CrAcK Is WaCk: Eric Fischl

Eric Fischl, Barbecue, 1982
CrAcK iS WaCk

Eric Fishl, a classic New York legend who befriended Any Warhol, created a series of works exploring human interaction and sexuality. The controversial aspects and eroticism of his works bestowed him the labels provocative and sensual, and boy, did he own it. Fischl grew up with an alcoholic mother who suffered from depression, which influenced his works. His niche was depicting suburban America using unorthodox perspectives to create scenes of excitement or wonder. The typically R-Rated artist was most notable for his work Bad Boy, giving him the title "the bad boy of Neo-Expressionists."

Fishl's Barbecue shows an upscale backyard cookout. Two topless women converse in the pool while a seemingly young boy tries to impress with blowing fire as a party trick. A older man creepily smirks while spectating. Fishl uses aggressive brush strokes to create a unique texture. The painting feels energetic and vibrant. The slanted table offsets the entire painting creating a different perspective and an imbalance. The work does not seem crowded and as abstract as works by other artists during this period. Originally I thought the bowl of fish ironically placed in front of a pool symbolized something greater, something deeper. But then I realized this was drugged up 1980's New York, maybe he just wanted a damn bowl of fish right in the middle of his painting. 
  • 7:00 AM

CrAcK iS WaCk: FUTURA 2000

FUTURA 2000, Untitled, 1984
CrAcK iS WaCk

FUTURA 2000, or Leonard McGurr, brought a fresh new approach to 80s New York street graffiti. Similar to Haring, McGurr offered his distinct style to the public during the pinnacle of street art throughout the subways and neighborhoods of NYC. The popular form of graffiti involved lettering to convey messages or opinions, however McGurr incorporated colors and abstract images to switch things up during the aerosol phenomenon. His works became popular as they offered something different than what the majority was doing. Aside from a graffiti artist, FUTURA also illustrated, designing record sleeves for groups such as The Clash. He also designed a 2012 special edition Hennessy bottle. His colorful works inspired various prints for sneakers and cloths for brands such as Supreme and Levi's. McGurr is still alive today unlike many of his friends from the 1980's art scene.

This untitled work speaks loudly to the change in modern art. The environment became canvasses, paintbrushes became spray cans, and artists became renegades. In this work FUTURA 2000 pushes the boundaries of graffiti creating an abstract form reminiscent of other previous works by different artists such as Armored Train in Action fused with his own unique style. The bright colors clash while being balanced by the use of blacks and grey. This particular work does not bear some social critique aside from showing aspiring street artists to push against what's being done and find your own style. 
  • 7:00 AM

CrAcK iS WaCk: Philistines

Jean-Michael Basquiat, Philistines,1982 
CrAcK iS WaCk

One of the god fathers of the freshly birthed Neo-Expressionist movement during the 1980's, Jean-Michael Basquiat created abstract illustrations with blatant references to evident racism in America, specifically endured by African Americans. Neo-Expressionism marked a period where artists depicted humans and their issues with overwhelming emotion and sometimes eroticism. The product would usually look abstract and unique. During the late 20th century, black people faced discrimination often seen through law enforcement and negative portrayal in media. Music became an important platforms for young artists to speak up and voice their opinion and convey their struggle. Basquiat's artwork served as another way to bring attention to the problem.

The visionary produced powerful pieces including Irony of the Negro Policeman, Hollywood Africans, and the Philistines, each creating a different image of a more general race issue in America. His style was completely different, emotional, and sporadic. His works bleed with color and incorporate inconsistent shapes, lines, and curves conveying a sense of anger and urgency.  Basquiat's influence ascended him to the hierarchy of New York's art scene at the time, where he befriending Keith Harking, Futura 2000, and others. His influential career was brought to abrupt end when he overdosed on heroin at the age of 27 in his studio. The artist always dealt with severe depression and turned to drugs as a coping mechanism. Some believe his abuse of heroin produced his haunting, violent style

Philistines was painted in 1982. The painting evokes many thoughts and emotions when trying to understand where Basquiat was going with this work. The answer might lie in the name itself. Philistine means someone who is hostile towards or uncultured about people or the arts. Basquiat places a white individual on the left seemingly interacting with the black person in the middle. The direction of the painting moves from the white figure into the black one, though the middle figure is stabbing the white figure going against the general motion. Its hard to determine whether Basquiat intends the black figure to symbolize the Philistine quality or to serve as symbolic revenge, thrusting through the heart of hatred. The contrasting colors and streaking paints help intensify the emotion and anger stemming from his social commentary. It's clear Basquiat is hurting, bothered by the profound issues and power dynamics surrounding him. The head with the halo on the right might be him, since the angel means well but is tormented by something greater shown through the raining cloud above.

  • 7:00 AM

CrAcK iS WaCk: Keith Haring

Keith Haring, Crack is Wack, 1986
CrAcK iS WaCk

Boy, 1980's New York was quite the experience for any spectator roaming the concrete jungles. Traditional art lost some of the glamour it formally possessed within the public. It seemed people craved something fresh, something extraordinary to rally around and appreciate. 80's New York street culture was the perfect example of this, bringing the art directly to the people. Some might say delinquents, others visionaries. Regardless, graffiti and abstract street work became the eye opening splinter in the art world.

