Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Spectacles of the Spectacular West


On Tuesday the class discussed spectacles of the spectacular west. The class talked about destruction in relation to the atomic bomb, art and entertainment, and Las Vegas. We discussed how destruction has become a spectacle and a form of entertainment as seen in art by such artists as Gustav Metzger and shows like The Twilight Zone. The topic of destruction was also discussed in terms of atomic bombs and their testing sites in the Southwest, which became spectacles due to their exciting and mysterious qualities. Las Vegas also applies to this topic due to destruction being part of the culture of the city as well as a means of spectacle and entertainment. We examined these topics in depth by supplementing our discussion with Julia Hell and George Steinmetz’s “Ruinopolis: Post-Imperial Theory and Learning from Las Vegas,” Kerry Brougher’s “Atomic Theater,” Peter Goin’s “The Nuclear Past in the Landscape Present,” and Geoff Dyer’s “Richard Misrach,” as well as the questions that our classmates asked in their reading responses.

Sedan Nuclear Test, Nevada Test Site, 1962, photo from Wikipedia

The class discussed the topic of desensitization. We talked about how we have been relatively desensitized to various types of destruction, crime, and tragedies. We came to the conclusion that we have desensitized ourselves in order to get through the day. If we mourned over every tragic incident that happened, we would never stop mourning. The class agreed that desensitizing ourselves is a way of survival. Some people also argued that the reason it seems like society is desensitized is because we feel like we can’t do anything about the tragedies that happen. We related these ideas back to the artists discussed in Kerry Brougher’s “Atomic Theater.” We looked at Bruce Conner’s use of destruction as spectacle by watching his film “A Movie.”

When it came to discussing the creation that comes from destruction and subtractive tendencies in relation to landscape, the class had split opinions on whether or not the test sites around the west were a strange kind of governmental land-art. One side of the discussion mentioned that the government did not create this landscape for the purpose of art. The other side said that although the intention was not there at the beginning, artists often came along to the land afterwards and imposed a story and divinity for the land therefore giving a bit of artistic credit to the government.

Richard Misrach, Aerial Target ("Dart"), Wendover Air Base, Utah, 1990, from Desert Cantos, photo from Fraenkel Gallery

Richard Misrach photographed a site known as Bravo 20 for a project called Desert Cantos. Bravo 20 is a chunk of land that the Navy used as a bombing range since 1944. Dyer talks about his experience traveling with Misrach to different places he photographed and compared his work to other photographers such as Timothy O’Sullivan. They traveled from Bravo to Pyramid Lake, Gerlach, and Black Desert Rock. Misrach’s photos were very vulnerable and had an overall theme of human destruction.

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, photo from Yelp

Hell & Steinmetz made a post-imperial analysis of Las Vegas based on the reconstruction of its history in regards to architecture and how it is presented in pop culture, specifically highlighting sites of ruin. They discussed the dimensions and crumbling empire of the United States, focusing specifically on Las Vegas as one of the main examples of collapsing imperialism. There was mention of Friedrich Ratzel’s theories of ruins and empires, further making comparisons to the empires of Europe and Rome in comparison of that found in America. Overall, it was summarized that America is seen as an empire that is seeing its current decay. Las Vegas, in particular, has an imperial territoriality to it as it is seeing destruction over time. Much like Detroit, Las Vegas has followed a similar boom-and-bust pattern. There was also a discussion of Native American tribes that had formerly thrived in the Southwestern United States, highlighting how the atomic age greatly impacted their sacred lands while also impacting the city and its casinos as well. What once was seen as sacred quickly turned to sacrificial land. Finally, casinos themselves were highlighted as the architecture and theme of them could be seen as a parody or mimicry of imperial Rome in a stylistic sense. Caesars Palace is one of the biggest examples. The architecture seemed to carry the message that it is a place where the populist representation of a self-confident empire has changed into the brutalist forms of a hyper-militarized empire in crisis.

Holly Osbourne, Alix Peters, Jake Bobeck, and Kaiti Sullivan

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Agnes Denes, Maya Lin, Christo and Jeanne-Claude

This week our group discussed Earth artists Agnes Denes, Maya Lin, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude.


Maya Lin, Listening Cone

While discussing Maya Lin, the class talked about a few different topics including; aesthetic vs. informational art, whether the Earth artists discussed were trying to get people to make change or just to raise awareness, and if Earth art should be ecologically conscious to make more of an impact. During the aesthetic vs. informational talk, we discussed whether Maya Lin was concerned as much with aesthetic or if she wanted to just give information to her audience. Some stated that Lin obviously had an eye for aesthetic and that her work was artistic in nature such as with Listening Cone while others believed her primary concern was more for informational purposes. The class was asked whether they think the art made for the Space, Land, and Concept Art studio portion was trying to get people to change or if it was just trying to raise awareness. There were varying answers, but we concluded that it was something an artist really needed to consider in terms of what information is displayed. The class also talked about Lin’s comment on her disinterest with ‘marking’ the Earth. She simply wanted to add, rather than detract. This was in direct contrast to artists such as Smithson and De Maria. We pondered if an ecologically conscious Earth work had more of an impact. This was more difficult to answer since it depended on a situation. I believe most agreed that an Earth artist might as well try to be ecologically sound if they are working with the Earth, but that it does not necessarily take away from their intent of the project if they did not.



We discussed aspects of Agnes Denes’ work, including the logistics of her time capsule and the contributions to the preservation of the environment. The class doubted that the time capsule would be able to last that long, either because people would be too impatient and open it prematurely or humanity would die off. This spiraled off into a discussion about whether or not time capsules were a realistic idea and whether humanity would last long enough to open time capsules in the very far future. We also discussed her contributions to the environment. The class seemed to be in agreement that rather than destroy the environment, like Heizer and other land artists, Denes succeeds in creating work that either restores or preserves the environment.


Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeThe Umbrellas, Japan/USA, 1984-91

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works have an underlying theme of freedom and their work Umbrellas is a great example. Christo is well known for his ambitious works that are larger than life. Wrapping public buildings, bridges, walkways, and monuments with nylon fabric are created in public spaces allowing viewers to see them for free. Christo never accepts outside funding such as grants, commissions, or fellowships. His work is completely funded out of his own pocket even when the work costs $26 million. Umbrellas, located in Japan and California, was an installation of 3,100 yellow and blue umbrellas. On October 6th was blooming day for the work.


Christo and Jeanne-Claude,  The Umbrellas, Japan/USA, 1984-91

Overall Umbrellas gave a sense of community, joy, and unity. Ellen Waltersheid shared her perspective as someone who helped put up the project and the relationships she built with the team of strangers she worked with. Even as an outsider Robert Findlay said that there was an “unmistakable aura of community” because everyone was surrounded by these same yellow structures. Sadly, two people died from the artwork, one from the wind and another from electrocution. The sorrow of these deaths was also spread throughout the community--even affecting people who didn’t personally know them.

 Celina Timmerman, Kaiti Sullivan, Holly Osburn, and Cassi Amman

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, and James Turrell


The beginning of our discussion began with how Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, and James Turrell's works are comparable to large monuments like the Egyptian pyramids.

Pyramids at Giza, Egypt (image: Wikipedia)

Light and how we perceive it can change our truth and what we believe to be true. How an artist uses light can be truthful or untruthful. Messing with perception for Turrell may not be a lie, but refers back to his piloting experience where he can lose sense of up and down. Artists are interested in changing your perception of the world around you, inducing a sense of escapism in your everyday life. They take you to a new, alien place and allows for an escape from reality. Going West is part of this pilgrimage in “escaping reality.”

James Turrell, Outside In, at House of Lights, 2000, Tohka-machi, Niigata, Japan. During night program, 2011 (image: Wikipedia)

The Term Double Negative only works because Heizer removed from the natural world rather than created a positive first. A third party experience of matter and form create this new positive from these double negatives. Two nothings come together to create something.

Michael Heizer, Double Negative, 1970, Mormon Mesa, near Overton, NV (image: Wikipedia)

Heizer initially wanted it to go through evolution, but decided later he wanted it cleaned up. The natural disorder and lack of control is frightening to artists. Heizer seems to want to preserve his legacy by restoring Double Negative and having City outlast humanity. We started discussing the possibility of artists being buried in their works. Heizer was physically deteriorating through the creation of his work. We also briefly discussed the use of toxic materials that artists are using could potentially affect the artist’s lifespan and health.


Dan Flavin shows the light source a lot in his work, whereas Turrell hides it. Turrell’s light interacts with the space in a unique way and adjusts your perception of the space you’re in. It has more of a relationship with the person experiencing it. It has a meditative quality, similar to his Quaker religious sessions. We talked about how art can be a sort of religion based on the definition of the superhuman power it has. Religion in a large sense could be a way to understand our existence and connection to the earth. Emotion is a driving force in experiencing these artworks. Scale is a large factor in their creation.


