also spread apart in a way that allows individual focus on different sects of Asian art.
Three girls holding hands, Sertao da Paraiba, Brazil by Sebastiao Salgado
Perhaps one of the most important values pertains giving and receiving love. I find that most if not all adversities in life can be overcome with a combination of personal resilience and love. More than any other time in my life last year tested my resolve to a point where I doubted my purpose. I relied on the people whom I love and who love me to get through obstacles. Contemplating this painting and its background I thought back to all the people who fiercely protect and stand by me. The way the girls hold each others face coupled with their determined faces gave me a sense that they would stand by each other despite the hardships they faced. It is my true belief that humans need each other, that a secluded life is a lonely life, and that love for others is the way we find meaning in this life that we were thrown into. The primary emotion that I felt while looking at this painting was pride. Pride because I empathized with the condition these girls existed in, but more so because I believed they had the strength to support each other through it. The artwork also made my contemplate my own life and the relationships that move me forward. It only re validated the value that love has in my life.
Sheep Wranglers by Justine Kurland
When thinking about the "good life" most people think back to their youth. The reason behind this usually being that they associate youth with carelessness, lack of responsibility, and freedom, among other things. This painting attracted me because it is the quintessential representation of bliss; it is where the minds of many wander when they wish to relax. I am not saying that this painting, or what it depicts, is the good life. I am simply using it to build the basis of what I view as the good life. As we grow older, we tend to construct false barriers between us and happiness. These barriers often pertain to what we think life ought to be like; what we have been taught to believe life ought to be like. Many of us think of stress, routine, boredom, and finance when we think of adult life. As the years pass many forget the important things in life because they become preoccupied in the day to day. The reason many cherish their youth is because it was a time where dreams roamed free and time was taken up with plans for the future, laughs, and good company. Once adulthood comes "reality" sinks in and many people quickly let go of their dreams, most often in pursuit of material things like money. Personally I hope to never forget the sense of wonder at the world and the belief that all is possible, as I believe this is an important aspect of the good life. Instead of looking back at youth as our only time of happiness we should use it to remind ourselves of our younger selves and how bold we were in expressing our desire to explore the world and the possibilities it holds. This is why I chose this painting to represent the good life, not because of the setting, but because it reminds us to remember ourselves and what we hold dear when all the tribulations of society are stripped away.