Liberal Studies Visual Arts Capstone

Essay by pbabygurl360College, Undergraduate November 2008

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Visual ArtsArt is valued because artists communicate ideas and feelings that allow people to better understand the richness and challenges of both their personal lives and society. Artists such as Romare Bearden, Edward Hopper, and Jacob Lawrence were successfully able to convey a message to their audience about what each of their individual works represented.

Romare Bearden’s Captivity and Resistance, like many of his other works, drew influence from various artistic periods and styles. This work in particular favors that of Jazz by Henri Matisse. Like Matisse’s work, Captivity and Resistance mimics Jazz in its patterns, materials, color use, and method of construction. Bearden used brightly colored and bold, contrasting fabrics to create this collage. The texture appears smooth with no use of shading and little use of perspective. His childhood has significance in the work since he grew up as an African-American in Harlem (“Art”). Based on this information, the title, and the content of the piece, one can conclude that Bearden used the piece to represent his cultural heritage.

His work is filled with historical content and symbols that are relevant to that history. The central subject of the work is in fact the Mende rebellion on the ship Amistad in 1839; however, there are many other key historical elements in the piece. One can identify the images of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, two prominent abolitionist figures (Bearden). There is even reference to the civil war with the depiction of black Confederate soldiers being led by a white Union officer. There are other references made to the times of slavery. Bearden even places a white man and a black man on an equal scale. The viewer can conclude that the theme of Captivity and Resistance is related to that of slavery and civil rights.

The viewer may...