De Maria's Lightning Field is more about getting there and experiencing the field rather than the lightning. Lightning serves as an important aspect that connects spacial relationships and how it relates to the Earth. The natural elements besides the lightning itself contribute to the dangerous sense you get from the piece. We came up with different ideas of what we would do at Lightning Field for 18 hours, such as roaming around, meditating. The art is about conveying an experience, and how you make the choices with how you spend your time there tells you about your personality. The poles help determine your own relationship with the space, but they also play mind tricks on you with how the light hits them.

Lastly, we talked about how 2D artwork is unique in the sense that it is so separate from the spacialness of the 3D works we have been looking at. Having the journey to the earthworks make the experience of the work more satisfying.

Alex Mikev, Lilly McClung, Carrie Pawlovich, Molly Carpenter

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt



Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty Film Still, 1970

In the seventh week of student led presentations we discussed the works created by Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt. Starting with Robert Smithson, we considered the concepts behind Spiral Jetty. The general concept our class analyzed was that walking down the jetty is meant to be like circling back to one's center, or roots. As the class examined both Spiral Jetty, Sun Tunnels, and other works by these artists, it was brought up that they look very simple, but that the process of creating these works is vast. We questioned the importance of understanding the process and how that may change the perception of the work, and whether that understanding of process is a success or failure.


Nancy Holt, Sunlight in Sun Tunnels (Detail), 1976

In the articles, Holt brought up that she would like for her works to outlive her. Longevity and endurance of the Sun Tunnels was compared to that of ancient works, like mounds and caves, and determined that it makes sense for the Sun Tunnels to last for a very long time because of these ancient ideas it echoes. Many of these ancient works were sacred, or at least thought of as so. This brought up the idea that earthworks could perhaps make things sacred, and in regards to this, the words “spiritual” and “worship” were brought up a few times. Talking about Holt once again, we discussed what future generations may think of her works and the impulses to align things with the stars.


Nancy Holt, Drawing for Positioning of Holes in the Perseus Constellation, 1975

In relation to perception, we dissected the meaning between scale and size. We concluded that size is a more formal element, and scale has more to do with the viewers own perspective.

As artists and viewers, we are trained to think that art should last forever, but more so in the context of museum art. We discussed the difference in values of museum works and earthworks, and how earthworks would not be what they are if in a museum. It was concluded that both, although seemingly opposite of one another, could be thought of as elitist. 


Road in between Golden Spike and Spiral Jetty, August 2005

Going off the topic of museums and the access they provide, we discussed road maintenance and access to these works, and how that impacts them. This was primarily discussed in relation to Spiral Jetty, the Golden Spike, and the road in between the two. In this conversation, it was concluded that earthworks offer much different experiences than museums can. 

Demi Fenicle, Megan Sutton, Lilly McClung, Katherine Thomas

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Marfa & Chinati

During our class discussion we started out talking about museums and how they display art. We talked about how museums often get annoyed with contemporary artists that bring their large sculpture into the museums because they are hard to deal with and make space for. Private or public funding can be factors into artists providing a space for their work, and whether the art itself is private or public.

A gallery of emptiness at the Museum of Contemporary Cuts

The conversation shifted into how we lose and gain different qualities with white museum gallery space, how interpretations change in different spaces. For some in the class, backgrounds were just noise to be ignored in lieu of the artwork, while for others it changed the entire atmosphere. Contemporary and modern works often get stuck in what the class identified as ‘white cubes’. However, there are other ways to create gallery spaces other than white walled spaces. Museums and galleries are starting to shift away from blank, neutral spaces and artists are trying to find ways to make the galleries more inviting rather than intimidating, but it can also be a distraction to the work itself.



Donald Judd, 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, 1982-1986, image from Chinati Foundation

We then continued to discuss how Donald Judd made his own gallery space to accommodate his work in ways that traditional museums and galleries could not. We talked about how Judd’s work is so site-specific. Because of the past use of the buildings, it’s comparable to what it was used for in the past (grocery store). These buildings don’t change, but the space does. Past uses may or may not change views on how you interpret the work.


The Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, New York, part of the Dia Foundation

We then transitioned into tackling about funding the art and whether or not having a patron is good or bad. We talked about how patrons ultimately have control, and you just have to find the right people to fund it so that the decisions align with yours. Ideally, you could get a grant so that you have no restrictions with your artwork. Because they are giving you the opportunity you couldn’t do on your own, you should respect their input. Without the Dia Foundation, Judd’s vision would probably never have happened. In the end, they just ran out of money.


