Day 14: Diego Rivera

“An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.”

Diego Rivera and his twin brother Carlos were born to a well-to-do family in Guanajuato on December 8 or 13th 1886. Carlos died at age 2, making Diego an only child. At age 3 Diego started drawing, but unsatisfied with paper he moved to walls. Instead of punishing him, his parents had chalk boards and canvas placed there for the young artist to use.

Diego River, Age 4 (1890)

Diego’s mother, María Barrientos, who Diego described as “diminutive, almost childlike, with large innocent eyes”, distraught over the loss of her son began studying Obstetrics and midwifery to overcome her depression.

Maria Barrientos Rivera (1896)

During this time, Diego suffered poor health (Rickets, which caused skeletal deformity because of a lack of vitamin D) and was sent to live in the mountains with his nanny Antonia, a Tarascan Indian. “Visually she was an artists ideal Indian woman, and I have painted her many times from memory in her long red robe and blue shawl.”

The Flower Vendor (1941)

The Flower Carrier (1935)

Diego called her a witch doctor; she used herbs and rituals to heal him and would let him roam the forrest. It was because of her that Diego featured Indigenous peoples in his works a lot.

In 1896 he entered the Academy of San Carlos, where he was receiving 30 pesos a month from Governor Dehesa to attend school.


In 1904 Murillo Atl, a Mexican artist returned from his trip to Europe excited and invigorated by the work he saw and being a huge influence on the young artists in Mexico, he started a wave of students who wanted to go as well.

La Era (1904)

“In 1905, I expressed this desire to Governor Dehesa. He told me that, if I had a one-man exhibition and succeeded in selling my paintings in Mexico, he would provide traveling and living expenses for four years’ study abroad.” Those 4 years quickly turned to 14. He studied with many artists and explored many different styles.

La Calle De Avila (1908) After a year in Spain.

Portrait of Angelina Beloff (1909) Diego met Angelina Belloff, a Russian artist in Spain. They married in 1911. The two had a son together that would die of the flu during the fall of 1918. "She gave me everything a woman can give to a man. In return, she received from me all the heartache and misery that a man can inflict upon a woman"

While Rivera was married to Belloff he had an affair with another Russian artist named Marevna Vorobyov-Stebelska. A year after the death of his son, they had a girl named Marika (who later became an French film actress and dancer). The same year he met David Alfaro Siqueiros and studied frescos in Italy. He thought this was the best way to make art appeal to the masses. “The artist must try to raise the level of taste of the masses, not debase himself to the level of unformed and impoverished taste.”  He left for Mexico June of 1921 and told Belloff he would send for her, though he never did. He sent Marevna maintenance payments for their child though he never acknowledged Marika as his.

Creation (1922) Rivera's first mural in Mexico, painted at the Simon Bolivar Amphitheatre in the Escuela Preparatoria Nacional (National Preparatory School) where Frida was attending school and was first exposed to his work.

“The subject of the mural was Creation, which I symbolized as everlasting and the core of human history. More specifically, I presented a racial history of Mexico through figures representing all the types that had entered the Mexican blood stream, from the autochthonous Indian to the present-day half-breed, spanish Indian.”

Entry Into The Mine (1923) Located at the Court of Labour at the Ministry of Education in Mexico City, Mexico. Rivera was an anarchist in his boyhood and grew to be a Marxist, he displayed his communist views through his art often in the portrayal of the working class.

In June of 1922 he married Guadalupe Marin, his second wife.

Portrait of Lupe Marin (1938)

Diego thought Lupe was the ideal woman. With long black hair and crystalline green eyes she had a slim body with round shoulders and muscular legs and hands.  Together they had 2 daughters, Guadalupe in 1924 and Ruth in 1926.

The Burning of the Judases (1923-24) Sabados de Gloria is a festival that has been celebrated since the early 1900s. It takes place at the end of lent and the day before Easter. Judas is symbolically burned and soon it became a tradition of burning effigies of unpopular people in power. Here, the 2 paper mache "judases" are a general and priest.

