The last week has had a theme of exploration of classical culture and medieval history. I’ve been listening to podcasts and researching the history of the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Charlemagne and the impact Alcuin had on elevating education in the world. I am not sure why this is landing in my brain right now but it seems to be showing up.
Just a couple of days ago I heard from a former student who was seeking a letter of recommendation to work on the Agora archaeological site in Athens Greece. Next as I was working on my image catalog I came across this image I had photographed of a water fountain at a B&B Sarah and I stayed out while on a trip to Rainier National Park.
I think the term Classical weighs heavily on society right now. Is a study of classical culture an endorsement for it? How do we sift and choose what to bring forward and what to leave behind. I don’t think we really can. I think we get to examine culture in it’s entirety and through that difficult process discover what it means to be human.
As an artist I can’t help but be drawn to beautiful artworks. But I also cannot help be be aware of the immense power at play in the process of creating and acquiring these artworks. Classical culture represents both high aspiration as well as baser emotions that drive people to harness power through domination of others. War and conquest still play out in today’s world just as it has in the past.
In this water fountain sculpture grace, strength, and beauty are highlighted in what can only described as the menial task of hauling water or wine jugs in ancient times. It would be easy to get lost down a path of trying to interpret the context of this representational image. Gender, culture, and politics can come into play when trying to interpret and image such as this. Just in the past two days I have read and listened to conversations of intense polemical debate about feminism and social justice. The war in Gaza seems to be another chapter in a recurring historical drama. What will future generations looking back 500 years at this moment in history think of us?
These things make me uncomfortably aware of my privileged life. Being married to a PhD Anthropologist has educated me on many aspects the evolution of culture. I am grateful for this.
I can stare at this image with heightened awareness while also just letting the words go silent and simply appreciate a beautiful moment in a garden that I am able to relive through the power of a photograph.
Can art transcend culture? Can beauty elevate beyond the struggle? For just a brief moment each day I hope so.