Cones of Relationships



This painting I found on the 2nd floor of the Brooklyn College Library is called “Cones”. It is oil on canvas, painted in 2003 by Asya Dodina and Slava Polishchuk.

When I looked at this painting, it reminded me of Vasily Kandinsky’s “Improvisation 28”. Kandinsky’s painting is a kind of musical composition that is done so with form. It’s title too, is a kind that musical composers use. Kandinsky’s painting uses synesthesia, which is the idea of crossing senses so that by looking at his painting, one would see beyond their eyes, and hear something. His painting sounds like a dangerous and chaotic, yet brilliant moment. He uses black diagonal lines and bright colors for their own sakes. The colors are like musical notes and the lines create rhythm. His painting represented the effect of the political chaos in Russia before World War I on Kandinsky. His painting is a composition of his “inner necessity” to express these inner feelings, which he does with his bright and chaotic composition.

That “inner necessity” can also be identified here. When looking at this piece, one feels a similar chaos present in Kandinsky’s painting. The cones are outlined by black lines and the inside of the cones are colored red, black, or grey. My interpretation of these colors would be that some relationships are of love (red), some of hate (black), and some a confusion of in-between those two (grey), but none of these cones are entirely one color, representing that no relationship is of one emotion. And then the cones are interconnected, falling into one another, representing human connections. There is one red human cone leaning into another red cone, and a third black one turning away. The cones, colors, and lines create powerful feelings in the viewer beyond the eyes, where viewers can sense human interactions and can feel the connected emotions to these types of relationships. The “Cones” represent the artists’ inner feelings of relationships; the complexity, beauty, and unpleasantness of human relationships.

While Kandinsky’s painting is more of a representation of a historic time of political chaos in Russia before World War I, this painting of cones is more universal, representing an aspect of life that all humans share. The complex nature of relationships, of love, hate, and a grey-area of other feelings, is portrayed here in a similar yet distinctive sense.


Isra, Team Minerva

David’s Message

Intervention of the Sabine Women, painted by Jacques-Louis David

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Jacques-Louis David (French painter, 1748-1825). Intervention of the Sabine Women, Detail, Romulus, the king of Rome with youth in Phrygian cap and horses. 1799 (creation), Image: 4/31/09 (creation). Web. 8 Dec 2017.

This painting is similar to a painting we learned in Professor Simon’s class, which is also by Jacques-Louis David. It is called “The Death of Marat”, a revolutionary painting created during the French Revolution, which depicts a contemporary event. It is especially revolutionary because it substitutes the iconography (symbolic forms) of Christian Art for more contemporary issues, and before this David mostly painted scenes from classical antiquity. In the Death of Marat, David’s slain friend is shown as a martyr and hero of the revolution and not of Christianity.

This painting of the Sabine Women relates to the painting of Marat because the story of the Sabine Women is used to advocate the reconciliation of the French people after the French Revolution. After the second year of the revolution, Revolutionaries had begun to turn on each other and behead one another, so this painting was a means of reconciliation, as it shows the Sabine Women intervening and bringing the violet war to a halt so that the Sabines and Romans could reconcile.

From Vergil’s Aeneid, Book 1,”Then it was that the Sabine women, whose wrongs had led to the war, throwing off all womanish fears in their distress, went boldly into the midst of the flying missiles with disheveled hair and rent garments.”

In both the image and the literary version, we see the Sabine Women amidst the chaos of the war, as the quote says. Between all the spears, horses, and armed men, we see women, with so much determination on their faces, similar to the quote’s statement that the women had thrown off their fears. As the description says, “Hersilia is leaping between her father Tatius, the king of the Sabines, on the left, and her husband Romulus, the king of Rome, on the right.” As the quote says, the women intervened to tell the Sabines they were fine with their new Roman lives and husbands.

Jacques-Louis David depicted the episode of the Sabine Women intervening because he wanted the French to reconcile with one another. He wanted the people of France to see the intervention of the Sabine as a “pictorial manifesto” and what he did was, he made his painting appear less Roman and more Greek, so as to make his painting appear less severe, and more ideal and kind.

This was the most important purpose of his painting, and this also the most important message received in the text. The Sabine Women boldly intervened to stop the violence of the war and that’s what David wanted the French revolutionaries to understand.

