Friday, November 18, 2011

Serpent Mound

Pre- Research

The Serpent Mound is the piece I found most interesting while flipping through the book. My first thoughts about this was who built this, and why did they build it. The lines created by the mound caught my eye and made me wonder how exactly it was made with such detail that can only be truly seen from high above. I wondered if this was a design made in respect for the dead or a monument to honor the gods. It also made me question if it was a burial mound like the less ornate mounds of Cahokia.


After researching the mound further in the Art Beyond the West book I discovered that the Serpent mound isn't a burial mound but an effigy mount representing the importance of animals in Adena rituals. The books relates it to the Nazca Geoglyphs and it is believed that it was built to be viewed by the gods. The serpent is in an unraveling coil design and appears to be swallowing a large egg. It was built nearing the end of the Hopewell period (about 1070 CE). This is one of the finest examples of a mound effigy in the Mid-West.

Post Research

My reaction after completing my research of the Serpent Mound still remains that of amazement. The research brought clarification as to what the mound was built for and its representation's significance. I am surprised to find that it is located in Ohio and that it is such a grand example of a mound effigy. I now feel that this work is much more important than I had originally thought.

Information from: Art Beyond the West  by Michael Kampen O'Riley

mpen O'Riley

Kunz Axe

As I flipped through the Art Beyond the West book for class this Kunz Axe really caught my eye. Instantly I was intrigued and wondered if it was some sort of spirit or ancestor pendant like that of the Maori and their Hei tiki pendants. Its rough expression brought questions to my mind. What did it stand for? What purpose did it have? What is it made out of? Stone or Jade? Its very geometric shapes puzzled me as it clearly had facial features and a curling mouth.

Further reading from the Art Beyond the West book gave me insight into this curious figurine. The Kunz Axe was made by the Olmec culture around 1000 BCE and carved out of jade. It is described as a "howling infant with feline eyes and mouth." The book refers to it as a were-jaguar. These pendants of hybrid creatures are said to have maybe represented spirits known by the Olmec's, some sort of lineage sign, or even shamans (or the equivalent in Olmec culture) who could be transformed into these different beasts like that of the Indians who wore coyote fur and were said to be able to transform in said animal for fast travel as a medicine man. Also it is said that these could appear to be apart of a writing system by using these figurines as forms of pictographs.

Post Research
The term "were-jaguar" in my opinion fits this piece very well as its face is contorted into a howl of yelling sort of pose and well as he slanted almond eyes that gave it a very feral look. I can understand now the slightly geometric shapes on its body if it was to be used as a pictograph in their culture. The overall "other worldly" vibe I get when looking at this jadeite carving makes me believe it is very likely these would have been used by shaman for transformation. It is also clearer to me now that this piece is made out of jade after all the other jadeite figures and pendants that I have seen.

Post by: Ashley Williams
Information found in: Art Beyond the West by Michael Kampen O'Riley

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Killer Whale

The Killer Whale by Bill Reid really stood out and caught my eye. The intricate carvings on the whale are very Native American in nature. The whale also has these large and jagged teeth which is not typical of an actual killer whale. The rather large fin on the back of the whale also strikes me as odd because while the back fin does stick out on a killer whale, it has been over exaggerated just as the teeth. I believe when this was constructed in 1984, it was not for any specific purpose except decoration.
In actuality, The Killer Whale by Bill Reid was in fact influenced by Native American culture, Haida to be exact. Reid's family were Haida artists and his Great Uncle was the final Haida artist to work within a traditional society. Reid worked to captivate a sense of purity and still use the traditional style of Haida art with out a direct copy of it. It is said that "the traditional Haida vocabulary of curved, flowing lines and crescent-shaped forms are the individual forms of the whale's anatomy is rendered in light of."
Post Research
After my research I found that the carvings on the whale were indeed Native American. Yet they were not just Native American decoration, but actually the Haida vocabulary intertwined on the surface of the whale. It was created out of bronze as a decoration over a pool in the Vancouver Aquarium. I was surprised to find that the decorations were in fact the vocabulary of the Haida people. It is such a wonderful piece and is there not only for decoration but actually an insight to a Native American culture that we may not have known otherwise.

