Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sing, Paint, Create; Fever Ray and Horace Pippin

No matter where the eye or ear may guide us, everything we hear or see is derived from another person’s creative thinking. Songwriting, sculpture, architecture, videos and paintings are all means of portraying the artist inspiration and message to the world. Even artist with different ideas can feel connected to one another through their artistic work. The range of personal achievements through creative talent can be seen in many types of artwork. The video “When I Grow Up” by Fever Ray squeezes out its creative juice in the mystical statement of a girl dancing above a pool to the unruly vocals of Elizabeth Andersson. The painting “Lady of The Water,” by Horace Pippin takes on a similar affect, with its disorderly proportions and vibrancy of color. As the two pieces reveal themselves to the eye and ear, the connection between the two is an overwhelming surprise.
Horace Pippin originally from Pennsylvania, grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City. As a child he attended segregated schools, the one thing that kept him sane was his constant drawing of racehorses. As his childhood passed he ended up serving during World War I where in an unfortunate accident he lost the use of his right arm due to a gunshot. After his eventful young life, he decided to strengthen his arm again. Ten years later at the age of thirty-six he began to paint. He quickly became an interesting self-taught African-American painter of the time. Pippin obtained and brought to the surface his naïve sense of style due to his lack of professional learning. Naïve art usually can be identified for its childlike simplicity in the subject matters as well as the technique of the medium used.  Through out his life, many of his paintings mainly focused on slavery and American segregation, such pieces are recognized at museums and exhibits around the country.
Lady of the Lake by Horace Pippin
            Horace Pippin out stepped his distinctive style as a painter in 1932 when he created “Lady of the Lake.” The distinctive oil painting by Horace is placed in an unusual landscape tracing back literary symbols of the Arthurian legends. The painting is his own interpretation of a character from the legends called Lady of The Lake, a Celtic goddess. She is immune to aging as well as disease; the water is her escape. In Pippin’s painting, she is portrayed at the edge of the water as her nude body is facing the sun. Looking up at the sun she naturally leans on one arm on a blanket covered in Native American symbols. On the edge of the water leans a native inspired canoe. In the left corner of the painting stands a small cabin, which by proportion could never fit the body of the sunbather. The water glistens in the sun, as in the horizon a stretch of mountains and blue sky is visible. “Pippin does have a very naive way of creating images that are not necessarily in scale… it’s the details of life that are really what’s important to him and so that’s what he puts into his art,” says Lisa Messinger who is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gingrich). The clear exaggeration of the perspective and scale in the painting leads as a portrayal of a self-taught artist. The focus on the details is seen through the artist’s pallet at the time. His use of vibrant greens and the bright red in the lone rose in the corner draw focus to the work.
  From painting to the art of music, inspiration radiates from many especially from an artist going by the name of Fever Ray. The music video for her song “When I Grow Up” is another celebration of an artist’s expression and rise from the unknown. In her mid thirties the native of Sweden, Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson, released her debut solo album in 2009 under the name of Fever Ray. Originally she was the lead singer of The Knife, an electronic duo. Straying away from straight flow of electronic beat, she added a new feel to her music. Her vocals both shrill and deep bring pitch shifting and distorted tones leading to an ambient and experimental feel to the music. “When I Grow Up” is the second song on the Fever Ray album with an intriguing vibe. The lyrics of the song can lead different paths in their meaning. The lyrics both innocent and serious at the same time, take on a child’s point of view in realizing how the world really is. When asked about her music Andersson replied, “I think its very interesting when you can remove yourself from the music, even if you are the one creating it. That’s the thing with music, it allows you the possibilities to erase yourself for certain moments”(Evers). In other words, she sees her music as an escape from reality, a way of infinite possibilities to try something unknown.

