Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Super Hyper-Advanced Mugger

I saw this comic and couldn't resist keeping it to myself. What better outlet than our visual culture blog?


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Future of Advertising

I first began to notice interactive advertisements not long after I started using the Internet. This was still the dark era of obnoxious pop-up and banner ads that would scream “Congratulations!” every time a new page was loaded. This style of marketing was just about as bad as telemarketing and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this way. These ads were wildly unpopular and a new approach was necessary if companies wanted to keep the attention of their audience. The first types of interactive ads I began to notice were modeled after games, allowing the viewer to play the game, and after winning or losing be forwarded to the page of
the advertisers product. This style, known as “advergaming” caught my attention because I found myself participating for fun while the ad was able to infiltrate my subconscious just like it was intended to. As time went on I began to notice to notice other kinds of ads utilizing this same type of concept.

Google AdSense was the next big change in the way ads were shown and consumed on the Internet. I’ve always wondered how these ads work because they are different depending on what you’re looking at. It works by using an algorithm that allows Google’s ads scan the page they are embedded in for keywords, which it then uses to try and find ads that are relevant to the content. These don’t always work (sometimes with hilarious results) but the concept is very interesting. This concept is taken even further with websites such as Hulu which allow to viewer to choose which kind of ads they prefer, and even allow them to watch one extended advertisement, or several shorter segments. Both of these examples have had a huge impact on advertising because they are much more likely to be clicked than ads that are completely irrelevant to the content on the page.

All of these techniques are relatively new, especially compared to the history of advertising and I’m very interested to see how far it will go. With the integration of social media into our everyday lives, I can see the potential for highly personalized, relevant advertising that might be so well integrated you might not even notice it is happening. One example of this might be product placement in movies that would change based on the viewer. As much as we want ads to go away, I think they are here to stay. They are just going to get smarter.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Livestrong Foundation was created, in 1997, by world-renowned cyclist, Lance Armstrong, a year after he was diagnosed with cancer. After beating the caner, he went on to win seven consecutive (1999-2005) Tour-de-France races, the most prestigious bike race in the world, setting a new world-record for consecutive wins. The Foundation was created to raise money for cancer research and awareness.

In 2003, the website was created specifically for people affected by cancer. One-on-one help was available as well as other practical materials to help members battle cancer .

In 2008, the website was launched. The site is built to encourage people to take control of their own healthy living. It is geared towards the population at-large and not just those with cancer. The site contains interactive applications that help people in the areas of: fitness, diet, wellness and lifestyle. Some of the applications include:

- My Plate: online food tracker (largest food database)
- Loops: online fitness tracker and map tracker
- My Quit Coash: online smoking cessation program
- Recipes: online database for healthy recipes and for recipes created by members provides articles, videos and Q & A's from reputable, expert sources. And the site provides links to other related articles that fit your search criteria.

What makes a new media source is it's interactive nature. Member's are free to give input to the editor's of the site and therby, content is constantly being monitored and updated to fit their needs. Also member's can form forums and groups to share their health stories, concerns and successes with others, making it a place of community.

As the 2009 New Media Award winner, I predict will continue to be a trusted site for information concerning health and wellness. Its library and content will continue to grow as the world's population continues to increase its awareness of the importance of healthy living.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Google+ at first glance seems to be yet another social media platform available to us, but after watching a few videos and reading a few articles, I think Google+ offers something new.

"Real-life sharing,
rethought for the web."

I do believe that their tagline rings true. Google has offered a way to make sharing very simple, but a different way of sharing from Facebook and Twitter. The three components of Google+, Circles, Hangouts and Games, allows users to immediately specify which of their friends they want to or need to share things with. It provides social activity and presentation in a new way. We also can't forget it's search engine and mobile features.

The intimacy and specificity of this social platform is what I think will cause it to continually rise in popularity. Google+ is not only just a social platform for families and friends, but it is now open to businesses. --->
I think this was a brilliant idea! Although some would argue that they don't want to see more advertising on yet another social platform, I think it fosters a great environment for companies (whether big or incredibly small) can be more interactive with their customers.

I now have a greater appreciation for Google+ and predict that it will reach it's peak within the next 3 years as they improve it with the help and feedback of it's users.

The YouTube Phenomenon

YouTube has a surprisingly short history, and yet marks the beginning of the cultural phenomenon that is Digital Cinema. Video sharing was not simple before YouTube. This challenge sparked three young adults working at the internet company, PayPal, to establish a video sharing website that we know and love as YouTube today.

The site uses flash video to allow for multiple videos on the site without file size being a problem. If one should choose to have a YouTube account, it could be classified into one of the following categories: Classic YouTuber, Comedian, Director, Guru, Musician, Nonprofit, Partner, or Sponsor. Likewise, the site organizes its main page according to categories that were placed by any particular account member.

