“Anamericana” is an art exhibit held at the American Academy in Rome that displays the work of over thirty American artists. Their pieces are thematically linked to American patriotism and nostalgia and utilize traditional “Americana” elements such as daily household objects, videos, paintings, prints and drawings, as well as statues and contemporary media.
I have never been particularly accurate in my interpretations of the true meaning behind art. However, I have learned that sometimes it is not about being right or wrong, but more about the overall feeling you have when you view it. I had to actively shut down the logical part of my brain and embrace my inner artist; dive into the artwork, walk around in the piece, and let my imagination be led by creativity. (Figuratively speaking, of course)
“I never really know if I am right or wrong in understanding the artist’s true meaning. But that takes the fun out of art. It isn’t being right or wrong, it’s enjoying the art itself and learning to open your mind to all of the possibilities,” says Giovanna, an art history major who also visited the exhibit.
The artwork on display at first glance may seem abstract and the meanings unclear, however, as you continue your journey through the exhibit, the intentions of the artists become clearer and you can grasp a better understanding of the true patriotism of America. The first room houses only a few pieces of art, ranging from canvas to scrap metal situated in a corner of the room.
In spite of looking through my creative lens, I still did not understand a lot of the different pieces. I did, however, have a few specific ones with which I truly fell in love. One was not even in the rooms set up, but outside near the reception. Supermax wall by Sterling Ruby was basically a large sheet of acrylic glass framed in wood that had some remnants of spray paint and lacquer splayed across the glass. It was huge; well over six feet tall, and about ten feet long. But the most captivating aspect of this piece was the writing etched in the wood on some sides of the sculpture. The inscriptions said:
“The past torments me, the present confuses me;”
“Time corrects nothing;” and
“The future terrorfies me.”
What I found most interesting was the fact that this piece was about time. My perception was that time is fleeting; we have very little, so appreciate what you can whenever you are able. Although our past may be filled with mistakes, even though we may wander aimlessly throughout the present, terrified about what the future may hold, it is no reason to not go through in spite of the fear. Relating to the central theme of American patriotism, it clearly signifies the struggles Americans have endured throughout the ages. Numerous wars and political instability has riddled the American government for hundreds of years. The inscription “time corrects nothing” alludes to the fact that although our past has been filled with mistakes, somehow, it continues to repeat itself. It is a never ending loop of misfortune, and yet we cannot seem to slip out of the habitual patterns we have cultivated.
Another interesting piece was a painting entitled “Kill Me Now” by Rob Pruitt. It was a canvas covered in red with a simple face drawn in black. The thing I found most entertaining about this piece was the expression of the face: the eyes seemed almost bored and uninterested, and the mouth, simply a straight black line. The reason this particular painting stood out to me was because it seems to represent the mind of the American youth in response to the political corruption they live with on a daily basis.
This piece also happened to be the favorite of Giovanna, who comments, “Especially since we live in a digital age, so much can be translated through a simple face. It was really interesting to experience, and I found it to be both funny and ironic.”
Overall, the exhibit was a fascinating alternative to the history lessons about patriotism in America many students trudge through in school. It was history with a contemporary-modern twist and is sure to keep you guessing. But that’s the point of art, in a sense, to always keep you wondering and looking deeper into the symbolism of an idea.
“Anamericana” is open Friday through Sunday from 4:00pm to 7:00pm and will remain open to the public until November 14. Free of charge.
Photo and text by Jennifer Arreguin.