Untitled (from Selma March)

Untitled, from 1965 Selma March, Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson received national attention for his photography at the young age of 19, after winning a Kodak film contest for a picture of an owl. This first step began a long run of work documenting communities, particularly in New York, and social strife. His work during the summer of 1965 documented the Civil Rights Movement just before Voting Rights Act. This body of work perhaps has gained the most notoriety out of any other artist covering that monumental event.

Depicted here is a Civil Rights marcher, almost definitely the son or grandson of a slave. His black suit contrasts against the sea of white rain coats behind him, drawing attention solely to him. The composition is almost flawless, perhaps a narrower print would have been better. The background has a tendency to draw the eye away, but the photograph would lose so much if it had been staged. It perfectly encompasses the spirit of the movement. A sense of martyrdom is reflected from the white coats, giving them a sense of purity.
  • 7:00 PM

Delta Theta

Morris Louis, Delta Theta, 1961

Morris Louis was known for his immense amount of work within the world of Color Field painting. Towards the beginning of his career as an artist, he had not yet found his style and drew odd sketches of figures and painted people. Around the mid-1950’s, his inspiration from Rothko, Pollock, Newman, and others, allowed him to realize that he loved the idea of free-flowing color and tonal relations. He said, "The more I paint the more I'm aware of a difference in my approach and others. Am distrustful of over-simplifications but nonetheless think that there is nothing very new in any period of art: what is true is that it is only something new for the painter and that this thin edge is what matters." 

He worked with the the three styles of Abstract Expressionism, Color Field Painting, and Lyrical Abstraction. From these styles he created a five series grouping of his works in which each we called, Veil, Floral, Unfurled, Stripe, and Column. Between 1955 and 1957 he ended up destroying a lot of his paintings, but continued to work on and complete the Veil series shortly after. 

Louis’s Delta Theta is one of his most famous and recognizable works of art in his Unfurled series. He was known for altering the canvas he used, so for this he folded the canvas and then poured different colors of acrylic down the sides to create the dripping effect. By not using up the whole canvas, Louis took on the amazing concept of pictorial space and how an artist does not need to cover the whole canvas.
  • 7:00 AM

Raemar Pink White

James Turrell, Raemar Pink White, 1969

Bright, pink light. It blinds you, but it also draws it in. It’s like opening your eyes in the morning. It’s like a deep pink sunset. It’s the white like that peaks out from magic door #1, #2, and #3. Which one will you choose? Which door holds the bright white light of your dreams? Walking inside a James Turrell exhibit is like opening that magical door.

Raemar Pink White is a shallow space construction piece by James Turrell. For these pieces, Turrell makes small architectural modifications to create a space that is then filled with light. A shallow space construction piece is viewed from the rear of a large room which controlled lighting challenges the viewer’s depth perception.

James Turrell, the King of Light. For years Turrell has been taking viewers on a journey of self discovery as they rediscover light and their surroundings. Turrell is one of the first artists to look deeply at light and use it as a medium for art. Turrell focuses on the sensory experiences of light and “he creates opportunities for viewers to experience light as a primary physical presence rather than as a tool with which to see or render other phenomena.” By isolating light he pushes viewers to think about the properties of light itself by examining transparency, volume, and color.

I think Turrell resembles Rothko, if Rothko used light. He creates huge pieces covering walls with bold and bright colors. The colors engulf you. The colors and the light is all that you see, but you feel the movement of the light too.

I was fortunate to visit a Turrell exhibit at the LACMA in 2014, but that was before I took art history. Unfortunately, I walked through the exhibit without the knowledge to understand the genius of Turrell. But, I do not think that took away too much from the exhibit. Even without knowing Turrell’s motives as an artist, I still felt the light, movement, and color. It’s not always about understanding art, as much as feeling the art. Turrell’s works prove that art is about feeling, seeing, and learning.
  • 7:00 PM

Three Flags

Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958

Three years after painting Flag and White Flag, Jasper Johns created my personal favorite among his works: Three Flags. The painting is technically fantastic with clean lines, hues of time-faded white fabric, and unbelievable depth extracted from an object as flat as a flag. The painting jumps out at you—flies into your personal space—and has a freshness in its style. With stars and stripes on stars and stripes on stars and stripes, one can see nothing but good old-fashioned patriotism. So that was Johns's goal, right? Good. Simple analysis—moving on.

Surprisingly, love/hatred of America was not the idea behind the work. During the first part of his career, Johns used "concrete" subjects—familiar items from everyday life—to withdraw emotion from his paintings. Since they already feel comfortable with the image in front of them, viewers feel an automatic association with Johns's works.

The emotional response elicited by Three Flags also results from the highly symbolic nature of its subject matter. Observers' reactions differ dramatically based on their national allegiance and the point in time at which they view the painting. For any person, though, it is difficult not to have personal experiences tied to a symbol as omnipresent as the American flag. Although he tried to remove emotion by using clear, tangible objects, Jasper Johns created a highly affecting piece with Three Flags, whose simplicity generates ever-changing reception.

