What I Have Learned About Visual Arts During This Semester

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When I was younger my parents took me to Italy, at the time I was only eight years old, therefore, I did not care much about art, or the museums we visited. To be fair I was very young. To this day I still remember the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel like it was yesterday. Every part of the museum was decorated from the walls to the ceiling, every room was filled with extreme details. I would look up to the ceiling and see a painting, to me it is amazing how everything is so preserved and intact. The whole museum itself was a piece of art. We learned during class that architecture is also part of art that is when everything clicked. The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are not only a piece of art, but both are filled with art. Art is not only important for history, but I have noticed it is used in many other situations and jobs. We would not have buildings, houses, or even art museums.

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While taking this class I have learned a lot about visual art and its many forms such as; drawing, painting, sculptures, printmaking, and photography just to name a few. Everything we see is art, even the buildings we are in because architecture is also a type of visual art. The two art pieces I chose from the museum are the painting by Helen Frankenthaler, Eden Revisited and the photograph taken by Danny Lyon. Both of these pieces I chose are very different from one another. One is a painting on an acrylic canvas, while the other is a photograph printed on silver gelatin. It was very difficult to decide on two art pieces from all of the exhibits in the San Antonio Museum of Art. To compromise, I chose two of the pieces that caught my attention the most as my favorite pieces and I am using them as the one I like and dislike.

The first piece I chose is a painting by Helen Frankenthaler called Eden Revisited. A little bit of background on the artist is that she was born on December 12, 1928 in New York City. All through Frankenthaler’s career she created many rare paintings on both canvas and paper. She also created many other categories of art such as sculpture, ceramics, tapestry, and even printmaking. However, she is most famously known for her abstract expressionism art. During class we learned about the different styles of art. Abstraction is a type of artwork that alters the image. Expressionistic is a piece of art that increases the level of emotion, often by dramatic lighting. There were also many other types of divisions of style. The more broad/ general division would be representational and non-objective. Representational is when you look at a painting and you can tell exactly what the painter painted, even if sometimes it is distorted or stylized. Non-objective is when the artist is not trying to draw something that actually exists in the real world. The more detailed divisions of style would be realistic, expressionistic, abstraction, and conceptual. Realistic is basically the same as representational, it is artwork that is very similar to something that actually exists in real life, for example the Science and Charity painting, by Pablo Picasso, we went over in class would be considered as a realistic painting. This is because he painted an image of people, how I think of it is that he was trying to represent a real scenario and painted a picture of a moment. Realistic and representational paintings were important in the past since cameras were not yet invented. Another style of art is conceptual art, which according to my notes means that the artwork is generally focused on the belief or conclusion of the work. For example, the painting could be of an object.

The painting I chose by Frankenthaler is one of her famous abstract expressionist paintings. The painting is called, Eden Revisited and it was painted in 1967 on an acrylic canvas. For this painting I would say she used a lot of lines and complementary colors. These were also some topics we covered in class. There can be many forms of lines. For example, thick or thin, straight or curving, and light or dark. According to my notes from class, line will often reflect the emotion of the painting, or of the artist while creating his/her art. In the painting I chose, the lines seem to be very relaxed, almost as if the artist was just going with the flow. The lines are not very straight and do not make a certain shape, except for at the top of the painting where there is a red square. Due to such vibrant colors this painting definitely caught my attention. The painting by Frankenthaler has a very high value of complementary colors. The colors are also all very saturated and intense. The painting did not always look the way it does today, and that is why there are two different years for this painting. The artist decided to add on to her painting in 1976. She tinted areas that were left bare. The colors used and the value of them can also determine the mood of the painting. When I look at this painting I feel cheerful and excited. First of all, I do not like how the painting is so divided and how there is no blending to it. This painting seems so simple and something that anyone could do. Art should be very complex and full of emotion and the only thing about this painting that has emotion are the colors. Besides that, there is nothing deeper to think about, because all this painting is a bunch of lines and different colors. If the painting was darker I feel as my mood would definitely change like how it does with the black and white photo I chose from the Civil Rights Movement.

