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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

Rome, Vatican City

The final leg of the trip was in Rome.

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St. Paul’s Within the Walls church, an Anglican church near our hotel.

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Castel Sant’Angelo. This was Hadrian’s Tomb, and then over the years various additions have been made, each in their own architectural style. A very strange shaped building.

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The EU flag flying over the Tiber river.

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Trajan’s Column, depicting his victory over the Dacians.

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More ruins from Trajan’s forum.

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Monument to Victorio Manuelle II, the king who unified Italy in 1871.

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Interior dome of the Pantheon.

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Pantheon Oculus + Clouds = the Moon?

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Facade of the Pantheon.

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Onward, to St. Peter’s.

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All Cathedrals face east, but not all have a 16-point compass rose around a 50 foot obelisk just to make sure you know it.

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The School of Athens.

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No photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel…

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… but you can’t stop a man with a blog.

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Nave of St. Peter’s Basillica.

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Altar at St. Peter’s

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Holy Spirit as a dove bursting into the Vatican.

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Trevi Fountain.

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Some ruins from the Roman Forum.

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The Colosseum.

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The Arch of Titus.

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The Arch of Titus was a victory monument to Titus’s sac of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70. Here are Roman soldiers carting away a Menorah.

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More ruinous columns from the Forum.

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Some invisible people…

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View from inside the Colosseum.

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Another view, the remaining top half.

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Pope Benedict XIV in the 1700’s added a cross to the ruinous site of the Colosseum, which then made it a holy place. So then the destruction ended, and it became a historical site rather than another stone quarry.

Florence, Cinque Terre

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The Duomo.

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The Palazzo Vecchio, from which the Medici family ruled.

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Probably a Medici if I had to guess.

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Martyrdom site of Savonarola, in the square of the Palazzo.

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Sunset over Florence.

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It was common in the middle ages and early modern period for people to build entire buildings on bridges. These houses or shops are just… on the bridge.

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View from the Dome of the Duomo.

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Another sunset.

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A forest we found on accident.

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The Arno.

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The Duomo at night.

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Greetings from the Italian Riviera! This is from Riomaggiore.

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More Riomaggiore. All the buildings looked like this.

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The view north, with rain.

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The view south (from Manarola).

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More mist, fog.

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A few relaxing hours on the beach at Monterosso al Mare.

Salzburg

Welcome to Salzburg, Austria, the home of…

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Yes, that’s right, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He lived here until the Prince Arc-Bishop didn’t like him anymore and drove him out of town.

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Lock-bridge number 5 of the trip.

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The Cathedral of the Prince-Archbishop (the entire square in which this was taken is his palace) has a statue that, if you stand juuuuuust right, looks like the angels on the Cathedral are crowning the statue of Mary.

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Interior of the Cathedral.

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A very high-up castle. Probably not best to walk the whole way up it…

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Part of the Mirabell Gardens.

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Is this the ugliest statue in Europe? Talks Atlas Obscura for directing me to it.

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View over the Salzach.

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View of the city from on high.

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Sunset over Salzburg.

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Continued. From the Castle to which no reasonable person should ever hike.

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Our hotel gave us Marmelade.

Berlin, Wittenberg

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Some buildings overlooking the Spree.

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Facade of the Bundestag.

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Dome of the Bundestag, with up and down spiral walkways.

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The Brandenburg Gate.

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There used to be a wall here…

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The Holocaust memorial in Berlin. These giant, impersonal slabs symbolize the way that the Nazi regime dehumanized their victims.

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Another angle of the memorial.

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Another piece of the Wall.

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Both sides of Berlin.

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The French (Hugonaut) church built to support the expelled French nationals after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

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Luther’s Bible, at the German National History museum.

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Perimeter wall at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

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“Arbeit Macht Fret” translates to “Work Makes Free.” The camp would work its prisoners to death.

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Another bleak view of Sachsenhausen. This was the main area, where barracks held the political dissidents and later Jews / homosexuals / Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

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The Ishtar Gate. This was the first of two gates leading to Darius’s temple (or Nebuchadnezzar? I do not rememeber which, but either way, exilic Israel emperor).

