It still holds true to this day. Also, here is an article discussion how today’s young Americans know little about the country’s history, such as what year the nation declared independence (it was 1776, by the way). What a shame.
Growing up in a Christian religious family, you hear the famous trinity line all the time: the father, the son and the holy spirit. I used to not question it because, in general, conservative Christians do not allow for much questioning. But now as my beliefs are changing, I find it strange that the mother is not mentioned at all. The only reference to a mother is the Virgin Mary, but she is not officially considered a god, as the father is considered. Older religions and belief systems have included goddesses, but it is obvious the erasure of the goddess mother is due to patriarchal systems that came into play in the last few thousand years. So, this post will be a list of some interesting facts, stories, art, events, ideas etc. dedicated to the Madonna and child.
1) Isis/Auset and Horus/Heru: The Egyptian goddess and her son has been said to have influenced the Christian story of God, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The story goes as follows: Osiris/Ausar, the husband/brother of Isis/Auset, is killed by his brother Set/Seth. Isis finds for Osiris’ broken body and puts it back together to resurrect him for a short time, and she is impregnated by him. Then Osiris becomes Lord of the Underworld and Isis gives birth to Horus/Heru. When he is older, Horus challenges his uncle Set to a battle and ends up becoming king after the battle.
2) Black Madonna (Mary) and Child: In many parts of the world, even in several European countries, there are many statues of a Black Madonna and child and there are just as many theories out there as to why they are dark in color.
3) Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary:” In 1999, Ofili stirred up controversy when he put this artwork up in the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition, “Sensation.” The painting depicts an African Mary with her right breast out, which was created using elephant dung (in several African cultures, dung is a sign of fertility because it was used to grow crops), and cherubim and seraphim in the background made from photographs of female genitalia. Mayor Giuliani as well as a number of Christians had a fit over the painting and demanded it to be taken down. They claimed that the painting disrespected the Christian faith because it had dung smeared all over it (which is not true) and pornographic images. This pieces definitely brings out people’s lack of understanding of cultural difference and context
5) Kate Hansen’s Madonna and Child Exhibition: She is an artist from British Columbia and has done a project called, “Madonna and Child” in which she does portraits of mothers and their children in the form of the traditional Madonna and child paintings style.
7) Frida Kahlo’s painting “The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Senor Xolotl:” This is one of my favorite Kahlo paintings. In it, she uses aspects of Mexican mythology (the Aztec Earth Mother, Cituacoatl) and reflects her relationship with Diego Rivera and her feelings on her inability to have children. So, she is taking on the role of the universal nurturing mother. Another painting of hers that includes the motherly aspect is “My Nurse and I.” In this one, Kahlo changes the nurturing aspect of the mother to something cold and distant.
8 ) 1+1= 3?: To bring mysticism into this. Another phrase used in Christian circles is that there is “God in three persons” or that there is 1 God that has three forms. The number 1 is usually associated with God/Goddess. How does that relate to the equation above. Well, it is a kind of magic when 1 father and 1 mother can create a whole new being, which makes three people instead of two. So, I see the holy trinity as that special creation.
Last semester, I took a classed called “The Art of the Other” (“Black and Latino Art”). Our teacher, Vilna Bashi Treitler, introduced us to two books, “Ways of Seeing” and “Believing is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art,” and a number of articles from which we had to question “What Is Art,” “What is Black Art,” “What is Latino Art,” “What is Women/Feminist Art,” and on and on. One of the first things we learned is that the idea of art and art culture is a modern phenomenon. Before 400 years ago, art that we we now consider art, was not art because its functionally use was not for the sake of art; it would be used for a religious function, a spiritual function, a tool function, etc. However, that changed when capitalism, commerce, colonialism and slavery came into the picture. Now, those things had a monetary value and function; it became something to be sold as art for the higher classes. However, art at that time was meant for the higher classes to show how much material wealth they had, which led to the beginning of “activist art” from oppressed groups in reaction to dominant classes when revolutions began around the world from the late 18th century to the 20th century.
The first picture is a painting by Marie Guillemine-Benoist, a French female painter who tended to do historical paintings. She painted the “Portrait D’une Negresse” in 1800, six years after slavery was abolished in France. The painting supposedly became a symbol of women’s emancipation and black people’s rights. Then, we have the photograph on the left. Part of the latest Louboutin Fall 2011 lookbook, the ad, as well as the others, use older art works to sell shoes. And this complicated relationship art has now to commerce. Since the mid-1800s, the ability to reproduce and reconstruct an image, because of the invention of the camera, became easier. In the last chapter of John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing,” he writes of how today’s publicity often refers to the past and speaks to the future, but never the present. It is using the past to sell to the future. Unlike the first picture above, it reflects a different kind of freedom: freedom of the choice of the purchaser” (Berger, 131). Today, we see that this freedom is given more weight than other freedoms. Our 20th century and 21st century, post-Warhol, pop culture world is that of manufacturing enviable glamour. The “Portrait D’une Negresse” appears to focus on the beauty of a black woman by herself, but the ad implies that you can only be beautiful like her if you buy the shoes (she does it with a purposeful sexually seductive look on her face to suggest desirability). Understand the difference? Instead of implying an essence that is already had, it suggests something out of reach or having a cost to reach it; the viewer feels unfulfilled.
