Common Activity: The Harn Finding the good life in art

La Grande Trompette by Julio Gonzalez

Medium of the Art/ Technique of the Artist

La Grande Trompette is an abstract iron sculpture by Julio Gonzalez. He took multiple spherical, cylindrical, and conical shapes and welded them together around an axis. As an abstract art form, it is crucial to be able to view this work in person as you can see it from multiple angles. Gonzalez employs various metal shapes to tell a story that can be open to many interpretations, and as a sculpture fundamentally defined by its geometric shapes, a change in physical point of view can change one's understanding of the work of art. This multifaceted piece was so striking to me due to the importance of three-dimensional aspects of the piece, and due to its medium: iron. Iron is typically viewed as a somewhat harsh medium, and Julio Gonzalez was one of the first sculptors to employ iron in abstract sculptures. The fact that he was able to create a work so fluid in meaning out of such a harsh medium is truly astounding. After examining this piece and reading its description, I felt astounded knowing that I was looking at a revolutionary piece in the world of abstract sculpting and curious as to how other people perceived its meaning. This work communicated a sense of mystery due to different aspects of the sculpture being revealed with each new angle, and power due to the use of iron as a medium.

Hen by William Zorach

Highlights from the Modern Collection: Design of the Museum

The angle of this image is meant to display the layout of part of this particular exhibit, which features a focus on the piece above, Hen. Many of the paintings and sculptures in this exhibit featured day to day life, especially in an agricultural context. The lighting of this exhibit was particularly appealing, as its dim and almost gray appearance added to the mundane scenes displayed in the works of art, yet allowed the brighter pieces to be further highlighted. The placement of this sculpture in the middle of this exhibit also contributed to establishing the commonplace nature of this wing of the museum, by putting emphasis on an ordinary agricultural animal. Not only is the focus placed on a sculpture of a very ordinary farm animal, but also on a rather dull representation of this animal. Usually, hens are painted with bright feathers or truly color of any sort. In this case, Zorach simply creates a gray, almost amorphous blob representing a hen, again further establishing the routine nature of this exhibit. The lighting and focus on this particular piece caused me to look for and appreciate any specks of bright color in paintings, or truly any variation from the rest of the exhibit. I believe this can be tied back to finding the good life in simplicity, which I will describe later in this assignment.

Dream Police by Jackie Nickerson

Art and Core Values

Dream Police is a collection put together by photographer Jackie Nickerson. According to the Harn's description, Nickerson traveled to various communities in Africa and Ireland to document those experiencing extreme poverty. The collection was meant to display "dignity, pride and perseverance" even in the face of unimaginable hardships, all due to the strength of their communities. When looking at this photograph, I felt a strong sense of pride and inspiration. This has led me to realize that strength and determination are extremely important to me. I greatly respect perseverance, and the fact that a simple photograph of one person just standing as they are could create such a sensation of encouragement and inspiration truly goes to show the importance of art as a way for people to express their strongest beliefs and core values.

Overlook Mountain, Woodstock, New York by Ernest Fiene

Art and the Good Life

In this piece of art, I saw the theme of seeking the good life, as described by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau argued that happiness can be found in simplicity, isolation, and nature. Seeing the beauty in the colors used to display this overlook evoked a sense of serenity and peace. I was reminded that it can be virtually impossible to find the same privacy and isolation that one can find in nature. My idea of the good life involves finding stability within yourself, which cannot be accomplished unless you are left entirely alone with your thoughts, away from others and the so-called tools brought up in the lecture discussing Thoreau's idea of happiness. The somewhat abstract nature of the strokes employed by Fiene also contributed to my understanding of the good life. In my eyes, this technique was used to suggest that there are many ways to interpret a scene in nature, which then ties into an idea involving the good life. There are many ways to interpret the path to the good life, and many ways to determine what exactly defines the good life. Thus, in this small landscape painting, I saw the potential for multiple paths to happiness and inner peace (and therefore my definition of the good life), all in a scene of nature, just as Thoreau said.

Credits:

Sophia Eikenberry

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