Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gruesome and Controversial Art

While we find art work that is easy on the eyes with pleasant subject matter to be mesmerizing and awe inspiring the same can be said for art work that depicts violence and gore. Beauty inspires artists but mankind has seen its share of horrible things such as war, famine, sickness or plagues, rape, death, natural disasters, and other atrocities. Francisco Goya and Frida Kahlo were painters that created art about pain and suffering. Goya created a series of 14 works known as the Black Paintings later in life (1819-1823) that show his view on humanity and his fear of going insane. The paintings were extremely dark with intensely haunting themes. One of the most famous paintings in the series is titled Saturn Devouring His Son and was painted on one of the walls in his home. It is about the myth of the God Saturn who was afraid that he would be overthrown by his children like he had done to his father and would devour them when they were born. According to the myth Saturn's wife hid their sixth son, Jupiter, by tricking Saturn with a stone in a swaddling cloth. The prophecy comes true and Jupiter ends up surpassing Saturn. The painting itself is disturbing and difficult to look at showing the body of the son partially eaten in his father Saturn's clutches who looks more like a monsterous creature rather than a God. The painting was transfered to canvas after Goya's death and is on display in Madrid, Spain.

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who had a very difficult life which translated into her paintings. She is very well known for her self-portraits, her rocky marriage to Diego Rivera, and her lifelong physical problems. When she was six years old she had polio and also spina bifida. She was in a very bad accident while she was a teenager when her bus collided with a trolley on September 17, 1925. Frida suffered severe injuries such as several broken bones, a crushed foot, and she was practically impaled by a handrail that went through her midsection and hit her uterus which impacted her ability to have children. As a result she had extreme pain and was bedridden for months at a time for the rest of her life. She mostly painted self-portraits of herself usually in some sort of pain she explained why by saying "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." One painting that stands out the most to me is titled A Few Small Nips painted in 1935 which shows a bloody murder scene where a man is standing over a naked woman covered in stab wounds on a bed. Kahlo reportedly was inspired to create this painting when she read a story about a murder in which the killer described his brutal stabbing of his victim as simply a "few small nips." Art that shows images of violence is disturbing, sad, and difficult to look at but stays with you because unfortunately as a society we see images of violence everyday in the media and in everyday life.

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