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Getty Art + Ideas
54 minutes | Jul 21, 2021
New Narratives by LA Photographers of All Ages
“Photography, historically, has been used to pin people of color in a particular location to a particular identity or stereotype, and the artists in this exhibition work to unpin that.” Photography is a uniquely accessible and flexible medium today, encompassing everything from cell-phone snapshots to large-format negatives, from formal studio sets to casual selfies. Nonetheless, photographs of people of color have historically played on negative stereotypes and fixed identities. In the exhibition Photo Flux: Unshuttering LA, 35 Los Angeles–based artists—primarily artists of color—shake up the field, highlighting their personal narratives, aesthetics, and identities. Curated by jill moniz, the exhibition also includes works by young artists who participated in the Getty Unshuttered program. Getty Unshuttered is an educational photo-sharing platform that teaches photography fundamentals, builds community, and encourages high school students to use the medium as a tool for self-expression and social change. It also offers resources for teachers. In this episode, guest curator jill moniz discusses the ideas behind the exhibition Photo Flux and looks closely at some of its key works. Getty head of education Keishia Gu then delves into the three-year-old Getty Unshuttered program. Photo Flux: Unshuttering LA is on view at the Getty Center through October 10, 2021. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-new-narratives-by-la-photographers-of-all-ages/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To explore the exhibition, visit https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/photo_flux/ To learn about Unshuttered, visit https://www.unshuttered.org/ To learn about Bokeh Focus, visit https://bokehfocus.org/ To learn about Amplifier, visit https://community.amplifier.org/campaign/in-pursuit-of/
34 minutes | Jul 7, 2021
A Walk in Robert Irwin’s Getty Garden
“He often said is that this was a garden not for the visitors. He was happy if visitors enjoyed it; it was a garden for the people who worked here, who every single day, would see the slight changes and would have a seasonal experience.” The largest work of art at the Getty Center is located outside the galleries—the Central Garden, designed by artist Robert Irwin. The garden stretched Irwin’s understanding of what art could be; it is alive and changing with every passing moment. In the nearly 25 years since the garden opened in 1997, Getty’s gardeners and horticulturalists have worked tirelessly to execute Irwin’s original vision. This involves constantly evaluating the health of plants, whether the breeds are well suited to their locations, which plants have reached the end of their life, and how to manicure large plants to maintain a sense of openness. First in this episode, Lawrence Weschler discusses artist Robert Irwin’s approach to art and the Central Garden. Weschler is the author of Getty Publications’ Robert Irwin Getty Garden, a series of conversations between the author and the artist. Next, Getty head of grounds and gardens Brian Houck and horticulturalist Jackie Flor walk through the garden, explaining the wide array of plantings and sculptural features as well as how the caretakers enact Irwin’s vision. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-a-walk-in-robert-irwins-getty-garden/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the book, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/robert-irwin-getty-garden-revised-edition-978-1606066560.
40 minutes | Jun 23, 2021
William Blake’s Eccentric Arts
“For Blake, visionary art is not mysterious or fuzzy or soft. Visionary art is something which actually very precise and crisp.” Painter, poet, draftsman, and printmaker William Blake was born in London in 1757, a time when England’s art scene was growing and transforming dramatically. Blake trained as an engraver, eventually developing his own technique that allowed him to combine word and image in colorful works. Blake used this approach to illustrate poems he composed and began to publish limited editions of books on his own, without the assistance of publishing houses. While Blake enjoyed a small number of followers and patrons during his lifetime, he also had a reputation as an eccentric who experienced visions and was not always easy to understand or get along with. His early biographers, some of whom knew him personally, emphasized this aspect of Blake’s personality, creating a narrative of Blake as a mystic and dreamer that persists to this day. In this episode, British art historian Martin Myrone, Convenor of the British Art Network at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and former senior curator of Pre-1800 British art at Tate Britain, discusses Blake’s work and reputation during and after his lifetime. Myrone wrote the introduction to Lives of William Blake, a book of early accounts of Blake’s life from Getty Publications. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-william-blakes-eccentric-arts/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the book, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/lives-of-william-blake-978-1606066614.