Information courtesy of the following link
Picture courtesy of the following link.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thillai Nataraj

This is the Thillai Nataraj Temple in Chidambaram, India.  This temple was created for one of the Hindu gods Shiva.  The Thillai Nataraj Temple, is located in the center of the town Chidambaram.  The temple grounds spread across 40 acres, and has been a worshiping place of Shiva since the classical period.  This temple is one of five Pancha Bootha Sthalams, the holiest Shiva temples that depict one of the five elements.  The one that this temple represents is akasha, which in the material world means the basis and essence of all living things.

Some of the cool Architecture of this temple, is that it is built on the center point of the Earth's equator.  Two of the other temples mentioned above, and this temple, are all on a straight line on the same longitudinal line.  These temples are depicted to represent the human body, the roof of this temple has 26,000 golden tiles, which ironically are the number of breathes a person has in one day.  These tiles are put in place by 72,000 nails, which is the amount of invisible ducts that carry energy to the body.,_Chidambaram

Post written by Matthew Spangler

Dharmaraja Ratha

“The Dharmaraja Ratha is a hindu temple from the Pallava period (mid-7th century.)
During the Pallava dynasty, Hindu art flourished in southern India.
These works were most likely commissioned by Mamalla I.
A wonderful version of a southern-styled Hindu temple is the Dharmaraja Ratha.
Two art forms are fused in these monuments by reproducing architecture in sculpture form.
The process for carving these large architectural sculptures is similar to that developed by the sculptors of the Buddhist cave-temples, but here the rathas are masses in space not space in masses.
ratha is a vehicle of the gods, carved from a series of boulder out-crops.
An exterior statue is a portrait of Mamalla I, posed stiffly to show authority, like a god.”

Post written by Amelia Kirby

Vaishno Devi

The temple of Vaishno Devi is placed amongst snow capped mountains in the Trikuta mountain in Jammu and Kashir, India. It is one of the most common places for people that travel to India to visit. It is said that the Goddess Vaishno speaks to her followers and once a person receives her "calling", they drop what they are doing and they march toward the temple of Vaishno Devi. Her loyal followers seem to be drawn by a supernatural occurrence and whilst climbing up to the temple they chant, "Prem se bolo, Jai Mata Di". Since this journey is scaling 5,200 feet above sea level, they have a long way to chant and reflect on themselves. 

This temple is among the snow capped mountains and yet, it is still stone washed white. It has an openness of a "courtyard" feel to it and also has a sense of protection with the center being encased. On the roof, there are the smaller box like instances and they have the typical curve of Hindu temples. The columns and the peaks on the roof are almost like they are trying to become closer to the heavens. For dropping everything and responding to a "calling" this is a beautiful place to be called to. 

[Picture from Flickr and the factual information comes from]

Post written by Kelsey Patterson

Kandarya Mahadeva

The Kendarya Mahadeva (Lord of Lords) temple, located in Khajuraho, is a beautifully designed structure that exemplifies the northern Hindu style of temple architecture. Unlike the southern temples, the northern style is much more tightly compact and in many cases more of a single structure rather than multiple structures combined to create a single complex. The design of Kendarya Mahadeva temple is an elongated double crucifix and rests on a single platform. The spires are of a design meant to resemble that of the peaks of the Himalayas, home of the Gods. Like many other temples Kendarya Mahadeva temple was originally whitewashed to further resemble the snowy peaks of the mountains but over time has weathered away to reveal the base sandstone that the temple consists of.
  The lines contained in the design of the spires is used to point upwards towards the Heavens. The compact design combined with the repetitive patterns create a sense of energy within the structure which is further strengthened by the arching spire walls. Although the northern temples are much smaller than most of the southern design, Kandarya Mahadeva appears to be much larger than it is because of its high platform and cluster of spires. The steps lead visitors into a large sanctuary containing a Shiva Lingam. The Shiva Lingam is a stone that represents the infinite nature of Shiva and is utilized for prayer and worship within the temple.  
(Image from hartjeff12, Flickr. Source of factual information Art Beyond the West second edition by Kampen O'Riley)

