Tour of the Harn Amber heemskerk

From left to right: ceramic plates from The Asian Collection; boulder figures from the Qing Dynasty; collections from The Asian Collection; Champ d'avoine (Oat Field), Claude Monet; Mirror Mirror: Portaits of Frida Kahlo Exhibition; The Estrogen Bomb Update, The Guerrilla Girls; Woman's Wedding Ensemble (late 20th century Egypt)

Medium of the Art

Okoroshi oma mask (Nigeria)

The Okoroshi oma mask was one of the first pieces I saw when visiting the Harn Museum. This one particularly stood out to me as the most human-like mask in the "Elusive Spirits: African Masquerades" exhibition. Upon reading about the mask, I discovered that it represents a female water spirit that those in the delta regions of southeastern Nigeria celebrate during seasonal festivals. The people of this region associate beauty with purity, clarity, order and peace, which is very well represented with this simple mask. Being able to see this mask, rather than just seeing a picture or reading a description of it, helped me to better appreciate the work and visualize they way the people celebrate the Owu water deity.

Design of the Museum

Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), Martha Rosler
Islandia, Goddess of the Healing Waters (1988), Audrey Flack

The artwork of the museum was organized both by geographic regions and by themes. I found the "Intra-Action: Women Artists from the Harn Collection" exhibition to be particularly appealing. This new part of the museum was not yet open when I visited the museum during the summer, and it is now my favorite section. The fact that the museum has an entire exhibition dedicated to celebrating female artists, who are largely underrepresented in museums, is noteworthy. The exhibit displayed art created by women in a variety of mediums, including paintings, photography, statues, textiles, and filmography. Most of the pieces were displayed on the walls, allowing for lots of open space. Much like female artists throughout history, some of the pieces were hidden at first and could only be discovered later. For visitors, this is actually a positive aspect as it allows one to discover a silent film playing in the middle of the room or a striking gold statue of the Goddess of the Healing Waters. The design of the exhibition allowed for lots of open space, but also allows one to pleasantly discover hidden pieces throughout the rooms.

Art and Core Values

Ode à l'oubli, Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois's Ode à l'oubli is a very striking and attention-grabbing piece in the "Intra-Action: Women Artists from the Harn Collection." Although it was not initially my favorite piece in the museum, I appreciated it much more after reading about the artist and the meaning of her work. Louise Bourgeois was a French-American artist whose later works had a largely psychological basis. As a psychologist major, I found this approach to create artwork very interesting. This particular work was created with remnants of cloth and materials that the artist collected throughout her life. While much of her work was based on her traumatic memories in childhood, this fabric book displays images that are much more gentle than many of her other works, which are largely based on anger and hurt. This cloth, therefore, suggests the possibility of reconciliation with the past, something that I think is very important for everyone to attain, and leaves the viewer hopeful and inspired.

Art and the Good Life

Disturbing the Peace, The Geurrilla Girls

The exhibition dedicated to female artists contains pieces that both celebrate the female gender and criticize institutions that do not fairly represent or praise women. The work made by The Guerrilla Girls is aimed at illuminating the way in which women have been and continue to be underrepresented, underpaid, and undervalued throughout history. This group of women are working towards the good life by getting women the representation they deserve and revealing their oppression throughout history. The Disturbing the Peace print displays the disturbing ways men often view women and the feminist movement. Quoting these men and revealing their perceived superiority justifies the feminist movement and the equality that it strives for, which helps women and society as a whole continue to take steps towards the good life.

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Amber Heemskerk
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