A Special Note to All Viewers:
Some of the documents in this portfolio appear as a typed photograph and pictures of the original hand-written pages. A scanner would not pick up the pencil used in the original documents. Therefore, the typed versions exist for ease of reading and the pictures of originals so viewers may get a sense of the intended layout.
Thank you for your understanding.
Hello to all! My name is Abby Waliga, and this portfolio is the final assignment for Writing 100 A3 Boston's Museums and Art Collections, taught by Professor Eubanks. This course helps to develop writing and research abilities along with the added bonus of analyzing art. We read essays and articles about art topics ranging from composition to the controversial avant-garde movement, looking at multiple pieces of art that related to the day's topic. Individually, we visited many local museums to find artwork to write about for our essays, art analysis and for fun. The museums I visited and cited in this portfolio are the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum and the Institute for Contemporary Art. I hope you enjoy browsing the art displayed throughout the portfolio and learn about the works. I know I did.
The gallery above shows the Self-Assessment each of us wrote at the beginning of the semester. I had never been asked to examine my own writing in such a way, and it proved interesting to see how I critiqued myself. This document provided a vital starting point for my swim through the ocean of the art world.
Saying my writing has merely improved this semester would be an understatement. My writing style drastically matured with each challenge that came about. Three problems in particular presented themselves immediately at the beginning of this class. The first, a common problem, was an overuse of "to be" verbs. The difference in writing is visible when "is" is used too much; the writing is less engaging and is not as fun to read. (Can you see this difference?) Granted, this problem surfaces in the museum notes and in-class writings seen in this portfolio, but as I progressed in my essays, I tried to correct this to the point where "is" meets near eradication. My second problem comes with the effort to avoid "is." Sometimes, my longer-winded sentences get such awkward phrasing the reader loses track of the original concept. Many a peer editor has commented on this problem and offered suggestions, as seen on many of the portfolio documents. I continue to fight that battle. I feel that WR100 A3 has nearly cured me of my third problem, which seemed glaringly obvious to me in my self-assessment. I had never written about art. Not once. I will consider the depth of this conundrum in more detail in the abstracts accompanying the portfolio documents.
Now to address the portfolio. Those who saw the word 'Dionysian' in the title and thought, "What is that? It sounds like a disease. What does it have to do with emotion and art?" fear not. Dionysian, in a sense, is simply everything Apollonian is not. Confused yet?
Dionysus, the god of wine in Greek mythology, works purely on impulsive, raw feeling (Nietzsche 26). His followers threw chaotic gatherings in his honor, working themselves into a frenzy. This uncontrolled releasing of passions neared the threshold of barbarism, striking fear and wonder in an orderly society. Apollo, on the other hand, represents the sun and light, music and poetry. He holds the mantle of a civilized culture, of holding oneself correctly in public. His clean cut youth, honor and dignity bring a graceful yet passive face to art. Aspects of the two can and do overlap in artwork, yet a piece usually displays stronger characteristics of one or the other (Nietzsche 26).
When asked to develop a theme for this portfolio, I balked. I saw no immediate connecting theme in my writings. I dug and scoured each page, until I noticed something that should have been obvious: real, honest life. What do I mean by this? I have always connected best to life through emotion. This does not mean I am an emotional person; rather, I like to consider things on the basis of how people would honestly react in a situation. I connected with the description of Dionysian art in the article "The Birth of Tragedy" by Nietzsche (see Works Cited), because I think that Dionysian reactions to life seem more natural than Apollonian.
The Dionysian emotions of life that occured again and again in my writings began to surface, dark beacons in the gloom. They include reactions to the unknown, fear, cruelty, horror, chaos and death. I thought these subjects quite negative but decided they should not be classified as such. Depressing, maybe. Bad, absolutely not. They are the products of chaos, of Dionysian frenzy when people feel something touch a bit too close to their souls.
Thus arrived a portfolio topic almost stunning in its simple yet complex meaning. Art seeks to convey feeling to the viewer and often effectively achieves this in Dionysian emotion. How it accomplishes this differs with each piece, from lighting and color to composition and creating a connection with other works. This portfolio sets out to explore the manifestation of Dionysian emotion in these differing contexts.