Donald Judd, 15 untitled works in concrete, 1980-1984, image from Chinati Foundation

We then proceeded to talk about Judd’s work as an artist and how Judd was able to contextualize his work however he wanted to with the way he finished these buildings for his works.  We then started talking about minimalism and how it is seen in different ways, such as art that consumes your space and also art that has a lack of embellishment. The artists thought the term itself was derogatory. Judd uses repetition and that quality is usually not associated with minimalistic art pieces. Personal responses include ignoring minimalist artworks, or indulging into the detail given in and around the sculpture. He isn’t making personal art, but at the same time they are more than they appear with the fact that he chose to create his work in a certain space.



We then started to focus on minimalism in general and less about the function of Donald Judd as a minimalist. We discussed how the function of minimalist work gives you a new appreciation of form and color, more so than other works of art. It lets you see work for what it is as an object. Minimalism is a lie in that it keeps information from us, causing us to wonder what else could be added to it. The primary critique of Minimalism is that it’s not art because the artistic thing about it is external to the object. It evolves with the atmosphere and its environment. The objects are meaningless besides how you interact with them.


The Arena at the Chinati Foundation

Then we started to talk about how Judd created an audience of fans by being so hard to get to, people pilgrimage over to this place to experience his work. It was designed specifically for the art and cares less about the audience. Being in the West, he doesn’t have to worry about being squished and having “neighbors”.


Destination: Marfa, TX, photo by Lara Kuykendall, 2015

We then got to talking about the debate between whether a work is art or not. We discussed if the artist has an argument for why it’s art, then it should be considered art. When we see art we have a preconceived notion of what art is and should be, when we see pieces that don’t have much physical labor it isn’t considered art. But a lot of minimalist art is mental labor with ideas. Art is internal. It makes us conscious of mark making, concept, and idea. The viewer has the ability to make something art through interpretation.


Uncrowded Marfa, TX, photo by Lara Kuykendall, 2015

Finally, we started to talk about how the impermanence of works changes your views with temporary artworks which  can be distracting because of the crowds, whereas permanence means it’ll be less crowded. Crowds can affect the way we perceive artwork because you can’t take time with it to appreciate it. Some works are fun to see how other people interact with works, like sculptural artworks outside. It becomes more memorable when the experience is with others and can bring out the best in people. Some artists think about how crowds affect their work and sometimes control the amount of people around the work at once. Some pieces demand to be part of the architecture whereas others get away with being placed anywhere.

Alex Mikev, Aly Didier, Joan Seig, Molly Carpenter

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dia Acquires Nancy Holt's "Sun Tunnels"


Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels, 1973-1976

Last week Dia announced that Sun Tunnels is now part of its permanent collection (too bad this didn't occur when she was alive). According to the Holt-Smithson Foundation, this fall Dia: Chelsea will show two of her pieces including the first installation of Mirrors of Light since it was originally created.

Sublime, Banal, Commercial and Artistic: Photography in the West


Ansel Adams, Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite Valley, 1942 

This week’s discussion revolved around the readings “Yosemite and Ansel Adams: Art, Commerce, and Western Tourism” by Jonathan Spaulding, “The Sublime and the Banal in Postwar Photography of the American West” by C├ęcile Whiting, and “In the Twentieth Century West” by Robert Adams. 


When you hear the words landscape photography the name Ansel Adams probably comes to mind. When you hear the words Ansel Adams the words Yosemite National Park may also come to mind. Ansel Adams had a deep connection to the National Park from a young age. After fighting an illness his aunt wanted to lift his spirits by giving him a book by James M. Hutching titled, In the Heart of the Sierras. The book inspired young Ansel Adams to urge his family to take their summer vacation to Yosemite National Park. That summer would have an enormous impact on Adams that would carry over into the rest of his life and career. Adams began working at the National Park and began his photography career. Donald Tressider hired Adams in hopes he would be able to capture the beauty of Yosemite to spark tourism. As time progressed Tressider became less worried about the beautiful landscape and focused more on making money off tourists. 

