Writing Two - Visual Culture and Historical Research
I saw an exhibit at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh entitled “Impressionism In A New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz”. The show was a look at how Impressionism had impacted photography. As an art student, I was taught photography changed the need to render realistically, and Impressionism and Expressionism grew from the camera relieving the artist from the role of documenter. This show made the case that Impressionism created “Pictorialism”, where photographers were using techniques in both the taking photos and the development of photographs to show photography as art and more than “point-and-shoot” (1).
|Alfred Stieglitz "Georgia O'Keeffe" 1920|
As I sat for hours cherishing the opportunity to see O’Keeffe as Stieglitz might have seen her. I thought about O’Keeffe’s art work which added greatly to the power of the image. I was looking at an American Master photographed tenderly by the man who loved her before the stardom and before her legacy had been overanalyzed, bastardized and regurgitated.
|Georgia O'Keeffe's Black Iris Series 1926|
It was not until I witnessed the oversimplification and immature giggles toward her work that I felt perplexed. I heard other undergrads, “...she just paints vaginas.” There was that damned word “just” to reduce the significance of something, and the loaded word “vagina” which carries much more baggage (both selfish and commercial). This is the opposite of rappers trying to validate the “n-word” by saying they are re-purposing its meaning (Sturken and Cartwright p. 63). This is our culture claiming ownership of something intangible and trying to sell it, thus, cheapening it (Either option is misguided), and these idiots were allowed to speak that way, let alone think that way. The context of OUR culture was contaminating this fresh experience of looking at O’Keeffe’s art (Sturken and Cartwright p. 57) for me.
"The Hand of God" 1907
|Alfred Stieglitz |
"Hands and Thimble - Georgia O'Keeffe" 1920
Our visual culture often uses the lowest common denominator to unite us or relate to us, but it only treats us like children devaluing what is important under the guise of simplifying information. Simultaneously, our culture inflates the status of molesters who can sell and make capital. Krauss’s article proclaims art both representational and non-objective to be language that needs to be analyzed to understand providing the tools to fight the hard sell and avoid being misled. Conscious art education begins there. When deconstructing visual language/culture, we must be careful not to lose the subtlety of the art in exchange for a fast explanation, or an explanation at all.
- Christina Rouvalis, “First Impressions,” CARNEGIE, (Summer, 2012): 13-17.
- Author Unknown. “Georgia O’Keefe: About the Painter,” American Masters, 2006 <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/georgia-okeeffe/about-the-painter/55/> (28 April 2006).
- "Auguste Rodin: The Hand of God (08.210)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/08.210 (October 2006)