  • 7:00 AM

The Matter of Time

Richard Serra, The Matter of Time, 2005

Richard Serra is a post-abstract expressionist artist who embraces minimalism with his large sculptures. Serra has created much controversy over the years but his sculptures are still widely popular all over the world. He is most known for working with large-scale steel panels and welding. Sculptures such as The Matter of Time created in 2005 have gained Serra much attention and have progressed his art career. It is constructed out of weathering steel, and when seen from afar, look like iron fossils from an ancient mechanic creature. The Matter of Time is an eight-part sculpture that sits in the largest gallery of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The sculpture contains another one of Serra’s famous works, Snake. While many of Serra’s work led to harsh critiques, critics praised this one as appropriate for the particular setting.

Because this blog post is purely based off of looking at pictures, it is difficult to fully experience the sculpture how Serra intended. All parts of the sculpture are meant to be experienced through movement. Unlike typical art that is meant to be looked at and analyzed, Serra’s work should be felt through motion. He wants the sculpture to change as the viewer walks through the thin steel plates. A viewer should feel differently at the beginning of the viewing process than at the end. The movement between the eight parts develops a feeling of space in motion. The entire room is part of the sculptural field, and the negative space should also be treated as part of the art. Serra does not put a focus on just one aspect of the sculpture, but of all parts of the room that work together to create the experience. All of the pieces are deliberately placed to move the viewer throughout. They are supposed to see the evolution of the forms, moving from a simple double ellipse to a complex spiral. Serra’s sculpture creates a fascinating and changing experience from beginning to end, making it one of Serra’s most well-known works.
  • 7:00 PM

Paul IV

Chuck Close, Paul IV, 2001

About 5 years ago, I was an avid reader of the web-comic Incidental Comics. In one particular comic titled "Self Portrait" Grant Snider features a man attempting to paint himself in the styles of various artists. The last one (pasted below) is in the style of Chuck Close.  

Grant Snider, Self Portrait, 2013
I was captivated immediately. However, I had no clue who Snider was paying homage to, and I had no way of finding out-- granted, I didn't try very hard. A couple of google searches and I gave up. I figured if I was meant to fall in love, the artist would present himself to me. And he did. 

At Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, summer of 2015,  I saw it. Love at first sight. 

Chuck Close.

The name rolled off my tongue, as if it belonged there. And the rest was history. 

The thing most captivating is the way Close goes about things. Even paralyzed he manages to create stunning, captivating work. 

This particular piece features his friend, Paul Cadmus, a social-realist artist and the largest fan men's butts that I've ever come across in a google search. 

An interesting thing is Close's choice to paint Cadmus in profile instead of straight-on.  Makes you wonder. 

  • 7:00 AM


Clyfford Still, PH-118, 1947

Darkness clashing with the light. Evil splitting and rampaging through the good. Death seeping across such a vibrant setup. What makes PH-118 such an violent, emotional painting while being so subtle and soft? When Mr. Luce assigned me Clyfford Still for my early 1950s artist presentation I thought to myself "here we go, some more abstract nonsense where I have to spend hours searching for some unknown, godforsaken symbolic message." Boy, I have been wrong quite a few times, but this is up there. Mr. Luce has taught me that art, once beyond its creator's hands, becomes open to be reinvented and seen in new ways. Though, at times it is important to value the insight of the artist themselves because their intentions might help bring the work to life or together the way they desire. However, for a painting paralleling this one with such abstract qualities, what matters lies in how we, the audience, interpret and indulge in it.

PH-118 incorporates two major clashing elements. The violent yet gentle nature of the painting and its sharp colors. Influenced after spending some time with Rothko, Still developed this style of abstract painting, using rough, aggressive strokes. However, his finished products will not always be as violent as one would assume. Instead, he somehow manages to bring a softness to them, while they maintain some degree of aggression. There seems to be no exact balance between those two characteristics, given some paintings will be more light and others more angry. Now, what do I see. When I first saw this, I thought birds because of the weird, birdlike shapes. After further analysis, I began to see the white and yellow as some beacon of good, or maybe angles. The black stands for some tyranny or evil jutting through the canvas with elegant rage. It seems as though Still has recreated the flow and smoothness of rising smoke following a blown out candle. The clashing colors and shapes attack in a precise, and glorious manor leaving so much to be seen and felt by the work. Damn, this painting is awesome.

  • 7:00 PM

Still Life 1955

Still Life 1955, Giorgio Morandi, 1955

Simple subjects caught the eye of Morandi as the majority of his subject matter includes bowls, vases, flowers, landscapes and bowls. Born in Bologna, Italy, Morandi never really travelled very far. The influences of his heritage greatly influenced him. As a soft-spoken recluse, many called him 'il monaco,' meaning the monk. His fame went from provincial, to national rather quickly due to his immense talent. Surely his vast amount of works included what seems to be the same vases and bowls and to that thought you would be indefinitely correct. Morandi would take jars, bottles and vases and remove all labels in which he would then have an unlimited amount of easily accessible subjects that he could arrange and rearrange. His drive for purity and perfection landed him as the master of natura morta of the 20th century.

