[Out of the] Cave art

Throughout history, many individuals have been criticized -- then later praised -- for challenging certain societal norms. These "heretics" and "freethinkers" have changed the world with their revolutionary thoughts on religion, science, education, and politics. The purpose of this exhibit is to explore how such thoughts -- particularly those of Plato, Galileo Galilei, Karl Marx, and Mary Wollstonecraft -- can be visually manifested through art.

I see this piece as an illustration of humankind's progress in exploration and discovery. It introduces this exhibit's overarching theme, which is that knowledge is limitless and that we should keep an open mind as a society and never stop pursuing it through science. As the title indicates, "the consciousness of mankind" is ever-expanding just as the universe is. This piece would likely appeal to Galileo, as it shows the heliocentric solar system he hypothesized. In the zoomed-out perspective in the upper left corner, the solar system closely resembles an atomic model, which I imagine was what the artist intended. This contrast between the infinitely large universe and an atom, the smallest piece of everything that makes up the universe, puts into perspective how relatively small humans are in the grand scheme, but also how much we are capable of. We have come so far since Galileo's time, but there is still so much room to grow.
To me, "Science Blinding Beauty" shows the tension that often occurs between rational and romantic thought. Society often values "beauty," or its widely-accepted but romanticized ideas on how things work, often inspired by religion. So when "science," or rational explanations derived through research, contradicts these ideas, society can feel uncomfortable or "blinded". In this piece, Beauty is represented by a Classical-style nude woman, and science by a jumble of objects that seems to include a protractor. These objects seem to have intruded into the dull room through an open window, which may represent an "open mind." I interpret the woman as being trapped in a room similar to Plato's cave and resisting information from the "real" world just as the prisoners in the allegory did.
I see this piece as somewhat of a representation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. These men are trapped in a dark space and are too preoccupied with their futile struggle to take advantage of the lightbulb that lays alongside them. The artist's description indicates that the men are struggling to "drag new insights out of the darkness and into the light," which goes with Plato's theme of enlightenment. I see the unlit bulb as untapped knowledge; these men are wasting so much energy on creating this tension between themselves and the wall (which they think is something "real" and worth pulling) that they neglect to use their minds to create light.
In this self-portrait, Kahlo shows her nude, injured body, veiled by an elegant dress. It is possible that with the title "Appearances Can Be Deceiving" she was simply contrasting her elegant clothing to her fragile, imperfect body, but since I recognize Kahlo as a feminist icon, I also interpret this from a Feminist perspective. To me, the title of this piece is an argument that a woman is not defined by her mere status as a woman, or by how she presents herself to society. This perspective falls in line with Mary Wollsonecraft's argument that women should strive for knowledge and virtue rather than beauty and "ladylike" behaviors alone.
Lettl purposely leaves the meaning of this piece to the interpretation of the viewer. In the context of this exhibit, I see the rock-men in the background of the painting as people in power. They are solid, immovable, and enormous. They bask in moonlight, their attention drawn away from the smaller human figures around them. The title of the piece indicates hope, which may be represented by the pearl-like object floating above the water, which a person is breaking out of. This person may be a revolutionary thinker who is "breaking out" to create change and ignite the "future" mentioned in the title. In a Marxist context, this man may be emerging to revolt against the Bourgeosie rock-men along with the oppressed-looking shadowy lower-class figures in the background. There is a lot of potential symbolism going on in this piece, such as the letters carved into the man's orb, the light of the moon, and its reflection. Perhaps the moonlight the man floats toward is symbolic of the "future" of equality he hopes for.
This piece pretty much speaks for itself. It adheres to the theme of the pursuit of knowledge and mankind's ever-expanding collective mind. It suggests that we should not take what we know in the present as being written in stone, because in the future we may look back with the knowledge that it had not all been true. This is applicable to several of the "heretics" and "freethinkers" we've studied this semester.
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