American Art: Week 3

By Amory P., 8th grade

Tuesday was our last of three trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art this fall. During this visit we mostly viewed American modern art. Modern art can take many forms, simplistic to abstract, and can use many mediums, canvas or even neon lights. We viewed pieces relating to our studies in the classroom, as well as pieces that were simply must-see standouts.

The first exhibit we visited was a piece painted by a woman artist, Mary Cassatt. It was extremely rare back in the day to have female artists, so the painting was one of a kind. The painting, "Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge," depicted a woman sitting front and central in a theatre. She is extravagantly dressed with a pearl necklace and a lacy fan. As an activity to get our thinking caps on, the museum's art educator asked us to make inferences about this woman with clues from the painting. We thought that the woman's exquisite clothing was a sign of wealth and that her positioning in the theatre was a sign of her confidence. We looked around at the other paintings created by male artists, but Cassatt's painting  definitely stood out in the crowd.

We took a walk to a gallery featuring contemporary paintings filled with emotion. The paintings are simple, yet the emotions behind them are what makes them truly extraordinary. The piece that stood out to me most was a painting by the renowned Mark Rothko, who is famous for his simple paintings consisting of only blocks of color. Despite not being his "Orange, Red, Yellow," which recently sold for $86 million, the painting in the PMA is similar to it in color and style. I believe that viewing paintings like these can be challenging due to their extreme simplicity, but when you look deeper, these pieces can have the power to evoke emotion and thought.

Following the Mark Rothko piece, we rounded out our trip into a gallery filled with pieces created by the artist Jasper Johns. His style is like none other, with his paintings consisting of wacky things like broken chairs and spoons. His artwork is spontaneous and exciting, with so much going on it makes your head spin. Different prints, patterns, and colors all on one canvas is a lot for a pair of eyes to take in. A very different approach than Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns meant for his work to be crazy. For this exhibit, part of the experience was to feel the energy and spontaneous personality that shines in his artwork.

After three weeks and three trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the 8th grade got to experience the full history and evolvement of American Art.

Read about week one and week two.