Ansel Adams photographing Yosemite National Park
After Ansel Adams did some side photography commissions he returned to Yosemite. He discovered that Tressider and the Curry Company were using his photographs without his permission, and also that Life magazine did this as well, without giving him part of their earnings. Ansel Adams was conflicted after this incident, he wanted to start publishing his own works but the Curry Company was his only form of constant income. After this incident though, he had the ability to take photographs for a few other employers like the Kodak company. Adams wanted his photographs of Yosemite and nature to convey a sense of beauty, but also found himself on the opposite end of the commercialism spectrum with his photographs being used in advertisements. He viewed it as another form of his love for the natural world. However, he always felt the pressure of needing to choose sides between the environmental movement and the tourism business. When he finally became a big name in the art and photography business, he realized that books were a highly effective form of communicating preservationism with tourists in the national parks. This led to high reviews and impressive sales for Adams. Although, this at the same time contradicted with his preservationist values. 

William Garnett, Housing Developments/Aerial Photos, 1940s/50s
Alongside Ansel Adams, William Garnett, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Adams were important western landscape photographers from the 1960s. Each photographer had his own aesthetic, either capturing only the beauty of the western scenery, focusing on the harmful impact westward expansion and tourism have on the land, or contrasting the two aesthetics in one image. The concept of banal or sublime photography becomes important to these photographers in their work, meaning the images seem to fit somewhere on a spectrum of being boring or magnificent. 

Robert Adams, Pioneer Cemetery, Near Empire, c. 1974
 
Discussing Robert Adams in particular, the encompassment of sublime and banal settings as his primary subject material truly highlighted the feelings of both himself and other photographers with similar viewpoints at the time. Adams always desired to capture natural spaces in their raw form, untouched and magnificent. As time went on, these images became exceedingly more difficult to attain as human interaction was inevitable in a growing capitalistic society. Adams instilled that not only were developers and the tourism industry making these untouched lands ugly, but they were also destroying places where individuals grew to become themselves...places that shared the spirit of those that had once inhabited it. This corruption not only affected the land, but those that grew to love it. In many instances, person and place can be bound together through memory, experience, and association. By ruining one, another is affected. Everyone depends on space, even without realizing it. Space creates an element of civility, and highlights the true beauty in simplicity of the world itself. Adams desired to create a place that could remain untouched, even as it was surrounded by development..a place that maintained the original tranquility of the land and harmony of nature. This is something that he wanted to share with audiences. His work primarily focused on opening a dialogue with viewers about preservation of these areas, urging individuals to become better than they once were and to gradually improve. By reshaping oneself, he stated that our individual transformation can reflect a greater catalyst for change in natural spaces.


Ed Ruscha's Twenty-six Gasoline Stations, 1962

In the discussion, we talked about the concept of working on projects we may not agree with in order to pay the bills and whether that is considered selling out in the art world or not. We also discussed the process of photo manipulation and how that is considered an artistic advantage to show the viewer what the artist wants them to see which lead into the question of at what point does photo manipulation become misleading to the viewer. Can anything be completely natural when there is a lot of darkroom manipulation in photography studios? Looking at Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations, we discussed how the blank pages seemed to be sporadic and accidental at first, but with further discussion, we theorized that this may not have been unintentional but possibly alluding to the vast nothingness seen on any long-distance drive and the implied movement between gas stations. The growing blank pages at the end gives a sense of fear that gas will run out at any minute and another gas station may not be in sight before that time comes with this interpretation. 

 Alix Peters, Megan Hall, Carrie Pawlovich, and Celina Timmerman 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Spirit of Place": Lawrence, O'Keeffe, Hartley and the Rest


Georgia O'Keeffe, From the Faraway Nearby, 1937

This week’s discussion revolved around the readings “The Spirit of Place” by D.H. Lawrence, ““The Faraway Nearby,” in Art in New Mexico, 1900-1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe, 147-180,” by Charles C. Eldredge, and ““Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley in New Mexico,” in Marsden Hartley and the West, ix-xxii,” by Barbara Buhler Lynes.


 D.H. Lawrence, 1885-1930 

The D.H. Lawrence article was an outsider’s perspective of moving out West in America. The main point of this article was to challenge the concept of freedom, specifically in American, and through that define the spirit acquired by the people living with it. “The Faraway Nearby”, by Charles C. Eldredge examined the change in the style that developed during this time, especially when trying to capture the vastness of the west in more of an abstract manner.  




Marsden Hartley, Landscape, New Mexico, 1920

Barbara Buhler Lynes’ article “Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley in New Mexico discussed the impact of the West for Marsden Hartley’s and Georgia O’Keeffe’s inspiration. Marsden Hartley, an artist who lived and worked with European influences, decided to move West in order to find a new source of inspiration under American influences. He later found himself bored of the West and moved back to New York, later exploring the influences of the West in his New Mexico Recollections. Where Hartley found a lack of motivating subject matter O’Keeffe felt she had found an unlimited supply of inspiration and beauty, O’Keeffe painted the things that were around her from Native American and Hispanic architecture to sun bleached bones. O’Keeffe is considered to be the artist that fulfilled the dream of Stieglitz to have a uniquely American art, free from European influences. 


