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High Drama in the Ordinary
Morgan Hayes

Boy with a Roemer of Wine by Candlelight, ca. 1623
Hendrick ter Brugghen (Dutch, 1588-1629)
Oil on canvas, 26¼ x 22 7/16 in.
Private Collection, L.74.2011

At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a piece that captures the pure essence of the Baroque Age is Dutch artist Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Boy with Roemer of Wine by Candlelight. This oil on canvas piece, created in 1623, shows off the distinctive traits of the “Utrecht Caravaggisti,” artists that studied in Utrecht, Netherlands, and were followers of Caravaggio.1 This is evident from the extreme shadows; brassy, realistic colors; and somewhat unusual (for the time period) subject matter. The picture features a young boy pointing to a glass of red liquid, presumably wine.
 The composition of this particular piece is successful due to the slightly off-center position of the subject as well as the diagonals created by the position of the child’s head, hands, and the negative spaces which engage the rule of thirds.  The circular shape created by the hands and the circular shape of the head help to create unity. These aspects keep the balance of the piece on point. Along with this, the color and value create a very mysterious attitude. This attitude contrasts strongly with the subject’s playful expression. While the smile contrasts with the very dramatic lighting, it also complements the wonder and question in the piece.
 In my opinion, one of the reasons this piece is so strange and great is in part due to the uncertain connotation behind the piece. Why was this portrait done? The painting is just a small portrait of a young boy who is smiling and holding a glass of what appears to be wine. The subject matter is not an extremely bizarre one, but interesting nonetheless. This idea of a young boy who looks  10 or 12 holding a glass of wine is uncommon but not unheard of seeing that Ter Brugghen was fond of painting drinkers.2 What is weird is the way the light falls on his face creating strange shadows causing the viewer to be sucked in. It can be a bit off-putting at first glance, but once viewed for a while this painting can trap the eyes. These are all factors that contribute to interrupting the meaning, one that has yet to be figured out.  This spectacular piece is a mixture of high drama and the ordinary which work together to give the viewer something different using something unexceptional.

Notes

1. VMFA Docent Manual, Southern Baroque and Tapestries, VMFA, Richmond.

2. M.E. Wieseman, “Hendrick ter Brugghen,“ Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, accessed April 11, 2013, www.oberlin.edu/amam/TerBrugghen.htm.
 
What do you know?

The Baroque era took place in the 17th century; do you know what that looks like written out in years?

Want to learn more?

To see some of this artist’s other works check out the link below.
http://www.hendrickbrugghen.org/
To learn a bit about the Baroque period, see this link
http://history-world.org/baroque_era.htm

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Get SmART!

Title of Critique: A Front Row Seat
Author’s Name: Ben Wong, Peer Mentor

Sea World, 2001-4
Alexis Rockman (American, 1962— )
Oil, acrylic on wood panel, 98 x 120 in.
Gift of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., 2010.73

The 21st-century collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is an eclectic mix of content and styles that represent the diversity of people and ideas in the modern world. It is hard for one 21st-century work to stand out of the crowd, but for me, Alexis Rockman’s Sea World does just that.
American-born Alexis Rockman painted Sea World with oil and acrylic from 2001 to 2004 as part of his Wonderful World series, five paintings that address the precarious relationship between humans and nature. Surrounded by a roaring stadium, aquatic animals perform tricks in the waters of an outdoor aquarium. The focal point of the painting is to the left, where a girl tempts a menacing whale hybrid with a fish. The viewer can almost hear the spectators erupt in frenzy.
Predominated by shades of blue and blue-green, Sea World employs a complementary color scheme, balancing the turquoise hues of the animals with the warmer oranges and peaches of the human onlookers. Light pours over the scene, making the animals glisten and separating the clamorous crowd from the dark, quiet, underwater depths of the aquarium. A glass barrier in the foreground of the painting suggests that the museum visitor has a front-row seat to enjoy the show and marvel at the marine life.
Upon closer inspection, these aquatic animals are nothing like the animals that we know today. Seemingly fantastical, these animals are actually designed based on biological and genetic research as well as paleontological evidence.1 Rockman re-imagines these extinct behemoths within the boundaries of modern society, suggesting future advances in biotechnology and artificial selection that would make this frightening prospect a reality.2
Like Rockman’s other works in the Wonderful World series, Sea World takes a familiar scene and twists reality to make our world otherworldly. By superimposing prehistoric life onto 21st—century life, Rockman sheds light on the revolutionary yet disturbing aspects of scientific progress.3 Every day, geneticists are breaking down barriers that lead them to new discoveries, but with every new discovery come fears: fears of genetically altering a species to the point of no return. Alexis Rockman’s Sea World captivates museum-goers not only with its exquisite detail, but also with ominous questions concerning our future: is there a limit to scientific progress, and, if so, what are the consequences of transgressing this boundary?

