Monday, May 23, 2011

A Blocky World

When people think of art, they think of paintings, drawings and music. Most people don’t think of games as a creative medium though. Recently, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that it officially considers games to be an appropriate expressive medium for creativity. Most of the time, a programmer wouldn’t be considered a particularly creative person. After all, all they do is write millions of lines of code, weave it together, and make it work. It isn’t like a single misplaced letter, number, or punctuation mark can make the entire project break. In case you didn’t catch the sarcasm, that’s how it is. Just as an artist gracefully combines brush strokes to create a painting, the programmer combines lines of code to create his or her artistic work.

Enter Markus Alexej “Notch” Persson, a game developer hailing from Sweden. Markus, a member of the Swedish chapter of Mensa, began programming at the age of seven, working on his father’s Commodore 128. Ever since then, person has been programming, working as a developer for numerous companies. In early 2009, Persson began coding the basic parts of what would grow to be Minecraft, a game that has exploded in popularity and has sold over 2 million copies. Shortly after development of then-named “Cave Game,” Persson played a game called Infiniminer, which would shape the direction that Minecraft took - a world composed entirely of blocks that could be placed and removed at the player’s will.

Describing this game as a surreal experience is an understatement. You spawn alone in the world – you’ll trek through deserts, hike through mountains, spelunk through caves, and wind your way through dense forests. The beauty of the game lies in how Persson coded it – to be procedurally generated. Every time you start a new world, you’ll be greeted with brand new scenery. As you explore, the game generates new terrain, all unique to the world you’re in. This goes on to be something that can be up to eight times the size of the earth. Minecraft is truly a work of art.

Ladder for Booker T. Washington

“Ladder of Life”
Painted in 1996, Martin Puryear put much meaning behind his work in the, “Ladder for Booker T. Washington.” Martin Puryear’s work titles can be best described as metaphors that expand rather than limit the meaning of his work as stated from, “picturing America.” Born in 1941 in Washington D.C., Martin Puryear grew up struggling to battle with racial equality because of his African American background. Puryear’s work is often very sophisticated and is involved with visual, sculptural ideas, such as oppositions of natural and geometric, stability and mobility and positive and negative space. Often compared to a minimalist, Puryear also held many more important skills such as simple organic shapes which also possess a human, handmade quality. In his 20’s, Martin attended an art academy in Scandinavia because of their woodcraft tradition. Later becoming more interested in woodcraft, Puryear returned to the US to study and receive a master’s of fine arts degree at Vale University. This interest in woodcraft has shown Puryear that art is not only made from his hands but also his heart and mind. Drawing in his interest of woodcraft into his artwork, led Puryear to the completion of “Ladder for Booker T. Washington” in 1996. Puryear’s Ladder reflects handcraft techniques he learned abroad while studying in West Africa and Scandinavia. As stated by “picturing America”, Puryear’s sculpture represents that of the life of the man for whom it is named after. The crooked, yellow, suspended ladder in the painting would relate to the life of Booker T. Washington. Born into slavery in 1856 in the Piedmont region of Virginia, Washington grew up in a very rough life, struggling to gain racial equality. The crooked, suspended ladder suggests that Washington had a rough, challenging life and that the only way to overcome this was to walk over all the problems before him. The dark shadows and walls help to give the viewer the idea that Booker T. Washington was trapped, in pain and couldn’t get out. The blue sky and light at the top of the painting give him hope as if this is the way out. Freedom is the essential goal and a new life is awaiting him on the other side of the wall.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fruit or Something More?

Severin Roesen is an American artist born in Germany. According to Wikimedia, he was born in 1815 and died in 1872. He came to the U.S. in 1848 and moved to Williamsport Pennsylvania in 1860 where he painted Still Life with a Basket of Fruit.

Rosen's art perfectly reflected the young country's optimism and growing wealth. Roesen is considered one of America's grestest still-life painters. His crisply detailed, brilliantly colored compositions represent some of the most complex and elaborate paintings in this genre ever produced.

Roesen used tiny brush strokes to make his art so detailed. He had an eye for detail. It seemed as if the colors in his art weren't always true to the actual object. The colors being off from the actual fruit could represent a rare form of the fruit. Rare can also represent wealth.

The art he did I would think were typically found in a wealthy person's house. Instead, according to Wikipedia, he traded his work with Jacob Flock for lodging and beer. Roesen liked beer. In fact, you would find a faint outline of a beer glass in the corner of his paintings. When a customer objected, he would remove it.