During a confusing time of diseases, pseudo wars, and drugs, artists took the subways and alleys to beautifully loiter the city with their messages and ideas. Art transformed into a platform to confront relevant social issues such as AIDS, race, and sexuality. The subjects became deeper while equally works became increasingly abstract. Keith Haring became of the most notable, respected artists during this revolution. His trademark cartoon humans helped him demonstrate an array of pressing issues including war and drug abuse. Throughout New York, his works sprung up on walls, handball courts, subways, and more. Haring's distinct style and blunt expression made him easily identifiable to any viewer. He befriending many artists during this period including Jean-Michael Basquiat and Futura 2000. Aside from crack, one of Haring's other popular subjects were AIDS, which he eventually died from at the age of 31. 

Crack is Wack was one of Haring's more popular works. Created in 1986. the mural was illegally created though now is protected by the city. Haring depicts his signature figures flailing and suffering as a result of abusing the drug, while the focus centers on a skeleton laying across the work. The skeleton signifies the extremely harmful consequences resulting from crack. In one hand, it holds the classic pipe used to consume the drug, while in the other there is a zero dollar bill caught on fire. This symbolizes people's savings burning up over an addictive product. Haring does not use as much color as his fellow New York artists during this time, however he still creates a powerful work shedding light on a pressing issue. 
  • 7:00 AM

Beyond Ballet: Dance with an Apple

Jean-Leon Gerome, Dancer with an Apple, 1890
Beyond Ballet

I wanted to include a sculpture in this project to show how dancing is depicted in multiple mediums of art. After searching throughout WikiArt’s database, I found this sculpture. When I saw it, I knew I would include it in my project, because of the similarities between this dancer and the one in El Jaleo

Jean-Leon Gerome uses bronze to make this woman come to life. She pushes off of her left foot as her left hand draws her dress upward. She holds an apple near her mouth in her right hand, as her right foot prepares for landing. Despite being made of bronze, the girl appears weightless in this moment. I find it amazing how Gerome can portray such movement with metal. The attention to detail in this sculpture is amazing. Gerome uses intricate drapery to show movement in the cloth. The woman looks well-proportioned and extremely detailed. 

I felt that this was a good work to end on, because it reminds me of the flamenco dancer in El Jaleo that inspired my project. Both of the women draw their arms up and move with the music. The sculpture looks as if the flamenco dancer has come to life.

During this project, I realized the importance of moving with a purpose. With dancing and with painting, all of the works show the dancers moving for a reason. Two of the works show groups of people moving in a circular fashion. One piece shows two girls stretching to then help their dancing abilities. Then, the women in El Jaleo and Dancer with an Apple move in an intentional manner.

Throughout my past two years in art history class I have learned about all different mediums of art from different time periods. By curating this collection of dance in art, I have found that similar to painting or sculpting, dancers are purposeful in their movements. The process for dancers and choreographers matches that of painters and sculptures. Now, I truly realize why dancing is considered an art form.

  • 7:00 AM

Beyond Ballet: Dance II

Henri Matisse, Dance II, 1910
Beyond Ballet

Matisse’s Dance II reminds me of Dance of Italian Villagers, because they have similar staging of the dancers and setting. In Dance II, the five dancers move in a circular motion, their orange bodies popping off of the blue sky and green grass. The figures move clockwise as they perform their dance. Each dancer depends on the others to perform this dance. For example, the dancers are holding hands, except for the two dancers in front. The circle is no longer complete, and the dance is no longer perfect. It’s amazing how much drama can be captured in the space between two hands, just look at Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.

I saw this painting when I went to the MoMA. In person the work is huge, just over 8 x 12 feet. Just the sheer size of the work attracts eyes and people stood mesmerized by the movement of the orange dancers. Since the painting is so large, the colors flood your eyes, making it hard to process the bright orange against the rich blue. Matisse has the ability to evoke emotions with any color of his choice, like with The Red Studio.

I like how Matisse uses the orange and blue as complementary colors. I also like that all of Matisse’s figures are unique. Each of the five dancers are in different positions, are different sizes, and have different body shapes. Still, the five different figures work together in their dance circle.

I will never forget standing in front of this massive work, and being mesmerized by the movement and colors. I find it fascinating how paintings can evoke strong emotions or prompt movement. When I see El Jaleo or Dance II, especially with the sheer size of the works, it makes me want to dance. I think Sargent and Matisse have truly perfected the art of playing with the viewers emotions and starting conversations.
  • 7:00 AM

Beyond Ballet: Two Ballet Dancers

Edgar Degas, Two Ballet Dancers, 1879
Beyond Ballet

You cannot discuss dance in art without talking about Degas. Still, I stayed away from using classics, such as The Dance Class or Dancers in Pink. Two Ballet Dancers caught my eye because it was different from his other depictions of dancers. Here, the dancers are resting, even stretching, but not dancing. Why would Degas paint dancers who were not dancing? I think that Degas found the same beauty in the movements of the girls’ stretching as when they were dancing. In Two Ballet Dancers, the wood paneled floor sets the stage and their mint-colored tutus pop off of the bright yellow wall.

The girls sit on the bench, reaching, leaning, and stretching. They are not in sync, or they are not “dancing the same routine.” Each girl stretching is the way that is most comfortable and helpful to her body.

For the girl on the right, you can feel her leaning to her left, reaching for her toes to stretch her calf and hamstring. On the left, the girl is in a relaxed first position as she reaches down to hold her calves. I also think that Degas’ depiction of the girls stretching reveals the fatigue and intensity of dancing. The girls practice for hours to perfect their skills, and they are allowed to be tired. Degas’ other works show the beauty of ballet, but this one shows the beauty of hard work. Degas painted ballet dancers to perfect his craft, and the ballet dancers practiced to perfect theirs’.

