Upon visiting the African Burial Museum and reading about how many people are buried there and their traumatic pasts, I was saddened. There are 15,000 enslaved African Americans buried at the African Burial Ground. Considering their work ethic and how they are essentially the backbone of the “colony building” of America, they should be respected and honored. However, during those times African slaves were seen as property, a commodity to be bought and sold, to be used and abused. They were seen as animals, where if they were sick and couldn’t perform or be sold for anything they were just thrown off the ship that was on the voyage to America.
I enjoyed learning about how the enslaved African Americans viewed death through their artwork. Their burial was a mix of celebration, mourning, and connecting with their ancestors. They also buried their loved ones with certain possessions. It seemed almost peaceful to watch how they honored the dead as well as their ancestors and formed a community regardless of the numerous rules/ codes that were imposed on them.
Enslaved Africans had to sneak out in order to have social gatherings. This also meant that they were breaking the law, which seems outrageous to think about relative to today’s society. This really made me think about where this ideology came from that blacks are inferior to whites and what justification slave-owners had for owning and possibly raping slaves, besides it being the “norm” at the time. While slavery is abolished in the current times, it doesn’t seem that we have evolved too far from those ideologies; rather, they are resurfacing in the form of police brutality, mass incarceration, and environmental racism.
From Unit 1, I have learned a lot about how art is analyzed and gained the knowledge to ask my own questions when I see a piece of artwork that will help me get a better idea of what the artist was trying to convey. I used to think that art was all abstract, imaginative and ambiguous since only the artist knows the real meaning behind their artwork. However, after learning about formal analysis, I have a newfound respect and perspective on art history and its meaning. I realized that formal analysis is similar to the scientific method, where you pose questions about the artwork in reference to many of the components found. Formal analysis is essentially using your own intuition to answer questions based on visual and physical aspects of an artwork. You also use inferences and contextual evidence (if desired) to come to a conclusion about what message the artist was trying to convey, who was the intended audience, what is the main focus and why, etc. There is also contextual analysis, which is using outside resources to gain a more comprehensive and accurate analysis of the era the art was created, exactly what technique was used or was most likely used, and the economic, social, or personal influences were captured in the essence of the artwork.
In addition, I learned that artwork is a composition of many different factors, including but not limited to, color, line, shape, contrast saturation, dimension, vibrancy, fade, value (lightness vs. darkness of a color), technique, material used, design, and the interaction between the image and text. What I failed to realize that Anne D’Alleva brings up in Look, Formal Analysisis that everyday on a much smaller scale we are using formal analysis in our daily lives with something so persistent and common in our society: advertisements. We try to pick apart what they are trying to sell us, and in doing so we pick up the message trying to be conveyed by the image. Sometimes the image is so powerful that it resonates with us or stays in the back of our head until we see the product in real life and think back to the ad we saw about it, and either we give in to consumerism or we decide against it. Commercials are also something we use formal analysis to decipher sometimes, and it is such a booming business. Think about those rare commercials we watch during the Super Bowl, where large corporations pay a large sum of money for a few seconds of your attention. This proves how powerful visual images can be; they are enough affect human thoughts and behavior.
The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire is a critique on the traditional education system. According to Friere, the traditional pedagogy is the “banking model of education” because it treats the student as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. The banking model of education is the standard format of a classroom where a teacher, the knowledge holder, shares their knowledge with the students, whom are the receivers, without any feedback from the receivers themselves. This leads to an unfair distribution of power between the teachers and the students. The teachers ultimately have an excess amount of power, and can grade students subjectively and as they please. The students are essentially powerless because the amount of power they have relies solely on how much the teachers have given them. I’ve been in many science and mathematics classes that were the same power dynamics between teachers and students. The banking model has led me to rely on myself more than my professors when it comes to learning the course material. In addition, I also focus more on passing the class with a good grade and less about retaining the knowledge learned in class and applying it to real life situations. The banking model makes students memorize facts without enjoying seeking knowledge and thus are not prepared for the real world. They may lose independence because they are trained not to think for themselves. One advantage of the banking model that I have realized is that it can teach individuals discipline as well as being independent, which are necessary skills for real world situations.
Formal analysis is one of the main ways of discussing and critiquing a piece of art. Formal analysis consists of examining how the artists uses color, patterns, shape, tone, and the lines in their artwork. In addition, subsections of these main concepts such as contrast, size, scale, primary/ secondary colors, position, composition, material and depth are also used in analyzing artwork. Using these components to compose a formal analysis answers many questions such as why the artist positioned his model a certain way It is the first step into really understanding why the artist decided to create this piece, who was the intended audience, etc. with formal analysis we also take into account the era that the artwork was created as well as the origin and what influences might be included in the piece.
Art has no set definition. To some it can mean classical paintings, and to others it can mean a well choreographed dance. Personally, art to me is something crafted with both high amounts of skill and imagination. I notice art around me everywhere throughout my day to day schedule. On my commute to school, I admire the architecture of Manhattan: the skyscrapers. While on the train, I read some of the poems posted and I consider that to be art. When I see someone who’s nails match their handbag or their drink I find that to be artsy. My Pinterest boards are filled with home decor which I also consider to be art. I love the fact that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, you can create art and maybe some people will resonate with your art while others won’t, and that’s perfectly fine. I took a college level Printmaking class, and some of the students made these masterpieces that really changed my perspective on how art can be used to signify such larger themes.
I would like to learn about how art developed over time and maybe learn about some classical pieces and artists such as the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh. I also would like to know more about the influences behind contemporary art if there are any. I am thrilled to go to art museums (for free!) and expose myself to various types of art in order to see which ones resonate with me.