January 14, 2021
The Besthoff Sculpture Garden, The Best of Sculpture Gardens
To kick off day three of our trip, the LEAP students went to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff sculpture garden, where we picked the picked morning to stroll through and look at all of the captivating pieces of art.
This garden sits on 11 acres of land and is filled with a variety of artwork, everything from abstract pieces to figurative ones and all from many different artists with varying artistic style. Just as you enter the garden you cannot miss Henry Moore’s reclining woman and child sculpture standing next to the tall gold sculpture of a woman with a crossbow and arrow.
As we proceeded further along the path we crossed over the Morris G. and Paula L. Maher bridge, which led us to the fascinating escalating brushed stainless-steel sculpture of humans stacked on top of each other. This piece was called “Karma” by Do-Ho Suh, and we all had mixed feelings about this piece; some loved it, like Quinn, and others like me, found it a bit scary to look at.
After a while, it was nice to be able to start recognizing and connecting specific artists to their artwork, now that we have started to become familiar with the artists’ styles. One of the artists featured here was Jesús Moroles, who also has pieces of his work on display at The Wynne Home and at Sam Houston State University back in Huntsville!
My favorite piece in the garden was the life-size blue safety pin created by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.
This pin is known as the “Corridor Pin,” and it stands at a whopping 21 feet tall. Further into the garden we passed many other interesting sculptures such as an oversized spider and even a Greek sculpture called “Hercules Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle, which tied into our mini theme of recognizing Greek and Roman influences on architecture, art, culture, and government on this trip.
Even though we didn’t get a chance to see every single one of the sculptures in the garden, we still gained a lot of new information to reflect upon in the many other art museums that we are going to visit during this trip.
With that said, there are over 90 sculptures in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff, garden so there is bound to be a sculpture in there for everyone to like, and it’s definitely a place that I will come back to the next time I visit New Orleans!
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Art is a beautiful avenue for understanding other cultures, life experiences, and history. And, to that end, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art displays many artists that highlight African American life, history, and social justice issues, giving patrons insight into the creativity and culture of African-Americans in the south. (Not to mention many other cultures that are represented in the south and in this museum.)
Benny Andrews is an American figurative painter with both African and European Ancestry. Not only is Benny Andrews a talented artist, but he is also a social justice advocate for African American artists. In 1969, Andrews helped to establish the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, which is an organization that was created to advocate for greater representation of African American artists in New York. Additionally, as the director of visual arts for the National Endowment for the Arts, Andrews pushed for opportunities such as fellowships and grants to be awarded to promising African American artists who rarely received recognition for their work.
A perfect representation of civil rights is Benny Andrews’ piece entitled Death of the Crow. This piece depicts an African American man peering down in disbelief at a dead crow in the dirt. With Death of the Crow being created in 1965, the dead crow is symbolic of the end of Jim Crow Laws and the evolution of civil rights in the United States.
The viewer wonders: is the older man satisfied? Is he thinking of what might have been, if only this had occurred earlier? Perhaps the verdant garden setting promises a “new leaf,” a brighter beginning in the realm of race relations and equity. Or is he simply astonished?
The next piece, Born Scared by Mike Hartnett, spoke to the growing concern for African American lives, police brutality, and racism in America. “Born Scared” shows a black and white image of a pregnant woman with the letters BLM written on her stomach.
This image illustrates the fear that black mothers have of bringing their children into a world full of racism and injustice. No matter how hard black mothers try to protect their children from the ills in the world, they know that it is impossible to protect them from everything.
Kara Crowley is an African American artist who uses her art to give reverence to black culture by highlighting social issues. Kara Crowley’s piece, Exertion, portrays a beautiful collage of hands in various hues of brown and tan joined together.
Exertion is the perfect representation of finding beauty in diversity and embracing our differences in skin tone. With colorism being a crippling issue in the black community, Kara Crowley piece effectively demolishes the notion that certain skin tones are better than others and emphasizes that beauty comes in all shades–while also emphasizing that integration is better than segregation.
These three artists gave unique perspectives of African American history, lived experiences, and culture., and this could have served as a complete visit. But there is much more to see at the Museum, from photographs from the civil rights era…
….including at least one photo of Martin Luther King…
…the work of Clementine Hunter…
…and much more!
It is wonderful that the Ogden Museum of Southern Art captures the diverse group of lives, peoples, and cultures reflected in the South.