Still Life 1955 exists as one of the hundreds of stills lifes completed in Morandi's lifetime. The use flat colors and neutral earth tones reoccur endlessly. Like many other pieces, this painting alludes to the ever so present Italian heritage embedded in mind. Morandi draws from the breathtaking Medieval architecture present in not just all of Italy, but particularly in his hometown, Bologna. Similarly to 18th century still life master, Chardin, Morandi looks at all subject matter with fresh eyes. His repetition and focus on the same objects is allowed due to this prospective. "I am essentially a painter of the kind of still life composition that communicates a sense of tranquility and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all else." This calm mood continues throughout all his works as his patience and perfectionism lands him at the top tier of natura morta.
  • 7:00 AM

Chaim Soutine

Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani, 1917


Chaim Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani met while living in Paris in the early 1900s. Both being Jewish, Russian immigrant artists, they did not have many friends but each other. Modigliani painted many portraits of Soutine, the 1917 one as one of the most famous. Modigliani took inspiration from Africa, Egypt, and Archaic Greece for his paintings. Portraits with abstracted features, long noses, almond and sometimes blank eyes, columnar necks, and neutral backgrounds, characterize the work of Modigliani. Modigliani often left the eyes of his portraits blank, in order to degrade his subjects of identity. His paintings of Soutine stray from this commonality though. 

In Chaim Soutine, Soutine stares at the viewer with his black eyes. Although dark and mysterious, by giving Soutine eyes, Modigliani also gives him an identity. Soutine was of few people Modigliani knew, and an even lesser amount of friends. Soutine's nose does not possess the usual elongation but a slight thickness. His head also remains at almost normal proportions. Modigliani also paints Soutine in a setting, unlike his usual neutral or abstract, geometric backgrounds. Soutine sits in front of a table and what appears to be a mirror. He crosses his hands loosely and stares blankly. Although a rarity with Modigliani, his naturalistic approach in paintings of Soutine is admirable. 

Modigliani has been given the name of the "quintessential example of the bohemian artist." While living in Paris he sold portraits to sitters at the bar for as low as five francs. Modigliani did not aim become famous but rather struggled to get by. Along with portraiture, Modigliani also fascinated himself with the human body. He painted countless nudes, almost always in the same format. He rarely strayed from his signature style of a nude woman lying diagonally, confined within narrow space, and legs eclipsed by the edge of the canvas. The subjects usually had a gaze which suggested sexual availability. His nude women were often confiscated from exhibits due to their overt sexuality and eroticism. Although Modigliani lived a short life, the individuality of his art works have allowed him to live on with them. 

  • 7:00 PM

Eyes in the Heat

Jackson Pollock, Eyes in the Heat, 1946

When I was in the fourth grade and still believed in magic, my friend Emma and I decided God had given us special powers -- a certain clairvoyance, a capacity for truth -- which would enable us to save the world. We did not know what, exactly, we were to save the world from, but this seemed irrelevant at the time. We felt important, and thus we were happy. The evidence was everywhere. First there was the large stick from the playground -- creatively dubbed "The Stick" -- which appeared to be covered with ancient hieroglyphs. I still remember those meaningless squiggles. They were uncommonly beautiful. Next there was the wind in the grass, which I thought nothing of until Emma convinced me each ripple was really the footstep of an angel. Her mother had told her this, and Emma's mom was my English teacher, so of course I trusted them both. But I would not have believed as strongly in our game as I did if it hadn't been for the eyes. One Wednesday afternoon when we were looking for God, Emma pointed at the sky and said, "It's Him! He's watching us!"

I had no idea what she was talking about, so she pulled me closer and aligned my gaze with her finger. One of the clouds was not a cloud. It was a gigantic eye made of cloud-bits. Thus began the strangest and most glorious phase of our self-aggrandizing fanaticism. We saw eyes everywhere. I especially recall how we scoured the bricks on the back of the school with the palms of our hands, feeling for little craters, which we always found. We were ecstatic, waiting for a message that never came; we said that God was "everywhere and nowhere at all," our first foray into philosophy. Then it ended. I do not know when, or even if, I stopped believing in God, but a creeping sense of shame told me the game itself was fake, like the feeling you get when you first contemplate the impossibility of Santa Claus. Emma and I grew apart. We turned to books and love for answers, with varying degrees of success. (My first crush is now-- horrifyingly-- a senior at Pembroke.) Even the allure of our favorite stories and hopeless romances paled in comparison to our self-imposed holiness. This is why I have chosen Jackson Pollock's Eyes in the Heat-- because it brings back all the mystery and excitement of when Emma and I went looking for God on the playground.

Pollock toys with the mind's tendency to seek out facial features. We naturally detect faces on the fronts of cars and in outlets for three-pronged plugs; here, we find eyes in vague, loping ellipses.
Is it Prozac, or is the world a really happy place right now?
Some shapes in Eyes in the Heat are clearly more eye-like that others, and once the mind is primed, we find new eyes in the slightest indications of roundness. Even knowing the title changes what the viewer finds; I would like to have two people look at this painting for twenty seconds-- telling only one person the title-- and then ask them what they saw. Eyes in the Heat shows how truly arbitrary artistic meaning can be and emphasizes the importance of the subconscious and the power of belief in our everyday quest for truth.
  • 7:00 AM

Portrait of a German Soldier

Marsden Hartley, Portrait of a German Soldier,  1914

We often gravitate towards the artists with brooding attitudes, rampant sexuality, and pretty poor people skills. Well, I’d like to step away from all that and introduce to you to Marsden Hartley, a quiet but extraordinary man.