Notes

1. VMFA Docent Manual, Contemporary Art—21st-Century Gallery, VMFA, Richmond.

Whadda ya know?!:
What do you think Alexis Rockman felt about the relationship between animals and humans???

Want to know more?:
View more of this artist’s work at http://www.alexisrockman.net/
Photo: Get SmART!    Title of Critique: A Front Row Seat  Author's Name: Ben Wong, Peer Mentor     Sea World, 2001-4  Alexis Rockman (American, 1962— )   Oil, acrylic on wood panel, 98 x 120 in.  Gift of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., 2010.73    The 21st-century collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is an eclectic mix of content and styles that represent the diversity of people and ideas in the modern world.  It is hard for one 21st-century work to stand out of the crowd, but for me, Alexis Rockman’s Sea World does just that.  American-born Alexis Rockman painted Sea World with oil and acrylic from 2001 to 2004 as part of his Wonderful World series, five paintings that address the precarious relationship between humans and nature.  Surrounded by a roaring stadium, aquatic animals perform tricks in the waters of an outdoor aquarium.  The focal point of the painting is to the left, where a girl tempts a menacing whale hybrid with a fish.  The viewer can almost hear the spectators erupt in frenzy.  Predominated by shades of blue and blue-green, Sea World employs a complementary color scheme, balancing the turquoise hues of the animals with the warmer oranges and peaches of the human onlookers.  Light pours over the scene, making the animals glisten and separating the clamorous crowd from the dark, quiet, underwater depths of the aquarium.  A glass barrier in the foreground of the painting suggests that the museum visitor has a front-row seat to enjoy the show and marvel at the marine life.  Upon closer inspection, these aquatic animals are nothing like the animals that we know today.  Seemingly fantastical, these animals are actually designed based on biological and genetic research as well as paleontological evidence.1 Rockman re-imagines these extinct behemoths within the boundaries of modern society, suggesting future advances in biotechnology and artificial selection that would make this frightening prospect a reality.2  Like Rockman’s other works in the Wonderful World series, Sea World takes a familiar scene and twists reality to make our world otherworldly.  By superimposing prehistoric life onto 21st—century life, Rockman sheds light on the revolutionary yet disturbing aspects of scientific progress.3 Every day, geneticists are breaking down barriers that lead them to new discoveries, but with every new discovery come fears: fears of genetically altering a species to the point of no return.  Alexis Rockman’s Sea World captivates museum-goers not only with its exquisite detail, but also with ominous questions concerning our future: is there a limit to scientific progress, and, if so, what are the consequences of transgressing this boundary?    Notes    1. VMFA Docent Manual, Contemporary Art--21st-Century Gallery,  VMFA, Richmond.    Whadda ya know?!:  What do you think Alexis Rockman felt about the relationship between animals and humans???    Want to know more?:  View more of this artist's work at http://www.alexisrockman.net/

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Get SmART!
An Intelligent Secret: By Abby Naughton

Number 15, 1948, 1948
Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
Enamel on paper, 22¼ x 30½ in.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur S. Brinkley, Jr., 78.2

