The Meaning of Art

Remarkable people, exotic places, and unusual events can be viewed through the world of art. Artists can use different aspects of lighting, shading, balance, color, background, and composition to turn their work into extraordinary tales. Art interpretation involves not only the composition of the piece, but also the meaning of the artwork. For years, artists have flocked to national parks for the beauty and splendor. National parks are filled with breathtaking landscapes and incredible sceneries. Most of the artwork that is composed from national parks can be interpreted through the natural features, historical context, and cultural conditionals of the park, as well as the composition of the piece. A great example of this is Mount Williamson-Clearing Storm takenby Ansel Adams in 1945.

Mount Williamson: Clearing Storm

The historical context of Adams’ photograph centers on his purpose for taking it. Adams was extremely troubled by the United States Government’s decision to create detention camps for Japanese-Americans. One of the sites, the Manzanar Relocation Camp was located in the Owens Valley of eastern California. Adams was invited to the camp on several occasions to document the lifestyle of the prisoners and the environment that surrounded them. Adams’ photograph, Mount Williamson-Clearing Storm shows viewers the surrounding landscape of the Manzanar Camp. Adams used his artwork to depict the harsh and unjust treatment of the prisoners. The Manzanar Camp is an important part of American History. The camp was so significant to history that it was registered as a historical landmark in 1972.

The natural features found in Adams’ photo conveys the splendor of nature. Mount Williamson-Clearing Storm shows a range of mountains that is located in the Inyo National Forest. Adams captures a breathtaking view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Several of the exquisite mountain peaks can be seen in the photograph. The magnificent rocks, boulders, and plant life of the natural landscape are also portrayed in his print. Adams was overwhelmed by the beauty that was found in natural scenery. His photo seizes the serenity and calmness of nature. Viewers are captivated by the peace and tranquility of the mountains. Adams’ photograph easily captures the superb beauty of the natural landscape of the Inyo National Forest.

The cultural conditions of the park can also be interpreted through Adams’ print. In 1942, the world was full of fear and anxiety. At the peak of World War II, the American government detained over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans fearing a massive revolt. A string of relocation camps were set up to house the detainees. The camps were surrounded by barbed wire, and heavily guarded by American soldiers. The encampments offered no running water, and little to no heat. Racism existed at the height of almost every thought. Adams’ print portrays the isolation and seclusion that most of the captives felt. That culture is still represented through his photograph. Although this country has made huge steps in ending discrimination, viewers can still feel the solitude and loneliness of the captives from the print.

The composition of the photograph, Mount Williamson-Clearing Storm makes a clear statement about the landscape. Adams creates a view of Mount Williamson over the rocks and boulders. He crafts an awe inspiring scene by centering the main focus on the boulders and rocks of the landscape. The large amount of emphasize that Adams places on the boulders make the rocks appear massive in size. Adams’ composition brings the natural features of Mount Williamson to life.

Adams embraces the exact amount of lighting and contrast to highlight the features of the landscape. In his photo, there is a storm stirring in the mountain peaks. There are also rays of sunlight attempting to break through the massive clouds. The dense clouds gave Adams the opportunity he needed to capture the contrast between the boulders and mountain peaks. His print displays high values in the boulders, and shadows within the mountains. The precision in timing was fundamental for Adams to portray the brilliance of the boulders and mountain tops.

Adams illustrates an enormous amount of detail in his photo to depict the beauty of the landscape. His photo displays a sharp and clear focus. Adams’ print shows great detail of the mountains and boulders. Viewers can actually see the rugged grain of the rocks. The significant detail helps to show just how impressive the scene really is. The fine detail allows Adams to convey the true beauty of the landscape.

The framing also depicts the natural beauty of Mount Williamson. In Adam’s photo, the framing centers on the large boulder and two mountain ridges. The mountains seem close and extremely large in Adam’s print. The mountain peaks fill most of the sky. Adams wanted to capture the overpowering feeling of being surrounded by the majestic mountains.

Art is interpreted by the elements of the piece, but also by the representation behind the work. Adams’ photograph, Mount Williamson-Clearing Storm tells a story that centers on the Manzanar Relocation Camp. The print captures the history, the culture, and the natural features of the landscape. Adams’ composition, contrast, lighting, detail, framing, and focus help to show the marvel and glory that surrounds the natural features of Mount Williamson.


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