Rajarajeshvara Temple

The Rajarajeshvara Temple or Brihadesvara temple as know by many, is a Hindu temple located at Thanjavur (Tanjore) India which was created for the Hindu deity Shiva around 1000 CE. This magnificient structure was created during the Chola dynasty which at that time was under the rule of Rajaraja I, who ruled c. 985-1014 and was known as the "king of kings." The political conditions of this rule are evident throughout the fortifications surrounding the temple including a moat that encompasses the temple as well as Rajaraja's capital city Thanjavur.

During the Chola dynasty the Rajarajeshvara temple was known to house many scultures of bronz and copper which were to be used during ritual processions. One of this temples many memorable features is the steep thirteen-leveled pyramidal vimana which is topped with a gold-pleated finial. Local legend says that a massive 4.5 mile long ramp was created to roll the top piece into place. This temple is said to represent one of the high points of the southern Indian style with its temple construction.

Image courtesy of Ryan (ryPix) from
Source of factual information found from Art Beyond the West Second Edition by Micheal Kampen O'Riley

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kailasanatha Temple

Kailasanatha Temple in Ellora, India is an enormous stone structure carved into the cliff side during the Rashtrakuta dynasty. The towering cliffs surround an excavated area nearly the size of a football field. Excavation of the volcanic rock began in 757 and took 100 years to finish. Kailasanatha Temple was dedicated to Shiva as the Lord of Kailasa. The temple is actually a series of caves that have been carved very ornately into several shrines.
Although the temple was originally white washed to symbolize Shiva's snow-covered mountain, all of the natural stone is currently exposed. As one approaches the temple, they are greeted by a series of columns with intricately sculpted statues lining the bottom of the structure. On the top of the temple there is a set of three rings stacked on top of one another. Perched upon these rings are four bull statues that appear to be surrounding some sort of box. To me it seems like they are guarding the structure for Shiva.
(Image from Flickr, Source of factual information Art Beyond the West Second Edition by Michael Kampen O'Riley)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Franz Kline

Franz Kline, who is best known for his work in black and white, was one of many abstract expressionists of his time, exhibiting in the Eagan Gallery in 1950. He was largely effected by artists such as Jackson Pollock through their works and through his friendship with Willem de Kooning. Later in his career, he managed to incorporate color as effectively as his forte, black and white.

Up until sometime in 1949, Kline's sketches for his paintings were rather small, measuring in inches. He drew on more than just small pads however, choosing to draw on what was on hand. Some of such were: napkins, the backs of bills, or menus. After a fated visit to one of his friends who was utilizing a Bell-Opticon to enlarge small sketches, Franz forever changed. He began drawing on canvas that measured in feet instead. This reflected in his works, as he began to paint increasingly larger scale.

Franz Kooning had to retire in the winter of 1961-62 due to a recurrent illness, which later claimed his life the following May. He was 51 when he passed.

Information from: Franz Kline Memorial Exhibition published by the Washington Gallery of Modern Art.

Image from: from Nather Bowers' photostream

Willem de Kooning

Saturday Night (1956), Oil on Canvas, 68 3/4 x 79"

Willem de Kooning (born April 24, 1904) once started out as a "commercial" artist. He studied in night classes while apprenticing to other commercial artists. In 1926 he became one of many stowaways to travel to the United States, a year later finding himself in Manhattan. During his time here he was inspired by other artists of his time: Arshille Gorky, Franz Kline and, somewhat noticeable in his later work, Jackson Pollack.

His early influences were reflecting European and Mexican Art. However, it wasn't until the early 1930's when he began to explore Abstract Art and started to use simple geometric shapes to convey his voice on canvas. His most controversial art was his pieces of women in the 1950's. de Kooning began to paint exclusively of in later in his career, making abstract forms of the female body. His geometric shapes, painting abstract yet concrete at the same time. His women have ghastly appearances, which suggest sexuality, but at the same time is exploding with color and runaway lines that it can hardly stand for anything. Crowds were intrigued, but also furious at suggesting that women could ever be shown in such a manner.