The Abundant Earth (1926) The bright nude woman in the front with her hair pulled up is Tina Modotti, who he had an affair with.

The Arsenal - Frida Kahlo Distributes Arms(1928) Other than Frida in the center (handing out rifles and bayonets to workers who have decided to fight), you can see Siqueiros on the left and Julio Antonio Mella and his partner Tina Modotti

In 1928, Frida Kahlo met Diego. He had been married for 6 years but was immediately taken with her and in 1929 the 42 year old Rivera and 22 year old Kahlo married. It wasn’t always a happy partnership.

"If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait."

Soon after, Rivera gaining popularity in the United States would spend the first few years of the 1930s doing commissions in San Fransisco, Detroit and New York. Mesmerized by the industry, architecture and infrastructure he said “Your engineers are your great artists and these highways are the most beautiful things I have seen in your beautiful country,” and “Out of them and the machine will issue the style of tomorrow.”

However, despite Rivera being in awe of it all, many were outraged by a communist creating a mural for Detroit Industry. After all just weeks before he and Frida arrived in April of 1923, 60,000 marchers gathered to protest the shooting of 5 Ford Motor Co. employees who were rallying against the plant.

Detroit Industry (1932) “American artists should have at least been considered for the execution of this work,A question of much more (than) art is involved. It constitutes a war between communists and capitalism.” said the Rev. H. Ralph Higgins, senior curate at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Detroit, in a 1933 Detroit News interview.

I really wish he would’ve made a protest piece on behalf of the workers.

It’s not like controversy was new to him or that he wouldn’t get himself into plenty of it while he was in the states.

Man at the Crossroads (1933) “Here it is -- the might , the power, the energy, the sadness, the glory, the youthfulness of our land .” Renamed Man, Controller of the Universe, was redone in Mexico after the uproar it caused in New York for containing a portrait of Lenin and Trotsky. Refusing to remove the images, Rockefeller, who had commissioned the piece had it destroyed.

After the upheaval that this piece caused, his commission at the World Fair in Chicago was cancelled and he wouldnt return to the United States again until 1940. He held no ill will toward the US in spite of the opposition he faced in the past.

Pan American Unity (1940) ”… the fusion of the genius of the South (Mexico) with its religious ardor and its gift for plastic expression and the genius of the North (the United States) with its gift for mechanical expression.” The powerful symbol of this fusion was “a colossal Goddess of Life , half Indian, half machine. She was to the American civilization of my vision what Quetzalcoatl, the great mother of Mexico, was to the Aztec people.”"

Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park (1947-48) In this piece he depicts Ignacio Ramirez holding a sign that reads "Dios no existe" or "God does not exist". This work was very controversial but Rivera refused to remove the inscription and because of this, it was not shown for 9 years (until he finally agreed to remove it). Rivera said "To affirm 'God does not exist', I do not have to hide behind Don Ignacio Ramírez; I am an atheist and I consider religions to be a form of collective neurosis."

Glorious Victory (1954) a portrayal of of the infamous CIA coup that overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected government. Eisenhower is depicted as a bomb, a priest oversees the massacre and CIA Director Dulles is shaking hands with Colonel Castillo Armas. Frida would attend a protest against the orders of her doctor because of this and her health grew worse.

In 1954 Frida finally passed away. “July 13, 1954 was the most tragic day of my life. I had lost my beloved Frida forever. Too late now I realized that the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida.” A year before she died he stated that “Frida Kahlo is the greatest Mexican painter. Her work is destined to be multiplied by reproductions and will speak, thanks to books, to the whole world. It is one of the most formidable artistic documents and most intense testimonies on human truth of our time.”

He married Emma Hurtado a year later, but the marriage would be brief. He died of cancer at age 70 on November 24, 1957.

People that raise a lot of hell usually end up living a long time,

The Pythia

Day 13: Frida Kahlo

"I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best."

