Sunday, December 18, 2005

sunday at the brooklyn museum

There isn't much time between now and Jan. 4th, the tentative date of my admission to the hospital for the commencement of the high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. As you can imagine, I am not looking forward to the expected 3 - 4 week stay in the hospital, but this is the point that we have been working towards for months. All of our efforts have culminated to this point. Knowing that it's very likely that I will be fatigued and unable to resume my normal activities for some time after the transplant, I have been trying to visit certain places now while I am still able.

I spent this afternoon at The Brooklyn Museum, where I checked out two exhibitions which caught my attention at first over a month ago but it wasn't until today that I actually saw them. The first one is titled, "Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky" and it ends on Jan. 15th, which means that once I'm in the hospital forget about it. The last days of December presented my last opportunity to see this exhibition.

My interest in this exhibition of photography stems from my great admiration of Hudson River School art of the 1820s to 1860s. The exhibition's landscape photographs remind me of the wonderful masterpieces of Cole, Bierstadt, Church, and Kennsett. I have always loved to look at and revel in the sublime beauty of nature. My interest in landscape paintings, therefore, was a natural offshoot of this passion of mine. Prior to "Manufactured Landscapes" I knew nothing of the Canadian photographer, Edward Burtynsky. Despite this when I first viewed a sample of his work in the advertisements for this exhibition I knew that it was a show I could not miss.

The masters of the Hudson River School emphasized the grandeur of nature in art. For some of them, such as Thomas Cole, this meant the Divine. Another common theme in the landscape art of these artists is the progressive spirit of a young, rustic and pristine America. For Cole and his contemporaries, the American continent symbolized a land of plenty, a rich land of opportunity and promise and their landscapes reflected this proud optimism. Manifest Destiny was the language of these artists and the society they represented.

Edward Burtynsky's photographs record the altered landscape of our present - the 21st century. They have a unique double-sided attraction. On the one hand, the photographs are of places where the earth has been scarred and altered physically for industrial use and thus, asks the viewer to question the ecological and environmental impact of our consumption driven way of life. Interestingly, however, these same "manufactured landscapes" are stunning and compel the viewer to also reflect upon its subject with awe and humility. This apparent paradox is, of course, one of the central strengths of Burtynsky's work and this exhibition.

Below are some of his photographs from "Manufactured Landscapes."

The other exhibition that I visited is titled " Tree of Paradise: Jewish Mosaics from the Roman Empire." This too I found to be very fulfilling. It examines the historical and cultural signficance of artifacts and mosaics from a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia. What can these artifacts and mosaics tell us about Mediterranean culture of the 6th century CE? How were the mosaics' motifs used and disseminated throughout the Roman world? What significance did the motifs have for the various religious and ethnic communities of the time? How did the Jewish community integrate Roman customs and traditions into their daily life? What was the function of a 6th century synagogue and how does it differ today? These are just a sample of some of the interesting issues raised in this exhibition. Below are some of the mosaics shown in the exhibition.


Comment Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the interesting pictures from the exhbitions.

3:56 AM  
Comment Blogger Duane said...

It's my pleasure.

3:49 PM  

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