This painting has bright colors like Rubens uses in Dance of Italian Villagers. I think Two Ballet Dancers also has a lighter tone like in Rubens’ work, as opposed to the drama in El Jaleo. Like Sargent though, Degas focuses on female dancers. I like the casualness of Degas’ Two Ballet Dancers, because it shows how simple tasks like stretching are just as much of a dance as acting dancing is. I also like this work, because I think it is an under appreciated and unique Degas painting.
  • 7:00 AM

Beyond Ballet: Dance of Italian Villagers

Peter Paul Rubens, Dance of Italian Villagers, 1636
Beyond Ballet

Before Sargent, there was Rubens. In Dance of Italian Villagers Rubens captures daily life of peasants in an unusual way. The perspective and circular shape of the dancers adds depth to the painting, using the grass in front as a stage. As the boy in the tree plays a trumpet, the villagers dance, possibly as a celebration or for a religious reason. The villagers are dressed in hues of blue, red, and yellow, allowing them to pop off of the green and light blue background.

I feel that this painting has drama just as El Jaleo does. The villagers are dancing in a less than perfect circle, as people are turned in every direction as they reach for each other, making it feel as if the people are being whisked away in a tornado. The circular motion creates chaos in the work. The light source in this work comes from the top right corner, causing intense shadows to form on the left side of the painting. The house in the background is in the light, while the rest of the trees and land lies in the shadow. Some people’s faces are filled with worry and some of determination.

Rubens’ most famous works are religious paintings, so it is interesting that he chose to paint dancing villagers. Rather than make this a fluffy and joyful piece, Rubens’ created the Dance of Italian Villagers with the same intensity and attention to detail that he would have used for The Descent from the Cross. I enjoy this painting because it is different from a classic Rubens painting and I like the circular movement and chaos of the dancers. I think this painting differs from El Jaleo in that it has more dancers, less drama, more chaos, and brighter colors. 
  • 7:00 AM

Beyond Ballet: El Jaleo

John Singer-Sargent, El Jaleo, 1882
Beyond Ballet

When you hear the words dance and painting in the same sentence, it is easy to think of possibly the most famous painting of dancers, The Ballet Class by Edgar Degas. The thing I dislike about this painting is the stiffness of the dancers. When I think of dancing, I think of movement, music, and drama. The Ballet Class lacks movement. The girls stand around listening to their teacher, but the structure of the class sucks the creativity and freedom of movement out of the girls. When I hear dance and painting I immediately am taken to Spain, where John Singer-Sargent was inspired by women performing the jaleo de jerez dance while men play on guitars in the background. I first saw this painting last year when the Modern Art History class read Strapless by Deborah Davis. This painting was felt so modern compared to Sargent’s French works, and I was taken aback by the drama and movement he captured in the painting. This painting quickly became a favorite of mine and inspired my final project for this year.

I wanted to write about dance, because I think it is amazing how artists can capture a singular moment in time. More so the best works which exhibit movement and drama while encouraging viewers to move too. El Jaleo is the best example of this type of art, which is why I wanted it to be the first piece in my collection, symbolizing everything I love about art and dance.

In terms of movement, Sargent captures woman in El Jaleo in an unnatural position, in mid motion, switching from one dance move to the next, telling a story with her body. The various positions of the females in the bottom right and the band members add variation to the painting. The main dancer’s black top contrasts with her bright white skirt, just as the band’s black suits pop on the light-colored walls. The clashing of black and white adds to the drama of the work. Additionally, Sargent paints a spotlight being shown on the flamenco dancer, transforming the Spanish pub into a stage. The intense shadows only add movement to this dramatic and captivating painting.

Sargent’s ability to take viewers into a different time period and culture, while still feeling familiar, as dance is an activity known to all, proves that El Jaleo is a timeless piece of art that captures everything people love about art and dance.
  • 7:00 AM

Reflections from Locker #14: The South Ledges, Appledore

Hassam, The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913 
Reflections from Locker #14

We’ve come to the end. Our final blog, well at least for me. I’ve spent a lot time thinking about what I would say in this last post, and how I could accurately depict how I feel about saying goodbye. Throughout this series we’ve rediscovered how time does not alter emotion. I feel in one respect I’ve said all I can for now and that my time to go has come, to leave this chapter of my life behind. 

Now this not to say, I won’t return, but for the moment I’ll leave you with my last piece of advice or more accurately the knowledge I have acquired. We try to categorize art into schools and periods, because of the uncertainty of the world around us. If we can call Caravaggio a Baroque artist or De Hooch a Dutch master we somehow bring order to the universe. Although sometimes we have to face the chaos, understand that life happens.

Recently, I received some pretty devastating news, but I know that things will be okay. Our challenges do not define our experiences, our reactions to those difficulties do. For my final painting, I chose Childe Hassam’s The South Ledges, Appledore. Now if you can’t tell by looking at it, Hassam did not paint it during the Renaissance, 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries. He painted this in 1913. Although if I’ve learned one thing you cannot limit the boundaries of your experience with artificial dates. If something speaks to you, you should not have to rationalize within time. Furthermore I realize the name provides little insight into the power of the work, but hear me out. 

When someone gives you bad news, they attempt to brace you, give you a crutch to lean on, to supplement the blow of what you are about to go through by providing you with cases of success and stories of hope. In my experience though, sometimes words drift into the wind and get lost, lose their meaning in an overload of compassion from those around you. Now the people who give you advice don’t mean any harm, but talking helps them process their feelings and often leaves you out. 

