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Star Wars: The Magic of Myth

DATES April 05, 2002 through July 07, 2002
  • The Call to Adventure
    In mythology, the hero's journey begins with the "call to adventure." Destiny's herald is usually someone or something fairly ordinary—a frog, a deer in the forest, or in this case a humble droid—that carries an important message for the one who is prepared to receive it.

    As the Star Wars story begins, a battle in space rages between the evil powers of darkness (the Galactic Empire) and the forces of good (the Rebel Alliance). Princess Leia sends a plea for help to Jedi Knight Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi on the planet of Tatooine. The hand of Fate, in the form of Jawa traders, brings her message to Luke Skywalker, a young farmboy. When Luke sees the message hologram, he is drawn into a quest to rescue the Princess and ultimately to save the galaxy.
  • The Wise and Helpful Guide
    A hero first must encounter "threshold guardians," beings who block the way to the adventure. Luke faces threshold guardians when he is attacked by the Tusken Raiders. He is rescued by Ben.

    Often the inexperienced hero finds that he cannot proceed without supernatural aid, in the form of a "wise and helpful guide" who provides advice and amulets to further the quest. Ben serves as such a guide and gives Luke a special token—a lightsaber that once belonged to Luke's father.

    Ben also interprets the Princess's message and tells Luke about the spiritual power known as the Force. Luke resists the call to adventure, but when he finds his home burned and his family killed, he joins Ben on the journey to Mos Eisley spaceport to obtain transportation to the planet Alderaan, the home of Princess Leia.
  • Into the Labyrinth
    A labyrinth has always symbolized a difficult journey into the unknown, and in one way or another it is often incorporated into tales of the hero's journey. When the heroes arrive in the vicinity of Alderaan, they find that the planet has been destroyed by the Death Star, a gigantic Imperial space station. The Death Star is a technological labyrinth—a maze of hallways, passages, dead ends, and bottomless trenches. Like traditional knights, Han and Luke don armor to accomplish their first hero deed—the "princess rescue."
  • The Dark Road of Trials
    Midway through the hero's journey comes a long and perilous path of trials, tests, and ordeals that bring important moments of illumination and understanding. Again and again along the way, monsters must be slain and barriers must be passed. Ultimately the hero must undertake the fearful journey of the descent into darkness.

    Although the Death Star has been destroyed, the powers of darkness have not been conquered. The Empire has pursued the Rebels to the ice planet of Hoth, where the heroes face new dangers from predatory creatures and the harsh climate and are forced to flee during an Imperial attack.
  • Hero Deeds
    The next step in the hero quest is a challenge to mortal combat. The heroes experienced an initial rite of passage in the Death Star and accomplished the "princess rescue." Now Leia leads Han and Luke to the Rebel base to plan an attack on the Death Star. Luke joins the fighter pilots of the Rebellion. As he puts on his uniform, he puts aside his youthful identity and assumes a new role—that of a heroic pilot, ready to sacrifice his life for his cause.

    In the end good triumphs over evil, and the heroes are recognized for their deeds of valor. This moment is the end of one adventure, but it also represents the start of the next stage—further initiation on the "road of trials."
  • The Sacred Grove
    The "sacred grove" is another mythic motif; it represents an enclosure where the hero is changed. Ancient peoples widely believed the tree to be infused with creative energy. Forests came to symbolize mystery and transformation, and they were home to sorcerers and enchanters.

    When Luke leaves Hoth, he travels to the planet Dagobah to undergo training with the Jedi Master, Yoda. The hallmark of Dagobah is its large, oddly shaped trees.

    Forests can also symbolize the unconscious mind, where there are secrets to be discovered and perhaps dark emotions or memories to be faced. In this forest Luke battles an image of Vader, prefiguring his combat with the Dark Lord later in the story.
  • Sacrifices
    The opening of the mind and heart to spiritual knowledge requires a sacrifice from the hero. At this difficult and dangerous place on the hero path, Han and Luke both reaffirm the meaning and importance of their lives by their willingness to sacrifice themselves.

    The danger of illusion is symbolized by Cloud City above the planet Bespin. At first the city appears transcendent as it floats among the clouds, but it has a dark underside that becomes a crucible of pain and betrayal for the heroes. Vader follows the Falcon to Bespin and then lures Luke there to entrap him. Han is captured, put into hibernation in the carbon freeze chamber, and taken away by bounty hunter Boba Fett to be delivered to Han's former employer, Jabba the Hutt. Han's friend, Lando Calrissian, who betrayed Han to Vader, will undergo a life change and begin his own hero journey.
  • Into the Belly of the Beast
    One particular mythic motif is the "swallowing up" of the hero by a large monster. This represents the entry into a mystical world where transformations occur, and the eventual escape represents a spiritual rebirth.

