Good Life Tour of the Harn Alexander Smith, Section 088H, 1/20/17

Smith, Alexander. "Outside of the Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL." 2017. JPEG.

One of the most transcendent mediums for human expression is art. At the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, we as UF students have the opportunity to experience that visually potent expression of the human condition and the many messages that those artistic expressions have to convey to all of us. I began my tour of the Harn Museum as a curious student, and left fulfilled with what I found.


Woman's Wedding Ensemble (asherab nabuak). Late 20th century. Synthetic cloth, silk, cotton, buttons. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL.

One of the features of art, in a broad sense, that makes it a transcendent medium of expression is its universality. This applies to the cultural significance of this wedding ensemble from an Egyptian background, which I found to start my tour of the Harn. Seeing the garb in person gives one a true sense of appreciation for its cultural value and the care with which it was crafted, down to the stitches and embroidery of its creation. Craftsmanship is a key feature when determining the intrinsic value of a work of art, and yet its functionality as a piece of ornate clothing gives the ensemble a true sense of purpose beyond its own aesthetic qualities. Examining the ensemble allowed me to feel a sense of accomplishment at having gained a greater insight into culture beyond my own, seen through the transcendent nature of art in the form of clothing.


Smith, Alexander. "Outside the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing of the Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL." 2017. JPEG.

Seated Buddha. 4th-5th Century. Stucco with traces of polychrome. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL.

Corresponding to the collection of Asian artwork in the Harn Museum is the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing, my next stop on the tour. This collection of pieces represents achievement in art with an intrinsically Eastern influence, and the design of the Wing corresponds to that Eastern influence respectfully. The layout of the Wing represents the Eastern philosophy of simplicity as inherently beautiful and complete, with a collection of pieces laid out in a minimalist manner, spaced out across the room so that nothing feels cluttered or disjointed. This minimalism showcases the artistic integrity of the pieces on display, such as the ornate Seated Buddha that I have chosen to highlight from the Wing. Overall, the exhibit made me feel a sense of calm, allowing me to appreciate the art for its face value and appreciate the cultural implications behind its creation and inclusion in the Harn.


Ahtila, Eija-Liisa. Scenographer's Mind VIII. 2002. Two chromogenic development prints, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL. By Alexander Smith. "Good Life Tour of the Harn." 2017. JPEG.

Next on the tour, in this work of photography, Ahtila demonstrates the fragile balance between professional work life and private home life in a contemporary mother. This piece appeals to me so strongly because I can relate it based on the experiences of my own mother and the core values of work ethic and family that she have passed on to me. As a woman who has always made the necessary time to take care of me and my brother, while still maintaining her work pursuits as a businesswoman, she has become an example to me of hard work and and family dedication in action. This picture elegantly demonstrates that balancing act between work life and the needs of a newborn child, with both seemingly intersecting in the woman's model design of what appears to be a home on her table. This artwork instills in me a sense of pride at my mother's own accomplishments for the sake of family, and it gives me added perspective seeing those accomplishments in others, reflected through the photography on display.


Hassam, Childe. Northeast Gorge at Appledore. 1912. Oil on canvas, Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL. By Alexander Smith. "Good Life Tour of the Harn." 2017. JPEG.

To wrap up the tour of the Harn, I found a piece that demonstrates the "good life" through the shear simplicity of the human experience. This Impressionist artwork does not seem to have any grand statements to make about political upheaval or social qualms. Rather, the coastal landscape on display in the artwork demonstrates a sense that the artist finds fulfillment out of life's simplicity, the natural beauty of the world around us. By focusing on the necessity of appreciating the natural world, Hassamn invokes a sense of shared understanding among all who view the artwork that there can be honest enjoyment in life from the mere fact of life itself, from something as seemingly mundane as a coastal shore. As a result of the artwork, I appreciate the theme of beauty in the simplicity of nature more fully, and I can also walk away from this painting with more appreciation for the natural world, a reflection of the impact that the Harn has had on me as a whole.

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Alexander Smith

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