In Fall 2017, my students in the Interdisciplinary Arts class (IArts 1180), Introduction to the Arts: Object and Events, and I had the chance of visiting the Kennedy Museum of Art in four guided tours by the Museum staff as part of my class structure. The class had more than 150 students, and each student wrote four different art event journals analyzing different art events they visited during that semester. Here, I would like to share with you selected writings about artworks that inspired my students in two exhibitions we visited at KMA: House Proud: Portraits of the American Home and Recountal.
Basil Masri Zada
Ph.D. Candidate of Interdisciplinary Arts
School of Interdisciplinary Arts
House Proud: Portraits of the American Home
For my first art journal I visited the new exhibit at the Kennedy Museum of Art. To start the aesthetic interpretation I’ll talk about the factual realm, the exhibit is called, House Proud: Portraits of the American Home. There was a collection of photographs taken from all over the state and country, of families or people in, or in front of their homes. The photograph that I would like to do my aesthetic interpretation on is called Living Room, it was taken by Lawrence Sisler in 1984. The photo is of Lloyd Moore who lived from 1931-2010.
Next is the representational realm, this is what the photo looks like. I chose this photo to do my interpretation because I was drawn to the contrasting colors in the photo. Lloyd’s walls are painted a deep, light blue, this contrasts with the sunshine yellow covers that are on top of the bed. Lloyd is sitting in a chair in the lower right corner, he is wearing a plain white t-shirt and blue boxers and he has his legs spread in a comfortable position. Under Lloyd’s right foot is a can of Folger’s coffee. On the right of Lloyd there is a red coat hanging on the wall. Behind Lloyd, there is a walkway that leads to a room with a refrigerator, a couple cabinets and a dresser. There are three things hanging above the threshold; one is a calendar, another is a sign that says “I need tender loving care”, and the last one says something about land rush. The bed is made with a wooden frame and on top on the bed is a pillow, a framed photo of a man, and a cane.
Now I’ll pick out three different components of this artwork that make it interesting, this makes up the formal realm of aesthetic interpretation. The first component is the color contrast. The contrast between the blue wall and the yellow bed covers gives the photograph a unique look, and the red coat gives even more contrast. The fact that all three of these colors are solid, and very different from one another draws my eyes to the photo. Another defining component of this photo is the laziness in Lloyd’s position. He seems unaffected by the fact that his photo is being taken. The lines in his face make it seem like he had just woke up, the way his lip curves up a little at the end gives it a sense of laziness. The last component is space. The depth between the photographer and Lloyd gives the photo a sense of openness. This happens again when you see the depth between Lloyd and the bed, and again with the depth of the room, from the photographer to the end of the room beyond the threshold.
The conceptual realm is interpreting what the photo or exhibit means, or what questions it poses. To quote the Kennedy Museums exact words, “ House Proud explores the visual culture of homeownership and homemaking within the United States. Together, these works offer the first survey of “house proud” portraits, wherein families and individuals position their bodies and belongings within the architecture of their homes. In tracing examples of this pictorial trope through the 19th to 21st centuries, and from Appalachian homesteads to presidential penthouses, House Proud considers how domestic spaces have been central to American ideals of identity, taste, and success.” (Ohio.edu. House Proud: Portraits of the American Home) . In other words, this exhibit shows the difference between a house and a home. It highlights the American ideal home, and how our society has changed the meaning of the word home.
I wrote about a photograph in the exhibit called “House proud” located in the Kennedy Museum of Art. The photograph, a C-print, was taken by Lloyd Moore in 1985 and it is titled “Ruth and Leslie “Les” Weisenberger”.
In the photograph, there is an older couple who seem to be posing in a room in their house, possibly their living room. The man, who has short, white hair, is wearing glasses, a light blue button up shirt, and white dress pants with a brown belt. He is standing up with his arm around his wife, who also has shorter white hair, and is wearing glasses and a light blue dress with black pantyhose. She is sitting in front of a brown piano that has two pictures frames sitting on top of it. One of the picture frames contains a black and white picture of an older lady and another picture frame has a portrait of a younger lady in it. The wall behind the piano is covered in wall paper that looks very old timely and has trees and flowers on it. The wall behind the man has ceiling to floor green folded curtains. To the left of the older couple, and near the front of the photograph, is a table with a brown floral table covering over it. On the table, there are multiple animal figurines on it including three elephants, one giraffe, three lions, one zebra, and one rhino. This table seems to be the main focus in this photograph, aside from the older couple in the center.
