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.