Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Category — Critic’s Corner

Art and Love in Renaissance Italy : There is no other way to put it!


Oscar Wilde once wrote, “All art is useless, except that it is intensely admired”. If so, then what is the use of painting? Sculpting vases, panels or jewelry? What makes them so special that The Museum of Metropolitan Art would exert so much of their resources into obtaining almost over 150 pieces for an exhibit?

The answer lies quite simply in the title of the exhibit. “Love and Romance in Renaissance Italy. All these objects were created as everlasting symbols of status, piety and love. As I trembled in the slightly chilly marble hall where most of the exhibit was housed I could not help but embrace how aptly titled it was.

  The painting of a beautiful woman probably commissioned by a doting husband stared across a blue and white ceramic vase. Celestial cherubs and gods like Venus, commissioned by those who tried in every way to be closer to God were recurring motifs. It is difficult not to generalize or to be overly sentimental in analyzing Renaissance art because the artists themselves deliberately exaggerated the subjects. Immense oil paintings of partially nude women of impressive proportions gazed the viewer out of countenance. This was considered beauty! Past tense is used because standards of what stands for love or beauty has drastically changed in a society that is so insecure.

            Historically, the High Italian Renaissance was a period where the pursuit of perfection was channeled through the skill of artists and their craft. Looking at their preindustrial era surroundings they saw potential for beauty and divinity reminiscent of the grandeur that was Rome. One such man was Fra Fillipo Lippi. He was a painter and monk. I recognized his style instantly as I my eyes skipped across the room. He specialized in profile paintings of Italian nobility and mostly couples as seen in the painting “Portrait of a Woman and a Man at a Casement”. In his pursuit of idealization he focuses on the details of an elaborate headpiece and dress rather than the woman that wore it. Her exaggeratedly high forehead, lack of eyebrows, and wan pallor though disconcerting the viewer was considered beauty. On her right arm he wrote the word “Leal” in Italian. Understandably to further emphasize her perfection as a loyal wife. Lorenzo Lotto also undertook to paint in this time and his portayal of “Venus and Cupid” is awe inspiring. Venus as the godess of beauty reposed and completely at ease with cupid at her feet gives and indescribable sense of serenity and peace. This was art and love in renaissance Italy.

This romantic idealization went beyond the human form. In the artist’s eyes and in my minds eye it transcended into human nature itself.

December 29, 2008   Comments Off on Art and Love in Renaissance Italy : There is no other way to put it!

Tres Bien Mais Triste


“Les Ecailles De La Memoire”, better understood as “The Scales of Memory” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, better known as “BAM”, was a disconcerting piece of African interpretive dance. [Read more →]

December 29, 2008   Comments Off on Tres Bien Mais Triste

Urban Bush Women

Performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Urban Bush women displayed African American culture and traditions as well as the struggle that came with African Diaspora, migration of Africans to America and later on to the world, through expressive dance performances. For many members of the audience like me, it was difficult to understand the story of the dance performance.  Only in the end did I realize that there was no plot. Without sufficient introduction in the beginning of the performance, Urban Bush women confused its audience. [Read more →]

December 21, 2008   2 Comments

Art and Love in the Italian Renaissance

In the world we live today, we often ignore what is surrounding us, even if it’s free of charge. I had the opportunity to visit the exhibition Art and Love in the Italian Renaissance, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though the Renaissance occurred hundreds of years ago, the values of marriage and family were preserved through the paintings and jewelries at the exhibition. Though I had limited knowledge of the culture during that time period, the exhibition guided me to learn the culture not from words but with my own eyes. [Read more →]

December 20, 2008   Comments Off on Art and Love in the Italian Renaissance

The Photojournalist

Going through Susan Meiselas’s work at the International Center of Photography (ICP) was truly breathtaking. Never before have I been exposed to such “in your face” photography. I was taken back with one of her works, her Carnival Strippers project, but Meiselas’s other piece about the political revolutions down in Central America did more than tell a story, her photos put the viewer in the story. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on The Photojournalist

A Waltz with Bashir

Scene from Waltz with Bashir

Scene from "Waltz with Bashir"

WOOF! WOOF! And the dogs race towards you screaming; the men are quietly debating what happened during their time as Lebanon War soldiers. BANGBANGBANG! And the mortars are roaring while the guns spew death; the men are quietly debating what happened. I look at the screen and a spastic storyteller comes to mind. This erratic movie caught me entirely off guard with its different spasms of sound and visuals. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on A Waltz with Bashir

Dr. Atomic – A Dud

Dr. Atomic

Dr. Atomic

What a dud. If you are going to watch Dr. Atomic, do so because you have an interest in the Manhattan Project; do not watch Dr. Atomic because you had the notion that the visuals were going to blow you away. Yes, certain theatre visual aids were eye opening, like the portrait based cubicle set, but the ending was far too disappointing to justify the hype that is built up leading to the A-bomb explosion. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on Dr. Atomic – A Dud

War Fever

In Conflict

In Conflict

If emotion had color, the stage would’ve looked like a rainbow throughout the show; the audience would’ve been a sea of all different hues. Director Douglas Wager turns Yvonne Latty’s book of inteviews with Iraq War vets into something that truly touches the heart. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on War Fever

At Our Very Own Basement –

The hammer missed the nail a bit on this one. Irena’s Vow does showcase a solid performance, but the portrayal of the characters as featured in the original play script is far from perfect. If you are the type of person who reads the book before watching the production, you might find yourself staring at an unfamiliar Irena, or maybe a new variant of the Major. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   1 Comment

The Tony Award Musical

South Pacific

South Pacific

Put together a dish of Tony Award nominees/recipients and a deeply moving drama with an exhilarating musical score on the side for a five star meal you won’t forget – South Pacific. First performed half a century ago, Rodgers & Hammerstein puts this exotic beauty back on stage as a Broadway musical with a re-invigorated passion.

South Pacific explores and challenges many cultural views of Western society during the 1940s, namely the abhorrence of romance with Eastern natives. Forbidden love outlines this story’s drama; impulse fills it. As the story is set in the times of the second Great War, we also get a nice insight into the lives of American soldiers who were fighting the Japs amidst an unknown territory. The soldiers provide jokes and other comical debriefs that cast the musical in a more cheery mood, despite the nature of the drama being told.

With South Pacific, there is something else besides music to appreciate. It’s like eating a slice of cheesecake, only to find a layer of sweet, chocolate filling in the middle. You hear the music and you watch the comedy, and you think to yourself, “It’s damn good.” But then, you discover that there is a message the play is trying to convey, something explicitly woven into the long dialogues of the protagonists, that sweet chocolate filling, and you think to yourself, “It’s better than damn good.”

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on The Tony Award Musical