El Anatsui's "Old Man's Cloth" is a massive, metallic tapestry made from unrolled, brand-name liquor bottle tops that have been flattened and linked together by several aluminum and copper wires. When I first saw this piece from afar, it appeared intricate and attention-grabbing, but it was only once I came close to it that I could rightfully appreciate its clever combination of detail and historical relevance. Once I came closer, I realized that the piece was made up of bottle caps sporting the names of European liquor brands, finally realizing that it reflects the colonial legacy of the artist's native land, Ghana. I was particularly stricken by the organizational element of the artist's technique, which appeared to have required meticulous planning and creative arranging. The composition of the bottle caps, for example, creates a base golden color that is complemented by strongly contrasting shades, which captivates the eye but also refrains from overwhelming the spectator. The piece clearly and concisely communicated the powerful influence of colonialism on subjected, subordinated countries, as simple features of colonizing countries, like bottle caps, began to appear with increasing frequency in the day-to-day products that subjugated individuals regularly consumed. The artwork invoked a sensation of pity, as some African countries during the 20th century would come to be defined by the breadth of the nation that colonized them, rather than by the natural, self-evident and self-imposed customs of their people.
The Deirdre Downes Fogler Promenade has a variety of walls that stand in the middle of the room, unattached to adjacent walls. This spatial arrangement emulates the cryptic pathways of a labyrinth, punctuated by a broad descending staircase at the center of the room, framed by short, smooth wooden walls converging over a bright beam of light. The staircase, in particular, contributes an angelical dimension to the room's aura, providing a creatively placed escape route from a room that could otherwise feel claustrophobic. The lighting from the staircase brightens the Promenade up substantially, which in turn, lends a form of vividness and visibility to the artwork. The spatial distribution is very balanced, settling between suffocating clutter and abrupt emptiness, while each art piece stands with enough spatial independence to be appreciated without the intrusion of an adjacent piece. The Promenade's physical composition invokes surprise, since I commonly expect art museums to have a collection of bland, square rooms with white walls and tall ceilings. The room's spatial arrangement complements the spectators' ability to admire the artwork, maintaining engagement by paying importance to the wholesomeness of an exhibit, not just the pieces.
Melanie Smith's "Tiangis Aerial Reflex" takes a double sided bird's eye photograph of an urban Mexican street market, nicknamed "Tiangis." Vendors set up tents on the side of the streets, generally in low class neighborhoods in Mexico, and sell all kinds of products, ranging from fruits and vegetables, to toy gadgets. This photograph displays the inherent poverty that lies in Mexico's underdeveloped neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status. The zinc roofs, yellow tarps, and narrow roads summons a persona sense of sorrow, since I had previously lived in Mexico for three years, witnessing the incessant struggle that many people were forced to endure. One particular value that the image uncovers is a distinct abhorrence for social inequality. The picture encapsulates the breadth of social inequality that exists in Mexico by capturing the massive size of the "Tiangis," seemingly extending far beyond the picture's frame. Initially, the photograph instilled sorrow and pity, but gradually incited an inborn determination to utilize my career path as a platform to engender social change. The picture exemplifies the devastating reality that impoverished people must wake up to every morning, further fueling my feelings of astonishment at the oftentimes undeserved circumstances they must live under.
Sebastiao Salgado's photograph depicting "a thanksgiving prayer to the Mixe god Kioga" visually embodies the theme of "Celebrating the Good Life," not by the actual actions the picture displays, but by the interpretation I draw from it. Both men sit at the edge of a rock, seemingly overlooking an immense valley, and open their arms with apparent exhilaration, basking in the enabling power that comes with freedom. In reality, they are praying in gratitude of a good harvest, but the position of their arms conveys a celebratory, euphoric spirit. The photograph does not capture the expressions on the men's faces, so the image's message is transmitted through their inspired body language. The photographed men's decision to stand on top of an elevated rock, while opening their arms while beholding the awe-inspiring essence of nature convinces me that we may sometimes be overwhelmed by a deluging feeling of goodness, obliging us to throw our hands back and shun out the rest of the world while we enjoy the significance of a mere moment.