Hassam’s painting, speaks louder than words to me. The woman looking at the ocean, appears relaxed, yet slightly tilts her hat downwards away from the crashing waves. This act, her inability to face the ocean head on, mimics how I feel right now. I know I’m ready, I’ve soaked up all I can, but staring out into the blue, well that scares me. Cancer scares me, you hear it and you think of those close to you and what you would do in that situation, but you never know until a doctor stands in front holding test results that do not bring good tidings. 

I see this woman and I see myself, at the cusp of so much, she sits a top the cliffs with the brown and blues mixing together, blurring all lines. The blue should excite me, the promise of the future, of university, of enhanced learning, yet my gaze keeps getting trapped in the rocks, the hospital beds, the unpredictability of what’s to come, the not knowing what’s wrong but only that something is not right. 

The only thing that strikes me as bizarre about this paintings, is the woman’s solitude. Her attire, her posture makes it appears as if she’s staring at the skyline all alone. The viewer does not see the people behind her, the individuals who do not take center stage, but support her nonetheless. 

As I say goodbye, I want to say thank you. Thank you to Mr. Luce for the unwavering support, our faithful readers, my class, my family, and of course art. Without the efforts of those around us, who attempt to capture the human experience, we would suffer greatly. Whether through paintings, etching, sculptures, or wood carvings, art connects us. 

As I depart into the world, I want to share art, because it’s not something only for the wealthy or “well” educated, it’s for humanity. Renaissance or modern, art makes the world seem a little less scary. For all those who will come after me, don’t be afraid to get lost in the pigments, or let yourself feel the paintings. Yes, learn, and learn all you can, about technique and composition, and how history applies to it all, but do not lose sight of the works that tug at your heartstrings, the paintings that brighten your day and remind you how wonderful life is. 

Life will take and take and take, but if you adjust your view a little bit, you will see that life has just as much to give. 
  • 7:00 AM

Reflections from Locker #14: Mother at the Cradle

DeHooch, Mother at the Cradle, 1662
Reflections from Locker #14

I want to talk about love, not the type where you fall for the cute boy in biology class, but the kind that defines life outside of a romantic relationships, something more than a boyfriend or girlfriend, the love that transports you outside the fake wooden floors of the hallways. 

Love...we spend our lives in pursuit of it, running away from it, imagining it, I guess you could call it the quest for the ultimate emotion. We start and stop relationships in search of it only to experience it in the seemingly most mundane things. Love lives in stolen glances, little notes, and extended hands. 

Learning to love means giving a part of yourself to something, a terrifying thought, knowing that the loving people means are you in fact human. That in the midst of all those corny flowers there will be moments when there is no laughter, as someone you love becomes only a memory. 

Throughout the Renaissance, the Dutch embraced death with series like the Dance of Death and the emergence of momento mori. Many often criticize the Dutch masters for their lack of excitement. Although I have to disagree. I admire the Dutch masters for their dedication to the milk jugs and backyard gardens. 

Pieter De Hooch's Mother with Cradle, to me represents the love that we fear but cannot live without. At first glance, De Hooch's painting only appears as snapshot of a woman’s life, yet as you look closer the image alters. Take the little girl in the back, who stands at the cusp of the illuminated door. Here De Hooch references the innocence of the little girl and how sometimes when mother’s turn their back, children walk out the door into the bright unknowing world, unaware of the change to come. The dog turns his head back to the motherly figure as some last attempt to stop the girl from stepping into the light. 

In this painting, love is in the mother’s glance towards the baby, her extended finger, and the room as a whole. The loose pan...a sign of home with food and furthermore prosperity with the addition of well built furniture and elaborate draping. This family lives a stable life, safe in the cocoon of yellow and red hues. 

Recently, I watched the yellow light stream into my life, eclipsing the safety of this comfortable room. I stood in silence as De Hooch's motherly figure turned her back and I faced the doorway. 

The mother is not abandoning her child, she’s letting go. She understands that the little girl needs to find her way. She will stumble, but she has a home to come back to, a mother who will extend her hand in times of need. 

This seemingly ordinary moment that DeHooch captures, represents so much than Dutch life. We think of love as this grand thing, expressed in candlelight and airplane writing, but the most profound love often goes unseen and unspoken. The connection between the little girl and her mother, they may appear separated, the diagonal line that stems from the mother’s shoulder to her daughter’s back shows at their foundation lies a love stronger than a tangible object.

I’m lucky enough that when I see this painting, I see my mom, who although is currently terrified of sending me off into the world, knows that the love she raised me on will guide amidst all the bright light. 
  • 7:00 AM

Reflections from Locker #14: Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio Basket of Fruit.jpg
Caravaggio, Basket of Fruit, 1599
Reflections from Locker #14

From love to fear. What could you possibly fear in high school? I mean grades, college, friendships, life in general, the fact puberty is a thing? At times it feels like rotten apples are pushing you, the grapes are holding you tight, while leaves seem to drift away. 

Your evolution will occur when you least expect it, friendships will fade with differing class periods, and late night decisions will alter the course of your experience. You’ll make the wicker basket your temporary home, but as the days weigh on, you and others will start to press on the flexible fibers, as ripe and overgrown fruits now too heavy for the once large basket. 

