Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
My name is Laurel Lovelett, I have a double major in Anthropology and Spanish, and I am from Stormville, NY. Through the study abroad office and the generous donation of Dr. Rita Goldberg, I received a study enrichment grant to study social inequalities apparent in modern art throughout parts of Spain and Italy. This grant greatly supplemented my abroad experience in Madrid, Spain during the fall semester of 2011. Not only did I learn how to travel alone, utilize my Spanish and Italian skills for specific purposes, but I also gained unique knowledge and memorable opportunities to discover commonalities and differences between and within these two European cultures.
The first major point I came to realize was that culture and art is not only displayed within the walls of a museum. Sola and lost in Barcelona (without the slightest hint of how to speak Catalan), I wandered the streets in the cultural district attempting to locate the Museum of Contemporary Art. An hour later in the hot Barcelonan sun, two elderly women of the barrio gladly agreed to speak with me in Castellano (standard Spanish) and walk me (muy lentamente) to the museum. However, this slow walk was just what I needed to take-in the graffiti and paintings and photographs covering the cobblestone walls of the buildings. Ojos, eyes staring at me in every color and every shape; caras, faces screaming at me from every direction; palabras, words declaring to me what they believe. The whole district was a work of modern art establishing the thoughts of injustice of every individual artist and empowering the voice of the people.
Upon entering the actual museum, I realized another point that would affect the entirety of my project--I had no idea what constituted "modern." I had been thinking of "modern" as a synonym for "today"; however, I marveled at works of art created up to two centuries ago! After pondering this information and reading the descriptions of the art and getting yelled at by security for taking photos, I internalized the idea that man has not changed dramatically, in terms of socially inequalities, in the last one hundred years. Therefore, modern art encompasses the same inequalities that remain present in society today.
With these new and essential pieces of knowledge I traveled to new cities and new museums: I began taking detailed notes in my journal, grabbing pamphlets at the visitors sections, speaking to members of each culture, and yes, taking photos. From Barcelona, I journeyed to modern art exhibitions and museums in Madrid (Reina Sofia, Conde Duque), the Museum of Modern Art (MAMBO) and expansive graffiti displays in Bologna, and streets enhanced with modern artwork in the ancient city of Florence.
The knowledge I gained from these enlightening sojourns cannot be condensed to one web page, but greater themes merit at least a brief summarization. I noticed that the inclusion of non-Spanish artists was limited in the Capital of Madrid but displayed in surrounding cities (Barcelona). Despite this display of "foreign" artists, the most frequent artwork displayed consisted of male Spanish artists. In Italy there was a greater span of nationalities and backgrounds displayed; however, the majority consisted of Italians, making political commentary on the flaws in the government-such as "FATTI GLI PUNETTI" slashed across a government building in paint (loosely translated to, the government should do less fooling around and more to help its people). Spanish modern artwork revealed the great struggle of traditional versus non traditional, especially in terms of the woman. One painting in the Reina Sofia shows two women standing side by side. One dresses in a traditional Spanish outfit with a sad, repressed look on her face; the woman beside her dresses in modern clothing, smiling, with hair down. The contrast of this grand piece of art makes its observer question the core of Spanish society. These few and staggered examples hold only a portion of importance in relation to the vast amount of knowledge and experience I gained as a traveler, academic, critic, observer, learner, and anthropologist.