Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poem For the Hunters in the Snow

Here is a short poem I wrote for the painting Hunters in the Snow by Pieter (the Elder) Bruegel. The painting is part of a a series called A Series of Months. Only four out of the collection survive today. This one grabbed my attention the most so here is my poem:

Hunters return from a long hunt in the cold of winter

They have little to show for it, catching only a small rabbit

The dogs are cold and exhausted from their long venture
The dogs and hunters shiver against the fierce cold

Down below in the town people are unaware
Some people are working a fire to keep warm
Others skate and laugh while the hunters trudge along

The land is covered in snow and ice as far as the eye can see
The mountains look down upon the land showing no signs of spring
Winter has just begun and the land lies sleeping in the soft covering of snow

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mr. President

"The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness." (Barack Obama)

This is not part of my art history homework but I thought it deserved to be a part of my common place book.

Today, January 20th 2009, marks a very significant event in the history of the United States of America. Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America and is the first African American President in history. I, like many other Americans and fellow students of UNCSA, gathered with my close friends this morning to watch Mr. Obama be sworn into office.

I was so proud to have been apart of the unique voting process of the United States for the first time in my life even if it was with an absente ballot. It was amazing to see the crowd that turned out to see the new President take office and to see the Mr. Bush leave after a reign of eight years in office. There were over two million people that showed up outside the Capital building, bracing the traffic and the cold of D.C. and watching and waiting for the new President to be sworn in and to give his inaguration speech. Mr. Obama was sworn in after his Vice President Joe Biden. Even though Mr. Obama forgot one of his lines when taking his oath, it was amazing to see all the flags waving and the people cheering once he was offically in. Though thanks to CNN they informed us that at noon even though he had not taken the oath he was offically President according to the US Constitution.

Mr. Obama gave a very heart felt and well spoken speech. He didn't suger coat anything but at the same time gave hope to everyone in the country and many others around the world. He knows he will have an uphill battle during his term(s) and intends to fight them head on. Mr. Obama is very charasmatic and had everyone's attention the entire time. He addressed everyone; no matter what religion, race, age, ethnicity, etc and he made that a very strong point in his speech. And he ended it with a confident and deviant statement that wrapped everythign up nicely:

"America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations." (Barack Obama)

Now America looks forward and see a new generation and a new country. Citizens must help rebuild America and work alongside the President and government in Washington. Americans must seize this new sense of change and hope to get the nation back on track.

Of Popes and Presidents

The first set papal portraits make the popes look important yet gentle. They seem to contain all and knowing wisdom in their old age. Their power is implied through their posture and the deep, rich colors used in the portraits.

The one that captures my attention the most is the one of Pope Innocent X. His face is strict but has a hint of gentleness. He looks attentively out of the portrait at on lookers His posture is upright and he sits in the papal chair, knowing it is his rightful place.

The second set of portraits done by Francis Bacon give a completely different feel to the papacy. These portraits make the Popes seem very ghoulish. Their faces are green and blue and barely distinguishable. The portrait is very chaotic and hard to tell what is what in the paintings. Bacon makes the Popes seems evil and deceiving; almost the opposite of what the previous paintings were portraying.

The paintings of Franklin Roosevelt make him seem powerful and objective. He looks straight ahead with his chin up. He looks alert and bright, not rundown at all even though he dealt with so much in his time as President. He was a very proud man and an amazing President. Even in old age he looked good. His portraits look the same for the mot part except for having completely white hair when he was older. None of his portraits show him standing if below the waist or they just show his upper half. This was because he had polio yet didn’t want the country to know. When he was forced to use a wheelchair he made them film and photograph him above his waist. He didn’t want his country to feel sorry for him especially when more important things, like the Great Depression and WWII, where devastating the USA.

After reading about him, I found that for the most part I was correct. Roosevelt was quite suited to be President even though many around him doubted that fact. He led our country out of the Great Depression, one of the blackest times in our country with welfare programs and ideas that changed the role of the government forever. He also led our country through WWII another very dark time for not only our country but also the entire world. He was an amazing public speaker and very charismatic which allowed him to lead confidently and comfort his country in times of need. Roosevelt to me was the greatest American President to date. He embodied everything I think of when I think of the President of United States. He knew what his country needed even if they didn’t.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Depictions of Angels

Angels have been represented in many different ways throughout history. Sometimes they are displayed as beautiful woman. Sometimes they look plain and dull and don’t stand out much except for the wings. And sometimes they were depicted as infants or children. These are just a few examples of how Angels are depicted. Sometimes their wings are black and sometimes they are white. They often appear clothed but are also shown naked. Another difference that has shifted back and forth is whether to show them with halos or not.

I looked at three different paintings of angels and even though they were all roughly around the same time period, they are all portrayed completely differently.

The first angel here is by Leonardo da Vinci and is named Head of An Angel. The angel here is portrayed as a rather attractive lady and is soft. She has golden hair and blue eyes and very pale skin. She seems to have a glow around her but no halo and has a content look upon her face. Leonardo has given her black wings, which makes her fade into the background of the painting.