YouTube has affected the global population, but in my daily life, YouTube is prevalent. Virtually any media that contains image or sound can be placed on YouTube in some sort of fashion. This has raised a plethora of controversial copyright discussions because many users use YouTube to watch their favorite movies (like myself) and play their favorite songs that were uploaded by users who may or may not have rights to the material they uploaded (and made available to the public for Free).

In its five short years, YouTube has undergone tremendous and almost unfathomable growth, and I do not see its dominance in the video sharing realm ceasing at any point in the near future. Because of YouTube's popularity, the term "YouTube" is as ubiquitous as "Facebook" and are often used as verbs, which further emphasizes its assimilation into our visual and social culture and psyche. If you have some extra time, "YouTube" the video, "Lazy Sunday," (which you probably already have) and you'll see the video that first experienced rising popularity in a short period of time that it would not have seen without YouTube.

YouTube is the social media responsible for isolating many young artists, including Berklee's very own Emily Luther and Charlie Puth, who were "discovered" by Ellen Degeneres through a Youtube video the students posted that went viral. It is a social platform for alter egos and pseudo-identities. It's a place where families and friends can share their most intimate videos with each other and the world. YouTube is an essential part of our modern technological culture, and will continue to be for generations to come.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The New and Improved Battery

· Battery advancements have been slow and have barely able to keep up with the other advances in cell phone technology.

· In the past advances have had to be in processor and display efficiency, in order to better use that limited store of power

· Other advances have been delayed because of the limitations of the inner workings of batteries. Inside batteries, there are innumerable layers of graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms. Batteries can only charge as quickly as the Lithium ions move from one sheet of graphene to the next. In the past, scientists have tried using silicon instead of the layer of carbon, which lead to the battery charging much faster. However, silicon is less durable and the material would expand and contract, causing it to break to quickly for the battery to be efficient.

Recently, researchers at Northeastern University claim to have created an improved lithium ion battery that not only would hold ten times as much energy, but would charge ten times as quickly. Professor Harold Kung, researcher at NU, has discovered two techniques for improving this charge process. First he decided to combine the strengths of both materials, carbon and silicon, by populating the area between the graphene sheets with silicon nanoclusters. This helped to improve the charge capacity of the battery.

2. Also they thought of perforating the graphene sheets, allowing ions to take a “shortcut” to the next layer. They call these 10-20nm holes “in-plane defects,” result is Charging is ten times faster. "Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today," says lead author Harold H Kung.

· It has been estimated that these new batteries could be on the market in three to five years. The process has changed enough that existing manufacturing techniques are likely insufficient, so it would involve a lot of previous phones and handheld gaming systems to be completely extinguished from the market. Most likely in the future, all phones will use this method or one similar. This will enable users less charging time. People will likely only have to charge their devices once a week.

· In speculation this will also enable other developments in phone technology that zap more power, things that cell phones have not previously been capable of due to power restrictions. Maybe the iphone myth of a holographic keyboard will actually come true. This tech could also lead to more energy efficient cell phones. As charging will require less time and electricity and will last longer. Eventually we might be able to find the right combination of materials to create a battery that you only have to charge every few months or once a year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a new app released by Google obviously that is currently only available on the Samsung Nexus phone (carried by sprint).The app is capable of doing what it implies, which is replacing your wallet with a digital app located on you cell phone. The technology that allows the Nexus to do this is called the N.F.C (near field communication) chip. It is very similar to other tap and go or speed pass devices that we have seen in the past. When you use the app at checkout you can tap the phone to the pay pad (at select stores) and the transaction will be made through the phone as if it was your credit card. It also eliminates paper recites. You get a digital copy sent straight to the app after your purchase. Another really cool feature of this program is its promotion and coupon section. Retailers are able to offer special sales available only to the people using this app, which in the early stages of development can be used to help lure people into making the digital switch. You can also store coupons from the Internet on your phone so you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring them to the store. They can be scanned directly off of your phone.

Currently the app supports very few credit cards. The Citi bank master card is one as well as the Google prepaid card. The Google card is essentially just a debit card you load from your bank account and it is used through Google Wallet. You can also sync your gift cards to Google Wallet as well. Again the stores that utilize this are still limited, but it would be nice to do away with all of the plastic that consumes our wallets, purses, and pockets. This would also prevent the dreaded demagnetization of gift cards.

This app is still in its very early stages of development. Google is currently just testing people’s reactions to it and working out all of the doubt with things such as security. This is one of the main things that frightened me about this program. If someone lost their phone and another person just happened to look through it, they would instantly have access to all of your banking information and credit cards. Obviously this would be just horrific. But Google argues that the app is already safer then any wallet because you can set your phone to have a password to get into it, a password to get into the app, and a password has to be entered during payment. Although this is a good point, I don’t know if even the most encrypted passwords can stop the well trained computer hackers of the world today.

