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In chapter one of his book Living With Art, titled “The Human Experience,” Mark Getlein indicates that the ability to produce images is inherently human and it is how we created art (2010). Artists have earned their spot at the dinner table, after all. We can appreciate the roles they play within history and society. First, they create a space and place for human purpose. Second, they record, commemorate and communicate this purpose. Lastly, they form tangible feelings and explore ideas. These are only a few of the important roles that artists fulfill. One of the main purposes of appreciating art is to become aware and awake to the process of looking. Not everything is what it appears to be. This topic is timely and relevant to our society and its use of social media. We created our own version of Frankenstein. We are intoxicated with information and news feeds. In a society where the pace of news never slows down, art teaches us to be still in a world that salutes chaos and to appreciate the simplicity of things. This helps us understand what it is to be human. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
In chapter three, titled “Themes of Art,” the author shows that in a distant past artists were servants to their craft and to those commissioning their work (Getlein, 2010). They worked for a client, patron or commission in a workshop. Seldom were artists known for their independently created art. Thankfully in modern times artists have recourse to galleries, museums, and buildings to highlight their own ideas instead of creating only for others. Throughout this chapter, we look at different themes that are relevant today. Politics and the social order, looking outward, looking inward, invention, and fantasy are all ideas that we are still trying to understand in our daily lives. When artists can express their perspectives about these ideas on their own terms, they can help us as viewers to form our own perspectives as well.
Clara Peeters was a trailblazer in the 17th Century who specialized in still lifes. I was fascinated by her artwork’s ability to evoke the human existence through objects. She is regarded as being partially responsible for restructuring the way people think about women. In A vanitas portrait of a lady believed to be Clara Peeters, we see a variety of objects such as flowers, coins, jewelry and important heirlooms (Peeters, C17th). We can interpret her look as one of utter annoyance, like when someone is focused on something and becomes distracted or is interrupted. Perhaps all the worldly possessions displayed at her exquisite table are still not enough for this woman. Her posture indicates that she may be bored with all of these things, yet she makes no apologies for her boredom. Looking at her dying flowers, they seem to indicate the passing of time. Maybe a lover tried to buy her with gifts and she wasn’t impressed. Her cleavage is something that stands out in the painting. With the passing of time, all things fade including external beauty. These transitory things can leave one feeling empty and unfulfilled. This woman has more belongings than she needs, which speaks to the acquisition of memories in the form of physical possessions. As the chapter mentioned, if we don’t take the time to really evaluate the details of a work of art, we may just miss its entire message and important themes.
The drawing Self-Portrait Facing Death (1972) by Pablo Picasso is the iconic artists’ one of his last portraits before his passing. In true Picasso fashion, the eyes are larger than life. Perhaps as we stare death in the eyes we see the world with a different pair of lenses. We can appreciate things a lot more. Suddenly, we value a sunset or sunrise like never before. There is an entire array of emotions depicted in this drawing. It contains a blend of bravery, fear, feelings of loss, confusion, and acceptance. It’s interesting to note that the artist in this piece has been exaggerated and his features have been embellished. Perhaps his last work of art depicts its own reality. The visual significance of the artist’s’ eyes is important in this piece. As Getlein points out, “the nature of perception suggests that the most important key to looking at art is to become aware of the process of looking itself-to notice details and visual relationships” (2010). The large eyes draw attention to the observer’s own act of looking and examination of the drawing, holding a proverbial mirror up to the viewer in order to create a shared experience. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Claude Monet said that “We all look at the same things, yet see different things” (as cited in Jerry Davich’s “Seeing the world differently, artistically is a gift”). Our ideas are formulated by our backgrounds, childhood experiences and personal hurts. Learning to look at art requires patience, understanding and expanding our minds. Objective data comes to us through our eyes, nose, taste buds and fingertips. Our mind’s role in gathering information is suggestive in nature. One of the greatest influences on how we see art or appreciate it is our mood. It can make or break our experience all together. We may think of a holiday and certain colors come to mind. Perhaps when you think of an old diner that honors the past, a Norman Rockwell painting would be more befitting than a Van Gogh. We explore associations through the mediation of our own experiences. As we interpret art, we seek to confront our own truths: our own likes and dislikes, fears and strengths. Looking at art can be a therapeutic act. If you are a willing student, it can teach you to be happy by expressing and appreciating creativity.