    Han and Leia are pursued by Imperial Star Destroyers and TIE fighters as they leave Hoth. To escape, Han flies the Falcon into an asteroid "cave," which turns out to be the mouth of a huge space slug. Here Han and Leia at last open their hearts to love.

    Vader also undergoes a change at this point, when he emerges from an egg-like meditation chamber. The Emperor appears to him through a holographic message, and Vader is revealed as a slave to the evil forces of the Empire, rather than as their master.
  • The Path to Atonement
    The hero's journey sometimes includes a "father quest." After many trials and ordeals, the hero finds his father and becomes "at-one" with him. This process is called "atonement."

    Luke has tried to follow in his father's footsteps as a heroic pilot and Jedi Knight. The dark, unknown side of his father—and of himself—is now unveiled as Luke confronts Vader in the dark byways of Cloud City. Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father. Luke realizes that he must sacrifice himself, rather than become a tool of evil like Vader.

    Leia rescues Luke as he falls from the underside of Cloud City, and when Vader calls to Luke through the Force, Luke acknowledges him as "Father"—they have begun to move toward reconciliation. Luke has recognized the dark side of himself as part of his destiny, and Darth Vader has begun his own journey toward transformation.
  • The Hero's Return
    The "hero's return" marks the end of the "road of trials." The hero must return from his adventures with the means to benefit his society. Luke comes home to Tatooine to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt. This is not an easy transition for Luke; his new-found abilities as a Jedi Knight are doubted by friend and foe alike.

    As the story continues, all the characters undergo changes: Han is resurrected from his carbonite tomb, Lando makes up for his betrayal of Han by helping to rescue him, and Leia assures the end of Jabba's reign of tyranny by destroying him herself.
  • The Shadow Rises
    The heroes are not the only ones who can undergo change and rebirth. The forces of Evil can also recoup their power and grow with new strength. While the Rebels continue to struggle against Imperial tyranny, the Empire is constructing a new Death Star. A final confrontation must now take place. The forces of good, represented by Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance, and those of evil, led by the Emperor, regroup to plan their strategies. Luke discovers that Leia, who has guided and supported him throughout his journey, is his twin sister. In many ways she represents his positive "anima," the personification of the feminine aspects of his psyche. He also finds that he must confront Vader again. Yet when they make mind-to-mind contact through the Force, Vader appears uncertain rather than aggressive—a sign that he is beginning a transformation.
  • The Enchanted Forest
    The inhabitants of an "enchanted forest" can be both dangerous and helpful. The hero must know the right magic to evoke their protective powers. Luke wins the help of the Ewoks, the small furry inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor.

    The Ewoks prove that heroes can come in any size or shape. They battle the high technology of the Empire with logs, stones, and vines. Their lush green environment and harmony with nature make a warm contrast to the cold, austere technology of the Empire. The Ewoks help the Rebels deactivate the Death Star's energy shield generator, so Lando can fly into the Death Star and bomb the reactor core.

    Meanwhile, Luke realizes that he must set out on a different path from his friends to attempt to reach that part of Vader that is still his father and to turn him back from the dark side.
  • The Heart of Darkness
    The heroes must at last enter the "heart of darkness," the fortress of Evil itself, to destroy its stronghold.

    When Han and Leia finally destroy the energy shield generator, Lando and Wedge fly into the Death Star to fire on the reactor core at the center of the space station. While conflict rages around the Death Star, Luke struggles with the dark forces within the Death Star, where he is undergoing a spiritual conflict in his battle of wills with the Emperor.
  • The Final Victory
    The destruction of evil is not always accomplished by sheer physical force or cunning. There is always hope that those who have given themselves to the forces of darkness can be redeemed. In his confrontation with Vader and the Emperor, Luke wins not through his warrior skills, but through an appeal to his father's heart. It is Vader who slays the Emperor to save his son.

    At the climax of the Star Wars trilogy, Vader asks Luke to unmask him. Masks are frequently part of mythic ritual. They can strike fear into the hearts of enemies, summon ancestors, or invoke supernatural beings. Vader's mask is part of his demonic persona. The dropping of the mask represents Vader's release from the imprisonment of his role, a release that comes for him only at the moment of death. Yet this gesture is also an affirmation of life, the final opening up of father to son.
  • Journey's End
    As the Rebels and Ewoks celebrate the destruction of the Death Star and their victory over the Empire, Luke burns his father's armor on a funeral pyre. The spirit of Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker, joins the spirits of Ben and Yoda. Luke has achieved the final triumph of the mythic hero's journey—he has brought back from his adventures the means for the regeneration of his society.

    In the end humanity has triumphed over a repressive, monolithic system, and Luke, through his hero's journey, has opened his heart to compassion and succeeded in following a spiritual path between light and dark, good and evil.
  • The Threshold
    The hero must leave his familiar life behind to begin a journey from childhood to adulthood and to a life-transformation. The Mos Eisley spaceport is Luke's threshold to the adventure. Here he encounters danger, but he also finds a heropartner in the form of Han Solo, a pirate and smuggler. Han's faithful first mate is the enormous Wookiee Chewbacca. Helpful animals often appear in myths and fairy tales, symbolizing the power of the hero's instinctive nature.

