Thursday, 12 November 2015

timeliness, objectivity and narrative

Building strong partnerships with leading museums and educational institutions around the world to help bring the iconography and language of modern art to the broader, internet dwelling public, the clearing house Artsy is wonderful resource for discovery and triangulation.

Learning enough to pique one’s curiosity to learn more about the inter- connectedness of the community and their contemporaries—through the lens of their portrait of Dorothea Lange, for example, whose evocative Migrant Mother (probably for most one of those archetypal images that we hold in the quiver of minds) captured while under commission for the American Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, but there’s really a more elusive, evasive quality in this photograph and its framer that settles after the initial, unmediated impression. The network of related artists—most of whom I’ve never heard of but seem quite worthy of further investigation—imparts context, but it’s really taking a step back, through biography and scrutiny, that helps to disabuse one—after a fashion—for what we as an audience might take for granted. I think I’d rather conflated Migrant Mother and the haunting blue-eyed Afghani girl from that National Geographic cover in my mind—making the Depression-era photograph colourized—perhaps because the identities of both subjects was once anonymous but are now identified: Florence Owen Thompson and Sharbat Gula. It takes a commitment on the part of the viewer, which is I suppose what powerful and memorable art demands, to see the humanising portrayals and to take something too away from the setting. Though history and poverty always best themselves, it is impossible to imagine the backdrop of abject poverty and starvation that the government attempted to stave off through resettlement and relocation. This scene also conjures up another one of Lange’s programs—documenting the forced internment of Japanese and other foreigners, which was suppressed at the time. I’ll be sure to visit this resource again to get my bearings and discover someone new.