Good Life Tour of the Harn By: Judy jo shippen

Medium of Art/Technique of Artist

While at the Harn, I had the privilege of seeing many pieces of art of many different mediums, but none stood out to me more than this. As I observed Woman's Wedding Ensemble, created by women in the Siwa Oasis, it struck me that the materials and three dimensionality used to create this piece are integral to its meaning and to my enjoyment of it. A picture of the garment does not allow the viewer to truly see and appreciate the myriad materials used, from the silk, cotton, and buttons to the synthetic cloth. In person, the buttons reflect light and add another layer to the ensemble that cannot be appreciated through a picture. Personally, the fact that synthetic cloth is one of the materials used to make this piece stood out to me. Silk, cotton, and buttons are all things that women hundreds of years ago would have had access to. Synthetic cloth, however, is a relatively recent invention. I think this piece, inadvertently or intentionally, is a wonderful reminder that traditions and customs are still important even in the 21st century, and we can reconcile the new with the old. The Woman's Wedding Ensemble made me feel almost nostalgic, even though I personally have no connection to this piece.

Design of the Museum

The Harn is a beautiful museum, and it would have been easy to write about the architecture of any part of it. However, The Van Cardwell York and E.T. York, Jr. Foyer stood out to me more than any other part of the museum. In the foyer, there is a video playing on one side and a large mirror on the other that takes up the entire wall. There is no other decoration. The lighting is dark enough that the movie can be enjoyed, but light enough that one can see the mirror quite clearly. All of the other videos in the museum have chairs or couches in front of them so that one can sit and view them, but this one does not. There is nothing obstructing the mirror from the video, except for the people who walk through the foyer. As soon as one steps into the hallway, they become part of the video and have a chance to interact with the art. If you look into the mirror, it is like you are in the video. I thought that this was a very unique and interesting way to let people interact and engage with the art, especially in a medium that can sometimes make that difficult. This exhibit made me feel connected to the art I was viewing.

Art and Core Values

Nancy Graves' II-06-94 is a gorgeous sculpture with images of music, stars, horseshoe crabs, and bones all interacting with one another. The music and stars allude to intellectual pursuits of music and astronomy, while the bright colors and horseshoe crab remind the viewer of the beauty of life. Conversely, the bones are a somber reminder of death, and their placement in the piece near the crab is a clear message that death is an inevitable part of life. This piece speaks to many of my core values. The allusions to intellectual pursuits reflect my strong desire for intellectual growth and knowledge. The whimsical colors reflect my belief that optimism is important, and the flowers and horseshoe crab allude to my love of life and my desire to live each day to the fullest. This sculpture instilled a feeling of hope and peace in me.

Art and the Good Life

Toshiko Takaezu's White Closed-Form Vessel is a perfect example of the good life theme of embodying the good life. Takaezu embodied the good life through her art; using her sculpture as a form of self expression and self reflection. In fact, she would often write letters to herself and place them in her closed-form vessels as a form of self-reflection, knowing that no one would ever read them unless one day her vessel was broken. Knowing oneself and being able to present that knowledge to the world is integral to the good life, and Takaezu knew this. Her vessels live on, eternally, forever embodying their maker. Her immortality through her work and her intimate knowledge of self have added to my understanding of embodying the good life immensely.

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