(above) Seated Woman (1952),

Pencil, Pastel and Oil on two sheets of paper,

12 1/8 x 9 1/2"

Due to his diagnoses of Alzheimzer Disease in 1980, his work began few and far in between, being seen with less substance than his earlier work. As time drew on, de Kooning's work became less active, yet more lucrative at the same time, his earlier pieces selling for millions. He died March 19, 1997, leaving his works of Abstract Expressionism to the masses, to refer to it as how they wanted it to be.

"Whatever an artist's personal feelings are, as soon as an artist fills a certain area on the canvas or circumscribes it, he becomes historical. He acts from or upon other artists"-Willem de Kooning

Sources: 1. 2. 3. (Quote) Images: 1. (Saturday Night) Copyright: The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artist Right Society (ARS), New York 2.(Seated Woman) Copyright: The Willem de Kooning Foundation/ Arist Right Society (ARS), New York

Mark Rothko

A Mark Rothko painting is usually identified as a large abstract painting with two or more hovering fields of color against a colored ground. However, he did not develop this signature style until much later in his career. Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia on September 25, 1903. His family imigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old where they settled in Portland Oregon. Rothko attended Yale in 1921 with intentions to become an engineer or an attorney; however, in the fall of 1923 he gave up his studies and moved to New York City. Once in New York he attended art classes at the Art Students League. In the 1930s Rothko painted mostly street scenes and interiors with figures. Many of these scenes were of the New York subway. The figures in these paintings are usually faceless and flat. Soon Rothko left out the figures all together. He said, "It was with the utmost reluctance that i found the figure could not serve my purposes.....But a time came when none of us could us the figure without mutilating it." By the late 1940s asymmetrically arranged patches of color had become the basis of his paintings. In 1950 Rothko had reduced the number of floating rectangles to two, three, or four and aligned them vertically against a colored ground, arriving at his signature style. The colors were applied in thin washes giving his work new luminosity. While moving toward abstraction Rothko said, "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth" Rothkos work bgan to darken by the late 1950s, and on February 25, 1970 Rothko committed suicide after being physically ill and suffering from depression.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Barnett Newman, an Abstract Expressionist

Barnett Newman is known as one of the major figures of abstract expressionism, especially as a color field painter, next to his friends Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. Abstract expressionists were determined to prove that American artwork was not second rate compared to what Europeans, especially the French, were creating. As a collective, the abstract expressionists generally worked on large scale works, and rather than paint traditional imagery or traditional content, their paintings were more individualized, drawing from their own feeling and existence, matter, and human spirit.

Throughout the 1930’s Barnett Newman did a number of works that could be described as an expressionist style, but he eventually destroyed all of them. His first surviving artwork was made in 1945, three years prior to his first art exhibition. Up until this point Newman had studied Philosophy at the College of New York, and worked as a writer, critic, and exhibition organizer. Throughout the 1940’s Newman worked in a very surrealist style, characterized by multi-tonal vibrant monochromatic color separated by thin vertical lines he called “zips.” The zips are used as devices to divide the color, but rather than divide the canvas into separate large paintings, they actually lend unity and structure to the composition as a whole. Later in his life Newman used hard edged areas of flat color, which can be viewed as a source of inspiration for later minimalist works.

Photo By Willy Gobetz

The large size of Newman’s paintings is very indicative of his art philosophy. For Newman, he wanted people to view the art and get a sense of the scale, and to also understand that there is a mystery and a metaphysical fact held within the painting. Newman stated with regards to this concept that he and his colleges “favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.” He hoped that his paintings would give his viewers the feeling of their own totality, separateness, and individuality, but at the same time express their connection to all others.

"Barnett Newman." Absolute Astronomy. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr 2011.

"Barnett Newman and Frank Stella; Art and the Sublime." The Free Library. N.p., 2008. Web. 3 Apr 2011.

"Chronology of the Artist’s Life." The Barnett Newman Foundation. N.p., 2005. Web. 3 Apr 2011.