There’s a new special exhibit at the Barnes Foundation! Open until late January 2019, the exhibit is called Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist and offers a fascinating look at the life and work of one of the only successful woman impressionists of the 19th century.
The exhibit features a number of written panels that are super helpful for understanding the historical context of Morisot’s work, as well as all the cool (and revolutionary!) painting techniques she used.
Morisot was a impressionist, which means that her painting style was slightly more “abstract”. The works feature obvious brushstrokes and lose interpretations of figures than her realist counterparts.
In the exhibit, her work his separated into rooms with broad themes. Some rooms feature paintings that were left purposefully “unfinished”, while others feature primarily paintings of parks and other outdoor spaces. Many paintings feature women going about everyday life in the late nineteenth century, including many portraits of women in their rooms or getting ready for the day.
What I found most interesting about the exhibit was the feminist lens through which the work could be viewed. The vast majority of the paintings were of women or young girls, and the exhibit features many quotes and anecdotes from Morisot about what it was like to be a woman artist during the time period. Leaving the exhibit, I felt empowered and inspired by all she had accomplished and created.
While the exhibit is very informative, and her space in art history important, the exhibit is also worth visiting merely because of how beautiful the paintings are. Even her “unfinished” paintings are striking, and all her work features wonderful colors and intriguing subjects (and they would also make really pretty Instagram posts!)
Another super exciting thing happening at the Barnes is their art classes! Some exciting classes include “She Persisted: Pioneering Women Artists Since 1900” and “Spirituals, Integration, and Social Justice: Black American Culture and Albert Barnes”. More information can be found on the Barnes Foundation website, and students can apply for full scholarships for classes athttps://barnesfoundation.wufoo.com/forms/barnesde-mazia-scholarship-application/. Make sure to mention you are a STAMP pass holder in your application! Applications are due by January 6th for Spring classes.
There are plenty of STAMP museums to visit, but sometimes you want to try something new. Here are some other museums and cultural sites in Philadelphia that you can visit for free.
Asian Arts Initiative
Located just north of Chinatown, AAI has been around for over twenty-five years serving the Philadelphia Asian American community. They host different events and youth workshops, but also have a free gallery space open to the public. Their exhibits often focus on identity and also feature multimedia. Open until December 15, 2018 is their exhibit on the relationship between Asian Americans and labor, Working Conditions.
Science History Institute
The Science History Institute is just blocks from the National Constitution Center in Old City. The Science History Institute has an extensive research library and oral history; however, the highlight of their location is their free museum. The museum features the history of chemistry and how chemistry impacts your daily life.
The Library Company
Right next to the Pennsylvania History Society, The Library Company is less than a block from Broad Street. The Library Company has been around since 1731 and now houses many rare books and collections. Their current exhibit is focused on the relationship between Philadelphia, furniture, and books.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko House
Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish general, who served during the American Revolution stayed in Philadelphia recovering from injuries after leading an unsuccessful rebellion against Russian forces in Poland. The small house only open during the summer provides historical information and a replica of his room.
Free Library of Philadelphia
You can always check out books at the Free Library, but at the main location at Parkway Central you can also check out the Rare Books Department. The Rare Books Department usually has their own books on display. They also have special exhibits like one right now about the changing landscapes of Philadelphia.
In early November of this year we had a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Through our guided tour we encountered multiple pieces that I enjoyed but one really stuck with me throughout the entire day. That piece being by Jasper Johns.
What is our obsession with perfection? It burdens us in an ironic way. We believe that if everything in our little world is perfect then we will be happy, but the pain and process that it takes to get to “perfect” is what makes us unhappy. No one captures this irony better than Jasper Johns with his use of colors and shapes in his piece “According to What.” Jasper Johns is an artist who pulled away from Abstract Expressionism and onto emphasizing what cannot be refuted. He would then go on to pave the road for Pop Art and Minimalism. After coming to Philadelphia and seeing Marcel Duchamp’s painting with his readymades, Johns was astounded and inspired. His 1964 piece titled “According to What” contained just that. From the chair with the leg mold to the stencil to the coat hanger clasping onto a spoon. Johns’ piece reinforced his belief that “we all experience the world in fragments.” Although I believe he’s correct, I also think that his piece is saying something that he doesn’t mention. With his elaborate use of artist techniques inspired by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.
