Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple

Giotto, Expulsions of the Money Changers from the Temple, 1304-06

"In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cods, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables." -- John 2:14-15

Here Giotto captures the full wrath of Jesus as he overturns the tables of the merchants whom set up shop within the temple. Cord in hand, Jesus readies to strike as the young merchant who cowers and raises his arms in surrender. The entrapped animals are freed and the goats and oxen wreak havoc and storm off to either side of the painting.

The painting is divided in half, the holy men on one side and the merchant trash on the other. Beautiful round romanesque arches adorn the the wall of the white temple. Up above we see a light circle on the holy side and a dark one on the other other. The clothing is bright and colorful with distinct ruffles, in contrast to the reds and yellows the merchant wears with his smoky grey with dark hair and beard. There is an element of depth to the painting as you see the arches stand out from the bright Giotto blue sky.

  • 7:00 AM

Last Judgment

Giotto, Last Judgment, circa 1305
Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and the scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire. -Revelation 20:11-15

At the sound of the seven Angels' trumpets, fire falls from the sky, seas turn to blood, the stars darken and a passage into the abyss of Hell cracks open. Out of Hell, creeps the seven headed dragon known to the world as evil incarnate, the devil Lucifer. He flies into the sky where a woman clothed in the remaining stars gives birth. War follows. Seven plagues and four horsemen slay the sinful. And finally, when the Lamb of God has won and the dragon defeated in this final crusade, God comes down upon his white throne to judge the living and the dead. This is the Biblical Book of Revelation, or the Christian apocalypse, which Giotto portrays in his Last Judgment.

In the early 14th Century, scenes from the Book of Revelations were not commonly drawn upon for the subjects of art. But then something came along to shift some of the focus away from the four gospels or the Old Testament. This something was Dante's Inferno, which happened to be written in the vernacular Italian language, not Latin. This made the epic poem accessible to all and, consequently, Dante's Inferno became widely popular. In response, readers became more interested in the particulars of Heaven and Hell. This could have led Giotto to dedicate a whole wall of the Arena Chapel to a scene from Revelations.

However, one problem exists, Dante's Inferno may have been published after Giotto painted the Arena Chapel. The date for Last Judgment is said to be 1305, while Dante started Inferno in 1308. But the Satan figure in the lower right hand corner of Last Judgment hints that Giotto was influenced by Dante. Giotto has painted the Devil eating a sinner while two dragons off to Satan's sides devour other sinners. Dante describes the Devil having three faces and chewing on three sinners. These sinners are Judas Iscariot, Brutas, and Cassius. The imagery is not exactly the same between Giotto and Dante, but the similarities exist. One influenced the other.

If Inferno had been written by the time Giotto painted Last Judgment or not, Giotto found this painting important and made it a centerpiece in the church. Anyone exiting would be forced to see Last Judgment because of the fresco's location. This brings down the weight of the sermon upon churchgoers as it reminds them of the final trial in which they are cast into Hell or flown into Heaven, but Jesus remains the center of the action. Diagonal lines descending from the top two angels unfolding the sky and carried through by the choir of angels hit the edges of the gothic style window and collide right at Jesus' waist line.

Then an upward motion from the cross, which divides the sinners from those about to be judged, directs even more attention to Jesus. Though this is a shame, since Giotto gives excellent detail to his Hell scene with all the tiny figures being damned. Maybe more detail existed in the left side where the paint has chipped off, but that is not the focus. Jesus is the focus. His facial expression coincides with Giotto's other work in that he was one of the first artists to show emotion in his subjects. In Last Judgment, Jesus looks upon those about to be judged with a stern parental stare. Jesus wishes for his children to prosper in Heaven, but he first must play the part of the judge.

  • 10:41 PM

Adoration of the Magi


Giotto, Adoration of the Magi, 1305

Complimented by a background of Giotto blue, Adoration of the Magi depicts the presentation of the Son of God to the three wise men. Even though he's the smallest figure, the eyes of surrounding important (haloed) characters, including the angel on Mary’s left, draw the eye to the swaddled newborn and his mother.

Above Joseph, the star followed by the three magi plummets in the direction of Jesus and his mother, ultimately leading the wise men to their destination. Madonna, shown in a faded blue gown, showcases Giotto’s early mastery of depth by drapery, an artistic element made known and popular by Giotto.

Sent by King Harrod, the three wise men find the infant Jesus and present him with gifts, as told in Matthew 2:11, 

“And when they were come into the house, they
saw the young child with Mary his mother, and
fell down, and worshipped him and when
they had opened their treasures, they presented
unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”

On a rock beneath the infant Jesus sits a crown that will be placed on the head of the King of Man when he becomes able. Even without it, his halo still exists, indicative of his early regality and the anticipation of his soon-to-be followers. Even in his infancy, Jesus earns the Adoration of the Magi.

  • 7:00 AM

Crucifixion

Giotto, Crucifixion, c.1350

"What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!" Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!" ---Matthew 27

The evil applauds, and the good mourns.

