MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

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Victor Ohara

Ohara uses the city as a means of inspiration to draw the reader into their world as a means of expression. He brings out moments in time and makes them last as though frozen allowing for one to experience what he did. In this way he draws to the readers attention the idea that a moment lasts only once, but a feeling from that moment can interact with future moments to create a sense of memory which is then influenced by one’s life choices and emotional maturity to produce a result.

This perfectly encapsulates the New York City feel of “The Past” which allows for a broader understanding of the culture which we are submerged in every day but have little time to adapt to.

The video I link to is another means of a similar expression which conveys, I feel, a very similar emotional expression to the poetry in that it allows the viewer to step out of their own shoes and see New York with no reference point but that of a cultural lens in the distant way.


Victor Studio Musuem

The Studio Museum has many powerful influences that have shaped the world of Harlem art. Kenneth wiley is a very skilled painter who depicts people in a new light which allows for social commentary. His skill in the compositions is shown by his ability to balance the frame with contrast of light and dark and well placed colors which bring out the subjects and their place. The subjects always have a very powerful expression and the composition usually features a lot of vibrant saturated  colors. The compositions draw from history to show social commentary.

Victor Commerce

Through the vast ravines of time, art and commerce have always been intertwined in a “dance of the dragons” which has escaped only the most wealthy of emperors and politicians. The end result is, of course, that which can be surmised from the froth of the history books – and that is thusly: “Those who sell their art receive a pension based upon the amount which their patron deem it worth”.

When presented in this way, we can see that art is often viewed as a form of “business exchange”. Andy Warhol could be said to have called this a gilded age of consumerism in which those in charge dictate to others what is more valuable and worth pursuing.

(In the above image we see how the same message can be brought forth and push outward despite it sharing similarities to other images)

Plays are another example.

Art and Commerce

The intersections between art, business, and advertising is one that has more benefits than it does downfalls. I liked the way the articles highlighted the transcendence of skills in regards to art in the world of business and advertising. Blurring the lines between art and advertising paves a way for a more artistic marketplace as well as for more employment opportunities for artists and advertisers alike. To me, the blurred line between art and advertising is a positive aspect of more modern advertisements and reminded me of the goals of my friends who are pursuing art or graphic design. It is interesting to see a real-world professional application of art that transcends freelance artists. In addition, I found it interesting to hear the personal anecdotes of Glenn O’Brien in his article Like Art as well as the anecdotes in the article On Business. However, the intersection of art, advertisement, and business can be dangerous as corporations gained a larger influence after the supreme court case of citizens united. When it comes to corporate power, the intersection of art, advertisement, and business could be used to deceive consumers and voters– making this intersection perhaps more dangerous than expected. That being said, the problem does not lie with the transcendence of art into fields such as business and advertising, rather the problem is the role of big business in the personal and financial lives of lawmakers and Washington politics.

Rodin and Michelangelo Met Museum

The Weeping Burgher

By looking over both the artworks of Rodin and Michelangelo, subtle differences can be seen through careful observation. As I looked over the sculptures of Rodin, I noticed that his works of art focused on some state of the human body in connection with emotions. Rodin is able to portray emotion in his sculptures by giving states of being a recognizable pose. Take for example “The Weeping Burgher,” in which Rodin decided to portray a character in grief. The way Rodin accentuated the feeling of grief in this particular piece is by having the figure cover its face in distress and arched slightly forward as if to show that the sadness it feels is too much to bear. Another example of how Rodin plays with emotional representation through his work can be seen in “The Thinker,” which shows a male figure in a position that suggests he is in deep through about an issue. In this case, Roding has the figure in a sitting position with his body leaned forward and his head resting on his hand made into a fist. The thinker is a popular sculpture of Rodin and it helps to show the way in which he portrays emotion through his work.

The Thinker


One feature I noticed in Michelangelo’s work that is different from Rodin is his practice of exaggerating the physical features of the human body. Michelangelo add a touch of masculinity in his work by accentuating the muscular tone of the subjects he focuses on. In the unfinished sketch of “Madonna and Child,” Michelangelo portrayed the faces of both Madonna and the baby with light physical features. Their skin is smooth and free of harsh distinguishable lines. The bodies of these subjects, nevertheless, add significant contrast to the sketch. Madonna and even the child are showcased with heavy muscular tones that are not usually seen in other sketches. The muscular focus of this sketch perhaps is meant to develop the idea that the women and the child, despite the fragility associated with their faces, are strong and fierce characters.


Madonna and Child

Auguste Rodin revealed his fervent and enduring exploration of the human form in his sculptures. In his work, The Tempest, Roding manages to give voice to the shrieking banshee emerging from the marble stone. As the caption puts it, he “unleashes sound from stone.” His work the The Tempest posed the question: Can artists release life from art? Whether they can or can’t is ultimately up to the beholder, for I personally thinking Rodin captured a life like quality in his sculptures.

