Art you glad you went to the Harn? Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art


Plato, when talking about the best life and pleasure, wrote about the life of an oyster in perfect living conditions. He asserted that even though this oyster might be in constant pleasure, no person would trade lives with it. This is because of the value we place of intellectual pleasures, such as the arts. I went to the Harn museum with a friend and realized just how intrinsic this value is. Here, my path was guided by four themes, described below, that made my overall experience pleasurable and the first of many more art museum adventures.

Medium and Technique

El Anatsui (Ghanaian, b. 1944). Old Man’s Cloth. 2003

This was the first piece of art to capture my attention upon entry to the museum. At first glance, it seemed like a giant blanket. However, upon closer inspection when I read the work "whiskey," I realized that it was composed entirely of foil from old liquor bottles. I would not have been able to make this discernment from just the photo above. The in-person viewing thus enhanced my perception of the message behind this work of art. This odd composition did not make sense to me until I thought more about each aspect and their contrasting effects. The blanket resembles an older manufacturing technique that requires a lot of painstaking labor in different steps from many different people. The liquor bottle labels, on the other hand, relates back to both colonialism and the slave trade, where people were traded across the Atlantic for liquor. The artist desired to have these two polar opposite ideas, symbiosis and antibiosis, included into one piece of art and thus implemented this combined medium. This also provoked me to think about alcohol from a college students perspective and how it is affecting the wonderful tapestry that is the community in the world today.

Design of the Museum

In the very center of the Museum there is an outdoors section. It made me think of an island. There was not a lot of artwork on display, but it was the lack of such that provoked me to think about isolation and peace. There was also a serenity garden in the back of the Asian wing that assisted in sparking comparisons between the beauty in nature and the beauty in man-made works. This wing was also very different form the others in its design which had a pleasurable effect on me. The natural light and geometric symmetry were both remarkably calming and this wing also seemed to be the quietest. These affects caused me to spend extra time in this wing examining the statues in 360 degrees, an ability that was clearly designed also. The wood paneling of this wing made the room seem like a piece of art in it of itself.

Asian Collection

Furthermore, and more generally, the layout of the entire museum in its sectors evinced both the sharp contrasts in culture and the unity of the human race. Each geographical region was given its own room to symbolize it's importance and distinction but was still under the same roof to symbolize the overall similarities.

Art and Core Values

Boardman Robinson. Excavation. 1926.

Before going to this museum, everyone in my class completed an assignment to identify some of our core values. One of mine, being an athlete, is teamwork. When I completed the assignment and indicated that teamwork was one of my core values, I admittedly was referring to teamwork on the lacrosse and soccer field. However, this painting led me to think more about this value and all that it embodies. The two workers using the two-man saw in the bottom of the picture epitomize teamwork, a vital ingredient in human advancement. None of todays wonderful engineering feats could have been achieved by one pair of hands. This work of art instilled in me a sense of pride, to be apart of this human team, working towards one goal: the betterment of society.

Art and the Good Life

Guerrilla Girls Feminist Movement

The contemporary collection wing had a whole section devoted to the Guerrilla Girls which is a women's equality movement. Their argument was that less than 4% of artists in the modern art section are women but over 76% of the nudes are of women. With these numbers, it is no wonder for their outrage. I believe that equality is absolutely necessary for the good life. When any race, gender, religion, or other sect is viewed as inferior, no one has the good life. This collection of guerrilla girl utilizes powerful numbers as well as parodies of conventual feminine sexuality to convey this theme. It's huge presence in the museum as well as the number of different pieces on the Guerilla Girls made me chose this over any other work.

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