One of the other things Google wallet is hoping to eventually do is take all of the things from your wallet and put them into this app. This includes things like; drivers license, passport, boarding passes, and library cards. Everything would be at your fingertips and you could leave home with nothing but your phone in hand. This again brings up the threats of security with this much information all in one place, but I am going to try and look past that for now and focus on the huge amount of possibilities this app brings to our world.

Currently this app is only available on one phone since the Nexus is the only phone equipped with the NFC chip. Google says it is currently developing a sticker that people will be able to attach to their current phones that will give their device NFC capabilities. I believe that this technology is not far away form becoming used very commonly. We already are using our phones for more and more tasks everyday. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even know why we call them phones. They are more just mobile devices, the phone feature is often the one we use the least. I think that the Google wallet is a great idea and it will definitely change the way we handle money. Although there are still many kinks in its system, I’m sure Google will be able to make it a simple experience for everyone to use. In the future I think that we will eventually do away with all paper money and it will switch over to electronic payments. I also feel that with apps such as Google wallet we will eventually only need one device in our lives instead of having a computer, TV, tablet, phone, and video game consoles, we will have one superior device. And the crazy part is, I don’t feel like it is all that far away from where we are now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Siri - Voice Recognition Software and its Integration into our Everyday Life

I have been a Siri user for only about a month, so I was interested to research the history of voice recognition programs, and how modern society has approached this concept. Technology developers have been working with this subject for almost a century. 
We have moved from primitive systems that can only understand a few words to sophisticated programs like Siri who answer your questions with snide remarks. 

Siri is still primitive, however. She almost always gets exactly what you say, but the way she synthesizes the information, and tries to answer your questions is often clunky. 

The aesthetic of the program fits with Apple's long history of creating great looking products. They grey color and the font adds to the aesthetic. 

I anticipate the release of Siri by Apple will open the floodgates of companies and innovators creating similar and possibly even better products. 
The next step is full integration into all devices people use. There is great potential for even basic physical items to become digital tools of convenience and efficiency. I imagine being able to tell my phone to tell my coffee maker to have a pot made when I get home, or my phone telling me what's in my fridge when I am at the store.

People have been quickly adopting Siri because it's an Apple product, but I'm hoping Apple has the motivation to continue to improve it. With other companies joining in and creating competition progress is inevitable.

-Jessica Rae Huber

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tablet Interface and Multiplayer Gaming

Nintendo has begun development on the next console to come out in 2012: the Wii U. This console will use the idea of the tablet to control different variants of the game being shown on the screen and will provide an extra perspective and tool to enhance game experience. The idea of using the tablet with a game console caused me to think about the possibilities with this new technology. In particular, I considered the future advances within multiplayer gaming in role-playing games.

Using a tablet, which provides an extra screen, each player could devise their own characters, which interact with one another on the TV monitor. Each player could use the controller to expand their view of perspective. Pointing the camera down, the player would see the ground in the game, and the system would support each character’s unique location within the mother game.

Each player could make decisions and interact, much like you would with a main NPC, but instead it’s your friend sitting next to you with real opinions and personalities reflected in their character. Such as in the game Dragon Age, games that allow the player’s decisions to effect the storyline would work really well in this environment. Each player’s actions would be taken into account and intertwined to create a unique narrative and outcome for the game.

-Kristin King

K Computer from Japan does 10 quadrillion calculations a second to become the worlds fastest computer

Japan's "K" computer company Fujitsu has created the worlds fastest computer. It is capable of computing 10.51 quadrillion calculations in a second, or 10 petaflops. Just how big is 10 quadrillion you ask? A quadrillion is 1000 x 10 trillion.

Fujitsu used it's own processors called SPARC64 that are made especially for super computing. It spans 88,000 interconnected CPUs that all work together.

It was commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, with the intention of breaking the 10 petaflop barrier.

The developers are enjoying their moment of fame, because they know in the world of computer programming, they will be outdone by someone soon. IBM is building machines predicted to reach 20 petaflops by next year.

One of the most expensive aspects of the K computer is the power it takes to run it. Fujitsu was not able to give the official power consumption of the K computer, but in June it consumed 9.89 megawatts which cost $9.89 million dollars.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is becoming an increasingly common topic of scientific research and display, specifically close to home here in Boston. The Boston Science Museum recently held a fashion show by a company called Seamless, which develops clothing designs that incorporate technology in some way. Some great examples at the show were
  • a dress that stores kinetic energy from the body's movement, which can be used later to charge phones, iPods, or laptops
  • a ring that displays the number of Google hits a famous person has
  • a dress that lights up to show the strength of a nearby WIFI signal
  • jackets with scrolling LED light messages on the back
  • jewelry with solar panels that collect and store light so that the pieces glow when placed in the dark

Another notable site for wearable technology is, which sells "wearable digital technology." This is basically a computer screen with backpack straps on it and was developed for advertisement purposes.

