Fame

The term “fame” is a condition of being known or talked about by many people. In our society, we tend to read magazines, watch TVs or movies, or surf the web in our free time for entertainment. From all of the aforementioned mediums, we are swarmed with images of celebrities. This image of celebrity gives us as viewers an image to strive for. We dream of someday having the life of a celebrity. We live in a time that PSY’s Gangnam style, a Korean pop music video is the most viewed video on YouTube with over 840,000,000 views and growing. You never know what video, song, or picture will become the next big thing. We’re all looking for our 15min of fame.


Jeff Koons (American, b. 1955). Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988. Ceramic. 42 x 70 1/2 x 32 1/2 in. (106.7 x 179.1 x 82.5 cm). Photo © Douglas M. Parker Studio, Los Angeles.
The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica / © Jeff Koons

 

In the picture above titled Michael Jackson and Bubbles, Jeff Koons makes a comment on the nature of fame and celebrity. The statue is made of ceramic. This means that it is hollow. So the statue being made of ceramic and having a gold appearance shows off the way we look at Michael Jackson, as an immortal beauty. The inside is hollow as mentioned before. This comments upon the effect that celebrity has on a person. Many say they are shell’s of people. This statue started off with a imagined buying price in the hundreds of thousands and is now sold for over 5 million dollars. the statue of a man, a man sought after by society and thus made immortal. Celebrity’s lose their humanity in the eye of the viewer. They are just an image to strive for, a lifestyle to dream of.

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Religion as a Conceptual Framework

In dealing with religion as a conceptual framework, I have created three photographs that comment upon the concept of religion from three separate perspectives: One affirming religion as a positive, another criticizing it, and one more remaining neutral.

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Above is my photo affirming religion as a positive social convention. Shown in the photo is an open matryoshka doll with a crucifix inside the dolls hollow shell. The matryoshka doll represents humanity. It represents each and every one of us. The crucifix, photographed to appear to be inside the doll, can represent a number of things. It could represent God, who was believed in the Christian religion to have taken human form in his son Jesus. If we take this interpretation the photo would symbolize the God or the Good inside each and every one of us. This shows that we all have the capacity to do good and that humanity has this Good inside them that links us altogether. We could also see the crucifix as a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for our spiritual salvation. This shows us that we all have the capacity for redemption; we just need to look inside. The image was photoshopped to make the doll darker and the light around the crucifix bright and “other-worldly.” This was done to emphasize the imperfection of humanity or it’s darker qualities and the spiritual quality of what is inside.

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Next is my photo that criticizes religion. In the photo above, there are two stone statues and a rainbow flag. One statue (male) is standing and is placed higher than the other statue (female). The female figure is looking upward and has the rainbow flag behind her. With Adobe Photoshop I made a priest-like outfit on the male and I gave the female statue some color in her face so that she appears more human compared to the stone priest. This image criticizes the Christian religion for the marginalization of the gay community. The rainbow flag is a symbol of homosexuality. In the Christian religion it is believed that homosexuals will not receive spiritual salvation. For this reason they are not openly accepted and some Christians believe them to be sick in the head. The priest figure is made of stone to symbolize his stone-like sympathy for the gay girl. He is placed higher with his head faced downward to further show his lack of compassion for her. I gave her face some color to contrast with the stone complexion of the male figure. I took the photo from a lower angle to create more of a shadow on the face of the priest figure even further emphasizing his disdain for the girl knelt in front of him. The Christian religion is supposed to bring people together. Nobody can judge but God himself. People inside the religion sometimes ignore these things and focus solely on the portion in the bible that says homosexuality is not righteous.

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Finally I took a photograph from a neutral standpoint. This was much more difficult. An image of religious neutrality must be not side with any particular religion and must therefore be more spiritual. The picture shown above is of a bush that has lost all its leaves and bright red berries are all that remain. This photo shows that even in death there is life. When winter comes and the bush loses almost all signs of life, the bright red berries that symbolize life stick out like a sore thumb. They contrast greatly against the almost colorless background. Life is beautiful, if we can take one second from our busy lives and just admire the world around us.

For this project, I was forced to see religion from three completely separate perspectives. Some people may be insulted by my criticism of religion or deem it controversial. This is my own perspective on an issue and this is how I chose to portray my beliefs. When looking at an image that makes you feel uncomfortable, you must first take a step back and open your mind. Try and see what the image is saying to you before making a snap judgment about it and condemning it. Sometimes the image you initially thought offensive has now become, in your eyes, an affirmative image. Sometimes claims of controversy can kill differing interpretations from ever being made. A lot of society likes to follow the crowd, so if one person deems an image offensive, people who may have come and seen the image as positive, now sees it as offensive. It robs people of their freedom to make their own opinions.  If it makes you feel uncomfortable, good. You’re not living life if you are always comfortable. 

Race in regard to power

When discussing race as a conceptual framework in art, there are many ways in which one could approach the subject, as well as many artists that could be talked about. Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker are two highly relevant artists in regards to their art’s successful illustration of the shifting notion of power when seen from a historical perspective of race relations.

Kehinde Wiley, in “Passing/Posing” approached African-American men he “passed” on the streets of Harlem, dressed in their normal casual attire, and had some come back to his studio so he could paint them. Wiley paints their image as they “pose” in postures recognizably akin to that of the renditions of prophets, saints, etc. from the renaissance period.