50 minutes | Jun 9, 2021
Photographer Dorothea Lange’s California, Then and Now
“It was really powerful to be on the road following her footsteps. It just gave me an incredibly profound respect for her grit.” In the 1930s and ‘40s, photographer Dorothea Lange drove up and down California and across the American West, recording people and their living conditions with her camera and notepad. Eighty years later, poet Tess Taylor saw echoes of Lange’s photographs of temporary housing, migrant labor, and precarious livelihoods in contemporary California. Taylor retraced Lange’s steps, following itineraries from her notebooks. Taylor’s book-length poem Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange explores Lange’s legacy in California, combining her notes and photographs with Taylor’s lyric poetry and oral histories. The result is a poignant exploration of the social and environmental challenges facing California today. In this episode, Tess Taylor and Getty photographs curator Mazie Harris discuss Dorothea Lange’s career, iconic images, and continuing impact. Taylor also reads excerpts from Last West. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-photographer-dorothea-langes-california-then-and-now/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the book, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/last-west-roadsongs-for-dorthea-lange. To learn more about Tess Taylor, visit https://www.tess-taylor.com/bio.
42 minutes | May 26, 2021
Art and Writing in Early Mesopotamian Cities
“From what we know, the earliest form of true writing was that invented in Mesopotamia in the late fourth millennium BC. Closely followed by Egypt, not long after. It’s probably only a matter of a couple of hundred years, if that. But Mesopotamia seems to have it by a nose.” Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was home to some of the world’s first cities. Beginning around 3400 BC, people came together in this region to build elaborately decorated buildings, form complex trade relationships, create great works of art and literature, and develop new scientific knowledge. Central to these many advancements was written language, which emerged earlier in Mesopotamia than anywhere else in the world. An exhibition at the Getty Villa, composed largely of objects on loan from the Louvre, explores the history of these first urban societies through their art and writings. In this episode, Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the Getty Museum and curator of the Villa exhibition Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins, discusses the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-art-and-writing-in-early-mesopotamian-cities/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To explore the exhibition, visit https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/mesopotamia/index.html. To buy the book, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/mesopotamia-civilization-begins-978-1606066492.
43 minutes | May 12, 2021
Rescuing Art by Women in Florence
“They were rather shocked that we were interested specifically in restoring art by women. And I remember one specific curator said, ‘Well, if you would just open your base to men as well, we would have a lot of worthy things for you to restore.'” Where are the women artists in museums? The non-profit organization Advancing Women Artists was inspired by this simple, powerful question. Though artists like Artemisia Gentileschi and Plautilla Nelli were prolific and successful in their lifetimes, their works often languished in storage or were left in states of disrepair in Florence’s museums. Yet when Linda Falcone, director of Advancing Women Artists (AWA), began approaching these museums around 2008 looking for art by women to restore and conserve, many told her they would have some incredible candidates if only she would open up her criteria to include art by men. However, AWA maintained its exclusive focus on women, and in the years since, the importance of showcasing and preserving art by women has become widely understood in Florence and around the world. In this episode, Linda Falcone discusses the history of AWA and shares the stories of some of the groundbreaking women who worked from the 17th to the 20th centuries and whose art can be found in Florentine collections today. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-rescuing-art-by-women-in-florence/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To learn more about Advancing Women Artists visit http://advancingwomenartists.org/.
38 minutes | Apr 28, 2021
The Legacy of European Art and Curiosity Cabinets
“Schlosser could be described as the least-known famous art historian.” In the 16th and 17th centuries, Central European nobles gathered and displayed art and natural wonders side by side in spaces known as art and curiosity cabinets, or kunst- und Wunderkammer. Viewers were awed by the spectacle of traditional fine artworks alongside objects like ostrich eggs in elaborate stands, complex mechanical clocks, suits of armor, and calligraphic manuscripts. In 1908 Austrian curator and scholar Julius von Schlosser wrote a treatise on this late-Renaissance collecting and display practice, theorizing that it was a critical precursor to the modern museum. Titled Die Kunst- und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaissance (Art and Curiosity Cabinets of the Late Renaissance), Schlosser’s German text was central to the emerging field of art history and, later, to the beginning of museum studies. Despite the impact of Schlosser’s book, it has only recently been translated into English. In this episode, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann discusses the history of art history, the importance of late-Renaissance art and curiosity cabinets, and Schlosser’s contributions to the fields of art history and museology. Kaufmann is Frederick Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and author of the introduction to Art and Curiosity Cabinets of the Late Renaissance: A Contribution to the History of Collecting, the English translation of Schlosser’s 1908 text published by Getty Publications. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-the-legacy-of-european-art-and-curiosity-cabinets/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the book visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/art-and-curiosity-cabinets-of-the-late-renaissance-a-contribution-to-the-history-of-collecting-978-1606066652.
