Good Life Tour of the Harn Erika Cintron

Intro

During my visit to the Harn there was an exhibition called Intra-Action: Women Artists from the Harn Collection. I was able to see a variety of different feminist artists such as Louis Bourgeois, Yvonne Jacquette and the Guerrilla Girls. My post will be focusing on the works I was able to see in this exhibition and the different emotions and thoughts these pieces evoked in me as a viewer. Some of the artists I already knew and had seen before, some I had never heard of before, making it quite a learning experience. I am a big fan of modern art, especially third wave feminism art, so it was interesting to write about my experience of viewing these pieces.

Medium of the Art

Louise Bourgeois is one of my favorite artists. I had the opportunity of viewing one of her exhibits in the Tate Museum of Modern Art in London this past Summer and ever since then I have been a fan of her work. However, despite this opportunity, I had never been able to see one of her most famous pieces "Ode à l'Oubli". I was beyond excited when I found out that it was being exhibited at the Harn. The piece is actually a fabric book but it is exhibited in 35 different panels showcasing each one of the collages in the book. Looking at pictures on the internet does not compare to looking at this piece close up on display. In the museum one is able to look at all the fine details that go into each one of these pages. Bourgeois worked on this piece towards the end of her career. The stitching, patterns and color schemes of each collage seem to tell the story of Bourgeois and the different thoughts she had throughout various points of her life. Each page was hand sewn and stitched by Bourgeois and the materials she used was fabric she had collected throughout the years. One is able to truly appreciate the story and emotion behind this work while at the museum. As a fan of her work, this piece created a sense of excitement and awe in me. I really enjoy Louise Bourgeois textile works and being able to see "Ode à l'Oubli" was definitely breathtaking.

"Ode à l'Oubli" by Louis Bourgeois

Design of the Museum

"Semiotics of the kitchen" - Martha Rosler

This was the last piece I saw at the Harn before leaving. It is a video called "Semiotics of the Kitchen", created by Martha Rosler in 1975. I re-watched the video on YouTube (link below) when I went back to my dorm and compared my experience at the Harn to that of my dorm room. Watching it in my room was definitely not the same experience as watching the video in a dark room and a wide screen at the museum. The video shows a woman, Martha Rosler, in a kitchen with a variety of kitchen appliances. She then proceeds to list all the utensils in alphabetical order. Sitting at the Harn and watching this performance was definitely impactful, due to the fact that the museum has set up the exhibit in a way that the viewer's attention is focused only on the video. At first the video seems kind of strange and pointless but as one continues to watch one can interpret the message and critique behind Rosler's seemingly simple piece. After she says the name of the utensil she is holding, she proceeds to demonstrate how the item is used. However the way she exhibits each gadget appears to be rather violent, a way of criticizing gender roles and how women are tired of being forced into traditional home-maker jobs. The fact that this piece is towards the end of the exhibition and is presented in a small dark room allows the viewer to sit down and reflect on the piece's meaning, as well as tie together the many messages presented in all the different artworks present in the exhibition.

Art and Core Values

The Guerilla Girls are one of the most iconic feminist groups in the world. They are a group of anonymous female artists who criticize the lack of diversity in the art world. Their pieces are usually comical and bright, a very creative form of activism. The reason why I like the Guerilla Girls so much is because they combine a variety of my favorite subjects; art, feminism and social justice.

"Dearest art collector" - Guerilla Girls
"Guerilla Girls definition of a hypocrite" - Guerilla Girls

It is hard for me to choose only one of the Guerilla Girls' pieces, because most of them manage to evoke a variety of emotions in me as a viewer. Most of the Guerilla Girls pieces make me laugh at first due to the the sassy phrasing, however, upon further reflection these pieces also manage to generate sadness and even a little bit of anger. Gender equality is far from a reality in the world we live in and many times it seems as if it will never even become a reality. However, sadness and anger are not the only emotions that come up when viewing these pieces. There is also a sense of hope. Even though inequality is still a big issue, there are people like the Guerilla Girls who are standing up and trying to enact change. Even though art might not seem to be that big of a form of protest, it still manages to make people reflect about the issue of gender in our world. Their pieces help me reinforce my values of equality, as well as motivating me to share and keep developing these values with the people I know.

"The advantages of being a woman artist" - Guerilla Girls
"Guerilla Girls review the Whitney", "How many women had one-woman exhibitions at NYC museums last year?", "Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" - Guerilla Girls
"Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?" - Guerilla Girls 1989

Art and the Goodlife

"I am not a Persian Carpet #2" - Aphrodite Désirée Navab

This piece by Aphrodite Désirée Navab is an example of embodying the Good Life. Part of the Good Life are your values and beliefs. Navab uses her body as a way to express her feminist ideals as well as criticize female stereotypes imposed by both Western and Eastern societies. The use of a traditional Persian carpet is a critique of the "exotic" objectification that is often imposed on Middle Eastern women and the use of her body as a medium is also a way of protesting against the Islamic taboos of women showing their bodies. Navab uses art as a medium through which she can express and develop the Good Life. Her art is a way for her to physically represent the ideals she believes in. It is a very critical piece that also forces the viewer to reflect on their own beliefs and societal views. This reflection aids the viewers in the seeking of the Good Life, due to the fact that it creates questioning and reflection two crucial elements in the process of reaching and understanding the Good Life.

Credits:

All photos taken by me at the Harn Museum of Art

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