Thursday, May 26, 2011

Art from the Americas: Boston Museum of Fine Arts

The figurine, maybe 6 inches tall, is of a naked standing man. His clenched hands are raised, his head turned slightly to the side and to the back. Two odd sharp points stick out from his chest.

The note below the little man reads as follows:

Guatemala AD 600-750

"The ritualized torture of war captives was part of a complex set of beliefs about the importance of sacrifice in matters both earthly and cosmic. This figurine's raised arms, clenched hands, and bared teeth all convey his scream of pain. The figurine is also a whistle; the blow hole is his anus."

We continue to tour the Art of the Americas wing. There are multiple elaborate rooms recreated from mansions of the wealthiest Bostonians. And then portraits of the wealthiest and most powerful people.

The museum, despite its other wonders, for whatever complex personal psychological reasons, becomes a house of horrors for me today.

I loathe the anthropologist's theoretical distance ("a complex set of beliefs"), coupled with the art historian's understanding of how the fine art object "conveys" pain. I loathe the worship of things collected by people who took advantage of economic conditions before, during, and after the American revolution.

No comments: