More American Art

By Amory P., 8th grade

On Tuesday, the 8th grade went back to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for another tour of American art.

We started off visiting a large pot with an even larger back story. The pot was made by an enslaved African American man named Dave, who lived in South Carolina with his master. Dave was a huge man, well over 6’ tall with long arms (they must have been – who else could lift up that jar?). His pot is a muddy green color, with neat cursive writing near its mouth. Dave’s master had him make plenty of these pots, all made for holding lard and fresh meats. What is fascinating about them is that there is writing on them. It was extremely rare that a slave could read or write; their masters did not allow them to learn how. The writing on Dave's pot tells the of St. Peter finding animals under a sheet and seeing that he needs to treat them all equally. To Dave, this story must have had a deep meaning since he was enslaved and was not treated equally. To wrap up our visit to Dave’s pot, we were asked to write a message as Dave did on our own paper versions of the jar.

The next exhibit we visited was a row of three landscape paintings. Brilliantly, each painting provoked a certain emotion. One of them made me feel calm and peaceful, another hopeful, and the last bittersweet. The paintings had us all thinking about the artists' intentions on the deeper message within their art. One painting captured a beautiful scene overlooking hills and valleys, with palm trees in the foreground. The next one pictured a rugged landscape with beautiful waterfalls and green trees. The last painting depicted two birds picking at the barren ground with a sunrise or sunset in the background. It was amazing to see how a skilled artist is able to provoke a certain emotion in the viewer.

The last exhibit we visited was a set of two large paintings by Thomas Eakins, each depicting the gruesome scene of an operating theater. When we first glimpsed at the paintings, most of the class scrunched up their face at the sight. It was entertaining to see which kids looked away and which ones looked closer. You probably get the idea: What we saw was an old-fashioned operating theater with unsanitary doctors working on whoever was unlucky enough to have to endure the operation. It was shocking to see how unclean surgeries were back in the day. Doctors wore their regular clothes and skipped on the gloves! Their tools were scattered around and dirty, exactly what you don’t want to come in contact with your flesh!

This visit to the PMA had us all thinking deeper about what’s behind the art, and again, we can’t wait to head back for our third visit of the fall.