Identity: Are we Born with it or Do we Create it for Ourselves?

Throughout history, many artists, particularly Nikki S. Lee, have studied, and questioned the idea of identity through their art.  Specifically with Nikki S. Lee, we can use art to question what identity exactly is and what it means, and whether we are born with a certain identity or whether we actually create our own identies.  Many artists, particularly Nikki S. Lee feature this idea in their art, and question whether we portray a certain identity for others, whether we can adopt certain identities for every person, or whether we associate how someone looks with their identity.  With the art project I have created, the idea of identity is featured, and how we associate how someone dresses and looks with what kind of person someone is, and give them an identity.  My art project also features how people portray themselves for others, and how they themselves establish an identity by purposely dressing in a certain way so people perceive them in a certain way.  It is the purpose of this blog, and my art project, to discuss the idea of self identity, how people view one another, how people wish other people to view them, how people can adopt an identity and how art can simulate how people can do all these things with identity.

As stated above, my art project shown has to do with the concept of identity, and how people want to be viewed by others, and how people view others based solely on how they look and dress.  My art project deals with a single man, who in fact is the same person in all three photos, but has three different identities all at the same time, based solely upon the time of day, and who he is with.  The photo to the top left shows a man sitting on the couch, wearing khakis, a bowling shirt, watching TV with a drink in his hand.  This is the identity of a laid back, care free bachelor who just got home from work and is unwinding.  Many people would associate this man as someone who is carefree, unwinding from work, and many people, mainly his coworkers, would never see this identity of this man.  While shooting this photo, I had a Charlie Sheen like idea for this particular identity.  Care free, no worries in the world, just looking to unwind after a busy day.  For many people, this is how they would associate themselves and put as their identity on a day to day basis.  The second photo, it shows another side of this man’s identity.  It shows the work side of his identity, the 9-5, stressed business man or “Yippie” side of his identity.  Many people identify this man as a stressed out business man working with a drink right by his side because his job is so stressful.  Just based on appearance, people would associate this man with being a business man or a man of high stature.  The man pictured may also want people to view him in this light, because he could easily do his work without dressing like this and looking like this.  He may just as well identify himself as this business man, and it is in fact apart of his personality.  The third picture, on the bottom, is the same man but wearing street clothes, like he is going out for the night on a Saturday night.  Same man, but different dress and another identity of his.  Just based solely on this picture, he may get judged as a street person, low end job career person.  Because of the way he is dressed in this photo, people would identify this person as not a business man, even though he is 9-5 Monday through Friday.  The point of all these photos is that it does not matter who the person is, they can adopt and change their identity throughout a day when he or she pleases.  A person may have a main identity, but they also can have multiple other identities, based on what they are doing and who they are with, based solely on what they are wearing. 

Artists such as Nikki S. Lee dives deep into this concept of identity.  Nikki S. Lee does it with her art work, changing her identity multiple times, whether as an African American, a tourist, school girl, or someone from the midwest.  Lee shows that we can adopt different identities as we so please, and that we are really not born with a certain identity, and can change it at any time.  We can adopt different identities with how we dress, how we speak, and how we act, as long as that identity goes with the norm of the certain subgroup.  These artists, and my project show that identity can be created, adopted, and changed, and that people tend to focus more on each others differences rather than each others similarities. 

Fame and Status, Do we View these People as gods?


Throughout class lectures, we have discussed fame, celebrities, what it means to be famous, how people view celebrities and how art can portray celebrities in certain ways.  As discussed in class, fame can be defined in many ways.  The easiest way to define fame, in my opinion, is the level of interest people have about  your life.  So in this sense, technically anyone can be famous.  However, we know that is not the case, and only a few select group of people in this world are considered to be famous in the population, whether because of the money they have, job occupation they hold, or something they have done in their lifetime.  It is the purpose of this blog post to discuss how certain works of art portray fame/celebrities, and how we as a society view and treat celebrities compared to other nonfamous people.