The future of wearable technology is wide open, and I think that we will continue to see advances, especially in the advertising world. I think designs like the LED banner jacket will be more popular for spreading a message than the wearable computer, which seems bulky and unrealistic. However, I think we will also continue to see an increase in jewelry technology, specifically touch screen bracelets and necklaces for watching videos and playing games.

Here's a link to the fashion show video:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Degas and The Nude

The main point of Berger’s essay is to discuss how visual art, specifically European oil paintings, emphasize the woman as a sight to be gazed upon by a man, and a man as an active owner of the woman and her appearance. To a woman, she herself is nothing more than what she appears to be to a male observer. She is on display for the man, who ultimately has power over her. She is owned by not only the owner of the painting, but also by every spectator and by the painter himself. Berger says, “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.” In some ways, this describes a selection of Edgar Degas’s paintings of the nude. He places the woman in a setting that would normally allow for nudity without seeming sexual (the bathroom) and permits himself and the male viewer to spy on the woman in her most private moments. He invades her space in a way that allows the viewer to feel as though he deserves to look at her and that she would not be positioning herself the way she is if he were not watching her. The unrealistic nature of the way the woman’s body is contorted in Degas’s After The Bath (Woman Drying Herself) only confirms Berger’s theory that the woman cannot do any activity without thinking about how it is being visually represented to a man. No woman in real life would dry herself that way, and this painting suggests that she knows someone is watching her and it is her duty to make a mundane task as sexual as possible for his pleasure. It also becomes absurd when a group of nudes is painted together, such as in Degas’s Dancers, Nude Study. I find it hard to believe that a group of naked woman is dancing around for his viewing pleasure. Degas is living out his own fantasies and indulging the fantasies of other men, so that it seems “right” and normal for women to be expected to act that way in real life. A woman is expected to be sexual in real life because that is how women are depicted in art. One notable difference between Degas and the European art that Berger discusses is that Degas often portrays the woman from behind rather than from the front. The viewer is shown her back or her side and sometimes part of her is covered with a towel. Far from lending Degas credibility as something more than a nudist painter however, the woman’s bodily positions only add to the amount of power the man exerts over her. With her back turned she is in a vulnerable position and the man can feel free to do whatever he wants to her. As stated before, it seems as though Degas is saying that men deserve to intrude upon the woman while she is bathing. She’s not really bathing to clean herself but so she has an excuse to take off her clothes for a man.

If you were to substitute a man instead of a woman in many of the Degas pieces, the result would be utterly confusing. It has become so accepted and normal to see a woman bathing herself in a mirror that if you were to replace it with a man, it would have to be considered homosexual art for it to be acceptable as attractive. I don’t even think a heterosexual woman would find a painting of a nude man bathing himself to be alluring because it suggests that the man is in a weak and vulnerable state, and we are conditioned to believe that only strong and powerful men are attractive.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Degas & The Nude

One concept that really stood out at me at Degas's exhibit was his portrayal of women in uncomfortable positions. Degas's After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself), pictured above, conveyed to me the relationship of women to society at the time. To bathe is a personal activity generally meant for cleansing and renewal, but in this painting, the woman is clearly struggling, and does not appear to be enjoying this activity at all. I cannot tell if Degas meant to establish whether or not the woman knew she was being watched, but her discomfort is obvious and symbolizes the discomfort experienced in a woman's daily life.

Berger discusses the idea of presence in men and women and how they are presented through either their exterior or interior beings. Throughout Degas's exhibit, it is evident that women were inferior to men, and could only establish presence when bared to nothing but skin. A woman's presence was depicted through physical essence and everything that her body represented emotionally and psychologically. A man's presence, however, was depicted through the physical female body. In other words, the nude woman was not there to portray just herself, but was there to serve "her man," and her presence represented only who she was in relation to this man. Without the man present in the painting, one had to assume the spectator was male...just had to.

Naked or Nude

Rolla by Henri Gervex

After reading John Berger's essay, "Ways of Seeing", on nudes and nakedness, I can say that Henri Gervex's, Rolla (featured in the Degas Exhibit), is a quintessential nude painting. The naked woman has been clearly painted for the enjoyment of the spectator. Although there is another man in the painting, he is passively in the background, with his body in an open position, as if allowing the spectator to have his fill of the woman. The sexuality of the piece is enhanced by the European tradition of painting the woman hairless. Her pristine, supple, fair skin is very alluring and allows the spectator to "feel that he has the monopoly"(Berger) on the sexual passion.