“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land." The story comes to a climax as all hope dies out, and justice is mocked, "Hail, King of the Jews!"now what? Fortunately, great stories always follow the similar pattern, Aragorn strikes back and sweeps the dark lord, Batman returns and saves Gotham, and why not Jesus? In fact, the extreme sadness and darkness of the Crucifixion adds more spice to the following plots: When God finally reveals and evil gets punished-"I told you, Jesus is the right guy. You picked the wrong side, and you are going to hell now."

No more jokes. Giotto painted the Crucifixion as one of a series of biblical stories on the wall of Arena Chapel. The cross vertically divides the painting into two balanced part, separates the Hole from the Evil. (Notice that there is also a divine figure with a halo among the evil soldiers. Research shows that Giotto uses the divine figure to stress the human side). Mary comes and touches Jesus's feet.

Jesus, as usual, is looking down at the good people. Angels with blurry legs hover around Jesus and forms a gentle curve. In addition, people's heads also form a line, which divides the work horizontally into half, which adds more balance to it. Altogether with vivid facial expressions and "Giotto-blue" background, the story of Crucifixion is well told.

  • 6:18 PM

Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple


In Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, Giotto portrays a young Mary entering the Temple of Jerusalem, where she would be consecrated and educated in her role as Mother of God. Her parents, Joachim and Anne, at the bottom of the stairs, guide the three-year-old Mary to the waiting arms of the priests. The New Testament does not relate this story, but several of the apocrypha do. A corresponding feast in celebration of this day exists, as well as a religious order, the Presentation Sisters. In this remarkable fourteenth-century fresco, Giotto displays a grasp of perspective and compositional techniques far ahead of his time, although perhaps still awkward to the modern eye.

The colors have remained vibrant over the years, allowing the deep reds on Anne's dress and the priest's robes to stand out and balance each other. Between them, the dress of the pure, virginal Mary remains the brightest white in the piece. The walls of the temple create a clear horizontal delineation between the sky and the ground, while the thin columns create a vertical barrier, creating four quadrants. In addition, the line of the staircase and the pointing hand of the figure on the right lead the eye to Mary, and each person's eyes focus on Mary, leaving the viewer in little doubt who the most important person in the painting may be. Giotto shows a truly remarkable level of skill in this fresco and in the details of the faces, the embellishments on the temple, and the folds of the clothing.

  • 7:00 AM

Ascension

Giotto Di Bondone, Ascension,1304-06
Giotto's painting, Ascension, portrays the scene in the New Testament where Jesus, literally, ascends into the skies. (Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:36-53, Acts 1:6-12, and Timothy 3:16 portray this event.) Forty days after Jesus suddenly wakes up from the dead, God plans for him to leave again, this time painlessly and in a much more extravagant fashion.

According to the Bible, Jesus brings his eleven apostles to Mount Olive, slightly outside of the city of of Jerusalem. There, he gives his farewell and leaves for heaven on a white cloud. His apostles are rather baffled, for they thought he was resurrected to save them from tyranny. Jesus tells them that wasn't the case, and they need to deal with it themselves, as he was only alive to serve the purpose of making a religious dent to the world. And with that note, he is whisked away on a fabulous white cloud.

Probably not pleased with this piece of news, his eleven disciples continue to stare at the sky in which Jesus disappeared to, as if he would come back down. Two angels appear in his place and ask why the eleven are still staring at the sky. The angels then tell them to do what Jesus instructed for one day, Jesus will rise again in the same manner that left. Until then, they should all fulfill their tasks.

Giotto's Ascension has one inconsistency with the bible. Here, the Virgin Mary (the lady in the blue) also kneels and looks upwards at Jesus. The bible does not include Mary as a presence on Mount Olive.

Like a majority of Giotto's paintings, the painting shows the evident blue sky- a classic mark of Giotto. There's also the rock at the bottom center of the painting, another revealing mark of Giotto. The movement of the fresco is angled upwards, as Jesus shoots towards heaven in a superman pose, while the Virgin Mary and the eleven apostles look upward. Even the footless angels that surround Jesus are slanted so that all of them are facing up toward the unseen heaven. To emphasize even more the upward rise of the painting perspective, the two angels on Earth point up as well. Jesus seems to be the foreground of the painting in that he seems to stand out more. The white cloud in which he uses to travel to heaven slightly blocks the halo of the angel on Earth.

  • 7:00 AM

The Mocking of Christ and Flagellation

Giotto, The Mocking of Christ and Flagellation, 1305

Giotto's The Mocking of Christ and Flagellation shows the moment where Jesus is being tormented. This moment,which is represented in the passion of Christ, becomes the moment when those who once followed Jesus have turned on him after the events of Judas' betrayal. In the picture Jesus wears his infamous crown of thorns, but he has the halo drawn around his head as well. The man in the red may be Pontius Pilate. 

Giotto's representation of the mocking of Christ is a lot less brutal than other images of the mocking of Christ. In most cases Jesus is usually portrayed wearing only a loin cloth with his back facing the viewer, which showing the whippings he has received. Here he wears ornate robes and sits taking the jeers and jabs. Also many people take part in the mocking and flagellation whereas typically two men, servants of Pontius Pilate, whip him while Pilate watches.

