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Taylor Milne's blog

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Revisiting the Magic Gardens

            When thinking of critical and deep play, I always come back to the mosaics created by Isaiah Zagar, and the playfully creative impact they have had on the world. They redefined mosaics, and have fabricated one of the most creative outlets of street art. All along South Street his mosaics glimmer in the sunlight, illuminating the numerous fragmented mirrors, reflecting light all around. Words written forwards, sideways, backwards, with many of them relaying powerful messages. The art that Zagar has dedicated his life to is as playful to the onlooker as it is to the creator.

            Although I cannot make assumptions on Zagar’s experiences in creating the mosaics, I would hope that through the years of his creations he has had moments of deep play. Explained by Diane Ackerman, “In rare moments of deep play, we can lay aside our sense of self, shed time's continuum, ignore pain, and sit quietly in the absolute present, watching the world's ordinary miracles.” When looking at some of the mosaics that Zagar has created, his passion and playfulness is unmistakable, and allows the viewer to have the same playful and deep experience when viewing his life’s work.

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Against Interpretation

Throughout Susan Sontag’s essay I found myself losing the path that she was trying to build her points, and I found that often they would contradict themselves. I would say that from the tools we have learned in the class I had to use focused reading to try and interpret what she was trying to say, along with this I think that she has many of the same ideologies as Barnes, in that she thinks things should be enjoyed rather than over-analyzed. With this she is trying to have us play the believing game, because she makes many assertions within the text that make us ask ourselves if we agree or disagree with her ideas.

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The Experience of Viewing Art

      Previous to visiting The Barnes Foundation, I viewed art through the lens of “Who painted this painting? Have I heard of them? Yes? Okay, it must be good then.” I have never taken a formal art class, nor spent a lot of time researching art beyond that of museum visits and the “art masterpiece” classes that I had in elementary school. I would generally base my opinion of a painting on how “valuable” it was deemed by others, not by if I genuinely enjoyed the painting. I was stripped of this superficial way of viewing art as I wandered through The Barnes Foundation. Without the massive white walls and plaques of a traditional museum persuading me to create an opinion, I was instead able to develop my own personal value of the art based purely on my enjoyment and emotional connections to the piece. Before visiting The Barnes Foundation I had never considered how the arrangement, surroundings, and environment that a piece of artwork is placed in affects the experience of the viewer. However, after spending time in the Foundation, I realized that the environment of a piece of artwork can have an extremely powerful influence on how it is experienced.

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Final Trip into Philadelphia

For my last trip into Philadelphia I plan on visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I had originally wanted to do something unique for my last trip, but even after two hours of research I still felt that this Philadelphia staple would be the perfect place for my last visit into the city. I wanted to visit the Léger exhibit anyways, so everything fits together perfectly. I am interested in comparing my time at The Philadelphia Museum of Art to the time I spent at the Barnes Foundation, and see how the two different environments change my experience with art.

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Re-Reading Barnes

After watching the documentary and reading the articles, I realized that as I rewrite my paper I would like to put a greater focus on Barnes, and what he meant for the art, and connect that back to my viewing of the painting. I found myself thinking more and more about his approach to viewing art, and looking back to how he arranged the paintings, and how it was not just about one piece, but rather a whole experience. 

I also feel like I need to do a deeper analysis of my painting, and then connect hoe my experiences with this painting mirror the initial intentions of the Barnes Foundation.

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La Tasse de Chocolat

            As I approached the chic new building that was created to hold the vast quantity of art pieces that Barnes had collected in his life, I was expecting the traditional layout of a museum, with artwork lining the walls with plaques underneath yielding descriptions of the works and their creators. However I was overwhelmed by the vast amount of artwork pieced together into a playful collage that led from room to room with hundreds of paintings, works of iron, sketches, and sculptures, all intentionally placed into a specific pattern, allowing for pieces of art to play off of one another, making each work better than it would be if it were displayed on its own. As I toured along the walls and walls of art, I kept finding myself drawn to the soft shades and strokes of the Pierre-Auguste Renoir pieces, I love the impressionist era, and Renoir pieces seemed to line the walls.

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Play and 17 Border Crossings

 In reading 17 Border Crossings I can see all of the ways in which it is creative and playful, and very impressively entertaining, which I was not expecting considering there was only one actor and I had never seen a one man show before. I felt that the variety of the stories, and the intricate piece of lighting kept the show interesting and fast paced, enacting a great state of play. Watching the performance for me was not deep play, but I feel that for Thaddeus Phillips, certain moments certainly could be perceived as deep play. I think this could develop out of the great pride and work that has gone into this piece. The performance itself was playful, and stayed light and comedic the entire time, offering me a break from reality, without leaving any heavy emotions on my shoulder. 17 Border Crossings was certainly a playful outlet of creativity for Thaddeus, and a joy to watch for the audience.

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Deep Play

For some riding horses is an occasional experience that they may explain as exhilarating or even as “deep play,” however for someone who rides horses on a regular basis it has become a part of my routine, and those special and fleeting moments defined as deep play are very rare, but also very powerful. I can remember one evening in particular when I had decided that I wanted to get a quick ride in despite the fact that the sun would be setting soon. I knew I would not have enough time to tack up before the sunset, so I took my old horse Lacey out of her stall, quickly brushed her off, grabbed a helmet, and walked down to the arena. I often ride bareback, but for some reason this time was better than any of the others. Riding with only a halter and lead rope, I felt synced into my horse, and I knew that the strong trust and connection between us on this ride was special, and would be a fleeting moment in time. After I asked her lightly with my leg to pick up a gallop and we were flying, putting me into a state of euphoria and understanding. In this moment of deep play I was very aware of how exceptional this time was, and this realization made me so appreciative of this time, because I knew it would be over soon. I have only had about five rides in my life that were this special, and I treasure all of them and keep them close to my heart.

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We as humans think we can be alone, and think that a day by one’s self in a prison would be fine, but in this day and age we are never alone. I could say that I have spent a day alone by myself, but in reality that would be a day alone with a television and a laptop and a cell phone with access to an endless amount of entertainment, but in an Eastern State Penitentiary cell, one is completely alone. For the first couple of minutes it was bizarre, I was not talking to anyone, I did not have any page to read, any screen to watch, anything to touch. Scared to sit on the floor, I found myself standing in the middle of the room looking above through the tunneled skylight contemplating how prisoners would have spent their time in these prisons. I spent the next few minutes thinking of all of the things I could do to occupy my time: sleep, sing, think… And then I felt completely alone. I knew that there was someone in the cell next to me, and I could hear people speaking down the cellblock, but nonetheless I still felt trapped even with the knowledge that I could step out of the cell at anytime.

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      Eastern State Penitentiary was an innovative attempt at changing the very hearts of prisoners, but which failed to take into account the role of kindness. It is a place where prisoners try to fight against isolation, which is meant by the builders in order to make the inmates contemplate and reflect towards reformation. It started out as an attempt to reform individulas but even now the corruption and evolution of corruption is visible in the empty space. I see how everyone lived and cannot imagine how they managed to stay alive—the conditions this place holds serves to no ones sustainability to survive. Eastern State Penitentiary now looks the way it made the prisoners feel: empty, broken, and alone. Eastern State was a prison unlike any other, where the methods were so damaging to the human spirit, and was so radical that the fascination that came with the prison was far greater than the suffering.

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