47 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
The Buddha’s First Sermon in Sarnath
“There is, and appropriately so, a tension between Sarnath as an archaeological monument, a historical monument, but also a highly sacred one.” After reaching enlightenment, the Buddha began attracting followers—and founding a religion—by preaching. He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath, near the banks of the Ganges in Northeast India, in the 6th century BCE. By the 3rd century BCE, it had become a site of considerable importance; the emperor Ashoka visited and erected a gleaming pillar, officially declaring it the site of the Buddha’s sermon while also referencing the flourishing monastic community. For thousands of years Sarnath has attracted monks, artists, archaeologists, and tourists from across the globe. Today, it ranks among the most prominent and most visited sites for Buddhists. Its ancient religious structures, including stupas, or reliquary mounds, and pieces of Ashoka’s pillar, can be visited in an archaeological park that is a candidate for World Heritage status. In this episode, Fredrick Asher, professor emeritus of art history at the University of Minnesota, discusses the long history and significance of Sarnath, the site’s relationship to its local populations, and ideas for the future of the excavated area. Asher is the author of Sarnath: A Critical History of the Place Where Buddhism Began, recently released by Getty Publications. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-the-buddhas-first-sermon-in-sarnath/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the book visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/sarnath-a-critical-history-of-the-place-where-buddhism-began-978-1606066164.
35 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
Reading Ancient Scrolls with Modern Technology
“The idea is that you put the scroll in the machine and it does a pirouette. And as it turns around, the x-rays see what’s inside the scroll from every possible angle, 360 degrees, all the way around. And we can invert that and recover a complete representation of what’s inside, in three dimensions.” In 1750 well diggers discovered a villa near the ancient town of Herculaneum that had been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Among the treasures pulled from the villa were more than 1,000 papyrus scrolls that had been turned to carbon by the volcano. Over the centuries since their discovery, many have tried to open and read these papyri in the hopes of discovering great lost works of antiquity, but they damaged these scrolls in the process. However, with modern imaging technology and artificial intelligence, it may now be possible to read these papyri without ever opening them. In this episode, computer scientist Brent Seales and Getty antiquities curator Ken Lapatin discuss the history of these scrolls, past approaches to opening them, and the exciting opportunities presented by “virtual unwrapping.” For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-reading-ancient-scrolls-with-modern-technology/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the related book visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/buried-by-vesuvius-br-the-villa-dei-papiri-at-herculaneum-978-1606065921 To learn about the related exhibition visit https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/villa_papiri/
4 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Reflections: Maite Alvarez on Luisa Roldán
We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives. This week, Maite Alvarez, who works on exhibitions at the museum, recalls how she discovered a Baroque sculpture’s true maker—Luisa Roldán. To learn more about this sculpture, visit: www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/1101/. Transcript JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. This week Maite Alvarez discusses a painted wooden sculpture by Luisa Roldán.MAITE ALVAREZ: I’m Maite Alvarez, an art historian who works on exhibitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum.I have always loved exploring the past. For me, there is nothing more fantastic than touching our cultural DNA, holding a 500-year-old art object, artifact, even a letter. Historians, like explorers, are driven by the idea of discovery, finding that thing that has been hidden away for hundreds of years.The most exciting thing I ever uncovered happened early in my career, my very first discovery. I had just graduated from college and got my first real adult job—right here at the Getty. The Museum had several new objects that required further research, and my mentors invited me to work on one of them: an almost life-sized polychrome wood sculpture of a male monk, who looks as if he is stepping forward, mouth slightly open and right hand outstretched as if he’s going to speak. Complete with glass eyes, the figure displays a kind of heightened realism typical of religious imagery made for Catholic churches globally in the late 1600s.There was a lot we didn’t know about the work. If not for an inscription-S. GINES DE LAXARA-repeated along the sleeve and hem of the figure’s vestment, we would have had little idea who the figure was supposed to be. Another inscription could be found on the base, sixteen ninty-something, the year the object was made. The identity of the artist was unknown but the sculpture provided one tantalizing clue: along the base, traces of a 300-year-old signature.Unfortunately, time had worn off some of the letters. Over time, historians, curators, and dealers would play a sort of scholarly hangman, the childhood game where players have to guess the word or words by guessing the missing letters. So looking at the partially legible signature on the base, the artist was assumed to be José Caro. The guess made sense; Caro was active in the 1690s in Murcia, Spain, where there was a strong cult following of San Gines de la Jara. This must be the artist—no doubt! And in a case of confirmation bias, every scholar who looked at the base, myself included, swore we read the words, Jose Caro.I was sent to Murcia to do more research on surviving works by Jose Caro and to try and confirm our hypothesis. But it quickly became apparent San Gines had nothing to do with Jose Caro.So, who created this sculpture? I began to reexamine polychrome works created in Spain in the 1690s. Then standing in the royal monastary El Escorial, I came face to face with a sculpture that looked like ours: a similar nose, the outline of the lips, the knitted brows, and the slight opening of the mouth. Suddenly everything clicked!—San Gines was by the famed court sculptor, Luisa Roldán, also known as “La Roldana.” Looking at the bases of her sculptures, it became obvious just how badly we had misread the signature. Our base, like the other bases, now clearly read: LUISA ROLDAN ESCULTORA DE CAMARA, año 1692. Designated court sculptor in 1692 by King Charles II, La Roldana probably produced San Ginés as a royal commission.I think about this sculpture and the process of discovering its artist a lot. There are so many objects out there with their stories yet to be revealed. I often wonder just how many other “La Roldanas,” both figuratively and literarily, are sitting somewhere waiting for their stories to be rediscovered.CUNO: To view Luisa Roldán’s sculpture of San Ginés de la Jara from around 1692, click the link in this episode’s description, or look for it on getty.edu/art/collection.
