Romare Bearden: Being Human – Emily Ezell

C. Shaw Smith’s lecture of Romare Bearden in terms of “being human” provided a clear transition between unit five and unit six. After spending a month studying the use of performance to enter a political conversation, I quickly picked up on the connections between reading dance and reading visual arts. Smith used the works of Bearden to guide us through the practice of visualizing and performing memory. Bearden’s work emphasizes the importance of remembering and ritualizing in visual arts. His collages represent different rituals as a means of confirming humanity; collages of remembering. Human rituals impose order over the chaos in our lives. Examples of rituals in Bearden’s collages include burials, going back to school, worthing, bathing, and other rites of passage. Through these rituals, Bearden tells his experience and defines his identity through pictorial complexities. In addition to storytelling, Bearden’s work also employs what Smith called “the acoustics of remembrance,” or the study of what paintings sound like. Overall, Professor Smith’s presentation on Bearded gave me a good foundation for the process of reading and hearing visual arts. 

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