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.
For my extra credit assignment I attended an art related event on campus. The event was located in the Brooklyn College Library near the front entrance hosted by Dr. Jean Eddy Saint Paul the founding director of CUNY Haitian Studies Institute and Professor of Sociology. The art exhibit was called Beyond Vertieres which contained art works because of French historiography and the history of Haitians. The art works were based on the events that happened during the Battle of Vertieres on November 18, 1803 between the Indigenous Army of Saint Domingue (Haiti) and the French Expeditionary Army of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Battle of Vetrieres resulted in the Haitians defeating the French because they fought for their freedom and would not allow white supremacy to take over the black race. The Haitian people were determined to fight for what was right and would not have their freedom taken away from them. They were unflinching, undaunted, and united to abolish slavery and challenge the French, through their self-sacrifice and tenacity they fought for the respect for human dignity and a decolonial racial justice.
In the beginning of the exhibit it asks “Why, even today, after 215 years, are Haitian citizens unable to access a dignified life?” and “What are we to do beyond Vertieres?” The exhibit then explains and invites the viewer “to re-appropriate/ embrace the core values of freedom, justice, and equality that made Vertieres possible in order to rethink a new system compatible to an emancipated citizenship” The exhibit then expresses through all the art works that represent freedom and the struggles of the battle. The first two pieces was the Pourqoui Vertieres and L’enfant Restavek: Pourquoi Vertieres by Tara Boirad which was created in 2018, it was an acrylic of a small child in each of the art works. In the Pourqoui Vertieres it was a little boy and in L’enfant Restavek: Pourquoi Vertieres it was a little girl both of them seem to have a blank expression and the artworks were both close up images of their faces in black and white. In the next three pieces created by Patricia Brintle were Catherine Flon (2011), Defille la folle (2008), and Marie Jeanne Lamartiniere (2012), in the three pieces it depicted hard working women transitioning from sewing clothes and washing it to holding up a flag and in the midst of battle, there was more color and you could see the contrast in the colors form bright to dark, the colors in each of the works were similar but used in different places.
There were many works of art shown in the exhibit which showed and represented the Haitian culture traditions and their struggles. Their struggles and stakes have been conveyed through these artworks by showing what they had to risk for the sake of freedom and it showed the importance of remembering the history of the Battle of Vertieres and what all those men and women fought for by putting their lives on the line. The event contained many wonderful pieces and works of art, from abstract pieces to spiritual and human expression, overall I enjoyed the exhibit and would like to stop by the library to see all of the art works again.
On Monday, November 19, 2018, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to check out their new exhibition called “Jewelry: The Body Transformed.” The room was dim with black painted walls with glass columns from the ceiling to the floor with a piece of jewelry inside. This exhibition is all about jewelry, why wear it, and what its meaning is throughout history. They had 5 areas themed for something else such as the divine body, the regal body, the transcendent body, the alluring body, and the resplendent body. It wasn’t necessarily organized by time, but by theme, which was nice for a change. Jewelry is known to be an ancient form art that has enhanced and embellished the human body. Each area had to do what jewelry was attributed to. From the earliest time, it was attributed to the gods. Eventually, it was something that became appealing to the eye and became like a piece of clothing. Throughout history, jewelry has been something that helped others understand the culture of that time. I recognized the names of famous designers of some of the pieces such as Swarovski and Cartier.
The Seductive Pearl
Five strand pearl necklace
Cartier (French, founded in 1847)
Made in London, ca. 1926
The piece that stuck out to me most had to be the pearl necklace from the Alluring body area. Pearls are my favorite type of jewelry. Also, the company Cartier stuck out to me. Pearls in history were known to be as an erotic accessory. This idea faded in the era of post World War 2.
This exhibition is my by far my favorite that I ever went to. It was interesting to learn about the meaning of pieces of jewelry in different eras. It gave me the opportunity to learn about cultures were like and comparing it to what it’s like nowadays. I never looked at it as a form of art until I went to this exhibition. I now look at jewelry as something that unites body and art. Overall, I had an enjoyable time looking at the beautiful pieces at this exhibition.
The painting that captured my attention at first sight was the canvas painting of Venus and the Lute player. Tiziano Vecellio, better known as, Titian created this painting during 1560. The setting of Titian’s painting focuses on three figures, the Greek goddess Venus, her love child Cupid, and a Lute player, in a setting showing a room that has lavish curtains and overlooks a landscape. I was attracted to Titian’s Venus because of my admiration of the Goddess Venus in my previous studies of Greek mythology. Venus also known as Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty and sex. In this painting, Titian portrayed Venus as a sensual and angelic woman, who has the ability to capture the viewers’ attention with her intense expressions. The painting depicts a nude Venus seated on a coach in a sensual position. She is wearing a white pearl necklace and expensive earrings. In the painting one can only see the profile of her face, which has an intense and subdued expression. Behind Venus is her son Cupid, who has a smaller figure and is holding a crown made of flowers over Venus’ head. The lute player is an important figure in this portrait because he is seen looking at Venus and it appears that he is playing music with his instrument. Behind the figures there is a window that overlooks a landscape, which consists of green trees, grass, and mountains. According to the gallery label, the painting has been thought to “address the Neo-Platonic debate of seeing versus hearing as the primary means for perceiving beauty.” My interpretation of the general theme or purpose of this canvas painting is its portrayal of the love for beauty and music. I hindered upon this theme based on the idea that artists from this time period idealized the female body as that of beauty. According to the Metropolitan Museum, the figures of a nude Venus “highlight the seductive warmth of the female body rather than its ideal geometry.” Like many artists from the Italian Renaissance, Titian represented Venus nude in order to symbolize the female body, thereby, representing beauty. On the other hand, the lute player is an abstract figure that is assumed to signify the love or admiration of music.