Inside Out, Outside In

Now that my second to last undergraduate finals season is over (say that 5 times fast), I feel like I can finally unveil what my brain has been mulling over for the past semester. The problem here is there’s just so much of it it’s impossible to choose where to start. For the sake of ease, I might as well just start with what’s most finished and work my way through from there, but that’s not to say that in a month I won’t come back and everything will change completely.

Shocker, shocker, my architecture capstone is largely art history based. I know, no one saw that coming. Jokes aside, I spent a lot of time this semester curating and thinking about art and pairings of art pieces that ultimately represented the same thing despite stretching vastly different cultures, geographies, time periods, and styles. I’d love to dive further into my thought process on one of those pairings here. As I just wrote about Frida, I’d love to tell you why I chose her again in my pairing here representing external and internal relationships–ie, relationships with yourself versus relationships with others.

For this, I have a Dogon example of an ancestral couple, and Frida Kahlo’s “The Two Fridas”. Now clearly, these two pieces are worlds apart, but when broken down I think they start to mean quite similar things. On the surface level, it’s hard to find any similarities past there being two humanoid figures. I mean, one is Mexican painting, one is African sculpture, and the two have over one thousand years separating them from one another. But, on closer examination, I think both reveal the sensitive subject of belonging.

Frida’s work largely investigates the relationship she had with herself, and the struggle she encountered between her European and Mexican identities. Despite this conflict, however, these two pieces were still a huge part of her harmonious whole. Without each half, she wouldn’t be Frida Kahlo. This conflict and sense of duality was what made her able to create art in the way she did, and how filled out her individual space in the larger puzzle of humanity. It was because of this give and take that she had the unique sides, bumps, and ridges to fit in exactly where she needed to be to make her impact on the world (much like a puzzle piece).

The Dogon sculpture dives into something remarkably similar, but now separates it into two individuals acting as halves to a separate whole. The elongated figures and subtle symmetry between the two subjects reference an idea of perfect harmony between one person and another. Thought to be a funerary object this may either indicate one person mourning for another, a loss of their other half if you will, or the belief that even in the afterlife you still have the opportunity to find your harmonious match and become complete.

Once you have all of this background information in mind, I would love to challenge you as I did with myself and just sit and stare at these two next to each other for a while. As I talked about before, there are few physical similarities between them. But, somehow they have the same spirit. I always say, the more I learn about art the more I think that there’s no way that everyone wasn’t right. About religion, relationships, beauty–all of it. There’s just so much overlap between two cultures that never even spoke or probably even knew of one another that sometimes it just gets a little creepy. So, for the sake of the existential crisis of the day, stare at these two pairings and see what comes out of it. See how you see yourself in Frida, how you see your relationships in the couple, and see how long it takes you to cry. Not to brag, but I think I made it a whole five minutes.

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