The piece of artwork that I have chosen for this critical art essay is a picture taken by Annie Leibovitz titled “The White Stripes”. The picture was taken in New York City in 2003. I found this particular piece of artwork in a gallery showing with other photographs taken by Annie Leibovitz at the Wexner Center. The setting and the surroundings definitely shaped the way I saw and observed this photograph. Many, if not all, of the artworks (photographs of people) by Leibovitz makes the viewer question and wonder what the person captured is thinking or what is going on their lives. Many of the surrounding pictures were a person simply standing but each with a different facial expression that causes the viewer to observe with curiosity. The reason why I believe that seeing this artwork in the midst of others that are a similar fashion shaped the way I perceive the picture is because if I had seen this certain photograph in a person’s living room or in an ad in public, I would simply pass by it and not have a second thought about the artwork. Simply as I walked through the gallery and observed other pictures, it helped me to change my mindset and my view as I reached “The White Stripes”. I believe that the artwork does indeed belong in the area where I saw it because the photograph is thought provoking along with the other pictures hung around the gallery. If the walls of the gallery were a different color, I believe that it would tremendously change the way I perceived the photograph. Different colors can affect the mood of a person so it will certainly change the things that may come to mind as they walk through the gallery. If the walls were a specific color and it leads a person to be sad, then as they see certain photographs, their perception will be extremely dissimilar to a person who may not be affected by that specific color.
When observing this photograph, the first thing that caught my eye is the girl laying on what seems to be a target with the diameter of approximately a person’s body; however, the target is not laid horizontally along the ground but is in an upright position slightly angled. This is the first thing that I observed because the girl is wearing clothing with the color red and the target also has the color red on it. Most of the other objects in the picture is not colorful but is just a dull gray. The contrast in the colors causes the eye to take notice of the color and causes those things to immediately be detected by the viewer. The female is wearing a red and white striped shirt and fishnets on her legs. She is also wearing a large feathered hat on her head and a red scarf near her hip area. When I saw that the girl seemed to be stuck on the target rather than sliding right off, I instinctively looked for how this was or what was keeping her up. When looking around her body, I realized a couple knives stuck on the target close to the girl, but none piercing her skin. In the photograph, there is another female with a knife in her hand standing about a car length away from the target and it seems to be that she is the person who is throwing the knives at the target. She has her head turned around so she is not looking at the target as she is tossing the blades. When looking at her facial expression, she does not seem happy but rather sad or angry. However, the female on the target with the knives around her body does not seem as distraught. Instead, she has a blank expression on her face, and it almost seems like she a slight grin on her face. The setting of the photograph seems to be in some sort of a construction zone because there is a lot of dirt around the area and there are white buildings around but is not very visible. There are three white and red striped balls approximately the size of a beach ball around the two females. The eyes are first drawn by the colors of the target and the clothes but then moves out to see the bigger pictures and the photograph as a whole. The knives and the other person are then notice along with the setting and the location of the photograph.
The story I see behind this artwork is that both of the females are from a circus. I am lead to this assumption because of the clothing that they are wearing and the “act” that they are doing seems to be something that would be seen at a carnival or a circus. The area that the two people are in may have been the ground where there was once a festival or it was an area that the circus may have always been. However, because of the construction and the because of the new buildings that are being made in the particular zone, the circus performers were forced to leave the area or they were evicted from the area. But in protest of allowing this to carry on, the two females object by having a “final act”. The two may be protesting in a manner that they will not move from the area no matter what, even if it means taking their lives. It seems as thought the two may have gotten in an argument before concluding this decision because the girl on the target with knives around her body seems to be at peace with this decision and what they are doing. The girl on the target may have come up with this solution but her friend or co-performer may have objected to the idea at first, but was later convinced that this may be the only option of stopping the construction from continuing. The girl with the knife in her hand may be looking at the people responsible for the construction, whether it is the board members of a company or government officials. As she is throwing the knives one by one at the target, she may be waiting for someone to step in and give up on their end with the project; but until someone does so, she is willing to continue to throw the knives at the target, and tip of the blade will eventually make contact with flesh.
I believe that this is the artist’s way of expressing her opinion concerning the government. I think she is portraying this in a way that people in this society have their rights and should be allowed to do certain things, but are not able to because of the movement of the government. This photograph was arranged and taken in the year of 2003. This is the year when the government was under the Bush administration and when the invasion into Iraq occurred. Throughout this event, there were approximately 11 million people around the world pouring out into the streets to protest against the war with Iraq. This invasion was taken without the assistance of the United Nations, and was also against the opinion of the people in this world. Regardless of people’s thoughts or the concerns of the political leaders in other countries, the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq. I believe this was what Annie Leibovitz was trying to portray and speak of through “The White Stripes”. Along with this, she may be hinting that the white stripes that the girl on the target is wearing represents the United States. By our decision to invade Iraq, it may be a catastrophic decision and will be something that will be regretted when thought upon.
I believe that this is indeed an artwork because being able to express thoughts and feelings through pictures or objects takes so much imagination and creativity. I believe that is slightly easier to try to understand the meaning of the artwork but truly being able to come up with the idea to portray the thoughts and the objects that may provoke and lead people to think the same way is an extraordinary task. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to understand this art work and perceive it in a way that I usually do not see things, because it took me out of the way I see and portray things. It also allowed me to try to understand and make up a story as to why Annie Leibovitz put certain objects in specific locations and the facial expressions of the people in the photograph.
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