With fear comes anxiety. As much as I hate to admit it or give metaphorical power to the belief that anxiety is a part of high school, and growing up, it seems to be true. Although I ask you this, should it be? 

Should kids feel like they need to distinguish themselves as the most pristine grape or apple in order to achieve great things? 

Trust me, I’ve had the panic attacks, laid on the floor as I wondered what I am doing? And what am I doing in this basket, where I’m pushed and pulled, and told that this it’s normal. 

The normalcy of taking anti-anxiety medication in order to walk the hallways of this claustrophobic fruit basket. 

Caravaggio did not attend high school, yet with his Basket of Fruit, he seems to capture the sentiments of a secondary school environment. 

The apples, although slightly cumbersome and outnumbered, appear to cultivate precious space while they slowly rot from the core. They press on those around them, submitting them to a status beneath them, they appear solitary yet hold so much power. To the left, Caravaggio tackles the pear, with unique roots that sprout from all angles, and slightly off beat, practically falling out of the basket. He fills the rest of the space with differing grapes that seem to sweat before your eyes, and strategic branches and leaves in different stages of dying to demonstrate the complexity of the ecosystem. 

The basket placed up against the yellowed background, makes it appear isolated, creating a vibe that this basket could be placed anywhere and contents of the fruit inside would not differ. 

As the year comes to a close, the basket will grow lighter as the fruits begin to tumble off into a multitude of directions, some will bruise, others will blossom, but none will call the criss-crossing wicker strands home anymore. 

Although for all those still stuck within the confines of Caravaggio’s table, what advice to you give? Do you tell them to wait out the harvest, or reduce themselves to occupying less space? I hope not. Caravaggio by placing the fruits on top of each other, references how suffocating high school can be. His coloring and attention to detail demonstrates the subtle intricacies that no one would notice as first glance, yet are necessary in order to fully comprehend the painting. 

The trick is to see the intricacies and value them, but them put them away, or else they will consume you. Instead of you tumbling out of the basket, you’ll recede into the wicker. The moments of doubt will pass, and in the end you’ll be glad that you had a such a nice basket to call home for a little while.
  • 7:00 AM

Reflections from Locker #14: Apollo and Daphne

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1625
Reflections from Locker #14

This next post is about the pain, the growing pains of high school, you grow a few inches in height, in years, and in experience. Between the ages of 14 and 18, you stumble a few times, acquire some new scars, and rediscover old ones. You’re at that age where you’re still too young to understand the gravity of some situations but old enough to realize when something goes wrong. 

Before I begin, I’d like to dedicate this post to all the people who have been told “you’re lucky because it didn’t go further, because you screamed, because you cried, because he apologized.”Stop feeling lucky and start feeling those invisible scars before they consume you. You are stronger than the Apollos and through Bernini’s work I hope you begin to see your strength. 

Apollo, you wrap your arms around me, weaving your way into my soul, slowly taking the breath from my lungs. You move quietly amongst the trees, almost indistinguishable. My feet will only carry me so far, I run and run only to feel you around the next corner. Your fingerprints linger far after my skins return to its normal complexion. You’ve left your mark on me and despite my efforts I cannot wash it off. 

You took away my safety, made me shudder when people stepped too close, but I am not giving up. You haven’t won Apollo. I am not your Daphne. 

Despite the fact that Bernini crafted his sculpture in the 15th century, the twisting and turning of Apollo and Daphne transcends time. For if you take away their names, Apollo and Daphne, represent any woman and man who has ever felt violated. The look on Daphne’s face does not project her majesty, but her humanity. With her emotional facial features, Bernini captures the pure terror that washes you over as you feel someone close in with no hope of escape, the act of screaming without a sound. Her eyes cast downward in disbelief, “Could this really be happening?”According to the mythological tale, the Gods save Daphne by turning her into a tree. Although little girls don’t turn into trees. Bark doesn’t protect them from the prying hands of Apollo and his sweeping cape. 

In high school, you’ll meet your first Apollo. It doesn’t matter what you say, or your body language, he will not see it. He will make you feel as if you are nothing, but a sum of parts. Apollos come in all shapes and sizes, yet share the same goal. 

You’ll feel paralyzed, the world will orbit around but you will stay stagnant, cemented in the roots at your feet. You might want to become a tree, to escape it all, but you can’t. 

Bernini could have sculpted Apollo holding a tree, cherishing his prize, but he doesn’t. Instead he opts to show the moment of intensity, the culmination of terror, power, and matter colliding into one another, creating a still chaos. With stone, Bernini manages to mimic the fluidity of a wind blown forest, consuming a girl. Her hands morphing into the branches that safeguard her. 

Today we have trees, trees that bear scars but that stand tall, who wave their branches, and rock their roots. Little girls deserve good watering, and care, to grow strong and green, to bloom when they’re ready. 

Apollo will not vanish, he will try again, but this time your branches will be ready. For your roots have formed with those around you, creating a system that cannot be uprooted with an ax for you are stronger than a single piece of artillery.
  • 7:00 AM

Reflections from Locker #14: Girl with the Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665
Reflections from Locker #14

We hear labels like the Renaissance, the Cubist movement, Impressionism and automatically we think of Michelangelo, Picasso, and Van Gogh. We fabricate time periods to fit artists, to fit ideas, to make a timeline. Although in placing arbitrary boundaries around art we lose our connection to the pieces themselves. Yes, by breaking art into specific schools, to study and analyze, we succeed in viewing the works through Michael Baxandall’s period eye. Yet what happens when you understand why a virgin Mary’s hand are placed outwards, but have no emotional reaction to the work? You only see the painting as piece of history, like a coin or cup salvaged from a some far away kingdom, not an image in front of you that was forged to inspire and to admire. 

