Citizen Vessels


I have created a visual representation of the vessels two types of American citizens carry with them, one is a white citizen’s and the other is a black citizens. Both contain 4-5 items within them, each representing something unique to that citizen. The intention of these comparisons is to encourage the realization that racism is still present, and incredibly harmful in the every day life of a black American citizen; because the first step in stopping it, is acknowledging that it is there at all.

The Black Vessel contains three unique items, and two that are used in comparison to the white vessel. The hanging black person represents the lynchings that plague black citizens’ past, it stands for the unjust treatment overlooked in the past and even today. The image of Trayvon Martin represents not only police brutality, but racism so ingrained into our society that leads to people still justifying his death.The image is in black and white because of the statement in Citizen “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” p.52, which is well represented with a picture of Trayvon Martin, as the feelings expressed in that passage from citizen are shared among many black citizens, presumably including him. The speech bubble was inspired by this passage in Citizen: “What did he just say? Did she really just say that? Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth?” p.9, because the passage describes the thoughts of disbelief after a racist encounter, which especially reminds me of the vulgar slur used to insult black citizens. The television, which can be compared to the white citizen’s television, has a frowning face on it because it represents the misrepresentation/lack of representation altogether of black citizens in the media. This created an invisibility for black citizens, as they are commonly portrayed with untrue stereotypes, and are rarely depicted accurately. Lastly, the wilted flower is used in comparison to the two vibrant flowers in the white citizen’s vessel. It represents the overall oppression of black American citizens, in the entirety of our country’s history. It should be noted that the vessel has a large volume, suggesting that if all these memories and events and symbols were converted into liquid, the vessel would be so full it would be nearly overflowing. The fullness of the vessel means it has a large impact on the black citizen, as they have to carry around this heavy vessel of sadness with them every day of their lives.

The White Vessel contains two unique items, and two that are used in comparison to the black vessel. The crown represents the power white citizens have, not only in politics but in every day life, such as the freedom to express themselves in ways black citizens cannot. This power is symbolized by a crown because it should remind us of the unquestioned authority of a monarchy, and how white citizens share this privilege. The dollar bills represent the unequally high respect and privilege white citizens have economically. There are minimal stereotypes that prevent them from getting jobs, and this type of situation is represented well by the following passage from Citizen,  “…he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.” p.10, which shows that it is not uncommon for a black citizen to be hired out of pity, or because of a need for more “diversity,” whereas a white citizen is considered qualified from the get-go. The television with a smile on it should be compared to the television of the black citizen’s vessel, as the white citizen has a much happier one. This is because white citizens are often represented as happy families, as successful professionals, etc. They have mostly accurate and very positive representation in the media, and they have role-models on television and in books; black citizens have much less of this. The two flowers represent not only the continuous growth and acceptance of white privilege, but also the abundance in comparison to the one, wilted flower in the black citizen’s vessel. The vessel is neither full nor empty; it is instead at a stable half way point, suggesting that the contents of the vessel maintain an equilibrium within themselves, being the perfect amount of events and memories and symbols for a white citizen to carry around with them every day.


Mona Lisa Opticc Report

The Mona Lisa is important to the Renaissance period (1300 – 1700) because she represents large social and cultural changes that occurred. She represents the changes to the representation of women in society, she represents the change in thinking when it comes to art and art itself, including how it became much more realistic and what was portrayed. The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous works of Leonardo da Vinci and is even more famous today than it was in the Renaissance, and has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”.

Overview- This painting is a half-length portrait of Madam Lisa del Giocondo painted by Leonardo da Vinci. She appears to be sitting and has her arms crossed in front of her, and there are mountains and a river behind her. The whole scene is very colorless and dull.

Parts- The woman herself is sitting with a slight smile, a semi low-cut dress, and her hair parted in the middle and curly. The fact that her hair is visible and not covered by the veils women in the Middle Ages wore shows a drastic change in societal thinking. The fact that she is the subject of the painting is also very important, there are no other people (men specifically), in the painting with her. Behind her is a drab scenery, there is some red ground that appears to have a path or road going through it, and there is a river flowing on the banks of the red ground. There appears to be trees directly across the river, and in the far back there are snow-capped mountains and possibly a glacier, a white mound of land, nonetheless.

Title- The title of this piece is the Mona Lisa, the word “Mona” was the contraction (shortened form) of the word “Madonna,” meaning “My Lady”. It’s title in English might be “My Lady Lisa”. The title gives away that the painting will depict a woman, or a lady, because of the word Mona, and because Lisa is a feminine name. 

Interpretation- This painting is meant to depict a woman in a lifelike way, and it is possible Leonardo da Vinci’s intent for this piece was simply to have an ever-lasting representation of this beautiful woman. The message of this painting can be interpreted many ways. The first is that women are beautiful and deserve respect, as she is painted in nature, but is the brightest part of the painting, meaning the colors used for the scenery were intentional in order to show how she stands out. The fact that she wears a low-cut dress and no veil sends the message that women of the Renaissance should no longer be hidden behind layers of clothes. With only Mona Lisa as the subject, it sends the message that she is independent and does not necessarily need a man, she is even smiling, which could build that argument. Overall the Mona Lisa is heavily coated with multiple meanings supporting women.

Context- During the Renaissance, artists began to do autopsies on cadavers specifically for artful purposes. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael actually looked inside human bodies and observed the shape and contour of muscles and organs, leading to much more realistic art like the Mona Lisa. After the Black Death which spread all over the world through trade routes, labor became more expensive in Western Europe, which led to many peasant and worker uprisings, a raise in wages, and the end of serfdom. Also a result of the plague the middle class became stronger and powerful, and had extra money they didn’t have before thanks to the raise in wages, so they were more willing to spend their money on art and other luxury goods, meaning more artists were actually making and selling art, like the Mona Lisa.

Conclusion- The Mona Lisa depicts not only a woman no longer hindered by social beliefs/norms, but also a changed Europe during the Renaissance. It shows the social and cultural improvements of the time, and has a lot of history behind it, like the plague’s effects and how it led to new styles of art, and the changed views on women during the Renaissance.