Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Humanities assignment

Went to the museum a few weeks ago, for my Humanities class. The Phoenix Art Museum had an Impressionist showing. A particular style I've never cared for. But the assignment was to pick a piece out and write a one page paper on it. I found some stuff in the Asian rooms but a painting I saw up stairs blew me away. Not knowing what to write or how to write it, I did what I do best...

I bullshited.

Serene (1997) is a simple painting of a harvested field by Gary Earnest Smith. The six foot 7 inch, oil on canvas painting dominates the Western American Gallery on the second floor of the Phoenix Art Museum.
A harvested field takes up the bottom 7/8ths of the canvas. At the horizon, hills can be seen far off in the distance. The hills clearly set the painting in the American West.
A line at the right marks the boundary of a separate field of fallow ground. The fallow ground shows the limitations of the land, and increases the importance of the harvested field to the farmer and to the viewer. The land thus becomes a scarce resource.
In the foreground of the painting, the chaff, straw, and debris of the harvest are shown continuing up throughout the field towards the horizon. The ground is dark and silvery gray, the color of frozen mud. The pale gray sky is the sky of late fall or early winter. No signs of snow are here, but the Earth and the Sky clearly show the oncoming approach of winter. The time of day is unknown and unimportant; it is the time of year that is important in this piece. There is nothing else in the painting.
Serene shows the viewer the accomplishment of the farmer. At this point in the painting, the year’s work is completed; the harvest is in and sold. A good price? A bad price? It is out of the farmer’s hands now, it is done, the ground lies still, and there is nothing to do here until spring. The farmer can rest for now; spend time with family and friends. Have a bit of his life back.
This is the serenity of an open field in early winter. It is the serenity of a completed job, a taken test, and a finished chore.
Or even a completed assignment.


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