Eadweard Muybridge’s Woman Walking Downstairs from his 1887 picture series, published as The Human Figure in Motion in 1901.
Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2, 1912
Oil on canvas
147 x 89.2 cm (57 7/8 x 35 1/8 in.)
In Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Transformation in art can be interpreted in different ways but in general, it is referred to as artworks that alter, mutate, revamp or revolutionize the existing form or ideas. Throughout art history, many subjects have been transformed via artworks; everyday objects like chairs or the ideology of women. Chair as an object has a simple function; an object that sits one person with a back and four legs; yet the furniture has been drawn and reinterpreted by different artists.
Some artworks are transformations of other artworks they are inspired by; a woman walking down the stairs have been reinterpreted many times over such as Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2 (1912), since the emergence of a series of photographs, Woman Walking Downstairs (1887) by photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Throughout history, the female body has been the subject of gaze, usually sat down looking back at the viewer. In the moving image by Muybridge, the woman takes on an active role in a new genre.
Artwork can also transform the environment it is in such as site-specific installations. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped project is a good example, where the duo wraps public buildings; L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Sep - Oct, 2021) being the latest project. Some artists literally transform the physical landscape through their practice; Francis Alÿs’ Faith Moves Mountains (2002) moved part of a huge sand dune in Lima, by several inches with five hundred volunteers shoveling the land all day. Art projects like Skulptur Projekte Münster transform the entire town for a few months while sculptural interventions are placed throughout the German town every ten years with Drei rotierende Quadrate (1973) by George Rickey as a starting point; it caused the residents of Münster to outrage over the installation but they have come to appreciate and supportive when they could see the cultural and economical benefits of the project.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021
Recyclable polypropylene in silver blue and red rope
© 2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation / Photo by BenjaminLoyseau
Color and Form
Large Scale Installation/Sculpture
Searching for Identity