Mixed Blessings “Turning Around”

Jayme Walker- Mixed Blessings Chapter Five – “Turning Around”

While reading Chapter Five, “Turning Around” from Mixed Blessings, I highlighted the quote “Irony, humor, and subversion are the most common guises and disguises of those artists leaping out of the melting pot into the fire” because I thought it did a great job of summing up the chapter in terms of helping readers to understand how artists of oppression and resistance often incorporate irony, humor, and subversion into their artwork to resist assimilation or “ponderous mechanisms set up to ‘keep them in their place.’” Specifically addressing irony and subversion, Lippard writes “Irony and subversion are used strategically to connect past, present, and future without limiting art or audience to one time or place,” to address the idea of “Turning Around, Lippard writes, “Turning around is sometimes just that: the simple (and not so simple) reversal of an accepted image.”

As a person who is often sarcastic, I found it very interesting to learn how sarcasm and humor can be incorporated in art to achieve an intended purpose. “A deceptively gentle sarcasm is revealed as a weapon for the long haul. It allows apparently decorative elements to pass as such, even when they shelter more profound meanings.” It is amazing to me how many different human emotions and characteristics can be channeled into an artist’s work, and also, how interesting it is to interpret artwork because one piece of art can be so many different things depending on the person viewing the art.

An ironic example that I found intriguing while reading is on page 220 and discusses how “Alienation is both a source, but also a byproduct of the ironic project. The mirrors held up in much contemporary art by visual ironists reflect and reverse not only the images of the oppressor or the unworthy idol, but those of the artist’s own self and/or community.” An example that I feel fits great into the category of irony is a performance piece by Lorraine O’Grady.“Lorraine O’Grady’s 1980 guerrilla performance of Mlle. Bourgeoise noire 1955, for instance, enhanced the event it protested, even as her message came across. She intervened at the opening of an all white ‘Persona’ exhibition at New York’’s New Museum and turned out in a tiara and debutante’s gown made entirely of long white gloves, flagellating herself with a white-glove cat-o’-nine-tails, and protesting, “That’s Enough! No more boot-licking, No more ass-kissing, No more buttering-up . . . . BLACK ART MUST TAKE MORE RISKS!” However, on the other hand, O’Grady’s performance also demonstrated how alienation could also be viewed as a positive force, which in fact resists the idea of the melting pot. Embracing the idea of how “real humanity of people is understood through cultural differences rather than cultural similarities.”

While reading, something I found even more powerful about the idea of alienation and the melting pot is how “Children of the dominant culture are rarely give the opportunity to know the world as others know it. Therefore they come to believe that there is only one world, one reality, one truth – the one they personally know; and they are inclined to dismiss all other worlds as illusions.” This quote really stood out to me because I believe that it is very true and representative of a majority of our society, who lack the exposure and education about different cultures and ways of life, therefore, making it difficult for them to live their lives with the understanding and appreciation of different cultures. As a future teacher, this truly disheartened me, however, it also inspired me to be sure that I do my best to incorporate the significance and importance of diversity in my future classrooms.

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3 Responses to Mixed Blessings “Turning Around”

  1. Lacey DeAngelis says:

    In chapter give of Mixed Blessings by Lucy Lippard, she mentions that, “Irony, humor, and subversion are the most common guises and disguises of those artists leaping out of the melting pot into the fire.” (p.199) I believe that she is saying that artists that use irony, humor, and subversion are artist that aren’t afraid to point out their cultural differences and leap into the fire. These artists are holding “mirrors up to the dominant culture, slyly infiltrating mainstream art with alternative experiences.”(p.199) Like Jayme said, these artists of resistance incorporate these strategies into their artworks to address certain cultural issues.