    As they travel from Tatooine to Alderaan in the Millennium Falcon, Ben begins to train Luke in the ways of the Force.
  • A Forbidden Bond
    Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker meet again on Corsucant. She has completed her term as Queen of Naboo and become a Senator of the Republic, where Anakin and his Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi are assigned to protect her. After two assassination attempts, Padmé must flee Corsucant with Anakin as her bodyguard. This journey is also a spiritual transition for the travelers as they learn to open their hearts to one another.

    This spiritual, romantic love between two individuals was celebrated in medieval European myth as “Amour.” In the twelfth century, Amour was considered a revolutionary concept, as marriages were arranged for social or political reasons and spirituality was associated exclusively with religion. Individuality was subject to strict limitations within the concepts of moral obligation and adherence to an ethical code.

    Just so, Anakin and Padmé have dedicated themselves to duty and honor at the expense of their personal lives. Part of Anakin’s Jedi training requires him to distance himself from relationships; Padmé is a leader of her people and resolutely focused on serving them. Yet Anakin’s passion and Padmé’s compassion break down these barriers and allow love to enter their hearts.

    However, Amour also opens the heart to suffering, as illustrated in medieval myths such as those of Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, and Romeo and Juliet. Like those lovers, Padmé and Anakin must pay a heavy price for choosing to value love over duty and social obligation.
  • The Ruler of Wisdom
    Amidala is the young, elected ruler of Naboo. When her people are threatened by the Trade Federation, she leaves her home world to seek the assistance of the Galactic Senate. Her request is rejected, and Queen Amidala returns home to convince the native Gungan, who share the planet, to help her save her kingdom.

    Nabu was the ancient Babylonian god of wisdom, so as Queen of Naboo, Amidala is the ruler of wisdom. Enthroned amidst her Councilors and handmaidens, she is a politician and statesman, using her clear perception to govern wisely.

    However, Amidala’s elaborate gowns, mask-like makeup, and serene dignity also give her a remote quality and conceal the other aspects of her character. When she pleads with the Gungan leaders, Amidala reveals that she sometimes disguises herself as Padmé, while one of her handmaidens pretends to be the Queen. As Padmé, Amidala is touchingly young and sometimes naïve, while at the same time she can be a young woman of decisive action, as shown when she creates and executes the plan to retake Naboo.

    In these abilities to hide in plain sight, project an illusion of herself, and yet reveal her true nature as well, Amidala embodies the mystical force of maya. This is the power both to conceal and reveal truth at the same time and is particularly associated with mythic goddesses.
  • The Servant of Darkness
    The treacherous Sith lord sends his apprentice Darth Maul to find Queen Amidala when she escapes the Trade Federation blockade surrounding Naboo. Darth Maul unsuccessfully attacks Jedi knight Qui-Gon as the Queen’s ship leaves Tatooine, and later the two meet in combat during the battle for Naboo. Qui-Gon is killed by Darth Maul, who in turn is destroyed by Obi-Won.

    While the conflict appears to center around Queen Amidala, it is really part of the ongoing battle between two rival forces in the cosmos, the spirit of light and the spirit of darkness. The ritualized combat between these two powers is a tradition that dates back to the earliest mythic stories. In the best-known variant, reflected in the Star Wars saga, the powers of darkness rebel against the established order, and humanity must take sides in the struggle. Qui-Gon is the representative of goodness and compassion, while Darth Maul is symbolic of violent destruction and the dark forces of evil. Death and evil are closely related in mythology, and Mal is the death-demon, in the service of a dark tyrant who will conquer the galaxy and drain its life energy. With the mutual destruction of Qui-Gon and Darth Maul, the battle is inconclusive and will be engaged again. The Sith lord will find another apprentice; the heroes will find their greatest triumph in turning death from a defeat into a victory and reasserting the forces of light.
  • An Epic Saga
    Star Wars follows the heroic journeys of several characters: Luke, Han, Leia, and even Darth Vader. At the end of Return of the Jedi, Vader shows that he too is a hero when he saves Luke and destroys the Emperor. The beginning of Vader’s hero’s journey is revealed in The Phantom Menace, when Queen Amidala arrives on the planet Tatooine, and a young Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader, receives his own call to adventure. During the Podrace and his first efforts to save Amidala and her people, Anakin proves himself through his deeds. The early part of his journey begins full of hope and promise, but he has the potential to follow the dark side of the Force.

