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The Universal Cultural Themes


In the last seven chapters in your text your Sayre argues that throughout history virtually every culture has made art that revolves around one or more of seven universal themes. Despite our cultural differences all humans around the world confront some if not all of the same issues. It is simply the nature or being human. These themes he identifies as the following: Spiritual Belief / The Life Cycle / Love and Sex / The Body, Gender, and Identity / The Individual and Cultural Identity / Power / Science, Technology, and the Environment. After reading these final chapters your assignment is to select two works to compare and to critique that both address one of these seven universal themes: One work should be from the textbook (which can but doesn’t have to be from these final seven chapters) AND the other work you choose should come from t. I hope that now since you have been taking this class, that you have started to notice that there are original paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and of course buildings everywhere you go around our campus. Remember that the two works you chose to critique should be similar in the sense that they both address the SAME universal theme. 


Once you have selected the works to critique, I want you to analyze them in terms of both FORM and its CONTENT. You critique should include the following topics and address some of the questions:

DESCRIPTION: Tell me where you saw or found this work (obviously one is from the text, but I’m referring to the work you use from campus), the name of the artist and title (most works on campus are identified with a title/artist plate), the subject matter, what you see when you experience the work, etc. Don’t forget your first impression of the work. What struck you first about it?

ANALYSIS: Try to figure out “how” the artist was communicating what they were trying to say visually and use the vocabulary we have discussed in class relative to FORM. What elements were used including: line, color, space, texture, balance, color scheme, scale, emphasis, etc. Also discuss the medium used. What are the materials used by the artist? (If you can tell) Use any of the criteria we discussed in the first part of the semester.

INTERPRET and EVALUATE: Remember to discuss the content of the work RELATIVE to the universal theme or themes you believe the works address. How are these two works similar and/or different in terms of the message, the style, the subject matter, the form, etc.? How does the form help to express the content? What messages do you think the artist was trying to convey? Why do you think the artist created the work? Does the work convey a mood or feeling? What’s the story or narrative if there is one? Was the artist successful or unsuccessful in getting the message across? Would you have done anything differently? Did your thoughts or feelings about the works change during your analysis? If so, why? Can you explain your reactions?  

You can use Sayre as a resource to discuss the work chosen from the text in your comparison but remember to correctly cite your author. If you do include information from the textbook or your class notes you must cite the source with a parenthetical note, i.e., (Sayre, “A World of Art” pg. 200) or (Holder, Egyptian lecture 11/12/2018).

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