Identity & Multiculturalism

AntoniCloseWileyReferencing some of the background information you’ve learned about one of these artists (or from further research you do; click the bold links), reflect on how the artist represents or expresses the concept of identity in one of these specific works: Lick and Lather (cast chocolate and soap) by Janine Antoni 1993, a recent self portrait by Chuck Close (see him on the Colbert Report here), Kalkidan (from the World Stage: Israel) 2011 an oil painting by Kehinde Wiley, Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth 2007, a detail of Cai Guo-Qiang‘s Flying Together 2011 (made of 27 suspended life-size replicas of falcons and a camel), Lilith 1994 (a bronze and glass figure mounted on the wall) by Kiki Smith, Shahzia Sikander‘s Hood’s Red Rider 1997, Mother and Child by William Wegman, and Chicago native Kerry James Marshall‘s Untitled (Painter) 2010. As usual, clicking on the images will make them larger.

Consider the artist’s identity as it is influenced by and a reflection of her race, gender, sense of place, religion, individual and cultural background. Does the artist reveal or conceal identity? Does the work speak more about the artist’s identity or invite its audience to engage their own? Other reflections? Consider the work’s form, media and installation.


Utopia & Dystopia

MetropolisHirstBalla Artists dissatisfied with the injustices around them often express their desire for change by representing their ideals through the worlds they create. Consider two (2) of the following works in light of the cultural milieu in which they were created. Ground your response with details about the individual artists that you have learned from class, the reading and/or other research, and be specific in your description of the works’ shared formal qualities (what it looks like) and/or construction (how it was made) by using some of the following terms/ideas in your post: cubist, pointillist, primitive, contour, planar, surface, and cropping. The works are: a detail of a still from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis; For the Love of God, by Damien Hirst, 2007 (hear the artist speak about the work here); Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, by the Italian futurist Giacomo Balla, 1912; a still of Pablo Picasso drawing from the film Visit to Picasso, 1949; Dress by the Russian futurist Natalia Goncharova, 1924;  Blue Nude, a papercut work by Henri Matisse (and a documentary photo of the artist at work in this media), 1952 (watch this trailer to the very interesting documentary A Model for Matisse, and the whole thing on Netflix if you have time), Land of Cockaigne, 1567 by Pieter Bruegel, Käthe Kollwitz’s Death of a Child, 1925, and Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles, 2003. To watch Weiwei’s dance moves to Gangnam Style, click here. And as usual, click on the links for a lively jaunt, and on the images to see them larger. PicassoGoncharovaBlueMatisseBruegelKolllwitzWeiwei

Studio “Map” Project

Here are some more detailed instructions for your final “studio” project:

1) Think of some significant moments in your personal or family history. Choose one that has a particular and memorable location. In 25-100 words write this story. The more poetic and succinct the better. Separate one short line from the whole. This might be a quote, or climax, or denouement… something that sums up the memory or perhaps expands it to your present context, etc…. Please add your story as a comment to this post.

2) Next, think of a path you have memorized having traveled it repeatedly. It should be a route that is not simply a straight line, and that returns to its starting point (to make a loop). Make a drawing of this path from memory as a map, as accurately as possible. If possible, look at a satellite or internet map source of this same path to see how you did. It does not necessarily have to connect to your story.

3) Create a pattern from one of the methods we discussed in class that somehow relates to the sense of place where your story takes/took place. You might want to reduce its scale on a photocopier or through digital means.

4) Gather additional visual references (or create your own!) that connect with your narrative. Organize all these elements (text of your story, looped graphic of your path, repeating pattern, and these additional created and/or gathered visuals) into a compositional structure that flows naturally from the story. Let complexity build slowly and meaningfully. Work on this piece in at least three (3) different sittings, taping it on your wall in between to ponder the possibilities.

Incorporate several visual ways (design principles) of bringing order and richness to your piece: line, rhythm, balance, scale, texture, value, color (ie. limited palette), pattern, framing, layers, transparency, grid, diagram, contrast, emphasis…. For inspiration from those who have gone before, click here. Final size of the page should be 8×10 inches (note: that is smaller than letter size). Convince me/us that you have considered every square inch of the composition. This does not necessarily mean you have to “fill” the entire space, but that you have thought about and taken care with the whole. Enjoy yourself in the making! Your pieces are due on our last scheduled class, when we will share and celebrate them.

Here is a link to the pdf of images organized around the foundational design principles that we looked at in class (warning: very big file). Please refer to it as you begin to think about ordering/composing your piece. And here is a link to some historical as well as contemporary artworks that use collage techniques.


EustacePeregrinaMihrabThroughout history pilgrims have left their homes and wandered great distances to find spiritual enlightenment. Discuss two of the works of art depicted in this post as they relate to the idea of pilgrimage. Consider the work in its original or initial context—how the first pilgrims would have engaged the pieces/sites—and also contemporary appreciation, devotion, tourism, etc…. Give a specific historical reference from your text or other research to situate and support your thoughts. The works are: Reliquary of St Eustace (containing part of his skull), Basel Switzerland, ca 1210AD; Gold Leafed Glass fragment (with Saints Peter, Paul and Peregrin), Roman, ca 350AD, Mosaic Mihrab (prayer niche) from the Great Mosque, Isfahan Iran, ca 1310AD; Three Holy Women at the Holy Sepulcher, depicting Christ’s empty tomb, carved ivory, early 10th century, Crystal Cathedral bell tower, designed by Philip Johnson, Garden Grove CA, 1990, and Holy Water Pilgrimage Flask (with St Sergios Blessing), Syrian Byzantine, 6th-7th Century; Dinosaur Park opened in 1936 in Rapid City, South Dakota, the Western or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and Pilgrim 2000, by Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin. Click the pictures to see them larger.HolyWomenCrystalFlaskDinosaursWailingGerlovin