What is included in the painting is the full bed, with its lavish bedding, and a partial window. This gives the spectator a nice setting for which he himself could place himself with the woman. The environment is as luxurious as the woman and really helps to activate the bodily senses; you can feel the silky sheets and smell the fresh breeze coming through the window.

After reading Berger's essay, I understand now that a nude painting is not just a picture of a naked woman. The naked woman has to be an object of desire for it to qualify as a nude. In Berger's words, the nude is "to appeal to his [spectator's] sexuality". The woman is obviously the object in the painting, as accentuated by the gaze of the man looking at her. She is an object to be beholden. Her eyes are closed almost as an invitation for the spectator to watch and look without shame or embarrassment.

Going through the Degas exhibit there were other paintings of nudes. Each expressed varying degrees of sexuality. And if I was looking at a fully naked woman, but felt no sexual excitement, I then concluded that I was looking at just a naked woman and not a nude. Before reading Berger's essay, I thought that nudes were just an excuse for artists to bring sexual perversion into society and this was a VERY uneducated perspective. But now, with an understanding of what nudes are, I do see them as being art. By using specific techniques, nudes are meant to elicit a sexual response from the viewer; and if it truly is a nude it will successfully do that. This meditated execution makes it art.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Student.

One look is capable of communicating a plethora of messages in a matter of seconds. The gaze in this particular painting offers an infinite number of possibilities. When I first approached this piece at the Museum, I could not help but wonder what the subject (the Student) is so intently focused on.

He is holding an artist's palette. Yet the colors on that palette are faded and barely visible. His face indicates calmness, but his posture demonstrates some frustration. The neutral scene and colors contribute even further to this "moment" picture. It fascinatingly maintains the audience in a dimension that stands between reality and abstraction. The situation itself is undeniably realistic; the Student's focus is left for the audience to decide.

As I continue to search for answers in the subject's facial features, I am stunned. I, a student, stood there with an undoubtedly similar expression--perplexed--staring at this painting wondering where it was trying to take me when I realized he was staring back at ME doing the same thing! Felice Casorati successfully engaged my subconscious in his reflexive work.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"My Uncle Daniel and His Family by Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta"

One of the many things that made me gravitate towards this painting is the sense of darkness and mystery that was projected in the overall image, and the night time on a hill setting that the painting took place in. The use of minimal coloring fascinated me, especially the dress that one of the young woman was wearing that really stood out among the other characters in the painting, while black and grey seemed to be the main coloring theme. Judging by the title of the painting, which is "My Uncle Daniel and His Family", I'm guessing that this is a family portrait that was meant to portray their relationship with each other, there is even a cat in the painting, a pet that I guess was really beloved by the. It brought me to questioning when I noticed that among 6 of them, the oldest woman on the far left and the man on the far right was not really looking towards me as the viewer, the old woman were looking away and the man was positioned behind the shades of the others. It is really interesting that it was only them that was not looking towards the center and they were both on each edge of the painting. I believe that the painter made this image from an audience perspective, and it is also interesting that one character was also working on a painting. Even though the painting is titled "My Uncle Daniel.." , which I assumed is the oldest man holding the color palette, I felt like the strongest point of my relationship with the painting is to the young women on the other side of the painting, I felt like as if they were meant to be the center of attention because their position was very forefront in the painting, and one of them was wearing the only colorful dress. Also, the amount of work on the details of the other woman's dress next to her was really outstanding for me, so I believe that it was the purpose of the painter to do so. In terms of resemblance, this painting is very subjective and simple to me, no contents of abstraction I believe, even though I feel like I have yet to discover the mysteries behind the painting.

White Rose with Larkspur No.2

I believe this image holds no specific audience or gaze, but rather is an observation of the painter. The observer is allowed to notice the natural shapes the rose takes on in this painting. Owing to the fact that this rose is an older rose, blossoming, it offers many angles and forms. If it were a newer rose, just in bloom, the shapes would undoubtedly be different.

What purpose is behind the painter choosing to paint this rose at this stage?

I feel that the viewer is positioned also as an observer, just as the painter is. The difference is, we are observing the observation of the painter in its finished state. We too can see the shapes inside and outside of the rose and larkspur and the specific state both are in. We can see the very interesting shapes formed in the center of the rose, which seems abstract. We also notice the condition of the rose. Seeing that it is indeed in full bloom, the pedals are beginning to tear and curl at their edges.

O'keeffe was careful to capture all of the details of this flower to effectively allow the viewer inside of her observation. She even captures the shadow it leaves on the surface it is sitting on, which seems to have a similar hue to the larkspur in the picture.

Further more, after looking up what type of plant Larkspur is, I was informed that this plant bears spikes.