It is never difficult to find a quiet place in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The halls are filled with many art pieces that create an introspective silence that captures every visitor’s attention, hushing all conversation. However, I find that a challenge comes about when I try to find a space that will calm my overzealous mind. Recently, in the 20th—Century Art Galleries, I have discovered a painting with the power to stop my racing thoughts; it can somehow hypnotize me into a surreal, cerebral state. I look at it and am reminded of Dubstep, of the burnt taste of a rushed dinner, of galaxies far, far away.
     Created by Jackson Pollock, the renowned contemporary artist celebrated for his innovations in painting, Number 15, 1948 is a mass of tangled and mangled lines that come together with an almost tangible energy. It was created using enamel on paper in the most basic of colors (red, yellow, blue, and white) and resonates with irrational, volatile movement.  It is in Pollock’s painting methods that the true peculiarity is found. These paintings, which were proclaimed to be “controlled accidents” by Pollock, were actually produced through a completely deliberate process. Pollock would lay out a canvas on the floor and then would use brushes, sticks, and turkey-basters loaded with paint to carefully apply color to its surface. Nothing was placed on the painting arbitrarily. Pollock paid close attention to the composition of his marks, fully concerned with controlling the painting’s effects. Number 15, 1948 is just of one of the many pieces that were created by Pollock in this way.
      This allows for an entirely subjective interpretation. This is a work that twists and molds itself to create a unique perception of its meaning for each viewer.  The result of this process makes the painting utterly mysterious; I feel that it holds some sort of intelligent secret within its bounds; I know I personally see the idea of our world as a beautiful mess represented in it. Although at first glance it seems as though the components don’t fit together to form a coherent image, every part comes together to create something that is completely unified when aided by a viewer’s innovative imagination.
      There is nothing in Number 15, 1948, for me, that warrants another opinion—I simply love it. There is not a day that I won’t allow the painting to lure me into its sweet hypnosis. Pollock too was engrossed by his work; in 1947, he said that his paintings “[had] a life of [their] own.” Keeping with this same philosophy, he rarely named his works, only numbered them, in order to allow the viewers to decide for themselves what the painting was about. It’s this universal appeal and its energized harmony that allow Number 15, 1948 to continually reel its audience in. I have no doubt that it will carry that vitality to its end.

Bibliography

1. VMFA Docent Manual. 20th Century Paintings.  VMFA, Richmond.
 

What do you know?

Can you find more examples of work made with enamel in the VMFA?
Is there any other style of music that this piece reminds you of?

Want to learn more?

To see more Of Jackson Pollock’s work use the link below
http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=4675
To digitally paint like Pollock go here
http://www.jacksonpollock.org/

VMFA Celebrates Rembrandt van Rijn’s 407th Birthday!
Two of Rembrandt’s earliest surviving paintings are on loan to VMFA through December, 2013.  In honor of this loan, we are screening Alexander Korda’s 1936 British masterpiece, Rembrandt, this Friday, July 19, at 6:30PM.  Prior to the film, Dr. Mitchell Merling, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, will give a short presentation on the Baroque artist’s art and life. The film will be followed by discussion and audience Q&A.
This movie examines Rembrandt’s life after he runs afoul of corrupt patrician authorities who insist he paint “normally.”  After his beloved wife dies, Rembrandt doggedly persists in painting in his own style that has awed the world for centuries.  One of the silver screen’s finest actors, Charles Laughton, movingly portrays the defiant painter.  

VMFA Celebrates Rembrandt van Rijn’s 407th Birthday!

Two of Rembrandt’s earliest surviving paintings are on loan to VMFA through December, 2013.  In honor of this loan, we are screening Alexander Korda’s 1936 British masterpiece, Rembrandt, this Friday, July 19, at 6:30PM.  Prior to the film, Dr. Mitchell Merling, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, will give a short presentation on the Baroque artist’s art and life. The film will be followed by discussion and audience Q&A.

This movie examines Rembrandt’s life after he runs afoul of corrupt patrician authorities who insist he paint “normally.”  After his beloved wife dies, Rembrandt doggedly persists in painting in his own style that has awed the world for centuries.  One of the silver screen’s finest actors, Charles Laughton, movingly portrays the defiant painter.  

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A Meeting of Nature and Reason

Jack Armstrong

 

In the Tropics, 1856

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900)

Oil on canvas, 25¼ x 36¼ in.

Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, 65.28

 

In his idyllic view of the tropical world of Latin America, Frederic Edwin Church presents various biomes of the natural world including a jungle, savanna, desert, wetlands, and snow-capped peak. This piece falls into a large category of paintings by Church of South American scenes from his journeys, underscoring his obsession and awe with the exotic lands that are nothing like the United States. A small man, clad in red, seemingly insignificant to the vast size of nature, is seen at the bottom right of this picture, exhibiting the Romantic ideals that Church, along with the rest of the Hudson River School, stressed. There is a noticeable trend in the plethora of Church’s paintings that consists of a progression of biomes, with lush, green wetlands in the foreground; rocky, barren landscapes in the middle ground; and, as seen in his numerous renditions of Ecuadorian peak Mt. Cotopaxi, a snowy mountain in the background. The Romanticism is clearly present and easily identifiable, as Romantics believed that nature is the supreme power, mankind is nothing in comparison, and the natural world needs to be protected and glorified through the arts. This beautiful scene of the Latin American landscape was, unfortunately not painted from an actual vista seen by Church, but instead from a compilation of various sketches that Church made on a trip to South America. This method, known as composite painting, was typical of Hudson River School artists as they would simply sketch various scenes and views during their exotic trips, and then upon return to their studio in the United States to paint fantastic natural scenes.

Student of legendary painter Thomas Cole and a crucial member of the Hudson River School, Church was inspired to take his trip to South America, and in turn to paint In the Tropics, by famed German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and his magnum opus, Kosmos, an influential work on the science and the theories of the natural world. Humboldt’s logical presentation of nature appealed to Romantics like Church because it combined reason and nature, two key tenets of Romantic belief. Church’s primary purpose in creating this magnificent painting was to depict the wonders of nature and its enormous scale compared to the minor role played by humankind. Despite the current state of natural affairs, where humanity is cruel and devastating to nature, Church wanted to exhibit the magnitude of the natural world both in beauty and in power. Although this is not Church’s most recognized piece, the way that he portrayed a host of different natural settings in one painting is both impressive and unique. On account of Church’s incredible portrayal of the gorgeous world of South America, this piece is of the highest quality and will continue to have a lasting impact in art history.

 

Bibliography

1. Kemper Art Museum. Washington University in St. Louis. Accessed April 17, 2013. http://kemerartmuseum.wustl.edu/collection/explore/artwork/440.

 

2. Scherer, Barrymore Laurence. “South American Sublimity.” Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2011. Accessed April 17, 2013. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703389004575033112932891000.html.

Fun fact!

Near the end of his life, Church painted with his left hand because of medical problems.

Whadda ya know?!

Can you find any similar paintings in the museum? There’s a high chance that the artists may have gone to the Hudson River School together!

Wanna know more?

For more on the artist, please visit http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chur/hd_chur.htm.

For more on the Hudson River School, please visit http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hurs/hd_hurs.htm.

Watch this video slideshow to see more of Church’s artwork! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G48k28a31l8

Get SmART!
Through Multiple Lenses
by Meredith Hertel, college mentor
 
La Grande Odalisque, 2008
Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, 1956— )
Color photograph mounted on aluminum, 71 x 86 in.
Purchased with funds provided by Mary and Donald Shockey Jr. and Jil and Hiter Harris, 2012.78
 
She radiates a quiet intensity. Her eyes haunt us, both seeing the viewer and moving beyond our presence to something grander than our form, something we cannot see. Seemingly relaxed at first glance, her pose becomes forced upon inspection of twisted torso and awkwardly stacked limbs. The position seems unnatural and performative, as though she is bending to the will of an unnamed entity. The incomplete text of her experiences fills the space and engulfs her in a sea of muted neutrals. Melting from her body and bleeding into the surrounding environment, layered Arabic calligraphy covers her form and the background, disorienting the viewer and blurring the line between subject and surface. This script seems to build a carefully ordered narrative, beginning in neatly arranged lines at the center of the work, but quickly unraveling into an elegantly frenzied pattern in the background. Her mud-caked feet are the only moment of heaviness in the image, a stark contrast to the airy text that envelops the space. These feet suggest a long road travelled and push the viewer to consider the physical and emotional journey that this woman has experienced.
 