As seen in the photo above, we have a gold porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and his pet monkey Bubbles.  The first thing one must ask is, “who in the hell would make a statue like this for just a regular man?” The answer is a profound no one, and obviously this man must be of great importance to society.  Was Michael Jackson a historical figure, or important religious icon? No, he was simply a pop music star, and brought people great entertainment in his prime.  However, because of the way society views celebrities like Michael Jackson, people believe he deserves to have a statue of this magnitude, one of which makes him look like a god or religious figure.  As discussed in class, we as a society treat celebrities as if they are above us, and are of great importance to the overall well being of society.  Society lets them get away with certain crimes, either fully or with less punishment.  Artists like this have  made several works of art that make celebrities appear to be gods, having them pose in such eliquent poses and making these sculptures out of fine materials such as gold, marble, etc.  In a sense, we as a society put celebrities above us in every level, much like we would with a saint, apostle, president, or historical leader.  Because of this, society’s interest in their lives, and the works of art by many featuring celebrities fame basically  makes these people become immortal, and even after their bodies die, their name and legacy live on forever, while us as ordinary people, die all together after our deaths.   Celebrities legacy, fame, and work live on after their death, while non celebrities do not share the same fate, as their work usually dies with them. 

Religion and Art: Can it be Critical, Neutral, and Affirmative?

Throughout our class lectures, we have discussed religion as a conceptual framework for art, and how art can be used to criticize, reaffirm, and even be neutral toward religion.  Many artists have used their own art work to criticize, question, and even reaffirm religion in their own ways.  Artists such as Chris Ofili in his work “Holy Virgin Mary”, Andres Serrano in “Piss Christ”, and Renee Cox in her work “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” all have united art and religion to express their own feelings about their faith and how we can view religion in a different light.  It is the purpose of this blog post to discuss my art making project, analyze my thoughts behind it, and compare it to other artists that we have discussed in class.

As picured above, my art making project has three photos on the main surface.  The photo to the top left, is a photo a took of the main capstone arch in the main entrance of Holy Cross College.  This photo is meant to be the affirmative photo in my project.  The photo to the top right, is a photo I took of a crucifix with a wire wrapped around it, almost strangling Christ on the cross.  This photo is meant to be the critical photo in my project.  Finally, the photo on the bottom middle is a photo I took of the woods behind my house.  This photo is meant to be the neutral photo in my art making project. 

As stated above, the photo in the top left, the Holy Cross Capstone arch, is meant to be my affirmative photo in this project.  I chose this for a few reasons.  First, the actual Capstone itself, represents a support system that holds two stone arches together.  I believe this reaffirms the Catholic Church in many ways, as it can be considered a support system for many people, and families that may be going through a rough time in their lives.  Many people, during their lives, find their faith, or rediscover their faith during a rough patch in their life, and I believe this photo of the capstone arch at Holy Cross College can signify that support system the church may be for people.  Secondly, to affirm this photo as a positive for religion, I chose the arch because it can be used as a visual sign of Holy Cross College in general.  It is one of the landmarks of Holy Cross College, and this college reaffirms religion in a positive note because it is a Catholic/faith based institution of higher learning.  The photo to the top right, as stated above, is meant to be the critical photo in this project.  The picture shows a crucifix that has a wire wrapped around Christ, pretty much strangling him.  The though process behind this photo, to be critical of religion, is that many people believe that people of faith try to force their faith and beliefs onto others who do not believe in the same thing they do.  This photo represents that by forcing Christ back onto the cross.  My thought process was to ask the question, “how to people force others to do something they do not want to do?” The answer is simple, with whips, chains, and violence.  With this photo, and the structure of it, I believe that it can be seen as critical of religion in that sense, that the wire signifies the whips and change people of faith metaphorically use in today’s society to force their beliefs and opinions onto others.  Finally, as stated above once again,  the photo to the bottom middle is meant to be the neutral photo for religion in my project.  The photo is a picture I took of the woods behind my back yard with the top of my back yard fence at the bottom.  My thought process behind this, to be neutral toward religion, was to show both faith in heaven, but death as well.  The woods behind my house is mainly dead because of the winter season coming to South Bend, with most of the trees having already fallen off.  However, the top of my white fence can signify the gates of heaven, giving people hope after death, and for the belief of an afterlife. That was my thought process, and why I believe this photo can be viewed as neutral in regards to religion, because it shows both death, and the belief of an after life. 

