Although PJ and I saw fewer plays last year than we’d like, we went to more museums that I think is typical. As part of my 2013 round-up, I’d thought I briefly write about the five works of art that I most enjoyed seeing in 2013.

Herrin Massacre, 1940 by Paul Cadmus 

The top work on my list is a rather serious work by Paul Cadmus about the massacre of strike breakers in June 1922 in Herrin, Illinois, which I saw at the Columbus Museum of Art.

The painting was originally part of a commission by Life, but it was ultimately not published in the magazine since its editors did not want to offend pro-labor groups.

I tend to think of Cadmus’s work as mostly comic and (homo)sexual rather than gritty and political. He always seems to emphasize the male body in one way or another. Here, I think his way of depicting their bodies adds to the pathos of the massacre: we see these men as living men who are being brutally murdered. It’s beautiful, shocking, and political. I really admire it.

Evasion, 1947 by Jared French

I saw this work at the Cleveland Museum of Art this past summer. I love the color scheme of bold yellows and blues, which really make the men’s seeming discomfort with their bodies stand out. Here’s what the museum’s website says about the painting:

Part of a series of works French made to chronicle the human condition, Evasion symbolizes an individual’s attempt to deny the physical self. As such, the painting manifests tensions regarding sexual mores in mid 20th-century America. While it is reductive to attribute French’s iconographic interest in Evasion solely to his bisexuality, the fact remains that French was one of the first American artists whose same-sex desires were recognized and acknowledged by contemporaries who viewed his work.

Again, the male body is on display here in a rather complicated way. Clearly that’s something I like in my art!

J. and Richard, 1977 by Nan Goldin 

I took this photo of Nan Goldin’s image of two men in a bedroom while visiting the Art Institute of Chicago in December. (If you look carefully you can seem y reflection in the glass!) As the placard notes, the image contrasts the vulnerable, almost feminine pose of the nude man lying on the bed with the more stereotypically masculine look of the partially clad man sitting on the bed. This seems like an interesting exposition of gay images of top/bottom, butch/femme, and active/passive. I was fascinated by the image and went back to see it repeatedly over the two hours I was at the museum. (A clear theme is developing in this post!)

Love & Loss, 2005-2006, by Roy McMakin

This, too, is my picture of the work. It was a cloud, rainy day in Seattle (surprise!). I like the way this sculpture uses benches, tables, and even a tree to spell out its words, “Love & Loss.” The tree is the really cool part — its changes throughout the seasons — blossoming and losing its leaves — acts out the work’s theme annually. This is the exception to my interest in depictions of the male body, but I really like it nevertheless.

George Bellows Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

George Bellows was originally from Ohio, so it was fun to see an exhibition of his work at the Met. Other than the boxer paintings I really didn’t know a lot about his work or life. Here’s a description of the exhibit. We saw a smaller version of this exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art late in the year. The smaller version was a little less powerful than the fuller one. Fortunately, we purchased the catalog of the Met’s exhibit, so we can review our favorite works and learn more about them whenever we want.

Bellows also demonstrates an interest in the male form, whether it’s boxers, children, or just regular guys. There’s a kind of matter-of-factness to his representation of the male nude that I really admire.

So, those are my favorite works/exhibits from 2013. Clearly I like male nudes with lots of yellows and earth tones! We head back to New York City next week. Writing this post has really put me in the mood to see some great art!

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