In the wake of WWI, Hartley painted a series titled the German Paintings capturing his grief towards his fallen lover Karl Von Freyburg, a German Lieutenant. Karl and Hartley fell in love in Berlin before the start of the war. Hartley, originally from the United States, immersed himself in the culture of German expressionism.

All three paintings allude to different aspects of Karl’s life, but there are a few reoccurring themes. First the number 24, the age at which Karl died. KVF, Karl’s initials and the number 4 his regiment number.

In Portrait of a German Soldier we also see references to Karl’s love of chess with the black and white checker. Along with a homage to the Iron Cross, which Karl received posthumously. We also witness Hartley’s all-encompassing grief with the black background. Hartley forsakes national identity in favor of love. His dedication to Karl through these works belittles the whole idea of war. Making him appear to some un-American for loving the “enemy.”

Hartley internalized Karl’s death for a long time and spent the remainder of life wandering Europe, and United States in search of the same inspiration that Karl’s death spurred. Throughout his life Hartley found this mainly in landscapes, especially in Dogtown.

Unfortunately for Hartley his German Paintings received little recognition in the United States due to Americans associating Germans as the enemy. Today Hartley is finally being to receive the praise he deserves. The praise for a man who befriend Franz Marc, Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Stein and many others in his travels around the world.

An incredible painter, well worth your time.

  • 7:00 AM

Night Firing

Thomas Hart Benton, Night Firing, 1943 

I, as hopefully all Missourians, have a great love of Benton. His depictions of the Midwest were some of the first artistic creations of the region since George Birmingham nearly a century before. While his regionalism may have had allowed many along the coasts to dismiss Benton, this is completely undeserved as his depictions represent the hardscrabble life that is often forgotten by the East Coast intelligentsia. The story of the Midwest is one that must be told, while it lacks the panache and dazzle of the coasts, it is the gritty work of farmers that keeps this nation running.

The etching presented here is very typical Benton's work. A single object, in this case the man, serves as the center post of an agrarian merry-go-round. All things swirl around the man emphasizing both his artistic and real world importance. The print is balanced rather well on both axis. On the horizontal the large tobacco shed is counter weighted by the small structure and the hay bale, averaging the eye back to the farmer. Black earth cements the work to the bottom half, while the darkening sky on the edges keeps the eye of the matters at hand.  
  • 7:00 AM

Thinking of Him

Thinking of Him, Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

Everybody knows pop art. They may not know Fragonard, or Daumier, or Freidrich, but if you drop Warhol's name or Lichtenstein's, you're much more likely to get a response. At a primal level, people respond to bright colors and the beatification of images they recognize in a way that's almost comforting. Roy Lichtenstein's work takes the appropriation of the every day to a whole new level with his work. While working at Douglass College, a colleague and mentor Allan Kaprow advised him, "art doesn't have to look like art," a sentence that changed the nature of his career as an artist. In 1961, he painted his first borrowed image, featuring a scene of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck fishing from his son's copy of Donald Duck: Lost and Found. He took the exact subject and added his own spin, slightly altering the perspective and doing the whole cartoon in stylized blocks of primary colors. He titled it Look Mickey, and with that, his new style was born.

Lichtenstein moved quickly from children's books to popular comics, taking the style of Benday dots used for commercial printing and engraving and incorporating them into his work. Many include melodramatic images of classically dressed and styled women, frequently crying over men. In 1963, he divorced from his wife, which likely inspired this series of subjects. The first in this trend, Drowning Girl, painted in 1963, sparked this trend in his work that would continue for the next decade or so. Like the comic books that inspired him, his figures had thick block outlines, and traditionally attractive features. For most of the 60's, he continued to work in the primary colors that defined his style so early on.  His work was designed to question what defined art, and to poke fun at the traditional ideas of art, especially the school of abstract expressionism that was so popular at the time. Many artists at the time believed that using images from something as low and common as a comic book was a type of artistic blasphemy, which only encouraged Lichtenstein. He took delight in poking fun at the status quo and society. His most dramatic pieces are painted in this same bright blocky style, teasing the nature of this melodrama as a form of entertainment, while continuing to "insult" traditional artists with his style.

Thinking of Him is the pinnacle of Lichtenstein. The same bright block colors that you so often see in his work, with the comic-inspired look and the subject we're all familiar with. The curvature of the lines helps to create a movement and a life for the characters that keeps such a blocky painting from stagnating. With the rounding of the subjects, the whole painting rotates in on itself towards the center. It leads your eyes to follow the never ending loop of human thought inside this emotional state. All of the lines on her face lead back to him in some way, from the arc of her nose, to the bend of her parted lips and the shape of her hair, everything takes the audience back to him, the same way he occupies her thoughts. He wears blue, surrounded by a blue cloud, separate from her entirely, except for the blue in her tears. Her sadness is the only thing left that connects her to him. Every girl who's been in a relationship has felt this sorrowful scene in one way or another. However, in Lichtenstein's typical flare, it's wrought with sarcastic undertones. Somehow, they don't discourage the audience even though he's mocking the viewer. It's a playful work, underneath the subject, that says, "You've felt that way, haven't you? Look how silly we humans are." It's in our nature to question and be curious and impish and Lichtenstein brings that out in us.

