Saturday, December 11, 2010

Finals and More Good News

Well, it's almost finals week at OU so I'm home on a Friday night, reading and writing papers.  I have a great image to work on for my Studies in American Art class. The painting is owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art and I'm definitely not reproducing it here for any monetary gain, so I hope it's ok to do so.

William Sidney Mount, The Power of Music, 1847, Oil on Canvas, The Cleveland Museum of Art

As you can see, this antebellum painting by William Sidney Mount instantly conjures up issues of race relations.  For a while, this image was thought of as a very sympathetic portrayal of an African American man because he reveals a quiet dignity and his front facing placement within the foreground confronts and challenges the viewer to identify with him as an outsider. In addition, the lines created by the bodies of all four characters seem to connect and establish a harmony amongst them.  The power of the music draws them all together.

However, all of my research points to the conclusion that anyone who views the work solely in this way projects their own post-civil rights movement understanding upon a multivalent image painted in a very different time.  Mr. Mount lived in New York, and while a reductionist viewpoint would encourage one to assume a northerner would have a more progressive view of slavery, he did not side with the abolitionist movement until the Civil War began. In fact, he called Lincoln's Republicans, "Lincoln-poops."

But isn't it the ambiguity that can be so interesting? Isn't it in the working out of these questions and issues that we learn and grow?  And isn't that the point?

Everyone in this class was allowed to chose their own imagine months ago and we have been writing about it since then. I imagine that I was drawn to this work because even before I did my research, I knew there would be plenty to discuss in relation to the included themes.  Music is my first love and I believe in the equality of all people so this seemed like a no brian-er.  However, as I study and research, I find one door after another that I would like to open (and read) in order to have a more complete idea of the context within which this piece was painted. Studying is fun but eventually you have to complete your project!

So It's back to writing.  I just knew this would be a good exercise to help me get back in the grove.  Plus it's fun to share!

One last, very important thing - Yesterday, James and I were interviewed by a local business magazine about our project and the publication will be taking pictures sometime in the next few days.  I'm really excited about it! They contacted us after hearing about what we're doing and I'm so grateful.  I'll announce the magazine's name soon. I just want to make sure I'm being as respectful as possible by not giving it away just yet...but soon!


  1. learning is fun. congrats on the article.

  2. Romy you're so funny! I guess you'll announce the magazine's name! Ha!!! But you're right. Learning is fun. :)

  3. The man playing the violin has very poor "position" for playing. He must be a fiddler and looking at the music before he plays. The gentleman at the door is listening and probably can play the fiddle better than the man in the room. The man watching the fiddler is wondering if he is able to play at at all. It is called, being in the "hot seat". I love art. Thank you for doing this my friend.