41 minutes | Mar 17, 2021
Reevaluating French Colonialism through Visual Culture
“One of the things I’ve heard most frequently in attending and working with and participating with ACHAC at different events, is to hear young people, and even adults, say, ‘I had no idea. I did not know that back at this particular historical juncture, my ancestors were put on display in the city, in these parts, for entertainment.'” During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, France taught its citizens about its overseas territories in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Asia through commonplace, mass-produced items including postcards and board games. Through these materials, the government attempted to capture and publicize a grand image of France’s empire while also justifying colonization. These same objects are now critical for understanding the often-violent story of French colonialism and its lasting impact on immigration, race relations, and nationalism. Many such items are held in the Getty Research Institute’s collection of the Association Connaissance de l’histoire de l’Afrique contemporaine (ACHAC, the association to foster knowledge on contemporary Africa).The new book Visualizing Empire: Africa, Europe, and the Politics of Representation analyzes this fascinating archive. In this episode, Visualizing Empire editors Rebecca Peabody, head of Research Projects and Programs at the Getty Research Institute; Steven Nelson, dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and Dominic Thomas, the Madeleine L. Letessier Professor and chair of the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, discuss French imperialism, its legacies, and how these everyday objects might be used to reexamine and even decolonize this narrative. For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-reevaluating-french-colonialism-through-visual-culture/ or getty.edu/podcasts. To buy the book visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/visualizing-empire-africa-europe-and-the-politics-of-representation-978-1606066683
4 minutes | Mar 9, 2021
Reflections: Lyra Kilston on Richard Neutra and Julius Shulman
We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives. This week, Museum editor Lyra Kilston muses on Richard Neutra’s innovative and newly relevant school designs, as seen through photographs by Julius Shulman. To learn more about these images, visit: https://primo.getty.edu/permalink/f/mlc5om/GETTY_ROSETTAIE131574. Transcript JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. This week Lyra Kilston discusses Julius Shulman’s photograph of a Richard Neutra school building. LYRA KILSTON: My name is Lyra Kilston and I’m a senior editor at the Getty Museum. I’ve just finished shepherding my daughter through another day of online elementary school. She’s antsy now, after hours of sitting in the same chair, with a few breaks in another chair at the kitchen table. The technical difficulties weren’t too bad today, fortunately. Her teacher is patient and trying his best to teach during a pandemic, but it’s still bizarre that she only knows him as a head and shoulders on her computer screen. When the schools shut down in mid-March last year, we thought it would just be for a few weeks. As the months numbly passed, I paid close attention to news about how schools might reopen safely in our new reality. I already knew a bit of history about schools during a health crisis. I had written a book that focused, in part, on how ideas about contagion, hygiene, and good health had changed architecture in Europe and the United States around the turn of the 20th century. Buildings from hospitals to housing and schools were designed to be more hygienic and to let in more fresh air and sunlight. These natural elements were believed to both strengthen the body and fight off rampant illnesses like tuberculosis and cholera. This led to what were called “open-air” classrooms that brought the outdoors inside, through lots of glass and open windows, or that let students bring their desks outside to terraces or gardens. With the safety of school constantly on my mind, I was drawn to photographs of the Corona Avenue Elementary school, designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra. Built in the Los Angeles area in 1935, Neutra’s new wing of classrooms were called “glass-and-garden rooms,” as they each featured a glass wall that slid open onto broad patios and gardens. Students could easily push their own lightweight chairs and desks right outside for lessons on the lawn. The photographs show bucolic scenes—children sitting cross-legged on the green grass, painting at easels, or watching their teacher point to the display board she wheeled outside. Looking into it further, I learned that while Neutra was well-versed in the latest modern European school design, he was also building on a California legacy. The state’s mild climate had made it a natural center for outdoor school experiments—from Oakland to San Diego—since the turn of the century. These quaint-seeming practices sadly gained new relevance in 2020, and I hoped for an announcement from our school district that they would try something similar. We had the ideal climate and if school yards were too small, there were now acres of empty parks and parking lots. I’m still fascinated by the open-air school movement, but it was a bittersweet topic to research. I watched schools in the more difficult climates of Massachusetts, New York, and Arkansas forge ahead with outdoor classes while our schools remained locked for months, beneath clear blue skies. I know the photographs of the Corona school were staged. The photographer, Julius Shulman, probably arranged the students and teacher just so to make it look extra perfect. But 85 years later, classrooms like that are needed again, and so are the forward-thinking architects and school superintendents who made it happen. CUNO: To view Julius Schulman’s 1953 photograph of Richard Neutra’s Corona Avenue School in Bell, California, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on primo.getty.edu.