He most often did his still life using fruit. He would restock and rearrange the fruit for new ideas. he would create a garden of fruit. The archetype of a garden is cultivated and carefully planned. I can really see those qualitites in his work. He puts the fruit in those places for a reason. He carefully plans how to place the fruit for the best turnout.

It appears the fruit is very fresh because you can see water droplets on the fruit. To me, that represents wealth because anyone who was not as wealthy would reuse the same fruit for long periods of time. One watermelon is eaten and one is whole. I feel like that is a representation of something larger. Maybe his life is missing something like the eaten watermelon. Maybe he wants to feel whole like the full watermelon. I have mixed feelings on that.

The top of the painting gives off a glittery appearance. To me, that is a huge representation of wealth again. What else sparkles like glitter? Diamonds. Diamonds are more for the wealthy. Could he have been aiming his work towards the wealthy just to earn more money? Or could it be to make him feel wealthy?

For a guy that was normally drunk while doing his art, he really created some masterpieces.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gerhard Richter's Betty

Gerhard Richter was born in Germany on February 9, 1932. He spent the first thirteen years of his life under National Socialism. Growing up in Nazi Germany, he was haunted by ideology and death. This fear remained with him through his adult life and is apparent in his paintings. He paints images without glory; he instead presents the beauty in the ordinary through his art. According to, he believed that art should be separated from art history and focus on the image rather than the reference, the visual rather than the statement.
                Richter has produced a wide variety of art, including photographs, abstract, glass pieces, and photorealistic painted works. He used oil and his photorealistic painting techniques to create “Betty.” This painting was based on a photograph of his, at the time, 11 year old daughter. In his photo-based style, he blurs the paintings, modernizing traditional artwork through technique. The blurred paintings of photographs look almost like reality, but the viewer can never fully focus on the image. states that it is as if you were trying to remember the features of someone you saw once long ago, but you can only recall the outline.
                “Betty” is a painting of a young girl. The blurred photo and softened features of the subject make this piece of art very delicate and feminine. The dark background, which is one of Richter’s other monochrome paintings, “Gray Mirror”, contrasts with the lighter colors of the girl. She wears a white jacket with red flowers, most likely symbolizing a conflict between purity (white) and seduction (red). It could also symbolize the struggle between good and evil, or even the transition from girl to woman. The sharp features of her flowered jacket contrast with the blurred features of her hair. The girl is turning away, her face not visible. This could be because she is ashamed or possibly just bashful. The lighting casts a light circle around her head, resembling a halo, another symbol for purity. The archetype of the innocent is represented in “Betty.” The subject is a young, naïve girl, full of innocence and wonder. Her inexperience and purity are depicted by her blonde hair and the pink, childish dress she wears. When I first saw this painting, I wanted to know what she was looking at. Who is she answering to? What does her face look like? Human curiosity draws the viewer in to this work of art, which may have been Richter’s purpose.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

In the painting The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Grant wood captures the scene where Paul rides his horse through the town. Grant paints the picture like a child with simple geometric shapes and lines. In this painting Grant makes no attempt to be historically correct by the lighting in the windows because it is too bright to be candle lights. Wood also made the moon shadow to bright to be scientifically correct. Wood has also painted the American gothic painting. Wood painted this painting during the world war II to boost American moral. Wood struggled against that tide, committed to his dream of a truly American art that would link the present to the past and preserve all the stories that made up the American heritage. (picturing American)