Race and Art: Are We Finally in a Post Racial Society?

Both Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker orchestrate the concept of racism, power, and centuries of racist thought into their works of art. Both Wiley and Walker illustrate the shifting notion of “power” when seen in a historical perspective of race in many ways, but mainly by incorporating images of African Americans into works of art that originally featured caucasion figures. Specifically in the case of Kara Walker, she uses her art to illustrate horrific images of what appears to be African Americans, based on historical body structure, and encounters of slavery, racism, and civil war images. It is the purpose of this blog post to discuss Wiley’s and Walker’s works of art, and how they illustrate the notion of a shifting of power when seen in a historical perspective, and how they relate to race relation in the twentieth and twenty first centuries and whether or not we are finally in a post racial society.

As stated above, both Walker and Wiley use their art work to illustrate a shifting of power of races in terms of a historical perspective, and incorporate these racist thoughts, that have existed for centuries, into their art work and make the audience think of these concepts. In terms of Kehinde Wiley, he simple replaces the image of a powerful white male in historically popular paintings with an image of an every day, African American male that he found on the street, wearing just his street clothes. This is significant for many reasons. First, it makes us question as an audience how we view people just solely on their clothing. Like previously stated, Wiley would replace historically powerful white men in his painting with every day African American’s wearing their street clothes, and they are in the same poses. This makes us an audience question how we view people just based soley on their clothing, the assumptions that we make about them. Assumptions such as: are they just thugs, are they poor, do they make enough money to have a well paying job, etc. Basically, because of Wiley’s work of art, it is proven that as a society, we do not have a post racial attitude, that we have not advanced as far as we may think we have from racism, and that assumptions about African Americans still do exist. Second, in terms of Wiley’s art work, it gives the power back to African Americans to be in art that was taken from them for centuries. When you look at famous art work over the past few centuries what do you see? The answer is simple, you see historically powerful white males in these prestigious poses, and Wiley’s art work gives African Americans this power to be in prestigious art work.

Finally, in terms of Kara Walker, her works of art can be seen as cruel, but paint a very true picture of how society was during slavery, the civil war period, and makes the audience really think about this disgusting period of United States history reall was. Like Wiley, Walker sometimes replaces historically popular images, usually Civil War works of art, with African American looking images, giving African Americans the power of art back. Walker’s works of art are meant to mimic the horrible piece of U.S. history of slavery. In her works of art, Walker uses physiogamy to show racism, and usually paints a grueling image. Because of these images, Walker wants us to feel the racism she is presenting, and makes us assume we know what we are seeing. Basically, through her paintings, Walker is trying to get someone to actually say what everyone is thinking, but no one wants to admit they are thinking. Again, because of Walker’s paintings, just like Wiley’s paintings, we can see that as a society we are not in a post racial period. Racism still exists, maybe not as severe as it once was, because of the assumptions that the audience makes from these paintings. Both Walker and Wiley’s art work make this blatantly clear.


A Way of Life, Even a Religion


The concept of readymade and assisted readymade art can be a difficult concept for many to wrap their minds around.  Is it actually art, or is just someone putting their name on a piece of junk and calling it art?According to Marcel Duchamp, a work of art is not performed by an artist alone, but by the audience viewing it as well, by the definition they give the creative art work.  Basically, according to Duchamp, anything can be made into art, as long as the audience viewing it can ultimately come up with an underlying conclusion and definition to the piece.  It is the purpose of this blog post to define exactly what a readymade and assisted readymade art work is, and to give insight on my readymade project.