In the painting the viewer can see Giotto's blue skies in the upper portion. The people all make up the foreground, with Jesus as the main focus. His robes have more design in them and attract the eye more to him than the others.

  • 7:00 AM

Raising of Lazarus


Giotto, Raising of Lazerus, 1304-1306

"Jesus knew God would vindicate him. He heard of the illness of Lazarus, Mary’s brother. Mary entreated him to cure Lazarus, but he chose to wait two days to go to Bethany. He allowed Lazarus to die to display his divinity to the people of Bethany by enacting a miracle. After confusing his disciples by telling them Lazarus slept, he clarified: 'Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.'”  - John 11:14-15.

He arrived four days after the man’s death. The townspeople wept; Martha scolded Jesus for letting her brother die. Jesus wept, too. It seems he tricked the entire village; despite his weeping he never once doubted the miracle. He went to the tomb and opened the door, commanding Lazarus to come forth. Lazarus emerged, covered in cloth, but revived four days after his death.

Giotto’s Raising of Lazarus, painted between 1304 and 1306, depicts Lazarus when he exits the cave. In the foreground, two jubilant boys deposit the stone that covered the cave in which Lazarus lay. In the middle ground, Jesus and his followers on the left watch as Lazarus emerges. Lazarus’ friends bear astounded expressions. In the background, a mountain with three trees pushes the piece upward, even though all the action takes place in the lower half of the painting. The line of the mountain points directly to Jesus, making Jesus the focal point of the piece. Giotto creates lifelike clothing with realistic, intricate shading on the folds of the fabric. While the sky has obviously fallen victim to time, a whisper of Giotto’s recognizable deep blues remains. In the shading and the unique expressions, this work displays Giotto’s mastery of fresco.

  • 7:00 AM

Kiss of Judas


Giotto, Kiss of Judas, 1306

“While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”- Luke 22:47-48



Anger, frustration, betrayal, and chaos. Among the turbulent scene, two figures seem isolated and oblivious from the rest. The weapons that penetrate that background don't seem to faze them as they share an intimate moment. Giotto's The Arrest of Christ or better known as Kiss of Judas memorializes the great betrayal of Jesus by one of hisdisciples. Giotto paints the fresco with a depiction so clear that the viewer feels the moment unfold before them. The scene show us that Judas hasn't even been given the opportunity to kiss Christ yet. There is a clear relation to the doctrine of the gospel in the fact that people must connect on a personal level to Christ, opposed to have someone feed them religion.

The fresco has an action rarely seen in Giotto's works. The figures appear ready to jump from the wall at any given moment. Jesus, already aware of Judas' intentions, receives his betrayer with open arms. Giotto places Jesus and Judas in the center as the focal point by creating a space where they can be enclosed  He sets up the two characters to appear as far in the mob as possible, which heightens the pair's isolation. Jesus’ faces is highlighted by the stark colors of the helmets and robes that surround him.

While looking at the scene as a whole, one feels overwhelmed by the mob and the energy that they bring with them. Giotto captures a time of extreme confusion; however he also shows the viewer a complete different side - Jesus quietly forgiving his betrayer, which gives us a feeling of peace. People who view the fresco all know how the story ends, but Giotto gives them a picture that makes the words come to life.


  • 8:00 AM

Flight into Egypt

Giotto, Flight into Egypt, c.1305
This scene from Giotto di Bondone's Life of Christ series in the Arena Chapel depicts Joseph, Mary, and Jesus being led to Egypt by an angel. King Herod has heard of Jesus' birth, and, fearing that the infant will one day depose him, orders that all the boys under the age of two be killed. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take his wife and child and flee to Egypt.

Mary and Jesus are the center of this painting. Easily the largest figures in the piece, Mary and Jesus are brought even further into the foreground by the mountain framing them from behind. This same mountain is home to Giotto's signature trees. Giotto creates a sense of depth, using the mountains to suggest a background, layering of the travelers to make a middle and foreground. Note the sloping nature of the path in foreground. It seems to drop off just in the foreground of Jesus' group, furthering the illusion that Giotto has captured a moment in time rather than painted Jesus and his family on a two-dimensional wall.

Giotto also displays mastery of emotional depth. Joseph appears obviously worried, Mary has that intense protective mother look , and the rest of the party are immensely expressive, with faces engaged and hands gesturing.

Giotto organized the fresco symmetrically. The vertical line of the central mountain carries down through the upright body of Mary. The angel in the sky balances the mountain in the left background, and the three travelers on Mary's left balance Joseph and his companion on her right.

Giotto's mastery of the fresco shines through this piece, showing his attention to detail, symmetry, depth, and emotion.
  • 8:00 AM

Ludwigskirche

Wassily Kandinsky, Ludwigskirche in Munich, 1908
Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky, is known as one of the first abstract painters and for his tendency to paint socially unacceptable paintings. With his first few compositions, he chose  government raids as his subject matter, with an apocalyptic theme, which resulted in confiscation and destruction of his work. Kandinsky used passages from Jewish and Christian texts as influence his themes of doom.

