MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Category: Blog

A Bridge Between the Many

Glen O’Brien and Virgil Abloh both stressed on the ever dwindling gap between fashion, advertising, commerce and art. The space between these concepts, in recent years, has been melting into one. Although the ultimate purpose of all fashion advertising is to sell clothes, brands use their seasonal campaigns to do more than purely push product. When done right, an ad can convey the essence of a label’s identity, from the type of consumer it’s courting to the general vibe each label is looking to project. Each element of the final image is chosen with the goal of creating a succinct visual representation of the brand’s message: Casting is only one part of the puzzle, but when used effectively, it can speak volumes—a lineup of youthful waifs conveys a different message than the use of a sole, seductive supermodel.

Casting celebrities in campaigns is not new, celebs are equipped with their own built in audiences and character associations, which makes it an easier sell, provided they line up with those of the house, and over the years Oscar winners, athletes, and pop stars alike have been called in to represent fashion brands. Stars make money selling pieces of their glamorous personas to luxury corporations, and tapping into the next marketable personality, which more often than not includes the promise that they’ll wear the designer’s wares for all of their big red carpet appearances, a coup in and of itself, has become a competitive sport.

The Sacramento-based clothing company All Good completely sold out of one of their hats just because the Cavaliers superstar wore it before and after Cleveland’s 104-101 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday. The hat, which says”All Good Never Better” on the front, was quite visible during James’ postgame conference and caused All Good to sell out of their entire stock in three hours. The hat sold out simply because it was placed on a famous head, the simplest trigger for to initiate “consumer habits”.

In this picture, you see Mila Kunis’ outfit deconstructed with a few “inspired” pieces for others to copy and emulate. The power of advertising fashion and its commerce is so impactful to the point where viewers, if they are unable to attain the exact article, are willing to wear something similar, as long as it remains related to the model (actress/singer/influencer)

          One symbol that is damaging to women is snakes as a symbol of female sexuality because of snakes association with sin. This symbol is one that permeates throughout society and has its roots in the bible. The symbol has its origin in the story of Adam and Eve is where the devil in the form of a snake tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. In the modern-day context, however, this association can perpetuate the cycle of subconsciously slut shaming because female sexuality is associated with snakes, and therefore sin, while male sexuality is not. Never do you see a man’s sexuality degradingly depicted with a snake.

          Associating snakes with female sexuality is seen throughout works of art. Some artists, such as Kara Walker, use this symbol in their art as a critique and to embrace female sexuality. Walker portrays a woman intertwined with a snake while she participates in self-penetration. This particular artist turns the symbol that many may find degrading into a powerful image of female sexuality. Walker is critiquing this symbol and the negative connotation of expressive self-sufficient female sexuality by embracing the degeneration. She embraces this stereotype and makes it the forefront of her painting, which many may find graphic. By making a detailed and expressive image she is desolating the stereotype and embracing female sexuality.

          The association of female sexuality with snakes can perpetuate the stigma that a woman’s sexuality, whether it be promiscuous or monogamous, is sinful. Woman’s sexuality, both women who are cis and trans, should be celebrated instead of viewed as somewhat sinful or scandalous. Perhaps the decreased use of symbols such as snakes would help end the cycle that views sexual activities of woman as sinful or slutty while men doing those same acts are simply men and those actions go unquestioned.  


Prompt for November 22

What do you make of the intersection between art, commerce, advertising, and fashion as touched on in these articles? Feel free to bring in additional articles, images, or video, or write about a compelling ad (for a fashion brand or otherwise) you saw recently.

Prompt for November 20

Write about the common aspects of both sculptors’ (Michelangelo & Rodin) work, or what you felt was unique about each.Also feel free to contemplate the “sculptural” aspects of Mapplethorpe’s work, or the resonances between Mapplethorpe’s framing of subjects and Michelangelo/Rodin’s.

Prompt for November 13

Write a blog post about the world portrayed in the Mean Streets—the moral paradoxes of its characters, and the details of the world they inhabit, and so on. What makes it compelling? Alternately, discuss what is similar, or different, about the gritty reality portrayed in the Ghostface song, or how music and film present these experiences differently.

Prompt for November 6

Write about how these musical and literary texts (Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool,” Langston Hughes’s “Weary Blues,” and Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street”) express representations of physical space—Harlem in particular—and black experience. Or, you may address this topic through your experience visiting the Studio Museum.

Prompt for October 25

You were assigned Frank O’Hara and J.G. Ballard readings that collectively present either a utopian or dystopian view of New York City, or a city very much like it. Reflect on the text(s) by including a multimedia element in your post that interacts with or draws out an aspect of its subject matter, themes, or specific locations. Think about audio, video, imagery, interactive apps, film clips, or another piece of media. (Inclusion of this piece of media is mandatory.)

As the texts relate directly to NYC or a NYC-like city, consider using audio/video/apps/sound in the following ways (just as examples): using Google Earth to screenshot locations (or include a link to Google Earth’s view of locations) mentioned explicitly by O’Hara, and talk about the difference between your impression of its present-day status and O’Hara’s nostalgic view; including a link to music that relates in some way to the grandeur of O’Hara’s depicted metropolis or the claustrophobia of Ballard’s (The Ramones? Suicide (the band)? Television? Patti Smith?); a link to a film scene that reacts or interacts in some way with the texts and their almost unreal portrayal of city customs and locations (Minority ReportThe MatrixBladerunner?); images of the paintings and artworks O’Hara mentions and how the real-life version interacts with the themes in O’Hara’s poem; or, another media element that you find raises compelling overlaps/contrasts. Think creatively.

You must also comment on two other students’ projects. Please do your best to upload by Tuesday, Oct. 24, so that you each have time to view others’ projects, and to comment as needed.

You will be presenting your own project in front of the class (nothing painstakingly formal, but I’ll project your post and you can walk us through it), so please re-familiarize yourself with your thoughts before class.

As a reminder, the Frank O’Hara/J.G. Ballard texts (included in your course pack — except you’ll need to consult the digital version of “Having a Coke”) are as follows:
Frank O’Hara“Having a Coke with You” (view on full-screen to see proper line breaks)

“A Step Away From Them”
“Personal Poem”

J.G. Ballard: “Billennium”


Prompt for October 16

The selection of ballet pieces you saw last week hinged on contemporary, or new, music. (You probably noted the absence of the more formal, classical music you may’ve heard in previous ballet pieces.) Look up the music from one of the pieces, and write about how music and dance interacted. Or, how seeing the music away from dance allowed you to contemplate its sound differently.

Prompt for October 2

Write a short review of the play (A Doll’s House Part 2), focusing on specific aspects you thought were successful or unsuccessful. You might focus on: actors’ performances, stage design, direction, or the general interplay between the text and the live action you witnessed.

Prompt for September 25

Discuss an aspect of the Stettheimer exhibit through a perspective learned from John Berger (this can be a more abstract perspective—what Berger made you think about as you were in the exhibit, perhaps focusing on a single piece, or the layout/arrangement of the exhibit).