    Star Wars
    is ultimately a story of a father, mother, son, and daughter, and thus follows the pattern of an epic saga, a mythic tale that spans the generations. The choices, actions, and misfortunes of the parents create a destiny that their children must later fulfill. Events in the lives of the parents are often echoed in those of the children, and so Anakin’s and Luke’s stories begin in the same way, with a damsel in distress and a call to action.
  • Myths and Heroes
    Every culture has heroes and heroines who have been immortalized in myth and art. Myth can mean “fiction,” but some myths are based on real people and events. Actual heroic individuals can become both famous and mythical, sometimes because their deeds and personal qualities represent the ideals of their society.

    Many of the works of art displayed in this gallery from the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s permanent collections present various cultures’ interpretations of the heroic journey. This mythic formula calls for an exceptional individual, mortal or divine, to set out on a great and difficult adventure. Some scholars believe that this story pattern expresses essential universal themes and symbols of human life, including the challenges that confront each of us in the journey from birth to death.

    Exemplifying various heroic traditions, the objects in this gallery range in date from antiquity to the late twentieth century. Recently, newer media, such as motion pictures and television, have come to reflect the mythic pattern of the heroic journey, especially in westerns, science fiction, and fantasy. The Star Wars films are a modern interpretation of the myth of the hero that is known to a wide audience.
  • Star Wars and the Myth of the Hero
    A major basis for the Star Wars films is the myth or journey of the hero, which involves the many themes and stages of a heroic quest. The works of art in this gallery, from the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s permanent collections, show how related traditions of the hero have been expressed in art throughout history and in many different cultures.

    The Star Wars story begins with a hero-in-the-making, Luke Skywalker, responding to a call to adventure and setting out on a quest. During his journey, Luke, like many other heroes in world history, acquires allies and helpers, and even a special weapon—in Luke’s case, the Jedi lightsaber from his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi. As Luke continues his journey, he undergoes a series of tests and ordeals, learning and maturing all the while. As in many versions of the myth of the hero, during some of these tests he endures what may be considered a symbolic death, a descent into the Underworld, and a rebirth—transformations also experienced by some of the heroes and heroines depicted in this gallery.

    Luke is only one of the heroes in the Star Wars films, which also recount the heroic exploits of Princess Leia and Han Solo. Even Darth Vader, who is finally returned from evil to good, is a type of hero, a redeemed villain with many historical precedents.
  • The Hero Defeats the Beast
    For centuries, in the folklore of many cultures, the dragon has represented the ultimate evil that the hero must overcome. In Greek mythology, Jason faces a dragon that is symbolic of dangerous power, while in Christian tradition, Saint George battles Lucifer in the form of the dragon.

    The dragon’s physical characteristics vary from culture to culture, with features drawn from a variety of animals. The evil that it represents can take the form of an entirely different creature altogether, as in the fantastic beasts that threaten the heroes of Star Wars. An unarmed Luke Skywalker vanquishes the horrific, reptilian “rancor” in Jabba the Hutt’s dungeon (see above). The semidivine Greek mythological hero Hercules defeated a number of strange and powerful creatures in his twelve labors, or tasks.

    Such bravery and strength in facing and ultimately defeating these beasts demonstrates the heroes’ triumph over the forces of darkness and exemplifies the supreme heroic feat.
  • Heroines
    Like their male counterparts, heroines embark on dangerous quests in an effort to triumph over evil. They may be warriors, leaders, goddesses, or humble mortals with an exceptional gift and calling, like the young French soldier Joan of Arc, or the American Harriet Tubman, who helped hundreds of slaves to escape north on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

    In most societies there are traditionally more legends about male heroic warriors, but brave females, mortal and mythic—such as the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, the Greek beauty Psyche, the curious Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and the adventurous Alice of Alice in Wonderland—demonstrate that women have also succeeded in the heroic journey. As women’s roles in the world have expanded, heroines in more modern popular tales of fantasy and science fiction, such as Princess Leia and Queen Amidala of Star Wars, have become more common as leaders and warriors.
  • Mortal and Mythical Heroes
    In most cultures throughout history, actual individuals have been raised to heroic status because of their deeds or positions. Political leaders or warriors, for example, have been venerated during times of battle. People have also elevated such heroes to mythical status by exaggerating their deeds or comparing them to other heroic individuals. Artistic representations have played a substantial role in enhancing a hero’s standing through costume and gesture, as well as through the awed expressions of other individuals depicted.

    In some cultures and civilizations, great rulers like the famous ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra have even been revered as divine. In others, where people have not customarily worshiped heads of state, exceptional leaders have sometimes become great, semimythical heroes, as is demonstrated by some of the nearby objects relating to George Washington.
  • Steeds, Helpers, and Weapons
    Heroes are often closely linked to animals, machines, and other conveyances that carry them and aid them in their heroic quests—for example, Luke Skywalker’s X-wing Starfighter in Star Wars (see below). Sometimes the animals are fictional, such as the winged horse Pegasus, who helped the ancient Greeks fight the Amazons. But even a real steed could develop into a mythical creature. Alexander the Great’s war horse, Bucephalus, after whom the conqueror named a city, was seen as the legendary ancestor of stallions in various lands.

