Can Discarded Items Be Considered Art

I am not a fan of pop-art.  It just all seems ridiculous to me.  Since this is a positive blog I really had to do some digging to find something that I liked and after much searching I was able to find a couple artists that are pretty interesting.  The first is a man named Haim Steinbach.  Haim Steinbach was born in Israel and moved to that United States as a kid.  He started getting noticed for his art in the 1970’s.  His works are primarily arrangements of discarded items.  He also creates the stands that they are displayed on.

1froot loops

froot loops 1 2007 New York

Untitled (dog chew, chocolate Santa)_F

Untitled (dog chew, chocolate Santa) 1A 2008 New York


Untitled (emergency sign, shot glasses, dog chews) 2009 New York


flying Dutchman 2  2008 New York

Steinbach Mr. Peanut 1

mr. peanut 2008 New York

1tonkong rubbermaid

tongkong rubbermaid II-1  2007 New York

I honestly cannot say why I like the work of Haim Steinbach.  There is something simple about it that draws my attention towards the boxes of Froot Loops in the first piece.  It might have to do with the spacing in Untitled and Flying Dutchman.  I like how the lines of the display and the warning triangle work together to create a sense of being off balance.  And the brightness of the yellow in the last piece offset by the darkness off to the right of it draws my attention too.  And I keep coming back to the same question over and over.  What is this dude’s obsession with dog chew toys?  Does he live near a pound?  There aren’t many answers to be found but, a lot of questions and I like that about the work of Haim Steinbach.

Next is an artist named Jim Gary.  As a child he moved out of his parents home at the age of eleven and started to support himself.  From early on he showed a natural mechanical skill and was able to build himself a bike and when he was old enough to drive a car.  After learning how to weld in the Navy he started to weld sculptures out of old automobile parts.  The most famous of which are his traveling exhibit Jim Gary’s Twentieth Century Dinosaurs.  Created in 1979 in New Jersey this exhibit traveled the world.


No Name 1979   New Jersey


No Name 1979 New Jersey


No Name 1979 New Jersey


No Name 1979 New Jersey


No Name 1979 New Jersey


No Name 1979 New Jersey

The reason that I like all of these pieces is that often art comes across as pretentious and self important.  These dinosaur sculptures made out of old auto parts are just fun.  From the bright colors to the fact that they are dinosaurs they just take me back to when I was a kid and dinosaurs were the most amazing thing that I had ever heard of.  

After doing this assignment I believe that discarded items, otherwise known as junk, can be made into art.  From old cereal boxes to old car parts, when arranged properly can inspire both questions and awe and that is what good art is supposed to do. 


“Haim Stienbach”  Wikipedia.  Web.  15 October 2013.  5 August 2014.

“Haim Steinbach”  Haim Steinbach.  Web.  5 August 2014.

“Jim Gary’s Twentieth Century Dinosaurs”  Web.  5 August 2014

“Jim Gary”  Wikipedia.  Web.  20 June 2014.  5 August 2014


Do the Right Thing


Do the Right Thing is a film written and directed by Spike Lee and released in 1989. I chose this film for a couple of reasons. First, if I am going to watch a movie for an assignment I want to watch a movie that I enjoy. Second and more important, this is a very powerful film on race relations that asks many difficult questions but offers little to no answers on why people are the way that they are. Upon it’s release it received both critical acclaim and commercial success. On a $6 million budget it made over $36 million. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and won 18 other awards. Since then it was recognized as a culturally significant film by the U.S. Library of Congress and has been preserved by the National Film Registry.

The screenplay was written by Spike Lee and is fairly typical subject matter for Spike Lee. The story takes place over twelve hours on the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn and is mainly about race relations but is told primarily through the eyes of the African Americans that live in the area. Most of the action takes place on the street corner. On one side of the corner is Sal’s Famous, the local pizzeria owned by Italian Americans and frequented by the neighborhood African Americans. Across from that is a Korean market. And across from that is a street corner where a few middle-age African American men hang out. This is a really interesting setting because it allows for all of the races to interact in a realistic manner yet they all have their own corners to retreat to to get away from the other races as well.