His theory of painting was that eat color had a musical characteristic. Looking at each color was like hearing a different chord, which explains his wide use of bright and dull colors. Along with these musical connections, he saw shapes as having mood altering abilities, as circles were calming. Kandinsky was known for his emotional attachments to paintings, one in particular painted by Monet.

Ludwigskirche in Munich depicts of crowds and how lost individuals get within these massive groups.

  • 8:00 AM

Mary Cassatt with Small Dog and The Yellow Wallpaper

Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt with Small Dog, 1890
Though her career as an artist started with little support, Mary Cassatt searched to create art in a different light than what her schooling in Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts gave her. After traveling Europe and expanding her skills, she became intrigued by Edgar Degas and his compelling impressionist paintings. His inspiration fed her and helped develop a close relationship between the two.
 
This portrait of Cassatt displays her lonesome and in an isolated bedroom, much like the setting of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's haunting story, "The Yellow Wallpaper." Cassatt's gloomy expression, as well as her dress, fixes the mood on her wanting out of this space. "The Yellow Wallpaper" sets the same stage with the woman originally feeling trapped in the nursery before the wallpaper consumes her mind. Cassatt's expression also appears calmed by the dog, much like the woman is calmed by John, "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction," the narrator writes.

The dull colors Degas uses match with the masking of Cassatt's face and provide the picture with serious levels of discomfort. The colors described in "The Yellow Wallpaper" create a similar feeling, as they are "repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight."

  • 8:00 AM

The Creation of the World and The Road


Hieronymus Bosch, Creation of the World, 1490-1510



"The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it." - Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Hieronymus
 Bosch's work, Creation of the World, lies painted on the outer panels to his famous triptych, Garden of Heavenly Delights. However, Creation of the World consists of a work of art in its own right, in its curiously muted grey tones. The bleakness of the world's landscape on the third day of its creation brings to mind the depiction of the Earth after its devastation in The Road. There, the bleak, ash-covered scenery, described in Cormac McCarthy's understated, staccato prose, results from some unknown destruction bringing civilization to its knees. But the pristine mountain streams hint that some hope remains for the rebirth of the world. Here, the world's raw, dreary landscape, with its curiously mineral-like textures and colors, suggests a grander panorama yet to come. Indeed, the triptych inside explodes in a riot of color, complete with Bosch's signature fantastic animals and hybrid creatures.


The undeniable religious themes in Bosch's paintings, and indeed in most paintings of the time, are echoed in The Road as well, where a deep spirituality reveals itself even in the grim, oppressive atmosphere of the novel. In Creation of the World, the figure of God looks upon the nascent Earth, a thin disc of land encased in a fragile sphere, with an almost morose expression and posture. His stance suggests resignation, as though already his creation moves under its own power and its fate cannot be changed. The inscription, "Ipse dixit, et facta sunt: ipse mandávit, et creáta sunt," or "For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast," from Psalm 33, corroborates this. Once God began the process of creation, it could not be undone. 
This heavy inevitability lays over the entire narrative of The Road, as the boy and his father struggle to survive and carry the fire.


  • 8:00 AM

Evening Wind and The Ducks

Edward Hopper, Evening Wind, 1921

"He got out of bed and went to the window. It was black outside and he could see nothing, not even the rain. But he could hear it, cascading off the roof and into a puddle under the window. He could hear it all over the house. He rain his finger across the drool on the glass.


When he got back into bed, he moved close to her and put his hand on her hip. 'Hon, wake up,' he whispered. But she only shuddered and moved over farther to her own side. She kept on sleeping. 'Wake up,' he whispered. 'I hear something outside.'" -
Raymond Carver, The Ducks

Clashing violently with the black walls of the room, the snow white portal to the outside holds no comfort or warmth in its depths. Only the elements and the howling winds, which thrust the curtains into the room with each gust, lay in wait outside the home. And caught in nature's crossfire the woman sits on all fours, vulnerable, naked and alone. She will find no comfort in the sheets that share the same snowy color as the wild unknown. There is no escape for her.

When I first saw this sketch I was reminded of Raymond Carver's short story "The Ducks," which explores the relationship of an unnamed man and woman through the death of the man's colleague and a night spent making love during a heavy rain storm. As in many Carver stories, the couple has a broken relationship, one lacking real love; instead their connection gets built upon lust and convenience. Though they are together, they are completely alone, just like the figure in Hopper's work. The woman seems to harbor genuine feelings for her lover, but he remains distant and cold to her, at least until a failed attempt at love making. Deep in the night he goes to the window and becomes frightened by what lays beyond, and finally turns to her for comfort, but finds that he cannot wake her up.

He has only himself.

Vulnerable....Naked....

Alone.

  • 8:00 AM

Jeune Fille Vert and The Awakening

Tamara de Lempicka, Jeune Fille Vert, 1932

Tamara de Lempicka painted Jeune Fille Vert in 1932. Lempicka's style has been defined as soft cubism and synthetic cubism. This painting displays her Art Deco style. She was inspired by Picasso yet she thought that his style of painting was destructive, so she sought a different approach to cubism using bright colors and hard lines. 