Georgia O'Keeffe, Cow's Skull: Red, White and Blue, 1931

 Discussion this week mostly revolved around how we define freedom in comparison to what the Lawrence article suggested. A popular conclusion was that boredom is the opposite of freedom. This followed with conversations about the responsibilities involved in having freedoms. As a class we believe that to be free would be synonymous with being happy, but to have either of those things a person needs a goal. If a person’s goal is not attainable then they do not have freedom, it is having that attainable goal that keeps us free and free from boredom. Thus, being bound to the responsibility of following through with that thing, we can be the most free to feel satisfied or happy.

We used all of this to talk about how O’Keeffe and Hartley’s works differed because of their experience out west. This carried over to the way we as artist think about place in creating our own works. Hartley struggled with his sense of place in the West which affected his feelings while working on his art there. On the other hand, O’Keeffe had a strong sense of place, which helped her find inspiration in the environment of the West and bring her a sense of connection within her community. As artists, spirit of place is a vital element, whether that is literal or more of a abstract interpretation, we find it really important to act upon this sense of place in the work we do. The feeling of wanting to define and explain ourselves, along with setting ourselves free seems to be a ongoing cycle that will always provide inspiration. 

Discussion Leaders: Megan Hall, Teddy Lepley, Megan Sutton, Gabby O'Neal 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Encounters: The Taos Society of Artists, Pueblo Culture, and the Hispanic Southwest



Walter Ufer, Me and Him, 1918, oil on canvas, image from Art & Antiques magazine

In the third week of student-led presentations we discussed the Taos Society of Artists and their effects on the Native American Population in Hispanic Southwest. John Ott’s article “Reform in Redface: The Taos Society of Artists Plays Indian” was dissected in terms of how racial impersonation and ethnic cross-dressing invalidated the art that came from the society, or if the artwork should be looked at from the context of that time period and seen as a way to deepen our understanding of Pueblo culture and life. It was concluded that nonetheless, the Taos Society did greatly impact that Pueblo population, and as Ott said in the article, preserved them more like a national park than a growing society. Sascha Scott’s article on Ernest Blumenschein’s The Gift analyzed the different influences the anglo-american artists had on the Native American tribes, such as gender depiction. Julie Schimmel’s “The Hispanic Southwest” examined the Hispanic culture in the American Southwest, and how it developed artistically in comparison to the Taos and Pueblo people. This was done through the artwork produced both by this culture and of this culture.



Ernest L. Blumenschein, The Gift, 1922, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design, 1975.86

In our class discussion we began with asking about appropriation of cultures and how that is represented in the works shown in the readings. This brought up what appropriation is, and how ethical it is to use parts of other cultures for art. A general question of this discussion was, “Is it okay for an artist to make art speaking for/about another culture?” And if so, how these representations altered the idea that others had about those cultures, or even by changing those cultures as a whole, as the TSA’s interpretation of the Pueblo people did. Should the artists be held accountable for depicting reality, and did these artists actually do that? The talk dabbled into how religious holidays in America became variation of the original religious intent, whether for a more recreational or commercial value.
William Penhallow Henderson, Penitent Procession, 1919, oil on panel, New Mexico Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Edgar L. Rossin, 1952

Overall we concluded that the best way to represent a culture is respectfully and through research. If one inserts their own narrative into a culture, they are representing themselves rather than the culture they are observing. We discussed the pentintentes from Schimmel’s article and wondered if they were displayed tastefully, if they were portrayed as intensely as they were reenacted. If the colors of red and other warm colors represented the passion of the scenes, accurately. The representations of these cultures led to discussing the morality of outside artists inserting their own narrative, such as how Gauguin inserted Christian motifs into the native scenery. We also briefly discussed the ways Blumenschein’s art, especially The Gift, might have been a step in the right direction of respectful representation.

Readings:
John Ott, “Reform in Redface: The Taos Society of Artists Plays Indian,” American Art 23, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 80-107.
Sascha Scott, “Unwrapping Ernest L. Blumenschein’s The Gift,” American Art 25, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 20-47.
Julie Schimmel, “The Hispanic Southwest,” in Art in New Mexico, 1900-1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe, 101-145.


Demi Fenicle, Krystlyn Lee, Katherine Thomas, Joan Seig