I wasn’t going to post about Diego Rivera because I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with Mexican art…But, Frida Kahlo’s work is more self-reflective and personal rather than “traditional” or “cultural”. This is where Diego Rivera comes in. A majority of his work is a representation of Mexican tradition, culture and history. He painted mainly in mural form, which were large scale depictions. He was an odd man himself, probably best known for his taste in women..but that’s another story. The most interesting fact about Rivera, to me at least, was the fact that he was an atheist. He expressed this belief, or lack thereof in this painting: 

Titled Dreams of a Sunday in the Alameda (1947), looking at it you are probably wondering how this is in any way shape or form a painting of a rabid atheist. Well, it features Ignacio Ramirez, who was the Mexican version of Voltaire. He was a writer, a poet and political critic who wrote many pieces that criticized the state of affairs in Mexico. Anyway, in the original mural, he was holding a sign that stated “God does not exist”. Oh yes, he was also an atheist. The mural was not shown for 9 years because Rivera did not want to remove the sign. After he did, he stated: “To affirm “God does not exist”, I do not have to hide behind Don Ignacio Ramírez; I am an atheist and I consider religions to be a form of collective neurosis. I am not an enemy of the Catholics, as I am not an enemy of the tuberculars, the myopic or the paralytics; you cannot be an enemy of the sick, only their good friend in order to help them cure themselves”. This mural is interesting to me because it portrays the history of Mexican culture and tradition, and features such an iconic figure, but censors his real belief about God.

The mural is set as a walk through Alameda Park in Mexico City, the first park built on remains of ancient Aztec grounds. From left to right the theme is: The Conquest, The Porfiriato Dictatorship and the Revolution of 1910. And in the middle (stay with me…) is young Diego Rivera being led by Dame Catrina who is accompanied by Jose Guadalupe Posada. And behind them is Frida Kahlo resting her hand on Rivera’s shoulder while holding the Ying-Yang symbol.

That was a lot to take in so here is a run down of the significance of these characters.

“Posada was highly respected by Rivera, who claimed him as one his artistic luminaries and teachers. Posada’s narrative style was an extremely influential model for Rivera’s mural painting. ”

“Calavera Catrina, a symbol of the urban bourgeoisie at the turn of the nineteenth century must be taken here as an allusion to the Aztec Earth Mother Coatlicue, who is frequently represented with a skull. Coatlicue wears the plumed serpent, symbolic of her son Quertzalcoatl, around her neck as a boa. Her belt-buckle displays the Aztec astrological sign of Ollin, symbolizing perpetual motion.” By all means, do click on the blue links for more information about these Aztec figures.

So as you can see, he was a very complex artist. I think that his beliefs about the world and God made him a very unique artist in that it gave him a much different perspective on things, which in turn influenced his paintings. To further demonstrate this I included this painting: (In full size for maximum detail -it’s great, just look at it!)

The paiting is called El Hombre en la encrucijada (1934) (Man, controller of the Universe). I don’t even know where to begin with this one. This is probably my favorite work by Rivera not only because it sings, not speaks, to my inner science geek but also because I think it is a true representation about how Rivera viewed the world. You can see in this work numerous examples of scientific illustrations. The man in the center is holding a controller and there is an orb which depicts the stages of cell reproduction, there is a microscope with illustrations of cells and bacteria, there are depictions of galaxies and stars and crops such as wheat and corn. There is a lot here to interpret, so you can draw your own conclusions about what the painting is trying to convey.

Diego Rivera

Man, Controller of the Universe

Dreams of a Sunday in the Alameda

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Frida Kahlo de Rivera

Better known as Frida Kahlo, but she -was- married to the artist Diego Rivera. I thought about featuring them both in this assignment, but I much prefer Frida’s work. She was considered a surrealist painter but a lot of her paintings are not quite as abstract as some other surrealist painters like Salvador Dali (another great artist). When she was young Kahlo was involved in a catastrophic bus accident that left her with many shattered bones and 30 operations. During this time she began to paint and explore herself as both a person and an artist. A majority of her paintings are depictions of herself, self portraits. In each painting however there is a story that she was trying to convey and tell of her suffering while she was recovering. Here are a few examples of her wonderful work.

Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, painted in 1940. Kahlo was best known for painting self-portraits (self-centered, you might think). But the reality is that Kahlo’s work was produced while she was bed-ridden and injured. She states: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best”.  If you look closely in this image she is bleeding from her neck and the wounds are caused by thorns, and there is a black bird hanging from the middle. I like this picture because of the color pallate and the setting. The greens in the picture are not bright, but are a dull green, and all the black paint used in the painting stands out a lot when projected against the green.