Isra, Team Minerva

Chiaroscuro​ and Modern Photography

Chiaroscuro CatIn class, we learned about the term “chiaroscuro”. We learned that it originates from the Baroque period and is often associated with paintings and architecture. Today, the term “chiaroscuro” is a photography technique and style that creates strong and vivid contrasts between light and dark areas in a photograph. This style is often used to give off a three-dimensional illusion in a photograph, by creating more depth and mystery, and is especially used in black-and-white photos.

The image above of my cat utilizes the chiaroscuro style to emphasize the depth of the image. In fact, the extreme use of lighting edges more towards “tenebrism”, which is a form of chiaroscuro more extreme and dramatic. Overall, the light-and-dark contrast in the photo multiples the drama that is already present. My cat is staring directly at my camera, with her eyes wide and ears raised. The darkness around her dramatizes her dramatic appearance and makes her appear sharp and astute. She appears angry and as if she’s about to pounce on the camera, and moments later she does.

This similar effect is seen in the painting called “Judith Slaying Holofernes” where artist Gentileschi uses a sharp contrast of light and dark to create a vividness of physicality. Especially around Judith’s arms, the contrast between light and dark really gives off the illusion of depth and movement, and especially naturalism, which is at the heart of Baroque Art. Viewers can feel the strength in Judith’s arms and can sense her movement.

In this same sense, when viewing the image above of the cat, viewers can sense her astuteness and the sense of her approaching movement.

Fairy Slippers on the Ides of March


“Beware the frozen Ides of March.”

The quote is from a poem called “Fairly Slippers” in the book Hungry Moon by Henrietta Goodman. “Fairy Slippers” refers to a species of orchids known as Calypso bulbosa (image). These orchids are known to pollinate by deception because they attract insects to their yellow hairs but produce no nectar for the nourishment of the insects. The orchids can also cause skin irritation or allergic reaction to humans who handle them.

The poem starts off with the quote “Beware the frozen Ides of March,” as a warning to those who may be deceived, that the flowers will begin to bloom from late March and onwards. The author refers to Ides of March as “frozen”, branding it with a dark and gloomy connotation that the blooming of the flowers will never end after mid-March, which is the case with these orchids until they die, five years later. The author expects the reader to understand that “Ides of March” refers to the middle of March, and states her opinion that it is a bad thing by calling it “frozen”, and cautioning her readers to “beware”.

Quote from Cassius Dio:

“And when the right moment came, one of them approached him, as if to express his thanks for some favour or other, and pulled his toga from his shoulder, thus giving the signal that had been agreed upon by the conspirators. Thereupon they attacked him from many sides at once and wounded him to death so that by reason of their numbers Caesar was unable to say or do anything, but veiling his face, was slain with many wounds….Then all the rest, severally taking up the cry one from another, kept shouting these words, filled the city with lamentations…”

This quote which recounts the assassination of Julius Cesar compliments the attitude in the poem “Fairy Slippers”. The attitude in this quote of the “Ides of March” is of “lamentations”, as the day Julis Caesar was assassinated was a day of grief and despair for everyone. Similarly in the poem, “Ides of March” marks a day of deception and gloom because of the orchids. In reference to Julius Caesar, the “Ides of March” is a grim representation of his being deceived and assassinated, and in the Fairy Slippers too, it is a reference to insects and humans being deceived and harmed.


Fairy Slipper (Entire Poem)

Beware the frozen Ides of March. Beware the self-betrayal of a little knowledge poorly applied. Next time he rolls toward you in the hour before dawn, you will say yes no matter what he has or hasn’t done. You will listen to gesture, not word. Not the fairy slipper, but the way it unfurls like a squid, the gray fur at its heart. You would take any flower now, even the drunken flower of his breath, the exhaust atomized, damp and oily in his clothes. Even the flower of his waiting while you pour a thermos of coffee. Even to read the forecast with him, to see in the string of letters and numbers br, which is mist, to hear him say in your ear Baby Rain, flower of recognition, under snow.


Goodman, Henrietta. Hungry Moon, University Press of Colorado, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from brooklyn-ebooks on 2017-11-26 10:43:14.


Isra, Team Minerva

Photography and Linear Perspective

In Unit 3 we learned about the One-Point Linear Perspective, an accurate way of recreating a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface. The purpose of linear perspective was to eliminate multiple viewpoints (that were seen in medieval art) and create an illusion of space from a single, fixed viewpoint. Linear perspective suggests a renewed focus on the individual viewer, and we know that individualism is an important part of the Humanism of the Renaissance.

fullsizeoutput_bc.jpeg The image shown above is a photograph of mine of the street. I have marked it up with the basic elements of linear perspective including the vanishing points where all the lines meet, the horizon line, orthogonals that lead up to the vanishing point, and transversals.