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Interior of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

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95 Theses door, in Latin like the original. The wood door is obviously long-gone.

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City Hall in Wittenberg with statues of Luther and Melanchthon.

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City Church, where Luther himself would have actually preached.

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The Table, of Table Talk fame.

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Most clever pun of the trip was this restaurant…

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…which also takes second place as well.

Paris, Versailles

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The Eiffel Tower, viewed from the Trocadero park.

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The sun was setting as we made our way up the Tower.

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This is one of many attempts to capture the beauty of the sunset from the Tower.

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Some buildings on the Seine.

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Notre Dame.

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The inner nave of Notre Dame is one solid piece of stone, if I remember correctly. Over all the Cathedral was underwhelming, as are most Romanesque / High Medieval buildings.

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Sacré-Cœur, a church on the top of a very large hill. It was built in the 1870’s as national penance for the Franco-Prussian war. (As in, Prussia forced them to built it, in humiliation).

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Man coming out of a wall, bronze statue (?) (metal work?) on the way back from Sacré-Cœur.

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The home and studio of Van Gogh while he lived with his brother, Theo, from 1886-1888. Slightly before he hit the sweet spot of his career, which was 1888 to his death two years later.

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Interior of the upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle.

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We went to the Louvre, which means you already know what the next picture will be…

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The Mona Lisa! Much smaller than I had imagined it.

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We went to the Musée de l’Orangerie which is a modern art museum in Paris, near the Louvre. They had a massive display of Monet waterlilies, which are inphotographical because of their width. Here’s part of one…

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Eiffel Tower viewed from the Arc de Triomphe.

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The Arc de Triomphe.

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Van Gogh’s famous, non-ear-cut-off, self portrait at the Musée d’Orsay. This was the best art museum went visited on the trip, in my opinion.

 

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The absolutely enormous palace of Versailles.

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The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

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From the Gardens.

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Also in the gardens.

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One last garden photo…

London, Cambridge

The Europe trip is incredible! We are on a long train ride from Wittenberg to Salzburg at the moment, so I finally have time to upload some photos. Here are some of the better ones from London.

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The Tower of London.

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I believe that this was Westminster Abbey. We’ve been to dozens of churches, so I’m not exactly sure.

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Big Ben is under construction and barely recognizable.

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A park in King’s College, Cambridge.

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On the Cam River in Cambridge. The town was named after its bridge… over the river Cam.

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Trinity College Chapel in Cambridge. Wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, but this was the coolest place we went in England.

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Saw a (not great) performance of As You Like It at the Globe theatre. Not that I’m a huge fan of this play to begin with. Anyways, the Theatre itself was great.

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This art installation at St. Paul’s is in memory of those lost during WWI. It’s a white cross, with destroyed city buildings coming off of it.

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London Bridge! Which is apparently called the Tower Bridge. Tell that to the poor people in Arizona.

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Platform 9 3/4 has a photo-op station at King’s Cross station.

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Natural History Museum, a strange baroque-eclectic building.

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A photo with my old pal Charles.

Romantic and Modern Visual Art

[A term paper in preparation for my study abroad next month in Europe.]

To the Classical artist, there was no tension between representation and expression. As they focused on the object of their composition, representing it as it appeared through shape, perspective, plane, figure, and color, they sought to capture its true objective essence, expressing its form as it is. These tendencies come from a broad philosophical mindset in the Enlightenment period that prioritized reason and objectivity. As the Enlightenment mindset gradually broke down, so too did its art forms break down.

First, as objective expression was abandoned, the Romantic movement sought to represent their world through subjective emotional sentiments. They concerned themselves with the human element implicit in all things, rather than the highest Ideal aim of Reason. If all artists seek to find what Goethe called “what holds the world together most deeply,” then the Romantics “saw the path to this knowledge as lying not through the rationalism of science, but through exploration of their own, subjective perceptions, thoughts, and emotions” (621). While this did provoke a brief counter-movement of Realism, it would not be long before the second of the two pillars of Classical art would fall: representation. By the time of the Post-Impressionists, Cubists, Surrealists, and Dadaists – all of whom can be fairly tagged as “Modern” – visual art did not seek to express emotion in and through the real appearance of a subject, but in spite of the reality of that subject. Hence, Van Gogh: “I use color in a completely arbitrary way to express myself powerfully” (698). As Modernism progresses into the mid twentieth century, its artists increasingly left behind representation and objective expression.

