Good Life Tour of the Harn Museum Kelise Walker

When I was in middle school I had learned about the Frida photography collection and mentally knew that the physical copies of the pictures were out there somewhere in the world but at the time I had put the knowledge of the art into a little box without seeing the actual application to life. I had no idea that the photographs were in the Harn Museum but when I stumbled across them my eyes got a little watery. There they were, the entire collection, the physical copies, the actual face of Frida staring back into my eyes. Through those faces of Frida I saw Nickolas Muray and the other twenty-six photographers, the men behind the lens of these photos. Specifically in Nickolas Muray’s portrait I saw his muse and obsession but also his understanding of how the love affair between him and Frida would never last. Black and white photographs capture the rawness and realness of human connection in realtime. I feel if any other medium was used the observer would lose that sense of authenticity and truth of Frida’s relationship and connection to these photographers that documented her various stages of life. Instead of seeing who Frida portrayed herself as in her self portrait paintings I saw the real Frida Kahlo who couldn’t find from the facade that she created. I saw her suffering, her loneliness, her tears, her strength, her desire, and her humanity as if all of these things are timeless and endured by all.
The part of the Harn Museum that caught my eye the most was the Highlights of the Modern Collection. Walking from the immersive Asian collections to this modern era of artwork that was abrupt and sharp edged. The light blue on only the walls in the middle of the floor perfectly accent the gold framed paintings while deeply contrasting the dark floor and white outer walls. The streamline alignment of the painting create a sense of modern even-ness and balance. The white blocks outlining the blue walls stage the 3D pieces encompassed by clean cut glass. The lights highlighted the pieces, without creating light splotches on the art as well as placing shadows around the walls to draw your attention back to the art. I liked the continuity throughout the space and how connected every piece had to the next as well as the modern minimalism. It made the purpose of the paintings seem so clear but specific and more in touch with the current day and age style. The modernness of the room lacked warmth, but I liked that the most because I was able to determine my own feelings about a piece without the mood swaying my thought.
The first piece that really jumped out at me at the Harn was Three girls holding hands, Sertão da Paraiba, Brazil by Sebastian Salgado in 1981. The photographer was known to capture the social conscious of people around the world due to the effects of oppression, poverty, and industrialization. In this specific photo the economic status of Brazil was greatly affected by the lack in agricultural harvest. Looking at the print I feel great sorrow and grief, none of the girls are smiling with their eyes wide yet they are holding hands hoping for something good. I reminds me of a piece of my own life when my friends and I suffered a great lost and we clung to each other for support and hope. We did it together, we endured together and I never would have survived without them. I feel as if it was the same for these girls pictured as well. They had each other to literally survive. It make me cherish the blessing that my friends are and it makes me realize that these real emotions that physically affect my body are fueling my compassion and attitude towards life outside my own little world. There are horrifying realities that happen to others but those days will pass and we must hope for the world to have a better future.
Again, another photograph that strikes my heart: Sheep Wranglers by Justine Kurland 1969. The side note next to the piece states: “ In this photograph, Justine Kurland explored the world of adolescent school girls set free in an idyllic pastoral setting. Fantasy and reality, the stages and the accidental are juxtaposed to export notions of identity and stereotype. The landscape is vital in Kurland’s photographs and often references other art historical genres such as the nineteenth-century English and American landscape painting. Kurland not only invokes this tradition but replaces the masculine command of the land with a private ‘girl world,’ ‘a romanticized domain of free-spirited, innocent intimacy uncomplicated by the other sex.” I believe this piece carries the weight of Seeking the Good Life because there are people and places that are going to tell us who we are and where we should be but the only own who can truly do that is yourself. Just as the juxtaposition in the photo between fantasy and reality we find it also in our lives, we have to find the common ground where we don't crush our dreams and do something realistic with our time. The girls have the freedom and the choice to do what they want and where they want to be, it provides key elements that are necessary for us to find things to devote our lives in our active search for the truth.


All photos are my own.

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