My interpretation of Johns’ artwork is that he plays on people’s ideas of what perfectection truly is. It is a way of life that people have been striving towards for an unknown amount of time. It’s almost as if we, and I’m saying we because I’ve fallen into the clutches of wanting to be perfect as well, feel that mistakes are what we need to avoid because if we make any, then our ideal vision of perfect is tainted.
In the piece you can see the contemplation in Johns’ mind with the boxes he painted to the far right. There is a mixture of straight boxes without faults and ones with messier lines. To the opposite side are letters that spell out the words “red” “yellow” and “blue”. You can see the progression of fatigue as the letters become more mangled towards the bottom, as if to say “I’m tired of trying to be perfect.” In the middle of the two sides of chaos is a calm column of circles. The color of the first and third make up the color that comes second. The circles follow this pattern all the way down to the last one where the stencil for the circles have been left on intentionally. This whole piece is the battle between mind and body. The mind says “You have to be perfect, spotless, and meticulous,” while the body fights back with the little inconsistencies that aren’t noticeable to the eye at first glance. Johns unapologetically plays with people’s fear of flawless. He shows it in his technique when these “flaws” are found, it leads to introspection and self reflection.
The name “According to What” is a culmination of this journey. According to what are we placing our ideals of perfect? It’s possible Johns doesn’t mention any of this in his explanation of his piece because he wants people to see it and think deeper into why we put so much pressure onto ourselves to reach this untouched standard. It’s okay to not be perfect because as the artwork proves, you can make mistakes and still have an impact.
Jasmine Brooks is a senior at Freire Charter High School and the Multimedia Intern at STAMP. She’s always found art, of any kind, to be cathartic.
Since 2002, the Philadelphia Zine Fest has been bringing together independent publishers and zine readers once a year. On November 11, the Zine Fest took place in a smushed auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania Rotunda. The Zine Fest is about being a safe space for creative people all around. Some vendors even sell non-zine items like prints or t-shirts.
I went because I have always had a long interest in zines. Zines come from a long history of feminist and underground publications. Some of the best zines come from the Riot Grrl era, a feminist punk scene in Washington during the 1990s. They are often used to spread information about niche topics like reproductive health and decolonization. Zines can be radical like anarchist publications or person’s own memoir. Zines give an option to people who can not traditionally publish via large magazines a place for them to have content and artistic control for their own publication. Some people would anybody can do this on the internet now, but zines still have a large physical following.
When I look for zines, I always either look for content heavy or illustration heavy ones. I am not a huge fan of the balanced one or the ones that look like comics. The illustration heavy ones are typically done with a lot of care by a talented illustrator, while the content heavy ones provide a great deal of information after plenty of research. The illustration/art zines are my favorite to flip through for design inspiration– kind of like a physical Pinterest board.
Besides just what’s inside the zine, printing matters. A traditional zine used to be hand drawn with things cut and paste, then the zine would be copied en masse on a copier. Nowadays, zines can also be found as PDFs online. These traditional zines could be found at the Philly Zine Fair, but there were also higher quality printed ones. The ones printed on heavier paper with a different material for a cover can be expensive though.
So now, maybe you are interested in trying your hand in making a zine. You can give these to your friends, family, or just keep them for yourself. The simplest form at a zine can be found here. You just need to make a couple cuts to the paper then illustrate or collage it yourself about whatever theme. You could also open up a PowerPoint or Google Presentation and set the slide size to a smaller size. Then do some digital editing, print it out, and voila you have your own zine.