Lunch at the Auction Market
After exploring art at the beautiful Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the LEAP students headed to the Auction Market for lunch. Inside this market there were different cuisines available, including Indian food from Tava, where we ordered their Tikka Masala Chicken Panini and the Tikka Masala Chicken Rice Bowl, and an Asian cuisine from Asian Licious, where my peers ordered a Louisiana Spicy Roll and a Poke Bowl.
When attending trips through the LEAP Center, students are encouraged to be adventurous in their food selections and to always be open in trying new things. This was my first time trying a dish of Indian cuisine, and the exposure to new and diverse foods is only a gateway to understanding new cultures, traditions, and perspectives, which is what trips like this one are all about.
So Many Exhibits, So Little Time
Next we visited the enormous World War II Museum in the heart of New Orleans. In my 19 years of life and several history courses, I did not realize how uneducated I was about World War II until I confused it with a different war entirely!
World War II began in 1939 and lasted until September of 1945. Germany, under the rule of Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland, prompting an international response that ultimately led to this worldwide conflagration.
The Germans, under the Nazi regime, employed the Blitzkrieg strategy, which translates to “lightning war,” and was a tactic involving tanks and a massive use of air support. This often resulted in a quick victory for Germany; in 1940 Germany successfully overtook Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, and France.
The two sides in the war were the Allies and Axis. The Allied powers consisted of the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. The Axis Powers included Germany, Japan, and Italy. Something that really caught my attention was the harsh practices used by Japan during the war. The Japanese would engage in banzai charges, killing as many as they could before they died. This was due to the Japanese commitment to honor, and their refusal to be taken prisoner.
One of the most compelling stories in the Museum is that of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who hid in an attic throughout the majority of the war to avoid the atrocities of the Holocaust.
I actually had the chance to read her diary entry about D-Day. Her description of it is that of hope, and she wrote in her diary, “Today is the day…I have a feeling friends are approaching.”
Of course, she would not live to see her freedom; her family was discovered and eventually taken to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister would die of typhus before the war’s end.
One of the most significant moments of the war in my opinion was the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is estimated that both the bombings approximately killed over 200,000 civilians. It is unimaginable to understand how difficult the decision to use such a lethal and unforgiving force must have been, and it forces one to consider the heavy burden felt by military commanders on all sides, but especially that of President Harry Truman, who made the decision to use the bomb.
This was a great learning experience for me, giving me the chance to learn about the major countries involved, their military leaders…
…their political leaders…
…not to mention a guy named Doris Miller…
…a hero at Pearl Harbor, who was the first African American to win the Navy Cross. Interestingly, he was from Waco, the same home-town as my co-traveler, Ilexus Williams.
After our somber and overwhelming historical visit to the World War II Museum, we took a trip down to the corner of Royal and Press Street, which is the site where Homer Plessy, the civil rights activist most well-known for the Plessy vs Ferguson court case, was arrested for “violating” the 1890 Louisiana Separate Car Act, which separated passengers by race.
On June 07, 1892, Plessy went to the “whites only” section of the train, and when it was discovered that he was of African descent, he was taken out of the train he was aboard. This act of “civil disobedience” was intentional, as Plessy was asked to get himself arrested by a group called the Citizens’ Committee in 1892.
During the trial, Plessy’s lawyer forcefully made the argument that removing him from the train violated his 13th and 14th amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution; however, as we may remember from previous history courses, Plessy lost the case, since Ferguson’s policy of Louisiana having the right to regulate their railroad trains was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. This landmark case marked the first “post ‘reconstruction’” legal challenge to the use of the 14th Amendment, and led to the unfortunate establishment of the “separate but equal” doctrine.
Near this location there is a mural with civil rights related artwork, and amongst them are two of Ruby Bridges, the first African American female to be integrated into a public school. One of these depicts her mother and her along with a newspaper telling her story and the other adapts the iconic image of her walking to school, a tryptic in three separate colors constituting a single mural.
Ruby attended the all-white William Frantz Elementary School at six years old and had to be accompanied by the U.S. Federal Marshalls because of all the threats and negativity she would receive. Interestingly enough, Ruby Brides is very much still alive at the age of 66.
This historical site and murals of crucial figures of the Civil Rights Movement was our last stop of the day, and we all appreciated its historical significance. We also caught a glimpse of a train that would have passed through the same railroad tracks where the train Homer Plessy was aboard would have been. This was a perfect way to end our day. As the sun set, we took in the immense power of the site juxtaposed by the memorialization of the beginning of “separate but equal” and the mural depicting the end of segregation in schools.
With another day completed, we look forward to what lies ahead on the both historical and ever-persisting journey to civil rights and equality.