    In many myths, heroes are aided in their quests by guides, companions, or protectors. Through these helpers or other means, the heroes often acquire important weapons that aid them in their ordeals. These are often swords, which, as in the legendary tales of King Arthur, can be symbols of legitimate leadership as well as weapons of magical power. In Star Wars, Luke’s lightsaber—which once belonged to his father—is both a symbol of this hero’s inheritance as a Jedi and a magically powerful weapon.
  • The Tragic Hero
    Not all men and women who embark on the path to heroism succeed. And some who display heroic behavior nevertheless fail as heroes, eventually doing evil rather than good. Such tragic heroes may be corrupted by wicked influences around them, but the cause of their failure is more often their own weakness. A tragic figure may ultimately be saved from evil, as achieved by Darth Vader when he redeems himself by sacrifice at the end of his life in Star Wars.

    One precedent for Darth Vader is the legendary Dr. Faust, a scholar and magician who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for absolute knowledge and power. Faust, who is the subject of an image displayed nearby, was a forerunner of the destructive scientist, a type known from novels such as Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein’s partly man-made creation, the “Frankenstein Monster,” can also be seen as a prototype for Darth Vader.
  • June 1, 2001 Continuing Exhibitions

    Arts of Africa
    Long-Term Installation

    Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950–2000
    Through August 19, 2001

    Digital: Printmaking Now
    June 22-September 2, 2001

    Upcoming Exhibitions

    My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation
    July 28-October 7, 2001

    American Identities: A Reinterpretation of American Art at the BMA
    Opens September 5, 2001 (Long-Term Installation)

    Wit and Wine: A New Look at Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
    September 7-December 30, 2001

    Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940–1960
    October 12, 2001-January 6, 2002

    Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum
    November 23, 2001-February 24, 2002

    Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
    April 5-July, 7 2002

    Exposed: The Victorian Nude
    September 2, 2002-January 5, 2003

    The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz
    February 28-May 11, 2003

    Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children
    September 19-November 30, 2003

    Continuing Exhibitions

    Arts of Africa
    Long-Term Installation
    (African Galleries, 1st floor)
    More than twenty important objects, previously not on view, will be integrated into a major reinstallation of some 225 works from the Museum's exceptional holdings of African art. Although a wide selection from the hundreds of African cultures will be represented, the reinstallation is exceptionally strong in works from Central Africa, particularly those from the Kongo, Luba, and Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The majority of the items on display were created for religious or political ceremonial life, but the presentation will also include furniture, textiles, architectural fragments, household items, and objects of personal adornment.
    Organization: The reinstallation has been organized by William C. Siegmann, Chair of the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950-2000
    Through August 19, 2001
    (European Painting and Sculpture Galleries, 5th floor)
    This exhibition examines the career of Leon Golub (b. 1922), dean of American political art, whose intense, gritty paintings examine the complexities of power. The artist's raw and expressive canvases span the second half of the twentieth century and explore issues of race, violence, war, and the human condition. The exhibition of some fifty-five works, many of which are mural-sized, includes such monumental paintings as Gigantomachy Il (1966), Vietnam II (1973), and the BMA's own Riot IV (1983). A selection of Golub's lesser-known political portraits and his recent paintings that consider mortality will also be included.
    Organization: Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950-2000 was curated by Jon Bird, an independent, London-based curator, and organized by the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Associate Curator in the Department of Contemporary Art, organized the presentation at the BMA.
    Support: The BMA presentation is supported, in part, by the BMA's Barbara and Richard Debs Exhibition Fund. Additional support is provided by The Broad Art Foundation and Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Kozinn. Educational activities are made possible by the Third Millennium Foundation.
    Publication: Leon Golub: Echoes of the Real, with an essay by Jon Bird, includes more than 130 color plates and is published by Reaktion Books, Ltd., London.

    Digital: Printmaking Now
    June 22-September 2, 2001
    (Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th floor)
    This installment of the Print National, a survey of important developments in the field of printmaking, will focus on the increasing use of computers in the printmaking process. The exhibition, one of the first to address this issue, will include traditionally printed works that have been manipulated digitally and works created entirely by computer.
    Organization: This exhibition was organized by Marilyn Kushner, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Support: Digital: Printmaking Now is organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., and the BMA's Prints and Photographs Council. Additional support is provided by Marc A. Schwartz, Seymour and Laura Schweber, and Philip and Alma Kalb, and The Fund—created by a gift from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Educational activities are supported by the Third Millennium Foundation. Media sponsors are Artbyte Magazine and Art on Paper.
    Publication: A fully-illustrated color catalogue will be available.

