Field Trip to the Chrysler Museum of Art
I recently visited a fascinating exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. When I visited the exhibit, Sacred Sites Then & Now, The American Civil War, on June 28th, 1998, I was fascinated by what I observed. The exhibit is a collection of works by various artists. It focuses on the way places have changed since the Civil War. What they have done is to research old photographs, battlefield sketches, and maps, then show the sites as they appear today, using many different media. The way the exhibit is presented, it really illustrates the differences in the way things and places were then versus the way they are today. The sites today differ greatly from the way they appeared then; and believe me, the impact is very strong. Not only are the appearances different, the changes in technology are also very apparent. There were many different types of art in the exhibit, including photographs, murals, collages, and paintings.
The work of art I chose to describe was done in the traditional medium of oil on panel. It is entitled Clark's Mountain Confederate Signal Station, 1991, and is by James McElhiney, a contemporary American artist. At about 9 inches by 12 inches, it is relatively small when compared to many of the other works in the exhibit, some of which covered entire walls or large areas of the floor. Like most paintings, it is one-dimensional. The techniques used to create it, physically, probably have not changed in many years. The artist's "vision" is what makes this work so special. When I saw it, I knew immediately that I had found the subject of my letter. There was a message in the painting so powerful that it seemed to shout to me. The painting itself if of average quality, a traditional (at first glance) painting of a Shenandoah Mountain area valley. What affected me was the microwave tower, standing atop the mountain in the foreground. I attempted to recreate the painting, although I will admit it is a very crude representation. That, in itself isn't much to get excited about, until you read the title the artist has given his work, Clark's Mountain Confederate Signal Station, 1991.
The painting captures the essence of the way technology has changed our world and our lives. Looking at the picture, I could easily make the microwave tower disappear in my mind's eye, to be replaced by a confederate soldier standing atop the mountain with flags and mirrors in hand. The picture is not extraordinary, in and of itself; what makes it so appealing is the impact it has on the viewer.
In closing, I would like to recommend this exhibit to everyone. The whole museum is very interesting. (Yes, I did the whole thing.) I have lived in this area virtually all my life, and I don't think I had ever been to the Chrysler Museum before. Should you find the time to go, I think you will find it well worth the trip. Sacred Sites Then & Now, The American Civil War exhibit runs through August 30, 1998.
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