Posts in: Block 2
Our art history FYE, now drawing to a close, was first and foremost a study of Western art from pre-historic times to the 20th century. This subject matter was a fascinating look into the cultures, beliefs, and systems of different civilizations throughout time. That being said, what interested me the most during this course was the unique opportunity to work with the Fine Arts Center, just around the corner from our classroom in Packard Hall. Through working with the museum to put together an exhibit of American art, we experienced firsthand the curatorial process of the modern museum. This was particularly engaging, as it broadened our understanding of the art world to include the present-day industry.
The curatorial project was so gratifying because it allowed us to apply what we had been learning about how to unpack a piece of art. Just as our professor taught us how to pick up on a variety of techniques, styles, and innovations to better understand ancient and classical art, each of us picked a piece from the FAC archive and used our visual analysis skills to better understand them. For the majority of the museum project, which spanned both blocks, each of us was working with a single piece of art. This allowed us to get in-depth with our artist and, study their place in the wider context of the history of art. It was exciting to bounce between studying the old and curating the new every week, and the hands-on nature of the museum project balanced out the rich, cultural study in the classroom. At the end of the course, I’m proud of the exhibit our class created, and I’ll miss our trips to the FAC.
Taking art history really opens your eyes to what is right in front of you. This includes everything from the art everywhere on campus to the art in your own home. I was home for a weekend and was able to look at all of the pieces hanging around my home, and I thought it would be interesting to try and analyze a few.
Although I don’t know very much about most of these works, there are three wood blocks prints done by my grandfather. My grandparents have lived in Corrales, New Mexico, and most of the prints made by Grandpa Paul are either images from his life there or inspired by Japan, where he traveled to learn how to do this style of printing.
In this first print, Barranca de Corrales, you can see the Japanese influence in the flatter perspective and more simplified shapes, even though this is a depiction of the hill on which my grandparents live. The majority of the piece is black, white, or tan, with the only color being the sky and the figures going up the hill. The effect is to make the blue and the yellow of the sky seem even more vibrant, and makes the viewer wonder if the sun is just rising or setting to have such a bright, yellow horizon. The red and blue of the group climbing the hill draw your eye to them, but they are so small and indistinct that the focus of the piece is still on the skyline.
In the piece just to the left of this, Hokusai’s World, the Japanese influence is clear. With the iconic wave image from The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai in the foreground, bamboo and a bonsai tree in the mid-ground, and what looks like Mount Fuji in the background, this entire work seems like a dedication to Japanese culture and art. All of these environmental additions frame two figures fighting in the middle of the print with what seems to be bo staffs, a traditional Japanese weapon. The color palette is again very basic and shows off the details of the bonsai tree and wave. The patterns around the edge frame the central images, and are a unique addition to the print, unusual in both my grandfather’s work and in Japanese-style printing in general. This homage to Japan and the printing style is both simple and beautiful (although I may be a little biased).
In the third and final piece of the three of Grandpa Paul’s prints we have hanging on our wall, Tiffany Hill: Dawn, we are back in New Mexico. It is an image inspired by what my grandfather does every morning he can: walk his dogs. Although this does show an aspect of his day, this is not a self-portrait, but instead a depiction of the friends he walks his dogs with. The colors are muted, with most of the piece filled with tan, representing the sandy desert that most of Corrales is. But there is still foliage, which fills up the sides of the print, and a town that is in the distance and seems to be the goal of the dog walkers. The dog walkers themselves are simplified human figures, one having a backpack and the other a Harley Davidson jacket. The dogs are even more simplified, just focusing on the essentials. This simplicity is probably a combination of medium restrictions, personal preference, and aesthetics and is consistent through all of his works.
My grandfather is a simple, usually quiet man (except for the occasional pun) who has lived a rich life and learned a ridiculous amount about a ridiculous number of subjects. He spends his days reading, watching soccer matches, and making prints. I am so glad that we are able to have his art hanging in our home.
On our daily commutes, the visuals around us are often the same day after day. We know what buildings are coming up, where everything is, and often just go through the motions; however, on one of my daily summer driving routes, there was something new. This massive metal sculpture had taken over what used to be a standard rooftop, providing me with a little bit of a shock.