With that knowledge, how does that affect the meaning of the painting and/or observation?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Uncle Daniel and His Family by Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (1910)

The first thing that stood out to me in this painting is the use of very dark colors, which seems a bit strange for a family portrait. A majority of the colors used are blacks and grays. What also stands out is the one woman's dress, which is floral and is one of the only parts of the painting with color.
The characters themselves are very interesting. The women have a happier facial expression then the men do, and they are also very pale in color. The men have very stern faces and don't show much emotion.
The environmental setting of the picture stands out a lot. It seems that they are on a hill top over looking a town. But the artist decides to paint the sky a very dark color, which makes the scenario very mysterious. The brushstrokes also add to the detail, especially in the sky and on the ground.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?' by Paul Gaugin

The concept behind Paul Gaugin's 'Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?' is the progression of life. When viewed from right to left the viewer follows the human development from early childhood, through adolescence, adulthood, and eventually the elderly on the verge of death. One of the interesting things that one can't quite distinguish from the picture, however, is that each figure is looking as the viewer. It's as though the people starring at you cause you to reflect upon yourself and the relationship between your stage of life and the painting.

The bright yellows draw the viewers eyes and highlights the more impassioned stages of life. However, the intensity can mask some of the more subtle parts of the piece. While not very discernible in the attached photo, in the background on the right the stage in which the couple is content with each other and at peace. The dull pink shade blends into the background and, like in life, is indistinct when next to times of passion and distress. It also seems that the shade of yellow correlates with how intense the stage of life is. On the far left, Gaugin shows a woman who has accepted death and thus she is the most at peace and the darkest figure present.

The backdrop of the piece is fairly intricate, though it is painted with cool colors to help bring out the points the artist wanted viewers to focus on. The landscape that's depicted contains a variety of things one would find on an island. In this case, the artist assembled the background in order to add to the ethereal, almost magical atmosphere, rather than to depict an actual island scene.

Still Life With Skulls by Max Beckmann

This painting is by the Modernist Max Beckmann and it is called Still Life With Skulls. It was painted in 1945 and it is oil on canvas. It immediately grabbed my attention because of the broad strokes and heavy outlines. The scene is chaotic, as if everything was thrown onto the table at once, and the painting style matches this sentiment. The painting may be interpreted as showing signs of the sins of life (cards for gambling, alcohol) and how they juxtapose the skulls.

The perspective is from slightly overhead, which gives the viewer the best angle to see everything on the table. It also allows for the background to be seen, which are probably windows. The background colors of black and yellow are also visible. The tone of the painting sets is one of fast motion. The large outlines enhance the images and draw them to the eye, which the little lines in the tablecloth and the skulls suggest that there is a chance the pieces haven't even settled yet.

The size of the painting is around 2 feet by 4 feet. The painting is the correct size to show the size of the objects proportionately. Because the painting deals with the subject of death and also subjects some might consider "sinful" the way it was painted truly reflects this. It is painted with enough clarity to clearly know what the images are, but it is also distorted using heavy shading and thick color. It challenges the standard of conventional painting because it is not 100 percent realistic, but for an image that deals with these things I think the style suits it well. There are lots of physical brush strokes which makes your eye not only wander from subject to subject, but also from texture to texture.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MAX BECKMANN - 1884-1950

"THE TEMPEST" (1947-49)
Oil on paperboard mounted on plywood

From a distance, Max Beckmann's 'Tempest' was eye-catching and alluring; I was drawn in by the painting's contrasting colors. But once I stood in front of the painting, the "excitement" I felt for it turned into a bit of a confusion; I wondered where all the charm of the painting escaped to. The painting is earthy, spiritual, chaotic and suggests psychosis.

The picture is immediately disorienting because there is no clear gaze in the image. The "creatures," for lack of a better word, in the painting, have crazed eyes and are not looking at anything in the picture. Also, the objects in the painting are not organized in a way that you would see in real life. It forces the viewer to cock his head, this way and that, to get an idea of what he is looking at.

The painting leans towards abstraction and is a subjective piece. The "creatures" are simple in form. The tone of this piece screams insanity and unrest; even the brush strokes are a testament to this sentiment. Some of the strokes start strong and then squiggle off in an unfocused and fleeting manner. Even upon careful examination of the objects in this painting, the viewer fights to make out what the lower third of the panel is and tries to relate it to the other figures; as a result bringing about a frustration and a feeling of chaos. The description provided by the museum even says "this paintings exact subject remains something of a mystery."