The other piece of art I chose from the museum was a photo, taken by Danny Lyon, for his iconic civil rights era photographs. The photographer of the picture I chose from this exhibit, Lyon was born in New York in 1942. He is known for his work in the style of photography, New Journalism. Lyon was accepted as one of the photographers for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he was able to capture all of the major historical events during the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950’s and 1960’s for blacks to gain equal rights under the law in the United States. This photo is part of the museum’s current exhibit called “Capturing the Moment”. The photo I chose was taken in 1963 and was later printed in gelatin silver print. The photo is of a seventeen- year old African American kid getting arrested for the eighth time. According to the plaque next to the photo in the museum, this photograph became the cover of the SNCC’s photo book called, The Movement. Lyon would do many things to get photos of the behind the scenes action during the Civil Rights Movement. He even snuck into a prison to get a photo of a group of young girls who were arrested without charges. Everything that happened around this time was very unjust. Lyon was happy that he was one of the only photographer who got to capture many of these events.

As I mentioned before, the photo was printed on gelatin silver, according to wikipedia the gelatin silver process is only available in printing black and white photos. The support options for this printing style are glass, baryta paper, flexible plastic or film, or resin-coated paper. According to an article I read online about this printing process is that it became one of the most important photographic printing process during the twentieth century. There are 2 forms of silver gelatin, printing-out paper and developing-out paper. These two forms are very similar in their chemical structure, but their handling processes are very different, therefore they are separated into two different types. There are many different steps in order to prepare the papers for the silver gelatin.

In class we learned about many other types of printmaking, such as relief, intaglio, lithography and serigraphy. Relief is printmaking that removes ink from a raised surface and deposits it onto the paper. An example of relief printmaking is wood cut, which is also the oldest relief process. Intaglio, is basically the opposite of the relief process, as it removes ink from a depressed surface and deposits it onto the paper. Intaglio has many subcategories to it including mechanical, chemical and other processes. The mechanical processes would include, engraving mezzotint, and dry point. Chemical process would include, etching, aquatint, and soft ground. Other processes would be grauffage or embossment, calligraphy, rubbing, and monotype. Lithography is a little different, this process is when ink is removed from a flat planar surface and deposited onto paper. The serigraphy process is very similar to the lithography process but instead of removing ink, it deposits ink through a perforated structure and is deposited onto the paper. This process is basically like a stencil process, it is usually used for tee-shirt printing.

The photo taken by Danny Lyon is my favorite piece of art from the San Antonio Museum of Art. This piece caught my eye because many people would not think that it is art, but everything we see is art. Everything has their own unique meaning. This photo really stood out to me because of the meaning, the content is so different from many of the paintings in the museum. It is a part of history, and it tells the story of how America was during the Civil Rights Movement. It is not just a picture, it is a description of events that were not seen by everyone during that time. The unfairness of how they treated people of color, the cruelty of them to take their freedom just because of the color of their skin. Teenage girls my age were put into prison for no reason at all.

Being from a different country I have dealt with discrimination all of my life. When I lived in Germany I had to attend pre-school while my mom worked. Throughout that part in my life I was fluent in German while my mother was not. One day I was playing during recess on the playground. My favorite part of the playground was the see-saw, the little girl I was playing with on the see-saw wanted to get off but instead of waiting until we were both low enough she got off at the bottom of the see-saw while I was still at the very top. As I came flying down from the top I fell off and landed on a stick. Unfortunately, the stick protruded inside my eye. My eye looked like it was about to pop out of my eye socket. You could imagine a little four-year-old in this situation, I was very scared. Being from a different country made everything even more difficult, instead of calling an ambulance they called my mother. I was in so much shock that I only spoke German that whole time, my mother could not understand anything I was saying. She tells me that seeing me in that situation was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to her. After my mother drove me to the hospital she found out that the school did not call an ambulance for me because they thought I was Jewish because of my brown hair. The doctors said that we could sue the school for discrimination, even more so because they had no proof of my religion and they just assumed I was something because of the color of my hair. If that stick had been one millimeter closer, I could have lost my eyesight forever. This took place in Munich, Germany in 2003. This was almost sixty years after the Holocaust and the people in Germany were still discriminating against the Jewish religion. What is worse is that I could have become blind because of an assumption they made based on my hair color.

After that I started to see the world differently, as a place that was so judgmental and critical. The picture by Danny Lyon, on the Civil Rights Movement, reminded me of what I went through and how this world is so cruel. People at the time were being singled out because of their skin color. As if people are not all the same on the inside. They were being tortured, mistreated, taken to prison for just being alive and being a different skin color than others. When I think about that I am so glad I was born past that time because I do not think I could handle all of that hate from the world. That is why this piece by Danny Lyon caught my attention.