According to Colorado artist Trace O’Connor, ”Iscariot depicts a mermaid gracefully leaving her perch to take flight.” This unique mermaid made from reclaimed metal weighs in at 4,200 pounds and is part of the Downtown areas partnership and their affiliates’ ongoing mission to create unique cultural experiences for Springs residents and visitors to the area.
Springs residents should definitely keep their heads up in the downtown area, not only to observe the eye-catching street art, but just in case a giant metal mermaid attacks you or your car!
McMichael, Jon. “Rise of the Octo-Maid, New Sculptures Hit Colorado Springs’ Rooftops.” KOAA.com. August 30, 2018. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://koaa.com/news/digital-original/2018/06/08/rise-of-the-octo-maid-new-sculptures-hit-colorado-springs-rooftops/.
Photo from: “Colorado Springs, CO – Octo-Maid: Metal Mermaid.” RoadsideAmerica.com. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/61875.
For someone who has never seen the process of making glassware, it is easy to miss the fact that glass is actually melted into a thick liquid in order to make molding possible. The honey-like glass is then collected on the blowpipe (a long metal structure in which air can be blown into to shape the glass) by dipping it in the glory hole of the furnace. It is then made even by rolling it on a flat surface, after which it is dipped in paint if desired, and then reheated.
…Then comes the scariest part.
Remember when we were told as children not to play with fire? Well, imagine having to roll glass that freshly came out of a hole with 2250°F of heat using only wet newspaper in your palm…
Water dripping all around my hand from the wet newspaper, my anticipation grew exponentially in the seconds before the instructor placed the blazing glass in my palm. Smoke covered my view as I softly applied pressure to shape the glass, leaving a black burn mark on the first few sheets of newspaper. Do not try this at home!
I had a very short time to pinch the petals of the glass flower I was making before the glass cooled down, which would make it more difficult to shape. It took me two trials to realize that I actually got worse at shaping my flower, so I decided to announce it as an abstract flower.
The glassblowing workshop was one of the highlights of my first block break because I got to explore a process of art creation that I had never had the chance to do before. My favorite part was pinching the round flat part of the glass in order to create the flower petals. This part defined the way the flower would turn out. I gave one of the two flowers I made to my friend and she called it The Placenta. I can’t say that’s what I was going for, but it made her happy anyway.
At the end of the day, it got me thinking that even though it had been a very fun and insightful experience for me, it is a very difficult process and should be appreciated and valued. So, the next time you have a sip from that beautifully constructed glass, keep in mind that someone might have been carefully shaping it with only a wet newspaper in their palm!
Over the past two blocks, our class has been in and out of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center putting together an exhibit. We became familiar with the museum and each section that we saw has art from various artists ranging from different time periods. It was exciting to take our knowledge from our own art museum and bring it to the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum from our field trip this week. The Denver Art Museum felt like a similar format to the Fine Arts Center. We viewed the special collections they had on display with artwork ranging from Rembrandt’s etchings to sculptures of Ganesha. We saw impressive art pieces in different mediums and in diverse styles. It was intriguing to compare these exhibitions with the collection we found in the next building over. This museum displays solely works painted by Clyfford Still, an abstract expressionist from the mid-twentieth century. Clyfford Still requested, in his will, that all his works go to one US city. Eventually, Denver was chosen as that city and the museum received ninety-five percent of Still’s works. The museum building itself was interesting to experience. The architects who designed the museum knew that only Still’s works would be displayed there, so the interior and exterior were built to accommodate his style and type of art. The walls were made of textured concrete to reflect the verticality seen in Still’s paintings. The ceilings had oval cutouts to let in Denver’s natural light. The lower floor is created to be bathed in less light than the upper one, because the second-floor displays Still’s works, while the first floor is for storage of works not currently on display and research. One advantage to having ninety-five percent of an artist’s works in a museum is that you are able to observe the artist’s style progress over time. On our tour, we saw how Still started off painting realistic portraits and landscapes, then focused on depicting the human form, and from there, produced works that were more and more abstract until there were no longer recognizable forms (as seen in the pictures below). Overall both the Clyfford Still and the Denver Art Museum were wonderful examples of experiencing in person what we had learned in class and had experienced at the Fine Arts Center Museum at CC.
