From the first day of sculpture…
to the last…
this has been a great class! A big thanks to Maya, and congrats all graduating fourth years!
Maya Mackrandilal, a visiting artist at UVa (and our instructor), did a durational performance piece titled Seated Woman, after a Henry Moore sculpture of the same name, which had sat in front of the UVa Fralin Art Museum on loan.
She sat in front of the art museum on a pedestal, like a piece of art, with a veil, for seven and a half hours. The piece was conceived as a critique of the way museums collect beautiful objects from other cultures and display them as art for people to look at for two seconds, when they were intended for use in the culture as a performative object, a ritual dress, a figure to take care of, a statue to pray to… in any case, not to be removed from people and venerated as a superficial, exotic art object. This is at least part of her intention with the piece, as I understand it.
I took photographs of her while she sat, coming to the museum terrace about every hour, and even though she was sitting still, I could see changes.
Her feet tanned in the sun.
The braids on her head-dress changed position.
In the time she spent out there, she was slowly going through mental changes, thoughts shifting around in her head, the only thing she could do was think. But cut off from her face, we could not see her thinking behind the veil, we could only see the tiniest changes like her skin tanning or the wind moving the braids or her shifting occasionally in her seat. These were the things that helped us to know she was still alive, and that she was thinking, even though the sun changing your skin has nothing to do with thinking, it indicates that her body is still alive in some way.
The sense of someone alive but motionless can be powerful if you paid attention to it. She was not talking, but if you looked very hard, you could see through her veil that she was meeting your gaze. Shantel and her sister, for about half an hour, held hands, and held a gaze with Maya. It was really beautiful to witness, and their exchange of still attention made a few people notice a bit more, that Maya was a living being there, able to affect you and be affected. It was a very vulnerable act. It made think back to Maya’s intent with the work.
The average museum goer does not stop and hold a gaze with a painting or sculpture for half an hour. We do not usually see museum pieces as having interiority and life to them that can affect us and gaze back. Some objects in the museum, once did, though, outside those walls in the environment they belonged. They would sit in the sun, and tan just like Maya, and the wind would blow their braids, too, and people would sit and stare and pray and wash and live with them, once, before they were appropriated into our system of democratizing art for the use of the public. But is it really being used? Perhaps some art is better as a story. You do not get the same effect from a ritual object behind glass as you would actually using it, but if everyone used it, it would wear out, get destroyed. But, perhaps it is better for a few, the people who made it, to use it how it was intended. The rest of use will have the knowledge that they are out there, and we will have the story of how it was used, and we will imagine the experience of it in our minds, and that would be more honest to the object than caging it in a plexiglass box.
This semester there were many drawings at the Fralin Art Museum on Grounds, but two of my favorites were a sketch by Pissaro of two peasant women passing each other, and a sketch of a tree by Cezanne.
Both catch my attention because they feel honest. I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but they feel sincere and truthful (if that helps at all). They are not particularly realistic, but they have a quality that shows that the artist knew he was making a sketch and he knew that it was of something that actually existed, and he communicates those levels of reality with delicate lines in a not too deliberate scribble that feels energetic.
The Pissaro sketch of two women mesmerizes me. It is very small, maybe 3 by 5 inches at most, and it shows two peasant women side by side, both mid-stride, and walking in opposite directions. In a way, they look like the same woman, drawn from the front and back like a diagram. But to me they look like they wear different clothes, and they are slightly different heights, and it feels more beautiful if I image him witnessing this passing of two women when they were symmetrical but flipped. What gets me is the way they seem so similar, but they are taking different paths. It makes me think about how I won’t pay attention to the differences in strangers, their individuality, until I get to know them a little bit. For me, personally, it reminds me to recognize everyone I see as an individual with their own direction in live, there own goals, no matter how much I want to say they seem just like every other stranger.
The Cezanne drawing does not have people, just a tree, and just barely at that, because he draws it so loosely and lightly. The sketch shows smooth branches curving off of a tapering trunk, defined and modelled with the shadow at the joint between branch and trunk, when it still thrusts upward as it begins to curve out. He adds some light water color, experimenting with what shadows he wants to make, but these sort of lay on top of the sketch marks, like shadows of stained glass over the drawing. Perhaps this is why I can stare at this sketch, because it has such materiality that I can imagine the moment of making the drawing, sitting by the tree with tool in hand and mind in the present, making an image of this tree. Then the moments after, too, perhaps sitting for a moment or two and adding the color right away, or going back to the studio, pulling it out, and splattering it on after the fact, when memory makes the colors more vivid and surreal.
