The Good Life The Harn Museum of Art

Medium & Technique

This unique piece of art is known to us as cloth, but is commonly referred to in Mali, Africa as bazin. Constructed from cotton and hand-dyed, this symbolic bazin is crafted from an unusual cotton medium. Cotton, as a common crop in Mali, is utilized to create one-of-a-kind pieces by Mali women who have established themselves in agricultural society. For these women, hand stitching fabric is both a traditional cultural practice and also a means of economic advancement.

In person, I could truly appreciate the fine details stitched into the bazin. Each carefully decorated shape is symmetrical and finely aligned on the cloth canvas. Furthermore, the color scheme of the cloth is much more vivid and compelling in person. The stark contrast between the dark purple background and then pink and orange patterns draw observes to admire the zest of this work of art. It is no surprise that the noticeable glimmer of this fabric contributes to its highly esteemed status in Africa.

I felt connected to this piece because I could celebrate and relate to the hardworking women who crafted this piece and contributed to their local economy. I find it interesting that women can advance in Mali's society by creating beautiful pieces of art - something that is not often held in high regard in America. Overall, the piece filled me with a sense of pride that women are seeking economic independence and respect in underdeveloped parts of the world. Their ability to craft something both wonderful and socially significant leaves me in awe.

"Cloth (bazin)." 20th century, cloth, synthetic dye, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida.

Design of the Museum

The Ceramics: Avenues of Exchange exhibit is an integral aspect of Harn's Asian Collection. Ceramic pieces represent the collision of cultures as they have been historically traded between Asian countries and other parts of the world. This specific exhibit is decorated with dark hardwood floors and dark wooden panels in order to contrast with the texture and light color of the ceramic pieces. Furthermore, the room is mainly lit by natural light from windows to emphasize a peaceful feeling as if I were strolling through a zen garden.

Additionally, the room is very light, airy and laid out in a spacious way. In my opinion, this capitalizes on the idea that ceramics travelled far distances between various lands and countries due to their appealing beauty. The ceramic vases took on vastly different shapes - some narrow, some wide, some curved, and some straight. This variety intrigued me because each artist could accentuate the ceramic piece with their own flair. Also, I appreciated the glass cases around each ceramic piece because any onlookers could observe the details of the vases from all angles.

Overall, the ceramic pieces made me feel deeply connected to history. In the same way that ceramic trading intertwined cultures, I felt connected to the Asian history represented by the exhibit. Also, each piece with its own unique twist reminded me of the beauty of diversity and that every piece provoked its own feelings - darkly painted vases symbolized elegance and grandeur while white or beige pots held a more austere symbolism.

"Ceramics: Avenues of Exchange." 2017. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida.

Art & Core Values

This elegant bronze sculpture is part of the Harn's Asian Collection and represents a female Buddhist deity, Vajravarahi. Primarily, I was drawn to this piece by its opulence as it is crafted from a shiny, bronze metal and enlaced with several jewels. At the Harn, I learned that this piece of art signifies the female represent of Buddha who possess wisdom, emphasizes truth, and is worshipped as the goddess of light. Her weapon, the vajra, is used to dispel illusions in order to attain clarity.

One of my core values is positivity and strength from overcoming adversity. I feel as though this piece represents positivity because the deity is the goddess of light who casts out lies. Also, the women in the sculpture is strong and courageous which are elements that are essential to my identity as an independent and ambitious woman. The beauty radiated by this piece caught my attention because I too wish to radiate an inner beauty that comes with being a optimist. While studying this sculpture, I felt a deep sense of pride for the power that females have harnessed especially after being oppressed in many cultures. Overall, this eclectic and vivacious female sculpture reaffirmed my beliefs that women are power creatures who should be revered for their beauty, courage, and enthusiasm.

"Vajravarahi." 13th century, bronze with gemstones and polychrome, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida.

Art & The Good Life

In this sketch, observes can witness Frida Kahlo as she embodies the theme seeking the good life. As a famous painter, disabled individual, and even political figure, Kahlo's life was marked with a lot of adversity. A severe case of Polio and a horrific accident left Kahlo disabled, but not disheartened. To Kahlo, being able to freely express her thoughts was a crucial part of her attainment of the good life, and she did this creatively through painting. Her creations signified deeper meanings about life, especially her work "Las Dos Fridas" which represents her conflicting identity between her true self and who society wants her to be.

Specifically, this sketch appealed to me because Kahlo could have chosen to live in a negative mindset due to her illness and confinement to bed. Instead, Kahlo utilized her remaining abilities to pursue her passions by creating art from her bed. For me, her courageous effort to seek a good life despite her circumstances helps me put a good life into perspective. Clearly, a good life does not have to entail material possessions, prosperity or even good health (as in Kahlo's case). A good life, in this idea, is being able to do what you love and chase your dreams despite the odds against you. After viewing this photograph and learning about Kahlo's life, I feel confident to pursue my own passions in an attempt to harness the good life, and I know that it all begins with an optimistic mindset.

"Frida at ABC Hospital Sketching." 1950, Gelatin, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida.


Created with images by Hans - "wood painted rods"

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