In the painting the young girl in green becomes the focus, and the onlooker is drawn to her colorful form. The colors in the painting are bright and vivid and the greens and yellows in the woman's dress are hard to ignore, especially the way the dress fits her frame  and accentuates her shape. It is almost as if the woman is naked because the outlines of what the dress hides underneath are clear as if the dress is shear. The colors in the background are dark which helps keep the focus on the girl where the colors are. The lines in the painting are sharp and hard. 


The girl in the painting seems to have a look of determination in her eyes. Just viewing her in the image alone and almost looking up to her as the focus she gains much more importance than her time period may allow her. In Kate Chopin's The Awakening the same idea of a strong, independent woman becomes a main theme. Chopin writes: "A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before." The girl in the painting has this same sense of drive a confident look of determination in her eyes. We get the feeling she, too, will swim far out. 


  • 8:00 AM

After the Battle and Mrs. Dalloway

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, After the Battle, 1923

“He sang. Evans answered from behind the tree. The dead were in Thessaly, Evans sang, among the orchids. There they waited till the War was over, and now the dead, now Evans himself—‘For God’s sake don’t come!’ Septimus cried out. For he could not bear to look upon the dead” - Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

World War I shattered the global psyche. In the years prior to the war, people believed that intricate alliance systems and economic interdependence had ushered in a new era of peace. In the years following the most brutal war anyone had ever seen, Europe and the rest of the world struggled to move on.

Despite the horrifying carnage, life continued, and Mrs. Dalloway and After the Battle portray this balance. In After the Battle, Petrov-Vodkin uses the war colors to illustrate the safety and security of the surviving soldiers. However, the shadow of their fallen comrade looms in the background, weighing down the piece with its cold steely-blue color. The warm colors initially draw the eye, but after looking at it for a while, the figures in the background dominate the piece.

Mrs. Dalloway and her friends in postwar London have also left thoughts of battles behind them. Mrs. Dalloway prepares for a dinner party; London seems serene and calm. However, under the beautiful exterior lie deep scars in its psyche. Septimus Smith is one of these scars. He has brought home a woman from Italy with him. His life is seemingly charmed, but he suffers from deep mental illness brought on partially by the death of his good friend Evans in the war. He feels Evans approaching him, stealing happiness from him.

Both works, created several years after the war, serve as a metaphor for Europe at large. While superficially, normal life had begun to return, the war had changed the world irrevocably. Even when people put their grief aside for a time, the shadows of those lost in the war remained.

  • 8:00 AM

Hotel Lobby and The Lost Art of Reading

Edward Hopper, Hotel Lobby, 1943
Like most of Hopper's painting, the sense of isolation and loneliness are well depicted. The foyer is dominated by cool colors. The decoration is unusual in terms of a hotel lobby, which  should be warmer and more customer-friendly. The green line on the floor segments the couple from the girl and leads our eye towards the darkness and uncertainty in the back. The couple seems anxious. The husband cannot sit still, and the wife's red dress only makes the frame bleaker and more alienated. Harsh light, rigid lines. All above, Hopper creates a carefully constructed uncomfortable environment.

However, if you look closely at the blond girl in the right corner, sitting with her legs crossed, reading a book and with a flush on her face, she seems quite comfortable. Contrasting to the couple waiting desperately for something unknown, the blond girl looks relaxed and occupies her time with reading. She is by herself, oblivious to her surroundings, but we might also tell that her minds travels through another world and temporarily escapes from this desperate environment through reading

In the book The Lost Art of Reading, David L.Ulin describes his feeling about reading: " I recall the joy of contemplating that portrait, the way it made me feel as if a world had opened up in the palm of my hands. It is this, I think, that draws us to books in the first place, their nearly magical power to transport us to other landscapes, other lives." We will never know if Hopper suggests reading as the ultimate way to save us from this modern, lonely world. Nevertheless, being in such a world today, we might think about reading as an option besides playing with your phone and looking for friends on Facebook when you are waiting in a hotel lobby. Calm down, pick up a book, and treat it like your temporary company - not necessarily to learn anything, but to help keep the loneliness at bay.

  • 12:11 PM

Mark Rothko and White Noise


Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1968
What do you see? Behind the vibrant scarlet and haunting black, lies the story of a lonely, neurotic, and insightful man. The painting hits you, and leaves you dumbfounded while you search for words to describe how you feel. The colors drown you in their dark pallete, and make you gasp for air. The massive rectangles berate the viewer from their silent background. 

The viewer feels as though Rothko is in on the secrets of life. He put life onto a canvas for the world to decipher. Some of his work rings happier and lighter. Yet in his work Untilted, painted in 1968, there are no peaceful undertones. Instead Rothko paints a picture of the eternal truth, - every human being is dying. The canvas forces the viewer to see death is imminent and everywhere. Much like Jack Gladney in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise, there comes a time when people must accept their fate.  White Noise written in 1985, focuses on the life of Jack Gladney, a college professor, as he confronts his fear of death. The obsession with mortality becomes heightened when a drug called Dylar becomes available to help alleviate the fear of dying. As Delilo writes, “No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die”. There is no way to avoid it, and we are intelligent enough to realize death has a place in our lives. The realization separates humans from animals. 

