The Buccaneer was a Picturesque Fellow

Ye Pirate Bold
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi


Howard Pyle, The Buccaneer was a Picturesque Fellow, 1905


"Why is it that the pirate has, and always has had, a certain lurid glamour of the heroical enveloping him round about? Is there, deep under the accumulated debris of culture, a hidden groundwork of the old-time savage?" asks Howard Pyle in The Book of Pirates. 

There was indeed a savage hidden within Captain Scarfield. Known as Eleazer Cooper to his friends and family in colonial Philadelphia, John Scarfield holds the honor (notoriety?) of being the first and only Quaker pirate. According to legend, Eleazer Cooper held a prominent position in the Society of Friends. He spent many months out of the year residing in his parent's large estate, quietly smoking pipes, reading, and preaching. This mild-mannered man was a bastion of Quaker virtue in his community, as well as a successful wheat and flour merchant. He had tripled his fortune during the British blockade that occurred during the War of 1812. In person,  Pyle writes, "His face was thin and severe, wearing continually an unsmiling, mask-like expression of continent and unruffled sobriety." No one knew of his other life.

Captain Scarfield was a terror in the Caribbean. Merchant ships traded cargo for cannons in order to protect their goods from him. The captain controlled a fleet of the fastest ships in the British navy - commandeered of course. From time to time, battle galleons would be deployed from Britain or the colonies to eradicate the buccaneer, but Scarfield always escaped their clutches. In battle, Pyle writes, Scarfield's previously stern face would be replaced by "...a diabolical grin. The teeth glistened in the lamplight. The brows, twisted into a tense and convulsed frown, were drawn down into black shadows, through which the eyes burned a baleful green like the eyes of a wild animal driven to bay." 

The Buccaneer was a Picturesque Fellow captures this ruthless pirate in full splendor. Wrapped in a Spanish-red cape - most likely pulled off of an unlucky Spaniard's body - and crowned in a deep purple tricorn hat, Scarfield looks nothing like the meek Quaker preacher he claimed to be. Instead, this swaggering pirate lords over his tropical island like a king. Bags of money and treasure lie at his feet as his crew doses in the background. Heavily armed with two different kinds of guns and a sword, this is a man who doesn't take any chances. What is most striking about this work, however, is the cloud formation in the sky. It looms overhead like an ominous warning. Or, the mass in the sky could prove to be the only remains of a vicious sea battle. Scarfield was known to set fire to any ship he could not use himself. Regardless, the formation in the sky underscores the pirate's presence within the painting, making him larger than life. 

  • 12:00 AM

Capture of the Pirate Blackbeard

Ye Pirate Bold
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Capture of the Pirate Blackbeard 1718, 1920
"The night before the day of the action in which he was killed he sat up drinking with some congenial company until broad daylight. One of them asked him if his poor young wife knew where his treasure was hidden. 'No,' says Blackbeard; 'nobody but the devil and I knows where it is, and the longest liver shall have all,'" writes Howard Pyle in The Book of Pirates.

Six pistol shots and twenty stabs with a cutlass is what it took to bring down the most notorious pirate to ever roam the seas
. Amid broken bottles and strewn bodies, Blackbeard and Lieutenant Robert Maynard fight to the death. In the background, pirates fall to the pistols and cutlasses of the British troops. The Jolly Roger waves haphazardly, buffeted by the rising smoke of the pistol shots and cannon fire. The mainmast and shroud - rope ladder the scallywags would use to climb to the crow's nest - frame the main action.

"
First they fired their pistols, and then they took to it with cutlasses--right, left, up and down, cut and slash--until the lieutenant's cutlass broke short off at the hilt," writes Pyle. "Then Blackbeard would have finished him off handsomely, only up steps one of the lieutenant's men and fetches him a great slash over the neck, so that the lieutenant came off with no more hurt than a cut across the knuckles." Maynard then took Blackbeard's head and skewered it on his bow, so the whole world could see who brought down the terror who, as Pyle says, "made more than one captain walk the plank, and who committed more private murders than he could number on the fingers of both hands; one who fills, and will continue to fill, the place to which he has been assigned for generations, and who may be depended upon to hold his place in the confidence of others for generations to come."

  • 12:00 AM

Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 8 August 1588

Ye Pirate Bold 
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi

Phillipe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, Defeat of the Spanish Armada 8 August 1588, 1796
"By far the largest number of pirate captains were Englishmen, for, from the days of good Queen Bess, English sea captains seemed to have a natural turn for any species of venture that had a smack of piracy in it, and from the great Admiral Drake of the old, old days, to the truculent Morgan of buccaneering times, the Englishman did the boldest and wickedest deeds, and wrought the most damage." The Book of Pirates, Howard Pyle

Sir Francis Drake earned his knighthood by circumnavigating the globe - officially. Unofficially, he undertook the journey to wreak havoc on Spanish ports and steal Spanish treasure. During the age of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake was dispatched all over the world to menace the Spanish fleet. Spain possessed a considerable amount of precious metals and trade goods extracted from the Americas. Most of it would travel in slow-moving, cumbersome merchant ships ill-equipped for attack. Britain, struggling financially, needed that income badly. Queen Elizabeth balked at no plan to capture the Catalan treasure.  

To the Spanish, Drake was known as "El Draque," the dragon, for his use of fire ships. A fire ship consists of a captured vessel, emptied of anything of value, stuffed full of highly flammable materials, steered towards the advancing attack, and set on fire. Almost completely empty, a fire ship moves faster than any vessel laden with guns, and proved to be a great panic-causing destruction-wielding naval strategy. When Drake learned of the Spaniard's plan to invade the British mainland all the way in the West Indies, he famously set sail for Cadiz, throwing anything overboard that would slow him down, including treasure. It's said a trail of gold and silver lines the ocean floor along the path Drake took to exit the Caribbean. 

The Spanish Armada was not expecting an attack from the southwest. As Drake dismantled the smaller vessels at the rear of the formation, Lord Howard Effingham approached the fleet head-on from the north. Suddenly, the Armada was beset by roaring, crackling, fire ships that emerged from the mist and scattered the ranks. That was all the distraction Effingham needed. With the might of the British navy, the two captains succeeded in defeating the invincible Spanish Armada. The battle became known as "The Singeing of the Spanish King's Beard."


Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 8 August 1588
 theatrically depicts the famous battle. Occupying three-fourths of the canvas, the Spanish fleet is beset on all sides by Englishmen seeking to board the vessels and sandwiched between the fire ships, clouding the sky black. The flags of Leon, Castile, and the Duke of Medina snap in the wind. To the right, accompanied by the parting of the clouds, sails the true and noble British navy. Flying the Royal Standard and St. George's flag as well as featuring the royal arms of Elizabeth I on the main sail, the British navy fires calmly on the scrambling Spaniards, perfectly in rank, and illuminated by the clear blue sky - a symbol of the blessing from the Protestant God Queen Elizabeth believed in. The scarlet red fire is offset  by the brilliant blue of the sky and vivid green of the ocean. Though slightly more saturated than most paintings, the colors succeed in cleanly dividing the canvas between the British and the Spanish.

I fight, 'tis for vengeance! I love to see flow,
At the stroke of my sabre, the life of my foe.
I strike for the memory of long-vanished years;
I only shed blood where another shed tears,
I come, as the lightning comes red from above, 
O'er the race that I loathe, to the battle I love. The Pirate Song


  • 12:00 AM

Battle of a French Ship of the Line and Two Galleys of the Barbary Corsairs

Ye Pirate Bold
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi

Jean Antoine Theodore de Gudin, Battle of a French ship of the line and two galleys of the Barbary corsairs, 1858 
Using the ruthless Barbarossa brothers' reputation from the previous century to his advantage, the Dutch pirate Zymen Danseker - or Simon de Danser - used Barbary ports during the 17th century to capture Spanish vessels loaded with treasure. Many Dutch sailors joined the ranks of the Islamic pirates during the 17th century, some even converting to Islam. Simon de Danser was by far the most ruthless. Capturing over 40 ships in the span of only two years, this Dutch pirate was an ally of both the British and the Algerine. Known as "Captain Crazy" to the Dey of Algiers, Danser used his captured ships as models to build new ones. Soon, the Dey started financing Danser's voyages and started to build him a fleet. Teaming up with other notable pirates such as Peter Easton  - the plague of Newfoundland - and Jack Ward - operating out of Tunis - Danser ventured past the Straits of Gibraltar - the farthest any Barbary pirate had dared to go - all the way to Iceland. There, he sacked the island nation. The Spanish called him Dali-Capitan, or Devil Captain.

Battle of a French Ship of the Line is painted from the point of view of the French. Gudin was one of the official naval artists for Charles X. Even though this painting is supposed to glorify the French fleet, a clear winner is not obvious. The pirate ship has docked at a ninety-degree angle, perfect for boarding. The other French ship is in the dark, too far off to help. Bodies and cargo float past the viewer and spectators watch from afar. A beautiful painting, the ships are set too far off to experience the heat of the battle. Instead, the piece turns into a pleasant landscape set at sea. The ships look too dainty to cause any damage. Too often, pirating is romanticized as bloodless and daring. In reality, the lust for gold and treasure sent many sailors down to Davey Jone's locker. Perhaps this painting was commissioned as propaganda, assuring the upper class the seas - and their lucrative trading businesses - were indeed secured by French ships. The reality was, as long as corsairs like Simon de Danser lived, that would never be the case.

  • 12:00 AM

Battle of Preveza

Ye Pirate Bold
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi

Ohannes Umed Behzad, Battle of Preveza 1538, 1866
The naval maneuvers that took place around the island of Preveza became Hizir Barbarossa's most successful battle. After Aruj ascended to the throne and withdrew from pirating, Hizir, and his magnificent auburn beard, was sent to police Ottoman holdings in the Mediterranean Sea. Many conquered islands sat in close proximity to the Italian and Greek mainland and were subject to frequent invasions. Usually, invasions by Italian city-states were small-scale, disorganized, and easily repelled. This time, Pope Paul III wanted his islands back for good. He created the Holy League, a coalition of soldiers and sailors from Spain, Venice, the Papal States, Genoa, and Malta to complete the task. The Holy League succeeded in temporarily capturing Tunis and other smaller port cities in proximity to Algiers. Now, they were preparing to take back the scattered islands under Ottoman rule, starting with Preveza.

60,000 soldiers in around 300 ships assembled on a neighboring island. Andrea Doria arrived with the Spanish-Genoese fleet and was put in charge. Before that, the Papal fleet had already engaged the Ottoman ships. Barbarossa succeeded in repelling the forces from Preveza. After the small tiff, Doria had enough intel to make a decision. Barbarossa was only 122 ships and 12,000 men strong. A head-on attack at sea would quickly take care of the pirate fleet.

The day of the battle, the Holy League was taken off guard by the fleet of Ottoman ships heading towards them. Doria was not expecting such a daring and offensive move from a fleet so incredibly outnumbered. But as the Christian fleet tried to band into formation to meet the pirates, they found they had no wind to fill their sails. Barbarossa had calculated correctly. He was sailing at full speed with the wind while the Holy League sat in the water, completely immobile. The main gunships were out of range of Barbarossa and had to watch while the nimble pirates boarded and sank almost half the fleet.

By the end of the battle, 3,000 Christian soldiers were taken prisoner. Barbarossa's men suffered 800 casualties and 400 deaths, but succeeded in conquering the largest Christian fleet in the Mediterranean. He also signed a peace treaty with Venice that transferred ownership of strategic islands in four different regions to the Ottoman Empire and paid 300,000 ducats of gold to his brother, Aruj. With the momentum from Preveza, Hizir liberated Tunis and the other port cities the Holy League occupied on the Barbary coast. Even though Hizir's beard wasn't fiery red like his brother's, he still catapulted the Barbarossa name into eternal infamy.

  • 9:00 AM

Attaque d'Alger par Mer

Ye Pirate Bold
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi
Antoine Léon Morel-Fatio, Attaque d'Alger par Mer, 1836

During the 16th century, as Spanish Moors and Islamic explorers settled into modern-day Algeria and Tunisia, Spain, seeing a chance to expand her borders, started to attack settlements on the coast. Underestimating the naval prowess of the East, Spain found those brave enough fighting back. Enter Aruj and Hizir, two young  men from island of Lesbos looking to make a name for themselves. Teaming up with Sephardic Jews fleeing Spain from the looming presence of the Inquisition, the brothers attacked the Spanish ships crossing the Mediterranean carrying gold and trade goods. This turned to be very profitable for the brothers, and Aruj especially proved his bravery many times.

