Monday, March 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We were asked to answer a themed question on an architectural or built space that holds a specific significance or symbolism in our day to day lives. As I thought about it, I realized that I encounter many different spaces in my day to day activities but none of them are really dear to me. There is school, the pharmacy I work at, relative’s homes, my boyfriend’s home, my old high school… none of them seemed to inspire me. Therefore, I will write about the place that I am most familiar with, my house. A house can be many different things for a person. It can be a place that one cannot wait to move out of, it can be someone’s sanctuary, someone’s pride and joy. However, my house is the only place where I feel one hundred percent at ease. It is my comfort zone.

I have lived in the same house since the beginning of elementary school. The house looks like a duplex. The white walls with a green roof and balconies make it look like a very modern house, but the inside highlights its history. The floors and doors are made of varnished wood and the walls are all painted in conservative colors. The cracking, uneven floorboards and the heavy wooden doors show us that the house was built well over a century ago. It is where I grew up during my childhood and adolescent years. When I look back at my years spent here, my head is filled with memories. The good: our Christmas’ family reunions, birthdays, diner with family members, mornings when I slept in, quality time with my siblings, gossiping with my friends in my room and the bad: fighting with my parents, mourning the loss of my Rottweiler, arguing with my brother and sister and so on.

My peers will never perceive my home the way I do because of my mother’s career as well as the fact that they have never lived here. Our house is divided into two sections. My family lives on one side, and nine older people who suffer from schizophrenia as well as bipolar disorders live on the other side. My mother’s job is to take care of people with mental disorders. I have grown up with these people and they are a part of my life here at home. Yes, they might act weirdly from time to time, but they looked after me when I was a child. They would bring us to the local drug store, tell us stories and show us how to knit. I have never considered them to be outsiders. Others that come into our house believe we run an asylum, that these people are abnormal and nuts. However, they will never understand. My childhood would have been very different without them.

All in all, my house is my sanctuary. I associate my house to my family. It is the one place that will always make me feel safe no matter what the situation is.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The School of Athens - Part 1

I was talking with a fellow Liberal Arts second year student this year and she told me that I had to look at The school of Athens because it was a very interesting and unique painting because it has so much history, colors and symbols in it. Once I started researching on Raphael’s painting, I realized I had too much information for a single article, therefore, I will divide it into parts which I will continue throughout the semester.
The school of Athens was a painting made by Raphael in 1510. He was asked by the pope in Florence to destroy the old paintings on the walls of the Vatican Palace in order to replace those of older painters. Raphael painted the School of Athens which is in fact, his vision of the world of Humanistic thought. It represented an ideal community of intellects from the entire classical world. The room is very spacious and airy. The artist used major philosophical figures in order to represent classical wisdom and science. Two of these characters are Aristotle and Plato, located at the very center of the painting. It is said that they were arguing about Idealism vs. Realism. Plato, the one with the red robe, is holding a book he wrote called Timaeus, as he was explaining how '’ the universe was created from perfect mathematical models, forms and the regular geometric solids.’’ His right hand is pointing towards the sky, indicating that his theory on the Ideals of Beauty, Goodness and Truth are above us. Aristotle, the man dressed in a blue robe, is pointing his finger straight ahead and this apparently means that he is pointing ‘’out into the solid world of material reality, into the world of physical science and practical reason.’’
The painting has some sort of a mirror effect for it looks as if our gaze keeps going further away until it is at its focus point: Plato and Aristotle. The arches of the door frames gives us the illusion of narrowing our sight to the central point of the picture. Around these two philosophers heads is a semi-circle and this is an ancient symbol for perfection, therefore, making it represent the mind of God. There is a statue of Apollo on Plato’s right. He is naked and is the god of poetry and fine arts. The way he is standing makes his figure look feminine yet masculine at the same time. He stands in the classical contra position pose that goes way back to the Greek "Canon" of Polycleitus. He might be on Plato’s side for all poets and abstract thinker are allied with Plato. On Aristotle’s left, there is a statue of Athena, the goddess of reason. Unlike Apollo, she is fully dressed and is dressed in her battle dress. She must be on Aristotle’s side for all those who are said to be physical scientists and more empirical thinkers are associated with Aristotle. If we look at the painting closely, we see that Raphael had fun with lines for Apollo and Plato’s heads are connected by a diagonal line as well as Athena and Aristotle’s heads.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Arnolfini Marriage

As I was finishing up my notes on Jan van Eyck's documentary to hand them in for you before mid-term, I decided to dedicate an article for it on my blog. I find it extremely fascinating to look at because it seems to have a very clear meaning, however for thousands and thousands of years, artists have been debating on the paintings actual meaning. Sadly, we will never know the true answer. When you first look at it, you notice a couple that seem to be expecting a child and the bright colors. The lady is holding her belly as a pregnant mother would, the dress is emerald green, the chair and bed are bright red and there is light coming from outside the window that illuminates the room. However, if you look at the painting closer, you notice many other details. The oranges and their clothes for example. Both indicate that this family is particularly wealthy since both are expensive. Some people may believe that the couple simply wanted to have their portrait painted. On the other hand, other painters look at all the symbolic items in the painting and describe it as a promise to link two families together, that is, a marriage. As you look at the mirror behind the two people, you notice that there is a reflection of the ''married'' couple, a self-portrait of Jan van Eyck and another man who may have been the official witness of the marriage. His self portrait is quite bizarre and unique for you really have to be a good observer in order to see such a tiny detail. Above the mirror is the artists signature. Van Eyck was here, 1434. It is said to be a marriage certificate. Then the chandelier and the lit candle may represent the presence of God in the painting or St-Margaret, the patron saint of women in child birth. The pair of shoes lying on the floor may look very simple, however some people debate that it is a wedding present that symbolizes domestic stability and tranquility. The dog may be seen as a symbol of love and faithfulness. The bed symbolizes her fertility and the marriage bed. She should stay home and be domestic and make babies. All of these symbols point out that they are united by marriage, Van Eyck and another man are their witnesses, they have a marriage certificate and they are expecting. Now if we put that aside, other painters would have a very different perspective regarding the painting. They would first of all say that the lady is not pregnant. The big bump on her belly was very stylish back then for ladies would look like the pregnant queen who was ruling at the time. It would then be said that The two people in the portrait were not wealthy at all, but had paid an artist to make them look so. The oranges, the fabric used for clothing, the bed were all false. It was mentioned in the documentary that the painting was decoded with ultra red lighting I believe, to find out what might have been added to the paintings and we found out that the oranges, slippers, dogs, and some of the fabric had been added afterward. All in all, paintings are extremely fascinating because they can hold so many different meanings depending on what the viewer wants to see. Historical context is also very important to know in order to fully understand a painting.