Humanities graduate student Jack C. Patterson has been named the winner of the first exhibition-related essay contest by the nonprofit PICTURE Art Foundation, which operates PICTURE Cultural Art on first floor of the new Library South wing. A graduate assistant and supplementary instructor for the College of Arts and Humanities, Patterson received $500 for “The Twilight of Renewal,” written in response to California artist Renzo’s painting “Fallen Crow,” which was featured in the center’s current exhibition, “On Being Human: Love, Faith, Shame, and Hope.”
“We are delighted with Jack’s submission,” says Mike Johnson, president, PICTURE Cultural Art. “It’s thoughtful, literate, and well-written. It shows that he spent a great deal of time looking, reflecting, and thinking about Renzo’s painting, ‘Fallen Crow.’ The piece engaged him and he, with his essay, engaged the work. We couldn’t ask for a better response.”
In his essay, Patterson writes that despite the painting’s classification under the category of “Shame,” the work embodies all of the exhibit’s main themes.
“Although crows and ravens traditionally warn people of death, Renzo interprets them as symbols of spirituality, commitment and intelligence; understandably, birds and the act of flight represent accessibility to the skies (firmament), endowing birds with spiritual significance,” Patterson writes in his essay. “Renzo’s ‘Fallen Crow’ is liminal and speaks of change. It is not [symbolic of] shame alone but love, faith, and hope.”
A graduate of the anthropology program, Patterson often uses artwork as an example or device in his writing to visualize concepts or topics. He writes that the dress and accoutrements of the subject in “Fallen Crow” reminded him of an indigenous regalia he had seen in his studies. However, the despairing posture of the subject inspired him to further examination of the work.
“At first glance, the aboriginal, indigenous appearance of ‘Fallen Crow’ appealed to the anthropologist in me; the whisker-like twigs attached to Fallen Crow’s bird beak mask reminded me of the Huli Wigmen of New Guinea who pierce their noses with thin strips of bone as part of their ceremonial dress,” he says. “However, his posture told me something else. Although the caption places the painting in the category of shame, I didn’t see shame but despair. And, I was curious about what I saw as a possible relationship between this despair and the artificial elements in the composition which seemed to contrast the yonder crows, the non-artificial element.”
PICTURE Cultural Art will present another contest for students this fall semester with the same focus on a measured examination of a single work of art shown in “On Being Human: Love, Faith, Shame, and Hope.” James Scarborough, executive director, hopes for a wide variety of responses.
“Short of learning to paint, one of the best ways to develop visual literacy is to write about art,” says Scarborough. “By analyzing and accounting for your responses, you learn that a painting’s color, line, shape, space, texture, and composition have the same grammar, syntax, and vocabulary as the sentences with which you craft the essay.”
The deadline for submissions is September 23. For more information, contact Scarborough by email, call (562) 537-9088, or visit PICTURE Cultural Art.
“On Being Human: Love, Faith, Shame, and Hope” is currently being shown until October. PICTURE Cultural Art is open on Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Admission is free; private tours are available and encouraged.
Representing a private/public partnership with California State University, Dominguez Hills, one of the most ethnically diverse college campus west of the Mississippi River, PICTURE Cultural Art Center is an exhibition space that hosts world class programs and exhibitions dedicated to furthering the dialogue around cultural awareness and harmony.