Conjay Dahn's Good Life Tour of the Harn Photo: Harn museum of art

Introduction

This week, I visited the Harn Museum of Art and was inspired by the many art pieces on display. Individuals express the deepest parts of themselves through their artwork and visiting an art museum is like delving into the most intimate part of a person's life.

Medium of the Art/Artist's Techniques

Source: Wall text, Galleria, Old Man's Cloth, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 Feb 2017

Old Man's Cloth by El Anatsui

El Anatsui's Old Man's Cloth was created using the tops of liquor bottles, creating "metallic tapestry". Flattened tops were molded into fluid sheets. In person, this piece seems to move and be multidimensional. This piece utilized rigid particles to create a piece that had an overall flowing shape, mimicking fabric. I found this to be incredibly fascinating and it displayed a subtle quality of vulnerability within its hard metal exterior. It represented layers in the character of a piece and made me look closely at how hard or difficult times have molded me into a more caring, carefree person.

Design of the Museum

David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL

The location of the Asian Collection at the Harn was absolutely breathtaking. The room was covered from floor to ceiling in wooden panels and the display room had a large window, letting in large amounts of light and creating a really fresh feeling. The space was incredibly open and there were wide openings to exhibits. This entire set up made the room more inviting.

David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing at the Harn Museum of Art
Water Garden at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL

The portion of the Asian Art Wing that really appealed to me was the Water Garden at the back of the exhibit. The garden in itself was a work of art designed by landscape artist Hoichi Kurisu, complete with flowers, trees, and a waterfall. From the way the sun shone through the trees to the sound of the water falling on rocks, the entire atmosphere of the garden was relaxing and beautiful. I sat on on of the benches and just listened to my surroundings, which all added to the experience. It was an all encompassing piece that challenged more senses than just your sense of sight.

Hoichi Kurisu, Water Garden at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL

Water Garden at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL
Water Garden Guide

Art and Core Values

Source: Wall text, African Collection, Okakagbe masquerade performance in Ovao, Nigeria, featuring costumes by Pius Ahigbe, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017

The exhibits that probably had the most impact on me personally were those of the African Collection at the Harn. I was first drawn to this exhibit by the faint sound of guard drums, which I later found the source being Jean Borgatti's visual account of a tribal dance ritual. Many of these pieces originated in West Africa and represented tribal rituals of various tribal groups. My family is originally from Liberia, West Africa, and the values of my guardians, as well as tribal values were instilled in my everyday life. My cultural heritage is so ingrained in my sense of self, that I often tie my identity to it. Seeing these exhibits resurrected every teaching my family has cemented within me and I saw my culture in one room.

Source: Wall text, African Collection, West African Tribal Masks, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017

I felt the most emotion when I saw tribal masks from my tribe. My father's mother was a part of the Vai tribe, and growing up, I saw these masks in her old tribal community quite often. She passed away before I had the chance to meet her, and I always felt that by connecting with these tribal traditions, I somehow can connect with her spirit. I was overwhelmed with joy, excitement, surprise, and solemn all at the same time and felt an enormous amount of respect in my heart, so much so, that I began to cry. My core values of love, family, and humility all originated from my tribal teachings, and feeling closer to these always strengthens my values as a person.

Source: Wall text, African Collection, Mende, Vai, and Gola Masquerades for Women's and Men's Societies, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017

Art and the Good Life

Source: Wall text, Contemporary Collection, Guerrilla Girls Exhibit, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017

I was most excited to see the Guerrilla Girls' exhibit at the Harn. The Guerrilla Girls is an all-woman installation art group that uses their pieces to advocate for feminism and gender equality in the arts. Most of their installations consist of public service announcements or discouraging facts about gender and racial inequality in the arts, accompanied by a visual aid or representation. They emphasize on quantity and repetition of their views, making their statements the art. The artists have remained anonymous since the 1980s in order to ensure that their audience focuses on the messages they are trying to portray as opposed to the messengers delivering them.

Source: Wall text, Contemporary Collection, Do Women Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met Museum, Update, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017
Source: Wall text, Dear Art Collector, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017
Source: Wall text, Contemporary Collection, Guerrilla Girls' definition of a hypocrite, Gainesville, FL, 1 February 2017

I felt that these pieces exemplified the theme of "Fighting for the Good Life". Many people pursue happiness and the good life through artistic forms of expression. The Guerrilla Girls work to raise awareness of disparities felt among entire groups of artists who wish to pursue their dreams without being bastardized, sexualized, or demonized. By reading the facts on these exhibits, as well as the understanding the reason for choosing the specific examples they did, I was better able to connect with the fight many artists struggle through during their lifetimes.

My Experience Overall

Overall, I really enjoyed embracing different cultures and points of view within the museum. Art is the most effective way of conceptualizing emotions and ideas that cannot be verbalized. The good life is all about embracing the journey of life, as well as those that accompany us during that time, and a museum is an amazing way of embracing the views of amazing individuals who have found creation to be their only successful outlet and pursuit of happiness.

Conjay Dahn

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