The main colors in this photograph are lighter greens, browns, burnt oranges, yellows, and some uses of lighter blues and whites in their clothes. The main focuses in this picture are all to the left side (the man and the woman and the table with the animal figurines on it). The right side, however, shows a very open space that is mainly just carpet, which gives a better perspective as to how big the room is while also emphasizing how close together the couple are as well as how close the couple are to the table. Therefore, there seems to be more space on the right side of the photo as opposed to the left side. There is good lighting in this photo, especially on the couple and the animal figurines. Then, the lighting gets darker with more shadows as you get closer to the brown carpeted floor and also as you reach the underneath of the table.
Like mentioned previously, the exhibit that this photograph is in is titled “House Proud” so the meaning behind this photograph is to show off this couple’s home and to see all of the things in their home that makes it unique to others. It’s about being proud of what you have in your home and shares the design qualities of the people living in each house. This specific photograph also gives insight into the type of decorations that would be in a house in the mid to late eighties (for example, the type of wallpaper that was popular at the time, the design of the piano, the furniture, etc.).
The first thing this photograph made me think of was my grandparents old house because my grandma used to collect ceramics and globes of circus animals and so they had shelves everywhere in their house full of these. Their house was also always decorated with very old-fashioned wallpaper because it was built around the fifties and they never updated it. Also, they had a brown piano as one of the main focal points in their living room, as well as older wind instruments that used to hang on the wall above the piano. Overall, I enjoyed the concept behind this photograph, and the exhibit in general, that represented people and homes of all types being photographed and appreciated for what they are.
On Sunday, I visited the Kennedy Art Museum, I loved going there both with the class and the other day. I think their Art is very unique and special, and definitely something I enjoyed learning about. On Sunday the photograph that caught my eye the most was under the wall sign called “House Proud. Portraits of the American Home.” The factual realm that I found taped next to the photograph was very helpful to learn about who made this Art project. I found that Cassidy Brauner gave this to the Kennedy Museum of Art as a gift. Under her name said it was from “
“Nest, from the Show and Tell series.” This was given in 2017. I also learned that this unique type of art was archival inkjet print. Now a lot of the things I did not understand, so I further found information off the internet. I learned that “inkjet prints are, at the highest level, simply prints made from a digital file by applying very fine droplets of ink on paper” (Pigment or Inkjet Prints versus Digital C-Prints.).
In representational realm, I learned that it was about me and what I see from the picture. From this picture I see three different sections, shaped as rectangles, all three the exact same size. This photograph is very neat and seems to look measured exactly all around the three sections. The first photograph on the left, I see healthy green plants, a person watering them with a watering can, and to the left a ladder that looks as if its hanging on the side of the house, and chimes hung from above that make noise in the wind. In the second picture, I see house decorations such as a camel, a basket, and a picture right in the middle going up the stairs. Also, I see other miscellaneous items up on the window sill. Something that really sticks out to me is the basketball hoop to the right of the picture. The basketball hoop looks like it is hanging on a closet with a curtain used as the “door”. To the left of I see a red fire extinguisher. In the third picture, I see the main wall that’s white with a shelf going through the middle with pots hanging from it. On top of the shelf, I see vases and a painting. Below the pots, I see a picture or maybe a mirror with a persons elbow facing towards me. There are also trays and a basket that sit below the pans filled with vegetables and fruits. To the right, I can kind of see another room, which looks like a living room. I see two paintings and a couch.
In form realm those are different arrangements and pattern that I see. Like I said above, the photograph is divided into three sections all with the same height, width and length. They also have the same space between, above, and below each photo. The title above it says it all, this photograph is a typical American Home. I can relate to some of the things in my home in each of these pictures. The arrangement I see in this photograph is a different place around the house. The one on the left is outside, the middle picture could be an entryway up the stairs and to the right I see a kitchen with a slight sight of the living room. The patterns are colors. The outside is all green and brown while the inside is painted with a white wall and brown stairs. It all looks real. The structure looks the same as any normal American Home.
Conceptual realm describes the meaning of the artwork. The meaning of this artwork is to provide viewers what the normal American Home looks like. What it looks like to have a family with children at home. I could see these pictures from a mom stand point, the stress of having to take care of the kids and the house. This photograph’s meaning is to be able to relate to each other, to be able to know that your home is filled with the same thing every other American Home if filled with and includes the same stress trying to get everything done like every other person living in an American Home.
I really enjoyed this photograph and I felt that I could connect with this art project. I see different aspects of the American Home that were in my home when I was growing up. My parents owned a landscaping business so our house was always filled with plants and flowers. So the typical picture to the left of the watering can is usually what I saw my parents doing every summer night. The middle picture I could relate to is because I had the exact same basketball hoop in my house and I shot hoops all the time. However, mine was hanging in my room. I think I could relate to the last picture the most because it looked like the exact same setup in my house. I could stand in the kitchen, and in the right spot I could see the living room with a couch and pictures hung above it. In our kitchen we also had pots hanging off hooks and fruit and veggies in a basket below them. I really enjoyed this photograph because it brought back so many sweet memories of my childhood.