If there is one common trend in different people’s appreciation of art it is that we have shared experiences. As Mark Getlein points out, “We are all of us born, we pass through childhood, we mature into sexual beings, we search for love, we grow old, we die. We experience doubt and wonder, happiness and sorrow, loneliness and despair” (2010). We all have this in common. One of our greatest human desires is to express ourselves; to talk to people that are no longer with us or can’t speak. We all want to be acknowledged and respected for who we are. You can try to communicate with a deaf person in the same way that you would speak with someone who can hear for hours and never really get your point across. If every picture tells a story, then Instagram found a way to capitalize on these stories. Self-portraits tell their own tales far beyond what we can imagine. As mentioned, no one ritual or religious experience can compensate for the hurt we sometimes can’t come to terms with. Often we seek a higher consciousness for answers, peace and understanding. Stillness provides its own interpretation of this consciousness. .[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
The painting Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda Central Park by Diego Rivera (1947) with its vibrant colors celebrates the people of Mexico as they stroll down Alameda Central Park on any given afternoon. There are several historical key figures presented in the painting: Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conqueror who initiated the fall of the Aztec Empire; Sor Juana, a seventeenth-century nun and one of Mexico’s most notable writers; Porfirio Díaz, whose dictatorship at the turn of the twentieth century inspired the Mexican Revolution; and “ La Catrina,” a upper-class European influenced dressed woman. One aspect of the painting is the portrayal of celebration and appreciation. A seemingly conflicting second theme depicts the utter chaos of conflict between the police and indigenous people. It is the Clash of the Titans in a country rich with culture and tarnished with corruption. Rivera forces the viewer to seek out new perspective and look inwardly in his beloved country. Frida doesn’t look amused by this whole experience. Her expression captures the battle in our own minds: freedom versus duty; oppression versus privilege; and corruption versus ethical behavior. This symbolizes our everyday struggles that we confront within the human experience.
When I think about perception and response to art, I think of my time as TV journalist. I had fulfilled my childhood dream at an early age. We were the #1 rated newscast at Univision Laredo. Many people don’t realize that as a journalist you work through holidays and sometimes miss out on important family events. If I ran into a viewer at a grocery store with no makeup they seemed shocked. While my work required me to be extroverted, in my personal life I was introverted and private. I had to wear nice suits and TV makeup. In my personal life, I don’t like wearing makeup. People seemed to hold me accountable to their perception of me. When I didn’t fit the image they had in mind I disappointed them. That’s no way to live. Needless to say, I left journalism when news became more about entertainment.
To conclude these thoughts, I was deeply moved by Talking Skull by Meta Fuller (1937). I lost my father when I was two years old. I don’t know much about him, except that he died in a bad accident in Durango, Mexico. There is not a day that goes by in which I don’t wish I could talk to him. I have so many questions to ask that will never be answered. There is a shared desired to communicate with those we love and lost beyond the boundaries of our borrowed time on earth. Art can bring us to a place of healing, take us full circle, or challenge us to ask more questions. It is a welcomed guest that deserves a seat at our table.
Davich, Jerry. (2016, July 14). “Seeing the world differently, artistically is a gift.” Chicago
Fuller, Meta. Talking Skull. (1937). Museum of Afro-American History. Boston, MA, USA.
Getlein, Mark. Living With Art, 9th ed. (2010). New York: McGraw-Hill
Peeters, Clara. (C17th). A vanitas portrait of a lady believed to be Clara Peeters [oil on panel].
Private collection. London, UK.
Picasso, Pablo. (1972). Self-portrait facing death [crayon on paper].
Rivera, Diego. (1947). Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda Central Park [fresco]. Museo
Mural Diego Rivera. Mexico City, Mexico.