Upon further investigation into the history of Max Beckmann, during the time period of the painting (1947-49), it turns out that Beckmann was suffering from anxiety and the depth of his condition was affected by the first World War. Author, Charles S. Kessler, writes in his book, "Max Beckmann's Triptychs":

He was a man made sleepless by the subconscious projection of his anxieties and fantasies. He told me he had been plagued by wakefulness for twenty-five years. Insomnia had left its mark; his was the face of a tired man, a man with a burden... there is no reason to suppose that he was any the less ridden by anxiety, especially because of the ominous political situation in Germany, which was having immediate repercussions on his career and personal welfare...He never developed any ease of life and rarely knew solid contentment. Ever since the traumatic experience of the first World War the element of anxiety in his nature continued to deepen. (Kessler)

Kessler's account of Max Beckmann confirms my perception of psychosis in this painting. As this painting was created in the modernistic time period, it is not a surprise that this painting is "self-conscious" and expresses the painter's emotion. The abstract nature is also a product of this era of painting. After inspecting this piece for about 5-7 minutes, I definitely imbibed a dose of psychosis and unrest and perhaps felt a little of what Max Beckmann was experiencing at the time.

Renoir's Dance at Bougival

In Renoir’s impressionistic, Dance at Bougival, your eye in drawn immediately to the two faces framed in the upper third of the painting. The painting does not look back at you in any way, which leaves the audience feeling like they’ve just seen something they shouldn’t have. The girl looks at the ground, her partner looks at her intensely, the other people in the painting look at each other. His very dark and undefined suit against her white and detailed gown creates two very different energies in the painting which are also the biggest contrast between dark and light in the painting, an interesting parallel. Your eye travels from her averted gaze, to the group of sitting partygoers all looking at each other and seeming to be enjoying themselves, to the riffles of her skirts, and down to the flower on the ground.

The tone and emotion of the painting is tense, in contrast with the couple’s gay surroundings. The dancing girl looks away as if she unenthused by her dance partner. He seems very forward and seems to be encouraging her appeal, but she isn’t having any of it. . The red hat that surrounds almost her entire face pulls the eye to the expression on her face. She seems very unhappy and as she looks away, her mind somewhere else, anywhere but where she is. Renoir’s impressionistic brush stokes emulate the spinning, the movement of the dance while the couple remains in focus as if you, the audience is another dancer on the floor who happened to look over and see this. Painted so the audience would be eye level with the dancers, the viewers can easily imagine themselves involved in the strange scene, although the painting itself is smaller than life-size.

This painting has a very interesting place on the picture plane. The backdrop of the scene, painted with wide, undefined strokes, remains more abstract and subjective than the focal point of the painting. The trees and lights and sky cannot be distinguished from one another. As the focus moves forward in the painting, the faces become more defined, but still not specific. However, when you come to the couple in the forefront of the painting, Renoir has painted their faces with much more detail. The man’s face is given much less importance. It’s been hidden under his hat and his beard obscures most of his face. Her face however is very realistic and specific. Her emotions are plainly written on her face. It is the emotions and movement in the painting make it much more specific and realistic and much less iconic or universal.

A Student by Colt Wolff

A student (1930) Felice Casorati

One of the interesting things about this painting is that the person in the painting is looking at the people looking at the painting. I find this intriguing because this person looking at you is holding a paint palette so it feels as if you are the painting. The image is looking slightly to his right which makes you wonder exactly what he is looking at or looking for. It is a very strange perceptive having a painting look at you when you are supposed to be looking at it.

As you look at this painting, most people normally just stand in the center of the frame and analyze the image. With this particular work the fact that his eyes aren’t facing directly at you makes you want to meet his glance. So personally I moved to the left trying to figure out exactly why he was looking in that direction. There isn’t much hidden in this painting. The room the student is sitting in is very open and bare. The only place you really can’t tell if something could be lurking there is in the shadows behind the cracked doors. I don’t feel like these doors really have anything to do with the image other then giving the background depth and providing the idea that he is sitting in some sort of apartment or home with not much in it. So there for I don’t personally feel that anything is “hiding” in this image.

I feel that the artist may have been painting a self-portrait in a sense with this work. Although I am unfamiliar with what this artist actually looks like. It would make sense to me if he was trying to show himself at work and give the viewer an inside look at an artist at work. He may have also been just trying to be clever and flip the whole art viewing scenario around. Instead of the people just viewing a piece of art, this image implies that they are the art and the artist is working on them.

The image isn’t cartoonish but it is far from being photo realistic.

You can definitely tell that it has been painted. I find it interesting that the way his right hand is sitting gin the image would be quite uncomfortable for any real person. It has a very strange angle at the wrist. I like the fact that this painting wasn’t done with realism. Since it is not super realistic it allows the viewer to pay less attention to the image and more attention to the meaning of it as well as what is really going on. I know that if it would have been this beautifully realistic work I personally would have a harder time getting past that and may not have noticed the idea behind the painting.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Portrait of Fernande Olivier by Pablo Picasso

This oil painting by Picasso struck me immediately as not his 'typical' style that he is famous for. The dark spot below the woman's bun immediately draws the eye in contrast to the white and then the viewer focuses on her face. I found that I could not stop looking at this woman's face. The choice of the white background is so non typical for a portrait. There is usually always something else there. Upon closer inspection the woman's clothing falls into the abstract art category Picasso does so well. The lines of her garment seem to have movement which adds life into a shockingly sparse portrait. This painting really feels like a mixture of styles; like he is in the middle of moving from one to the other.

