One of my favorite things about museums of any type is their diversity. The best art museums are essentially a conglomeration of objects -- glass and jade sculptures, paintings, photography, fabrics and woodblock prints, that, in any other environment, you'd never find sitting side-by-side. Yet, within the walls of the art galleries, their juxtaposition seems entirely logical and, in many ways, the peculiarity of this arrangement strikes you as somehow natural and right. The Harn Museum of Art completely conforms to this idea. All the exhibitions flow neatly into one another, even when (as with the photographs of Frida Kahlo and contemporary glass pieces) they are almost entirely different. On the outside, the Museum looks like any other cement building, nondescript but with perhaps a touch of sculptural artistic flair. On the inside, however, the walls are colorful and the open spaces strategically arranged with art of every size, shape, medium and style.
Medium of the Art & Technique of the Artist
Almost instantly after entering the Harn, I noticed a painting that stood out from all the rest. Entitled Composition after Botticelli, it caught my eye because of its sharp lines, geometric shapes, and distinctly purposeful division of space. Although this piece by Werner Drewes is an oil painting (created in 1938), it differs significantly from regular oil paintings in that the medium was not used to create texture, or to layer various colors on top of each other to produce richer hues. Rather, this painting is an abstract and architectural rendering of Botticelli's Three Miracles of Saint Zenobius. The artist's technique revolves largely around his use of perspective and the incredibly precise division of space. Drewes created his version of Botticelli's painting through the use of only geometric shapes, essentially rendering a 3D image (the people) to a 2D (shapes). Had I not seen this painting in person or had I not compared it to Botticelli's original work, I would have simply taken it for an abstract painting and would not have gained an accurate understanding of its depth and complexity.
Me in front of Werner Drewes' "Composition after Botticelli"
Design of the Museum
View of the garden from the inside of the museum
Although the arrangement of exhibitions within the Harn Museum was undoubtedly strategic and organized, the feature that stood out the most to me was definitely the small gardens placed throughout the museum. In particular, I greatly enjoyed the garden located within the Asian exhibitions, right next to the Korean art section. Upon opening the museum doors and walking into the garden, it was as though you were stepping into a glass terrarium replete with greenery. This effect was aided largely by the large glass windows on all sides, creating a sense of openness even within the closed space. The greenery, Bonsai tree, pond and mini-waterfall served as a natural sanctuary and made the atmosphere exceptionally relaxing. The openness of the windows both outside and inside was an excellent way to let the natural light in. Overall, this garden was an excellent way to both take a break from traditional, indoors art browsing, as well as be able to see a natural area reflective of Asian influence and decoration -- and, therefore, fittingly located within the Asian exhibits.
Me standing in front of the garden, before going outside
Art and Core Values
One of the things I have always loved about art is its ability to evoke emotions, create thoughts, challenge conceptions and expand perspectives. Art is not only a means of expression of the artist, but also a way to impact the viewer by inspiring them to conjure up memories, ponder a certain concept, or feel a certain way. Being an artist as well as a viewer, I have experienced both ends of this spectrum. Throughout the Harn Museum of Art, I found several artworks that appealed to my core values.
In front of Ahtila's "Scenographer's Mind VIII"
To me, this photograph, Scenographer's Mind VIII by Eija-Liisa Athila, represents family. In the background of the print, a woman is holding her child, which appeals to my sense of family and my roots. The tenderness she displays toward the baby reminds me of my own upbringing and the moments I've shared with my own parents. In the foreground of the photo sits an empty doll house, which attests to my desire to create my own life and expand my family in the future. Essentially, the empty house represents my current manifestation of dreams and goals, which I aim to fill with loved ones as I go through life and create my own family.
Standing in front of "Guerrilla Girls' definition of a hypocrite" (1990, print)
Other core values of mine that are exemplified through art at the Harn are creativity, equality, humor, and expression. The Guerrilla Girls exhibit, in particular, contained artwork that combined all four. I have always valued personal expression because it allows people to share how they feel or what they believe, and ultimately enables us to form deeper and more meaningful connections. The Guerrilla Girls exhibit exemplifies this value as it expresses gender inequalities in the arts in a humorous way (utilizing satire and comical elements). Additionally, the exhibit stresses the need for inequality in a creative way. Previous to viewing the exhibit, I knew of course that gender disparities are indeed very real, but I had never before realized that they also exist within the realm of art. The Guerrilla Girls definitely opened my eyes to that.
Art and the Good Life
To me, the good life is one in which I am helping people, constantly learning and growing and where I am surrounded by friends and family. Although the specificities of my major are not yet set in stone and consequently I do not know what career path in particular I aim to pursue, I know that I want to be doing something where I can have a positive impact on the lives of others. Basically, I want to be working with people and making a positive difference in the world. With this in mind, there were two paintings at the Harn that absolutely spoke to me and reminded me of my own conception of the good life.
Standing next to "Manhattan" by George Grosz
This first painting created by George Grosz in 1946 is titled Manhattan. The artist's choice of medium was oil on board, which definitely contributes to the layers and texture of the painting. The industrial cityscape of this piece, embodied by a multitude of skyscrapers, all of which contain different families or individuals, attests to my desire to work with people. The dull and somewhat drab colors of the painting suggest desolation and the need for change and color, just as I want to bring positivity into the lives of others.
With Bellows' "Jim Twadell's Place"
This second painting is markedly different from the first, as it features a rural landscape. George Wesley Bellows' Jim Twadell's Place (1924, oil on canvas) attests to my love of nature and being outdoors. The fact that the woman is also participating in some sort of chore outdoors appeal to my own work ethic, and the value I place on honesty, hard work and determination. Further, the large house in the background also seems to suggest the presence of family, which is also something that is part of my version of the good life. The robust colors of the painting contribute to an overall sense of calmness and peace.