Race as a Conceptual Framework

The issue of racism has been ever present in North America since the beginning of the seventeenth century. Over the years and even today we have seen the power struggle that existed and still may very well exist between Caucasians and African Americans. The work of artists Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker document and express this power struggle in their own unique styles. In Wiley’s first major exhibition called “Posing and Passing”, he based his paintings off fifteen century Italian Renaissance. Walkers’ work contains subject matter typical of eighteenth century America; she depicts the realities of slavery in the south through her silhouette images. Both Wiley and Walkers’ work focuses on the themes of race and racism as a conceptual framework.

In Kehinde Wiley’s artwork, he often creates depictions of modern African American men and women in the setting of the fifteenth to eighteenth century. He does so in order to give a sense of power back to African Americans. During the Renaissance only Caucasians would be the subject matter in paintings, so by him substituting these figures for African Americans, he is posing the question “why not?”.  Kara Walkers’ silhouette images also concern themselves with a shift in power but not in the same way as Kehinde. Wiley’s work contains more of a power struggle between two groups, and I believe that is why she expresses certain individuals as being animal-like and none-human. Power is constantly shifting between the Caucasians and the African Americans. It is a war between two groups who see each other as animals. She represents this using grotesque depictions of both sides. Even though both artists have different styles, they are both effective at showing a change in power in the conceptual framework of race.

I do not think Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker believe that race relations have gotten better in the 20th and 21st century. If they saw race relations as being better I do not see them creating these works of art. They would not be trying to put power back in the hands of African Americans. I definitely think we have progressed as a post-racial society because equality has come so far from what it was, even fifty years ago. We no longer have segregation in schools and in other institutions, which has shown how far we have come. I strongly believe that the concept of a post-racial society exists in theory, however I also believe that we still behold minute notionsof racial difference. I think we inherently hold notions of racial difference because it may be human nature to do so, perhaps we instinctively and unknowingly judge people on appearance as a sort of “animal instinct”. Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker help to rectify these thoughts through there work and are continuously fighting for more awareness and equality on the issue of race as a conceptual framework.

The Giver of Life

We are so used to seeing art a certain way that we forget about what art really is; art is the ideas and meanings behind visual representation. If art has no meaning or ideas attached to it, it is simply something to look at. This to me is not art it has no depth. Think of it as a tree with no roots, it is still a tree but what’s the point? It cannot stand and serve the function of a tree. This brings about an art form that is not so much about the aesthetic skill of an artist but more the meaning behind the piece. This art form is called readymade or assisted readymade and was made famous my Marcel Duchamp. A readymade is an ordinary manufactured object that an artist has selected and modified in some way, shape or form.

The parameters regarding my readymade project are that it must be made from a found object and it is obviously altered or assembled in a minor fashion. It must also be theoretically reproducible and not unique.

My readymade piece is entitled “ The Giver of Life” I chose this title because I believe it gives the piece more meaning. When you look at the image you see a dirty, beaten up water jug that is on the ground in dirt. It does not appear to be a desirable object in any aspect. Now the title “ The Giver of Life” doesn’t seem to fit because it extremely contrasts the image. We imagine  “ The Giver of Life” to be something divine and beautiful, but that is not what is depicted. Even though the empty water jug is beaten and dirty, it still has the ability to hold life (water). For a person living in extreme poverty this jug would mean something completely different than someone living here in America. We would regard this jug as garbage or junk and meant for the trash, but for a young boy living in Ethiopia this jug can keep him alive. Its almost comical how the saying “ one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” relates to the meaning behind this piece. For us living in a first world country, treasure is money and power but for others treasure is simply surviving. I wanted to express the different perspectives people have to things, and how our perspectives can change when we are put into someone else’s shoes.  It will benefit us if we can understand various perspectives on everything in life, and learn to accept other notions beyond our own.

I, Me, He, She, Us, We are art

The funny thing about introductions is that people often ask you the same questions; who are you? Where are you from? What are your interests? But one cannot fully understand who someone really is through these questions.

A person is like a piece of art, you cannot describe a piece of art using only words and expect to fully understand it.

In any case let me try to paint you a picture. I am an eighteen-year-old guy from Toronto, Canada.  I enjoy art, the outdoors, sports, many of the things a male of my age ought to like.

I would say I have  a passion for art, it excites me and motivates me. I also have a passion for sports and physical activity, I try to be adventurous and try new things.

I like to be myself and try not to change for anyone, people respect that and perhaps its refreshing. I think of myself as a funny individual, but maybe saying that is a joke in itself.

I would encourage, if at all possible for whoever reading this to get to know the person behind these words.

I think my passion for art stems from trying to understand everything around me and how the world works.

Art is expression, and artists use their talents to express ideas, values, and opinions. The artist has the ability to present the general public with their own unique views and make the observer think.

My favourite aspect of art is that it is accessible to everyone, you do not need to be educated to understand and have an opinion about art.

I am excited to get deeper into the course of visual literacy, I feel its important to be able to understand art and be able to communicate feelings into words.

Visual literacy, I believe will help us individuals better communicate feelings and be able to come closer with ourselves.

At first I was not overly excited about the blogging project only because I have had some bad experieces with blogging assignments in the past. I now realize that our blogs are an avenue for us to express ourselves, much like a painter would express himself through a painting.

Our blogs allow us to vent ideas, opinions and what we please. Visual literacy will be an exciting adventure and look forward to keep you posted on my travels.