What enabled these changes in visual art? How did representation and expression come to be opposed to one another? This paper will contrast Romanticism and Modernism by discussing first their perspectives on the world in general, then the major themes in each movement’s visual art, and finally one exemplary painting of each era.

Romanticism

The Romantic period emerged in response to many of the excesses of Enlightened thought. Enlightened thinkers like Rousseau and Locke considered all humans essentially alike, only differing in how civilized and ordered, or uncivilized and disordered, they were. Hence, a universal Reason and common rationality which all man could inhabit together. The tendencies of Romanticism were first seen beginning with the Sturm und Drang movement in Germany, then later blossoming into an entire period. This thought prioritized the particular over the general and expressing the inner emotions over the outer sensations. This is true on a personal level, but also collectively as societies:

As Goethe and Herder argued, peoples such as the Germans and the French had different spirits, which found expression in everything from the folktales told around their peasant hearths to the architecture of their greatest buildings. These writers advocated a return to nature, to the simplicity of the common people, and, as many of the Enlightenment authors had also urged, to sentiment. Out of these ideas would come the artistic, musical, and literary movement known as romanticism (589).

As Romanticism spread, it came to define the subjects and perspectives of artists in Europe. This mindset began to be seen in visual art with landscape painting, depictions of heroism, dramatic brushwork, light-dark contrast, and sad or suffering subjects. Romantic tendencies “[overturned] long-established stylistic practices and unsettles its audiences” (603); this was an intentional effort to provoke the audience (though not close to what the provocateurs of the twentieth century would attempt). They “put new emphasis on their audiences’ emotional reactions and tried to connect with them on a visceral level through a succession of vivid images,” with wider, less precise brush techniques, greater (and less real) coloring, and sharper lighting contrasts, all in an effort to “[ridicule] reason, preferring to celebrate life in all its glorious disorder” (621).

One exemplary Romantic painting is Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830).

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The main subject, the Goddess of Liberty, stands atop a pile of bodies killed in the July Revolution. Horrifically, these twisted bodies together form a landscape characteristic of the Romantic period. She stands before the rebels – the people – waiving the national flag to symbolize that in them, and not the government they oppose, rests the heart of France. Delacroix has depicted a scene which would be sad, even devastating to experience. The white cloud of smoke behind Lady Liberty both centers the painting on her and alerts us that the scene is in motion, not still as classical art had largely been. The cloud also creates a misty, hazy look that was characteristic of the period.

The first pillar of Classical art to fall was objective expression; here, Delacroix has gone far out of his way to express the subjective, emotional quality of the people in rebellion, in mourning. However, the second pillar remains: the picture represents something, and it uses specific (if imprecise) techniques to capture the scene.

Modernism

Though the next hundred years of art – which I will recklessly skip in order to limit this paper to six pages – saw the Romantic school close, its tendencies lingered into later art. Post-Romantic artists would continue to sacrifice representational clarity on the altar of emotional expression. What caused these changes to continue?

First, Modernism “represented a conscious break with earlier styles of art” (696). The mid nineteenth century “historical turn” would eventually “join hands with the religious and artistic movements of the period” (623). Artists would study not just the techniques of old, but the entire progression of movements leading up to the present day, and so begin to react against the old art forms for the sake of reaction. In any context, this effect radically spirals out of control into nihilism, because “originality” cannot be a good in itself. Second, and third, and fourth,

Modernism has many other, complex roots. Modernist artists, writers, and composers sought to capture something of the fractured, frantic, and whirling existence they associated with urban life in the fin de siècle. They sought to give artistic expression to what was often perceived as the destruction of traditional certitudes by heady advances in science… deliberately sought to assert the value of their work by differen-tiating it from the unchallenging, sentimental compositions, artworks, and literature that were being churned out in ever greater numbers to satisfy the demands of burgeoning middle-class audiences. (697).

