Good Life Tour of the Harn Museum BY: Aishwarya Rajendran

Medium of the Art /Technique of the Artist: El Anatsui’s “Old Man’s Cloth” is made from aluminum and copper wire. It was truly amazing to look at it in person because of its massive size and three-dimensional structure. I also think the story of the artwork is interesting as the artist made the structure from discarded bottle tops of brand-name liquor bottles. It highlights Ghana’s colonial legacy as well as the beauty of making art from waste products. One of the most amazing aspects of the work was the techniques that El Anatsui used. His ability to create real- like wrinkles and ridges among the rough surface is very admirable. This aspect made the piece come to life. Another aspect that was incredible is the size of the piece. It is hard to believe that a piece of its size would be relatively light and thin. Viewing the work from the front was different than viewing it from the side and up close as this perspective allowed me to approximate its real size. I think the overall meaning of the work is that art can be made from anything and everything. It does not always have to be a painting or a traditional piece of glassware or pottery. Art is free to interpretation and it is important that we see the value in objects that may not seem to be initially. For example, Duchamp’s Fountain is regarded as a piece of art for some, and for others it is nothing more than a urinal. El Anatsui’s piece made me realize that art can be made from the smallest of things and can be made into the most valuable things. He used waste to create a bigger meaning.

Design of the Museum: The Asian Art Wing of the museum was truly a unique atmosphere. The vast space consisted of hardwood floors with a view of the garden towards the back of the wing. The wing had a light scent of fresh wood and the atmosphere was very tranquil. The warm wood and subdued light created an overall positive experience for me. The view of the garden was aesthetically pleasing as it emphasized the connection between art and the natural world. I would say that the ambience was very inviting. One thing I noticed was that the environment was a mix of human knowledge, experience and sensory pleasure. The wing itself included artwork from different parts of the continent, primarily, China, India and Korea. The unique lighting allowed me to concentrate more on the pieces themselves. The black stone sculpture of Dancing Ganesh was aesthetically pleasing as Ganesh is seen as jolly and “pot-bellied.” I was able to relate more to this piece as I am familiar with Ganesh and the story of the Hindu gods. It made me overall impressed that a piece so intricate was made in the 13th century from stone as the detailing of the piece was so minute. Its placement in glass encasement away from the pottery on the shelves made it seem more special as there is a beauty even when it is placed alone. The rest of the wing was truly unique as there was an actual elephant’s trunk in the middle of the wing. Its massive size raised a sense of curiosity within me as I began to think about the forms of life and how far we have come, not just humankind but also animals as well.

Art and Core Values: • George Grosz’s Manhattan illustrates the importance of human effort. It provides a bird’s eye view of the metropolis that is New York City. One can easily identify the buildings portrayed as they are located at the heart of New York. The Empire State Building can be seen on the right and the Chrysler building can be seen on the left. As it was created during the mid 1940s, it can be concluded that cities around the U.S were heavily industrialized. The smoke from the buildings and the polluted sky illustrate this aspect. Grosz uses the booming city to highlight that the heart and energy of the city embody the feeling of dynamic activity. The lines of energy and reflective light emphasize the rapid movement of the city and the twists and turn in every direction. It is a city that is active and alive. The painting also brings about the reality of life during the 1940s as there was a clear distinction between status. The polluted air reminds me of low wage earning workers who spend most of their time outside of the house rather than inside. The inequality of status between the wealthy and the poor also come about. It makes me realize how far we have come as a society from a time where there was inequality and when no one said anything to a time where inequality does not exist to the extent that it once did. Nevertheless, the piece made me realize the importance of the future and society. Looking at the future is a core value because it enables me to make improvements tomorrow. The future enables me to see the positive in tomorrow and society enables me to find my sense of community. Society also enables me to understand that strength in community can lead to great things.

Art and the Good Life: Sebastiao Salgado’s Cast of Thousands, Serra Pelada, Brazil illustrates the theme of seeking the good life. It depicts the human condition, suffrage, the poverty in industry, and the struggle for existence. Salgagado portrays people in severe conditions. Following the discovery of gold, laborers were led to intense mining by corporate wealth and industries. Although the search for the good life was primarily for the wealthy, it was also for those who suffered through the difficult labor conditions as their lives were heavily impacted. They searched for a way out. Perhaps, their good life could be attained through finding the gold and receiving some sort of compensation from those in charge. It enables me to better understand the good life as people who faced the worst of conditions still sought the good life although they felt that it was never attainable. The beauty is that the search for the good life requires hope because without hope there is no desire.

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