Within the Kinesphere I

Posted: January 28, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


Still photo from the video “Elastic Heart,” by Australian recording artist Sia. The song was produced in 2013 for the soundtrack to the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Many points of view were articulated during spirited conversation about the song, the video, and its meaning. Viewing the Sia video, how did the movements impact your interpretation of the piece?  Feel free to watch it again, here. After a second viewing, what is a gesture you notice from the video and what is the impact or relevance of this gesture?  How do the common place movements we use in every life become new and different in the context of this video?  How does the casting choice of Shia LeBouf and Maddie Ziegler affect your interpretation of the piece?  Feel free to incorporate any background information you have about these performers into your interpretation.  How is the content in this piece connected to other works of art we have viewed this semester.

lysistrata 2

Instructor Melissa Sparks discussed the origins of theatre in Ancient Greece, and how Greece developed forms of spectacle including as well, athletic competitions. Spectacle was, as we’ve seen, perfected later on by the Romans. Lysistrata is one of many Greek plays, but one with special resonance today because of the powerful feminist message in the story. Lysistrata is a comedy with a message: an early look at how the sexes might interact with one another in a society largely controlled by men. The drawing above is a recent one used to advertise a production of this ancient play. You should not read into it anything about the Greeks of 2,500 years ago! In Ancient Greece, theatre and performance was an important part of their culture.  Today, many do not attend the theatre.  How and why has our culture changed?  In your hometown, what has replaced theatre as the event that everyone attends or participates in?  Be specific.  adi-paz

Still photo from the video Polianot. We had a brief visit with Adi Paz, talking from a cafe in Tel Aviv. What is your impression of Adi Paz and her work? What seems especially of interest to you in her video Polianot – and why? You may also comment on the quick look we had at her upcoming dance POST-IT, that takes on the issue of sexual harassment – a problem in Israel and throughout the Middle East, just as it is in the U.S.

NOTE: Limit on length of comments. After class Wednesday and discussion about the importance of writing, it is clear that the posts have become better. However, some people are posting comments that are more like essays. You must learn how to write well, and succinctly. Comments should generally be 100 – 200 words. Beginning now (Thursday morning at 8 am), the upper limit will be 300 words. Comments longer than 300 words will not be evaluated and scored. Thank you.

This post will close Sunday at about 10 pm. 

Ancestors: Faith, Beauty & Iconography Part II

Posted: January 26, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


Dorothy awakens from her journey and sees the adults in her life in a new light. What defines Home for you? Imagination: Who gets to use their imagination as adults?


The Ten Commandments prohibits making graven images. This law is followed, to varying degrees, by some Jews and some Muslims. It is recognized by a few sects in Christianity – such as the Amish and some Mennonites. Left to right: a young man reading from the Torah; Arabic calligraphy that includes the name, Allah, the Muslim word for God; a painting of Jesus on the cross. What would your life be like if you followed this prohibition to a significant extent? For example, if you did have a Facebook page – but only posted words – never images of people? If you avoided looking at photographs of celebrities?


Left to right: Iconic images from Ancient Greece and Rome – linked to specific iconic locations at WMU: The Parthenon, Athens, Greece; Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, Rome; Roman mosaic showing gladiatorial combat. Why are we still so much influenced by the Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome? Connections were made between American football (college and NFL), and Roman spectacle – in particular, gladiatorial combat as seen in a clip from the film Gladiator. How does the Roman technique of control called “bread and circuses” apply to life in the US today? What events in NCAA and NFL football in very recent times can you cite to prove your point about bread and circuses today?


Left to right: detail of the Spear Bearer, by sculptor Polykleitos, Greek, circa 450 BCE; detail of Greek dinner platter with design of boys wrestling; Painting titled Power Pussy, by Julia Haw, 2013. There was a lot of discussion – especially in the afternoon class, about sex. How are your feelings of the body and sexuality influenced by religion? By artists? By advertising and popular culture? What would you like to change?

Last: a took a quick look at news  photos from around the world, and of activists on the march in Kalamazoo and on campus last week. Comments?

This post will be open until about 5 pm on Wednesday. The post closed at 5:11 pm on Wednesday with 150 comments. 

In The Beginning

Posted: January 21, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

This class plunged into topics from which much of the semester will emerge. Hopefully you are now able to make connections between content in last week’s classes – such as subjects revealed in songs by John Legend/Common, Beyonce, Azealia Banks, and others; and through our examination of the Charlie Hebdo killings; and Anita Ekberg in the film “La Dolce Vita” – as well as Julia Haw’s visit. Reflect back over everything presented in today’s class: We deconstructed Dr. King’s ‘I have been to the mountaintop’ speech; looked at how religion and iconic imagery developed in the Paleolithic era, and changed in Ancient Greece and the Renaissance. We discussed how it is that people in every culture and era have made iconic images of women that reflect their changing worldview. We then pivoted to another time and place – New York City in 1974 and in 2001 – experienced first through Bruce Springsteen’s evocative ballad “My City of Ruins,” and then with the “once in a lifetime” performance at the “tippy-top” of the World Trade Center by French wire-walker Philippe Petit.