The focus of my photo is down the center of the road. It is outlined by the trees and the cars. The elements of one-point perspective can be applied to this image, however, compared to the example we went over in class, the Holy Trinity by Masaccio, my photo’s angle is different. The viewpoint of the Holy Trinity is from below the feet of Jesus. The steps upon which the first two figures stand is the horizon line. In my image, the viewpoint is centered, where the vanishing point is right in the center of the photo from every angle.

Image result for holy trinity masaccio linear perspective Not my image.

Isra, Team Minera

Sarcophagus in the MET

This marble sarcophagus (Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Lives of Saint Peter and Christ) located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art dates back to the early 4th century of the Roman Culture. When I saw it at the museum, it reminded me of Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, also dating back to the Roman culture and the mid 4th century.

The description of this sarcophagus illustrated that it was carved about the time when Christianity was first recognized as a legal faith within the Roman Empire, similar to the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus. And similarly, the sarcophagus depicts the scenes from the life of Christ. On this sarcophagus, there are two legendary scenes of Saint Peter’s arrest in Rome and the miracle of drawing water from a rock performed in his jail cell, and more scenes of Christ on the lower side. On the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, there are multiple scenes from the Bible. Christ is in the center and looks very youthful like a young philosopher-teacher, with a scroll in his hand. He’s represented by a movement and naturalism.

Both sarcophagi are very similar in that they were carved around the time when Christianity was first recognized as a legal faith in the Roman Empire, and both are exquisite examples of Roman funerary art. However, the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus is different as it brings together Classical and Early Christian Art. With the columns and capitals, and Christ being situated above the river gods, the sarcophagus shows  Christianity surmounting old polytheistic traditions of the Ancient Romans, and thus, serves the purpose of synchronizing the new religion into its empire.

This also relates to Classics class where we learned about syncretism, the merging of two different cultures, which is happening here with the sarcophagus merging Christianity and the old Roman polytheistic traditions.

–  Isra Nazlin, Team Minerva

#1010unit2 #artandclassics

Sappho in NYC

This marble statue is of Sappho and her lyre. This statue relates to the “Aphrodite” unit of Classics class where we discussed Sappho and her lyric poetry. In class, we learned that Sappho was “The Original Lesbian”, known to write poems to men and women.

This statue is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It dates back to 1895, but it reminded me of the statue of the Three Goddesses, from the East pediment of the Parthenon (c.438-442 BCE). This statue of Sappho, like the statue of the Three Goddesses, appears realistic, because of the details and intricate folds in the drapery. The composition of Sappho is similar to the composition of the Goddess all the way to the right, where both are reclined back in a luxurious manner. There is contrapposto and drama in the overall statues, which are hallmarks of the Hellenistic period.

Although the statues are similar in composition, details and even medium (both made from marble), they are from different time periods. The Three Goddesses dates back to the Hellenistic Period of the Greek Culture, whereas the statue of Sappho dates back to the 19th century of French Culture. I would guess that the statue of Sappho is trying to emulate Hellenistic aspects of realism, emotion, and drama, and it does a good job at it because upon seeing this statue at the museum, I thought about the Goddess all the way to the right in the statue of the Three Goddesses.



–  Isra Nazlin, Team Minerva


The Evolution of Land Reform

The article I found is a review of Russell King’s “Land Reform: A World Survey” by Peter M. Enggass.

The proper MLA citation for this article is:

Enggass, Peter M. “Economic Geography.” Economic Geography, vol. 55, no. 4, 1979, pp. 357–358. JSTOR, JSTOR,

The intended audience of this article includes those who are interested in intricacies and ramifications of land reform and those who are looking to clarify what the phrases “land reform” and “agrarian reform” mean.

The author of this review (Peter M. Enggass) only briefly mentions and connects the two terms “Gracci” and “France” when he states, “The reader leaps from the Gracchi reforms of 121 BC to the French Revolution to John Stuart Mill in two pages.” The author of this review is trying to point out that the book “Land Reform: A World Survey” only briefly covers these terms in its chapter titled “Evolution of the Concept”, and thus, the chapter is a “misnomer”.