Without Hope (Sin Esperanza), painted in 1945. This was a painting she did while she was recovering from the accident. My guess is that the stuff coming out of her mouth is her stomach contents. She could have been trying to portray that she was vomiting a lot or not eating and the skull representing possible death.

Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

Without Hope

Frida Kahlo

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I wanted to share a few pieces by two of my favorite photographers: Sally Mann and Cindy Sherman.

Both are inspiring women who are, as you can see from these images, very talented.

Maybe some of you are old enough to remember Sally Mann’s work because of its controversial pictures. Mann is from Virginia and is probably best known for the 1992 collection entitled Immediate Family which features pictures of her three young children. Some of the images were thought to be too controversial at the time of publication because they feature nudity and children. Most of the photographs were taken at her family’s remote summer cabin along the river where the children played and swam nude. Mann defends her collection stating that the images are “natural through the eyes of a mother”. Her depictions of her children going through the motions (injured, sad, angry, happy, naked ect.) are what she was used to seeing on a regular basis, so she chose to capture them. Mann’s work is very unique due to the method of photography that she utilizes. She uses a 100 year old camera that uses wet plate collodion 8×10 glass plates. The large images are black and white and have a “swirling” image effect due to the wet plate process or collodion, in which glass plates are coated with collodion, dipped in silver nitrate and exposed while still wet. Here are a few photographs from the series.

Taken in 1989 of her daughter Jessie posing with a candy cigarette. It’s a very powerful photograph because of Jessie’s pose, facial expression and the appearance of an actual cigarette. It’s not a real cigarette, by the way. I think for me what does it is her facial expression…that undeniable angst in her face.

Taken in 1991, entitled At Warm Springs, it’s a photograph of her daughter Jessie, eyes closed floating in a pool with her hair scattered around her. This is one of my favorites. The exposure on it is juuuussst right. The shimmering of the water and the circle shape exposure of light is perfect.

Entitled Emmet Afloat, taken in 1987 of her son Emmet. This picture sparked controversy for the nudity- Mann was deemed a pervert for wanting to sell photographs of her naked children. In this picture Emmet’s hands are brushing up against the water creating a ripple effect that is captured perfectly by the camera technique she used.

The next photographer is Cindy Sherman, you may have seen some of her work in the assignment. I chose to present a few photos from her Film Still series which are black and white. Sherman has quite a number of other photographs that feature amazing color and skill. I just chose the black and white because I love black and white photos. Sherman is a photographer raised in New York who originally studied painting but soon became frustrated with the limitations. She is quoted as saying “[T]here was nothing more to say [through painting], I was meticulously copying other art and then I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead.” She is best known for her Film Stills collection and her amazing ability to appear in the photograph, often unrecognized, as well as take the photograph her self. Essentially, Sherman was her own one-man film crew. She was the director, the make-up artist, the actor and the hair stylist. She used props, costumes-anything in her studio, to transform herself into a character for that particular photograph.

Entitled Untitled Film Still #14, taken in 1978. Inspired by old B movies, Sherman cast herself in this one set on a New York street. I like this image because it’s exactly like a still photograph from a movie. It’s a scene that I know nothing about I can only speculate about what is happening and thats the beauty of it. I don’t know who this woman is, what she is looking at and where she might be going. So I imagine that she is glancing over at someone whom she just said goodbye to because I see a hint of sadness in her eyes.

Untitled Film Still #30, 1979. Don’t worry…It’s not a -real- battered woman. It’s just Cindy Sherman in makeup. This is another powerful photograph for me. The grainy look and black and white of the image gives it the appearance of a TV screen. The shades of the bruises around the eyes and face of the woman and the tears shimmering in the light are just some of the many details in this photograph that give it a real look. It’s also an excerpt from some unknown film I know nothing about and I am free to make up a plot that involves a battered woman with a look of shock on her face.

Untitled Film Still #35, 1979 In this picture the setting is very cropped and doesn’t give the viewer a whole lot of scenery to work with, and it was intended that way. Often times in movies the entire setting of the scene is not captured even when the subject is included in the frame. For example, if I was watching a movie and a character was washing dishes at the sink, I would only get a frame of the person at the sink, not the rest of the kitchen. In this photo it’s hard to even recognize that this is in fact Cindy Sherman herself. I chose this one as a stark contrast to the other images because of her facial expression. She appears angry and her stance is very firm. I imagine she is about to walk out the door and is giving a person who is in the room with her the “I don’t need you look”.