    Upcoming Exhibitions

    My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation
    July 28-October 7, 2001
    Synergies between Japanese and American popular culture are explored in this showcase of photography, painting, sculpture, and video that investigates the influence of Japanese animation (anime) and techno-culture on art. Anime is incredibly versatile in its ability to comment on social and sexual mores, gender roles, and traditional values in the face of an increasingly alien future. The exhibition features work by Takashi Murakami, Mariko Mori, Paul McCarthy, and Charlie White, among others.
    Organization: My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation was originally curated by Jeff Fleming, Senior Curator, and Susan Lubowsky Talbott, Director of the Des Moines Art Center. The exhibition is coordinated at the Brooklyn Museum of Art by Charlotta Kotik, Department Chair of Contemporary Art.
    Support: Educational activities for the BMA's presentation are supported by the Third Millennium Foundation. Additional support provided by The Fund—created by a gift from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.
    Publication: An illustrated catalogue co-published by the Des Moines Art Center and Independent Curators International accompanies My Reality.

    American Identities: A Reinterpretation of American Art at the BMA
    September 5, 2001-Long Term
    (Luce Center for American Art, 5th floor)
    This reinstallation of approximately 350 works from the permanent collections will present an innovative thematic survey of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the early eighteenth century to the present. An orientation gallery will introduce the visitor to the scope of the collections, showcasing a number of icons in a Brooklyn context. The galleries will be organized in a general chronological fashion with richly interpreted installations devoted to such themes as Dutch New Yorkers, Shaping American Landscapes, The Civil War Era, Women's Worlds, Urban Experiences, and The Drive toward Abstraction.
    Organization: This project is a collaboration among curators of American Paintings and Sculpture: Teresa A. Carbone, Project Director; Linda S. Ferber and Barbara Dayer Gallati; Decorative Arts: Kevin L. Stayton, Chair of Department of Decorative Arts, Barry R. Harwood; Contemporary Art: Charlotta Kotik; Arts of Americas: Susan Kennedy Zeller
    Support: American Identities: A Reinterpretation of American Art at the BMA is supported by a generous grant from the Independence Community Foundation for the Museum's project American Identities: Building Audiences for the Future, and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Wit and Wine: A New Look at Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
    September 7-December 30, 2001
    (Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st floor)
    This exhibition comprises forty-five pottery vessels—most for holding or pouring wine—from ancient Iran, ranging in date from the fifth millennium B.C. to the third century A.D. Demonstrating the extraordinary range of Iranian pottery, the exhibition includes such whimsical examples as a juglike vessel in the shape of human feet, and sculptural works in the shape of camels and bulls. Some containers clearly imitate early metal prototypes, with their unusually thin walls and long spouts, while others are painted with sophisticated ornamental designs depicting the animals of the Iranian highland. The Brooklyn Museum of Art is the last scheduled venue for this traveling exhibition.
    Organization: The exhibition has been organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and curated by Dr. Trudy S. Kawami. James F. Romano, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art at the BMA, will organize the presentation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960
    October 5, 2001-January 6, 2002
    (Grand Lobby, 1st floor; Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th floor)
    This interdisciplinary exhibition will present 250 of the most innovative works of the 1940s and 1950s that embraced a vocabulary of organic, or vital, forms. Through architecture, decorative and industrial arts, graphic design, painting, photography, and sculpture, Vital Forms will examine the use of nature-based imagery during the postwar era. The exhibition will show how this aesthetic development represented an affirmation of life in the face of the Cold War and at the dawn of the nuclear age. Exploring the organic visual language adopted by some of the era's most progressive creators, the exhibition will include works of art and design such as paintings by Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, the "Predicta" television set, images of Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport, Tupperware, the "Slinky," and the Ford Thunderbird. Additionally, the exhibition will trace how that visual vocabulary was applied to objects of popular culture, such as Formica countertop laminate and paperback book covers. The exhibition is the third in a series organized by the BMA that began with The American Renaissance, 1876-1917 (1979) and continued with The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941 (1986).
    Organization: This exhibition will be organized by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, and Kevin Stayton, Department Head and Curator of Decorative Arts at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Martin Filler and Mildred Friedman are consulting co-curators, and Dr. Paul Boyer is the project's cultural historian.
    Publication: A full-color catalogue published by the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., will accompany the exhibition.
    Brooklyn Museum
    of Art:
    October 12, 2001-January 6, 2002

    Walker Art Center:
    February 16-May 12, 2002

    Frist Center for the Visual Arts:
    June 21-September 15, 2002

    Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
    November 17, 2002-February 23, 2003