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón was born July 6, 1907. The birthday she gave to people was July 7, 1910, either wanting to be younger or wanting her birth to coincide with the beginning of the Mexican revolution. Her father was a Jewish Hungarian, who denounced his religion for Atheism and changed his name from Wilhelm Kahl to Guillermo Kahlo. Frida had 2 half sisters from Guillermo’s first marriage (who were sent away to live in a convent). On the night of his first wife’s death (She passed in delivery) he asked Matilde Calderón, Frida’s mother, to marry him. Though they wouldn’t be officially married until 7 years later, Matilde gave birth to 4 daughters, Frida being the 3rd.

Where Frida was born in Coyoacan, now a museum

When she was 6 years old she was stricken with Polio (some say white tumor) which stunted the growth in her right leg despite exercising. She hid her withered limb with long skirts and pants. In 1922 she was one of 35 girls to be accepted into a Mexican Preparatory School with the hopes of becoming a doctor. Here, she was first exposed to Diego Rivera’s work and became a member of “Los Cachuchas” a socialist-nationalist organization. The leader, Alejandro Gomez Arias, became Frida’s boyfriend the following year. September 25, 1925 Frida was in a horrible accident with Alejandro. The bus they were taking home was hit broadside by a tram and caused her to

fracture her spine,

La Columna Rota (1944) The Broken Column

shatter her pelvic bone, break her right leg in 11 places, fracture her collar bone and ribs and her right foot was crushed and dislocated.

The Accident (1926)

An iron rail pierced her uterus and abdomen and during her recovery she was told that she would never be able to have children. Depressed by the news she created one of her first pieces of art, a birth certificate for a son she pretended she gave birth to following the accident. Frida said his name was Leonardo and that he was born at the Red Cross Hospital where she was treated. She said he was baptized in 1926 and then inscribed her name as his mother and his godparents as Isabel Campos and Alejandro Gomez Arias.

The Birth Certificate

The injuries were so terrible doctors weren’t sure if she’d survive. She endured more than 30 operations during her lifetime and it was during her recovery, that she began to paint. Her mother had a special easel made for her so she could paint in bed and her father gave her a set of oils and brushes.

'They thought I was a Surrealist,' she said, 'but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.'

Self Portrait in Velvet Dress, painted as a gift for Alejandro who had left her for believing she had been unfaithful to him, one of her first self portraits and works in oils

In 1928 she was introduced to Diego Rivera through friends in the communist party; the following year they married. Her mother disapproved, saying Rivera was too fat and old but her father understood that he would give her fiscal security and could afford her medical expenses.

Time Flies (1929) The year Frida became pregnant.

Self Portrait (1930) She was forced to abort her pregnancy this year because the fetus was improperly positioned in her uterus due to the injuries she sustained 5 years earlier.

They had a tumultuous relationship. Both had quick tempers and engaged in extramarital affairs. While Diego tolerated the women Frida slept with (including Josephine Baker) he got very jealous of the men. Frida once said “I suffered two grave accidents in my life…One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego.”

Diego, accepting a commision from the Mexican government was thrown out of the communist party and Frida left with him. Gaining popularity in the United States, they left Mexico so Diego could paint murals there.

In 1931 Frida’s work was first shown publicly in the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists.

Frieda and Diego (1931)

In 1932 Frida suffered a miscarriage while they are in Detroit (where Diego was working on another mural) and spent 13 days in the hospital.

Henry Ford Hospital (1932) considered one of her most painful pieces and said to be the beginning of her penetratingly painful art.

The same year she received a telegram that her mother was passing away and returned to Mexico. Her mother died September 14th.

My Birth (1932)

My Dress Hangs There (1933)

In 1934 Frida had another miscarriage, an appendectomy and underwet foot surgery that removed the toes on her right foot. At the same time, Diego had an affair with Frida’s sister Cristina and Frida furious ended the marriage.