Lalla Essaydi’s La Grande Odalisque (located in VMFA’s 21st-Century Galleries) portrays a woman quite literally trapped within the frame of a photographic still. The artist has chosen to keep the edges of the developed film as part of the artwork, creating a visual barrier between the figure and the outside world. Distanced from us, this woman inhabits a space where we cannot go, and she cannot leave. This forces us to reconsider our relationship with this woman and to acknowledge the bizarre power dynamic of that relationship. We do not know much about her, and this anonymity makes us curious. She remains selectively veiled and unveiled, as she lays both covered and exposed. She feels accessible to us but remains elusive. We try to read past these veils so as to better understand who she is, but in this process of reading the image, we revise and change her story to fit within a narrative that only an outsider could construct. Interested in the nuances of female identity in the Arab world, Essaydi uses her staged photographs of women to explore the ambiguous space that lives between the past and the present.1 Regarding her art, Essaydi says: “I wish to present myself through multiple lenses—as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes.”2
     In La Grande Odalisque, the artist certainly achieves this complexity and clearly communicates resistance to stereotypical identity formation. In doing so, Essaydi pushes us, as viewers, to imagine this woman as the world sees her, as she sees herself.
 
Notes
 
1. Lalla, Essaydi. “Biography,” Website of Lalla Essaydi, accessed March 29, 2013, www.lallaessaydi.com.
2. Ibid.
Fun Fact!
Lalla Essaydi wanted to be an artist from a very young age.
Whadda ya know?!
How do you think the artist put the text over the photograph?
Wanna know more?
For more information about this artist, visit her website at http://lallaessaydi.com/.
Read also an interview with the artist as conducted by PBS: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2012/05/revisions.html

Get SmART!

Through Multiple Lenses

by Meredith Hertel, college mentor

 

La Grande Odalisque, 2008

Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, 1956— )

Color photograph mounted on aluminum, 71 x 86 in.

Purchased with funds provided by Mary and Donald Shockey Jr. and Jil and Hiter Harris, 2012.78

 

She radiates a quiet intensity. Her eyes haunt us, both seeing the viewer and moving beyond our presence to something grander than our form, something we cannot see. Seemingly relaxed at first glance, her pose becomes forced upon inspection of twisted torso and awkwardly stacked limbs. The position seems unnatural and performative, as though she is bending to the will of an unnamed entity. The incomplete text of her experiences fills the space and engulfs her in a sea of muted neutrals. Melting from her body and bleeding into the surrounding environment, layered Arabic calligraphy covers her form and the background, disorienting the viewer and blurring the line between subject and surface. This script seems to build a carefully ordered narrative, beginning in neatly arranged lines at the center of the work, but quickly unraveling into an elegantly frenzied pattern in the background. Her mud-caked feet are the only moment of heaviness in the image, a stark contrast to the airy text that envelops the space. These feet suggest a long road travelled and push the viewer to consider the physical and emotional journey that this woman has experienced.

 

Lalla Essaydi’s La Grande Odalisque (located in VMFA’s 21st-Century Galleries) portrays a woman quite literally trapped within the frame of a photographic still. The artist has chosen to keep the edges of the developed film as part of the artwork, creating a visual barrier between the figure and the outside world. Distanced from us, this woman inhabits a space where we cannot go, and she cannot leave. This forces us to reconsider our relationship with this woman and to acknowledge the bizarre power dynamic of that relationship. We do not know much about her, and this anonymity makes us curious. She remains selectively veiled and unveiled, as she lays both covered and exposed. She feels accessible to us but remains elusive. We try to read past these veils so as to better understand who she is, but in this process of reading the image, we revise and change her story to fit within a narrative that only an outsider could construct. Interested in the nuances of female identity in the Arab world, Essaydi uses her staged photographs of women to explore the ambiguous space that lives between the past and the present.1 Regarding her art, Essaydi says: “I wish to present myself through multiple lenses—as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes.”2

     In La Grande Odalisque, the artist certainly achieves this complexity and clearly communicates resistance to stereotypical identity formation. In doing so, Essaydi pushes us, as viewers, to imagine this woman as the world sees her, as she sees herself.