What most surprised you about the content of this class? What role does religion or spirituality play in your life? Did any aspect of this class cause you to think about your spiritual background (or absence of one), differently? What is your reaction to being told by Prof. Solomon, that you should pay more attention to social/political/religious events going on today? Look around your bedroom, dorm room, etc: what iconic image(s) have you placed in your sight? Does that image hold a lot of meaning for you? What? Why?


Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking the night of April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee.


Symbols of the three Western monotheistic religions – in chronological order: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.


Iconic images of women, left to right: fertility figure (stone carving about 4 inches tall), Paleolithic era; the Venus de Milo, marble sculpture, Ancient Greece; The Birth of Venus, painting by Sandro Botticelli, 1486, Italian Renaissance; Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photograph, circa 1960.


Philippe Petit, 1,350 feet up in the air, between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, New York, NY, on the morning of August 7, 1974. This scene is from the film Man on Wire, produced in 2008. 

Please carefully read the Blog Grading Criteria before you write. This post will remain open until about 10 pm on Sunday. (The post closed Sunday night at 10:05 PM with 125 comments.)

Julia Haw • Small Town Girl

Posted: January 14, 2015 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Julia Haw is a remarkable artist. She is also a remarkable and generous person. If talent and guts are rewarded as they should be, Julia will become a huge star in the art world any minute now. It’s not possible to sum up the work of any great artist in any one image, but the two below illustrate the scope of her ability and need to portray truths about herself and of life in general. They also show off her stunning capacity to make paint fool us into a state of suspension of disbelief. For those of you who want to look again at images you saw in class, and see many more, visit her excellent website, here.

What most surprised you about Julia Haw and her paintings? One way to think of artists is as storytellers. What story that Julia’s work tells most affected you? In what ways do you relate to her experiences? If you are inspired by Juila, in what way? Do you like the fact that everyone’s interpretation of a work of art is equally valid? Or, is that somehow frustrating? If you were to purchase one of the paintings, which one would you want to hang in your home and why?

If you choose to comment on this post please follow the example of Julia Haw: Speak clearly, and don’t censor the aspects of your responses to her work that make you human and vulnerable. Please also do your best to write about links between Julia’s work and her world – and other topics we’ve already explored. Please feel free to comment on any aspect that came up in this class — or in the first class on Monday!

BEFORE YOU POST YOUR COMMENT: Please read Blog Grading Criteria in your Handbook, or above under Key Info. This post closed for comments at about 10 pm Sunday night with 96 comments.


The Saint of Luxury, Oil and Swarovski Crystal on Canvas, 36×30 in., 2014, Collection of Ralph Smith


The Death Painting, Oil on Canvas, 2013

The Chicago Reader newspaper published a story about Julia Haw and issues to do with women and painting now and in recent history. The story includes a link to the 1866 painting The Origin of the World, by Gustave Courbet, that we viewed in class. Click here

Please be certain you are up to date this week with what happened since the murder by Islamic fanatics of the editors and artists of Charlie Hebdo. There are many articles online. Just search for information about Charlie Hebdo. FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-MEDIA-FRONTPAGE

We also viewed two clips from the film La Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini in 1960. The clips we viewed featured Anita Ekberg, who died this past Sunday, and Marcello Mastroianni. LaDolceVita1

One more thing: We ran out of time with Julia today. She had wanted us to share with you this video called Ten Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman. Let us know what you think.

Welcome to Direct Encounter with the Arts

Posted: January 13, 2015 by Melissa Sparks in Uncategorized


In recent times, while other classes worried about H1N1 and other viruses, Direct Encounter with the Arts students protected themselves from the far more serious risk of CONTAMINATION caused by repeated exposure to ART…

Please post your DEARTS BlogShot test here by following the instructions on the ‘BlogShot Assignment’  handout. Please note that comments left here will NOT be evaluated as part of your blogging grade. What counts is that you post your Headshot, Class and Full Name.

If you have any questions about this assignment please contact Melissa Sparks at melissa.sparks@wmich.edu

PLEASE NOTE: Comments about the most recent class need to go on the post at the top of the page in order to be evaluated and scored for credit. This post is only for testing your DEARTS BlogShot. 

Thank you.