The Good Life at the Harn Art Museum My Visual Story by Kayla Weinberg

Medium of the Art/Technique of the Artist

At the Harn, I came across Martha Rosler’s video, Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975). Since Rosler’s artwork is a video and not a typical photograph or painting, there is no doubt that I had the ability to understand, in person, the message Rosler’s video was trying to convey. I think what I found most striking about Rosler’s work was her execution of her message. The video is of her, in the kitchen, surrounded by multiple kitchenware and various types of utensils. She goes through the video, progressively getting more aggressive in her movements as she goes through the alphabet of the kitchenware and utensils. Being a woman, in the kitchen, demonstrating aggressive movements, using kitchen utensils such as a knife, Rosler shocked me that a woman was taking a passive aggressive method to discuss the oppression of women in society. Rosler’s video is extremely powerful because it communicates what she wants to get across to the audience without her having to deliberately say anything. Her actions, rather than her words, demonstrate how sometimes words are not enough to take a stand for what we believe in. Although Rosler’s message was strong, it did leave me sad. During the 1970s, women were still expected to stay at home to take care of the children and tend the home. Her piece frustrated me to see her, frustrated with being expected by society to stay at home.

Design of the Museum

When touring the Harn, the Asian art wing of the museum caught my attention. It was a very spacious room with two large pieces of steel smack in the center of the room. Behind the large pieces of steel, was a large, glass window where you could peer out and see a beautiful Japanese botanical garden. I believe what had attracted me most to this wing was the massive amount of natural light circulating the room from the glass window. It made the room feel more spacious and airy. But the view of the garden, for me, was the main attraction of the wing. I enjoyed how there was natural beauty (the garden) and representations of beauty in sculpture form within the same room. I think the room acted as a metaphor, expressing the thin line between nature and art. Entering this wing of the museum brightened my mood. Before, I had toured other wings that were of artwork conveying issues in society and somber thoughts. But this room, in particular, made me feel happy. I enjoyed that I could walk out to the Japanese botanical garden and view its beauty from the outside while taking a breath of fresh air.

Art and Core Values

The artwork that had appealed to me the most was a poster by the Guerilla Girls. Naturally it was the first poster I saw in the wing I entered, since it was a huge poster taking up most of the space on the wall. The poster is of a naked woman, but the woman has a gorilla face and the title reads, “Do women have to be naked to get in the Met. Museum?” Because of the vulgarity of the poster and the honesty of the question, it caught my attention. One of my core values is recognition and as a woman, I still find that there is a lot more that needs to be discussed on the way women are viewed in society. I appreciated how the artist, Guerilla Girls, depicted a naked woman with a gorilla face because it represents how society views women. Under the title of the poster, there is a statistic that reads, “less than 4% of the artists in Modern Art sections are women, but 76% of the nudes are female.” I believe the poster provides a great truth that I do not hear talked about as much. There are multiple discussions about how women are underrepresented in sciences, but not as many discussions on why women are underrepresented in the arts. I found it refreshing that the artist pointed out something so obvious, but before, it had never crossed my mind there were always more nude women in art museums but not enough art by women in the museums. For me, the poster evokes a strong feeling of frustration because of how accurate the statement in the poster is. But simultaneously, it makes me proud that a poster such as this one can bring more recognition to women that are not represented enough.

Art and the Good Life

Funeral by Stuart Robert Purser (1945) is an oil on canvas painting that expresses the melancholic feeling that takes place during a funeral. The painting represents the Good Life theme, respect. When observing the painting, I noticed how there were people dressed in white, surrounding a casket and then there is some distance where others are viewing the funeral from afar. Although many cultures differ in how they perceive death, many of us have funerals to pay our respects to those that died, those we knew, loved, and cared so much about. Purser’s painting is interesting because in the description, it notes that Purser grew up in Louisiana where African American mill workers were not treated with respect, while living near a white middle class community. In contrast, the painting shows people showing respect for whoever the individual is in the casket. I believe this painting demonstrates that although African American mill workers in Louisiana had dealt with social injustices, they still were grounded in their faith, sharing a somber event, like a funeral, with others. The painting displays a connection between respect and unity. When people respect one another, they tend to unify in times of hardship and struggle.

Created By
Kayla Weinberg


Photographs by me; Artwork from the Harn Museum of Art

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