The setting as well as the clothing, makeup, and hair all aiming for realism. The clothes are t-shirts, shorts, and sneakers. The makeup seems almost nonexistent as everybody spends the entire film covered in sweat. The hair looks like it was done at home in the morning before everybody left their house. It is nothing fancy. The way that the film was shot was pretty straight forward as far as special effects go. The only special effects that were used was at the end when Sal’s Famous was burnt to the ground. It wasn’t even special effects like we think of them today. They just started the place on fire and let it burn. The lighting was all natural lighting as far as I can tell. One of the sounds that was enhanced by a foley artist to maximize the sound was the breaking glass of Sal’s Famous near the end of the movie. The sound had to be heard over the loud protesting of the neighborhood residents. The musical score was composed by Bill Lee. It is a jazzy score with lots of saxophone. However the film revolves around an original song by Public Enemy named Fight the Power. It is a great song that is often featured at the top of all time greatest hip hop songs lists.

This film has a lot of creative transitions between scenes but my favorite one takes place between a scene at the pizzeria and The Story of Left Hand Right Hand scene. It is an overhead shot of a little black girl drawing with chalk on the sidewalk a picture of a home with an attached garage and a car in the driveway. It is a typical dream that many people have but is often seen as out of reach for those that come from the inner city. As the camera pans out a little the main character of the film, Mookie, walks across the drawing while on his way to deliver a pizza. The little girl is dreaming of what she wants out of life while the older man doesn’t have time to dream of a better life because he is too busy trying to live his life. The camera angles are fairly straight forward except when there is tension being shown between two different races such as the scene where Radio Raheem goes to purchase batteries at the Korean Market. He is a strong character that is the aggressor in the scene. When the camera is on him he stands over the counter, aggressively showing his dominance. When the camera is on the Korean store owners the camera towers over them showing their weakness in the situation.

There is a bit of symbolism in the film. The character of the Mayor is the only fatherly figure in the movie. He is a drunk and has no job. He represents the state of the African American male in the ’80’s. Absentee fathers more interested in drugs then being stand up citizens. There is a motherly character named Mother Sister. Her name is symbolic of girls way too young having children themselves, sometimes at the age that their kid would be the age of a sister that they might have. The main piece of symbolism in the movie though is the heat that is symbolic of the racial tensions that exist throughout the film. The more that they talk about the heat the more angry people seem to get about racial issues.

The standout actor in the film for me is Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem. I believe that his character represents what a black person is supposed to be in terms of getting respect. Raheem says few words but, with his quite powerful stare commands respect. When the people are on the street playing in the fire hydrant spray all he has to do is look at them and they block the water so that he can get by. When the Puerto Ricans start giving him hell he just stares at them quietly and lets them look like fools. When it comes time at the end to stand up for what is right he is the only one to help Buggin’ Out and stand up for what he believes in. He is also the catalyst for the end of the film when the cops kill him they are symbolically killing black strength, black hope. And Bill Nunn portrays all of this with a quiet, stoic strength.

Do the Right Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. Every time that I watch it I get a different view on race relations and what Spike Lee was trying to say. Sometimes I identify with the Italian pizzeria owners and feel sad that they lost their business. Other times I side with the neighborhood citizens and feel that their anger and actions are righteous. This time when it ended I was left with the question of what was Mookie’s motivation when he threw the trash can through the window of Sal’s Famous. Was he mad at Sal and taking out his anger on the building or was he trying to redirect the neighborhood’s anger away from hurting Sal himself and focusing that anger on an inanimate object? That is what makes this movie so great. There are just so many questions that this movie raises and the answers that are taken away are left up to the viewer.


“Do the Right Thing”  Wikipedia.  Web.  1 August 2014.  4 August 2014.