With this collection, I plan to talk about the humanity of art, why paintings from the Renaissance mean more than a representation of certain time period. To talk about the power of artwork, the miraculous combination of paint and pigments that transcend time. The works that despite our distance from their creation continue to shock, awe, and mesmerize those who study them. 

In order to place the paintings in perspective, I plan to examine them through my personal experiences. The stories paired with each work will indeed be personal, and slightly embarrassing, but real. I believe that art serves two basic functions, one to educate and another to feel. I’ve spent the majority of high school absorbing the education and now with the little time I left before I voyage off, I figured that maybe I should feel the works one last time. 

I invite you to join me on this deconstructed academic crusade of looking at a work, and attempting to rationalize the art within in your own context. 

Welcome to the Megan period, detailed in nothing in particular but the insights of one high school senior from the Barstow School. 

So where shall we begin... the Girl with a Pearl Earring

If you’ve read this blog for a while or are familiar with some of my former posts, you might remember I wrote about Leibl’s Girl with White Headscarf as the supreme example of simple beauty. I now must rephrase, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, knocks Leibl’s Girl with White Headscarf out of the park for me. 

You might be confused on why I would start our journey with a discussion on beauty, but if we’re going off the timeline of high school, beauty unfortunately is at the start. For to a high school freshmen, the Girl with a Pearl Earring represents that one senior girl who effortlessly exemplifies natural beauty. 

At 15, I wore rainbow colored shorts and collared shirts, attempting some “preppy” yet relaxed vibe. I’ve evolved to denim skirts, cotton t-shirts, stripes, sneakers, navy and green. Now in twenty years, I’ll probably look back on my senior year self and wonder what the hell was I thinking? But for now I live in amidst weathered Birkenstocks, brown leather belts, and red baseball hats. 

The fact that the identity of the Girl with the Pearl Earring, is unknown to us only makes her more mesmerizing, her anonymity gives her the passing face in the hallway vibe. She’s the kind of person who you know by name and appearance but nothing of her life beneath the surface. Vermeer paints her to be on display, her head’s position delicate and slightly agar, forcing the viewer to tilt their own head slightly to mimic her. Her eyes possess a certain storm like quality with the whites and grays drawing you in, her gaze speaks out to you as strangely personal yet equally distant. Her slightly parted lips, colored with a mild rouge, appear mid-sentence, mid-thought, creating a casualness in the viewer-painting relationship. 

Vermeer’s dark background, makes her skin appear illuminated. He further supplements her glowy skin with the light bouncing off her pearl earring. The pearl itself alludes to her elegance, and her natural and effortless beauty. A kind of last minute accessory that separates her from every other girl with a blue headscarf. 

Her headscarf beautifully painted with strokes of blue that further bring out her eyes and slightly parted lips. The traces of blue towards the nape of her neck demonstrate the continuance of this light, this light only brought you to by this transfusion of color. 

As a freshmen you see her as all you want to be, confident, beautiful, mysterious, noticed. You think of the ways to achieve this allusive beauty, attempting to change your features to fit the girl. Although as you grow, you come to realize that instead of altering yourself to fit the girl in the painting, you begin to see yourself as the girl in the painting. 

One cannot measure beauty in comparison to others, because it stems from you. The Girl with a Pearl Earring appears so stunning because she lacks fear, she embraces her beauty. As you grow, you see the impractical nature of trying to be her, your realize your eyes are not clouds of gray but a kaleidoscope of color. You discover you cannot recreate her, but why would you want to? 

At 18, I’ve come to embrace my own beauty, the freckles on my heels and shoulders, and my hair that changes with the seasons. It’s precious waste of time to compare yourself to others, for you will never live up to your own expectations unless you first accept yourself. 

Now when I look at the Girl with a Pearl Earring, I do not see some upperclassmen I aspire to be, I see myself. 

  • 7:00 AM

Crossing Boundaries: Lamentation of Christ

Image result for lamentation of christ mantegna
Andrea Mantegna, Lamentation of Christ, 1480
Crossing Boundaries

The Lamentation of Christ was a commonly depicted theme for artists from the Medieval ages and the Renaissance to the Baroque. It shows the period of mourning after Christ's crucifixion. Since many artists painted their own versions of the Lamentation of Christ, many variations of design and composure exist. However, Andrea Mantegna's depiction of the Lamentation of Christ differs from most other paintings of the scene in many ways. Mantegna looks at the scene through a perspective that other artists had yet to imagine. He strayed from the common layouts that consist of much more contact between the mourner's and Christ, and uses light, shadows, and drapery to emphasize the suffering of the figures. 

Mantegna portrays Christ at an angle from his feet and uses the method of foreshortening to make Christ appear shorter. At the time this optical illusion was fairly uncommon to artists, but after Mantegna's mastery of it, foreshortening became a standard part in training artists. The shortening of Christ's body and the distance of the mourners pull more emphasis to the anatomical details of the body. From this angle Mantegna can highlight Christ's thorax as well as the holes on his hands and feet. The close intimacy the of the work shows the deep rips of the holes. The drapery falls between Christ's legs and and wraps around his pelvic area to highlight the genitals, a symbol of humanity. 