    On page 206 and 207 of Mixed Blessings, Lippard uses Harry Fonseca’s paintings as an example of how subversion, humor, and disguises are used in the art world to leap out of the melting pot. Harry Fonseca is a Maidu, Portuguese, and Hawaiian artist that uses the “Coyote” image within his artwork. The Coyote image represents “the Indian who isn’t good because he won’t stay dead.” (p.206) In the artwork Snapshot, Wish You Were Here, Coyote, Fonseca puts new modern style clothing on the Coyote to show how the Coyote, or the Native American have conformed to modern day society, or have join in the “melting pot”. The Coyote “symbolically left his rural reservation to become an important representation of the urban Indian.” (p.207) Fonseca uses Trickster in this artwork. The Coyote poses as a white tourist in his Hawaiian shirt, sandals, and camera in hand. Fonseca “has played a mirror joke, for we are laughing at ourselves.” (p.206) Fonseca is breaking that bearer that states that all of us should be the same. He uses his paintings to depict subversion, humor, and irony to resist the melting pot. He states that “Coyote is a survivor and is indeed the spice of life”. His artwork shows viewers that cultural differences are important to acknowledge and that maybe being a part of the melting pot is when cultures start to disappear.

  2. Sarah Rose

    In this chapter Lucy Lippard describes Turning Around as, “Turning Around is sometimes just that: the simple (and not so simple) reversal of an accepted image,” (200). It is using art to show the exact opposite of what people think they know, to express disapproval or try to show the truth. Turning Around reverses things to give a different view of the way things are. One example I found of this reversal is Sun Mad, by Ester Hernandez. She uses the very well-known image of The Sun Maid raisin box and changes it to try and portray the truth about the company through irony. She created an image of a female skeleton holding the grape basket, instead of the beautiful smiling woman, and put under it, Sun Mad Raisins Unnaturally Grown with Insecticides, Miticides, Herbicides, and Fungicide (200). It is ironic because Sun Maid focuses on seeming so natural and wholesome and Hernandez reversed this image to expose the truth. “I made the print Sun Mad as a very personal reaction to my shock when I discovered that the water in my hometown, Dinuba, California, which is the center of the raisin-raising territory, had been contaminated by pesticides for 20 to 25 years.” She is refusing to conform to what the mainstream believes about the brand to try and explain the truth and is jumping into the fire. I believe this picture is a great example of what the quote, “Irony, humor, and subversion are the most common guises and disguises of those artists leaping out of the melting pot into the fire,” (199) is trying to describe. She refused to be like everyone else and created art that expresses her opinion and her revolt from the social norm. She doesn’t want to blend into the melting pot, she wants to show who she is and express herself and show others an alternate perspective.

  3. Austin Smith says:

    To branch off of what Jayme and Lacey were pointing out I will discuss the importance of diversifying the presentation of information. Throughout my years of schooling I have been introduced to many teachers and too many different styles of introducing information. There are the typical teachers who assign readings and expect the student to take in the information the same way they did while reading the information. There are teachers who use outlining or memory tricks which help students. The teaching style I have always been most fond of is the style that incorporates humor and irony. I suppose it seemed to just click or connect with me because those are two things I incorporate in my everyday living. Humor always brings smiles and irony can typically do the same and I believe that if you are smiling and cheery in a learning environment you are more prone to retaining information taught. Just as Lippard highlighted in the chapter Turning Around in Mixed Blessings, humor and irony are used through art. I believe that this is an excellent way for an artist to get the message across and to also make the message memorable. Lippard is suggesting that most artists with disguises or in other words, artists who are oppressed, leap out of the melting pot or show the world the injustice that is occurring through irony and humor in their art.
    The artists who use this technique are calling for subversion or a drastic change to occur so they are to no longer be subjects of injustice. This is exemplified through a piece I was intrigued about in the chapter Turning Around. The photo was taken by Richard Ray Whitman and consisted of a sign which has the Hollywood portrayal of an American Indian with the feather had and tribe looking attire. The irony in the photo is the man beneath the sign which is a more accurate portrayal of an Indian in today’s society which is a average man in a baseball cap. He is resisting the melting pot by showing what a true Indian in our society is dealing with rather than what everyone thinks of the average Indian. This is calling for subversion so that we can be introduced to what is really going on in our country.

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