MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Author: KristinB

“The Nude” Female Body Image in NYC Art

Link to app:

Link to more mobile-friendly app :

Throughout history, women’s image  have been defined by social constructs that objectify their body as well as define beauty standards that puts other women below for not having the same qualities. However, artists in particular have been creating artwork that not only breaks the traditional image of women, but also empower women in the expression of their/the female body. This project brings together 4 paintings that depict nude women and how visual analysis, context from the artist, and a bit of history and comparison to help portray the ways in which the portrayal of women brings about empowerment, redefining standards of beauty, and breaking away from subordinate roles while having liberty in their bodily expression. The app created for this project allows the user to read these analysis though they are also able to simply admire and observe the work and make their own interpretations while browsing.


Update: Fixed first image text error and added link to mobile-friendly app (Original app – mouseover function for info boxes; Hard to use for mobile phones. Mobile app – click function for info boxes).

Art and Commerce

When talking about possible career choices , people would ask, “What are you interested in? What are your hobbies?” Depending on the person, I would either shrug or tell them I like art mainly drawing. When I chose to say the latter, the person I’m talking about would say, “Have you thought about Graphic Design? Or going into advertising?” These would be the most practical  paths to go to with art when thinking about a future with a job besides architecture. It is difficult to find a stable job much less make a name for yourself. To Glenn O’Brien, advertising wasn’t what he imagined to be the career that will connect him to art yet it is through this line of work that he was able to feel the recognition as an artist and as a member of society. But to get yourself a name in the art world is tough unless you have connection and influences. Kanye West and Virgil Abloh both state how they wouldn’t have been acknowledged as they are now if they didn’t have these connections with other famous people, if there line of work didn’t appeal to famous icons in  the media that promoted their work. I learned that art is considered art by three agencies: the artist, the audience/viewer, and the critic/curator. Thanks to the influence of famous celebrities wearing fashion products or praising  works is then caught by the media/critic which then impacts the artists’ brand name which leads to a desire for these brands, products are distributed and so forth.

When I was thinking of a connection between art, fashion, advertising, and commerce, I remembered a scene from the movie, Medianeras, where the artist who worked as a window shop designer and it showed one of the designs she had made where the outfit’s artistic sense was brought out more in a creative way. It caught my interest and I would most likely go in the shop and possibly buy clothes. The use of color, as Kanye West stated in his article, is important.




I was also reminded of the late Harvey Ball who was a graphic artist that created the smiley icon which became an international symbol of happiness and goodwill incorporated in countless products. He was a freelance artist when he created the symbol and never asked for it to be trademarked or copyrighted which was interesting considering the significance of one’s name and work being recognized as discussed in the three articles.

Rodin and Michelangelo

Both Rodin and Michelangelo took interest in the human body.

Rodin put a lot of emphasis on the the expression and feeling that the sculptures portrayed  particularly in the nude which he is quoted to say, “The form and the attitude of a human being reveals the emotions of its soul. The body always expresses the spirit whose envelope it is. And for [he] who can see, the nude offers the richest meaning.” He also use the medium to his advantage to create or recreate a scene to a story or evoke strong feelings.

The Thinker posed to evoke deep thought and contemplation and depending on the angle you look at the statue, like in the picture, you can even say that the Thinker has come to an epiphany or is in the process if such. The statue isn’t in a relaxed posture but in a more rigid, dynamic pose that illicits action.


Fallen Caryatid Carrying an Urn shows the scrunched up body weighed down by the Urn which also shows how much a person could be crushed by the burdens they carry.

Michelangelo on the other hand focused more on the idealized human body and image

The sculptor of the Young Archer depicts a child whose body is fit and muscular, not a body you would imagine on a child, however it would fit the occupation of an archer. The statue is shown in a free and open expression that does not shy away from showing off his body.

The statue of David is the image of an idealized man.  The limbs, hips are counterbalanced to depict a naturalistic and humane stance to the subject. The posture is known as Contropposto which was originally observed in the sculpture, The Spear Bearer by Polykleitos also known as the Canon or the ideal model that others should study and copy. The subject David is shown to have an athletic build with intricate details to anatomy.

Mean Streets and Shakey Dog

Mean Streets portrayed world of obligations and fluctuating moral beliefs . The characters all have obligations whether it was owing money, taking care of a relative, to your beliefs, or to avenging the honor of a person. Money is a theme that is apparent throughout the film (or at least the first half we watched) where money was owed to loaners, was used for scam, was used as bribery, and it was used as a mediator between parties despite the fighting. Charlie, the main protagonist, has made it his duty to watch over Johnny whom is carefree and negligent and neck deep in debt from borrowing from a lot of loaners.

At the start of the movie, Charlie feels that going to confession does not guarantee pardon from his wrongdoings and thus sets out with the belief that the matter is solely in his hands and actions in the real world, thus his relation to Johnny. However we find out that he most likely does this to be with Johnny’s sister whom he has a relationship with. Including this instance, other moral paradoxes are portrayed by the characters such as the bar owner kicking out a man for injecting substances in his bathroom  which he views as unsightly yet he keeps caged lions hidden in the back from dubious sources without a license to keep them. How Charlie wants to be with Teresa but outrightly declares he doesn’t love her despite spending time with her. These contradicting morals makes it interesting that it makes you want to see what he will choose to follow and where that will bring him and add to the growing turmoil in the story.

