Having never been to a real museum, I was excited to complete this assignment and go to the Harn Museum for the first time. I had heard previously from other people that it was very impressive and fascinating. The way the art is presented is breathtaking and the history provided about the different sculpture and paintings is very moving. Walking through the museum, I also saw my friend that works as a security guard and she shared with me some of the exhibits that she finds to be the most interesting. She was familiar with the assignment so she provided me with some ideas as to how to approach the situation and the assignment and what kind of mindset it was good to have when observing the artwork. When analyzing art and trying to interpret the meaning behind it, it is good to have an open mind and be receptive to the way the art speaks back to you through its history and through the visuals.
Medium of the Art
One of my favorite pieces of art at the Harn Museum was a sculpture. This sculpture (shown above) is Old Man's Cloth. At first glance from afar, I was confused and couldn't really tell what it was. Walking up to it and observing it while hearing the recorded description provided by the museum made me see it in a new light. The sculpture was unexpectedly historical. Made of the plastic top covers of discarded liquor bottles, the art was meant to represent the arrival of the colonists in Nigeria. With the initial interactions between the Nigerians and the foreigners, they began trading. The colonists are responsible for introducing liquor and for the consequential dependency on exports by the Africans. Another purpose of the intended message behind the creation of the artwork was the amount of waste caused by this type of atmosphere so influenced by alcohol. The history behind this particular piece of art I found to be very honest and real, allowing me to see the intended message the artist was trying to communicate. I found the technique to be very clever, utilizing such a simple yet particular method. The single item used to create it referenced to very important issues in the area that were close to the artist's heart. What I got from the sculpture's appearance alone was striking, having a rugged and raw sort of appearance. The message behind the sculpture made me think of the play, where people don't often choose to see the darker occurrences that can happen in our own environment, whether current or a part of history. The artwork made me feel a sort of melancholy and feelings of cultural empathy. My own family is from a culture that has experienced colonists coming and spreading their own traditions and even products regardless of any potential consequences in an order to expand their own economic and territorial reach.
Design of the Museum
The section of the museum that I found to be the most interesting was the section containing various historical and cultural paintings. These paintings spoke to me through their representation of different cultures and the struggles that they faced. I was very moved while walking through this section. They are set apart an appropriate difference causing me to interpret it as each painting telling their own story. It also gave me space to acknowledge the different artists and their varying techniques and stories. Each artist seemed to have experienced a different situation and this was expressed in their artwork. These paintings in particular utilized a sort of cubist style. The darker tones used in some of these as well as the way the people looked in contrast with the setting expressed a darker mood and allowed me to feel the attitude that was put into the creation of the piece. The lighting in some of these sections was also darker, making it feel much more intense and sentimental. The feelings expressed from painting to painting often varied, although they could both be referencing and expressing the same cultures. It seemed like each painting addressed a different aspect and different eras of these cultures, through the rougher times and the civil rights and socially progressive movements. The arrangement of the art was eye level for me which allowed me to pay attention solely to the art when I stood and observed it. The height at which they presented the art enhanced the presence of the art and did not allow for one to be distracted by other things, such as the building's other displays or interior decorating styles. The way the art was sectioned off also allowed for different waves of emotions and interpretations with the way they divided it into different mindsets and moods varying by area. The exhibit made me feel like I could understand and appreciate the different tones varying by decades and other time periods compared to modern day. Especially in modern society, cultural and racial differences seem to be being more emphasized and causing issues as they did not so long ago. The current state our country is in is struggling, certain groups facing extreme discrimination and poverty with an overwhelming lack of sympathy and understanding. The way that we should approach other people's issues and situations should be in a more accepting nature and a willingness to help. Our society is becoming very culturally divided as it once was, and these drawings of the situation these cultures used to be in instantly resembled today's dilemma; though admittedly not as extreme, it is a rapidly increasing tension.
Art and Core Values
This next section in the museum was a separate room all on its own. Walking through the room's doors I noticed the kind of simple and plain presentation the room had. The only things in the room itself that varied were the way a random wall would be painted in a vibrant color, like a bright, deep red. However, the rest of the room was a simply white room and was more like a long narrow hallway. The room wasn't as spacious or had an ample wide appearance like the majority of the other exhibits did. The room consequently had a more kind of caged sort of feeling atmosphere. The room on its own, almost completely disregarding the paintings' striking official appearance, made me feel like the emotions being expressed by the artwork was intended to be radical and powerful. I then walked up to the art and observed it carefully, attempting to read as much as I could just in an effort to get a good idea of what was being presented to me. The art in the room consisted mostly of newspaper clipping like frames. They spoke largely of things like the struggles being faced by minorities, from certain racial and cultural groups to sex and gender struggles. These types of topics were especially relatable in my eyes due to the current situation our society seems to currently be in. Many groups are facing extreme discrimination and having family that pertain to a minority I have seen the various types of treatments and experiences many of them have faced throughout their lifetimes. This exhibit did not only speak to me on a personal level, but it also addressed the types of difficulties currently in our society in ways that I would not even be able to relate to yet still acknowledge need an increased amount of representation to the eyes of the public. I felt a wave of appreciation and feelings of empowerment from this exhibit as it showed to me that not everyone is making their best attempts to ignore this critical situation. Some people out there are at least recognizing that these kinds of issues have gone too far to continue being ignored. This exhibit helped me understand the standpoint of protesters and how nonviolent forms of expression can speak so loudly. I also felt comforted to know that there were groups that were standing up for the minorities and those struggling without a voice.
Art and the Good Life
This exhibit in the museum was most likely my favorite. This section gave off a very relaxing and calming vibe. The types of feelings this room gave off were soothing and it felt like you could really be connected with nature. As I walked through the doors leading to the exhibit, I felt an instant wave of peace and tranquility wash over me. I instantly knew this would be the exhibit I used for the Art and the Good Life section of the assignment. The first thing that popped into my head when I entered this area was the part of Siddhartha where Siddhartha was sitting by the water and he found so much deep meaning in it. The water in the novel represented so much more than a simple other part of nature. The water had heavy spiritual and emotional value. This exhibit's mood was that of utter nirvana and I feel that is what the Good Life represents. The Good Life, in my mind, is a life where we are accepting of the life that we have led, accepting the past as Siddhartha had to rather than trying to run from it or ignoring it. I also appreciated the way that the different parts of nature in the exhibit were utilized to bring our mindset back to that of ancient times where we lived solely off of these very things, the plants and other natural resources. The types of desires and wants people had in those times were solely for survival, rather than the constant suffering of striving to exceed others and competing for social, cultural, economic and other aspects that we value in modern society.