The Influence of World War I

War always influences artists.  From music to painting to literature and everything in between it seems that it is almost impossible for the artist to avoid being touched in some way by it.  In this post three paintings by three different artist will be shown in order to show how World War I influenced art in different ways.

First is a painting from a German painter named Conrad Felixmuller. 

Conrad Felixmuller, Soldat im Irrenhaus (Soldier in the Madhouse) 1918

Soldat im Irrenhaus (Soldier in the Madhouse) 1918, Germany

This expressionist painting, shows the dark side of war.  It depicts a man driven mad by the atrocities of war stuck in an asylum.  Notice his hands on the bars showing how badly he wants out of the room that he is in while his jailer watches on.  The red represents the blood of war and also the anger the man feels at being locked in the asylum.  I like this painting because even though it is fairly straight forward there is still some mystery to it.  What is the piece of paper in the man’s hand?  Is he looking back to the guard with sadness in his face because he has been caught with something that he shouldn’t have or is the sadness because he is in the asylum?  The guard’s red face would seem to indicate that he is angry about something.

Next is a painting by a British painter named Flora Lion.

Flora Lion, Women's Canteen at Phoenix Works, 1918

Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, 1918, England

The painting here by Flora Lion was commissioned by the Ministry of Information, a department of the British government that was concerned with propaganda during and immediately after the war, to show the British people that everybody helped win the war.  Even those people that weren’t soldiers on the front line.  Note the two women arm in arm in the center of the painting giving off a sense of comradery.  This particular painting is of the women that worked at an ammunition factory.  I like the blues in the painting.  It seems very propaganda-y.  I believe that they were chosen to give a soothing and calming effect so that even though these delicate women were doing a “man’s job” they were in no danger themselves and everything would be okay for them. 

Lastly is a famous American painting by James Montgomery Flagg.

James Montgomery Flagg, Uncle Sam Wants You,

1917-1918, America

This painting doesn’t have an official title as far as I could find but, it is the famous Uncle Sam recruiting poster that has been used almost nonstop since World War I.  It was originally from the cover of Leslie’s Weekly asking people to be prepared during wartime.  But, it was quickly taken and used by the government in recruiting posters.  During World War I and since then the United States government realized that posters were an affective way of getting your message to people.  If they worked so well to notify people of upcoming events why couldn’t they be used to recruit people to join the military during wartime?   I personally like this painting because as far as a piece of propaganda goes it is actually pretty ingenious.  By creating the character of Uncle Sam the government could convey the feeling of family while asking you to become a trained killing machine.  “Your Uncle Sam wants you to join the military.  Do it for family.” sounds way better than “Join our killing force for some faceless bureaucrat!”.

Whether inspired by war to create like Felixmuller or commissioned like Flagg and Lion, World War I impacted the art that was being created like all wars do.


“British Art and Literature During World War I”  Khan Academy.  n.p.  n.d.  Web.  20 July 2014


“Flora Lion”  Wikipedia.  Web.  26 May, 2014.  20 July 2014


“Uncle Sam Wants You”  Wikipedia.  Web.  n.d.  n.p.  20 July 2014


“James Montgomery Flagg: American Imagist”  National Museum of American Illustration.  Web.  n.p.  2012.  20 July 2014.


“Conrad Felixmuller”  MoMA.  Web.  n.p.  2014.  20 July 2014.


“Soldier in a Madhouse (Soldat im Irrenhaus)”  LACMA.  Web.  n.p.  n.d.  20 July 2014



Impressionism: Great Art or Boring Artists With the Talent of a Third Grader Fooling Everyone

Impressionism was an art form that was popular late nineteenth century and let me tell you, it was pretty awful. Not all of it was absolutely terrible but, for every Claude Monet there seemed to be a dozen Mary Cassatts out there. In fact impressionism should have just been called “jocking Monet’s style” because that is basically what it was.