Rothko does an imaginable deed painting death. Human suffering comes to life on the canvas. Yet, maybe Rothko is giving the people the push they need. If you can confront death, and acknowledge it, perhaps you can truly live. 

  • 8:00 AM

The Blue House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Marc Chagall, The Blue House, 1917
"After a very long time I stood up again because I knew where I was going. I was going to the summerhouse. I had not been near the summerhouse for six years, but Charles has blackened the world and only the summerhouse would do... when he saw me turning onto the overgrown path which led there he went another way as though he has something important to do and would meet me somewhere later."- Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Chagall was one of the first painters to use such vibrant and pure colors. In this scene, the house on the right is painted blue, which gives the feeling of isolation. The person-like figure in the open door way seems to be all alone. The house itself is run down, evident from the mismatched pieces on the roof and siding. The red brick on the left side of the structure, gives the sense of stability; however, it cuts through the house at more geometrical angles against the roundness of the logs.

The city in the background, looks grand and locked compared to the blue house. The feeling of being trapped in the city comes across through the river, the green and yellow cliff, and by the blue and red wall. The wall of the city and the roofs, complement the house. The reflection of the city in the river gives the impression of seeing the true city which looks darker, and gloomy. That feeling of being away from the city matches Mary Katherine's desire for isolation from the dangerous mob.

  • 8:00 AM

Lichtzwang and All the Pretty Horses

Anselm Kiefer, Lichtzwang, 1999
It's getting rarer and rarer to be able to look up at the night sky and see stars. Really see them. Sure, a wink or two here and there piercing through the smog could do the trick, but there's something about being able to  lay back and take stock of the heavens that's truly moving. Too often we move about in our own orbits thinking we're the center of the universe. The night sky gently, but beautifully, reminds us that we are next to nothing compared to the raging balls of gas millions of light years away. Anselm Kiefer captures the majesty of the night tableau with his panoramic painting, Litchtzwang.

When I stumbled across this painting on Artstor on a late Thursday evening, my mind immediately jumped to a striking passage in Cormac McCarthy's novel, All the Pretty Horses. As I viewed the painting slightly askew from my head's resting place on my outstretched arm, I realized I was staring at the Milky Way. The more I took the painting in, the more my eyes unfocused - most likely due to lack of sleep - and the image on my screen started to come alive with movement. For a minute, I felt like John Grady Cole as

“…he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.”


And then I blinked. 

The magic of the night sky and paintings like this is that the harder you look, the less you see. If you stare intently at a star, it'll start to fade. There are biological reasons for this - shenanigans involving photoreceptors and sweet spots in the your vision - but the philosophical repercussions interest me more. This painting is supposed to be experienced like you would the night sky. You need to be completely relaxed, in good company, and you can't be looking for anything in particular. Litchtzwang puts things into perspective and reminds all of us to stop obsessing over the details of the day-to-day and step back to see the big picture - because nine times out of ten it's much more meaningful. 

  • 8:00 AM

The Old Guitarist and Being Dead


Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903
"They are the dark co-ordinates of one straight line. Grief is death eroticized. And sex is only shuffling off this mortal coil before its time to plummet to the post-coital afterlife." - Jim Crace, Being Dead  

White, expressionless, and poisoned by life, the old man has nothing left to give and has nearly lost it all. Much like a last dying word, the old guitarist strums his last note, echoing followed by a still silence. The Blue period of Pablo Picasso brought forth The Old Guitarist as a testimony to his friends abrupt death. The lonely innocent figure remains, his lifeless body purging any remaining breath.

The deep blues and greens depict a somber mood, a loss of warmth and humanity, stone cold silence awaits. The decay of the pale fragile body are evident in the exposure of his bare corpse. With tattered and torn clothing, his head slouched, unable to resist the relentless sudden loss of  animation. Progressing into the darkness the paintings vertical lines separate life and death, while his body slowly rots, leaving behind nothing more that an unmourned soul.

  • 8:00 AM

5 Thoughts of Home and American Psycho

Susan Morgan, 5 Thoughts of Home, 1987
His text starts with Talking Heads' lyrics, "And as things fell apart Nobody paid much attention,"and Bret Easton Ellis emphasizes anonymity and its consequences. Susan Morgan directly plays on that in her piece. The characters are identical in every way but one - their minds. A simplistic piece, the alert mind of just one human strikes the onlooker, the strong verticals separating, but also grouping the characters. The designs within them are also perfectly similar, much like in the novel, with most characters having most personality traits in common - especially greed.

Patrick Bateman is the same as all the other priveleged, materialistic immoral folks he makes company with, save for the gruesome murders he commits without restraint. He is painfully aware of the hypocracy he thrives within, noting that "individuality [is] no longer an issue... Justice is dead... Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence... Surface, surface, surface..." His bleak awareness is simply expressed in the piece, the small, bright mind the only the other characters, along with a human form lit in his mind, while the others are dark ideas and homes, with a blank background representing the blankness of their "senseless" world.