    Phoenix Art Museum:
    April 4-June 29, 2003

    Support: Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960 was organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition was made possible, in part, by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by the Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal Foundation, The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and the Gramercy Park Foundation. Support for the catalogue was provided through the generosity of Furthermore, the Publication Program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, as well as a BMA publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum
    November 23, 2001-February 24, 2002
    (Beatrice and Samuel A. Seaver Gallery, 5th floor)
    This exhibition will provide a unique opportunity to view more than 140 ancient Egyptian masterpieces from The British Museum in London, many of which have never before traveled to the United States. Many large-scale works will be presented, including the capital of a temple column with a monumental carving of the goddess Hathor, as well as a world-famous portrait statue of the great pharaoh Sesostris III, royal jewelry, and paintings on papyrus illustrating scenes from The Book of the Dead. The exhibition will span the entire pharaonic period, from Dynasty I (about 3100 B.C.) to the period of Roman rule (4th century A.D.).
    Organization: This exhibition was organized by the American Federation of Arts and the British Museum, with guest curator Edna R. Russmann, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and W. V. Davies, the British Museum's Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities.
    Support: This exhibition and its national tour are made possible by Ford Motor Company. The official hotel of the Brooklyn leg of exhibition is the New York Marriott Brooklyn. Promotional support for the BMA's presentation is provided by Bloomingdale's. Additional support has been provided by the Benefactors Circle of the AFA.
    Publication: A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

    Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
    April 5-July 7, 2002
    (Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th & 5th floors)
    The exhibition showcases original artwork, props, models, costumes, and characters used to create the original Star Wars trilogy—Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi—as well as Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Included will be over 30 mannequins, 35 models, and 50 pieces of framed artworks. Among them will be R2-D2, C-3P0, Darth Vader, Yoda, Boba Fett, and Yoda as well as Princess Leia's Slave Girl Costume, Han Solo frozen in carbonite, the Millennium Falcon, and one of Queen Amidala's royal gowns. Interpretive panels throughout the exhibition trace the mythological and literary sources that transform Star Wars into a timeless epic. Drawing upon the work of Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the exhibition shows how the themes of the young hero, the faithful companions, the endangered maiden, the wise guide, and others resonate through the Star Wars saga and give it an enduring universality. The exhibition will include a 26-minute documentary film, which will play continuously, on the making of the Star Wars saga.
    Star Wars: The Magic of Myth was developed by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The exhibition was organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). All artifacts in this exhibition are on loan from the archives of Lucasfilm Ltd. The Brooklyn Museum of Art will be the final stop of a national tour. Catalogue: An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, entitled Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, by Mary Henderson, exhibition curator from the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

    Exposed: The Victorian Nude
    September 2, 2002-January 5, 2003
    (Schapiro Galleries, 4th floor)
    The nude figure was one of the most controversial subjects in Victorian England. It fired the Victorian imagination as the central focus of arguments about aesthetics, morality, sexuality, and desire—issues that continue to provoke debate. Exposed: The Victorian Nude is the first exhibition to survey the full range of representations of the nude in Victorian art. While the exhibition concentrates mainly on the "high arts" of painting and sculpture, photography, popular illustrations, advertising, and caricature are included to demonstrate the prevalence of the nude in Victorian visual culture and the meaning it held.
    Organization: Exposed: The Victorian Nude has been organized by Tate Britain. Barbara Dayer Gallati, Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, will coordinate the presentation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
    Publication: A fully illustrated catalogue will be available.
    Tour: The Brooklyn Museum of Art will be the only North American stop of this exhibition tour.

    The Adventures of Hamza
    November 1, 2002-January 26, 2003
    (Blum Gallery, 1st floor)
    The Adventures of Hamza (or Hamzanama) is a fantastic adventure story about the exploits of Hamza, uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, who traveled throughout the world spreading the doctrines of Islam. The narrative tells of encounters with giants, demons, and dragons; of abductions and hair - raising chases; and of believers, as well as those who resisted Islam. A favorite story for illustration, it was also recited in coffeehouses from Iran to northern India. The greatest illustrated manuscript of the Hamzanama was made in India for the Mughal Emperor Akbar (reigned 1556-1605) when he was still a teenager. It originally contained 1,400 enormous illustrations, about a tenth of which have survived today. This exhibition brings together some 70 of these illustrations from collections all over the world, and places them alongside new translations of the related text passages. Organization: The Adventures of Hamza has been curated by Dr. John W. Seyller and organized by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, at the Smithsonian Institution. Amy G. Poster, Chair of the Asian Art Department at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, will coordinate the exhibition at the BMA.
    Publication: A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany this exhibition.

    Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children
    September 19-November 30, 2003
    (Schapiro Galleries, 4th floor)
    John Singer Sargent is best known for his portraits of society women. This exhibition will assemble some forty depictions of children by Sargent to present an unexpected and revealing examination of his art. Rather than presenting children in the saccharine, sentimentalized fashion of the day, Sargent often captured them in moments of sober contemplation. Portraying his young subjects as psychologically complex individuals, Sargent redefined children's portraiture, which typically treated childhood as a generic age of innocence.
    Organization: This exhibition will be organized by Barbara Dayer Gallati, Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
    Publication: A fully illustrated color catalogue will accompany this exhibition.