While walking around the exhibit, I noticed Rodin crafted an array of hand-like sculptures. Personally, I have an infatuation with hands. They hold so much power and are capable of doing incredible things when given the chance to rise to their potential. Rodin seemed to share a similar belief. He believed that hands hold as much emotion as the face. This notion is best seen in his work entitled The Clenched Left Hand. The hand he sculpted is rigid and tense, and seems to be depicting an air of agony and despair. It’s impressive to think that seems so simple can express such deep meaning.

Continuing on the topic of hands, Rodin also crafted The Hand of God, in which he has an image of Adam and Eva cradled in God’s hand. The sculpture was mean to serve as a homage to his idol, Michelangelo. The sculpture itself is quite the site to see, and it’s meaning is even more bold in that Rodin is trying to equate the hand of God with the hand of the sculpture.

Compared to Michelangelo, Rodin’s work is more raw, whereas Michelangelo has a more graceful appeal. This is best scene in his bronze statue of Eros. At first glance, I thought the figure was that of a fallen angel. It wasn’t until upon reading the description where I realized that it was actually of Eros sleeping.

Studio Museum

After reading Langston Hughes’s “Weary Blues” and listening to Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street,” I understood that both of these works depicted the difficult early life experiences of African Americans in New York City. The places in which people of color lived in is hinted as being marginal and at times even dangerous. In “Across 110th Street,” Bobby Womack tells the life of a character living in Harlem. The character is said to be “the third brother of five” who had to do whatever was at reach in order to survive. The character of the song goes on to explain the difficult reality of living in Harlem with the lines “Trying to break out of the ghetto was a day to day fight/ You don’t know what you’ll do until you’re put under pressure.” In “Weary Blues” a character listens to the singing of an African American “down on Lenox Avenue.” The man sings about his dissatisfaction with life, and how being alone made him long for death.


While looking through the works of art on display in the “We Go As They” exhibit at the Studio Museum, one artist that captured my attention was Andy Robert. Robert’s Check II Check work depicts a check cashier in Harlem near the museum. Reading the depiction of the painting helped me understand the possible motives behind the authors choice of focus for Check to Check. By making the check cashier place the main focal point of the painting in Harlem, Robert perhaps wanted to get across the idea that people in Harlem get ready day after day for what will come. Financially, making a living is does not come without its problems. The painting captures the vibrancy of Harlem at night on Malcom X Boulevard with bright, almost glowing, colors that create a sense of change in the neighborhood from the previous descriptions of Langston Hughes and Bobby Womack. With Check II Check, Robert in this was is able to capture the life in Harlem today. By walking the streets of Harlem today, one is able to appreciate the evolution of the neighborhood through the countless of new businesses running as well as through the greater diversity of the people living in the area.

Brooks, Womack, and Studio Museum

In Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street”  the main theme is one of survival and leaving Harlem. Womack mainly sings about the need to “break out of the ghetto” and brings up the drugs and other bad things that go on there thus, portraying well the desperate situation in Harlem in his times. I liked how he sings about it in a very matter of fact way without emotions involved.

“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks portrays in a very concise manner the life in Harlem by talking about specifics. The poem tells us it is considered cool to drop out of school, “lurk late…thin gin” and so on. The last line “We die soon” conveys the hopelessness of the whole situation.  “The Weary Blues” is similar in that it also portrays the hopelessness but in an emotional way without specific examples of life in the streets.  Hughes uses words such as “drowsy”, “lazy sway”, “old piano moan” to make the mood one of depression. It is especially sad when he “heard that Negro sing….I ain’t happy no mo’ and I wish that I had died.” In both poems it seems that there is no way to escape the miserable situation in Harlem unlike in “Across 110th street” where Womack sings about such a possibility though it may be difficult.

Studio Museum

“You can find it all in the street”. This lyric/sentence in Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” stood out to me the most. This can be interpreted as it literally states that you can find it all in the streets of not only Harlem, but New York City as well. There are both positive and negative connotations to finding it “all in the streets”. The negatives are the drugs, gang activities, prostitution, etc. While I believe that there’s more positive than negatives, I came to a realization that people don’t often recognize and acknowledge the issues in the city. The resident artists in the We Go as They exhibit at the Studio Museum carries different messages and feelings through their paintings. The one that stuck out the most to me as Andy Robert’s Call II Mecca, Oil on linen. It was a large art piece combined from six smaller pieces. On each of them, I noted the chunks of paint throughout where some places are heavier than other. And the words “metropo”, shortened from Metro Police.

An interesting piece I really liked at the Studio Museum was Miatta Kawinzi’s Streetspeak.

The hands and fingers in the artwork point towards the phrase “my sista”. I enjoy this work mainly because of the “family” feeling that it gives off by the artist in Harlem. I take note of that familiarity with the members of the community walking down the streets of Harlem, where many people seem to know each other. In a sense, they are like each other’s “sista” and even brother.

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