Sunday, December 2, 2012

Look Over: Diversity Exhibition, guest post

During the last week of Modern Art, we spent time discussing diverse perspectives, partially as a reflection of the ways in which modern art migrated away from standards and norms of the academic tradition, and secondly as a means of understanding how art becomes post-modern. Each student worked with an object or objects from the exhibition that will be on view in the Cochenour Gallery through January 2013 entitled "Look Over: Diversity within and beyond the GC Collection." 

The students presented their findings and a paper was selected by the students to appear on the department blog. Daniel Cantu's paper about the Native American perspective and the College's paiting by "A Thomas," shown below. In his discussion, Cantu made connections between that painting, presumably made in the late 19th or early 20th century, and Steve McCurry's Afghan woman. His paper/reflection is inserted below, in italics.

“Those who have privileges inevitably hold on to them, and hold on tight, no matter how marginal the advantage involved, until compelled to bow to superior power of one sort or another.” – Linda Nochlin, 1971

After much thought over the meaning of this quote and what it represents, along with the painting of a Native American by A. Thomas, I came to many conclusions that seemed to fall apart. But one particular answer stuck with me, and it dealt with the biggest privilege, pride.
We as Americans are a prideful nation. We enjoy making the best things, improving the lives of everyone, and assuming the role as a judge, making sure everyone else follows the rules and gets along. America earned the right to be proud of itself, especially since how far we have come from after we gained independence from Britain, the former world power. As for our privileges, we are entitled to anything.
But once we gain everything we eventually lose sight of the things that once made us stronger. Before America, the was the Pilgrims. Without the aid of the foreign Natives, the Pilgrims would not have survived and America would probably not have been created. But as our nation developed and eventually surpassed the needs of the Natives, we lost sight of our neighboring allies. Only when pride is traded for humility, the artist A. Thomas is able to set aside his biased views and paint an individual who understands what privileges really mean.
A Thomas, c. 1850+, Georgetown College Collection
The painting of the Native American was created around the early 20th century. Today, our pride is still ever persistent. On the occasion an artist is able to capture the beauty of a foreigner that our pride often overlooks. The Middle East is often regarded negatively, especially with the rumors that float around their culture. But once we embarking to an Afghan nation and photograph its people, it is only then do we realize how privileged we are to be able to be accepted into a foreign country, despite our pride.
In 1985, a National Geographic photographer was able to capture the raw beauty of a young Afghan girl’s eyes. Only 17 years later would the photographer have been able to take another picture of the same girl, who was now much older and stricken with the harsh life of an Afghani. The remarkable privilege of being able to retake the picture was amazing, women in her country did not understand how influential photography was, and neither did she.

Steve McCurry, Afghan Girl
(left from the cover of National Geographic; right, same girl, photographed later)
Our greatest privilege as a nation is to be able to humbly backtrack ourselves and cooperate with other nations and peoples. We may be on the top of the world in terms of power and influence, but without the “little guys” we would not have made it this far. It is in good hope that we can respect all types of nations, friend or foe, so that we many continue to remain a privileged nation. -- Daniel Cantu II 

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