A Few Small Nips (1935) Frida has an affair with American sculptor Isamu Noguchi but eventually reunites with Diego.

My Grandparents My Parents and I (1936) the year Diego and Kahlo raised money for the forces opposing Franco in the Spanish Civil War. They also work to get asylum for Russian communist Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia.

Behind the Curtains (1937) This self portrait was dedicated to Trotsky who she began an affair with.

In 1938 Andre Breton and his wife Jacqueline Lamba journeyed to Mexico to meet Trotsky. Breton was immediately taken with Kahlo and her work; she found him pretentious. He called her a natural surrealist, she disagreed but together they organized a show of her work at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York. Breton wrote the rhetorical catalogue preface himself and after a huge success at the show (which sold about half of the paintings) he suggested a show in Paris and offered to arrange it.

What the water gave me (1938)

Girl with Death Mask (1938)

Kahlo agreed but when she arrived in 1939 she found that Breton had not taken her work out of customs and she could not speak any French to do so herself.

The Two Fridas (1939)

The Two Fridas (1939)

Earth Itself (Two Nudes) 1939 Monkeys in Mexican folklore represent lust but Frida would use them to represent protection, a guardian.

Marcel Duchamp saved the show, though it opened 6 weeks late. It wasn’t a financial success but the reviews were good and the Louvre purchased a piece. Picasso and Kandinsky sang praises but this didn’t dissuade her dislike for “this bunch of coocoo lunatic sons of bitches of surrealists.” During this time Trotsky and Diego started fighting and Diego and Frida got another divorce but remarry by the end of the following year.

In 1940 David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexican muralist Pollock studied with) attempted to assassinate Trotsky (though he was unsuccessful, Totsky would be attacked 4 months later by a man with a pick ax and die); Frida, being a friend of them both was held for two days for questioning.

Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)

The Dream or The Bed (1940)

Me and My Parrots (1941) Her father passed away April of this year.

Roots (1943) This year she started teaching, but due to her deteriorating health, she had her classes moved to The Blue House (Where she was born and the Trotsky's stayed)

Diego on my mind (1943)

Thinking About Death (1943)

Diego and Frida (1944)

Without hope (1944)

The Little Deer (1946) This year Frida received an award from the Ministry of Education and undwent a bone graft opperation.

Tree of Hope (1946)

The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Me, and Senor Xolotl (1949) this year Frida's foot gets gangrenous. (Xolotl was the name of her dog)

Self-Portrait With the Portrait of Doctor Farill

Self-Portrait With the Portrait of Doctor Farill (1951) The year prior Frida underwent numerous operations on her spine, by the time this was painted she was confined to a wheelchair.

The last years of Frida’s life were painful ones but she never stopped her activism. She worked to collect signatures for the peace movement and days before her death, July 2, 1954, she joined 10,000 Mexicans in protesting CIA intervention in Guatemala.

In 1953 her right leg is amputated below the knee, but from her bed, she hosted the first exhibition of her work held in Mexico.

Marxism Will Bring Health To The Sick (1954)

Whether suicide played a role in her death is unknown, but she seemed to be hopeful that her health would recover. In her April 27th diary entry she wrote “I am well again – I’ve made a promise and I’ll keep it never to turn back” and added a three page thank you letter to all of the people who had ever taken care of her during her lifetime. She was hospitalized the next month to remove a needle she had fallen on. In June she contracted pneumonia and because of the protest the following month it worsened. On July 13th she finally passed in the Blue House; the cause of death (though suicide is still speculated upon) was reported a “pulmonary embolism”. Her last diary entry says: “I hope the exit is joyful – and I hope never to return – Frida” Her coffin was attended by an honor guard and the following day 600 attendees came to pay their last respects. She was cremated and placed in a Pre-Columbian urn which remains today at the “Blue House”

Having said all that! I wrote this blog and then watched the movie “Frida” starring Salma Hayek, and I LOVED IT! GO WATCH IT!