When I look at this painting, I'm struck at first with a remembrance of that grief in myself, but after a moment he gets me to laugh as I see the silliness in my own human nature. It offers a reprieve and a perspective in a moment of sadness that took me by surprise as I spent more and more time with Thinking of Him. The more time I spend with this work, the more I've come to respect it. It's a gift to take the power away from the heartache and for such a gift to exist inside of a first-rate work of art makes Lichtenstein all the more masterful.
  • 7:00 PM

The First Days of Spring

Salvador Dali,  The First Days of Spring, 1929

Salvador Dali is, in general, a strange and random artist. Many of his surrealist paintings can not be fully interpreted. The First Days of Spring was painted a couple of months before Dali joined the Surrealist movement. He called this painting “veritable erotic delirium,” which means he wanted to create shocking, detailed images. The various images seen in The First Days of Spring reappear many times in Dali’s other paintings.

Similar to many of his other paintings during his Surrealist period, Sigmund Freud’s theories were the main influence. Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams suggested a person’s childhood experiences were the source of someone’s fears, desires, and neuroses. As a tribute to his inspiration, the old man with the little girl on the right of the painting is thought to be a representation of Freud.

In the center of The First Days of Spring, there is a photo of Dali as a child, which further indicates the scattered and seemingly random images relate to his childhood. This painting was painted in 1929, a time when Dali and his father’s relationship was unstable. Dali’s father was becoming more and more disappointed in his son’s occupation and behavior, which caused their relationship to be strained. Figures of a man and a boy appear many times in Dali’s other paintings, while the seated man on the left is said to be Dali’s father in The First Days of Spring, signifying Dali’s desire to mend their broken relationship. The distressed man leaning on a woman in the front of the painting shows Dali’s sorrow towards his father while the contrasting happy artwork directly behind the two figures symbolizes Dali’s hope to be happy once again. Furthermore, the two fighting men in the back could be seen as a representation of Dali’s suffering. Although viewers see Dali as a peculiar man, each portion of his eccentric paintings represents something meaningful in his life.
  • 7:00 AM

Paris through the Window

Marc Chagall, Paris through the Window, 1913

In a post last year, I talked about Marc Chagall's adoration of Bella Rosenfeld—with his lyrical descriptions of their love and his numerous sacrifices to bring her with him while he built his art career. Paris through the Window depicts a time when the two were separated by 1,500 miles, three years after Chagall moved to Paris to take advantage of its artistic opportunities.

Despite the bright colors in Paris through the Window, Chagall faced an inner-conflict when he painted it. He was caught between two nations and two cultures, and the man in the bottom-right corner embodies Chagall's identity, split between Liozna and Paris. The side of his face looking west at France is blue, but the left half of the painting contains so much beauty and brilliance. The man's right side faces east to his native Russia and his Bella. The couple floating in front of the Eiffel Tower—with the man to the west and the woman to the east—represents Chagall and Bella, floating in ethereality of love despite their separation.

An early work of Chagall, Paris through the Window includes many of the artist's characteristic aspects, such as floating couples, playful cityscapes, and vibrant colors. Like his love for Bella, much of Chagall's style remained throughout his career. He maintained his brightness through wars, displacement, Bella's death, and the genocide of his people. Chagall always looked both forward to the future and back at his heritage—split like the man in his painting from decades before his biggest heartbreak.

  • 7:00 PM

Summer Evening

Edward Hopper, Summer Evening, 1947

In (I believe) the 2014 Senior Video, teachers gave advice to seniors in the form of a tweet. While I don't remember the exact words, Dr. Ketchell's tweet contained the phrase "late-night eateries" that completely opened the floodgates and reduced me to a blubbering mess. I remember feeling so much for this 140 character tid-bit because it described, in 3 words, the very distinct type of fun you have as a young adult.  

The road trips at a drop of the hat, the eating Sonic at 2 a.m. or IHOP at 4 a.m. while wearing a toga, playing tennis in a bathing suit or basketball in complete darkness.  This kind of simple fun. No fireworks or four-step-plans. No deposits or reservations, of any kind. You forget who you are -- you forget where you are because it doesn't matter. Those late-night eateries are simply your last attempt at spending just one more half hour with the people you care about. You feel the night coming to a close so you grab their hand and take a sharp left turn onto State Line and you claim you've run out of milk and you simply must get some this instant. Or in the case of this painting, you linger on their doorstep hoping that the earth stops turning just long enough to muster up the courage to kiss her. 

For anyone who knows me well, one of my favorite things in the entire world (besides Gary Whittaker) is grocery stores after  9 p.m. The echo of your shoes hitting the linoleum, the whispering, the florescent lights. In Hopper's painting the Night Hawks, Hopper attempts to capture the feeling of the newly invented florescent lights with a switch to zinc paints. While he never uses zinc paint again, I argue that he never stops capturing that florescent light aura. Or at least the grocery store at 2 a.m. one.  