Representations of the gods

ShivaWillendorfCycladicCompare and contrast two of the representations of gods in this post (Shiva Lord of the Dancers, cast bronze, ca 1100AD, southern India; the Venus of Willendorf, limestone, ca 23,000BC (watch Waldemar Januszczak‘s BBC lively romp about this piece; a Cycladic figurine, ca 2500BC (there is a beautiful one at the Art Institute currently on view); Smiling Buddha, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, early 12th C; Claus Sluter’s Head of Christ, late 14th century Dutch, from the Well of Moses, and the 6th century San Sisto Madonna (Madonna of the Golden Hands). Be specific, descriptive and poetic as you consider the formal (material, what and how it’s made) and compositional qualities of the pieces in relation to the culture and religion in which they were produced (ie. the texture of Venus’ hair was likened to cornrows in a previous semester). Use some of these terms in your response: free-standing, relief, additive, subtractive, abstract, and naturalistic. Click on the bold links for more information, and on the images to view them in greater detail.BuddhaSluterSisto

Formal Design Principles

Compare and contrast the formal qualities of two of the six artworks in this post: Ruth Asawa’s Untitled, crocheted wire sculpture, Richard Serra’s torqued steel Sequence (click here for a short video about Serra), Gerhard Richter‘s stained glass windows for the cathedral in Cologne, 2007; Leonard Baskin‘s familiar(?) woodcut Man of Peace 1952; Lucien Freud’s oil painting portrait of David Hockney (click here to listen to Freud talk about his work), and Tim Hawkinson’s shorts created by crocheting extension cords (the same artist who created the überorgan and more!), without making value judgments about their content or subject matter. Consider the medium utilized and include references to at least three of the following: line quality, rhythm, balance, shape, mass/volume, space, scale, texture, value, contrast, emphasis and color. You might also consider that you’re looking at photographs of the original artworks online, and experience of the work in real, physical space could be a vastly different experience (ie. seeing the impression of the wood block on the paper or walking through Serra’s torqued spaces). Click to enlarge the images.

Short Final Paper

MagritteTimeTransfixedScreen shot 2014-09-09 at 1.06.24 AM

I will be going into the city on Tuesday, the 16th of September. You are not required to go on this day, but you must find your way at some point to a museum, gallery, or public artwork, to write your short paper. Depending on the interest, we can go to either the Museum of Contemporary Art (which is free on Tuesdays), the Chicago Cultural Center (free everyday), or the Art Institute (which is free all the time for you as Wheaton students). Because of timing, we won’t have class at 8:30. Instead, I will plan to meet anyone interested in going at the College Ave station to catch the 9:57am train, which will get into Chicago at 10:50am. We can take the 3:40pm train back to arrive at College Avenue 50 minutes later, but if you need to get back before then, you can always catch the 2:40 (getting back at 3:30) if you need, or stay later if you want to enjoy dinner in the city. Train tickets are $4.50 each way, and I would bring some money for lunch or a packed one from bon appetit. We’ll walk from the station to one of the museums, so wear comfortable shoes.

Paper Instructions: Your task for the final paper is to spend significant time, around thirty (30) minutes, in person with a single work of art. It will seem difficult at first, but try to slow down your pace, and look deeply and intently at the piece.

1. Take notes. Make sketches. Be as specific and descriptive as possible of what you see. Use plentiful adjectives and active verbs to enrich your writing. Consider the formal elements and principles of design (don’t just list them, but engage those that are most evident): If there is line what is its quality (eg. sinuous and delicate or rough, jagged, etc…). Is form created through the depiction of geometric shapes and planes or is it more textural, or massive? Are brushstrokes or the marks of a chisel evident, or are surfaces smooth? Does negative space flow in and around the volumes, or is it trapped, dense and solid? What hues have been chosen, and what is their specific quality (value, intensity, or saturation)? How have the elements been composed or arranged in relation to one another, the location, and the audience, and in what manner or style has the subject been visually executed? How does this contribute to the feel or possible meaning(s) of the work?

When you think you have seen everything there is to see, put your pencil down and close your eyes. When you open them, look at the piece again. Look at the title if you haven’t already, and any additional information which might help to give some further context for the piece.

2. Next, interpret the work in light of at least one of the major themes we have been thinking about: the Earth as Art, Representations of the Divine, Pilgrimage, the shifting role of the artist in relation to her patrons, the idea of Utopia and Dystopia, and the Spirit World and the Inner Mind. Refer back to a specific work we looked at either in the text, in class, or online in the blog.

3. And finally, end with some concluding thoughts. The entire paper should be between 500-750 words and fit on a single page (make your type smaller or single spaced). Better to be short and interesting than rambling and incoherent. On a cover page or the back, include a color image of yourself in front of the work and your name. Due in my box (2nd floor of Adams) by 4:30pm on Thursday, October 9th, but you may bring it to me earlier if you like.

* For those of you who are unable to make it to the field trip or to one of the Chicago museums on your own, you may choose a work that is at another local gallery or museum, like one of the shows at the Chicago Cultural Center. You might also consider an outdoor piece of sculpture and its context (another FREE alternative), as Chicago is a wonderful city for public sculpture. Also, Benedictine University in nearby Lisle has a good collection of contemporary religious works throughout its campus, and in the architecturally significant abbey: St Procopius. (The above images are by Edgar Degas in the Art Institute and work from the CHGO DSGN exhibition at the Cultural Center, and below, is Lari Pittman, from the Earthy Delights show at the Museum of Contemporary Art).