In this setting, Modern visual art used techniques like “the expressive use of brilliant color and coarse brushwork” and “strong colors, shapes, and departures from realistic representation” (696), the “pure play of color, light, and shape” (697), “deliberately [violating] the traditional rules of perspective and plane, [reducing] its distorted figures to the essentials of shape, and [placing] them at unconventional angles to one another” (698), and “wholly abstract compositions of lines and colors in a grid pattern” (750). With these techniques the Modernists began to push beyond both pillars of classical art, into non-representation and subjectivity.

One exemplary Modernist painting is Picasso’s Girl with Mandolin (1910).

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Here, the titular subject faces away (perhaps?) from the viewer as she plays her mandolin. The background, not to mention the subject herself, is composed of the famous cube forms from which Cubism takes its name. The painting is monochromatic, with differing tints and shades of tan.

Girl with Mandolin is representational – of a girl, with a mandolin – but does not seek to depict the subject as she would appear in reality. Indeed, Picasso ten years earlier had said “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them” (698), which clearly has remained his style a decade later. Her face and neck are a continuous block with two different widths; her eye is level with her nose; her breast, shoulder, and right arm are disjointed and attached at unnatural angles. Clearly this is moving beyond representation, and with it, Picasso seeks to express the subjective impression with which the Girl leaves him, rather than how she is herself.

Conclusion

The Classical movement’s twin emphases of representation and expression were gradually abandoned as they became opposed to one another. This occurred when expression became not an expression of the objective item being painted, but of the emotions underlying the item, and ultimately an expression of the painter himself. Now representation and expression stand opposed, and in order to resolve the opposition, artists increasingly favored the expressive end. Now the opposition is brought to its nihilistic conclusion, as non-representation and subjective expression together reach the mindboggling anti-synthesis that is late Modern visual art.

In both Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Picasso’s Girl with Mandolin, we have seen the turn to subjective self on full display, but it is only with the latter piece that non-representational art (if that is not already a contradiction in terms) begins to be seen. What can come after non-representational art? Now that these changes have taken place in the development of visual art, can they be reversed? Or should we seek a new form-of-art, one in which the art’s representation and subjectivity cannot be separated from each other?

Bibliography

Grafton, Anthony and David A. Bell. The West: A New History. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2018.

New project: @abrahamofur

Abraham — an otherwise fine person — makes for really boring sunday school lesson material, especially for junior high students. A lecture would have been BO-RING!, and I wanted to be Exciting! The thought process was, simply, that junior high students only connect with two things, Instagram and Fortnite. Fortnite would perfectly for the battle scene in chapter 14, and maybe the destruction of Sodom and Gammorah in chapter 19, but nothing else. So I opted to create an Insta account and walk through it with them. Here it is:

https://www.instagram.com/abrahamofur/

Abraham of Ur

~~ I’m all about believing God, having it credited to me as righteousness, and #becomingthefatherofmany ~~ 🤙🏽

 

After touring Abraham’s life, we talked through some of Romans 4. This is part of Paul’s interpretation of Abraham. (He does more in Galatians). The promises were given to Abraham and his descendants. But we are not ethnically Jewish (i.e. descendants of Abraham) and many ethnic Jews reject the Messiah, and by extension, the one who sent him, God. How did that happen? Did God break his promise to Abraham?

No. Instead, the division between Jew and Gentile is itself divided.

(Agamben talks about this around page 50 of his commentary on Romans, The Time That Remains. I am reading that book for a class right now and strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to go much deeper into Paul.)

Here is the set-up that Agamben gives:

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The important thing here is that Abraham, being a man of faith, was given the promises not because of his works, but his faith. In fact, as Paul will point out in Galatians, the official works of the law were not written for another 400 years! In the Romans passage, Paul is concerned not with the law as such, but with circumcision. Abraham “trusted God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” in chapter 15, whereas the sign of circumcision was not given until chapter 17. In this case, as in Galatians, faith precedes works.