Soon, the pirates turned to the slave trade. They would intercept slave vessels full to the brim with manpower, board the unfortunate ship, kill the captain, and steer the million-dollar cargo to Algiers, the port city they based their operations out of. This made the sultan very happy, and soon their missions changed from slave-hunter to full-on piratical deeds. They could plunder all they wanted on one condition - ten percent of their profit went to the sultan as payment.

Aruj gained notoriety for his deeds on the island of Ischia. He captured 4,000 prisoners and took an additional 9,000 as slaves, which totaled to almost the entirety of the population. As a response to the free-for-all sacking of the towns and cities bordering the Mediterranean, groups of soldiers like the Knights of Malta were formed. The pirates, then assembled in almost a corporate fashion, fought back just as valiantly. Loot was taken by both sides, and then captured back. Slaves were traded back and forth, stolen in the night, or burned alive so the enemy could not profit from them. 

As the sultan of Algiers aged, Aruj and Hizir plotted to gain more power. One night, they rallied their crews and any willing man to storm the royal palace and capture the throne. Aruj rose to power and took control of Algiers. He was officially sanctioned by the Ottoman Empire, to whom he promised expanded borders and a share in his profits. Tied to the throne, Aruj ventured little outside his port. He relied on Hizir to fill his coffers and make sure the family name, Barbarossa, did not fade into oblivion. 

Attaque d'Alger par Mer is a French painting of a futile attempt by European forces to capture the city of Algiers. Set on a rocky cliff, the entire city is too elevated for a ship's cannons to do any harm. Most of the buildings were made of stone, not wood or brick, which proved impenetrable to gunfire. Additionally, a stone wall lined the outside of the city, making it hard for any invading force to breach the defense. The Constantinople of North Africa, Algiers was a strategic port for the Barbarossa brothers, and an object much sought after by the French, Spanish, and Italian city states. This painting illustrates yet another unsuccessful raid on the city. The ships fire halfheartedly, much too far away to do any serious damage. Less than ten ships even showed up, showing lack of commitment and follow-through by the French. Attacks like these functioned as posturing for the western empires. Their leaders underestimated how such a small group of pirates could inflict so much damage on their bottom-line. Those leaders were wrong.

  • 9:30 PM

Bust of a Woman with an Elaborate Coiffure

Ye Pirate Bold
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Curated by Sonia Larbi 

Rosso Fiorentino, Bust of a Woman with an Elaborate Coiffure, 1530-1539
"Barbarossa the famous Turkish Pirate attempted to surprize this famous Beauty in order to make a Present of Her / to Solyman ye. Emperour: and for that purpose landed by night 2000 Souldiers near Fundi where she then was; but at ye. / first alarm she mounting a Horse without any clothes but her smock made her Escape; at wch ye Barbarian was / so inraged that he burnt the Town; This Lady was the Widdow of Vespasian Colonna. Thuanus speaks much in her Praise."Annotation, John Talmann 

Added by John Talmann sometime in the 18th century, the story above typifies the daring, adventurous, lusty, and cruel pirate tale. One can just picture the panicked woman riding a spooked horse at full speed by moonlight with a sea-crusted pirate in pursuit. At the time the sketch was produced, there was indeed such as pirate on the loose. In fact, there were two pirates named Barbarossa, brothers, who successfully pillaged and plundered throughout the Mediterranean and even ruled the port city of Algiers for a time. Aruj and his little brother Hizir plagued the treasure ships of Sicily and the battle galleons of their arch enemies - the Christian corsairs. By 1510, Aruj was one of the richest men in the Mediterranean, so no wonder he thought he was entitled to Julia Gonzaga when he arrived in Italy.

The city of Fondi - Fundi in Latin - had been thriving artistically under Julia. Her success in the arts and sciences probably led Barbarossa to believe they were a perfect match. Perhaps this sketch in chalk pays tribute to her patronage and influence in the small town between Rome and Naples. It definitely does not allude to the complete destruction Barbarossa brought upon the populace when he was rejected. Rape, pillage, and revelry ensued, leading to the city's decline. Another victim to the pirate, the city never recovered. 


Howard Pyle writes in The Book of Pirates, "Why is it that a little spice of deviltry lends not an unpleasantly titillating twang to the great mass of respectable flour that goes to make up the pudding of our modern civilization?" There is a certain sense of glamour, heroics, and rebellion in the act of pirating. Usually, such escapades are memorialized in the pages of a book. How can a painting capture the chaos of a naval battle, the swagger of a ship's captain, or the glint of treasure? This collection aims to do just that. With seven works, we will explore the world of the pirate of the old.


Pyle continues, "And such is that black chapter of history of the past -- an evil chapter, lurid with cruelty and suffering, stained with blood and smoke. Yet it is a written chapter, and it must be read. He who chooses may read betwixt the lines of history this great truth: Evil itself is an instrument toward the shaping of good. Therefore the history of evil as well as the history of good should be read, considered, and digested."

  • 12:00 AM

The Last Judgment

To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani
Michelangelo, The Last Judgment, 1537-1541
History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim. 

“They condemned all forms of nudity in religious art, yet Michelangelo still insisted on painting every form in The Last Judgment naked as the day they were born.” I laughed at the tour guide’s phrases while attempting to hide in the shade of St. Peter’s Basilica, anything to get away from the hot, midday Roman sun. At the time, the gravity of Michelangelo’s confidence and disregard for the church did not strike me as anything extraordinary. Painters were usually self-pompous narcissists, so why should I regard Michelangelo any differently?

I had not taken any professional training in Art History yet, so I found it absolutely extraordinary when the tour guide pointed to a figure on the bottom, left side of the painting and identified him as the Pope’s own Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena.

Cesena, with a concession of papal clergymen, visited Michelangelo while the artist was doing some edits to the top half of the painting. The figures, though now shown with clothes draped over their genitalia, were originally painted as completely nude. The papal men, struck with never before having seen a representation of God’s masculinity, quickly accused Michelangelo of being “insensitive to proper decorum” and disrespecting the sanctity of the Holy Church.

Then, Cesena added with a hot-tempered flourish, that “it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamelessly” then suggested that Michelangelo scrap his work and move it rather to “the public baths or taverns.”

Michelangelo did not respond to them, only continued to paint his work.