The “Gracchi reforms” mentioned in this publication refers to text from “The Civil Wars”, by Appian, about Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and his attempt to enforce the legislation in which aristocratic land was to be redistributed to the poor. It states, “But he added a provision to the former law, that the sons of the occupiers might each hold one-half of that amount, and that the remainder should be divided among the poor by three elected commissioners, who should be changed annually.”

This quote is relevant because it connects to the term “Gracchi reform” Peter Engglass refers to in his article. It describes that the “Gracchi reform” was the attempts of the Gracchus brothers to redistribute the surplus of aristocratic land to the poor.


-Isra, Team Minerva

The Richard Rodgers Theatres

The Richard Rodgers Theatre is home to many Broadway hits and has staged the most Tony-winning plays and musicals.

I was going through my photo gallery and I came across photos I had taken of the theatre when I had gone to watch the Hamilton musical. I noticed there were three arches and a set of five Corinthian pilasters on the outside of the theatre, and inside, there was a domed ceiling and the walls were elaborately adorned with more arches. These features of the theatre were architectural features we had discussed in class when we were learning about Greek and Roman architecture.

Image result for richard rodgers theatre architecture

(The photo above is not original. It was taken from the website of a theatre seating company., because the no-camera rule prevented me from taking a picture of the inside.)

In class, we learned that the Romans were master arch builders. They took a huge leap into modern architecture with their innovational arches that supported more weight and allowed for bigger and better construction. Today arches aren’t necessarily incorporated into architecture for their ability to support more weight but rather for their symbol of strength and importance. Similarly, the Corinthian pilasters on the outside of the theatre are in no way supporting the building, as they are rather flat compared to the Greek Corinthian columns. Even the dome inside is flatter than Roman domes and does not appear to be supporting the ceiling but rather just being an addition to it. Instead, these arches, columns, as well as the dome, are there to make the theatre appear prestigious and old, and thus important (“Old is Gold”).

Can I Google it?

Mengjin Chen, 22, co-worker, Brooklyn College Women’s Center. 

Do you know who Alexander the Great was?  Yes.

What do you know about him? I can’t remember a lot. Sorry, this is a long time ago. Are you writing everything I say? Oh no! Can I google it? I know he ruled Egypt or the Middle East. It’s been a long time, since high school. I don’t remember a lot. Oh, was it Greece?

Where did you learn about him? In my Global history class in high school.

Fatima Tariq, 20, Friend, Phone.

Do you know who Alexander the Great was? I’ve heard of him.

What do you know about him? He was the King of Persia. I learned that he was responsible for the large expansion of the Persian empire. Had a perhaps non-normative sexuality. Some speculate whether or not he is Dhul Qarnayn from the Quran. Sorry, I don’t know much.

Where did you learn about him? I learned a lot about him in AP Global but forgot a lot. I learned about him a little in college too.

Aisha Nazlin, 15, Sister, Home.

Do you know who Alexander the Great was? Yes.

What do you know about him? He was a king. He was known to be a ruler who had absolute power and he was a conqueror. He ruled the Romans I think. Not sure. Umm. He was a king that had a divine right. Oh! His people called him “great” because of what he did for them. Sometimes they called him a god. He also helped his people start trading and so he expanded his empire.

Where did you learn about him? I learned it in my Global History class.

Similarities and Differences

All of these answers show a basic understanding of who Alexander the Great was and why he is important. All three people I questioned had learned about him in their Global History high school class and for the most part, had forgotten the extensive details about his life and success. Regardless, everyone was aware that he was an important figure in history, and they remembered him as a king and conqueror. In class, in addition to Alexander’s success as a military commander, and in expanding his empire, we also learned the story of his deceptive birth, and his beastly horse, and the men, women, and army that took part in bringing him to his success.

My friend Fatima who had learned a little about him in her college courses too mentioned that he was responsible for the large expansion of the Persian empire and that he had a non-normative sexuality, something that was not mentioned in class.

My sister mentioned his “divine right” and his title as a “god”, and this is something that we discussed in class about the Alexander Romance, which reads “and many kings shall forever revere you as one who has become a god according to the customs of this land. And when you die, you shall be revered as having become a god.” Alexander the Great was considered a god by his people, and this is something my sister, who had most recently taken global history, brought up. And that brings up another point, that although everyone at some point learned about Alexander the Great (which signifies how important he is), the minute details of how he was born and who and what was important in his life were either not taught or had been forgotten.



