Colby Art Museum

Haley Andonian

October 11, 2017


Walking around the art museum, I was shocked to see how many pieces of art work relate to the origins theme.  Origins can be found in anything and everything and are an important factor to consider when viewing and interpreting art.  The exhibit that struck me the most and that I found most blatantly relevant to the origins theme was the one titled Colored Vases by Ai Wei Wei.  The exhibit features multiple vases covered or partly covered in bright and colorful paint.  At a first, glance, with no historical context or background information on the artist, the vases appear as not much more than bright and aesthetically pleasing ceramics.  However, after learning more about the history of the original vases, the relevance of origins to the artwork becomes shockingly clear.

These vases are from the Neolithic era, which spanned from about 15,200 BC until 4500 BC.  As humans, we usually treat such old artifacts with a lot of respect and care.  We take the time to preserve them and protect them in museums, and in most cases the more well preserved an artifact the more its value.  These vases, like other artifacts, carry so much history and give us so much insight into the past.  In their original form, they could give us a glimpse of the lifestyles of the people of the Neolithic era, including information on their daily routines, tools, and intelligence.

It is thus shocking to see such precious and valuable items covered with vibrant paint in a seemingly careless manner.  Ai Wei Wei makes a bold statement about his view on origins by covering up these artifacts.  By both defacing the vases and concealing the past, he seems to be suggesting that the origins of these objects are not significant and do not deserve to be preserved or protected.

This exhibit has a big shock factor to it, but only once the origins of the vases are known.  Without knowing the history behind the vases, the paint seems harmless but once the viewer is made aware of how old the vases are he or she likely becomes perplexed, uncomfortable, or ever appalled.

Origins, thus, are very relevant to Ai Wei Wei’s Colored Vases piece.  They place meaning and context around the vases and help the viewer better understand the intentions of the artist.  In all pieces of artwork, the origins of the artists, the origins of the subject matter, and the origins of the physical materials are all very important to consider and add so much to one’s interpretation of the artwork.  Knowing where something comes from provides valuable insight and is crucial to a proper understanding and should thus always be considered.

I thought that this trip to the museum was very interesting and relevant to the origins theme.  This trip made me aware of the pervasiveness and importance of origins, especially in interpreting and understanding the message that an artist is relaying in his or her art work.