Having to decide between two pieces of art in this museum was very difficult. Especially since one had to be one I liked and one I disliked. There were so many different exhibits in this museum. The museum had a total of four floors, a west wing, and an east wing. There were just so many options, it was so hard to pick only two out of everything. I have to say the Eden Revisited was my least favorite because although the vibrancy of the colors caught my attention, the painting just was not meaningful to me. I understand that every piece has their own meanings but for me it just did not have a deep enough meaning compared to the photograph from the Civil Rights Movement. I personally had a connection to the photograph. Even though I really liked the Eden Revisited because of the colors, I could not relate to it as much as I could with the Danny Lyon photography. The Eden Revisited is part of the Abstract Expressionist movement, these were paintings that were known as Color Field paintings. Although I am sure her painting has some sort of meaning, to me, I just did not see it. I feel like painting like hers are meaningful to some people who really appreciate art, I appreciate art but definitely not to that extent. I feel like artists and art majors have a much more complex brain to where they see things very differently than everyone else. I assume that they see everything with way more meaning than I do, which makes sense if that is what they are passionate about. I am a biology major, so I am easily more interested in the sciences, how the body works, and about the environment. Looking at this painting by Frankenthaler I cannot seem to see the bigger picture, as some art majors may come up with a reasoning and meaning to the painting. Art majors may be able to explain the reasoning as to why she painted what she did, why she used the colors she did, or even her reasoning for her line placements. Thinking about it seems strange how different people can have contrasting visions on the same piece of art. In class we talked about this one painting, where some people saw two faces and others saw a vase. Some people’s brains are a lot more advanced than others. This tactic is also used in many therapy sessions, people with different emotions see different objects from the same picture. Art is also an outlet for many mental illnesses such as, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. A lot of famous artists have schizophrenia and express themselves through art. Displaying different works with their manic episodes due to perceptual differences and delusions. Many therapists use that picture perspective idea as a way to see how a person is feeling. There have been many advancements with therapy using that method. Doctors also use many different types of art visuals, such as skeletons which are a representation of the body and I would consider that a sculpture. Another way doctors use art is through x-rays, and medical charts.

Art is used in many different forms, even though we may not notice it everything around us is art. Every art museum is unique, with different paintings and artifacts. All of the works there have a specific meaning from the artist. I am originally from Brazil but have travelled all over the world. During all the travelling I have visited many museums, of course I was very young for some of them, but I started realizing that everything around me was art. My dad lives in a small town in Brazil called Sao Luis, it is filled with many old buildings that unfortunately due to the government and not enough funds, the buildings are deteriorating. The buildings are pieces of the city, they are what makes that city. Like their own artwork and it is such a shame that no one is doing anything to preserve them. It is like losing the biggest part of Sao Luis, because just like the Louvre, most people visit the city for the art history. Everywhere you go will have some history to it, how I see it is that art is history. Without art we would not know much about history. When photography was not invented, all we had were paintings to learn about the past. Of course, we had historian’s journals and books, but nothing can tell a story like a painting or sculpture. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I completely agree. Every painting, sculpture or any piece of art tells a story and has a meaning. It takes a while, but being open minded helps understand certain pieces of art and the meanings behind them.

I am glad that throughout my twenty years of life I have evolved to the point where I can appreciate art and the history behind it. I personally am a very visual person and love to create art. I love photography, maybe that is also why I liked the photography piece so much. I am very interested in capturing the different angles of objects and capturing different scenarios of my life. Since I do not live in Brazil anymore the main way my family and I keep up with each other is through photos, so it is very important to me to capture every moment in my life with a photograph. I am the picture queen, as my family says, not a day goes by where I do not take a picture.

Throughout this semester I have learned about so much, just with this paper I have learned how art can relate to everything even mental disorders. It is always a satisfying feeling learning new things about subjects I would have never thought to research if it were not for this paper. This gave me a realization that I need to expand my horizons and start being more open minded about other subjects. Explore other opportunities and start travelling more. I have become curious about how other museums might be. It was so exciting visiting the San Antonio Museum of Art and looking at the amazing different pieces they have for display. I will definitely have to go back once they get new exhibits since I am a little more open minded about certain topics. I am also very intrigued at how many things in this world relate to art, some things I never thought could relate to art. I assume now that I have actually opened my mind to different subjects I understand more how everything relates to art. While writing this paper I told my mom I might even change my major, of course she was not happy about that, but I am glad I learned so much from this experience. A big shout out to my professor because honestly, I did not think this paper would benefit me in any way, but it actually did. So, I wanted to say thank you, because even though I thought this paper would be a pain, it actually taught me a lot about art and having an open mind about new things instead of acting like I will not like anything, or I cannot do anything. I never thought I would be able to write five pages single spaced but look at that, I did it.

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