Invisible Executives


John Schwartz, author of the New York State Newspaper article, When an Executive Acts Like a Spoiled Brat,” discusses the problem with tech executives who have no fear of the consequences of their actions. Schwartz says, “These tech bros seem to think that money and position let them do whatever they like, without consequences.” Schwartz compares the problem of these titan executives to a similar problem in the ancient mythology of the ring of Gyges. Schwartz says “it sounds like the problem posed by Plato in ”The Republic” about the ring of Gyges. In that tale, a bit of ancient bling renders the wearer invisible. Using his new superpower, the guy with the ring lies, cheats, seduces the king’s wife and takes control of his entire empire. The question then arises: How bad would you be if you thought you wouldn’t get caught, or couldn’t be held responsible for your actions?”

Schwartz refers to Gyges’ actions to draw a similarity between him and the tech executives who, because of their money and power, feel as if they are invisible to the consequences of their actions. Similar to the reading from Plato, Schwartz raises the question of whether all humans would behave irresponsibly if they were “invisible” to the consequences of their crimes. Socrates brother, Glaucon responds to this question in Plato, “Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with anyone at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point.”

Schwartz and Plato touch upon the same issue, as to whether humans would commit crimes if they knew they would eventually have to face the consequences. In the reading from Plato, Socrates and Glaucon are discussing the story of Gyges and how it relates to human nature and innate good or evil. Schwartz refers to this story to build up to his suggestion that executives, when given the power, can and will resort to committing unjust acts, and to stop them, Human Resource need to put in place reward/punishment systems to make it clear to them that they aren’t invisible to the justice system, and that like everyone else, they will eventually have to face the consequences.  





Schwartz, John. “When an Executive Acts Like a Spoiled Brat.” New York Times, 16 July 2017, p. 14(L). New York State Newspapers, Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.

The Sphinx’s Riddle


The Sphinx, according to Greek mythology, was considered to be a woman with a lioness’ body, eagle’s wing, and a serpent’s tale. She was known to be a mystical creature who brought about terror and destruction. The Sphinx is a popular character who was also used by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth of the seven-book series. (Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

In Oedipus the King, the Sphinx was known to terrorize the people of Thebes. She was sent by the god Hera as punishment for the unresolved crimes of King Laius. The Sphinx sat between the city of Thebes and its people, refusing to let anyone in or out unless they successfully answered her riddle. Those who failed to were either eaten of flung off a cliff.

Similarly, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Sphinx was used to guard treasures and was known to become violent when anything threatened the treasure. In the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament (a large contest held between three wizarding schools), the Sphinx guards Harry’s closest route to the Triwizard Cup, which Harry must get to before the other contestants to win the tournament.

Both in Oedipus and The Goblet of Fire, the Sphinx represents terror, violence, and eventually, the protagonists’ confrontation with their destiny.

Oedipus left Corinth, his hometown after he received a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. As he’s passing by Thebes, he comes across the Sphinx and her riddle.“What is it that has a voice and walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?” “A man”, Oedipus answers. With the riddle being solved the Sphinx plunges off the cliff, and Oedipus is welcomed into Thebes as a hero, is married to its queen, and becomes the new king. Unknown to him, however, is that the moment he solves the Sphinx’s riddle, he falls into the trap of the gods, and comes face to face with the fate he’s been running from. Not much later, the city of Thebes faces a plague, also a form of punishment for an unresolved crime; the murder of King Lauis. Oedipus’ pursuit of truth leads him to realize that it was he who murdered King Lauis, his father (when he was traveling from Corinth to Thebes) and that he had married his own mother, the Queen.

In the Goblet of Fire, after Harry solves the Sphinx’s riddle and crosses by her, he too, like Oedipus, has to confront fate. He faces a duel with Voldemort (the main antagonist). In the first three books of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter thrice avoids a dangerous, fatal duel with Voldemort, the darkest wizard the entire magical world has seen. However, once Harry gets past the Sphinx and gets to the Triwizard Cup, he falls into Voldemort’s trap, and upon contact with the cup (a portkey, which is an enchanted object that can transport someone to a specific location), faces the fate he and everyone that loved him was trying to save him from. Harry finds himself fighting Voldemort in a duel.

In both stories, after defeating the Sphinx, the protagonists find themselves facing the fate they originally are running from. The Sphinx in both stories represents fear, violence, and an arrival to the true fate.