ARTH101 Study Guide

Unit 7: Our World – Nature, the Body, Identity, Sexuality, Politics, and Power

7a. Explain how using animals and other natural phenomena in art offers clues to cultural differences

  • How do scientific visualizations differ from other kinds of art?
  • How do depictions of animals and nature differ across cultural contexts?
  • How was the Greek concept of mimesis applied to artistic representations of animals and nature?

Nature and the objects of nature (landscapes, animals, flora) have been a source of artistic inspiration and subject material as far as we can trace historically. Think of the animals depicted in cave paintings many thousands of years ago. Depictions of natural subject matter range from highly idealized and stylized imagery, such as animals that represent gods or forces of nature, to a different aesthetic treatment used in scientific contexts as illustrations grounded in accurate representation.
Example: The German artist Albrecht Dürer based this woodcut of a rhinoceros on a written description and brief sketch of an Indian rhinoceros that had arrived in Lisbon in 1515.

To review, read Nature.

7b. Explain how political art uses nature, the body, identity, sexuality, politics, or power for public reflection

  • What are some examples of art that address major political events unfolding in history?
  • How do artists approach themes of sexuality and gender in their art?
  • What are some examples of artists interested in the expressive potential of the human body?

Artists often ground their artworks in themes that generalize their social life to make statements. In social discourse, debates rage about sex and power, politics and violence, and nature and the body. Artworks present creative positions in these public spaces to amplify the ideas they support or contest.
When artists engage in public discourse, their art can provide a fixture of long-term cultural memory, such as when they create memorials to remind people of important events. Artists also use historical and political events as subject matter, such as when Picasso expressed strong anti-war themes in his painting Guernica.
Alternately, some artists strive to create artworks that are transitory, short-lived, or temporary – a popular example is the annual Burning Man festival, a nine-day celebration that culminates in setting fire to a large wooden man-shaped effigy. The Burning Man festival is about the free expression of personal identity and creativity and how individuals differ.
To review, read Politics, Conflict, and War and Peace.

Unit 7 Vocabulary

Be sure you understand these terms as you study for the final exam. Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Burning Man
  • Guernica
  • identity
  • memorial
  • nature