Asa Packer

The painting of Asa Packer, founder of Lehigh University, has recently been conserved and returned back to the University. It is currently on display at the Zoellner arts Center on the bottom of the campus. The painting for years was on display in the University Center in front of Lower Cort Dining Hall that students would pass every day before they ate lunch or dinner. The painting just recently underwent a year long process of rejuvenation in Carlisle, PA. This process is supposed to return the painting to its original state. The process involves removing layers of old varnish, mending tears in the canvas, securing flaking paint, and using new paint to disguise previous damage or prevent damage in the future (found on painting). The painting is approximately fifty years old and will not need to undergo this project again for another fifty years.

I think this piece is really important to have on campus to remind students what Lehigh University stands for at an institutional level. It reminds students that the school embodies Packer’s beliefs and values. Asa Packer gave $500,000 and 60 acres in 1865 to make Lehigh what it is today. He did so to promote the growth of engineers in the Lehigh Valley that could staff Bethlehem Steel Co. He also continuously gave to the institution he helped build and because of his generosity, for the 20 beginning years of Lehigh, the university was tuition free. Asa Packer will always be remembered by the Lehigh community for his giving nature and outstanding work in promoting education in the United States. This large approximately seven foot painting of him does him homage by making him appear to be larger than life, which hew essentially was.

La vida es una donación

Ernest Leal in his piece La vida es uno donacion depicts a wooden box being delivered by the parachute of “humanity” into the middle of the ocean. The piece is on display at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University as part of the Fine Arts Endowment Purchase. Leal is a Cuban American that is making a comment on her heritage. He is making Cuba look downtrodden. He is showing that Cuba is in shambles and that they are reliant on other countries’ help. Surely he is attributing the loss of self-sufficiency to the current oppressive regime in Cuba and is making a mockery out of Cuba by this canvas piece. The wooden crate of relief is being dropped in the middle of the ocean, which I assume is to represent how when aid is given to Cuba by allies, it is just as good as throwing aid into the middle of the ocean. The aid will never be given back to the humanity that ha given it.

I think that Leal is trying to say that Cubans only recognize the countries that are allies and give help as respectable, upstanding nations. The painting is meant to take a shot a Cuba for being a place that Leal cannot fully embrace due to its inefficiencies and malpractices. I think that many of the art pieces that give backlash to the Cuban government and people are not necessarily targeted at the Cuban people or culture, and the same is true for La vida es uno donacion. He feels a great deal of emotion for where his roots are planted.  Leal has strong ties to his mother country but that does not mean that she approves of all that goes on there. Although this painting is discrediting Cuba, Leal would probably still conducer himself inherently Cuban.

Wilfredo Lam

The piece named Wilfredo Lam is currently on display in the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. The piece was created by Maria Martinez-Canas and is part of her portfolio Quince Sellos Cubanos, 1991-1992. Martinez-Canas was born in 1960 in Cuba, but her family moved to Miami, Florida when she was only three months old. Many of her pieces reflect on the culture Martinez-Canas wishes she could could have grown up in but did not have the opportunity to. The piece Wilfredo Lam is a piece that revolves around a vintage Cuban postage stamp. She puts her own spin on the original stamp and makes the piece look wild with extra lines making the original bland stamp look almost tribal.  Martinez-Canas always says that she has never been back to Cuba, but she has surely traveled there in spirit, and this is apparent throughout her pieces in The Drawings of Wilfredo Lam.

I think that the self expression in this piece is remarkable. The fact that the artist uses such stark difference in lines to the old stamp shows me that she has troubles with her home country. The piece shows her love of origin but at the same time makes statements that she would change Cuba in many ways if she could, much like how she made alterations to the Cuban stamp. Her family was most likely refugees who fled Cuba during a time of oppression under communist rule, and this has obviously stuck with her and can be seen in her pieces that relate to Cuba. Martinez-Canas uses this mode to show her audience that even though the stamp is from “her Cuba” she would make many changes to the system that is in place there. The piece shows that everyone has roots at some place, and whether we choose to embrace it or not, where we come from greatly effects the beliefs and values we come to have.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

The piece named Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (2014) is part of the series Places I’ve Never Been (2010-2013) done by Argentinean artist Alejandro Almaraz. The work depicts the world renown church in New York City that was opened in 1879. The picture uses multiple overlapping shots of the same vestibule in the cathedral to give the work an unique effect. The portrait makes it look as if the cathedral is dimly or oddly lit and it can even fray eyesight if concentrated upon too long. The cathedral is digitally manipulated and the lines on the church are frayed and lead to the alter of the church. This imagery is not to praise the architecture or religion that is followed here, but rather to comment on the immense political power the Catholic Church yields. Almaraz is known for making pieces of art that make blatant political statements that are considered open and blunt. Although Almaraz lures his critics in with a familiar scenery, he distorts what is known to make a statement about what he thinks of the place in question.

I think that his use of frayed lines shows the chaotic nature of the Catholic Church in the midst of their American child abuse scandals regarding priests and young boys. There is also panic in the church due to upheaval around the world as religious wars are breaking out more frequently than in the past century. The portrait almost makes the iconic architecture look as if it is being shook to ruin by all exterior happenings. I also witnessed how the lines make the church look as if it is in the middle of a transition. The blurred lines make the portrait look as if the church is changing, and updating to lose vital parts. Maybe Almarez is saying that the church is losing touch with the teachings it was founded upon, and that is why it is being deteriorated. The piece rings out that political power is being abused in the church.

  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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