When the painter asked the clergymen to return the very next week, however, Cesena was infuriated to find a portrait of himself, situated in the painting’s section of Hell, wrapped in a coiled snake and sporting a pair of donkey ears. Michelangelo then explained to the Master of Ceremonies that he should be honored with his inclusion in the painting, for he plays the role of Minos, judge of the underworld. Michelangelo explained that only the underworld would appreciate his quick condemnation of good souls.

Cesena complained to the pope, hoping to receive some sort of retribution. To his dismay, however, the pope only laughed and joked, "at least your managerial positions do not extend to hell… the portrait may remain all as it is.”

  • 12:00 AM

Death of the Virgin

To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani 
The Death of the Virgin, Caravaggio, 1606
History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim.

He only wanted to commission an ethereal painting of the Virgin Mary’s death to place in his chapel at the Carmelite church of Santa Maria della Scala in Trastevere, Rome. Laerzio Alberti, the insignificant papal lawyer from a Roman small town, was not looking for trouble when he commissioned the painting from Michelngelo Merisi da Caravaggio. He just wanted a painting.

Instead, the papal lawyer received a work that the rest of the papal clergy quickly deemed unfit to be hung in a church.

Caravaggio, known for his flawless shading, red hues, and use of live models, actually kidnapped a corpse from the local morgue to pose as his scarlet-attired Madonna. To make matters worse, the woman whose corpse he modeled as Virgin Mary earned her wages as a gentlemen’s courtesan.

Caravaggio wanted to mortalize the celestial scene, to depict a Virgin Mary that all people could empathize with. Her bloated stomach, showing the ascension of post-mortem bodily gases, were a natural part of everyone's decomposing process, so why, the painter argued, should Virgin Mary be any different?

The church initially rejected Caravaggio’s painting because of the remorseful expressions placed on the crowd’s faces, alluding to Virgin Mary’s death as a mortal farewell rather than an ethereal rebirth. The vibrant crimson of her attire also sparked distaste in the church’s fundamentalist hopes of depicting the maiden in her customary navy-clad innocence.

Their abhorrence for the portrait did not waver after realizing the green hues of the illustrated Virgin’s skin were modeled after the decomposing body of a prostitute.

  • 12:33 PM

Guernica

To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani 
Guernica, Picasso, 1937

History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim. 

“This bull is a bull and this horse is a horse… I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are.”
 –Pablo Picasso

To summarize it in one word, Guernica speaks of a tragedy. Piccasso’s self-expressed “abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death” is most evident in the tears and mortified postures of the painting’s protagonists. The painting was created as a direct reminder of the bombing of Guernica, Basque country, a Nazi bombardment. German and Italian forces massacred the small Spanish village by mercilessly firebombing the unsuspecting visitors, and making the staggering death rates a terrifying example of why Spain should fear Nazi contempt.

The Spanish government commissioned Picasso to paint a mural in memory of the attack during the pinnacle of the Spanish Civil War. Officially revealed on April 26, 1937, Picasso’s masterpiece was to act as a brutal reminder of how drastically brutal a war can become.

The less-than-censored screams of the painting’s civilians, coupled with the crying bull, representative of Spain’s remorse regarding the tragedy, emphasizes Picasso’s plea for the Spanish populations to stop their fighting.

The painting’s attack upon children and women, who in Picasso mind composed the epitome of human’s perfection, shows the artist’s perception of war as emblematic of mankind’s central, most fatal flaw.

Picasso’s mural created a general feeling of uneasiness regarding war, effectively sparking a cultural campaign against the Spanish Civil War, while also maintaining that same sentiment years later.

At a 2003 United Nations conference that was being held in New York City, journalists claim that the Bush Administration had a blue curtain cover the UN building's tapestry version of Picasso’s Guernica, to strengthen the motivations of the U.S. diplomats who argued for war on Iraq.

  • 12:00 AM

Volga Barge Haulers

To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani 
Volga Barge Haulers, Repin, 1870-1873
History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky admired Ilya Repin’s work from the exhibition’s walls, and immediately remarked on “barge haulers, real barge haulers, and nothing more… You can’t help but think you are indebted, truly indebted, to the people.”

The exhaustion of the eleven men pulling the barge onto the shores of the Volga River stuns viewers before they even stop to notice the coarse, unrefined brush strokes.

The deflated expressions and sagging physiques defined Repin as his time’s “master documentarian of social inequality.” The nauseating and dry burn of the midday heat offers an unsentimental depiction of lower-class laborers, something that both spited and commended the upper classes for their undeniable “lack of a heart” towards the plight of man.

As a reward for his painting, Repin joined the Peredvizhniki movement, an anti-academic movement that rebelled against polished works, striving for the portrayal of reality’s hardships just as they are. In hopes of enlightening the masses and making art accessible to all populations, the group succeeded only in infuriating all authority figures of their society.

The artistic academy abandoned all affiliations with the failed movement, deciding to just wait until the masses of Russia reject the movement for its lack of pomp.

Repin regarded the work as his first professional art in honor of the Russian realist movement. Repin revels in the feeling of aristocracy’s “unpaid debt,” hallmarking his painting as a form of beratement of the ignorant who insist on enslaving others.

Though ignorance may be bliss, Repin refused to spare the ignorant.

  • 12:00 AM

Sabine Women

To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani 
Intervention of the Sabine Women, David, c.1796
History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim.

"There is no luxury in a painting where females reveal their dominant form!"

David paid no attention to the insults of his audiences, choosing only to immerse himself in the creative recesses of his prison-cell. Incarcerated for his affiliations with Robespierre, a visit from his estranged wife inspired David to paint his own rendition of the Sabine classic in her honor.

In direct contrast to the works of Giambologna, Poussin, and Rubens, Jacques- Louis David painted the women in the limelight, as the interveners who, as he named the painting, “enforced peace by running between the combatants.”

Historians attribute the initial rejection of David’s 1796 rendition to the outcome of France’s war, which ended up leading to the Reign of Terror. During a time when man fought man for a form of political relief that was always just out of their reach, The Intervention of the Sabine Women’s blatant worship of women infuriated an already-angry population of patriarchs.

The central form in the painting, the alabaster Hersilia, (also identified as the wife of Romulus,) spreads her arms in effort to separate her father from attacking her husband, simultaneously thrusting herself and her young children between the warring parties. The hesitation depicted on her husband’s frozen movement, as well as through the movement that many soldiers take in order to sheath their swords, reinforce David’s message to the French people. The painter used the power of the female form to plead with France’s population, hoping to inspire them to unite after the violence of the revolution.