My Chihuly Experience
Who is Chihuly?
Dale Chihuly is known around the world as an incredible glass artist. He was born in the state of Washington in 1941, where he grew up and graduated high school years later. Chihuly did not think that he wanted to pursue further education after high school, but was talked into going to college (where he would study interior design) by his mother. He ended up getting bored and dropping his studies to travel. At this point in his life, he was able to study art in Florence and the Middle East, which was when he figured out what he wanted to do. When he returned home, he went back to school to get his Bachelor of Arts degree in interior design. Throughout his life, Chihuly had been interested in glass. He would incorporate it into most of the artwork that he did, like weaving, and he even learned to blow glass during his first years of college.
Chihuly’s glass art can be seen in public places all around the globe. Because of his interest in glass art, Chihuly was able to build a career in the field. He has always been interested in architecture, too, which is why most of his works have an architectural feel or design. His work is more about making art for people instead of his own experience. One of his most famous quotes is, “I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in some way that they’ve never experienced.”
Glass art is quite unique because it encourages an interactive viewing experience. Like any other sculpture, glass art is 3-dimensional, but it also has an effect from light. When light hits Chihuly’s works, they shine and glimmer as the light is reflected to the walls and floor around it, making viewing the art work an immersive experience. Currently, this artist has exhibitions in France, Czech Republic, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan, and multiple locations throughout the United States of America, including one right here in Colorado Springs. The Fine Arts Center, located right next to the Colorado College campus, has a beautiful exhibit up with a few Chihuly pieces. The museum has created a memorable viewing experience for anyone who enters the exhibition by employing light in the display of Chihuly’s objects.
My own experience working with Chihuly’s art was very interesting. Back in high school, my class studied glass art for a brief period of time. We reviewed many of Chihuly’s pieces and got to know his style and creative shapes. This made us want to attempt blowing glass, but because we did not have the resources to actually blow glass like Chihuly, my art teacher was creative and found a way for us to get a true Chihuly experience. Instead of using glass to create giant sculptures like Chihuly, we used tissue paper. My art teacher bought a large amount of colorful tissue paper for us, which we sculpted into strange shapes using glue. The glue would dry and the tissue paper would stay stiff in the designs we wanted. Using chicken wire, my art teacher set a base (in the shape of a sphere) for our sculptures and we attached our tissue paper designs all around the sphere. This experience was amazing. I enjoyed being able to make my own piece and put it together in a creative way like Chihuly would. It was fun to be inspired by his work and create our own “glass art.” –
Source: “Homepage.” Chihuly, 2018, www.chihuly.com/.
I’m Shaian Gutiérrez, and the work of art that I’m learning about in my FYE is called La Catrina, by José Guadalupe Posada. La Catrina is a lithograph print that was made during the Mexican Revolution. The image is of a skeleton with a large, expensive hat on. I’ve been learning about (and will continue to learn about) La Catrina and her significance for our class-curated art exhibition at the Fine Arts Center Museum. Curating our own art exhibition was beyond my already high expectations when I came into college. Opportunities like this are arguably what makes Colorado College so unique. Aside from choosing our pieces, the first step in setting up our exhibition was comparing the artworks formally. Our professor, Victoria Ehrlich, printed out small cards with our art objects on them, and encouraged us to talk with and group up with other students who had artworks that had formal characteristics in common.
One of the first people I spoke to was working with a print as well, Kablaam, by artist John Matos. With Kablaam’s bright colors and cartoon style, the similarities seemed to be few, save for the black and white man in the middle of Matos’s piece. Simply knowing that both of our artworks were created in the same way was enough to find a connection between our pieces. Another student, working with the artwork, Low Rider, by Luis Jimenez approached me. An immediate connection we could draw between the two works was the cross-hatch shading. The cross-hatch shading created white spaces between the lines in both artworks. From the shading alone, our pieces shared a visual connection. Yet another piece of art was a bowl from Mesa Verde, made in the time span of 1100-1300 CE. Although I hadn’t realized it until I saw these objects in person, the lines and colors on the bowl were almost identical to those in La Catrina. I found it particularly interesting that these artworks were made hundreds of years apart and came from different cultures and still managed to resemble each other in some ways.