Ghostface Killah’s Shakey Dog portrays a much more frank and harsh reality through the recounting of a robbery for drugs and money. In Mean Streets,  the characters Charlie with his connection to his uncle, and the loaners like Michael mostly evoke respect and a code of loyalty from other characters. In Shakey Dog, Ghost and Frank presence evoke fear in the streets to the point that they aren’t concerned about anyone witnessing their robbery. The song then narrates what goes on in a robbery to the last detail from getting out their guns, making the plans, and what goes down in a robbery which doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Their is no regard to the lives of the people they are robbing from and each other’s since Ghost talked about Frank taking the blame if they get caught. We get straight to the action in the song, we aren’t made to get to know the characters like we do in Mean Streets. It’s the story laid out bare to the listeners with no intention of softening the blow, leaving little to consider of the actions they took and the consequences it brought about.

Brooks, Womack, and Studio Museum

The text brings out the idea of surviving and living. Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street”  supplies vivid images  of Harlem having streets busy with activities like drug dealing, alcohol, soliciting, etc. While these activities are looked down upon, Womack’s lyrics portray these as activities people do to survive

“You don’t know what you’ll do until you’re put under pressure
Across 110th Street is a hell of a tester”

and that to live in these streets you have to be strong which is stated in the following lines, “You’ve got to be strong, if you want to survive,” and in the lines, “Pimps trying to catch a woman that’s weak,” or “Pushers won’t let the junkie go free,” implying that those with a weak will won’t endure in these streets.

On the other hand, if you pair it up with Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” which describes a black man who lost his purpose and will to live then the mentioned activities are not just survival but also the last thread that keeps them living.

And yet in Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” you get the sense that they are also living in the streets as they go about life without a care and enjoying themselves. Even in Womack’s lines

“Hey brother, there’s a better way out
Snorting that coke, shooting that dope man you’re copping out
Take my advice, it’s either live or die”

The singer recognizes that there is more to life than what is being handed to them and that its best to live and work for it than to die waiting. Even Brooks’ states this in the last lines, “We Jazz June. We Die soon.”

Harlem is full of busy streets and people struggling but they are also holding on and living.

Ballard depicts a dystopian society where the population exponentially increases each year resulting in an overcrowded city with meager living conditions. I felt claustrophobic reading the the beginning of the story as Ward described the standard living space of a single which was only over 4 meters while a double was 6 meters and the crowds of people on the streets that could even caused “locks” that entrapped everyone for a period of 2 days in one place. The society was unsupervised and disorganized as they did nothing to regulate the increasing population. I would like to compare it to the world depicted in Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

Here the world is considered Utopian where everything is regulated so that no conflict will occur nor will any of the residents feel unsatisfied with their lives. Everyone gets their food each day for each meal, they are studied closely that they may get the most fitting job when they are of age, and they are assigned to families and partners whom they will compliment and get along well with. Surely this society where everyone is satisfied with their lives as everything is meticulously calculated is much better than the chaotic conditions described in “Billenium”. Until you learn how they adopt “Sameness” and the lengths they have gone to keep it that way.

In return for creating a society where no conflict will occur as it did in the past, they lost their emotions and  their ability to create their own opinion that reflected their individuality and values. Two societies, one where the population increase cannot be controlled and everyone struggles to have a living space and their own privacy, and another where every factor is regulated including the population, food resources, and assigned family units to create “equality” that renders no real emotion in people. They are different worlds yet both are examples of a dystopian society.

I also related to O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You” to being able to truly experience the city and its many attractions thanks to the people whom you are with. My first thought came to Florine Stettheimer’s poems  where expresses her love for many things including details that come from the city, particularly New York City as she mentions things she loved from certain things in NYC in the first poem, “My Attitude is One of Love.” Then in her next poem, “Then Back to New York,” where she describes the changes people have done to the city and its traditional or former practices yet she finds them interesting and what gives life and spark to NY at the time which she chooses to paint. And she has painted many scenes from her life in the city show from parties, outings, places, and the people she interacted with which are always depicted in her vibrant and lively paintings. If it weren’t for people, Stettheimer may not have experienced such an captivating side of NY.

Kara Walker blog post for October 4

Kara Walker’s artworks were jarring in how she portrayed scenes of discrimination towards black people and the audacity and egoism of white people that makes it that you can’t look away. They illustrated the intense feelings of the subjects and of those who lived in that time period which conveys the hard reality of racism where white people consistently dominated. There is even the illustration of  the lady of justice battered and wounded as a connection to the treatment of black people.


What I wanted to convey is how the written word is a symbol of authority. In this case as shown in the image, I chose to talk about same-sex marriage in the written word. I drew it because I couldn’t find an image that portrayed same-sex marriage as such in rules and regulations. I used to live in the Philippines whose major religion  was Roman Catholicism and studied in an all-girls catholic school. My friend wrote an essay about the experience in catholic school how conservative the school was. A whole auditorium of freshmen to seniors dedicated to talks of sexuality and how same-sex was a sin which many found the talk horrible. Christian Living class you take every year had lessons in the later HS years which talked of homosexuality being a sin, where there was a test that evaluated your values as they ask your response as a Catholic to other people who identified as gay or bisexual (and many students refusing to fill in those answers). Or how there are either teachers who don’t support it or those who do but can’t do anything about the administration. And all in all students are used to tolerating it and its terrible. And the fact that Marriage in the Philippines is only valid if its between a man and a wife. LGBTQ are being exposed to the idea that they aren’t valid and have to deal with it all around the world. Laws that discriminate on your identity or sexuality and prevent one from many rights in their workplace, public space, or being with your partner. And because they are law, others will see it as so and act as is dictated. Authoritative figures dictate what is right or bad which is exposed to the public and as a result creates insecurity, prejudice, and inequality.