A readymade work of art is the practice of taking atleast one already manufactured object, slightly altering it giving it its own theoretical meaning that the audience can come up with on its own. The work of art should be unique in nature, but can easily be reproduced by another artist. Readymades, according to Duchamp, should either be junk, easily reproducible, “meaningless”, and have more to do with concepts and ideas, not manual craftsmanship.  This assignment constitutes that we as students create are own readymade work of art, and explain how it illustrates Duchamp’s ideas about readymades and his theories.

At first glance, my readymade is just a slightly flat football, which I found in my garage at home, which I printed the the word “religion” on one of the seams. Many would consider this football useless, because it is slightly flat, and is unable to hold air because of many tiny holes in the actual football itself.  However, like Duchamp said, art is not only made my the artist, but by the audience that is viewing it, by the defintions and meanings in which they give it.  My readymade has nothing to do with manual craftsmanship, but the idea and meaning in which I have behind it.  The idea in which I am hoping my audience ultimately concludes to is that in many parts of the United States, football is seen as a way of life, even a religion.  Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, not only Notre Dame football, but football in general has been a way of life for me, I could even consider it a religion.  This is not the case just in South Bend, but also in Texas, California, southeast United States, and multiple other regions in the United States consider football as a way of life.  Just as the football is slightly deflated, so are certain cities and regions in the United States, if the football team they follow religiously is not having the season they had hoped for. Football in the United States can unite, or deflate a city or community, just look at the New Orlean Saints after Hurricane Katrina. If the hometown team which everyone is rooting for is haviing a great season, the community’s spirits are up, and the local economy is also up.  Growing up following Notre Dame football, I sadly have had to face the severe disappointment of losing seasons, all when I have expected great, winning seasons. The slightly deflated football represents a community that had expected a great season from their hometown team, all to be disappointed by a losing season.  Their spirts are slightly deflated, just like the football itself, and the football can still be used if the person really wanted too, just like the person still chooses to support his or her team even though they are having a disappointing season.

Get to Know Me: Ted Pajakowski and my Visual Literacy Class

Hello everyone, my name is Ted Pajakowski, and I am currently a senior at Holy Cross College in South Bend, Indiana, literally right across the street from the University of Notre Dame.  This is my first year at Holy Cross College, as I was previously at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and went to nearby South Bend Saint Joseph High School.  I’ve been a diehard Notre Dame football, Chicago Bears, and Chicago Cubs fan my entire life,and nothing will change that.  Currently, I am studying Business at Holy Cross College, with minors in both Sports Management and Sociology.  I have worked at the University of Notre Dame, Butler University, the South Bend Silverhawks, and currently coach high school football at my alma mater South Bend Saint Joseph. 

Visual Literacy means a couple things to me.  First, when I think about visual literacy, I think of the practice of observing works of art, whether they are photos, films, paintings, etc and trying to put into words what the artist is trying to get across to his audience.  To me, most works of art can have multiple meanings and can say many different things, however, some works of arts can only have one specific meaning.  To me, visual literacy tries to figure out what these works of art are trying to say, and then put these meanings into actual words. 

I registered for this class for a couple of reasons.  First, obviously for the art credit, but also because this class sounded the most interesting, and I was interested in expanding my limited knowledge on this topic.  I heard many great things about this course, and how if you decide to enroll in this couse you will learn a great deal about art in general, and visual literacy.  My experience in observing art is very limited, if any at all.  Obviously, by taking this course, I expect my experience and knowlege of observing art and for my visual literacy skills to expand.  Finally, I am a bit nervous about blogging, because I have never really blogged before in an open forum like this.  However, I am excited about this opportunity, to learn more about art in general, visual literacy, to discuss my ideas and thoughts with others, and to learn from not only my classmates, but from others all across the world.