Following their visit to the Lowe Art Museum on September 13th, 2018, the FIU Honors students of Art Society Conflict 2018-2019 shared their voices and opinions through photographs and personal reflections.
There she was, the Column Krater, a pottery work that I had only ever seen in art history textbooks used to represent the clay treasures created by the Greeks. When Bailly asked us to think about the oldest man-made object we had seen, it took most of the class a moment to really think about it. Even then, chances are it wasn’t over 2,500 years old. This piece was never intended to sit behind a pane of glass. It was made to mix things like food or drink. It was a useful vessel to someone of ancient Greece, but now it is a part of a much larger story. Art is the oldest running dialogue in human existence, for every piece is a conversation between artists and their predecessors.
When looking at the paintings of El Greco, the Spanish Renaissance master, I also see those of my grandfather’s. He was a painter; born of a Spanish couple and raised in Cuba. He then later settled in Miami, Florida. The elongated figures by the Renaissance master depicting stories of Jesus and his disciples had inspired a similar execution of angels and Cuban musicians hanging on the walls in grandmother’s home. Throughout the whole body of my grandfather’s work, El Greco’s presence does not lie quietly. His bold and spiritual execution brought my grandfather closer to his own artistic realizations. El Greco (or Doménikos Theotokópoulos), could have never known how his work would stand the test of time nor, how artists after he would be inspired by his voice. While time travel doesn’t exist (yet), art is the closest we have come.
It seems that far too often, the beautiful and the tragic often reside much too closely together. It feels that sometimes they are intertwined; breathing each other’s breath, sharing each other’s blood, dissolving into the other. There are moments when this realization can come in a manner that startles and upsets, like the rapid end of summer and of youth. There are moments when it can come in the halls of an art museum, in the absorption of a work. When viewing Carlos Alfonzo’s pieces at the Lowe Art Museum, I was struck by their presence. His large mural, A Tongue To Utter (1988) and his sculpture piece Ballerinas (1998-1990) were layered upon one another in physical proximity. It was the swaying dancers and their steel tutus that almost overwhelmed me with their whimsical energy. To say the ballerinas were a coalescence of Degas and Picasso would be far too simple. There was a spirit within them, undeniably Cuban, concentrated with la vida.
…In the moments I heard my professor speak of Carlos’ passing from AIDS in 1991, I suddenly fell into gentle mourning. Immediately what I saw deepened, infiltrating me in a way unlike before. In an interview, the artist once said, “I try through my visual language to suggest the presence of mystical forces that surround us and are part of us.” With those words, I know he was there. Now a mystical force dancing with his ballerinas. Dancing amongst us.
I did not choose this painting because I like what I see. Because I don’t.
And If my eyes could decide, they would look the other way and tell me to go and find one of the many beautiful paintings hanging on the walls just waiting to be admired at the Lowe art museum.
But it somehow captured my mind, this large Untitled painting from 1989 by the Swiss painter Martin Disler. You see, an artwork does not have to look appealing if it touches something on the inside.
I look at this painting and I am sure, that many people would agree that a child could have done a better job. But could a child depict the emotionally charged expressiveness as the adult mind like that of this painter?
I look at the painting and I feel like I’m intruding. Like I’m reading someone’s journal. Is it the brushstrokes that makes it feel so personal? Or is it because “ugly” is a universal language that we all can relate to? Isn’t it true that it’s easier to relate to ‘ugly’ than ’beautiful’? That the majority of people have more in common with a painting like this than Leonardo’s Mona Lisa?
There’s so much to love about art. The beauty of Mona Lisa, and the ugliness of an Untitled painting from 1989.
When I was a child, I used to live in a small-town close to the city of Toledo, in Spain. I went to a private Catholic school in another town so every morning I would take the bus to school. During hot summer days, or cold winter months, it didn’t matter because my grandma or my mom would walk me to that same bus stop every morning. The bus stop was right across a restaurant called “El Greco”.
“El Greco” became a name that I have always carried with me. Through my ups and downs, sleepy mornings, and snowy days, that place saw me grow up for 10 years of my life. Even though when I was small I did not know what that name meant, I came to realize later in life that it was the name of a famous artist. While walking through the exhibitions in the Lowe museum, the painting above was the one that resonated with me the most. “Christ Carrying the Cross” by El Greco instantly brought me back to that bus stop across from the gloomy restaurant with the crooked sign. The symbol of Christ carrying the cross is something that I have witnessed my entire life; through my family, my schooling, and church. Thus, seeing such a symbolic painting created by a name that has such an importance to me was breathtaking.
This painting at the Lowe Art Museum from a Puerto Rican artist uses the hand as a symbol to carry out its message. The hand is considered a symbol of humanity, of life. The earliest recorded artworks from thousands of years ago are found deep inside caves and most of them are basic hand prints of past civilizations trying to leave their mark on Earth. By leaving their handprint, they immortalize themselves and convey a message as to saying, “I was here”. The different symbols on the hands could be interpreted as different civilizations all coming together as one, as humans.
When I heard that the painting was done by a Puerto Rican artist I immediately felt proud. Just as I am a Puerto Rican studying in the United States, a minority, this artist has gotten recognition out of Puerto Rico and is being exhibited in Miami amongst other modern artists and past famous artists from all over the world. For me this painting represents what the hand represents. It is a stamp on the walls of this museum that says, “I was here”, or “A Puerto Rican was here”. Knowing that I come from a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, the feeling I get whenever I hear something related to Puerto Rico is indescribable and always reminds me of where I come from.
ASC Fall 2018 Student Gallery from Lowe Art Museum