Seated Women by Ron Mueck is a hyper-realistic mini sculpture that, after I take a close look, compels me to feel various feelings of intense emotion that the work was trying to convey. This is a portrait of the artist’s wife’s grandmother, a strong woman whom the artist wanted to depict. He wanted the old woman to look sad, but he thought it would be disrespectful to make her look too pitiful, so he raised her hanging head to a higher position. The old lady is looking to her future, without much of it left, but nonetheless, she is still facing upward.
The old lady’s posture, her introspective expression, and her diminished scale together show her frailness. Mueck tries to evoke a range of human conditions through his art, such as vulnerability and pity. By emphasizing these specific human conditions in this work, Mueck successfully renders the viewers’ sympathy toward the character he portrayed. Many people can experience this intimate emotional connection while they are standing in front of the sculpture, because this piece of art is quite small and placed on a stage about eye level, so people can walk around the sculpture to build their connection.
The use of colors such as blue, grey, black, and brown for the woman’s clothing and hair helps the artist to convey emotions. Mueck employs this technique to make the old lady looks more pale and frail. Additional to the choice of color, the scale of Mueck’s arts is unique. He makes sculptures that are often larger or smaller than life-size. The shift in scale draws us in and engages us at a different level.
Many viewers reveal their empathy toward this old lady, for they might find themselves used to be in a state similar to Ron Mueck’s seated women, feeling intense melancholy and dolorous.
Another fascinating piece at the museum is In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow by Takashi Murakami. This massive, eighty-two-foot-long painting occupies two walls. This colorful kitschy pop art with extensive details grabbed my attention instantly. The work presents all kinds of weird creatures and monsters; some are funny looking, some are intimidating with long nails and giant mouth, and some look beautiful. The artist outlined each character with black and filled in rainbow colors, creating a cheerful feeling that contrast greatly to the true meaning of this piece.
Interestingly, the work serves as a reference to a Japanese history of natural disasters—2011 Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami casing more than 10 thousand deaths—and a way to show the suffering of the country. The tsunami of churning water is depicted with swirling stripes of different colors, showing chaos and strength. Many monsters are portrayed as old men, wearing ripped clothing and looking into the distance in despair. Kids surround the old man, looking terrified as if they have nowhere to hide before the disaster comes. The whole work looks like a happy paradise with bright and cheerful colors when looking from far away, but shows suffering and chaos when looking closer. I guess this is the effect that Murakami wants to have on his art: the beautiful nature can at any time turn into a monster that tortures humankind.
Photo Credit: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, pinterest.com