Kids with Masks, Helen Levitt

Identity Loss
According to, Helen Levitt was an American photographer particularly noted for her “street” photography around New York City and has been called “the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time.” In 1959 and 1960, Levitt received two Guggenheim Foundation grants to take color photographs on the streets of New York. She lived in New York for nearly 70 years. Helen Levitt was known to be notoriously private publicity shy.
According to, in 1938, Levitt contracted with Evans and Cartier-Bresson, both members of the Film and Photo League. Evans had a way of being sparingly, frontally direct with his common place subjects and Cartier-Bresson had a gift for catching everyday life in graceful, seemingly transparent flux. These two had a lot of impact in Levitt’s photography technique. Helen Levitt had a way of capturing instances of a cinematic and delightfully guileless form of street choreography that held at its heart, as William Butler Yeats (an Irish poet and playwright) put it, “the ceremony of innocence.” According to, in an interview, Helen talked of using a device that fit on her Leica camera called a winkelsucher which allowed her to look one way and take the picture the other. It virtually allowed her to turn her camera sideways and capture moments people had no idea were being photographed.
The photograph “Kids with Masks” was taken in the early 1940’s. Needless to say, the photo was taken on the streets of New York City. Levitt captured three small children getting ready to go out for Halloween in their masks, according to However, beyond the real reason the children were dressed like that, I believe Levitt was trying to communicate a less obvious message.
In this photo, there are three young children; believed to be one girl and two boys. The girl stands on the top step wearing a nice dress holding up her mask. One boy is standing with one foot on the top step and one on the bottom step also wearing a mask covering his face and nice pants and a jacket. The other boy is standing on the bottom step, peering off into the street with a nice jacket, pants, and a mask as well. The porch they’re on looks to be made of concrete with an old chipped wooden doorway, and elaborate looking railing. It looks like the porch belongs to either a small home or apartment type building. The door is made of glass panels that reflect the building across the street. At the bottom of the door is a wooden rectangular frame design and also has wood that frames the outside of the glass. The actual building is made of brick, which you can see in the far right. The boy in front seems more relaxed with his legs crossed, while the other two seem unready and have uncrossed legs.
Was Levitt really trying to capture Halloween in New York City or a deeper reflection of society during that time? Could it be possible that this painting symbolizes how people in the 1940s and still today have to put on a certain cover before going out into the real world? Does acceptance have greater importance than one’s inner being and feeling? The masks represent the cover up that many people put on to create a different identity or illusion than what they really are at home. You can see that the little girl, being closer to the doorway between reality and the real world is still trying to get her mask on all the way. Does that bit of struggle to hold up her mask as she enters the outside show that we as humans have the hardest time pretending to be something we’re not when we’re closer and more connected to our inner selves? The farther we are from being in touch with who we really are the easier it is to identify with something you’re not? The little boy on the first step is completely relaxed and comfortable with his new identity and also happens to be farthest from the home. The doorway could represent the passageway from identity to fraud. The wooden frame along the outside is strong and sturdy which could be the image that most people put on in public while inside the frame are fragile glass panels that reflect the outside images which represents our inner being that we try to hide. Do we all try to prevent revealing the truth? Does the world around us influence what we do and reflect into the kind of person we become? Has honesty and openness become a sign of the weak?
The concrete porch represents the sturdiness and stability a person believes they stand on when they stay closed off and lie to the world, instead of showing what’s inside and risking vulnerability. If they didn’t have that barrier to keep up in front of others, they’re concrete porch would come crashing down around them. Do people’s opinions really cause that much satisfactions and self-acceptance?
The archetype “the innocent” can be seen in this photograph. The children in the painting represent this innocent and inexperienced being. They’re like a clean slate without much reflection from society, yet it shows that the youth of our culture is already being influenced by what they see around them. Why did Levitt use children as the main subject of this photograph? Was it to show how these children being very naïve still mock what they see around them? Are we dooming the future generation to a life of fraud and dishonesty.
Levitt was truly a mastermind of her time. Her photographs revealed images of society being caught off guard and most subjects not even knowing Levitt was taking a picture. Her work makes you look at things more closely and question the behavior of society. Levitt didn’t let the little things go unnoticed.

Maureen Loucks
Hour 2
Red Evening Sky
By: Emil Noble
Red Evening Sky was a painting on oil canvas and it was not a specific drawing. The painting was used by expressionist which made his paintings not as clear it was more like brush strokes throughout, however you could still see clearly the three canyons that were in the middle possibly representing his three main struggles. There’s also a pink-ish gold sky which to me represents his hopes and dreams. The blue ocean like floor was the freedom.
In the painting there are three dark brown canyons with mountains in the background. To me it represents the tougher “rocky” times in his life. They are steep and have sharp points on them. One of Noble’s struggles was choosing to leave his family farm that was in his family for 8 generations. Then there’s a canyon behind the first one which might represent him dropping out of college or falling behind. The next canyon is more to the right side of the painting and it shows his struggle to get a job. He felt like he was “slipping away”( which could be why the canyon was to the side. However beneath the canyons was a blue ocean like floor. The floor made me feel like it was his freedom after he had left the farm went to school and did find a job. The floor had brush strokes that made it look like waves were splashing along the canyons almost trying to sweep them away or take them out. The water floor also had some white paint strokes which represents the purity he felt when he did become a artist and his struggles were behind him. Finally the pink/ gold sky which takes up a big proportion of the picture and what made me like it so much and want to choose it. It represents his hopes and dreams. It looks like a beautiful sunset with brush strokes of pink and gold. It seems relaxed and happy. When you look at it, it’s like a paradise at first sight then you look below and realize there is more going on. It shows that below him was his struggles what he has trying to erase them is his freedom, and what he has the most of is hopes and dreams that can overlook any struggle.