The second set of angels is by Giovanni Bellini. His painting is called Dead Christ Between Two Angels. Here the angels on either side of Christ are young boys who seem rather plain. They have halos and pale skin. You just see the angel’s wings on the left, which Bellini has decided to make a bold golden color. Both angels seem small compared to Christ (not uncommon since Christ holds the importance) and their face look concerned not serene as Leonardo’s angel did. The painting overall is dark and there is no glow to the angels. You can barely make out their halos because they are so dark.

The third painting of angels is by Caravaggio who lived at a later time than the previous two painters. His painting is called The Seven Acts of Mercy. His angels are depicted as very young boys and are not clothed. They seem more muscular than the angels in the other two paintings. Their wings are white and underneath and brown on top, which makes them look natural; like the wings of an eagle or another bird. Their faces are concerned but yet at the same time at peace as they reach down to Earth.

The Meaning of Gothic and How I would film Notre Dame

The meaning of gothic has changed over the years. Back when it was used to first describe cathedrals such as Cologne or Notre Dame, it was used as a derogatory term. It was to describe the buildings as barbaric and shamelessly over decorated. When they were first built, gothic architecture was not called gothic. And now when we think of gothic architecture we think of dark things like withes, gargoyles, bats, and other evil things. We also use the term now to apply it to a certain type of culture; we describe people as gothic. These people are usually wearing dark clothes, painted fingernails, dyed black hair, angry at the world and all that jazz. When I think of the word gothic, I think of novels like The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, which is quite dark and mysterious as well as buildings like Notre Dame.

If I were to use Notre Dame cathedral for a film the first thing I would take advantage of would be the enormous height. Since it has flying buttresses it allowed gothic architects to build higher than before. I would get a nice low camera angle that would make Notre Dame look overbearing and intimidating. I would also take advantage of the gargoyles and other decoration on the outside by getting tight close-ups of them and inserting them somewhere in the film with jump cuts. I would definitely use the rose window and get shots from the inside and outside because it’s so beautiful and one of the key parts of a gothic cathedral. On the inside of Notre Dame I would film from the front to get the massive amount of pews in the cathedral. I would probably get a dolly shot going down the center isle and also on the outer sides of the pews looking toward the center. I would get shots looking down on the congregation from the ceiling and balconies as well as shoots from their POV up toward the high dome ceiling. Then I would get shots of the altar at the front. I would also get a close-up of the crucifix and the stain glass windows and maybe some shot of candles in the cathedral. The final shot I would get would be of the doors and the entrance archways.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Common book #1: A Pilgrimage to St. Marco's and its affects

Walking into St. Marco’s Basilica would be like arriving at the promise land for many of the people who made pilgrimages there. I agree with the line in Honor and Fleming that says, “The road to Jerusalem seemed too remote and the road to Rome was too easy.” Even though this was used as an example for Santiago de Compostela in Spain, I think it applies to all of these magnificent cathedrals and basilicas. People traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to worship in these holly places.

As a pilgrim I would’ve felt relief and complacency to make it all the way there with my fellow travelers. But at the same time I would have felt nervous and intimidated. Coming from a small town somewhere in Western Europe going to a small and conservative church and then having a huge and magnificent house of God placed before me. Everything encrusted in gold and jewels, bright colors overwhelming the senses. The building towers massively over my head. As I walk through the entrance a large and detailed mural of Christ looks down upon me. Judging but also forgiving as he watches his children enter. Inside is even more breath taking. The windows are dark and the walls are covered by all kinds of religious depictions with detail and precision like I have never seen in my life. As I look above me, the domes seem to never stop as they spiral towards the heavens. There are more images of Christ and disciples and saints on the domes. In the center there is a huge cross hanging from the ceiling that almost reaches the floor in front of me. It would be a life changing experience and when I got back to my home I would probably encourage everyone around me to make the same journey. To free their sins and clense their souls.

But even with the overwhelming feeling that St. Marco brings, it also brings a sense of peace and security to me. As I watch others around me worshiping in their own way, many of them praying, I kneel down and pray, thanking God for surviving the pilgrimage and being able to be in St. Marco’s as I know many others are not able to make this pilgrimage, I have been given a great gift from my Lord. Being in this sacred place brings all of us together even though the pilgrims are from all over Europe. As Honor and Fleming mention: “Pilgrimages were a binding force in medieval life- bringing together clergy and laity, rich and poor, different regions and languages, and culture” I think this still applies. People that go to Rome to hear the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, or to visit the Vatican, or people who travel to Jerusalem, they all end up sharing a spiritual bond that transcends all barriers. It doesn’t need to be spoken, even if you aren’t there for the same reasons it is still there. It is and felt throughout everyone who journeys to these places.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Up and Running

Hey everyone! This is my new blog space. I'll use it for Art History mainly but I'll post anything and everything I find interesting here to about movies, games, school, and life in general. Oh and as for the blog name, some of my really close friend's nicknamed me Fiend a while back so that's what I'm called a lot. Anyways my name is Alexa and I hope you all enjoy reading this because I will sure have fun writing it.
Sit back, relax and here's a picture with some words of advice:

Peace out and TGIF!