    The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz
    February 29-May 11, 2003
    The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz will feature two- and three-dimensional art produced by interned victims of Auschwitz and other camps. Artwork served different functions in the camps—catharsis, documentation, resistance, decoration, and official commissions. This exhibition will present the role of visual arts in concentration camps. The works of Jewish inmates, as well as that of resistance fighters from throughout Europe, will be included in this show.
    Organization: The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz will be organized by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Marilyn Kushner, Curator of Prints and Drawings, will be managing the project at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 2001, 070-077
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  • December 7, 2001 Star Wars: The Magic of Myth will make its final stop on a tour of the United States at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, where it will be on view from April 5 through July 7, 2002. The exhibition examines the mythological roots of the now legendary film saga that explores themes of heroism and redemption and the triumph of good over evil through the creation of characters that exemplify chivalry, nobility, valor, and evil. Star Wars: The Magic of Myth presents original artwork, props, models, costumes and characters used to create the original Star Wars trilogy—Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, as well as objects from Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.

    The exhibition was organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) following its debut at the National Air and Space Museum, where it attracted over one million visitors and was one of the most visited Smithsonian exhibitions of all time.

    “We are delighted to present this remarkable exhibition of objects from these landmark films. Through these extraordinary artifacts created by some of the leading artists in their fields, implementing the creative vision of George Lucas, our visitors will have a true behind-the-scenes experience of this epic saga, which has become a worldwide cultural phenomena that has endured and grown for the past quarter century,” comments BMA Director Arnold L. Lehman.

    The Brooklyn Museum of Art presentation will be the most comprehensive to date and will include several objects not seen in previous venues. Among them will be the debut of an elaborate costume worn by Queen Amidala when she appeared before the Galactic Senate. Notable for its fusion of Asian and European Art Nouveau styles, it combines velvets, soutache braid, beading, and appliques. It will be accompanied by costumes worn by two of the Queen’s handmaidens.

    Installed in two floors of gallery space, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth will include more than thirty costumed mannequins of the best-known Star Wars characters, including R2-D2, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Boba Fett, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Darth Maul. One of the highlights will be the crime lord, Jabba the Hutt, reclining in splendor with his court jester, Salacious B. Crumb displayed along with members of his entourage, including palace dancers, guards, and Princess Leia’s slave girl costume.

    Many of the original miniature models designed by Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic will also be on view, including the Imperial Star Destroyer, the Millennium Falcon, and young Anakin Skywalker’s podracer from The Phantom Menace. Huge photomurals of scenes such as the Death Star and Emperor Palpatine’s throne room will evoke the monumental imagery of the films. A variety of art-work will provide rare insights into the creative process that culminated in the stunning visual images of the Star Wars motion pictures. Interpretive panels throughout the exhibition will explore the mythological sources that have helped to transform the films into a timeless epic.

    Reflective of the late Joseph Campbell’s story of the “hero’s journey” presented in the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces and the acclaimed television series The Power of Myth, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth explores how the themes of the young hero, the faithful companions, the endangered maiden, the wise guide, and others resonate through the Star Wars saga and have given it an enduring universality.

    The exhibition will be accompanied by a 30 minute documentary that examines the impact of Star Wars on world culture in the late 20th century. It includes interviews with George Lucas, actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, as well as sound designer Ben Burtt, composer John Williams, and others. An audio tour is also available.

    In conjunction with Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, the BMA will present an exhibition of approximately 25 objects from its comprehensive permanent collection that will examine how diverse cultures throughout time have explored many of the universal themes presented in the Star Wars films. Titled The Myth of the Hero and Heroine, it will include objects such as a marble head of Queen Cleopatra VII from the first century B. C.; Porter Blake screenprints illustrating Alice in Wonderland; a Yoruba mask used in festivals commemorating the deeds of ancestral warriors; a Polynesian club, the powers of which increase with each success in battle; and a Rembrandt etching of Faust. It has been organized by Richard Fazzini, Chair of the Department of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art.

    Organization: Star Wars: The Magic of Myth was developed by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Because of its extraordinary popularity, the exhibition was organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). All artifacts in the exhibition are on loan from the archives of Lucasfilm Ltd. Dr. James F. Romano, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art, will coordinate the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition design of the Brooklyn presentation is by Matthew Yokobosky.

    Tour: Following its appearance at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth will be presented at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, where it will open in September of 2002. In the United States it traveled to the San Diego Museum of Art; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; The Field Museum in Chicago; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Toledo Museum of Art.

    Publication: In a companion book entitled Star Wars: The Magic of Myth (Bantam, 1997) Mary Henderson, author and exhibition curator from the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, explores the technical and philosophical influences of mythology in the Star Wars trilogy through text and illustrations.

    Tickets: Tickets will be required for Star Wars: The Magic of Myth that will include the cost of general admission. Prices, on-sale date, and a toll-free number will be announced.
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