The painting above is the painting that started the impressionist movement.  It is a Monet entitled Impression, Sunrise (1872 Paris).  When looking at the mix of simplistic brushstrokes and various shades of blue you get a feeling of calm in the morning.  I find the painting to be intriguing and whenever I look at it I find myself focusing on different things.  Sometimes its the waves in the bottom that are just singular brushstrokes.  Sometimes its smoke from the upper left of the painting that when looked at closely looks like scribbling with paint.  But, every time my eyes are drawn to something different and I am amazed that something this simple can convey so much and be so interesting.  And that is what impressionism was supposed to be.  Capturing a scene or an impression with a kind of simplistic painting style that did not try to hide or blend the brush strokes.  I think that this worked for Monet because he tended to focus primarily on scenery. Even when his paintings had people in them the main focus still seemed to be the scenery.  But, for every painting like the one above there are about a million that look like this:


This is a painting by Mary Cassatt titled Lydia Leaning on her Arms (In a Theatre Box) (1879).  It doesn’t look simple or stripped down so that one can focus on the scene that is being depicted.  It looks like a color by numbers fiasco.  The facial features look like they were done by somebody that had never painted before in their life.  That’s how many of the impressionist works look.  And if the paintings weren’t like that then they were of just terrible subject matter.  Such as this:


This is Edgar Degas’ Dancers at the Bar (1888 Paris).  I enjoy the art style itself.  But, the subject is terrible.  Women stretching?  Seriously?  Why not paint them tying their shoes?  It is just as mundane and uninteresting.  And that is what I think drives me away from impressionism the most.  After the Renaissance and classical period where they painted these dramatic depictions of gods and revolutions and ancient mythical tales the next step in the evolution of painting is Reading by Morisot (1873 Paris) which is a depiction of a lady sitting on the grass reading or Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1882 Paris) which looks like it is a painting of a bartender asking you for your drink order?  It’s just so boring.  Look at the next two paintings that I am going to present as an example of this.  The first is:


Oath of the Horatii (1782 France) by Jacques-Louis David.  Look at the subject matter of the painting, a fight between two sets of three brothers to end a war.  Women are fainting.  The babies are being shielded from the battle.  One brother watches as his other brothers are slain only to be inspired by their deaths to make a surprising comeback and defeat the other set of brothers and win the war.  Epic.  Timeless.  Now compare that to this:


This is Plum Brandy (1877 Paris) by Edouard Manet.  This painting is so dull, lifeless, and boring that even the lady in the painting looks bored.  I believe the French call it ennui.  This encapsulates my impression of impressionism.  One man (Monet) with a different idea of how and what to paint and bunch of talentless wannabes that trying to copy him by painting a bunch of boring scenes and failing to varying degrees.

Impression, Sunrise.  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.,_Impression,_soleil_levant.jpg

Lydia Leaning on Her Arms (In a Theatre Box)  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.

Dancers at the Bar.  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.

Oath of the Haratii.  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.

Plum Brandy.  The National Gallery of Art.

Edouard Manet.  Encyclopedia Britannica.

Welcome to Claude Monet’s.

Revolution and Art

In the eighteenth century there were many revolutions that took place around the world.  These revolutions were changing the world.  People were fed up with kings and regimes that gave the people no say in how they were governed.  The first of these occurred in the New World which would eventually be known as the United States of America.  Inspired by this revolution the French would follow suit.  A lesser known and less successful revolution, known as the Batavian Revolution, took place in what is now Holland that saw the end of the Dutch Republic.  The three pieces that have been chosen show scenes from these revolutions.  In fact a lot of the art from this time shows various depictions of these wars.  People often look to what is happening around them for inspiration and when it is war, then depictions of war is what you get.   The first piece is:

The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec December 31, 1775 by John Trumbull (1786)  America