36 minutes | Mar 3, 2021
Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta
“It became Hoefnagel’s task to think of illuminations that were every bit as extraordinary as this amazing writing.” The exquisite Renaissance manuscript Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, or Monument of Miraculous Calligraphy, is the result of a unique partnership between two different artists working thirty years apart. From 1561 to 1562 the master calligrapher Georg Bocskay created a book in which he demonstrated hundreds of elaborate scripts in many different languages and alphabets. More than fifteen years after Bocskay’s death, the artist Joris Hoefnagel illuminated the pages with lifelike and wondrous illustrations of plants and insects from around the world. Many of the species he depicted were newly known in Europe, reflecting a recent increase in the global exchange of goods and information. In this episode, retired Getty senior curator of drawings Lee Hendrix discusses how Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta exemplifies Renaissance attitudes toward art, science, and knowledge. Hendrix coauthored the introduction to a facsimile volume, which is now back in print after more than a decade through Getty Publications. For images, transcripts, and more, visit getty.edu/podcasts.
5 minutes | Feb 23, 2021
Reflections: Alex Jones on Charles Brittin
We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives. This week, curatorial research assistant Alex Jones is reminded of his grandmother by a photograph of a Black woman at a 1965 civil rights protest. To view this work visit: https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/reflections-alex-jones-on-charles-brittin/. To learn more about this photography, visit: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/an-activists-view-of-the-civil-rights-movement/. Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every other Tuesday. Transcript JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. This week Alex Jones discusses a photograph by Charles Brittin. ALEX JONES: Hello, my name is Alex Jones. I am a curatorial research assistant in modern and contemporary collections at the Getty Research Institute. As part of my work with the GRI’s African American Art History Initiative, I research historical and visual representations of Black experience within our special collections. When COVID first hit, just weeks before thousands across the US marched to demand racial justice, I encountered this 1965 image by the photographer Charles Brittin. This is an unsettling image, to say the least. A young black woman in simple yet elegant attire is dragged by several white men across a city sidewalk. Her clothes highlight the woman’s youthful charm: a plaid skirt and blouse draped by a chic shearling jacket, punctuated by the stylish flair of white heels. Instead of showing faces, though, the image focuses on hands, and limbs, and entangled bodies. The white men’s hands firmly grip the woman’s bicep and wrist, which lead downward to her limp and contorted figure as her head falls back behind her. In the end, it is an exquisite shot of the exceptional violence that Black women regularly face in confrontations with police. I don’t know who this woman is—her name is not mentioned in the official record—but her struggle here underscores the critical role that Black women play in the Civil Rights Movement. In this case, on March 11th, 1965, thousands gathered at the steps of the Federal Building in one of the largest protests in Los Angeles history. The events of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, just days before, sent shockwaves through the US, igniting powerful responses from Americans in cities and towns across the country. In Los Angeles, local activists—many of them Black women and men—took to the streets to demand justice in their own city. At first when I saw this picture, I thought of my grandmother—had she witnessed or endured a similar situation as a younger woman? In the late 1950s as a college student, she and her peers at the Atlanta University Center organized some of the city’s first Civil Rights and anti-segregation actions, often coming toe-to-toe with local police. This woman in the photograph reminds me of the Spelman women in my grandmother’s yearbooks—young black women from around the US who spent their early adulthood fighting for racial equality. Like many young Black Americans today, I envision or imagine the Civil Rights Movement through alternating images of heroics and horror; of Black people who dared to lay their lives on the line for far-belated justice and white police officers and civilians who seemed intent on denying that future. Brittin’s photograph returns me to these histories—and my connection to them through my grandmother—giving me a renewed perspective. But it also leaves me somewhat ambivalent. Though Brittin’s photograph documents the endurance of Black Americans in the struggle for justice, the longand continuousmovements for Civil Rights that persist to this day remind me that the sacrifices embodied by this woman, my grandmother, and countless others have yet been reciprocated. Instead, we continue to fight against the inequality that their protest and their bodies laid bare. CUNO: To view Charles Brittin’s 1965 photographs of the CORE protest at the Los Angeles Federal Building, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on blogs.getty.edu/iris.