Many people call Hopper's work lonely. And while I agree that it is about 65% lonely, the term lonely oftentimes implies a sense of melancholy. I contend that Hopper's work is not lonely-- not melancholy but timeless. Hopper so wonderfully captures the moments in life that are timeless. The moments in life that exist in your memory without context, you may or may not remember what happened before or what would happen after but there are moments that can exist without knowing those things. You remember laughing so hard you cried and then crying so hard that your stomach hurt and you couldn't speak anymore so you just sat and watched tv- not saying anything and not needing to. Even though you know what comes next- what does it matter? The road trip ends, Sonic closes, you leave the camping section of Wal-mart, you go home, and you go to bed. You graduate. We all know what happens next. Hopper captures a loneliness of moving on, un-pausing, and growing up. It's not sad because when you look back, you only ever see the during, the meanwhile, the hush - the silence and the stillness. You see the florescent lights and the food on your plate and the people around you. You see time stop. 
  • 7:00 AM


Alfred Stieglitz, Hands, 1918

Hands are integral to the artist.

Alfred Stieglitz met Georgia O’Keeffe at the age of 52. His photography had propelled him to fame in the art world, and his work is still considered to be the best of the best. Georgia O’Keeffe was 28 years old at the time, teaching art at a quaint school in Texas.

Despite their 24 year age gap and their tremendously different positions, the couple fit together. Stieglitz took no time in divorcing his wife to move in together with O’Keeffe, who he loved to photograph. Naturally, their relationship developed significant strains, but the initial passion between the two was unmatchable. The portraits of O’Keeffe that Stieglitz had photographed were intimate and erotic. Yet, sometimes, they exhibited her beauty in ways unrelated to her sexual body.

I’m particularly fond of Stieglitz’s series of Hands. He photographs O’Keeffe’s hands in various positions. They are graceful, interlocked, and sometimes violent. In this photograph, however, O’Keeffe’s face also makes an appearance. Her slender fingers compliment her stern face. The solemn expression does not detract from her raw beauty. Stieglitz’s publishing of these photographs are a testament to the love he felt for her. Despite their ups and downs, the work created from their love is undeniably gorgeous.
  • 7:00 AM

The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon

Giorgio de Chirico, The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon, 1910

There's nothing quite like the beginning of an era, like the exciting freshness of an idea. For Giorgio de Chirico, this was his new idea, and the spark that would light the minds of the greatest surrealist artists known to man. In 1910 de Chirico began his Metaphysical Town Square series in which this painting was the first made. These dreamily isolated works show heavy resemblances to where de Chirico grew up and spent his childhood years. In this painting, de Chirico depicts Florence's Piazza Santa Croce in a very simplified fashion. He uses the classic piazza with facades and long drooping shadows, along with deep and rich colors to reflect a city at dusk. This cumulative effect isolates the viewer to feel as if they are there, but as a ghost. This is truly what I love about de Chirico's paintings.
  • 7:00 AM

Modern Woman

Mary Cassatt, Modern Woman, 1893

Mary Cassatt was best known as an Impressionist painter whom painted various domestic scenes of women and children and continued to challenge the themes of female subservience. While living in France, Woman’s Building director, Bertha Palmer coerced Cassatt to paint Modern Woman. The Woman’s Building shared a rejection towards not only female inferiority, but also how these reoccurring views were greatly internalized by Gilded Age women. The building was later pulled down and Cassatt’s mural was lost. Alas, some photographs of the mural were taken and colored prints made, filled with bright pinks, greens, gold and purples.

Modern Woman was hung above the entrance of the Gallery of Honor in the Women’s Building at the Columbian Exposition and World Fair. In the center portion of the mural there are “young women plucking the fruits of knowledge of science”(Doss 31). This highlights the essentials of the modern woman to include an emphasis on education and a strong female community. The left panel includes three young women reaching for “fame.” Fame is seen as a floating nude female who disregards the conventional constraints of society, similar to the theme present in Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X. The right panel depicts three young women indulging in music and dancing. All subjects are located in a garden-like setting, similar to the Garden of Eden, a symbol of female sin and fertility. 

The mural did not truly embody the modernist ideals of a fully integrated and unrestricted society; however, Modern Women did stress a value for higher education and female unity. Cassatt’s painting wasn’t extremely radical, but subtly dissident. Cassatt’s work never greatly influenced contemporary art, but, this piece foreshadowed America’s first school of modern artists with its audacious colors and credible modern figures.

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The Broken Column

Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column, 1944

Frida Kahlo is known as one of the most iconic modern Mexican artists. She was an incredibly talented and fearless woman with the ambition to succeed and represent Mexican culture. Kahlo depicted graphic scenes disregarding the audience’s comfort level with the subjects. While doing so she incorporated native symbols and messages. By portraying the pain she endured along side the love she held for her country, Kahlo believed that slowly she will "be able to solve my problems and survive”.

You don’t need much background to realize women are poorly represented throughout art history. I don’t believe the intention of art historians is to purposely exclude female artists, although there is an apparent dominance in the field. It is a rare occasion that we come across an influential woman taking part in the making of art rather than sitting for the creation of it. Unfortunately, there is hardly any choice when studying the subject of art history because the vast majority of those who chose to become artists, and are successful, are men. With this taken into consideration, rarely do we see a female artist achieve the success Kahlo did, and there is no other artist I would rather have represent myself and the women of both my past, present, and future generation. 