Mantegna tested the limits of artistic freedoms and painted in a way unimagined before. He took the chance to cross an artistic boundary and received boundless praise for doing so. Artists now model their works off of Andrea Mantegna's creativity and boldness. 
  • 7:00 AM

Crossing Boundaries: Madame X

Image result for madame x singer sargent
John Singer Sargent, Madame X, 1884
Crossing Boundaries
By Emma Shapiro

Amelie Gautreau, the subject of Sargent's Madame X, was a well-established Parisian socialite, best known for her beauty. Although Amelie was born in the United States in New Orleans, she moved to Paris at a young age with her mother and grew up in a life of French nobility. She later enhanced her popularity by marrying a wealthy banker twice her age. Due to this high social standing she had many painters paint portraits of her. John Singer Sargent aimed to become one of those lucky painters.

Sargent vied to paint Madame Gautreau because he believed that doing so would elevate his status as a painter. One of Amelie Gautreau's most defining characteristics was her soft white skin, and Sargent wanted to emulate that skin on canvas. When Sargent had the chance to paint Amelie Gautreau he tried to show her skin, grace, and beauty, but also emphasize her daring attitude and individuality. By portraying her personality though portraiture Sargent thought he would receive praise for his skill and also his uniqueness. To do this, Sargent painted the right strap of Gautreau's gown slipping down her shoulder. But, Sargent's attempt at being innovative failed him.

The painting was first displayed at the 1884 Salon. Sargent had won an award at the salon the previous year which forced the Academie to give him a spot on the wall in 1884. Yet, his painting at the 1884 salon received much more ridicule than praise. People were offended by Sargent's portrayal of one of Paris' elites as coquettish. 19th century society could not believe that Sargent would paint something which condoned adultery. Madame Gautreau's mother requested that Sargent remove the painting from the salon and change the name of the portrait from Portrait of Madame Gautreau to Portrait of Madame X. She wanted the identity of her daughter hidden, because this painting crossed the line.

  • 7:00 AM

Crossing Boundaries: One Way Ticket

Image result for one way ticket jacob lawrence
Jacob Lawrence, One Way Ticket, 1941
Crossing Boundaries

Jacob Lawrence was born in New Jersey in 1918, but his parents migrated from Virginia and South Carolina. From a young age he took an interest in painting the people surrounding him; neighborhood activity, sideway politics, beggars, and late night commuters. Lawrence then moved to painting scenes of Harriet Tubman and Toussaint L'Ouverture. He painted them in flat, unshaded forms, a style he never abandoned. When Lawrence grew tired of those scenes he decided to begin a large scale documentation of the black exodus from the south, birthing the Migration series.

In his Migration Series, Lawrence does not depict the gruesome scenes of violence and racism but focuses on the internal emotional suffering of the lonely survivors. He is able to convey the struggling that African-Americans experienced during their migration without tossing blame in any direction. Lawrence chose this subject matter because he felt connected to the story.

Jacob Lawrence tells the African-American migration story and even though we are past the pain of this particular historical event, many current stories can relate. People around the world constantly must make the choice to cross physical boundaries in search of new residence. And just like the African-American migration, these boundary crossings are in search of safety, security, freedom, and a happier life.

  • 7:00 AM

Crossing Boundaries: A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery

Image result for philosopher giving a lecture at the orrery
Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery, 1766

Crossing Boundaries

Joseph Wright of Derby took an interest in the industrial revolution and the enlightenment and painted a series of paintings displaying scientific and academic subjects. A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery preceded An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump and followed Three Persons  Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight. All three of these paintings depict people observing science or studying, are candlelit, and caused a stir in opinions. Joseph Wright of Derby shows scientific miracles in a way which was previously only used for religious paintings. The painting shown also goes by the longer name "A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery in which a lamp is put in place of the sun". This title reflects the idea of scientific miracles, such as artificial light, overtaking religious symbolism. Instead of the figures having a religious epiphany they are experiencing a conversion to science.

Joseph Wright of Derby's painting challenged the set hierarchy that favored classical history and mythological subjects. The public was previously only exposed to paintings of biblical heroes, and greek gods. Wright transitions from his classic landscapes, portraiture, and christian themes and attempts to revolutionize subject matter. Wright advocated for the importance of science and knowledge through the concentration of the subjects surrounding the orrery. Their interest highlights the idea that science and reason help advance society. He also includes two young girls leaning on the orrery which shows belief in the future involvement of women in intellectual matters. The people in the painting are crossing the academic boundaries that constrained them, and art, before the enlightenment.
  • 7:00 AM

Crossing Boundaries: The Bolt

Image result for the bolt fragonard
Jean-Honore Fragonard, The Bolt, 1777

Crossing Boundaries

Jean-Honore Fragonard painted The Bolt (also known by The Lock) in 1777. Initially this painting appears similar to Fragonard’s The Stolen Kiss, a romantic scene of lust and affection. It has the same softness and flowy drapery, but the room is in a disarray. The chairs legs stick out, the harsh red drape falls around the messy bed, and roses scatter the floor. The woman in The Stolen Kiss shows a lack of complete interest in her face, but the tilt of her body confirms her consent. However, the woman in The Bolt looks unhappy in her face and seems to be pulling away from the male grasp. With closer examination of the subject matter and the name the painting loses its loving appeal and adopts a more violent one. 