56 minutes | Feb 17, 2021
An American Odyssey: Mary Schmidt Campbell on Artist Romare Bearden [rebroadcast]
With an artistic career that began with political cartoons in his college newspaper, Romare Bearden moved between mediums and styles throughout his life, although his artistic breakthroughs did not come without hard work. Over the course of a long career that spanned a tumultuous period in the fight for representation and civil rights for African Americans in the United States, Bearden became a deeply influential artist. Art historian Mary Schmidt Campbell delves into Bearden’s fascinating life and career in her new book An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, which is the topic of this podcast episode. Campbell is President of Spelman College and Dean Emerita of the Tisch School of the Arts. She served as the vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities under former president Barack Obama. Campbell joined the J. Paul Getty Trust Board of Trustees in 2019. For images, transcripts, and more, visit getty.edu/podcasts.
4 minutes | Feb 9, 2021
Reflections: Laura Gavilán Lewis on Jacques-Louis David
We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives. This week, educator Laura Gavilán Lewis considers what it means to be separated from her loved ones as she looks at a portrait of Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte. To learn more about this work, visit: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/802/. Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every other Tuesday. Transcript JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. This week Laura Gavilán Lewis discusses a portrait by Jacques-Louis David.LAURA GAVILÁN LEWIS: For some of us being far away from loved ones, during adverse times is one of the hardest things.My name is Laura Gavilán Lewis. I am a gallery educator at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.The pandemic has added more distance between family members for everyone, but in particular for families of immigrants living far away from each other, relying on travel to visit their loved ones.I am originally from Mexico, but I have lived in the United States many years now. And in all these years, I always felt a short flight away, so to speak, from my family in Mexico City. Having the assurance of the next trip was of great comfort and helped bridge the distance, until I visited again.But as the pandemic continues and plans for travel are uncertain, I relate to this beautiful portrait of two sisters separated from their father by circumstances beyond their control.They are they are Zenaide and Charlotte Bonaparte, nieces of Napoleon, the emperor of France.After Napoleon’s defeat the sisters and their mother went into exile in Brussels, while their father’s Josef came to the United States, seeking support to reinstate his brother Napoleon back to power the portrait was painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1821. He was a friend of the family, also in exile.The young women sit close together embracing. The older one, Zenaide, sits in front, holding a letter with her arm extended, giving the impression that she is keeping her younger sister in a protected space. While Charlotte peeks behind her in a curious, but shy gesture. Both look directly at the viewer, as if something just distracted them from reading the letter.At the top of the letter, only one word is legible: Philadelphia. I think it is a clever and personal detail on the part of the artist to show that the letter is from their father, far away, emphasizing the great distance that separates them.They wear elegant dresses made of black velvet, delicate lace, and shiny blue satin. Their hair is adorned with fancy jeweled tiaras, hinting at their noble status, a testament that even when forced out of their homeland, they continue to live a life of luxury and comfort.Their comfort makes me reflect on my own privilege. To freely travel back and forth to my country without restrictions was a gift. I never could have imagined that a worldwide pandemic would put a stop to it.I sense, an air of melancholy and vulnerability in their expressions, a longing to reunite with their father. But I also see fortitude strength and bravery. And those are the feelings that I try to draw upon. As I patiently wait to safely plan my next trip to visit my family and friends in Mexico, and be able to embrace them.CUNO: To view Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of the Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte from 1821, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on getty.edu/art/collection.