  • 8:00 AM

Exodus and Nineteen Eighty Four

Rem Koolhaas, Exodus, 1975
Eerily dark, Rem Koolhaas's Exodus radiates of nothing but fear and power. Koolhaas's art differs from others in that his paintings are more like sculptures. Looking closely, Koolhaas creates the Exodus with photograph cut outs and odd texture backgrounds. On even closer inspection, the background seems to have traces of newspaper cuttings pasted backwards. Three faint lines of text are slightly hidden, blending in with the background. Two words are visibly outlined, "showing" and "cancerous" - words that people often use in detrimental context.

On first sight, the drawing depicts a throng of men walking uniformly in line towards an unknown destination. However the path they currently march on emits bleakness and a loss of identity. They all wear the same hat, the same dark jacket, shuffling in the same direction, in the same way. Were the painting to move, perhaps they would even blink and breath in sync.

The way that Koolhaas portrays these men, as if they did not have a speckle of hope in them, screams of 1984 by George Orwell. The suffocating barriers of the wall, the obvious men in power on top of the wall, and the endless background all added another octave to the similarity to 1984.

Orwell writes, "A nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting- three hundred million people all with the same face."

Koolhaas could use the sentence as a caption. In the shadows lies a broken ancient sculpture seemingly in a rubbish bin - perhaps a symbol of a dying intellectual world. The men move away from knowledge and slowly enter into a world, like Winston, of lies and ignorance.

The Exodus from knowledge begins.

  • 8:00 AM

Breton Dancing Girls and The Crucible


Paul Gauguin, Breton Dancing Girls, 1888
"Now listen, you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam's dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let any of you breathe a word or the edge of a word about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night. I saw the Indians smash my dear parents heads on the pillow next to mine, I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down." - Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Using what seemed a collective plea for justice, Abagail Williams led her friends in hand to hand treachery. In Breton Girls Dancing, Paul Gauguin paints three young women, dancing in a circle. One on the left, Mary Warren, reaches away, attempting to pull from the loop of untruths while Betty, pictured in the center, looks to Abagail for direction. Abagail Williams smirks toward the ground, the earth, the devil - er paradigm throughout Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Abagail’s isolation from the rest of the group becomes evident in her apron, a different color from the other girls. The only blonde of the group, Abagail also holds the hands of both girls, indicating her control over the entire circle. Her pull alone dictates the direction of the girls.

Gauguin’s bold vertical line created by the steeple in the background visually separates Mary from the other two girls, emphasizing the divide created by Mary’s initial disloyalty to the church. The diagonal line descending from the top left corner opposed by the ascending line in the bottom left indicate Mary’s two potential paths: up to the green hills, or down with the rest of her comrades. Abagail and Betty, however, look to the right, where the hay will inevitably meet the falling hill and continue downwards. Even the dark cloud in the background halts just before Mary’s head, leaving her the only one with potential for escape from the vicious cycle.

  • 8:00 AM

Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime and The Dark Knight Returns

Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1808
"My parents... taught me a different lesson... lying on this street--shaking in deep shock--dying for no reason at all--they showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to..."
-Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

The alien dark corners of a road. Little light to see by. Is it coming from the streetlamp? Or the moon? Or is it the ghostly glow of a victim that used to be a person? A trickle of blood runs down the chest, marking the killing shot. The body is naked, stripped of everything, whether those be the pearls around the neck, the wallet in the pocket, or even the clothes on the back. Despite the ongoing motion of the world, crimes such as these call for justice. Somewhere a TV is going. The reporter's words are just loud enough to be heard. "Ironically, today also marks the tenth anniversary of the last recorded sighting of the Batman"

A common street thug shot down and killed the mother and father of Bruce Wayne, inspiring the boy to become an agent of justice, like the angle in Prud'hon's Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime. When Batman retires in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Gotham City becomes the hellhole it had previously been before the beginning of Wayne's crusade. But the Dark Knight can only watch his city be consumed by evil for so long. After ten years, Wayne takes up the cape and cowl once more to save his city and prove to a dying world that unbiased justice and order are more than just an illustration in a comic book. Meanwhile, Superman has prostituted himself out to the U.S. government in order to uphold his own fight against crime. While having good intentions, Superman becomes the government's vengeful sword, completing the scale in Justice and Divine Vengeance. 

Prud'hon paints two angles, the left one being Justice and the other divine vengeance. In between the two stands a dark triangle that creates a scale. These two forces are fighting for dominance in a flawed legal system. Before the French Revolution, the nobles ruled the courts and government, which thus were discriminated against the bourgeoisie. Now, in 1808, Napoleon rules France and the new order must decide how to treat the old nobility. Meanwhile in The Dark Knight Returns, Batman comes back into an age where the government obsesses over fighting communism in foreign lands. U.S. leaders go so far as to start a nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. endangering the lives of its own citizens. Divine vengeance, the heavenly angle with the sword and the man of steel who could move worlds, blinds the people and tips the scale by the sheer belief in its own divinity. But if one could see, he would notice the killer in Prud'hon's painting wears the same shade of red as the vengeful angel does. Their mutual violence is linked. Justice gazes upon vengeance with a look of horror at what the angle has become.