Paul says, “So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” This is the verse that the diagram. Notably, Paul does not eliminate the main distinction between Jews and Gentiles, as some extreme covenant theologians may say, but also does not base salvation in any way on that distinction, as some extreme dispensationalists may say. 

At this point we stopped going further, because some of these students have never heard of Paul before that morning, and many are 11 or 12 years old. So we circled back and kept reexploring these ideas.

One of them asked me if Abraham had really made that Instagram account.

Magic Crystals

Today I stumbled upon the greatest thing to have ever been discovered.

Browsing around on a color-picker app, near the Shamrock Green region, I found a neat shade called Malachite. (This is what happens during my Gen-Ed classes).

Now, the suffix -ite means that you have a crystalline or stalactitic version of the original, or at least my fourth grade geology class told me, if I remembered correctly. So I googled the term to see its origin.

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This is Malachite, a green crystal ubiquitous across the world. I found this nifty website that lists every location it can be found on Earth (everywhere, basically).

But the value of Malachite is much more than (1) being a cool name for a shade of green or (2) being a cool gem for a necklace.

In fact, I found a very credible website that lists all the proven benefits of Malachite. I’ve taken from their writings to compile this list.

Malachite can:

  • assist one in changing situations and providing for spiritual growth
  • heal on physical and emotional levels, drawing out impurities and stimulating the Life Force throughout the aura and body.
  • absorb negative energies and pollutants from the atmosphere and from the body.
  • guard against radiation of all kinds, clears electromagnetic pollution and heals earth energies. Keep near microwaves in the kitchen and televisions in living areas.
  • protect against noise in the workplace, over-bright fluorescent lighting, and harmful rays from technological equipment, negative phone calls and emails.
  • as a stone of travel, protect and overcome fears of flying if you empower the crystal before a trip by holding it and envisioning yourself in the wings of the Archangel, Raphael. It helps with jet lag, encourages smooth business travel, and protects in travel on congested highways.
  • be a stone of support for airplane and airline workers as a protection against accidents, miners for protection from unexplained accidents, and for secretaries to stimulate clear thinking
  • be an effective remedy for female problems, especially regulating the menstrual cycle and cramps, and for easing labor. It has been called the Midwife Stone. It resonates with the female sexual organs, and treats sexual dis-ease, especially when caused by traumatic past experiences
  • relieves cold sweats,
  • relieve malaria,
  • relieve trembling and
  • relieve Parkinson’s disease,
  • help with asthma,
  • help with intestinal problems and
  • help with rheumatic pain.
  • Function as a diuretic stone and can help cure kidney and gallstones.
  • fight osteoarthritis, most notably in the spine, and
  • strengthen memory, especially for those with short-term memory loss who forget the names of people right after hearing them.
  • treat epilepsy
  • treat travel sickness
  • treat vertigo
  • help in the healing of fractures, swollen joints, growths, tumors (!!!!!!!!!!!), torn muscles and broken bones.
  • enhance the immune system and stimulate the liver to release toxins.
  • as a stone of transformation, encourage change and emotional risk-taking.
  • show what is blocking your spiritual growth,
  • draw out deep feelings and psychosomatic causes, then allows you to break unwanted ties and outworn patterns.
  • encourage the expression of feelings, alleviating shyness and teaching the responsibility for one’s own thoughts and actions.
  • support friendships and empathy for other people.
  • help battle depression and anxiety, give resistance to emotional blackmail and heals emotional abuse, especially when suffered in childhood.
  • encourage healthy relationships based on love and not need.
  • assist in overcoming fear of confrontation, or fear of being seen or noticed, and helps one find the strength within to assume their rightful place in the Universe.
  • regulate our interaction with the external world and controls what we embrace and what we resist.
  • give us the balancing ability to be ourselves within the environment [via the heart chakra]
  • for those highly evolved and dedicated to humanitarian purposes, assist in grounding higher energies onto the planet for those purposes
  • for those in a purification process, act as a purger and a mirror to the subconscious, reflecting into the conscious mind that which needs to be cleansed.
  • absorb energy instead of emitting it because it is dense and nontransparent.
  • if placed over areas that are diseased or painful, draw out the negative energy and surface the causes for it. Because of the absorbing properties, it is important to cleanse the stones after such use.
  • be a powerful ally for those waiting for their reality to change.
  • remind us we have come here to co-create with the Universe, and helps in identifying the steps necessary to bring dreams, visions and wishes into physical reality.
  • reveal the truth about oneself and brings to the surface that which is unknown or unseen to the conscious mind.
  • when used, worn or meditated upon, draw out and reflect whatever is impeding spiritual growth, and is best used in conjunction with meditation to help balance and release the debris that is revealed.
  • break negative patterns of behavior, if you speak your fears and sorrows aloud daily as you hold the crystal, then, leave it in a sheltered place outdoors overnight to carry away the fears.
  • be used in meditations to get in touch with the Earth Mother. Holding one and sitting quietly on the ground for a few minutes helps many people to be more aware of the earth as a living organism upon whom we are totally dependent.
  • be used for scrying. Journeying through its convoluted patterns releases the mind, assisting in receiving insights from the subconscious or messages from the future.
  • hold evil spirits aloof and help children sleep soundly and peacefully if placed over an infant’s cradle.
  • enhance vitality,
  • bring abundance, and
  • keep us growing physically.
  • stimulate clear vision and insight