Passing/Posing (Female Prophet Deborah) in Brooklyn Museum

Wiley purposely replaces these figures with a people who is normally left out altogether or shown in positions of the controlled. He places them in a position of power that is normally reserved for the wealthy European populace. By taking average black men off the street and having them pose as such, he places them in a position of power, and in turn shows that sometimes, these poses are just poses. This is a direct shot at the idealism of power in race relations that was present in the art he rendered his after.

Approaching the topic distinctively, Kara Walker uses black cutouts on a white background. These images depict utilize the visual character from the Victorian-era with a twist of vulgarity.

“Camptown Ladies” at Whitney Museum of American Art

Instead of the much more subtle take of Wiley, Walker in much more “in your face” about the topic as shown above in “Camptown Ladies.” Much of her work, like this one, shows the racial power struggles of slavery. This image shows an assumed white male riding a presumed black female like a jockey.

To depict the idea of race relations in the 21st century, Walker projects backgrounds on her images forcing the audience to become a part of the image itself. This in turn causes the viewer to also place themselves in the ideas behind the work, and the ideas behind the current power struggle as regards to race.

Readymades: Conceptual vs. Visual Appeal

With Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, he tests the concept of art that was widely accepted at the time. Duchamp created his readymades out of found objects with no intention of visual pleasure or uniqueness. Instead, he included a title, to push the viewer to a more verbal area, in order to make art primarily conceptually appealing rather than visually. Duchamp suggests that a work of art’s value has nothing to do with the artist’s intended meaning. The artist’s intention and the work’s realization are not the same. The spectator now has the power to determine the works esthetic quality. Ultimately the point Duchamp tries to get across is that it is not the artist alone who makes the art, but also the spectator.

As assigned, I have created my own assisted readymade that reflects Duchamp’s own ideas. According to the assignment parameters, the assisted readymade must be created from a found object or objects with minor alterations and must be easily reproducible. Because this “work of art” must primarily deal with the idea rather than the object itself, its meaning must seem unclear upon first sight, but upon further review, a meaning must be decipherable.

Shown above is my assisted readymade titled “Death for Comfort”. It is made of a beer bottle cap and a pack of cigarettes glued to a CVS/pharmacy prescription bag. This can be easily replicated because all the found items are insignificant trash. Why is this art? And why the title “Death for Comfort?

Let us first think about each items primary use. The beer bottle cap represents alcohol. Alcohol is often used to alter the state of mind and to move the user into a state of “comfort” and relaxation. Cigarettes also are used to calm or “comfort” the user. A lot of smokers will suggest that they need a cigarette after a stressful situation. Finally, the prescription bag represents pharmaceutical drugs. In the United States, in today’s society, if anything is going awry with our body or mind we quickly turn to pharmaceutical drugs for the immediate relief or “comfort.”

Next we must look at the term “death” and how it relates. Although it should be extremely obvious to any onlooker, I will explicate this point nonetheless. Alcohol is widely known to cause liver issues; cigarettes, lung issues; and pharmaceutical drugs, a wide variety of bodily issues. All of these items push the consumer closer and closer to death.

The human race is constantly in a rush, always trying to move forward, and ignoring many stumbling blocks that happen to fall in the way. In times of discomfort, we look for the easy way out. “Death for Comfort,” deals with our society’s apathy towards the future that isn’t in our immediate sight, all for the sake of instant relief. We ignore the fact that many items we use for instant comfort each day are constantly moving us closer to death.

This, like Duchamp’s own assisted readymades, is started by the artist and finished by the viewer. Although I have this view on the meaning of “Death for comfort,” It is not necessarily the only correct view. You, the audience, are given the power to decide what “Death for Comfort” is.

Hello world!

I am Roderick Hunt. I’m twenty years old and a sophomore at Holy Cross College. I am from Austin, Texas and this is my second year in the Midwest. I am trying to make straight A’s so that I may transfer to Notre Dame and Major in Film and minor in English or vise versa. Last year I made a Call Me Maybe music video in the dorms with my friends; it was a four-minute video that took me over 21 hours to create. I received praise as well as over 33,000 views on youtube. My ultimate goal is to become a screenwriter and director.

To me, visual literacy is a skill that is not commonly sought after in today’s society. After showing my friends American Beauty and seeing that they didn’t understand the film itself or the beauty it portrays along with many other similar experiences, I have come to the conclusion that our society has become or has always been extremely close minded. Many film viewers are just looking for a quick story with little depth and lot’s of action, comedy, etc. It truly makes me sad, especially since the medium in which I’ve experienced this disinterest is the same medium of art that I wish to make a living doing. Visual literacy is a skill that allows the viewer to view and interpret the meaning behind an image such as art, film, etc.

I registered for this course because I believe that it will help me to further expand my visual literacy and because I need an art credit to transfer to Notre Dame. In this course I expect to learn how to see beauty in images that others may just glance at and think nothing of.

My experience thus far with viewing and interpreting visual culture has come mainly with film. My stepfather, whom I’ve grown up with after my father’s death when I was three, is a filmmaker as well as a critic. I have grown up watching films from Seven Samurai to A Clockwork Orange. Knowing the background story of the director and having seen all of their other works, you get an image of the artist, which in turn helps the viewer to receive a better understanding of the work itself.

Although this is my first experience with blogging, it does not make me nervous. As I am open to learning new things, this blog project will be interesting as well as a growing experience. It is a much different than any other writing assignments in which I am accustomed. It is much more conversational than essay’s and is much more fun. I look forward to a great semester and blogging.