 In the song Andersson sings, “When I grow up, I want to be a forester,” singing as if from a child’s imagination. She now realizes how much she has actually grown up and wants to re-connect herself with nature once again. She brings in the idea of how her life could of been if she had taken a different path. “This song involves so many feelings. Lots of love and understanding about life, death, cycles, energy,” said a journalist from the LA News (Ohanesian). Such themes of alternate perspectives and age can be traced to most the track on her album.  She released this album after having two children, which must have also been an inspiration for this song. Maybe Andersson feels that now that she had two children she is a stranger in the new environment, but also by having two children she feels closer to the earth and the on going cycle of life. Therefore in the video, the idea is simplified to a domestic setting of a swimming pool in a backyard. A girl dressed in clothing symbolizing the Native- American culture stands on the diving board. She sings and dances while balancing on the edge. The girl in the video as many might interpret as the artist, is just an actress chosen for the part in order to play out the perfect vision of the song.  The mystic atmosphere and bubbling movement of the water make the feel more surreal as if the girl is connecting with the world and Mother Nature.
Looking at all the aspects of the music video as well as the painting, both overplay similar authenticity.  Even though the themes and era of the pieces is separated by decades, both works radiate an aura of similar nature related vibes. Leaning on the native feel, the girl in the video wears minimal clothing resembling native wear with the colors and feathers. The vocals of Andersson resemble the tones of Native American or tribal music. In the painting, the portrayal of the girls is nude and simple, while lying on a blanket resembling a native design. The revealed naked body is a simple connection to being one with nature, “This composition is simple but very direct and brings you in with its color and detail and the fancifulness of some of the images.” States Lisa Messinger about the painting (Gingrich).  The analysis by the museum creator could easily be used to describe the video as well as the painting. The simplicity of the environment in both pieces allows one to focus on the underlying meaning without much unwanted distractions.
In the song as well as the painting, the connection of the cultural appeal exemplifies the theme “being one with nature.” In the Fever Ray video, the right side of the girls face is painted with white paint while a black eye is drawn on her left palm. The eye is a symbol of all knowing in the Native American culture; in this case it might represent the idea that one has to be all knowing in order to have a stronger connection with nature. In the song she talks about being one with nature, escaping and re-connecting with the earth. She sings, “When I grow up, I want to live near the sea. 
Crab claws and bottles of rum
. That’s what I’ll have staring at the seashell. 
Waiting for it to embrace me.” In the video such energy is achieved by the unnatural effects of the pool, as if the pool was acting more as a lake or an ocean. The foggy appearance as well as the darkness surround the atmosphere in the last minute of the video, secluding the domestic environment into something completely unknown and mystifying like the earth itself. In “The Lady of the Lake,” the language of nature is literally represented through the drawn environment. The girl secluded in a natural habitat by the water, surrounded by the mountain range and trees.
As the atmosphere and the lyrics drown us in the video, the vibrant paint and simple childish appeal drowns us in the painting. An artist can originate independently in the style of their work. The most intriguing is the kind of eccentricity an individual can real out from their thinking into an art form. The art form leads viewers on a search for symbolism, leading to discoveries others might never notice. From an ambient Swedish singer to an African-American painter, the world is filled with stimulating art filled with priceless originality.

Works Cited

Cornel, West. "Horace Pippin's Challenge to Art Criticism." Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History (202): 321-29. ARTbibliographies Modern. Web. 6 Nov. 2010. The source is found on a database called ARTbibliographies Modern at the Claire T Carney Library. The source is a critical look at Horace Pippin and his artwork. The author of the journal entry outlines Pippin's traits in his artwork. The source is somewhat helpful; I didn't use much information from it in my essay.
Evers, Derek. "The Mystery Of Fever Ray: An Interview With Karin Dreijer Andersson." The FADER. The Tripwire, 3 Feb. 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. This is source is found on The Fader, a website with articles and information on music and art. The source provides a background of Andersson with many details focusing on how she grew up and what she had been doing. The background information is a good source for the meaning of her songs. Following the background is an interesting interview by Derek Evers. The questions asked give an insight to the mystifying character of Andersson's music and her choice of genre. This source is one of the most helpful I have found, reading words that came out of the artists is the most personal source which can be accounted for most accurate.
Gingrich, Jane. "Lady of the Lake by Horace Pippin- Modern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: N.p.1982. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. The source is found on The Metropolitan Museum of Art web site. The painting "Lady of The Water" is located at the museum, therefore the source is very in formative. It provides the basic background about the artist as well as the focus and reason for the painting. I would recommend this source to anyone, it is easy to access as well as read through. Every piece of information provided is useful.
Karen, Wilkin. "The Naive & the Modern: Horace Pippin & Jacob Lawrence." New Criterion 13.7 (1995): 33-38. Art Index. Web. 6 Nov. 2010. I found this journal source on the Claire T. Carney Library research site, the database is called Art Index. The journal article provides information about Horace Pippin's naive art style, which is a major part of his artistic qualities. The focus is on the style and theme of his work which is a big part when analyzing artwork. The source had parts that were helpful as well as a lot of useless information, forcing a lot of skimming through the writing.
Ohanesian, Liz. "Five Reasons Why Karin Dreijer Andersson Is Our Pop Diva - Los Angeles Music - West Coast Sound." The LA Weekly. N.p., 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2010. The article is found on La Weekly website, and it is a current insight to Andersson. The Source provides very current attention to Fever Ray and her music. In the article, comparisons are made between Fever Ray and other artists today. Her style and creative manner is admired. The source is somewhat helpful, it is mostly opinionated not factual based.
Yates, Steve. "Fever Ray- Biography." Fever Ray. N.p., 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. The information is found on the original Fever Ray website. The biography provided gives great information on Fever Ray's life and how she became such an influential artist. It talks about her music and the road to her solo album. Other parts of the website are useful as well, there are links to current news about her, tour dates, and links to her music.

1 comment:

  1. Great writing. Excellent pairing. I had not heard of either artist. So I learn a lot from you (as usual). You do very strong descriptive and analytical work. Source work is great (though it's an "annotated bibliography"). Strong theme. GRADE 99/100