< http://www.artnet.com/artists/lotdetailpage.aspx?lot_id=42E4B0F47C8DC73E707AF2C7BB4EC71F>

At Warm Springs

Emmet Afloat <http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_2hFkijXi_9o/TI9ZLSXpf2I/AAAAAAAAN70/8db2OBIycIQ/s1600/IN17373065The_Last__452567s.jpg&gt;

Untitled Film Still #14

Untitled Film Still #30

Untitled Film Still #35

Cindy Sherman

Sally Mann

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Max Ernst

For the early modern period I decided to go with Max Ernst’s piece “Murdering Airplane” painted in 1920.

I realize this image is a bit hard to see because it is so dark, but depicted above is an airplane with human hands, and in the corner two soldiers are shown carrying another wounded soldier. This painting falls under the art category of Dada- which was characterized by odd depictions such as these. At first, the image does not make any rational sense, but looking at it one can begin to recognize the message. Dada art sought to send the message that War made society irrational, so irrational depictions were common. I think Ernst thought WWI was such an irrational, unimaginable event in his life time that he could not procure a rational response in his paintings. Ernst was also personally affected by WWI, as he served in the war. During WWI the use of the airplane for combat/warfare became popularized- a new, never before seen occurrence in previous wars. Air combat was particularly ruthless because of the airplanes ability to drop numerous bombs on structures and people- be they enemies or civilians- and swoop out unscathed. Devastation due to air raids and bombings can also be seen in Picasso’s Guernica, which depicts the aftermath of a German air raid on the spanish town.

I included the image here even though I decided not to post about Picasso because I wanted to show how war had directly impacted the outcome of a work of art, and this is perfectly demonstrated in one of the most famous paintings ever by Picasso.

Furthermore, it can be argued that Ernst, by including human hands on the airplane itself could be trying to say that humans are behind the devastation and the aircraft is the method of delivery. One can also say that technological advancements were to blame for such a level of destruction, once again- a plane is constructed by humans, and were intended for flight, but were instead used to deliver death and destruction. Also, probably the biggest hint about Ernst’s opinion of the war and the use of the airplane during WWI can be seen in the paintings title: Murdering Airplane.


“Murdering Airplane” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Murdering_Airplane.jpg&gt; April 8, 2011

“Max Ernst” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Ernst&gt; April 8, 2011

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Impressionism? …Meh.

I think its hard to be an art critic when you know that art is subjective. I don’t -mind- Impressionism, it was just a style. Like, skinny jeans and Yankee caps. I don’t particularly have a strong opinion about whether I like it or hate it, but I can definitively differentiate it between other art styles like Baroque and Realism.

I feel like Impressionist painting is appreciated for its “beauty”, not it’s meaning.  It doesn’t move me at all, the only feeling I feel is the urge to move on to the next painting. Mostly it was just bright, shiny and signifying nothing. If I have to be brutally honest I would probably be tempted to say that it seems half-assed. The brush strokes are not the prettiest, and the subject matter is not that spectacular. The techniques are not that advanced. Sure, Monet made a few good paintings using light (Charing Cross Bridge 1899) but Vermeer in 1688, 211 years prior- did a better job at using elements of light (The Astronomer 1688).







Some pictures seem like they were hurried and rushed. If I had an ounce of artistic talent I would probably try to show off how great I am with a paintbrush, not paint things that say I should get my eyes checked.  But I would also just paint how ever I wanted. If I wanted to be sloppy or abstract, or just paint by throwing a bunch of paint on my canvas *cough-Pollock-cough* then I would probably just do that. Thats kind of the great thing, but also the draw back of the art world, is that you can do anything you like, no matter how absurd.

This is No. 5 by Jackson Pollock painted in 1948.













Sometimes a picture of a wilted flower is just a picture of a wilted flower. If you want to analyze the societal trends, or the painters personal life, you could conclude that maybe the wilted flower represents societal moral decay, or a failed love affair the painter had…Or whatever seems fitting or supported by the evidence you find. Either way, it depends on the person doing the analyzing. For Impressionist painters, the people that were analyzing paintings were those that were well aware of the previous skill and mastery of the previous artists (think Pre-Raphaelites), the Sistine Chappel, Da Vinci, ect. So their judgements were based upon the notion that a new style such as Impressionism was far beneath the level of skill of artists in the past. I shudder to think what they would think of abstract art today. Speaking of….