 

Notes

 

1. Lalla, Essaydi. “Biography,” Website of Lalla Essaydi, accessed March 29, 2013, www.lallaessaydi.com.

2. Ibid.

Fun Fact!

Lalla Essaydi wanted to be an artist from a very young age.

Whadda ya know?!

How do you think the artist put the text over the photograph?

Wanna know more?

For more information about this artist, visit her website at http://lallaessaydi.com/.

Read also an interview with the artist as conducted by PBS: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2012/05/revisions.html

Get SmART!

Eclectic, Yet Cohesive

Virginia Chambers

 

The Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John, ca. 1540s

Bacchiacca, aka. Francesco d’Ubertini Verdi (Italian, 1494-1557)

Oil on panel, 68½ x 56 3/8 x 5½ in.

Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund and various donors by exchange, 2007.16

 

The Virgin and Child with Young Saint John is a richly colored piece focusing on what first appear to be chubby babies. However, it is actually a much richer piece than it initially seemed to me.

     Scholars who have studied Bacchiacca’s work have noted the similarity in the composition of this piece to that of a piece by Leonardo da Vinci entitled Virgin of the Rocks. Both feature Mary and the young Jesus and St. John the Baptist, all of whom are situated in the foreground of a natural setting.  In this piece, Bacchiacca also draws on his experience painting flora and fauna while working for the de Medicis.¹

Lighting plays an important role in the work. The main subjects illuminated are the Virgin Mary, Christ Child, and St. John the Baptist in the foreground and, to a lesser degree, the peasant farmers in the background. The dark, smoky backdrop of rock contrasts dramatically with the illuminated subjects. The shepherds in the background reflect the Humanism of the Renaissance.

     Scholars have noted that one of Bacchiacca’s primary weaknesses was in his depictions of the human form.² In this piece, his weakness shows most prominently in Mary’s hand. The appendage is highly disproportionate, appearing larger than her face. However, I interpreted this disproportion of the hand as a commentary on Mary’s strength. She possessed enough strength to bear God’s only son. The manly hand could thus allude to Bacchiacca’s belief that she was strong as a man, even though her body was that of a woman.

Bacchiacca was a leading Renaissance artist, known quite well for his eclectic painting style. He was associated with artists like Perugino and Andrea del Sarto, though he never adhered strictly to a single style. This specific painting pays homage to the artists Michelangelo, Lucas van Leyden, Raphael, and da Vinci.³ Bacchiacca let the techniques and styles of these artists flavor his work and the result is an eclectic yet cohesive painting.4

 

Notes

 

1. Grove Art Excerpts, “Bacchiacca,” Artfact, accessed April 18, 2013, http://www.artfact.com/artist/bacchiacca-9zejhm6hr4.

2. Ibid.

3. "Francesco d’Ubertini Verdi," Benezit Dictionary of Artists, English ed., vol. 13 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

4. "Director’s Choice Tour," Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, accessed April 18, 2013.

 

Fun Fact: Bacchiacca’s style of painting is known as mannerism.

Want to know more?

For more information about mannerism visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannerism

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The Great Female Pharaoh

Elizabeth Ezzelle, Peer Mentor

 

Cleopatra, modeled 1858, carved 1865

William Wetmore Story (American, 1819-1895)

White marble with traces of pigment, 54 x 45 x 27 in.

J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art, 2005.73

 

Sitting in the center of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ American Galleries, William Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra draws my attention like no other piece in the room. Peacefully, yet powerfully, Cleopatra reclines in her seat. It is hard not to be awed by everything about her, from the tiniest detail of a fold in her clothes, to the focused expression on her face.

     This life-size representation of Cleopatra, the great female pharaoh of ancient Egypt, was created by Story during the Neoclassical period. Cleopatra has been known throughout history and art to symbolize strength and power, knowledge, and sexuality. Her head gently rests on her right hand as she casually sits. It appears as though she is lost in thought, perhaps contemplation.

William Wetmore Story’s ability to capture the emotion and compelling disposition of Cleopatra is extraordinary. The detail of her clothing is remarkable; especially when one considers that the sculpture’s medium is solid marble. The contrast of the details in the drapery and the body is something to take note of. The skin of Cleopatra seems very delicate and simple, especially when visually matched with the exquisite and quite realistic drapery of her elegant robe. Any viewer and guest of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts could see Cleopatra with a great amount of awe and amazement.