In terms of a factual realm, this interesting piece of art is a c-print type of photograph. It is titled “Living Room – Lawrence Sisler” by Lloyd Moore in 1984. The photo’s dimensions were not presented on the plaque near it. The artwork is currently being displayed at The Kennedy Art Museum in Athens, Ohio. I went and saw this stroke of genius on September 28, 2016. Regarding the representational realm of this masterpiece, it appears to me as if a lonely, older, depressed man is sitting by himself in perhaps his bedroom, drinking a beer. You can also see that beside the man, on the floor, is a can labeled “Folger.” The man’s right foot is peacefully inactive on the paisley-printed, polychromatic rug on the floor. Behind the man, he seems to have a stack of hats. I would say that the man in the picture is life-sized just from what I see. The blue background painted on the wall surrounds a sunflower, yellow-sheeted bed, with a calendar and what seem to be posters nailed into the wall as well. On top of the yellow-sheeted bed, you can see a cane and a picture of a person in a frame, resting on a pillow. Also if you look to the very right, you can see a coat and cane hanging from a clothes rack on the back of the door. In the back you can see a refrigerator, a cabinet and a few drawers. It seems to me as if there are pill bottles and cans of beer resting on top of the drawers as well. If you also notice, there seems to be one lonely cup hanging from the bottom of the cabinet. In front of the drawers, it looks as if there is a stool being unused. The formal realm of this snap shot shows the viewer that a wide variety of colors are being presented in the picture to represent a multiplicity of items. We can see that the artist chose to make the man in the picture, white. The almost obnoxious yellow bed sheets were used to make the bed stand out more. The brown frame hugging the bed has a bouncy, nearly uncomfortable texture in order to not be so standard. The posters nailed into the wall are meant to grab your attention with the red, brown and black frame surrounding them. The hats behind the man are all variegated with color to grasp the viewer’s attention. The multihued rug on the floor has such a distinctive pattern that blends in with the floor, therefore causing the rug to become almost invisible. Both the cabinets and drawers are so far off in the distance, you can barely notice them, nonetheless the tiny pill bottles and cans of beer on them. The white refrigerator outlined in virtually a silver-chrome type of pigment makes it be prominent, despite the fact of it being so isolated. The concept of spacing in this picture is quite well shown. Nothing being displayed is tightly or insecurely near another object. The conceptual realm relays a message of solitude and melancholy. I feel like the pill bottles and beer cans in the distance represent some type of depression which is being used for escapism from his internal sadness. I think this is the concealed implication due to the memorandum of someone important to this man, who died, whose picture is on the bed, laying on the pillow. My personal opinion of this image is that, visually, this photograph has a lot to say. Depression can be observed in many different behaviors and I think this picture represents it in the form of decease of a loved one.
The art work I chose to analyze comes from the Kennedy Museum here in Athens. The art work is a Navajo weaving made in 1953 with a commercial dyed white wool. Vera Begay is the artist of the weaving and in 1954 Edwin Kennedy bought this weaving at the Red Rock Trading Post in Red Valley, Arizona. The name of the weaving is White Ye’ii, and the term Ye’ii refers to the frontal figurative depiction of Navajo deities within the design. Although there are no dimensions given on the plaque beside the art work, you can see in the photo attached to this document that the weaving is of good size and is rectangular.
In the art work, there are four figures of people. They are all holding colorful thin objects. One is holding an arrow in one hand and a bow in the other. Three of the figures are in the center of the weaving, while one is in line with the colorful boarder on the left side. The lower body of the figure on the left blends in with the boarder of the image that is weaved. On all four corners of the weaving there are black frills. The weaving is easy to find, it hangs on the hallway wall just past the glass doors to the gallery entrance on the left.
The art work is centered on the weaving and the bottom, left, and right side all have boarders while the top is left open, has good balance. The figures all have very simple faces, limited to only a line for a mouth and dots for eyes. The heads are also square and the bodies are straight with no variations from figure to figure. There are bright and bold colors present in the weaving. Each color is separated by a line but not all figures are outlined by a black line. The three figures in the middle of the weaving are facing forward with their arms to the side holding long objects that have feather shape qualities. The figure in line with the left side boarder is facing towards the middle of the weaving holding a strand with triangles and squares with both arms and its face is facing outwards. There is no depth created in the weaving, no shadows. The figures are tan and take up most of the weaving. Each figure is dressed in bright and decorative clothing that includes box shaped shoes. On the right-side boarder, there is a cone shaped object that is at chest level with the figures present in the weaving. There are also decorations on the ends of the cone shaped object that are red and green.