5 minutes | Feb 9, 2021
Reflexiones: Laura Gavilán Lewis sobre Jacques-Louis David
Hemos pedido al personal del Getty que compartan con nosotros sus reflexiones personales sobre las obras de arte, en tanto que nos podrían contar historias acerca de nuestra vida diaria. Esta semana, Laura Gavilán Lewis del departamento de educación habla de su experiencia de separación de sus seres queridos a través de un retrato de Zénaïde y Charlotte Bonaparte. Para aprender más de esta pintura, visite: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/ 802 /. Transcripción Laura Gavilán Lewis: Mi nombre es Laura Gavilán Lewis del Departamento de Educación del Museo. Aquí les presento mis pensamientos sobre un bella pintura titulada: Retrato de las Hermanas Zenaïde y Charlotte Bonaparte, pintada por el artista francés, Jacques-Louis David, en 1821. También encontrará disponible la versión en inglés de este episodio en nuestra plataforma de podcast. Vivir lejos de nuestros seres queridos es siempre difícil pero más en tiempos de adversidad. La pandemia actual ha puesto de relieve la separación física de los seres queridos en el mundo entero, pero quizá más agudamente para los inmigrantes que cuentan con viajar para visitar a familiares en sus respectivos países. Yo he vivido en los Estados Unidos ya muchos años, pero la añoranza que siento por mi familia y mi país siempre está presente. Antes de la pandemia me era fácil pensar que podía superar la distancia en cualquier momento. Pudiendo tomar un avión y que en 3 horas estaría en la Ciudad de México físicamente cercana a mis familiars. Siempre procuraba tener el próximo viaje agendado. Por así decirlo y eso me daba ánimos para sentir menos la distancia hasta la siguiente visita. Encontré inspiracion para esta reflexión viendo este bello retrato de dos hermanas separadas de su padre por circunstancias fuera de su control. Se trata de Zenaide y Charlotte Bonaparte sobrinas de Napoleón el emperador de Francia. La familia Bonaparte fue exiliada ante la caída del Imperio y Estas dos hermanas permanecieron con su madre en Bruselas mientras que su padre Joseph partió para los Estados Unidos con la intención de Buscar apoyo y restituir a su hermano Napoleón En el poder pasando muchos años sin regresar a Europa. El artista Jacques-Louis David, cómo era amigo de la familia, fue también exiliado en Bruselas. Las dos hermanas están sentados al lado una de la otra casi abrazándose. Zenaide siendo la mayor está al frente y sostiene una carta con el brazo izquierdo extendido, mientras Charlotte que está sentada detrás de su hermana se asoma entre curiosa y temerosa, pero protegida finalmente. En la parte superior de la carta una sola palabra se puede leer claramente, Filadelfia, un sutil detalle de parte del artista para indicar que la carta proviene de su padre que está lejos. Vestidos con lujosos atuendos una en terciopelo negro con encajes y la otra en satín azul reluciente. Ambas lucen en sus cabellos diademas con piedras preciosas que insinúan su rango aristocrático ofreciendo así indicios de que aún en el exilio continúan gozando de lujo, del confort y el privilegio. De esta manera reflexionó sobre mi propia fortuna. El privilegio de poder viajar a mi país todos estos años sin restricciones ni amenazas claramente ha sido un regalo. Algo que siempre di por hecho y que jamás hubiera imaginado que una pandemia nivel mundial pudiera en pedirme regresar. Noto en las expresiones de estas jóvenes, un aire de melancolía y de vulnerabilidad, además de cierta añoranza de reunirse con su padre. Pero también noto su fortaleza valentía y entereza. Así como ellas trato de apoyarme en estas virtudes mientras espero pacientemente poder planear mi próximo viaje a México para ir a ver a mi familia y amigos y nuevamente abrazarlos. Si desea aprender mas de este pintura, haga click en el enlace que describe en este episodio o visite el sitio getty.edu/art/collection
24 minutes | Feb 3, 2021
Return to Palmyra
“I still cannot believe why the people all around the world—the public people, I mean, the governments or UNESCO, the UN, the others involved in the culture or in humanity—why they do nothing to preserve Palmyra, to stop the attack of the militants of Daesh.” By the 3rd century CE, the ancient city of Palmyra, also known as Tadmur in Arabic, was a global crossroads, where caravans from Mesopotamia, Persia, China, Rome, and Europe exchanged both goods and beliefs. During the Roman era, Palmyra flourished, with its unique, cosmopolitan culture reflected in elaborately decorated buildings and monuments. That ancient legacy continues today; Palmyrene residents maintained their culture and identity while living alongside well-preserved archeological ruins for centuries. Tragically, in 2015, ISIS militants destroyed many of those important historic sites, including the Temple of Bel. There are no firm plans yet for restoring the ruins and surrounding municipality as the Syrian civil war drags on. In this episode, Waleed al-As’ad, former director of antiquities and museums at Palmyra, discusses the ancient and the contemporary city, as well as the possible future for the site. His father, Khaled al-As’ad, preceded him as director and was publicly executed for refusing to cooperate with ISIS. Waleed is currently living in France, a refugee of Syria’s civil war. This conversation coincides with the relaunch of the Getty Research Institute’s online exhibition Return to Palmyra, which features a written interview with Waleed. For images, transcripts, and more, visit getty.edu/podcasts.