Kahlo and her boyfriend at the time, Alex Gomiez Arias, had just finished up a day exploring Mexico City. Together they boarded a nearly full bus to return home. The bus driver was going through the motions when he made a hasty decision to turn in front of a trolley, causing the life-altering accident. Kahlo was only 18 when she suffered extensive injuries including a broken spinal column and pelvis, and countless other injuries. Among others, a pole pierced her uterus, destroying the possibility of her ever being able to bear children. The Broken Column expresses the physical consequences of the accident. Kahlo's spine has been replaced with a crumbling column and needles pierce her skin. Perhaps the most powerful part of the painting is the eye contact Kahlo holds with the viewer as she manages to keep a strong face while tears stream from her eyes. In the background we see a grassy landscape with the ocean in scope. The bus accident of 1925 would serve as a constant source of inspiration for Kahlo and her development as an artist.

Painting was Kahlo’s chosen medium to cope with the trauma she endured. A therapeutic vocation she used to express both her physical and emotional pain. Kahlo was overshadowed by the fame of her muralist husband, Diego Riviera, despite her exceedingly impressive skill and technique. In recent years Kahlo’s popularity has greatly heightened, diminishing the overcast shadow of her husband and claiming her role as a representative artist of Mexico.

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The Farm

Joan Miró, The Farm, 1921

Joan Miró was best known as a Spanish Catalan artist that specialized in many different art mediums. The Farm by Miró exemplifies his time on his family’s farm in the village of Montroig as a child. Miró cherished his memories form his childhood and depicted this home as a Utopia where no wrongdoings could occur. Miró considers this work “a summary of my entire life in the countryside” with the cheerful atmosphere definitely present. This was painted between the summer of 1921 and the winter of 1922 and took as many as eight hours a day for nine months to finish. He created this on return from his trip to Paris when he was 29 years old. This work was regarded as the starting point of his years working with surrealism. Miró considers this his first masterpiece and it is evident that you spent many years in this style after the completion of The Farm.

Miró’s bright colors add a light feel to the painting to balance out the busy subject. The painting is bottom-heavy with most of the action occurring on the bottom half of the painting, though the rich blue sky still steals some of the focus. The loose leaves add an element to the sky that brings the painting together to be one. The tree seems to split the painting in two dissimilar halves with a Spanish building on each side. His Spanish roots are made clear with the Spanish-styled building on the left side of the landscape. Also, many aspects of the painting such as the animals are taken from medieval Spanish artwork. The busy landscape provokes a sense of peace apparent through the vibrant colors and cheerful subjects.

Miró said, “The Farm was a résumé of my entire life in this country,” and that he wanted to “put everything I loved about the country into that canvas - from a huge tree to a tiny snail.” This work of art uses stunning colors and a richly decorated landscape to encapsulate Miró’s life on the farm.
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Cow Skull With Calico Roses

Georgia O'Keeffe, Cow Skull with Calico Roses, 1931

I stand in Gallery 265 at the Art Institute of Chicago staring at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow Skull with Calico Roses. I had seen O’Keeffe’s work before, the classic, mega-focused flowers, including Blue and Green Music and Oriental Poppies. I had never seen this side of her, though.

After presenting about O’Keeffe for the class I learned about her life in New Mexico and how that greatly influenced her work, which includes many animal skulls from her time in the desert. Paintings like Cow Skull Red, White and Blue and Ram’s Head are right up there with Red Canna and Black Iris III.

While I will always appreciate O’Keeffe’s bold flowers and feminist pieces, Cow Skull with Calico Roses makes me feel more emotion than any rose or iris. I’m not quite sure how to describe the feeling. The cow skull makes me feel hollow like the object itself. The soft cream makes me feel war. The white roses make me feel feminine and bring a sense of purity. The black stripe makes me feel scared as it rips through the middle of the painting. After researching the painting, I found that the flowers were common grave decoration in New Mexico, which affirms my feeling of fear in the black stripe, since I think it is death peaking out from behind the soft cream canvas. Furthermore, the cow skull is another symbol of death, as the O’Keeffe’s subject most likely died in a drought in New Mexico.

While O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz stayed together until his death in 1946, Stieglitz started an affair with Dorothy Norman around 1927 to fill the void of intimacy he lacked in his marriage. Cow Skull with Calico Roses could represent the death of her relationship with Stieglitz. It could also be seen as the “death” of the flowers as her subject matters changed when she spent more time in, and eventually moving to, New Mexico. While her flowers show the life cycle: birth, growth, death, and decay, her skull pieces focus on death and decay.

No matter the reason behind O’Keeffe’s painting, I will always count it as one of my favorite paintings. When I walk into Gallery 265, every other piece of art disappears and I am immediately drawn into the hollow skull and the rich black stripe. O’Keeffe combines beauty and death unlike anybody I have ever seen before.
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Several Circles

 Wassily Kandinsky, Several Circles, 1926

A space is any continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied. So any viewer who sees this and thinks of the outer space would not be wrong to think so. This painting does represent space, just not the space the viewer was probably thinking of.

During his illustrious career where he garnered attention for being an impeccable painter as well as philosopher, Kandinsky heavily believed in an art style defined as "theosophy." Theosophy is the idea that creation is a geometrical progression from a single point, and every creative element of the work is generated from the original central point. Kandinsky wrote two books on theosophy during his career. With the second book, Point and Line to Plane, he released this painting to help amplify his point.