This is El carnaval de Saturno 1998 By Ricardo-Ponce




I think people tend to gravitate more toward art that shows thought or emotion, technique or skill, but there are those that will pay millions of dollars for painted lines *cough-Rothko-cough*.  I view art  through a “to each his own” lens. I may not find meaning in it, but someone else might. To me, Impressionism painting was pretty. There were pretty ladies and flowers and brightly colored scenes. There wasn’t much else.
Rothko’s Magenta, Black Green on Orange 1947, Monet’s Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son 1875, Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement



Image Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:No._5,_1948.jpg pollock


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Ludwig Van Beethoven

Although it is difficult to assign specific artistically styles to music there are a few noticeable elements that separate the composers of one time period and from those of another. I chose to contrast the works of Ludwig Beethoven, a composer from the Classical period, and works from the Baroque period which feature composers such as Antonio Vivaldi and Johan Sebastian Bach.

The Baroque style developed many of the techniques that Classical composers still used, but with slight modifications. Baroque era composing was  dominated by a few methods and characteristics: double reeded interments (like oboe and bassoon) were emphasized, the use of the organ and the continuous bass line were popular. Compositional forms such as the fugue and sonata form were used. Baroque music featured an emphasis on keyboard music played on the harpsichord and the pipe organ, the use of the violin and the violin family of stringed interments was popularized by Vivaldi, which can be seen in his work The Four Seasons. Bach- a master organist, contributed many techniques that are still being utilized in composing today. He was known for his contributions to secular music. composing many organ works such as Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Organ Mass. It is important to note that many composers during this time period were writing pieces for operas, performances and the church, while later composers wrote music to be herd by itself. While Vivaldi was able to sell his compositions to publishers and have an independent career from that of other Baroque era composers, his techniques are still classified as Baroque era.

Beethoven’s compositions are classified as being in the Classical period, although like every artists, he drew on the techniques of composers before him. His compositions were in high demand. During this time period people paid admission to watch a performance which consisted of only music. Beethoven was able to draw crowds into the music piece through the depth of emotion, strength of character and ingenuity. Beethoven also popularized the use of the piano and wind instruments. Symphonies became a central music form and the development style of the concerto was used to emphasize playing skills. A personal favorite for me is his Sonata Pathetique, also known as Piano Sonata No. 8 which features a masterful portrayal of piano. The second link at the bottom has an audio clip of another work I enjoy called Fur Elise.

Although musical compositions were still more popular with aristocracy and the upper middle class, the changing dynamic of society (more middle class, less church influence) promoted a wider audience than the initial royal court and churches. The classical period eventually gave way to the Romantic period which further widened the audience spectrum.

“Beethoven” Wikipedia. Web. 6 March 2011


“Piano Sonata No. 8” Wikipedia. Web. 6 March 2011
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Sonata_No._8_(Beethoven)&gt;  -Audio


“Ludwig Van Beethoven” Wikipedia. Web. 6 March 2011


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Johannes Vermeer

The Astronomer

For the Baroque period I chose Johannes Vermeer’s The Astronomer. I enjoy this painting for a number of reasons, not just because Vermeer is one of my favorite artists (of all time). This painting has a multitude of features to it that I find quite intriguing. The first thing I noticed about this painting is that it was not in fact a religious painting. There are no frills or baby jesus’ or any depiction of a scene from the Bible. The second thing I noticed was the amount of detail in the painting. The details in the table cloth are very intricate, the window in front of the astronomer has stained glass patters on it, the celestial globe that the astronomer is using has a variety of details on it. The next thing I noticed was the fact that the painting does not have a wide variety of colors. Most of the colors are browns, beiges and green tones. The most obvious, and most appealing detail about the painting is the light technique that was applied. Vermeer used the light coming through the window in a very scientifically accurate way. The light is illuminating the book in front of the astronomer, the robe or clothing he is wearing is much brighter in the front than in the back, also the armoire with the books on top is casting a shadow on the wall, and half of it is illuminated while the other half is in the dark. Vermeer had a very good understanding of how light works and how to portray a realistic scene in a painting. This is a painting done by someone who was very aware and understood his surroundings very well. I believe that the expansion of scientific knowledge is being clearly displayed in this painting. The only other scientific depiction that Vermeer painted was similar to this one. Vermeer’s The Geographer portrays a map maker working at his desk in a similar fashion. A majority of Vermeer’s other paintings are that of the middle class. Such examples can be seen in The Music Lesson or The Milkmaid. The change of subject matter is indicating that it was influenced by the rise of the middle class and merchants. I believe Vermeer was catering to a different market than painters that were still influenced by the religious movements of the time such as the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. His work is more appealing to the middle class because of the nature of the depictions, for example people at work or scenes from daily life.

“The Astronomer” Wikipedia. Web. 23 Feb 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JohannesVermeer-TheAstronomer(1668).jpg>.

“Johannes Vermeer” Wikipedia. Web. 23 Feb 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Vermeer&gt;.

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