The Pythia

Day 12: Lee Krasner

Let me first begin by saying that I am a little pissed off. Google’s timeline of Krasner’s life is mostly Pollock’s life that her name is just attached to for being present. Only 3 or 4 events are actually about her. This is just irritating to me beyond words. She doesn’t even have an official website.

"Painting... in which the inner and the outer man are inseparable, transcends technique, transcends subject and moves into the realm of the inevitable."

Krasner was born in Brooklyn, NY in October 17th 1908. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. She began her art education at Washington Irving High School (she applied once and was told there was no room, spent 6 months flunking out of another high school before she reapplied and got accepted).

“Curiously enough, on graduating from Washington Irving High School, I then made a decision to go to a woman’s art school, Cooper Union, but before graduation, my art teacher (by the time one gets to the graduation class you’re majoring in art a great deal, you’re drawing from a live model and so forth) called me over and said very quietly and very definitely, “The only reason I am passing you in art (65 was passing mark at that time) is because you’ve done so excellently in all your other subjects, I don’t want to hold you back and so I am giving you a 65 and allowing you to graduate.” In other words, I didn’t make the grade in art at all.”

She showed her portfolio to Cooper Union Women’s Fine Art school, was accepted and worked there for 2 to 3 years though she still struggled,

“Oh, what I consider quite amusing – Mr. Hitten’s class, when I came into Cooper Union, was divided into alcoves. The first alcove, you did hands and feet of cast, the second the torso, and third, the full figure, and then you were promoted to life. Well, I got stuck in the middle alcove somewhere in the torso and Mr. Hitten at one point, in utter despair and desperation, said more or less, what the high school teacher had said, “I’m going to promote you to life, not because you deserve it, but because I can’t do anything with you.” And so I got into life and Mr. Perard was quite nice, only at that point I decided I ought to do something more serious than Cooper Union and so it was the National Academy, where once more you had to enter with work. I was admitted, only I was demoted from life back to the cast drawing and on my first day of instruction, Mr. Hitten walked in. We looked at each other and realized it was futile because in the Academy he couldn’t promote me, it took a full committee to do that. So we were stuck with each other again. And so it went.”

before attending the National Academy of Design.

She received a pedagogy but after teaching for a year tore up her certification deciding she didn’t want to teach.

In 1937 She took classes taught by artist Hans Hofman “Cubism, I say I really didn’t get the first impact, the full impact of it until I worked with Hofmann.”

Hofman once stated about her work: “This is so good you would not know it was painted by a woman.”

Still life (1938)

In 1940 she became a member of the American Abstract Arists.

Seated Nude (1940)

In 1941 she was asked to participate in an exhibition titled “French and American Painters” with artists De Kooning and Pollock. “a bomb exploded when I saw that first French show. The next bomb that exploded was this incident when I walked into his studio. There were five or six canvases around and they had the same impact on me, something blew.” She said about Pollock’s work.

Image Surfacing (1945)

They were married in 1945. She adored him and his work but as a seasoned artist and older woman (3 years) she never became a follower and she never stopped working. Pollock’s automatism and energy had a great impact on her work, though she never abandoned her formal training.

Noon (1947)

Volcanic (1951)

Untitled (1954)

Her critical eye and shrewd judgement proved invaluable to his. As well as her tireless promoting of his work that lasted well after his death in 1956.

However, this critical nature of hers took quite a toll on her body of work. Krasner self-edited constantly, never satisfied. She would cut her drawings and paintings to create collages

Milkweed (1955)

and though this produced some of her most famous pieces it sometimes destroyed whole series of works. She has 599 pieces that survived her.

Prophecy (1956)

After Pollock’s death she continued working,

Assault on the Solar Plexus (1961)

Imperative (1976)

Crisis Moment (1980)

though she suffered from arthritis, until she passed away in 1984 at 75.

Dedication with little recognition,

The Pythia

Day 11: Jackson Pollock

In keeping with the couple theme, I think I’m going to do artist couples for a while, starting with Jackson Pollock aka Jack The Dripper.