3 minutes | Jan 26, 2021
Reflections: Kelly Davis on Timothy O’Sullivan
We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives. This week, metadata specialist Kelly Davis longs for a hike in the Sierras as she views an 1871 photograph by Timothy O’Sullivan. To learn more about this work, visit: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/40204/. Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every other Tuesday. Transcript JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short, personal reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. This week Kelly Davis discusses a Timothy O’Sullivan photograph.KELLY DAVIS: I’m Kelly Davis, a metadata specialist at the Getty Research Institute. When I moved to California around six years ago, I started spending a lot of time outdoors, particularly in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a few hours drive north of Los Angeles. What draws me to the Sierras, besides the exercise and adventure, is how timeless they feel, almost like they’re entirely still as the world goes on around them.An 1871 Timothy O’Sullivan photograph of an alpine lake in the Sierras looks like so many I have taken myself—jagged peaks frame an ice blue lake (even in black and white, you can tell the lake is blue), with tall pines and a boulder field to complete the scene. I could swear I’ve been in this exact spot, though it’s unlikely I have, with thousands of lakes just like this in these mountains. It’s really the feeling that the photo elicits. It makes me feel like I’m standing right there.Ironically, though, I’m not the intended audience for such a picture, living a century too late. Photography had arrived in the US by 1839 and it didn’t take long for the government and private citizens to stream west with their cameras, documenting landscapes for map-making purposes, but also as a tool of colonialism, hoping to entice settlers. Photos of dramatic Western landscapes—shockingly different from the landscapes out East—quickly permeated mainstream culture.Before I moved to LA, I had spent my whole life on the East Coast. I thought I knew what mountains were, but hiking in the Sierra makes it clear that I had no idea. Even though I’ve seen these vistas myself, O’Sullivan’s photographs have the same effect on me I imagine they had 150 years ago—I gasp. And I am immediately taken back to my last visit, while dreaming of my next.Last summer, I was training to hike Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, standing over 14,000 feet high in Sierra crest. I spent all summer obsessed with the mountains and hiking every weekend. But then fire season rolled around, and by the date of my planned trip, the Sequoia Complex fire had burned 100 thousand acres through National Parks and Forests, including the Inyo National Forest, where Whitney sits. I drove to Lone Pine anyway, the gateway town to Whitney, and I even started up the trail, only to turn around from reports of smoke ahead. The day I was supposed to summit, the National Forests in California closed entirely, and I knew any summit attempt was out of reach for some time.As I wait to get back to these mountains, I’m pleased to have O’Sullivan’s early images of my beloved peaks around to look at. While so much has changed in the populated world since the 1870s, this mountain landscape has remained largely the same. It brings me peace to know that after all the trials of the past year, there will be views like this waiting for me on my next visit to the Sierra.CUNO: To view Timmothy O’Sullivan’s photograph Alpine Lake, in the Sierra Nevada, California, from 1871, click the link in this episode’s description, or look for it on Getty.edu/art/collection.
47 minutes | Jan 20, 2021
Lives of Leonardo da Vinci
“He was a great artistic personality, crucial for the development, in some way, of what we think as the modern science. But he was not alone.” Leonardo da Vinci died more than 500 years ago, but he is still revered as a genius polymath who painted beguiling compositions like the Mona Lisa, avidly studied the natural sciences, and created designs and inventions in thousands of journal pages. Even during Leonardo’s lifetime, contemporaries marveled at the artist’s great skill and wide-ranging pursuits, but many also noted his perfectionism and difficulty completing projects. Since his death, the legends surrounding his life and personality have continued to grow. Today Leonardo’s story inspires novels and his work brings record-breaking prices, demonstrating his enduring relevance and mystique. In this episode, Getty curator Davide Gasparotto discusses early accounts of Leonardo’s life and how they shaped our understanding of the artist. Passages from these biographies were recently collected in the Getty Publications book Lives of Leonardo da Vinci. For images, transcripts, and more, visit getty.edu/podcasts.
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