The Dark Knight Falls, Frank Miller, 1986
Vengeance must be stopped at all costs or the law becomes the very thing it once tried to prevent. As Superman massacres Soviet Armies because of the U.S.'s personal vendetta, Batman reclaims a city thought to be lost. Eventually, these forces must collide. Justice takes on the supposedly "divine" vengeance, the god like man from the stars. The war with the soviets does not go well. They cannot fight off an army led by Superman so instead they drop a nuclear bomb on American Soil. Superman manages to redirect this bomb elsewhere, but the fallout still creates chaos in the streets of Gotham. Batman restores order in record time, but the U.S. government cannot have a masked vigilante showing up the federal government. Therefore they send Superman to take care of him. The two fight and Wayne recalls how the two "could have changed the world... now...look... at us... I've become... a political liability... and you... you're a joke."

The dead victim in Justice and Divine Vengeance does not smile. This is not a joke to him. This is his life and it is over. So are Wayne's parents' lives. No matter how far justice can go and horrible crime can look, one must keep justice alive in their actions.

  • 8:00 AM

The Last Supper and Catch-22

Sebastiano Ricci, The Last Supper, 1713/1714

"Will you speak up, please? I still couldn't hear you."
"Yes, sir. I said that I didn't say that you couldn't punish me."
"Just what the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm answering your question, sir."
"What question?"
" 'Just what the hell did you mean, you bastard, when you said we couldn't punish you?' " said the corporal who could take shorthand, reading from his steno pad.
"All right," said the colonel. "Just what the hell did you mean?"
"I didn't say you couldn't punish me, sir."
"When?" asked the colonel.
"When what, sir?"
"Now you're asking me questions again."
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm afraid I don't understand your question."
"When didn't you say we couldn't punish you? Don't you understand my question?"
"No, sir. I don't understand."
"You've just told us that. Now suppose you answer my question."
"But how can I answer it?"
"That's another question you're asking me."
"I'm sorry, sir. But I don't understand how to answer it. I never said you couldn't punish me."
"Now you're telling us when you did say it. I'm asking you to tell us when you didn't say it."
Clevinger took a deep breath. "I always didn't say you couldn't punish me, sir."
"That's much better, Mr. Clevinger, even if it is a barefaced lie."
 - Joseph Heller, Catch-22

This passage from Heller's celebrated novel communicates a unique kind of discord associated with bureaucracy and government and leaders who have no idea how to lead. The confusion evident in the passage, and throughout the whole text, owes its existence such incompetence.

Ricci's vision of the ever-popular last supper displays a similar kind of chaos. Ricci offers a glimpse into the world of the elite, and in the realm of Christianity, who's more important than Christ and the twelve disciples? The painting feels different from other versions of the scene, like the peaceful breaking of the bread, or the intense accusation of Judas. Instead, Ricci has the disciples in a state of obvious confusion,  murmuring and discussing amongst themselves some alarming subject, and one disciple to Jesus' left has collapsed, exasperated or distressed, into the crook of his own arm. A chair has been overturned as another disciple (possibly Judas - note the tightly grasped money bag) makes a hasty escape. Jesus' eyes, when examined closely, appear to be crossed out with little black X's, suggesting that, despite his relatively calm appearance, he too cannot see the truth. Nevertheless, he still raises his finger as if to teach.

No one controls either situation, yet no one will admit how little they know. Each leader refuses to expose his confusion, even when doing so only furthers the chaos of each situation.

  • 8:00 AM

Transfiguration and The Great Gatsby


Transfiguration, by Raphael. 1516-1520
In 1500s, Renaissance Art reflected the Catholic Church. In the Transfiguration, the feet of Jesus represent devotion to Christ, told in John 10:42.   

Either in the sixteenth or twenty-first century, God’s eyes focus on society.  The Great Gatsby reminds “The Roaring 20s” that God watches immorality and the inattention towards Him.  Although the Great Gatsby focuses on the 1920s, this concept applies to the modern day. In Transfiguration, Jesus looks down on the good and leaves the bad in darkness.  The devotion to Jesus’s feet directly relates to the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg watching society.

The Transfiguration illustrates followers’ hands, necks, chests, or body angles toward Jesus’s Feet.  Attention is directed to Jesus.  The Light of God intensifies to the believers and fades to the sinners.  This painting tells us, that the eyes of Christ always remain on us.  Fitzgerald expresses a similar sentiment in The Great Gatsby.  “‘I spoke to her,’ he muttered, after a long silence. ‘I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window’ – with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it – ‘and I said God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!’  Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.  ‘God sees everything,’ repeated Wilson ‘That’s an advertisement,’ Michaelis assured him. Something made him turn away from the window and look back into the room. But Wilson stood there a long time, his face close to the window pane, nodding into the twilight.”        

The reward of believing and following God’s can be seen in the peaceful sunlight behind the gloomy dark world.  Just as T.J. Eckleburg looks down on his domain, Jesus (shown in The Transfiguration) stares down on earth until the Day of Judgment.      

  • 8:00 AM