"I have no fear of changes, of destroying the image, because a painting has a life of its own; I try to let it live."

Pollock was first introduced to fluid paint and paint pouring in 1936 by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled (Bald Woman with Skeleton), 1938-41

Pollock was inspired by Indian sand painting, which he was exposed to in the early 1940s. One could speculate that he was inspired by surrealist automatism, but Pollock was more of a Jungian person than a Freudian.

The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (1943)

November of 1943 was Pollock’s first one man show at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery. Peggy would be a patron of his for years to come and even lent him the down payment for a home for Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner when they married in 1945.

Shimmering Substance, 1946 This reminds me a lot of De Kooning, he worked in his color palette a lot.

1947 to 1950 was Pollock’s most successful period, called his “drip period”.

Cathedral, 1947

Lavender Mist: Number 1, 1950. "...look passively and try to receive what the painting has to offer and not bring a subject matter or preconceived idea of what they are to be looking for."

“[Pollock] used to give his pictures conventional titles… but now he simply numbers them. Numbers are neutral. They make people look at a picture for what it is – pure painting.” – Lee Krasner

However, just like his painting technique, when he saw a pattern emerging he was quick to deviate from it and abruptly, he abandoned dripping.

Black and White No. 6 1951

After this he started to do more figurative work, lines and curves start to assemble, he gained more commercial success. The pressure started to become overwhelming and colors in his pieces became more dark as he dove further into his alcoholism.

Blue Poles: Number II, 1952

Ocean Greyness 1953

Search (1955)

He did not paint anything in 1956 and March of that year is when he started his affair with Ruth Kligman (who was also a muse of De Kooning). “I remember the first painting I saw of yours about two years ago. It was all black and white, and I remember standing in front of it, and something happened to me. I felt the sensation of you, your energy came into my body…I was so moved by your work, your beauty, the mobility, the lyric quality, the torrent, the suffering, it’s all there… I felt your tears, I felt your heart breaking, I felt betrayal, and your violence and rage, and my heart was breaking with you.” she recounts in her book “Love Affair: A memoir of Jackson Pollock” (1974)

The affair would not last long. In August of the same year, while driving under the influence, Pollock was in a fatal car accident that ended not only his life, but Edith Metzger’s a friend of Ruth’s. Ruth was the only survivor.

In spite of the affair, Krasner managed her husband’s estate and worked hard to keep Pollock’s reputation strong.

I heard they made a movie about Pollock.

It looks extremely Hollywood but I’ve never seen it. If any of you have, let me know how they did.

The Pythia


Why dont you give Pollock’s technique a try

Day 10: Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison

To celebrate the first day of double digits I have decided to do a pair of artists. A husband and wife photography team.

Together they create photo allegories of man’s relationship with nature, technology and emotion as well as portray the struggle with loss, and himself.

“My photographs tell stories of loss, human struggle, and personal exploration within landscapes scarred by technology and over-use…. [I] strive to metaphorically and poetically link laborious actions, idiosyncratic rituals and strangely crude machines into tales about our modern experience.”-Robert ParkeHarrison

Flying Lesson

"We want to make images that have open, narrative qualities, images containing ideas about human limits. These mythic images mirror our world, where nature is domesticated, controlled and destroyed."

Now you’re probably asking yourself “what’s so special about them? anyone could do that in photoshop.” But what is so wonderful about “The Architects Brother” is they didnt use photoshop. All of them are elaborately staged photographs.

” Photoshop was not used on these works. We merged multiple images through an adapted form of the paper negative process. In this process we still had to shoot the various components of an images, with the other components in mind (angle, depth of field, lighting etc)
Paper negatives allowed us to collage various images into one image. It is a lengthy process that requires a back and forth process from paper negatives, paper positives, drawing and contact printing. Once a final image was completed we then mounted it and painted on the photograph. This painting process consisted on many, many layers of washes. This further distanced the final image from qualities of photography.”

