Before our tour of the Ackland Art Museum it wasn’t clear to me what an english class could learn from looking at artwork. However, my group had a wonderful tour guide who provided insight into how the concept of adaptation can be applied to paintings. The two most memorable paintings for me were Looking at the Sea and Eve and the Serpent.
Looking at the Sea is an abstract painting, and initially I did not realize that it could be depicting the ocean. When I first saw this painting I thought it looked like someone had tossed a stone into a pond. I also thought the streaks of tan and orange in the upper corner was a reflection of objects on the pond’s shore. Once our tour guide explained that the artist’s title indicates it could be seen as the unruly sea I saw the painting in a different light. Suddenly the swirls of blue at the bottom of the canvas looked like waves in the ocean, and my mind was immediately taken back to the story of Robinson Crusoe attempting to sail in the storm. This experience caused me to reflect on the term adaptation in regards to abstract paintings. Since abstract art does not directly depict an image the meaning of the work can be interpreted by the viewer. If I was viewing this painting alone I might have never considered the painting to look like the sea if I didn’t read the title Looking at the Sea. If an adaptation reframes a work would different interpretations of what is shown in abstract art be considered the beginnings of adaptation?
Our group looked at Eve and the Serpent after viewing another painting that depicted the story of Adam and Eve. I thought this painting was an intriguing adaptation of the biblical story and the bright colors captured my attention. At first I was unsure about the author’s motivation for choosing to paint Eve as an African American, but our tour guide addressed this concept by explaining that the painting’s title references the slave song “Dem Bones”. Once I knew about the slave spiritual I could see that this adaption reframed the story of Adam and Eve to reference the ideals of social injustice and slavery. Perhaps Rose Piper’s choice of not including Adam in this painting also represents a message about oppression, but instead focuses on the oppression of women, not just African Americans. Adam’s absence could represent the strong independence of women from the oppression of men. Overall I thought the trip to the Ackland was very insightful and helped me realize how a painting, without the supplementary details movies and books provide, can be an adaptation that sends a unique and detailed message from its creator about the source referenced or societal ideals.