Unfortunately, the painting did not succeed in reuniting France. Quite the contrary, the Sabine women insulted French men, who were disgusted with the concept that a woman had to interfere before men may see reason.

  • 12:00 AM

White on White

To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani 
White on White, Malevich, 1918
History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim. 

Suprematism, the ultimate movement of art that aspired to create works superior to all their contemporaries, was founded by Kazimir Malevich. Through the movement, Malevich developed his aesthetic theory by reinventing the use of polychromatic and monochromatic combinations. His composition, White on White, uses colors to create a feeling of infinite space. The three-dimensional textures and palette variations create an elevated, pure-white square superimposed on an ivory backdrop. Though the white quadrilateral was painted to be in the physical foreground, the spectators feel as if they are falling into it instead.

The Russian government rejected Suprematist art, deeming it fundamental and nothing extraordinary. The movement did not adhere to academic precedents, which caused the government to distress over the mental stability of this art movement.

Malevich’s artworks, though highly reliant on geometric shapes and basic colors, would threaten the authority and the power of the government if political figures could not censor his works. As if to prove their worth, the government infiltrated Malevich’s studio, confiscated his art works, and left him instead with a small black book of “rules with which to paint his art.”

However, the government’s confiscation of this work, as well as the popularity that he gained from quietly tolerating this invasion, allowed his works to gain more fame than they had before governmental confrontation. White on White became a masterpiece in the field of monochromatic philosophies.

Stalin’s attempts to stifle Malevich’s fame offered the Suprematist founder more recognition than ever before.

  • 12:00 AM

L.H.O.O.Q.


To Those Which They Never Turned Another Cheek: 
Admiration for Paintings with Major Authority Issues 
Curated by Shweta Vadlamani 
L.H.O.O.Q., Duchamp, 1919

History required power. Precedents were set by people who wielded that power. There was one point of time when people believed that the enthroned were the only ones who could oppose the forces of society to make a change. I now proceed to write about the artistic voices who actively refuted that claim. 

“Mass media is useless.”

Duchamp often repeated this as if to explain the motivations behind creating readymades. Unlike Andy Warhol’s collectable works of art, Duchamp emphasizes the worthlessness that the media often complicates in order to mass-produce economic values. To revolt against the monetary value of aesthetic qualities, Duchamp “defaces” commercialized commodities by infusing them with new perspectives.

L.H.O.O.Q., Duchamp’s interpretation of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” refigures the female’s countenance by adding the presence of a goatee and perfectly-groomed mustache. The title further condemns the popular painting, acting as a pun on the phrase “Elle a chaud au cul,” colloquially translated into English as “She is hot in the ass.”

Duchamp paid no heed to the contempt that many viewers expressed toward his “readymade” art. Many failed to appreciate his rejection of retinal art, and considered his edits to the Da Vinci painting as “highly juvenile and representative of an elementary behavior.” Those self-proclaimed art critics who shared a “more palatable taste in art” felt insulted by Duchamp’s obvious rejection of aesthetics, feeling as if the artist was personally spiting their appreciation for high-art.

Duchamp’s “readymades” are now regarded as part of the Anti-art genre, a term applied to a wide array of philosophies that consider art to be a term inclusive of all variations and forms of art, even those that may be offensive or re-edit historical renditions of art.

Some people still reject the identification of Duchamp’s “readymades” as art, while claiming that their rejection stems from a deep respect for the old masters.

  • 12:33 PM

A Room with a View - Untitled Film Still #15


A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #15, 1978 
"Don't you agree that, on one's first visit to Florence, one must have a room with a view?" - Lucy Emerson As we approach the end of our journey, you may notice a slight change (spoil alert). Yes, Lucy's surname has changed to Emerson. Not only has her identity changed slightly, but her attitude has developed into one of easygoing grace. As she and George honeymoon in the pensione they first met, a young girl and her chaperon complain of the situation that Lucy herself once faced: a room without a true Florentine view. The newlyweds offer up their own room, complete with a vista of the Arno, bringing Lucy's experience to a full circle. Thus, this once stubborn teenager has now transformed into a generous young lady. Along the same lines lies Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Still #15, a self-portrait of "the tough girl with a heart of gold," according to the Guggenheim. Sherman creates an intimate moment of a model (herself) appreciating the scene outside while the audience relishes their own view. Her melodramatic photograph of feminine stereotypes serves as a critique of society, much like A Room with a View. With this underlying sentiment in mind, my collection comes to a close. If society ever gets you down, I would highly recommend contemplating life while admiring a view or getting lost in the wonderful world of art. Then again, you could just curl up with a fluffy blanket and watch A Room with a View on Netflix...
  • 12:00 AM

A Room with a View - Garden at Sainte-Adresse


A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

Claude Monet, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, 1867
"He doesn't know what a woman is. He wants you for a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display." - George Emerson In A Room with a View, Lucy Honeychurch must decide between the pompous Cecil Vyse and the philosophical George Emerson. Cecil's intellectual prowess and dainty nature aren't exactly turn-ons when compared to George's romantic gestures. Will Lucy conform to societal expectations or follow her rebellious heart? This turmoil dictates the majority of the film, which highlights the rather superficial values of the Edwardian upper class. Just 40 years before A Room with a View takes place, Monet painted the lovely Garden at Sainte-Adresse. The pre-Giverny portrait of his family summering in northern France illustrates the lives of the affluent. Although Monet portrays the delightful garden and its sea-view, he uses them primarily as a stage for a domestic scene. His subjects do not interact so much as they sit on display. This is the portrait of Lucy's possible future with Cecil.
  • 12:00 AM

A Room with a View - Girl at Sewing Machine


A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

Edward Hopper, Girl at Sewing Machine1921
"I don't care what I see outside. My vision is within! Here is where the birds sing! Here is where the sky is blue!" - Mr. Emerson Yet again, Mr. Emerson provides dramatic insight while dealing with a delicate situation. His passion and conviction give a reality check to the decorum-obsessed characters in the Edwardian era film. While his peers remain focused on the outward appearance of things (i.e. the view outside a hotel room), Mr. Emerson chooses to develop his own self, his very soul. Perhaps Edward Hopper incorporates this sentiment in his works, especially those like Girl at Sewing Machine. A vast number of Hopper's paintings feature empty rooms in the city with lonely subjects washed in the bright light of a window. In the harsh world of a bustling metropolis, Hopper's characters must turn inwards to preserve their personal oases. Girl at Sewing Machine epitomizes this attitudethat one should rely on their vision within when stuck in the middle of a concrete jungle.
  • 12:00 AM