Their pieces look sort of post-apocalyptic (after man has exhausted his last natural resource) and steam punk.

But also have a wonderful, almost Odd Nerdrum style to their use of repetition.

Which again, gives you this dark, ominous feeling when you look at them.

I can seriously see this man trying so hard to get something, ANYTHING to grow.

For videos of the artists speaking on their works: really tried to get some in here but it just never wanted to work for me.)

Some new works:

I want one of those flying machines.

The Pythia

Day 9: Kara Walker

Kara Walker

Kara Walker’s work is extremely moving and evocative. If you don’t feel that power and tension than you don’t have a pulse. She works in cut paper silhouettes, narrative vingettes and cyclorama, painting, drawing, light based works and video film and performance. All unabashedly addressing issues of race, desire and shame, history and Capote-style narrative.

Like in Insurrection! (Our tools were rudimentary yet we passed them on)

"’Insurrection!’ The idea at the outset was an image of a slave revolt in the antebellum south where the house slaves got after their master with their utensils of everyday life, and really it started with a sketch of a series of slaves disemboweling a master with a soup ladle. My reference, in my mind, was the surgical theatre paintings of Thomas Eakins and others." - Kara Walker

and in Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civic War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart

Walker draws inspiration from the physiognomic portrayals of slaves in the Antebellum South. Using things like Picaninny caricature and other forms of racialization by accentuating feature characteristics attributed to blacks.

“I’m reducing things down a lot, but I’m also characterizing everything and everyone as a black thing, and it comes from a way of viewing the world, looking for blackness, in its good and nefarious forms.”

“Most pieces have to do with exchanges of power, attempts to steal power away from others.”

In her piece The Battle of Atlanta,

The Battle of Atlanta: Being the narrative of a negress in the flames of desire - A reconstruction, 1995

You can see a southern soldier raping a young black girl,

A white child preparing to insert his toy sword into a lynched black woman’s vagina,

And a child holding a severed leg.

“All of the bad vibes, the bad feelings, all of the nastiness, and all of the sort of vulgar associations with blackness, and the more base associations in this culture about Black Americans or Africans bubble up to the surface of my brain and spill out into this work.” Some of these “vulgar associations” are things like scatology,


Humane acquisition of chitlins

and miscegenation,

After Hurricane Katrina and the lack of response given to areas mostly inhabited by impoverished minorities, Walker created “After the Deluge” likening the events to African slaves crossing the Atlantic.

"I was seeing images that were all too familiar. It was black people in a state of life-or-death desperation, and everything corporeal was coming to the surface: water, excrement, sewage. It was a re-inscription of all the stereotypes about the black body."

Day 8: Menashe Kadishman

“Art cannot change anything, only caress the wounds a little”

Kadishman is a painter and sculptor and was born in Tel Aviv in 1932. When he was 15 years old, his father died and he quit school to help support his family. He had a brief stint in the army and was also a shepherd. You’ll see these influences over and over again in his work.

The Sacrifice of Isaac

In Isreal every able bodied man and woman is required after high school to serve 2 -3 years in the Isreali army. When Kadishman’s son’s time came up, he was stricken with fear and anxiety. He created “The Sacrifice of Isaac” as an anti-war piece and also a cry for victims. To send your child to die is like killing yourself. Your child is part of your essence that survives you. He has made many different versions of this piece in his life and even staged the scene with his son for George Segal.

"Shalechet" Fallen Leaves

For the Jewish Museum in Berlin Kadishman created this installation. Since 1997 it has grown piece by piece and now has around 10,000 sculptures. Hand cut, when a finger is drawn across the edges, the faces groan and cry. When they are walked over, this is what they sound like:

Visitors are confronted with the piece, they are forced to walk over it, and though they try to be careful as they tread over the pained faces, their cries continue to pervade the air.

Though he had given such voice to the voiceless, at 73 he feels he has done nothing to change things.

Geniuses rarely find satisfaction in their work.

The Pythia