 

Bibliography

 

1. O’Leary, Elizabeth L., et al. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 159–62. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2010. 159-62.

 

Fun Fact: William Wetmore Story attended Harvard Law School, then decided he wanted to be a sculptor (Something he had never done before). I Wonder what his parents thought about that?

 

Want to know more?

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/88.5a-d

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From Geometric to Organic

Marley Phillips, College Mentor

 

Splotch #22, 2007

Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007)

Acrylic on fiberglass, 148 x 96 x 86 in. (approximate)

Museum Purchase, The Sydney and Frances Lewis Endowment Fund, and partial gift of the Artist and Pace Wildenstein in honor of Frances Lewis and in memory of Sydney Lewis, 2007.68.a-f

 

 

Sol LeWitt’s conceptualist approach to sculpture is perhaps best represented in one of his final pieces, Splotch #22, created in 2007. Each work by LeWitt in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collection appears to adhere to a strict set of design guidelines applied to both geometric and organic shapes and lines. LeWitt’s sculpture 1 2 3 4 5 6, is very geometric, whereas Splotch #22 features organic curves, as if liquid was dropped out of a large pail onto the floor and we are catching it jumping up after hitting the floor. Upon approaching the towering sculpture, one may feel overwhelmed by its monumental appearance, its size amplified by the mix of bright colors and smooth texture.

The colors of the piece are outstanding—the reds and greens sit next to purples, blues, oranges, and yellows. It is as if LeWitt melted giant crayons over the top of limestone stalagmites from a cave. The use of color is integral in this work. It appears that each unit of color was carefully planned out and placed in a certain height and color to his liking. Some of the colors connect as the points converge, although there was never an attempt made to shade the colors together – it is very clear where one stops and the other begins. Although the colors are flat, the piece itself casts shadows, depending on where the light hits it. At over twelve feet tall, the sculpture, or rather, the structure stands high above the viewer. The interiors of the stalagmites are made of fiberglass, giving them their strong and smooth shape, and the color we see on the exterior is acrylic paint. LeWitt drew out the sketches in extreme detail in order for others to create the piece to its completion.1

As one of the last works of LeWitt’s career and life, the piece is strong and memorable. The grand success of Splotch #22 will be celebrated by generations to come at the VMFA in Richmond, Virginia.

 

Notes

1. VMFA, Museum label for Sol LeWitt, Splotch #22, Richmond, Virginia, March 31, 2013.

 

Fun Fact: Sol Lewitt was a minimalist who created conceptional art.

Want to know more?

http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=22536

 

Get SmART!
believe, possess, hold; faint, collapse, plunge
by Hannah Brownell, College Mentor
Untitled, 1992
Lorna Simpson (American, 1960- )
Framed color Polaroids, plastic plaques, 74½ x 40¼ in. overall
Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 93.9.1-5
 
Walk into the Mid to Late 20th—Century Art galleries at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and across from Nam Jun Paik’s Buddha Watching TV one will discover Lorna Simpson’s Untitled (1992). Two life-size African American figures composed of three sections of framed matched sequential photographs hang with their backs toward the viewer. The figures are almost identical and appear to represent the same person. Yet with his/her backs turned and wearing gender-neutral white-collar shirts and black slacks, the figures cannot be identified as male or female. Immediately, the wonder of who this person could be sets in. Is it the artist? A friend? Does it matter? 
The eye then gravitates toward bright red text that has been placed on either side of each figure in one-word vertical lists. Each compiled photograph contains two lists: one stating days of the week, and another matching up chosen verbs to those days. This text then leads the eye to the red shoes and parcel that each figure holds in his/her hands. Because the rest of the work carries a similar black and white tone, these red objects and text draw the most attention. The left figure firmly grasps these red objects with shoulders firm and high, holding them up near his/her waist, but the right figure appears with slightly slumped shoulders and hung arms seeming to have dropped these objects, which appear on the floor near the figure’s feet. This gesture is the only difference between the two otherwise identical figures. 
This contrast leads one to also compare the difference in text from one photograph to the other. On the left, the weekdays appear in order accompanied by the verbs believe, possess, hold, keep, and cling. On the right, the weekdays are no longer in order and are paired instead with faint, collapse, plunge, descend, and fall. This change in text may refer to the gesture change in the figures; the dropping of the red shoes and parcel. However, Lorna Simpson may be asking us to interpret more. In many of her photographic works she presents anonymous African American figures accompanied by text, forcing the viewer to read into the figures’ gestures or physical appearances while taking into account the words provided as well. She intentionally leaves her works open-ended.1 Ultimately the meaning derived from Untitled (1992) is up to the viewer, but there seems to be an undeniable undertone of struggle and disappointment. The apparel of the figure and its anonymity combined with the mundane repetition of weekdays make reference to the struggle of the average American white-collar worker. The optimism of the figure ends in despair and defeat, and the piece itself ends with a strong comment: fall.
Notes
1. Huey Copeland, “Bye, Bye Black Girl,” Art Journal 64:2 (Summer 2005): 63.
 