A Room with a View - Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight

A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

Berthe Morisot, Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight, 1875 
"My father says there is only one perfect view, and that's the view of the sky over our heads." - George Emerson Much of A Room with a View takes place outside, whether the characters are exploring the sights of Florence, bathing al fresco in the English countryside, or playing an intense game of badminton. The Emersons' love of nature contrasts the societal expectation for women to stay indoors, which further emphasizes their free-spirited approach to Edwardian standards. Interestingly enough, Edouard Manet, a key leader of the Impressionist movement, did not share this same affection for the outdoors...at first. Natural light drives Impressionism, infiltrating every piece and dictating each artist's style. Berthe Morisot embraced this idea by practicing plein air painting, or painting "in the open air." She eventually convinced her colleague and friend, Manet, to take up the technique and enter the outdoors. However, it appears that Manet prefers the comfort of the indoors in Morisot's Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight. At least he can discreetly stalk the lovely ladies passing by, which might be the view he prefers.
  • 12:00 AM

A Room with a View - Woman at a Window


A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

Caspar David Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822


"Women like looking at a view. Men don't." - Mr. Emerson Wise words from Mr. Emerson, the film's wacky yet astute patriarch. He utters them at the very beginning, while Charlotte Bartlett, Lucy Honeychurch's cousin and chaperon, complains about their room's lack of a view. For the reason stated above, Mr. Emerson offers up his and his son George's suite, thereby solving the horrendous problem and triggering a romance between Lucy and George. In the time of both Caspar David Friedrich's paintings and the Edwardian era of A Room with a View, this kind gesture would have held special significance. As evidenced by Friedrich's other works, men spent much more time out of doors than their female counterparts. While they experienced nature firsthand, women were often confined to the comfort of their domiciles, meaning much of their interaction with the outdoors was through glass panes. Windows in paintings such as Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window or Woman at a Window offer unique perspective from women viewing the outside world through comparatively tiny peepholes, much like Lucy Honeychurch's attempt to step out of her sheltered lifestyle.

  • 12:00 AM

A Room with a View - Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window


A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, Johannes Vermeer, 1657-1658
"Afar off, the towers of Florence. And she wandered as though in a dream through the wavering sea of barley, touched with crimson stains of poppies. All unobserved, he came to her. Isn't it immortal? There came from his lips no wordy protestations such as formal lovers use. No eloquence was his, nor did he need it. He simply enfolded her in his manly arms..." - Eleanor Lavish Love at first sight is no myth. It happens rarely, but when it strikes, life changes drastically. That's how I feel about Johannes Vermeer. As my junior self sat wide-eyed in the bewildering Renaissance Art History class, I found solace in the delicate portraits from Vermeer. The soft lighting calmed me, the subject matter engaged me, and the perfectly organized composition intrigued me. I couldn't get enough of his classic Dutch genre paintings, and I still can't. An unhealthy obsession with Vermeer's works planted a seed in my mind to craft a collection around. My favorite works of his often feature windows that illuminate the setting and character, so why not use that as a jumping-off point? Thus, "A Room with a View" was born. The title that developed in my subconscious eventually prompted me to re-watch A Room with a View, a boring and lengthy movie I hadn't seen for years. Goodness, was I wrong. Though slow at times, I thoroughly enjoyed giving it a second chance. Now, I could relate the film with Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window on content alone (suppressed females aching to escape the restrictions of society, but that would be too obvious). For me, these two works share an abstract commonality: the ability to fall in love so effortlessly. Much like Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson adore each other, I very much fancy Mr. Vermeer.
  • 12:00 AM

A Room with a View - View of the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

A Room with a View
Examining the Film through an Art Historian's Lens
Curated by Melissa Martin

To preface: I did not intend for the title of my collection to relate directly to the 1986 film. However, after re-watching A Room with a View, I thought it might provide a nice story to weave into the paintings. Please join me for a journey through the Academy-Award winning masterpiece and accompanying artwork.

Jacques-Louis David, View of the Jardin du Luxembourg, 1794

"Smell! A true Florentine smell. Inhale, my dear. Deeper! Every city, let me tell you, has its own smell." - Eleanor Lavish
Not only does each city have its own scent, its own character, but it has its own unique history. Though David's historical paintings formed his reputation, he occasionally ventured outside of his typical style, one prime example of this being
View of the Jardin du Luxembourg. The main aspect that sets this work apart from the rest is the bird's-eye view that David employs. Maybe he imagined himself as a pigeon soaring over the park's winding paths, or perhaps he envisioned the viewer as a nobleman overlooking the visitors from the palace's balconies.

So what exactly does this work have to do with
A Room with a View? Well, after some careful research, I discovered that the settings share much in common. The backdrop for the film, beautiful Florence, actually inspired the park's design. King Henri IV's widow, Marie de Medicis, created the park in the 17th century as an homage to her childhood home. This little slice of Florence may have cured the queen's homesickness, but I'm sure Ms. Lavish would attest that nothing holds a candle to the authenticity of Firenze, Italia.

  • 9:52 PM

Mother Liberty and the Seducer - Berthe Morisot with Veil

Berthe Morisot with Veil
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator's Note: The Mother Liberty and Seducer story arc has come to a close. I now leave you with two stories of thematic importance.

Manet’s brush pushes against the canvas. Colors blend. Shapes take form. Sweat dribbles down the artist’s brow. He works with a mission.

We are going to get your voice heard, Berthe, he promises. There are worse artists out there prospering. Why should you have to starve because of your sex?
            
Manet hears a muffled reply.

Speak up, darling. I can’t hear you.

He does not make out the next gurgled cries.

Berthe, this isn’t going to work if you can’t sit still.


Manet’s portrait stands close to completion. He hopes for his painting to attract attention to his suffering sister in law’s art career. A woman can’t make it anywhere in the world, Manet tells himself. She needs his help. If he can show the world through his art that Morisot demands the critics' attention, she can make it big. Like him. His talent will be the tool she uses to foster her own.
          
I am almost done. I just need to complete the mouth.
A raspy croak sounds from the other side of the canvas. Manet doesn’t look up.

Be quiet, I don’t want to get this wrong. Manet looks up and drops his brush in shock.