Every detail in a work of art is significant when it comes to formal comparisons. Whether it is the lines in an object, the colors (or lack thereof), the medium, the artist’s cultural background, the scale of elements within the piece, or the sense of depth, there are always interesting visual parallels that can be drawn between two works.
Over the past two blocks, Victoria Ehrlich has led me and 15 other students on a journey through the history of western art. It has been a fun and eye opening experience that has shown us all how art has developed into what it is today, as well as the politics that surround the art sphere. To conclude our First Year Experience in AH112, each one of us has created a presentation on our final papers. These presentations have honestly been one of my favorite portions of the class. They have allowed each student to show how we have gone from knowing so little about the evolution of art of the Western world, to now understanding most aspects of almost all past art movements. We’re able to show each other what aspects of art we are most passionate about, and why they are meaningful in our own lives. We have a new passion and understanding of art that I hope everyone will be able to experience someday. Art makes up a huge portion of our daily lives, and being able to value it and have a better understanding of what artworks are trying to convey makes life so much more rich and exciting.
On October 12th, our exhibition titled, Faces, Places, and Spaces: An Exploration of Identity, finally opened. Clad in our spiffy gallery opening outfits, our class met outside the Fine Arts Center. For many of us, this was the first time entering the exhibition since adding our finishing touches, and the satisfaction on everyone’s face was evident. Victoria explained to us that we would be in groups of four standing and answering questions in the exhibition each for twenty minutes. When asked who wanted to take the first shift a surplus of hands waved in the air. Everyone was excited to share with others what we had been working so hard on for the past two blocks.
During my shift I talked to fellow Colorado College students and Colorado Springs community members about the two works I studied closely: Chuck Forsman’s Native Lands and Enrique E. Montenegro’s Artist In Studio. It was fascinating to hear the questions people had about the works. Many visitors mentioned aspects I had yet to consider myself. A fresh pair of eyes in combination with my background knowledge on the artwork led to great and unexpected dialogue between myself and the museum visitors. It was refreshing to be reminded of the ways in which you can always discover new things about a work (even if you’ve been staring at it for two blocks already!) Prior to this class, curating an exhibition and confidently speaking to visitors about it was something I never imagined myself doing, yet this experience has helped me to realize such capabilities, as well as the numerous ways one can engage with art.
At the beginning of Block 1, I knew little to nothing about art history. We would look at artwork and it wouldn’t mean all that much to me. Over time, I slowly gained knowledge about how to analyze certain works of art and what the characteristics and formal elements of different time periods were. I really started to understand the process of analyzing art when our class exhibition rolled around. I found it slightly difficult to pick a work of art to concentrate on, but eventually, I did. The work of art, Native Land, by Chuck Forsman, hung next to my artwork of choice, San Vato, in the exhibition. Prior to the exhibition, our class had looked through a PowerPoint featuring artworks available to us from the permanent collection, and chose which ones we felt worked with our theme centering on identity. When Native Land came on the screen, everyone wanted it in the exhibition. Except for me. I didn’t see what was so special about it. I simply saw just another work of art. I was fine with it being in the exhibition, because I didn’t not like it, but I couldn’t fathom what was so special about it. Fast-forward to today, as I sit here writing this blog, I now understand why everyone was so enthusiastic about Native Land. It touches on a very sensitive subject in a powerful and respectful way. Forsman focuses on the land that belongs to the Native Americans that is being taken away from them piece by piece, and industrialized. I couldn’t help but stare at the dog with three legs, but then it finally hit me, the dog must represent the land of the Native Americans. Still functioning, but not to its full, beautiful capability. Forsman makes great use of diagonal lines to show the split between industrialization and untouched grassland. He even extends the most prominent line further outside of the regular rectangular frame, causing the need for an outcropping to be made to contain this strong line by the frame, which is definitely not your usual rectangle. This experience with one particular work of art is just a tiny insight as to how this class boosted my intelligence greatly, pushing me to think critically in ways that I wasn’t used to, and for that I am forever grateful.