This painting helps define the theory of theosophy. Kandinsky starts the work from the direct center of the painting. From there, he sketches two circles. From the larger black circle, he follows it to the bottom and defines a new point of origin, and generates more circles from that point. While this sounds maddening, in the end, the work looks as it does now. A mess? Absolutely not. A calculated, geometrical masterpiece.

Kandinsky's works means nothing when its explained in such crude terms. To me, Kandinsky is a painter of feelings. Upon first inspection it looks like outer space and a bunch of colorful planets. However, if I look deeper, the other space I talked about earlier emerges. Eternal nothingness. The beauty of just general emotion, emerging from the center point, with hues of more nothing, but surrounded by a calming blue. Follow the blue and you see even warmer colors: light olive greens, violet, orange, and light pinks. I will not define each color because these should mean something else, to every different individual. 
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The Invention of Life

René Magritte, The Invention of Life, 1928


You’re sitting in a room full of paintings, admiring each and every one of them. You get up and walk over to a painting that makes you stop, think, and question what the meaning behind it is. Along with that, you realize how although you may be confused by the painting, you are able to feel the emotion and isolation behind it, making the appreciation of the work of art so much more immense. I personally got this feeling while researching the artist, Magritte.

René Magritte took a quirky approach to surrealism that was admired by many. His use of individuality and repetition allowed him to create some of his most successful works. His paintings have a weird, yet simplistic beauty about them, but also an eerie vibe that lurks through the paint on the canvas; something that sparks a bit of darkness. He once said, “Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” This concept was shown through the textual and visual signs he incorporated in his works to invoke a sense of mystery within language. You could say his paintings were individual autobiographies of his life, which helps show the viewer that there is always something a little strange in all of our lives, even if we are not aware of it.

Magritte’s painting, The Invention of Life (1928), is one of the paintings that encapsulates a part of his life. It presents the story of both life and death, thus showing the delicacy of living. There are two female figures, one staring at the viewer and the other “hooded” with cloth-like fabric as seen in many of his other paintings. The “hood” conceals the reality of emotions and one’s identity. The woman that is being concealed represents his mother who in fact, committed suicide when Magritte was just 14 years of age. Without the sight of his mother’s death in his subconscious, his creativity and view on life in his painting would be completely different.

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Two Women Asleep In A Punt Under The Willows

John Singer Sargent, Two Women Asleep in a Punt Under the Willows, 1887

In nearly a week I'll be 18 years old. 

As I approach this impending ending to my "childhood" I have been looking back on many of the things that made me the person I am today.

From Kindergarten to about the third grade, American Girl Dolls were all the rage. When I was nearly 7 they began producing movies for them. The two women sleeping on the boat remind me of a scene in Samantha: an American Girl Holiday where Samantha and Nellie O'Malley stow away in a boathouse filled with Samantha's late mother's things. I remember wanting so badly to sleep over in a boat filled with blankets and pillows like Samantha. 

My Aunt Diane had a willow tree in her backyard. I remember asking my mom if we could get a willow tree as well but she told me that, planted too close to the house, their roots could mess up the plumbing or foundation. Later on, in middle school, we took a trip to Europe. Outside of our hotel was a giant willow tree, it's leaves hanging like a curtain all around it. One could pull aside the leaves, crawl underneath and be completely hidden from everything. Since then, I had forgotten my obsession with willow trees until seeing this painting. I had forgotten that my sister and I created a club called the "Willow Tree Club" complete with it's own song that we wrote on the piano. 

This painting, along with a few of Sargent's other paintings of similar subject matter remind me of two particular literary figures that mean quite a bit to me: Anne of Green Gables and Ophelia. 

In the first book of the series, Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley reenacts the poem the Lady of Shallot with her friends. However, not accounting for Anne's weight, the boat begins to fill with water and she is gloriously saved by her arch nemesis Gilbert Blythe. After watching the movie over and over and over, I fell in love with the iambic tetrameter of Tennyson's the Lady of Shallot. I remember trying to memorize it, though I cannot remember if I ever succeeded in the task. I've since forgotten most of it now, save for the phrase: The yellow leaved waterlily/ the green sheathed daffodilly/ tremble in the water chilly/ 'round about Shallott. It has always been my favorite. 

Fun Fact: Lucy Maud Montgomery's seventh novel (4th in the series) is titled Anne of Windy Willows outside of the UK and US

Finally, for Ophelia. 

I began doing theatre because I really liked to sing. It was freshmen year that I decided I didn't want to sing, so I thought I'd try the play. However, the play ended up being the Imaginary Invalid and I had to sing anyway. Anyhow, after the end of that show I swore I wouldn't do theatre again. It wasn't til I was accidentally cast as Ophelia in the Pretenders' play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that perhaps theatre was worth pursuing. Four years later and I can't imagine my life without doing theatre. I can't imagine not spending every waking moment in rehearsal or memorizing lines or painting sets. 

This was all a longwinded way of saying that Sargent's painting Two Women Asleep in a Punt Under the Willows (along with many of his other works) creates an atmosphere of nostalgic repose. A moment of reflection before your life changes forever. 

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