Fun fact!
 
Lorna Simpson’s husband, James Casabere, is also a photographer!
 
Whadda ya know?!
 
Why do you think the artist chose to have the person facing away from the viewer?
 
Wanna know more?
 
Visit the artist’s website to see more of her works and to read her biography: http://lsimpsonstudio.com/

Get SmART!

believe, possess, hold; faint, collapse, plunge

by Hannah Brownell, College Mentor

Untitled, 1992

Lorna Simpson (American, 1960- )

Framed color Polaroids, plastic plaques, 74½ x 40¼ in. overall

Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 93.9.1-5

 

Walk into the Mid to Late 20thCentury Art galleries at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and across from Nam Jun Paik’s Buddha Watching TV one will discover Lorna Simpson’s Untitled (1992). Two life-size African American figures composed of three sections of framed matched sequential photographs hang with their backs toward the viewer. The figures are almost identical and appear to represent the same person. Yet with his/her backs turned and wearing gender-neutral white-collar shirts and black slacks, the figures cannot be identified as male or female. Immediately, the wonder of who this person could be sets in. Is it the artist? A friend? Does it matter?

The eye then gravitates toward bright red text that has been placed on either side of each figure in one-word vertical lists. Each compiled photograph contains two lists: one stating days of the week, and another matching up chosen verbs to those days. This text then leads the eye to the red shoes and parcel that each figure holds in his/her hands. Because the rest of the work carries a similar black and white tone, these red objects and text draw the most attention. The left figure firmly grasps these red objects with shoulders firm and high, holding them up near his/her waist, but the right figure appears with slightly slumped shoulders and hung arms seeming to have dropped these objects, which appear on the floor near the figure’s feet. This gesture is the only difference between the two otherwise identical figures.

This contrast leads one to also compare the difference in text from one photograph to the other. On the left, the weekdays appear in order accompanied by the verbs believe, possess, hold, keep, and cling. On the right, the weekdays are no longer in order and are paired instead with faint, collapse, plunge, descend, and fall. This change in text may refer to the gesture change in the figures; the dropping of the red shoes and parcel. However, Lorna Simpson may be asking us to interpret more. In many of her photographic works she presents anonymous African American figures accompanied by text, forcing the viewer to read into the figures’ gestures or physical appearances while taking into account the words provided as well. She intentionally leaves her works open-ended.1 Ultimately the meaning derived from Untitled (1992) is up to the viewer, but there seems to be an undeniable undertone of struggle and disappointment. The apparel of the figure and its anonymity combined with the mundane repetition of weekdays make reference to the struggle of the average American white-collar worker. The optimism of the figure ends in despair and defeat, and the piece itself ends with a strong comment: fall.

Notes

1. Huey Copeland, “Bye, Bye Black Girl,” Art Journal 64:2 (Summer 2005): 63.

 

Fun fact!

 

Lorna Simpson’s husband, James Casabere, is also a photographer!

 

Whadda ya know?!

 

Why do you think the artist chose to have the person facing away from the viewer?

 

Wanna know more?

 

Visit the artist’s website to see more of her works and to read her biography: http://lsimpsonstudio.com/