Morisot’s mouth is sewed shut. Her eyes stare at Manet with an accusing gaze. A gaze that says all the words Morisot’s mouth cannot say.
  • 12:00 AM

Mother Liberty and the Seducer - Penelope Unraveling Her Web

Penelope Unraveling Her Web, Joseph Wright of Derby, 1783-1784
Penelope Unraveling her Web
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator's Note: The Mother Liberty and Seducer story arc has come to a close. I now leave you with two thematically linked stories.

Rumors circulate of Odysseus' death at sea. His absence creates a void in his family, which Joseph Wright of Derby’s Penelope Unraveling her Web depicts. Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, has become the object of all men’s obsessions. They circle her like vultures waiting to sink teeth into a good piece of meat.

What can she do?

Her husband has been gone for years and every man she meets looks her up and down.

What can she do?

Society comes crashing down on her. A woman with a child can’t be single forever.

What can she do?

She weaves. Penelope knows Odysseus lives. No one can convince her differently. So she tells her suitors, admirers, and stalkers once she has finished a veil for her father-in-law, she will pick her new husband.

The men howl with glee. But unbeknownst to them, Penelope will never finish the veil. The unraveling of her web occurs every night while no men watch. The circling wolves are kept at bay.

So now she sits by her slumbering son, waiting for Odysseus. Penelope keeps guard over her family, like the faithful dog besides her. Odysseus’ stone form watches over his wife and son as well, trying to fill the gap left in Penelope’s heart.


  • 12:00 AM

Mother Liberty and the Seducer - Loved One

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Loved One, 1915
Loved One
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator's Note:
This is the fifth installment in a series of blog posts where I have presented short fiction based off the paintings in my collection. If , please read the prior four posts. Thank you.

Crimson lips, loose dress, and blood-stained fingertips; the Girl becomes the Seducer. With the toss of her hair or wink of an eye, she can control any man, scores of men. They are her puppets, the strings leading to their hearts. The cycle has been broken, the Seducer, the Woman, has the power.

A Rococo Man vaguely offends her. The Devil tears at her side. She runs to her Loved One, naked and wounded.

Help me. The Women clutches her bleeding side.

Who did this to you?

The Rococo Man. Oh, the Rococo Man.

What do you want me do to him?

The Devil sits on the Seducer’s shoulder and whispers suggestions into her ear.

The Seducer leans in closer to the Man and kisses him. When they part, the red mark of slavery lays on his lips, imprisoning his mind. Her hand tugs at his heart strings.

Sterilize him.

The Loved One nods and goes about his task.

The Seducer stays behind and laughs with the Devil. She has the power. The cycle has been broken and a new one born. Mother Liberty’s hopes of equality disappear. The shackles of slavery find a new host.

The Devil has had his say. The Rococo Man dealt with. Mother Liberty enshrined as an image of freedom. And the minds of men devoured by the Seducer.

  • 12:00 AM

Mother Liberty and the Seducer - Woman in Three Stages

Woman in Three Stages, Edvard Munch, 1895
Woman in Three Stages
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator's Note: This is the fourth installment in a series of blog posts where I have presented short fiction based off the paintings in my collection. If, please go read my three prior posts. Thank you.

The Woman’s revolution succeeds and her image becomes a symbol, a rallying cry for all the abused.

Decades later, a young Girl sees the woman’s image and wonders how can a woman hold such respect? She even has her chest bare. All she has to offer, out in the open for all to see. And they still admire her?

The Girl bites her lip. She is familiar with a different painting, Edvard Munch’s Woman in Three Stages.


The Girl dreams of a wedding on a beach. Her dress will be white like every other bride’s. And on the wedding night she will lie naked before her husband. Nothing will be held back because he wants it all. She will smile and enjoy it.

But after the romance ends, she will cover her breasts and become an old woman.

The Devil smells his chance and laughs.
Where is your husband? He isn’t even in the picture.

Well… He’s….


He never was. You’d do this even if you never found a husband.  Men are not the ones dictating this cycle. Women are. Marriage, sex, death. That’s all you’re good for.


But Mother Liberty? She broke the cycle. Look at her!


Are you like her? Do you flash your chest around for all to rally behind? What have you inspired?


Nothing.


The Devil smiles.
And what are you gonna do about it?

The Girl locks eyes with the Devil.
Everything.


The Girl spits at Munch’s painting. And Mother Liberty. She doesn’t need others telling her how to live. She will make her own decisions.

  • 12:00 AM

Mother Liberty and the Seducer - Liberty Leading the People

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (July 28th 1830), 1830
Liberty Leading the People
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator's Note: This is the third installment in a series of blog posts where I have presented short fiction based off the paintings in my collection. If lost, please go read two prior posts. Thank you.
In her dream, the scrolls entitled Time, Truth, and History contained two words. Never again.  The Girl nods and repeats, never again.
Years pass and the Girl becomes a Woman, struggling against the Rococo Man’s society. Rich men bathe in excess, taking everything they want regardless of the harm done to others. The poor are beaten and unrepresented.

The Woman walks the streets, finding evidence of social degradation. Men lose it. Women bleed. Children starve. The words never again come to mind.

 Finally, when the masses have taken enough, they revolt. The woman realizes never again happened again… She picks up the flag and joins the fray for independence. The steel of a gun against her hand feels right. Soon she stands over the hapless forms of the dead on the front lines . Her bare feet brush against their dead membranes.

This must be what standing in a womb feels like.

The woman’s breast strap has broken. Her chest exposed. The enemy troops stare at it with the eyes of the Rococo Man. She doesn’t care. Those close enough to see her breasts are close enough for her to see the life fade from their eyes.

She turns to face her people. The abused rally behind her. One falls to her hands and knees before the woman.
Oh Mother Liberty, how can I be as free as you?
The Woman smiles. Never again will she be the helpless. Never again will the Rococo Man or the Devil haunt her nightmares. Never again.
The woman’s image, captured by Eugene Delacroix in Liberty Leading the People, will spread and with it, so will her power and influence.

  • 12:00 AM

Mother of Liberty and the Seducer - Time, Truth, and History

Time, Truth, and History, Goya, undated
Time, Truth, and History
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator's Note: This is the second installment in a series of blog posts where I have presented short fiction based off the paintings in my collection. If one finds themselves lost, please go read my post on Garnier's The Defenseless Rose. Thank you.

Daughter of Eve, you have been violated.

The Devil towers over the young broken Girl. Screeching bats out of Hell encircle the couple.