This painting depicts one of the early battles of the Revolutionary War.  The artist, John Trumbull, was a soldier in the war so he witnessed many of the horrors of war firsthand.  The fact that he was a revolutionary shows through in this painting particularly by his depiction of the death of the general at the center of the painting as almost a martyr.  I like how this painting is a callback to ancient mythology where the general is a god or hero of legend that has just died.  The general’s lifeless body is being mourned by the ones holding him up.  I particularly like how the men in the foreground are almost in shock that this great man could be dead.  It looks like they are screaming “NOOOOO!!!”.  This painting captures the horror of war very nicely.  Next is:

Tennis Court Oath by Jacques-Louis David (1791)  France


This drawing by neoclassical painter, Jacques-Louis David, depicts the famous Tennis Court Oath that took place in the opening days of the French Revolution.  Like Trumbull, David was an active participant in the revolution and witnessed firsthand many of the important moments of the revolution.  He drew on these firsthand account during this period to inspire him in his art.  This drawing is also a callback to ancient Rome.  It reminds me of Raphael’s School of Athens where there are all of these people standing in a room the attention is drawn to the middle of the piece to the most important person.  In this case it the man leading the oath while right below him are members of the revolution discussing the balance of church and state in the government that they want to set up.  Looking at this drawing I can’t help but think of the musical, Les Miserables.  It looks like this is a photograph of the musical midsong.  I think what I like most about this piece is the hope and energy that is shown through in the people drawn.  You can tell that they really believe in their cause and that they think that they will win.  The last piece is:

General Daendels Taking Leave of Lieutenant-Colonel Krayenhoff by Adriaan de Lelie (1795)  Amsterdam


This painting depicts Lt. Cl. Krayenhoff on his way to dissolve the Amsterdam Council during the Batavian Revolution.  de Lelie was not an active participant in this revolution but, he was still moved to depict this important moment in the Batavian Revolution.  This is my l east favorite of the three works chosen here because I find it to be the most plain.  It is just a simple scene of a winter day where some soldiers are getting ready to go do their duty.  The art itself is technically good but, so is the artwork that hangs in motel rooms.  There is nothing here that jumps out at me.  I tried to find more history about the painting because I thought that maybe I was missing something but could not find anything that changed my opinion of the work.  This painting is just a depiction of the mundane parts of war that happen before the fighting actually happens.

People can be inspired by anything.  Some artists look to nature.  Some look to the past.  The artists shown here and their works were inspired by the revolutions that were happening around them.  Some were active participants while others watched from afar but, all were affected by the war that they were witnessing.

Yale University Art Gallery.  The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec December 31, 1775

Encyclopedia Britannica.  John Trumbull (American Painter)

Jacques-Louis David, The Complete Works.

Encyclopedia Britannica.  Jacques-Louis David (French Painter).

Rijks Museum.  Adriaan de Lelie.

Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.  Adriaan de Lelie.

The Destiny of Maria de’ Medici by Peter Paul Rubens


     The Destiny of Maria de’ Medici by Peter Paul Rubens is the first in a series of twenty four paintings commissioned by Maria de’ Medici, of the Florence Medici’s, to the painter Peter Paul Rubens.  Rubens was a Flemish painter known for his depictions of movement, color, and full figured women.  Maria de’ Medici was the wife of Henry IV, the former king of France, and mother to Louis XIII, who was heir to the French throne.  There is speculation as to why she commissioned the series of paintings which depict her life from before she was born until after she dies but most people agree that the most important reason is that this was a vanity project to immortalize her life.  There was originally supposed to be a companion series about the life of her late husband, Henry IV, but Rubens passed away before he could do that series.