Perhaps I feel that these are sincere because I enter into them in an imaginative way, expanding the two dimensional space into a replica of the moment, expanding the black marks into lessons for the way I can live my life. Not all art can do that for me. In fact, it doesn’t happen all that often, even though I look at a lot of art. These drawings, though, (and drawings have it more than anything else for me) have the materiality of the moment, as if the time it created to make each line as been pinned down to the paper, a shadow mixing in with the black and white.
While I was waiting to meet with a professor in Ruffin yesterday I mindlessly wondered into Ruffin Gallery and was sucked into the large colorful photographs hung there shot by artist Elisabeth Hogeman.
The photos are rich, bright, and exciting upon first glance. They are situated close together as the photographs flow naturally through different rooms in a home. The items in the cheery home are kitchy and the shelves are cluttered.
The large windows and and breezy curtains in the bedroom above create an inviting feeling. The bed looks comfortable and as if many hours have been spent there reading, writing, and dreaming.
The two photos above are that of an exciting and seemingly bustling kitchen, perhaps the inhabitants of the home are preparing for a party. The fruits and vegetables are vivid in color and exotic looking.
Finally these two photos of the home’s bathroom are equally pleasant and colorful. The light blue tiles are soothing and the large windows throughout the house make the rooms feel open and connected to the nature outside their windows.
However, upon closer inspection every beautiful, inviting photograph has a disturbing element that the viewer uncovers. In the bedroom there are stains on the pillow and wrappers left on the windowsill. In the kitchen some of the tropical fruits and vegetables are rotting. There are used bandaids near the food in the window and the counters are messy. Majority of the food has been cut or mutilated in some way. The lettuce is dark and appears slimy which would surely smell. In the bathroom if the viewer takes a closer look they will see clumps of hair wrapped around the bars of soap as well as on the walls. Each photo while whimsical and luminous have an element that is equally as capricious or freakish. This I believe can be explained by the title of the show, “vivarium”.
The definition of “vivarium”, the title of the exhibit is”
“A place or enclosure, a piece of ground or stretch of water, specially adapted or prepared for the keeping of living animals under their normal conditions, either as object of interest or for the purpose of scientific study.”
The title of the show draws a parallel between the home and a terrarium or aquarium. It turns the supposed inhabitants of this house into a species of interest or one to be studied, and forces the viewer to analyze their personal home life. All homes are in a sense large terrariums in which people live their lives from first words to graduations. I especially enjoy these photographs of the home because in a subtle yet powerful they display the griminess and difficulties that life can entail even in such a cheery and homey dwelling. Surface level this series of photographs displays one thing but quite another when the viewer becomes intimate with each photo.
Its a great exhibit and I recommend that everyone go take a look! Here is the link to the artist’s website:
There is also a reception tonight from 5:30-7:30pm, and the show will be up until May 31st. AND Elisabeth Hogeman is a recent graduate of UVA (2012)! How cool. Enjoy! -Amy
I went to my friend Felisha Nguyen’s art show last Friday, a collaborative effort with Elize Virginia Hartwell, called Alterations. They displayed their work in the 3rd floor gallery in Ruffin.
For Felisha’s work, I don’t remember the name of this series, but it is a series of videos showing a couple with one blurred out.
The idea behind this appears to be commenting on the marriage. It plays upon the theme of Alterations in that we are beginning to change, as a society, the way we view some and are beginning to become more open to such things. Yet, there are always people that are conservative to change and will refuse to change and accept things that otherwise people find acceptable.
Elise constructed jumpsuits out of fabric based on measurements from interviews she conducted. The visitors could listen to the interview via headphones next to the jumpsuits.
Her idea behind this is reflective of people’s bodies being cavases with clothing as the medium for “sculpting a look” for people. Her project takes directly from the theme of changing oneself or in this case changing a part of you. Some people find clothing as merely a utilitarian cover – others see it as a form of expression and thus use it to show who they are.
I have been trying to make an effort to give each of the 4th year shows personal attention and of all of them I have to say that this was one of the ones that struck me the most. Susanne’s photography show depicted a series of about 7 or 8 photos that were all up close black and white pictures of different people’s bodies. Probably the thing that I admired the most about them was the scale being very blown up portraits. The detail of each photograph enabled the viewer to have a very intimate experience with each model. When I first saw this show my mind went back to the video we watched in class about Marina Abramović. Most people seemed to be moved by the vulnerability of her “Artist is Present” piece and the personal attention she gave to each person. I felt a similar experience with this show. I have always admired the expression of emotion through human behavior and body language and I feel like this show was particularly successful with this. All in all I think it was a wonderful show along with all of the others it shared the gallery space with.