Part One of the Portfolio discusses those factors that help to set up Dionysian emotion in composition. Passion in Emotion Part 1 starts with an idea. Art in itself challenges the artist to display this idea in the most passionate way possible, the “realest” depiction he can muster. It uses my personal example of writing and how, with an idea and a pen, characters live whole lives on my pages. Passion in Emotion Part 2 discusses how an artist must have a true love of their art. He must not overly care about norms of size or material, but focus on the conveyance of the emotion of his idea in the most honest way he can. The Dionysian begins to peek through when the artist casts off these constraints of acceptable forms and notions. The importance of light in setting the mood of a piece shines in Let There Be Light. The light must match the emotion of the art, and if it accomplishes this, emotion will more completely show, heightening the wonder of the Dionysian experience. Experimentation with color and the effect it has on emotion and meaning speaks in What Comes with Color. The feature artifact of this page only concerns itself with the presence of color, but it must also be said that the lack of color in a piece may serve the same purpose. So, the artist starts with passion, pursuit of truth, light and color. Armed with these, he continues into the chaotic realm of meaning, representing these in a Dionysian composition.
Part Two of this Portfolio explores how the action of the main compositional element translates into a specific Dionysian emotion. These artifacts organize in such a way that makes the emotions follow a progression similar to how they would flow in life. The Dionysian first appears in the Unknown, a shadowy place that evokes deep curiousity in the victim. As argued in the accompanying artifact, curiousity sparks a cycle of the pursuit of knowledge. However, the unknown may become overwhelming in its differences, frightening people away. People become manipulated by Fear, a tool often used by Dionysian chaos. The artifact explains this relationship through the most dramatic of examples, the fall from brilliant heaven into unknown hell. Fear twists the gut, makes one sweat, makes one sick. One wants to fight this source of fear, sometimes resorting to unspeakable acts as a safety net. The painting representing this Cruelty questions humanity itself and if limits on crime exist at all. Commiting a crime naturally creates witnesses who must endure the Horror of Dionysian chaos growing wildy out of hand. They may choose to fight, or they may want to curl up and wish the horror away. Some will go on living, as do the anonymous citizens of World War II; this simple act proves as avant-garde as any depiction of survival ever will. As the Dionysian subjects continue their games, Chaos befalls the composition as all aspects of the Apollonian get pushed aside, erasing those lines in the sand. A new product of the Dionysian begins to burrow into the soul, a feeling of numbness descending like a shroud. Death extends beyond the physical, encompassing an imbalance of the Dionysian and Apollonian that kills the senses. "The Awe of Death" develops this feeling in tangible representation, attempting to put a name to this ultimate unknown. These emotions flow in increasing extremes, forming a complete circle as they recycle into one another. The viewer finds himself presented with this chain of events and a decision to find a place in it or discard it.
Part III of the portfolio unifies the elements an artists needs for depiction of the Dionysian and the flow of emotions from the unknown to death. It puts forth the idea that after all has passed, Dionysian chaos is experienced on an individual level. The recipient of the onslaught must decide the importance of each emotion and whether or not to invest energy into contemplation of it. Essay 3, the portfolio's main artifact, appears as a first draft and as a final work to better show my process of revision and the continuing problem of awkward phrasing. Having grown so much as a writer throughout the semester, I began to move the ideas presented in my essay outside the written page. Two photographs of my own accompany the final draft of Essay 3, both personal attempts to give my ideas substance and clout in the real world.
I came full circle, much as my viewer of the Dionysian, taking experiences and putting them into writing and art, then taking new ideas out and living with them. I learned how to analyze art, how to write a coherent sentence and how to not say is. Putting together this portfolio made me realize that I defended a Dionysian perspective before I even knew what Dionysian was. It allowed me to see that art's ideas extend beyond a gallery or a thesis, and that the world can learn much by embracing it, Apollonian, Dionysian and all.
Welcome to my portfolio.