Wow! The cure to all of these problems has been found! I don’t know about you, but nothing on this list sounds bad. No osteoporosis? No tumors? Vitality? No Malaria? No Parkinson’s? Sign me up!

Later on in the page:

(Please note: Information on this web site is no substitute for consulting a health care professional. All information contained on this web site, including information relating to medical and health conditions, products and treatments, is for informational purposes only. Please see your doctor or health care professional before starting any alternative treatments, diets, supplements or exercise programs.)

Malachite must be handled with caution!

Malachite is toxic and should be used only in its polished form. Avoid breathing its dust.

We must again warn you: use only polished Malachite. Do not use any Malachite elixir. Do not place any malachite in your mouth. If you use this stone, use common sense. Place it on the body with a small cloth under it. It’s healing powers will not be diminished.

If only I had a small cloth.

Hedda Gabler

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I.

Not all women hope to achieve something with their life; for these complacent ones, gender restrictions have nothing to restrict, and probably define and clarify an otherwise confusing world. However, contrary to Victorian social expectations, some women refuse to feel this uncritical satisfaction with their achievements.

Women with ambition, with passion, often step beyond the asymptote of Victorian standardbearers, and face discipline for it. Henrik Ibsen sets Hedda Gabler in this societal structure to condemn its inherent cruelty, licensing himself to critique in Thea the unambitious, in Hedda the ambitious, and in Brack the reactionary forces that threaten the latter alone.

 

II.

Thea Elvsted lives an accidental forward progress- passively, never taking initiative, this aloof character bumbles about, seemingly absent in mind. Patriarchy can’t contain her because she has nothing to contain. For example of her passivity, in one conversation, Thea “[Starts nervously] . . . [Gets up quickly, restlessly] . . . [Looks anxiously at her watch] . . . [stares blankly and helplessly],” and defends herself “[in alarm].” Ibsen includes these stage notes to give Thea an additional aura of recipiency, while Hedda directs the conversation in full. What Victorian forces could disagree with an ill-spoken woman trying to maintain a public front of marital fidelity, who moreover attempts to domesticate the wild Eilert? Hedda smiles to remark that Thea has “made a new man of him,” or to paraphrase, fulfilled precisely her gender role- to domesticate, to civilize, to tame the untamable men.

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Thea’s meek responses to Eilert’s probing before the party, quickly flipping tone to agree with him from “Oh, Hedda, no!” To “Yes, that’s true,” or additional stage notes indicating “[Frightened] . . . [Quietly sobbing] . . . [trying to hide her anxiety]” all further exemplify Thea’s readiness to conform to the will of others, an instinctive obedience. As one critic commented on Thea, “sometimes, adaptation is not a virtue,” and her consistent conformity to Victorian social mores, though uncontroversial by definition, renders her useless in the plot (Jones). The notable lack of cruelty- or assertiveness – or initiative – or even mere presence – in Thea indicates the stereotypical submission to the system, which Ibsen here condemns.