     This painting and the series that it goes with encapsulate the baroque period perfectly.  There is the connection to ancient Rome but a complete lack of subtlety or restraint in the product.  In this painting the eyes are immediately drawn to the red cloth at the top of the painting as it is the only bold color.  This directs the eyes to Juno and Jupiter, the king and queen of the Roman gods, watching over the three fates as they weave the life of Maria de’ Medici.  The role of the fates in ancient Roman mythology were to spin, measure, and cut the thread of fate that was a person’s life.  In this painting though there is no instrument to cut the thread showing that as a queen, Medici, was immortal and above the laws that governed man.  So, basically the painting is of the king of the gods taking a personal interest in watching and directing the fates in Medici’s life because she is so important.  I am not sure if this was Ruben beating the viewer over the head with the idea that this lady was the greatest or if he was just doing what he was commissioned to do but, it’s not exactly overflowing with restraint. More research shows that many art historians now believe that Juno and Jupiter are to represent Medici and her husband, Henry IV, and that Medici and Henry were the god’s avatars here on Earth.  Wow.  Just…wow. 

     The rest of the paintings in the cycle are like this as well.  There is a scene depicting Medici getting her education from the gods, a scene showing that she was the real brains behind her husband’s reign as king, and a scene showing her ascending the heaven with her son.  All in all this series depicts the lack of restraint that the baroque period was known for.



The Destiny of Maria de’ Medici”  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.  5 June 2014.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Complete Works.  2012-2014.

Peter Paul Rubens.  The National Gallery.







The School of Athens by Raphael



The School of Athens was painted by Raphael over the years 1509-1510 during the Italian Renaissance in Vatican City.  This painting is a great example of how humanism was depicted in paintings in Italy during this time period.  It harkens back to ancient Greece and focuses on the many famous people from there.  Depicted in the painting is Plato, Aristotle, Polotinus, and many other famous Greeks.  The people are what is important in the painting.  The statues, of what I assume are Greek gods or deities of some kind, fade into the background and all that is left to draw the attention are the bright, vibrant colors of the people.  Also, notice that all of the people are doing something with their hands or contorting their bodies in some way to get a better look at something.  Even the person in the middle of the painting, believed to depict Diogenes of Sinope, is stretched into a unique shape while reading.  This is also a link back to humanism in that it allowed Raphael to focus on the anatomical movement of the human body.

I feel that this painting is just Raphael paying tribute to all those that came before him.  These are the minds that shaped the world according to him.  As you get closer to the center of the painting the more important the person according to Raphael until you get to the center of the painting and there stands Plato, who founded the academy that this painting is based on, and Aristotle, Plato’s most famous student.  One interesting part of the painting is that Raphael included himself in this painting of giants.  He is the young man with the brown hat all of the way to the right hand side of the painting.  This shows that Raphael knew that he himself was a great artist but, there were many people that he felt were more important than himself.



“The School of Athens (Raphael)” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 28 May 2014

Raphael’s School of Athens. Vatican Museums.  Vatican Museums Management.

The School of Athens, “Who is Who?” Puzzle.



Hello.  My name is Chad.  I am going to school to get my degree in mechanical engineering.  I listen mainly to punk or mid-80’s to mid-90’s alternative rock.  The picture posted above is the cover art to my favorite album at the moment, Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!.  It is amazing.  I admit, I am a total movie snob.  I have tried to change that about myself since it drives my wife nuts but, it isn’t happening.  I’d rather watch The Tree of Life on repeat than have to sit through anything Michael Bay has to offer once.  I cannot stand live theater.  I’ve tried but it makes me want to drive a rusty railroad spike into my brain after about seven minutes.  The only thing worse than live theater is live musical theater where they sing all of the words and there is no real dialogue.  Oddly, I do enjoy musicals such as My Fair Lady and Singin’ In the Rain though.

I have no real artistic talent.  I am an appreciator.  I travel some and have seen all different kinds of art.  From The Sistine Chapel to Japanese woodblock prints on loan to a museum in San Antonio.  I have been to The Great Wall of China and seen Archie Bunker’s chair in The Smithsonian.  The most impressive thing that I have ever seen though is Michelangelo’s David.  From the actual sculpture itself to the way that it is displayed to the lighting, it moved me like nothing else that I have ever seen.  And the guards yelling at the rude tourists that were taking pictures was pretty hilarious too.  The only real connection that I have to an artist is my cousin.  He’s a professional artist.  You can find some of his drawings here