Ways of Knowing

October 4, 2012 at 2:22 am 5 comments

As I’ve been working on my dissertation, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we learn from objects. How does looking at a sculpture change what we know or who we are?

Detail of Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial, 2003 by Carla Stetson and Anthony Peyton Porter, Duluth, Minnesota.

People often use the word “aesthetics” to indicate an appreciation of the visual aspects of a work of art. Many people also consider this appreciation as merely a superficial survey of the outward properties. Yet, aesthetics is more than that. It’s a way of knowing based on sensory input instead of rational thought.  I think that this form of knowledge is crucial. To understand works of art, we need to discuss the sensory data of works in relation to historical, social, and cultural contexts.

The Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial, 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota is one of the objects in my study of lynching memorials. I’m now thinking about how the memorial affects individuals and society. It’s easy to argue that the memorial alters the politics of memorial landscape. It’s a large structure commemorating a racially motivated lynching in a region that rarely participated in this form of collective violence. But how does the materiality of the object affect us? Do the inscribed concrete walls tell us something? Does the texture of the bronze figures elicit a particular sensation in viewers?

When I visited Duluth this summer, I took many photographs of the memorial. Several of the shots were close-ups of the walls and figural elements. I also spent a lot of time watching how people used the space. I’m hoping this research will help me uncover alternate ways of knowing.

Entry filed under: Art, Lynching. Tags: , , , , , .

Blogging for Humanity and Art History “Seeing Photographically”- Best of 2012

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ACRAH  |  October 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Reblogged this on THE GRAPEVINE.

  • 2. Ann Atkins  |  July 23, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    can you email me with the quotes on this memorial? thanks.

    • 3. artstuffmatters  |  July 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Ann,
      You can find images of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial quotes included in my Flickr group account American Lynching Memorials. Also, you find a listing of the quotes in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Discussion Guide available on the memorial’s website (pdf).

      • 4. Ann Atkins  |  July 25, 2013 at 10:45 am

        Thank you. I am an author and needed it for my next book on Golda Meir – I appreciate the fact that you are keeping our history less “white washed.” I do a lot of speaking engagements about the first book on Eleanor Roosevelt and I am always telling the audience about over 5,000 lynchings in our country 1880-1930s and no conviction of murder. They are shocked. They didn’t know.

      • 5. artstuffmatters  |  July 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

        That sounds great! I’m glad I could help.
        Thank you for checking out my blog. Yes, I often find that many people aren’t aware of the history of lynching in the U.S. The news media frequently employ the term for a variety of incidents, usually regarding some form of verbal abuse. But the history is buried for the most part. So there’s lots of work to be done.
        Good luck with your project.

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Artstuffmatters focuses on public culture in the arts- public art, photography, landscapes, museums, and more.

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