In search of the good life and its meaning I visited the Hard Museum. The artwork in the museum represented the meaning of the good life. As I walked through the museum, the variety of art pieces from all over the world and history allowed me to visualize the different forms of the idea of the good life for different people. The self guided tour of the museum shed light to the different possible mediums and techniques of art, the different designs of the exhibits themselves, core values represented in the works, and the way the good life was portrayed in the art. The tour allowed me to learn and feel different emotions by viewing the artwork of numerous artists. After the tour I have become more open-minded to different ideas of the good life.
Medium of Art/ Technique of the Artist
When I think of art, what comes to my mind is a painting on a canvas, something that is two dimensional. We can easily visualize and analyze flat pieces of artwork from anywhere, however a three dimensional piece can not effectively portray the artist's work with a picture. In the James F. and Caroline Julier Richardson Gallery, or the African Exhibit, the masks of the Winiama people of Burkina Faso, exemplified the way three dimensional artworks can not be represented fully through a picture. By seeing the masks created by the Winiama people I was able to see the material used to make the masks (wood). The technique used to carve the mask stuck out to me because this form of art did not include any paintbrushes or canvases, which I though were needed to create a piece of artwork. Furthermore the different angles that I could view the masks allowed me to fully appreciate what the Winiama people tried to portray with the masks. The purpose of the masks is to represent wilderness spirits. The particular mask that I focused on is called the Keduneh. One important aspect of art is the emotions that it can evoke on the audience. The purpose of the Keduneh mask is to strike fear into the audience, the Winiama people believed that the spirit could harm enemies. Viewing the mask in the museum, allowed me to understand some of the fear that the mask is supposed to cause. The mask gave me insight into the way these people live and think. By viewing the artwork in person, the artwork communicated the culture of these people.
Keduneh Mask of the Winiama people
Another piece of artwork that stuck out to me was the clothing in the African exhibit. The different medium of art allowed to expand the meaning of art for me. Also, getting a full view of the clothing from all angles allowed me to fully appreciate the artwork. Although the clothing is only for special occasions, the practicality of making of clothes raised the question of what is art. Did the makers intend for the clothes to be a form of art; the colorfulness and design of the clothing indicate so, however the necessity of the clothing does not.
Design of the Museum
As I was wandering around the Harn Museum, I felt like I was in a maze, I could not figure out where to go but nothing struck out as different. The exhibits in the hard looked similar to any other museum exhibits that I have been to, however the Irving J. Goffman Garden and the Frida Kahlo exhibit stood out to me. The garden was different from the other wings and exhibits of the museum. A garden being part of an artwork stood out to me; it also reminded me of the other common activity for this class: the Good Life Nature Activity at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH). In that activity we observe how nature plays a role in the good life, and this art exhibit made me feel like nature can be art. Many times, I have marveled at places such as the Grand Canyon or the ocean, but I have never thought that nature was art. Art in my mind was something that humans create, but after seeing the garden exhibit, nature became part of the meaning of art.
The other exhibit of Frida Kahlo stood out to me because as I walked in there was a large portrait of her. Usually when I walk into an exhibit of a famous artist I expect the work of the artist to be the majority of it, however this one was the life of Frida Kahlo. There was a place in the exhibit for a documentary of the life of Frida Kahlo and that stood out to me because it is a different way to explain the exhibit. Furthermore the pictures on the wall were set up like a timeline, although not chronological, it appeared as if I was looking at the timeline of Frida Kahlo's life.
Art and Core Values
Before heading into the museum I realized that art and core values of society related close to each other. One piece of artwork that stood out to me was the sculpture of the Dancing Ganesh in the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing. It is a representation of divinity in Hinduism. Although I do not practice that religion, religion plays a major part of lives of many. This particular one reminded me of the discussion class when two men from Saudi Arabia shared their experiences with the class. The religion of Islam is a core value for them and the religion of Hinduism is a major part of numerous Indians, as the exhibit described. Religion is a big part of my family's core values, family which is also another core value represented in Dancing Ganesh. The Dancing Ganesh is the son of two Hindu gods, it paralleled the way in Christianity, the religion that members of my family practice, have artwork of Jesus Christ. It helps me understand the value of religion because of the age of the artwork, the religion never died out and people from different time periods still have faith in the religion. Emotionally the artwork reminds me of familiar core values that I have even though I am not familiar with the religion itself. Furthermore it gave me insight into the different beliefs that people hold, because a figure with an elephant head is very uncommon in my culture and it allowed me to be more open-minded about different people's believes and core values that they hold.
Art and the Good Life
The meaning of the good life is different for every individual. It is impossible to formulate one definitive way of living the good life, however artists utilize their artworks to portray the good life. Sometimes artist speak out against injustices that inhibit people from trying to achieve living the good life. For example in the Julia C. and Budd H. Bishop Gallery, the two paintings by Rafael Tufino depict the good life for his people. In the painting on top "Plate 2, Coffee Portfolio," Tufino depicts the hardships of his people. The painting is a realistic style of work and it demonstrates the work of picking coffee beans. When we think of the good life, we do not imagine working, however the product of the work can provide some characteristics of the good life for others, in this case coffee beans can be enjoyed by others. The theme of helping others is addressed is because someone's work can help other people enjoy their lives more. It sheds light to why some people even work today because the work of engineers or doctors or other workers helps improve the quality of life of others and help them achieve the good life. Then in the second picture "Plate 6, Coffee Portfolio," it demonstrate the people partying or celebrating something. It relates to the theme in Good Life of helping others achieve the good life and sharing the good life with people. The celebration looks to be among friends and family and the music and dancing depict the pleasurable time that these people are having. One of the important motifs in the good life are core values and friends and family are in my core values. By having a good time with friends and family is having the good life, however it gives me insight because life is a continuous cycle and these moments of happiness with friends and family may or may nor define someone's good life.
Plate 2, Coffe Portfolio (Top); Plate 6, Coffee Portfolio (Bottom)