Art Museum Landscape Project

| March 11, 2014

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This quarter we?re examining our relationship with nature?especially the different ways we perceive nature? and one means is to focus on the role of art. For this project, you?ll visit the Portland Art Museum and consider how nature is portrayed in various visual art works. I?ve suggested some specific paintings and some areas in the museum that are rich in these works, but you are welcome to choose other paintings as long as they are appropriate to the assignment. Be sure to provide proper attribution, that is the title, date of creation, and the painter?s name for every piece to which you refer. Also, be sure to read ?Looking Analytically? from Feldman (attached and on D2L) since you will need it as a guide for both phases of this project.
How the natural world is portrayed in art is shaped by the cultural context in which the artist works. Although our eyes may be the same anatomically and physiologically, we aren?t looking through identical lenses when we view nature. Art can serve as a lasting record, giving us some insight as to how nature was perceived at different times and in different places. Art also influences and shapes culture. For this project I expect you will have read and thought about the Andrews and Meinig, and also be prepared to consider other readings from this term, as appropriate. I?ll expect themes from these pieces to make their thoughtful presence known in your interpretation as appropriate (with citations).
Our aim?to have you experience a variety of nature perspectives while paying closer attention to some, and critically analyzing how our readings help us relate to a few?will be served by the following defined tasks (all of which you will turn in):
1. Observe and describe three (3) paintings or photographs (with either landscape motif or strong nature element). Your 3 works must be spread between at least 2 different galleries. As you look at the paintings, take notes using the first three stages of Feldman?s ?Looking Analytically.? Write a detailed description of each piece, an impression it creates or you think the artist is attempting, an analysis of how the elements of the painting work together, and a brief interpretation of the view of nature at work in the art. These different steps should be distinct. While you may include an image of the picture, this cannot substitute for a detailed description. I want to see evidence that you have closely examined and processed the image
2. Choose two of the paintings you?ve described that you think provide contrasting perspectives of nature. Write a paper (approximately 3 pages) characterizing each work and exploring what their similarities and differences tell you. Your paper should have an interpretive thesis that you support with evidence from the works of art. You should also make use of some of the ideas and readings from this quarter. Here are some questions to help you think through your own interpretation (you do not have to address each point):
–How does the artwork relate to key concepts and issues we?ve explored in our class so far? (A specific connection and in-depth discussion to at least one of the readings is required. Don?t just assign the piece to a category, but discuss how the text helps you consider the meaning of the work. Be sure to cite as well.)
–What is the role of any humans, observers or participants? How is their relationship with the natural world portrayed? Even if no humans are present, what relationship with nature is implicit in the artwork?
–What values and interpretations do you see reflected in the piece? Is nature beautiful, calming, threatening, awe inspiring? Is the landscape human shaped and occupied or pristine?
–As you ?read? the images, explain in detail what the artist has done to create impression and meaning. For example:
*what signs/symbols you see in the work, and their relationship to each other
*the relationship between foreground, middle ground and background
*use of colors, light and shadow, brushstrokes
Looking Analytically
1. Description
Describe only what you are reasonably sure of, making a complete and neutral inventory of subjects, shapes, colors, spaces, volumes. Be as specific and thorough as you can. Imagine that you are describing the work of art to someone who cannot see.
2. Analysis
Take one step further. Try to describe the relationships among the things that you see. In this stage you want to find out what the forms do to each other; the way forms are located, size relationships, shape relationships, color, textural and surface relationships, space and volume relationships. This could include describing its placement in the gallery, or its size in relationship to your body.
3. Interpretation
This stage of art criticism is the most difficult, the most creative, and the most rewarding. It is the stage when you have to decide what all you earlier observations mean. An interpretation would be one that (a) makes sense out of the largest body of visual evidence drawn from a work of art and (b) makes the most meaningful connections between that work of art and the lives of the people who art looking at it.
4. Judgment
Deciding about the value of an art object. For many of us, deciding whether a work of art is worth serious attention is one of the most important problems of art criticism. The reasons for judging a work have to be based on a philosophy of art, not on someone?s personal authority. If you are resourceful, you can develop your own philosophy of art as a basis for judging the merit of any artwork that interests you. Justifying your opinion about a work of art is important.
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This image, Dollar Sign, by American Pop artist Andy Warhol is made from acrylic paint that has been silkscreened on canvas. Does this qualify it then as a painting or a silkscreen? Why?
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