Art, even in its simplest form, has a culture embedded on it. It cannot be separated from the artist’s way of life. It differentiates a culture from all the rest and defines itself to an extent where nobody but the artist can even grasp. Traces of art forms have been identified alongside the evolution of mankind and flourished since the establishment of civilizations. These earlier art masterpieces in the form of sculptures, cave paintings, petroglyphs and the like were found from different parts of the world. These represented the perception of the people in the ancient times about their way of life and so despite its uniqueness in form, the similarities in these perceptions became the binding thread that connected every culture to the other thereby making art a shared experience.
The concept of art is hard to define; not because it is vague or abstract, but because it has had many different reasons for being created. It takes us to a journey to the past, the present and the future. It may reveal a community’s way of life, a person’s imagination, or merely a form of entertainment. It must be taken into consideration that art is culture-bound, something that is in a person’s field of experience. This paper aims to show that art is a shared experience by the artist, the artwork itself and the viewers of it. By looking at two different paintings, created in different times, of artists having different backgrounds, the paper intends to provide an understanding of how art threads time and links all cultures abound.
(Figure 1) – The Cutting Scene, Mandan O-kee-pa Ceremony by George Catlin
Medium: Oil paint on canvass
The Cutting Scene, Mandan O-kee-pa Ceremony, an oil canvas painting by George Catlin (1796-1892) depicts a kind of ritual called the O-kee-pa participated by Mandan Indians, wherein two men are hung with ropes that are connected to wooden splints inserted through their chest and shoulders. Members of the tribe are surrounded in a small fire as the two men, accessorized with animal skulls, shields and spears remain unconscious throughout the ceremony.
George Catlin was a Pennsylvanian lawyer who pursued painting and traveled in the early 1830s following the US expedition trail of Clark and Lewis to the Pacific coast. In his exploration, he was able to visit about fifty Native American tribes living in the Mississippi River. During that period, the Indian Removal Act was just passed by the US Congress requiring the resettlement of Indian nationals from the southeast to the west. His interest in the Native Americans was influenced by his mother, who was briefly captured by the Indians during the Revolutionary War.
Catlin was the first artist to create works that show the way of living of the Plains Indians. Regarded as the embodiment of the Enlightenment ideal called the “natural man” who lives harmoniously with nature, Catlin was inspired by the rich culture of the natives. More than 500 of his...