Fragonard meant for The Bolt to compliment his Adoration of the Shepherds. The Adoration shows sacred love and redemption, whereas The Bolt sends a message of sin and desire. The bed takes up a large portion of the canvas, an obvious symbol of eroticism. Fragonard also draws the viewer to the violence by streaking the light from the bolt and following the pull of the man's arm. The man's arm moves up to the bolt, but his body falls toward the woman. The woman on the other hand has lost her balance and control. Fragonard shows a complete invasion of space. The man crosses the unconsenting woman's personal boundaries as well as her sexual comfort levels. 
  • 7:00 AM

Women in Photojournalism: Donna Ferrato

An assignment for the New York Times Magazine on child rape in South Africa, 1998, Donna Ferrato
Women in Photojournalism

Donna Ferrato, a photojournalist known for her coverage of domestic violence, has worked for a great deal of new sources such as The New York Times, Time and People. In her photographs, Ferrato focuses on illuminating the darker sides of humanity. What is so unique about her work is that she captures issues that people are reluctant to discuss. Taking on both freelance and commissioned assignments, Ferrato's work provokes thought on human interactions.

Ferrato not only photographs images that bring awareness to issues such as rape and abuse, but she consistently works with various companies to help eliminate these issues from society. These issues are hard to photograph without showing scaring and violent images, although Ferrato uses human emotion to show the detrimental effects of matters such as sexual assault and abuse. In a assignment for the New York Times Magazine, Ferrato did a series on child rape in South Africa. In this series, rather than finding a way to show the gruesome acts, Ferrato shows the human reactions to moments revolving to sexual assault. I believe this is what photojournalism should be, a portrayal of raw human emotion in reaction to all wonderful, difficult and challenging moments in life.
  • 7:00 AM

Women in Photojournalism: Hansel Mieth

Hansel Meith, Untitled, 1963 
Women in Photojournalism

Hansel Mieth fully dedicated her life to her profession. When photographing on site, Mieth and her crew would live among the issues in order to capture the most raw and telling images. Mieth once said "To be a good photographer you must feel what people feel when they're down." Her extreme commitment to battling social and political issues in the United States resulted in great contributions in documentary style films and photojournalism. Mieth achieved her primary goal of showing the world injustices through the lens of her camera.

In 1937 Meith was made executive editor at LIFE magazine, making her the second female photographer on staff. For this reason, Mieth felt a great deal of discrimination and restrictions against her work and creativity. She was given demeaning assignments, her work was often censored and in many cases the work she was assigned did not get published. Meith had originally been hesitant to take the job in the first place because of these reasons and potentially undermining her beliefs to work for corporate America. Although despite this, Meith was able to use LIFE as a platform to reach thousands of people and display to the strength of human spirit. 
  • 7:00 AM

Women in Photojournalism: Hillary with Ice Cream in Hand

Diana Walker, With an ice cream cone in hand, Hillary waves to the crowd in Weedsport, New York, as she heads to the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in Auburn, New York, One of the stops on her Save America's Treasures tour,  July 14, 1998, 
Women in Photojournalism

Diana Walker provides America with images of behind the scenes and in between moments of politics. Walker worked as TIME Magazine's White House photographer for over twenty years covering numerous presidencies with subtly. Her greatest technique in capturing these unique moments is credited to the detachment. In the same moment, she somehow creates an unspoken relationship with the subject as well. In other words, Walker does everything she can to make herself invisible in order to capture the raw, detailed moments.

Walker had a particularly unique relationship with Hillary Clinton. She had the opportunity to photograph her over a period of twenty years, as Hillary transitioned from first lady to secretary f state and everything in between. Since the span of Hillary and Walker's time together was so large the level of comfort between the two reached a point where Walker could capture exactly the types of images she wanted, the natural and candid moments. The image above is a perfect example and one I find particularly powerful. Ice cream cone in hand, Hillary waves to a crowd. 

Like many of her female colleagues, Walker felt that she faced gender discrimination in the news field. In an interview she discussed this saying, "I've always felt that I got a really good shake from the women picture editors in New York who thought it time for another woman in their ranks. In some ways being female gave me a leg up; in other ways, male chauvinism reared its ugly head." For this reason, I feel that Walker's relationship with Hillary has allowed her to capture such amazing moments in her career. Working along side each other, the two heavily promote equal opportunities for women and succeed at making strides that push the system with this in interest.

  • 7:00 AM

Women in Photojournalism: Displaced

Malin Fezehai, Displaced, on going 2007-present

Women in Photojournalism

Malin Fezehai began her career in Sweden, her home country. After attending school in New York City for film and photography, Fezehai began her career as a photojournalist. She spends much of her time traveling the middle east, Africa, Europe and America capturing images of displacement. 

In an on-going series, Malin Fezehai studies modern migration and displacement around the world. For the first time since world war II over fifty million people have been forced to flee their homes due to climate change, wars, natural disasters, food and water scarcity, and internal conflict. In many cases multiple of these factors play a part. 

In 2010 a massive magnitude 7 earth quake devastated Haiti. The earthquake caused an especial amount of damage to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. It's estimated that nearly three million people were affected by the earthquake, including aftershocks. In the first image, taken in 2012, a collection of wife-beaters hang down from a close line. On the horizon are a collection of houses and buildings in Port-au-Prince still in need of repairs. 

Women make up 50 percent of refugees. In many cases, these women often end up being abused or sexually assaulted after or during the escape of the countries they are fleeing. The following two images are women in UNHCR camps (the UN against sexual violence in conflict), an organization that raises awareness to these issues and works with displaced women and girls. Their primary goal is to help bring an end to sexual violence and make the world a safer, more nurturing environment for girls and women. 
  • 7:00 AM