The Ackland Art Museum

On Thursday, November 15, our class visited the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, NC. During our visit, we were divided into two groups, and we were led around to look at different works of art. All of the pieces of art that we looked at were very different from one another and very unique. Although they might not have had many similarities to each other, they each had their own story to tell. Inferences and conclusions could be made about each work based on what the subject matter of the work was, the way the artist chose to depict that subject matter, and the feelings that the audience of the work felt. Something that stood out to me while we were viewing the works of art is the way that connections can be drawn from art to the books that we have been reading throughout the semester. Although a lot of the art that we looked at was original, many of the pieces of art that we looked at were variations of existing themes of art that had already been created. It was interesting to see the way that the artist changed some things around from original works and created works of their own as well as thinking about what meanings the new art conveyed to the audience.

One of the most unique works that we looked at was titled “The Batture Ritual,” and it was a 25-minute video put together by Jeff Whetstone. The video captures a small section of the Mississippi River with passing boats and fishermen going down to the water’s edge. The mood of the video is peaceful, and this mood carries over to the audience who is observing it. The both natural and artificial lighting create a feeling of relaxation and simplicity, which is strengthened by the boats passing and fishermen. It brings back thoughts of simpler times, and serves as a reminder that they still exist.

A common depiction in the works that we viewed was water. It was interesting to see the way that water was depicted in such different ways. In one painting titled “Looking at the Sea,” by Howard Hodgkin, it was unclear that water was being represented in the first place. There were thick brushes of blue paint throughout the painting, and the borders were contained by a red frame that was painted on as well. This painting created a feeling of chaos and anxiety. Another painting titled “River Landscape with Fishermen” depicted peaceful water with a small town in the background. There were fishermen on the water, and everything was calm. I found it fascinating the different ways that the artists chose to depict water.

Lastly, another painting that stood out to me was “Eve and the Serpent.” This artist takes a very common theme, Eve in the Garden of Eden, and transforms it into something completely new and interesting. This painting depicts Eve, completely naked, petting the serpent who is curled around the tree. The artist used vibrant colors, and there are animals that appear to be calm and happy. Another interesting fact about this painting is that Eve is depicted with dark skin, unlike most depictions of Eve.

My main takeaway from visiting the Ackland is that art has many more connections to literature and life than I previously believed. There are many different ways of viewing art and thinking about art that might not be so obvious at first glance.