Monday, January 19, 2015

Facing African-American History Through African-American Art

When the Philadelphia Museum of Art purchased Henry Ossawa Tanner’s painting The Annunciation in 1899, they became the first American museum to acquire a work by an African-American artist. That purchase announced a new era of recognition of African-American art and artists just as much as the painting itself announced a new style of art moving away from stereotypical “black” scenes towards a freedom of aesthetic choice. Persons of color could express themselves in any way, even abstraction, but faced the new problem of remaining true to themselves at the same time. The new exhibition Represent: 200 Years of African American Art and accompanying catalogue show how these artists faced the challenges posed to them by art and society and provide all of us with a fascinating guide to facing African-American history—tragic, tenacious, transcendent—through its art. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Facing African-American History Through African-American Art."

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Does Football Really Teach Us?

Football replaced baseball as the “national pastime” long ago (despite some arguments to the contrary). The hoopla surrounding the upcoming secular American holiday of Super Bowl XLIX Sunday testifies conclusively to that fact. The trickle down effect of that passion inspires younger and younger people to put on the pads and crash into one another as well as make parents shuttle their charges to practices and games and witness the conflict—all in the name of football’s educational benefits of perseverance, courage, and teamwork. But what does football really teach us? In Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game, author Mark Edmundson recounts his own high school football experience from the perspective of age and asks that very same question in a nuanced, clear-eyed way that might make you think twice about why we love football so much and what that love may be doing to us and our children. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "What Does Football Really Teach Us?"

Monday, January 5, 2015

Madame Cézanne: The Case of the Miserable Muse

If Mona Lisa is the smile, Madame Cézanne is the scowl. Hortense Fiquet, Paul Cézanne’s model turned mistress turned mother of his child turned metaphorical millstone around his neck, endures as a standard art history punch line—the muse whose misery won immortality through the many masterpiece portraits done of her. Or at least that’s how the joke usually goes. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current exhibition Madame Cézanne, which gathers together 24 of the 29 known portraits Cézanne painted of Hortense over a period of more than 20 years, tries to rewrite that joke as it hopes to solve the riddle of Madame Cézanne, aka, The Case of the Miserable Muse. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Madame Cézanne: The Case of the Miserable Muse."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

JFK: The Opera?

Whereas European countries were once able to tap into their history for subjects for opera, America’s never succeeded in doing the same. That problem comes in part from the decline in opera as a popular, public art form, but also perhaps from the lack of operatically epic subjects to be found in American history. Now, composer David T. Little hopes to create a modern American opera with JFK, a 2-act, 2-hour opera focusing on the life of President John F. Kennedy, whose life and death became defining moments not only for the Baby Boom generation, but also, many would suggest, the hinge upon which all American history turns for the last half century. Set to premier in 2016, JFK as a work-in-progress already raises important questions about how opera (and art in general) can approach history. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "JFK: The Opera?"

Friday, December 19, 2014

Picturing Mary: Yesterday and Today

Christmas may be Jesus’ “birthday,” but, as any mother will tell you, his mother Mary really deserves the applause. Providing the humanity half to join with Christ’s divine side, Mary volunteered to play a part from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion to the Resurrection as everything from an active participant to an interested bystander, depending on your interpretation of Christian scripture. Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, takes a closer look at how artists, especially women artists, depicted Mary in the more faithful past as well as how modern artists, especially women artists, still use Mary in the secular present. By making Mary the star of the show, Picturing Mary shines a light on how we see Mary reflects on how we see ourselves. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Picturing Mary: Yesterday and Today."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hearing (and Feeling) the Contemporary Art of Allora & Calzadilla

Imagine standing in a bare room in which a small, 4-billion-year-old rock hangs from the ceiling by a thin wire as three vocalists whistle and breathe on it to make it swing. For some people, such a scenario might be the nightmare version of contemporary art run amok, so far “out there” that it’s never coming back. However, standing there and watching the piece, titled Lifespan, part of the new exhibition Allora & Calzadilla: Intervals, I couldn’t help but find myself mentally urging the rock to move, as perhaps others in the crowd were, too. The art of collaborators Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla encourages this kind of chain-reaction collaboration by making you first hear the work and then feel it in your mind and body. For those who think contemporary art’s lost in space, Allora and Calzadilla bring it back to Earth. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Hearing (and Feeling) the Contemporary Art of Allora & Calzadilla."

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Speak Fluent "Museum"

The best way to learn any language is total immersion. If you live in a place long enough and open yourself up to the experience, then you’ll come away not just with a new tongue, but also with the flavor of the culture in which that language is expressed. For many people, art museums feel like a foreboding foreign nation with a language all its own. Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary, National Gallery, finally offers an immersion class in how to speak fluent “museum.” Wiseman’s 39th documentary, National Gallery takes you inside London’s National Gallery to eavesdrop on the docents leading tours, spy on the early morning floor waxers, look over the shoulders of conservators, and even join executive meetings behind closed doors all in the name of learning what really happens in an art museum and how the very voice of the modern museum is changing with the times. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How to Speak Fluent 'Museum.'"