The forbidden fruit has been forced upon you, your innocence gone to Heaven and the rest remains here with me, in Hell.

The Girl cries in agony. After suffering the Rococo Man’s abuse, she lies naked and vulnerable, facing her inner Devil.

The Devil laughs at her cries. He is strong and vicious, like the Rococo Man. With the wings of an angle, he lures women in, but his face reveals the true nature of the beast.

Another figure enters the barren landscape. She doesn’t have wings, but possess the shape of a true angel.

Get up, my daughter. There is nothing he can say or do to make things worse.

The Devil turns the Angel. What can you possibly offer this shell of a girl? You can’t restore her purity. No deity can.

The Angel kneels before the weeping Girl and helps her up. The Devil doesn’t dare interfere. The Angel then hands the Girl a scroll.

What is this?

Time, Truth, and History. Read it and you shall taste the real fruit, enlightenment.

The Devil recoils in fear. What are you doing?

The Angel takes the Devil’s hand and a bright light obliterates the darkness. The Devil’s wings spread apart to soak in the radiance, but his body can’t take it. His face rots, and he falls to the ground.

The Angel does not take her eyes off the Girl. Slowly, the Girl opens the scroll and wakes up. Her nightmare is over.

  • 12:00 AM

Mother Liberty and the Seducer - The Defenseless Rose

Michel Garnier, The Defenseless Rose, 1789
The Defenseless Rose
Mother Liberty and the Seducer
Curated by Alex McDonald

Curator’s note: After looking through the art in my collection, I found a story. It’s one of evolving feminine roles in the art world from the 17th to the 21st century. My short fiction tries to create a narrative out of what I found, enjoy.

Unguarded, the Girl in The Defenseless Rose by Michel Garnier stands defenseless to what the Rococo Man wants. Her rose is about to be picked.

The Girl left the party early, probably to escape the Man’s gaze. He’s been eyeing her all day. And in the company of her friends and family too. Well, when the Rococo Man follows her into the dressing room, the sense of impending danger becomes a reality. He’s a wild French aristocrat who’s used to getting what he wants. He has money, power, and a perfect family to boost.

She’s scared because she knows she can’t win this fight. In fact, she hasn’t been in a fight her whole life. Women don’t fight. They are born, get married and promptly give birth. They raise children. And then they die.

She tries to run past the Rococo Man, back to her friends. He catches her, throwing her against the windowsill. A full vase and book fall. Fragments of glass scatter across the floor. The Rococo Man doesn’t care. No one will hear them. They will not choose to hear.

In her heart, she knows this too. That’s why she doesn’t call for help.

The Girl twirls towards the window. The light feels good on her face. She’ll think about this.

Meanwhile, he takes off his hat and tosses it over the baby statue’s eyes. We don’t need children seeing this.

The Rococo Man gets in between her and the window. She reaches to push his arm out of the way, but it firmly grips the rose. If she pushes, he will only snap the rose’s stem sooner. She is trapped… nowhere to go. Oblivion lies before; a Devil's laughter reaches her ears.

  • 12:00 AM

Art is Motion - A Bigger Splash

David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, 1967
The final post. Here we go. I have no opening to bring anything new to the table in our series, Art is Motion. It's the final piece of the puzzle. It's supposed to tie things together, not add another string. For this final painting I chose a piece that I loved before I even knew that Barstow offered art history: David Hockney's A Bigger Splash.

As far as movement goes, it's a very still painting save for the water bursting forth from the pool. In fact, the painting seems to capture the aftermath of motion. Rather than depict the diver midway between board and pool, Hockney chooses instead to capture the beauty of the moment that immediately follows.

 I see this as an invitation to allow my mind to wander. I wander deep into the water. What lies beneath? It depends on my mood. I wander into the home. What kind of person lives there? Maybe I live there, who knows. I wander into the infinite blue of the sky beyond, just missing the palm trees on my way. A Bigger Splash creates for me a blank slate in which my movement through the painting becomes the movement of the painting. Of course, theres the splash there too, but maybe I made that.

On a much more basic level, I enjoy this painting because it reminds me of summer, of swimming, of sunburns. It reminds me of good times that I've spent with friends out in the cool waters of the neighborhood pool, doing flips and pulling tricks off the diving board. It reminds me of Wes Anderson flicks like Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, two movies that I first shared with people dear to me. This painting is too popular to ever truly be mine, but my reading and my memories are my own, and in that way I have carved out my own little niche in its appreciation.

As I write this only one day remains between summer and myself. I know not what the future holds, I know not what I plan to do with the lazy days stretched out before me like the length of the Leawood swimming pool, but I made a splash this past year. It's time to make a bigger one.

  • 12:00 AM

Art is Motion - Armored Train in Action

Gino Sevirini, Armored Train in Action, 1915
Alright folks, it's our second to last stop on this crazy train, and look what's waiting for us: The crazy train. The Futurists took a look at the world and said, "You know what we need? More car crashes." And what's the best way to crash more cars? You guessed it, make 'em go faster. Now with all the technological advances and the war and what-not, the futurist movement was almost inevitable. With a sharp focus on subverting culture through the obsession with the mechanization of life and human beings, and a fetish for destruction, the Futurists set about creating a manifesto that praised death, destruction, and the counterculture. Suddenly, motion in art had reached a whole new level, and that's the level that Gino Sevirini's Armored Train in Action occupies: Completely bonkers.

Just look at this thing. It's the pinnacle of everything that we've discussed over these past few blog posts. Severini's got moving color, lines dashing all over the place, guns blasting violently with the paths conveniently, and beautifully, traced out for the viewer. Armored Train is truly a site to see. Not only does it reflect the Futurist obsession with technology and violence, but grounds the obsession in the context of the war, and the use of technology to change the tide of battle. As the soldiers fly down the tracks - which we can only assume lay beneath the metal and smoke - on the train, they begin to become one with the vehicle, their guns molding into the steel armor. Meanwhile the yellows and blues bounce off of one another, occasionally overlapping, creating green amongst the mess, breathing movement into the very color scheme of the piece.

Whether the train is traveling away from or toward the viewer is unclear, as the cannons of an armored train car are located on both ends of the vehicle. I myself like to imagine that the train intends to carry me up and away through the top of the image, roaring through the abstract atmosphere of yellows and blues, reaching impossible speeds, careening around corners, derailing, soaring, crashing. And then I snap out of it. What a ride.

  • 12:00 AM