According to Berger, older artworks give these advertisements status and authority because they are signs of wealth, similar to the period when wealthy classes used art to enhance their status. Today, original artworks sell for millions of dollars and hang in museums because it is meant to give lower classes a sense of exclusion from the upper class. In our world where images can easily be reproduced and altered to our liking, higher classes rely heavier on the concept of “originality” because it gives the sense of rarity or exclusiveness, which is one reason why our culture is so obsessed with it.
Publicity relies on the cultural value associated with the monetary value placed on these older artworks to create envy from lower classes, so they buy the goods that the companies are selling. Also, by doing this, advertisements present a contradiction in itself of appearing deep by introducing a historical and cultural image to a newer audience while at the same time, selling for a profit. As Berger said, it is alluding to the beginning of modern times where art was used to justify the higher classes’ wealth and power, but today it is used by them to increase their wealth and power by putting the idea in consumer’s mind that having these goods will make them appear wealthier and more powerful (even though they become poorer in the process). Both periods send the message of “you are what you have” (Berger, 139), so I guess we have come full circle again. So, is this advertisement art? Yes, technically it is, but what kind of art it is depends on the message it is sending.
When most people think of the Blues, Rhythm and Blues and early Rock ‘n’ Roll artists who had a major influence on the development of Rock ‘n’ Roll, they tend to mention the male musicians like Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, Louis Jordan, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Big Joe Turner and Ike Turner. However, female musicians, like Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Sippie Wallace, Victoria Spivey, Ida Cox, Memphis Minnie, Geeshie Wiley, Koko Taylor, Big Maybelle and of course, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, are not given as much attention or only given a small role in the development. Tharpe is one of the few women who is at least mentioned often by several Rock ‘n’ Roll musicians.
As seen above, the British band, The Noisettes recorded “Sister Rosetta” in tribute to her. Allison Krauss and Robert Plant also recorded a song in tribute to her called “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” which was written by singer Sam Phillips. Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and much more have all claimed her as an influence and most have done covers of her songs. However, one of the strange facts about Tharpe as an influence for Rock ‘n’ Roll, a genre that is called “the devil’s music” is that she was a gospel singer. Even more interesting is that, unlike other gospel singers, Tharpe straddled the line between sacred and secular. Instead of the church, she performed in nightclubs and concert halls for big bands and her singing style, guitar-playing and performing style reflected that of Blues and Jazz singers, and later contributed to the style of Rock ‘n’ Roll artists. She is a true testament to the fact that you can be influenced by anyone and anything. If you want to read more about Tharpe, I suggest “Shout, Sister, Shout” by Gayle F. Wald.
It has been two years since Michael Jackson has died and his cultural impact is still reverberating throughout the world to this day. Today, I came across a 2009 article by Greg Tate in which he gives his thoughts on why Jackson’s icon status was so huge, especially for Black people around the world, and how it fits into an Afrofuturist context.
“What Black American culture—musical and otherwise—lacks for now isn’t talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral. You can still feel it when you go hear Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, or Cecil Taylor, or when you read Toni Morrison—living Orishas who carry on a tradition whose true genius lies in making forms and notions as abstract, complex, and philosophical as soul, jazz, or the blues so deeply and universally felt. But such transcendence is rare now, given how desperate, soul-crushing, and immobilizing modern American life has become for the poorest strata of our folk, and how dissolute, dispersed, and distanced from that resource-poor, but culturally rich, heavyweight strata the rest of us are becoming. And, like Morrison cautioned a few years ago, where the culture is going now, not even the music may be enough to save us….
[Later in the article ]
Furthermore, unlike almost everyone in the Apollo Theater pantheon save George Clinton, Michael now seems as important to us an image-maker—an illusionist and a fantasist at that—as he was a musician/entertainer. And until Hype Williams came on the music-video scene in the mid ’90s, no one else insisted that the visuals supporting r&b and hip-hop be as memorable, eye-popping, and seductive as the music itself. Nor did anyone else spare no expense to ensure that they were. But Michael’s phantasmal, shape-shifting videos, upon reflection, were also, strangely enough, his way of socially and politically engaging the worlds of other real Blackfolk from places like South Central L.A., Bahia, East Africa, the prison system, Ancient Egypt. He did this sometimes in pursuit of mere spectacle (“Black and White”), sometimes as critical observer (“The Way You Make Me Feel”), sometimes as a cultural nationalist romantic (“Remember the Time”), even occasionally as a harsh American political commentator (“They Don’t Care About Us”). Looking at those clips again, as millions of us have done over this past weekend, is to realize how prophetic Michael was in dropping mad cash to leave behind a visual record of his work that was as state-of-the-art as his musical legacy. As if he knew that one day our musical history would be more valued for what can be seen as for what can be heard….”