 

III.

Foiled for contrast, Ibsen crafts Hedda as brooding with passion, angsty and bored with domesticity. More than any other character in the play, Hedda schemes; her tendency to actively plot destroys other characters and positions her far outside the Victorian expectation. Hedda opposes Thea with the de-domestication of Eilert- that she would tear a man down into fleshly disarray- as Iago to Michael Cassio, with liquor and the sole intent of destroying him. Hedda additionally tries to express herself, but faces reprimand. Despite her talent, Tesman instructs her to stop playing the piano; her passive-aggressive reaction that “from now on I’ll be quiet” sardonically reveals the degree to which she rejects Victorian social norms surrounding submission; ultimately this patriarchal social structure subdues and compels her to commit suicide.

hedda gabler

A critic points out that “like so many women, [Hedda] is left miserable among the conventional props of happiness,” those including domesticity, chastity, fidelity, submissiveness, and bourgeois entertainment (Jones). Hedda disregards each of these, seeming to prefer social manipulation, shooting pistols, lying and conniving. Hedda would not consent to “the sterilizing atmosphere of [her] environment” and pushed these boundaries until she could not longer tolerate the repercussions (Mayerson).

hedda piano


IV.

Brack’s constraints on Hedda represent the overall social constraints on women, and once she realizes the futility of escape, she commits suicide. One scholar writes that Hedda’s sole redeeming quality “is a sense of dignity and honor that no one else in the play, including Judge Brack, shares”; Brack’s departure from conventional sexual values comes at Hedda’s annoyance, and refusal (Blau). Take for example his insinuation that she use “natural talent which every woman” possesses, i.e. the ownership of a vagina, into which Brack certainly craves entrance. By the next morning she knows the drill- Brack states without innuendo that he “haven’t even had time to take my clothes off,” to which Hedda curtly replies “You haven’t either?,” emphasis Ibsen’s. In the moments preceding Hedda’s suicide, Brack makes additional sexual references to Hedda’s company being “a pleasure” and “great fun together.”


judge brack

Victorian women faced an expectation of submission to the sexual gratification of men, yet Hedda defies this expectation- until she cannot. Even more ironically yet, her entrapment came because Brack discovered an even further unwomenly action, Hedda inciting Eilert to commit suicide. Ever the pragmatist, Hedda would rather die than give Brack the gratification he desires. Brack himself represents the penalty for women who defy conventional sexual and social standards, which Ibsen here condemns by portraying Brack as bestial, corrupt and sordid.

V.
For women content with bourgeois social preoccupation, a bourgeois Victorian patriarchy probably made sense. Yet other women, those not content with stagnancy, experience what Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler to criticize: the “tragedy of boredom” that falls prey to “time, the subtle thief” until the active woman cannot cope (Solensten). In Brack’s cruelty to Hedda, in Thea’s lack of cruelty- or self-awareness- or passion- or basic cognitive ability- and in the cruelty of the Victorian system itself, Ibsen expresses disapproval at his contemporary social standards.

general gabler

A gnomon at six, ever eager to one day declare finished the captivity of women, Ibsen himself models General Gabler’s painting- a cartouche looking down upon the almost unreal world, eager and expectant to see its full potential realized, without concern for its gender.

 

VI.

Blau, Herbert. “ ‘Hedda Gabler’: The Irony of Decadence.” Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 5, No. 2 (May, 1953). pp. 112-116

Jones, David Richard. “The Virtues of ‘Hedda Gabler’.” Educational Theatre Journal, Vol 29, No. 4 (Dec., 1977), pp. 447-462

Mayerson, Caroline W. “Thematic Symbols in ‘Hedda Gabler’.” Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4 (NOVEMBER 1950), pp. 151-160

Solensten, John M. Time and Tragic Rhythm in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler’.” Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 41, No. 4 (NOVEMBER 1969), pp. 315-319