The woman's gaze is clearly off to her right which adds to the intrigue. It seems as though the artist's gaze is upon the woman's face. His choice of detail on her head makes clear his intention of presenting what he thought was important. 

Remarkably, I feel that this painting moves along the plane from resemblance to abstraction as you look and study it. At first it appears as an unfinished painting, but the choice of white space in the background is in itself a form of abstraction. The viewer is meant to fill in the rest, and imagine where she is and who she is.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Tempest by Max Beckmann

This painting relies heavily on the theme of mystery to get its ideas across. The gaze in the image is strange because the two figures are not looking at each other nor are they looking at the viewer. They are looking into the distance. The audience is somewhat disconnected from the figures, but still intrigued and interested by it. The fact that the figures are not looking at each other or at the viewer suggests isolation and the disconnection that a mentally ill person may feel.

The viewer’s gaze is also peculiar in this piece. At first you are not sure how to approach the painting because the figures are painted sideways in opposite directions. However, this layout encourages the viewer to actively participate in the painting by tilting your head in order to understand it. Nothing is really hidden in the painting and there isn’t any background and foreground. Although the meaning behind the painting is confusing, you can literally see all parts of the figures clearly.

I think the artist’s attitude toward the piece is that of self-analysis, and that he is mirroring his own emotions in the painting. I don’t think there is anything lying outside of the frame for the artist, and maybe the way the two figures seem to be crammed into a small space may reflect how the artist feels in his own life. Beckmann may even feel repulsion towards the figures or the painting in general because of the frightening emotions it represents. This feeling of hatred possibly shows through in the harsh lines and violent shapes and bright colors he uses to represent it.

The style of the painting is abstract, although not as abstract as other abstract expressionists because the two figures are clearly recognizable as human forms. However, they are not meant to be realistic, specific, or complex. Instead, they represent emotions and themes that anyone could experience and relate to, mostly of confusion, anxiety, madness, and mystery. The tone of the painting is that of madness based on the sideways and upside down position of the figures, as well as the visually intense aspects such as color and shape. The subject of the painting, which I interpret to be mental illness, is depicted through the use of bright colors, jagged shapes, and harsh lines. The bright colors draw the viewer in even if they are unable to understand the full meaning. The figures themselves appear crazed not only because of their masked faces and the look in their eyes, but also because of the way Beckmann has painted the rest of their bodies, such as their long sharp painted toes and fingernails. There are visual brushstrokes as well as scratches in the paint, and if you get close enough, you can see where the artist has layered on paint in order to cover something else. In the description next to the painting, it described how Beckmann reworked the painting and even renamed it, and that is clear from the physical attributes if the paint itself. This fact also offers some insight into the intention behind the piece; Beckmann was not happy with his original idea and therefore wanted to completely cover it and make it into something new. This shows that he was feeling unsure and perhaps anxious, confused, and unstable, which are three themes heavily represented here. He also challenges the conventions of painting with the figures’ positions. Instead of hanging the canvas sideways so one figure is right side up and the other is upside down, he hangs it so they are both sideways, but upside down in relation to each other, furthering the feeling of instability and confusion.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome to LAHS 333: Approaches to Visual Culture, aka VisCult

Images are everywhere and they shape our ideas, values, and desires.  How has the image come to be so powerful?  How can we navigate the barrage of still and moving images?  We will explore a range of critical and theoretical approaches to understanding the meanings we make of images, icons, and visual representations. 

“Visual culture” is a term that includes what has traditionally been thought of as the “fine” arts as well as more “popular” forms of visible media such as comics, advertising, television, film, decorative arts, video, installations, performance art, and digital and new media art. We will focus specifically on 20th and early 21st century visual culture, and on modernism and postmodernism.

This course is based on the belief that learning about art, media, and culture happened best when we combine critical and creative work.  In other words, when you make visual culture as well as read about it, analyze it, and interpret it, you understand it more fully. This course asks you to think of yourself as an artist in the broadest sense of the word.  Artists show us what we’ve not perceived before, or new things about what’s familiar. Therefore, assignments will be both analytical and creative, and will incorporate writing, drawing, and collage.  Don’t worry about your artistic talent—you won’t be graded on your artistic ability, but on your artistic sensibility!   Your Seeing/Writing Journal is a place for you to experiment with different forms and media, and your projects will give you the opportunity to create something in the medium you choose, show it to your classmates, and have discussion about it using the terms and concepts we learn in the course.  And this blog is where our class dialog opens outward, to whomever might be looking.