a: possession of control, authority, or influence over

"A mini-exhibition of (five) artworks studied in the History of Art course, that are all united by a central theme (power). This exhibition analyzes and thematically organizes works of art in the form of a virtual exhibition. The focus is on non-Western material from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The assignment explores how different cultures engage with the central theme in their visual arts, and examines the similarities and differences between cultures and their approaches to art." - Rachel Zimmerman

caleb michael william johnson


Colorado State University-Pueblo

Student // Senior

"I suffer from Senioritis" - Caleb Johnson


noun, often attributive

pow·​er | \ˈpau̇(-ə)r

a: possession of control, authority, or influence over

The word power can used in numerous ways, interpretation ultimately rests on the context

of the sentence. In this exhibition, I will be using the word power as it relates to the

possession of control, authority, or influence over others. I have chosen 5 pieces of art

originating from Africa, South America, South Asia, Peru, and Istanbul.

My first selection is a Moche decorated ceramic. It is named “Prisoner Jar” as the figure is

stripped of his clothes and other power attributes such as weapons, headdresses, and

earspools, symbolizing defeat. My second selection is a sculpture from Nigeria titled “Oni

Figure.” The sculpture represents one of the sacred kings at the city of Ife. He wears the

traditional apparel of a king, the sculpture has a medicine horn and a scepter in his hands and , these

represent his authority and power. Thirdly, I selected the “Seated Buddha from Gandhara” from

South Asia, Pakistan. Buddhism takes a humble appearance, but places man on a pedestal,

deeming man the highest of all creation. Fourth, the legendary “Hagia Sophia” from

Istanbul. A church building used by not one but many different religious practices over the

centuries. My final selection of artwork comes from The Great Mongol, Iran. An epic

depiction of heroism over the Horned Wolf.

moche, prisoner jar

Date: 2nd - 7th Century

Place of origin: Peru, South America

Materials: Ceramic

Size: Height - 10-3/4 in. (27.3 cm)

My first selection, is a representation of someone lacking power and authority. The Moche Prisoner Jar is a representation of a naked prisoner. His genitals uncovered, a rope tied around his neck, and his hands held behind his back. Looking closer, the prisoner seems to have once held a position of power. I gather this from the decorated headdress, and holes in his earlobes. We can assume he once held a position of authority, but in his current condition has clearly been stripped of all power, signifying utter defeat.

yoruba (ife) peoples

Date: 11th or 12th century C.E. (A.D.)

Place of origin: Nigeria, Africa

Materials: Brass

Size: Height - 18 9/16" (47.1 cm)

For my second selection, we will transition from a lack of authority as shown from the prisoner jar, to the place where the world began, Ife! Or at least, where the Yoruba people of Nigeria believed to be so. This theory actually shares similarities of the Gospel of Christianity to the version held by The Yoruba people.

"They believed Olodumare, the creator, sent his son, Oduduwa, to create the earth. At that time there was only a wide expanse of water. Oduduwa climbed down on an iron chain and placed a chicken and a calabash of earth upon the water. The chicken scratched and spread the earth, thereby creating the land. A chameleon was then placed on the land and in its slow and careful manner tested the earth's firmness. Oduduwa then established himself as Ife’s first sacred king" (Ife - Art & Life in Africa - The University of Iowa Museum of Art.).

This brass figure, discovered in Ife, represents one of those sacred kings. A king is a perfect example of authority, to rule the land is to influence the people, control every movement and decision. And for this sacred king depicted to the left, rule over the place where the world began!

seated buddah from gandhara

Date: 2nd, 3rd Century A.D.

Place of origin: Pakistan, South Asia

Materials: Stone

Size: Height - 37" (94 cm), Width - 20" (51.8 cm)

The religion of Buddhism, the religion that actually bought periods of peace across the nations, is represented by Buddha. According to the article from BBC, "The image shown to the left, is thought to be one of the first images of Buddha ever created. In this particular image, he is in the enlightened state, wearing monk's robes and seated in the lotus position. The palms facing up indicate he is revealing the dharma or the way of his teaching" (BBC). The power that stems from Buddha is enlightenment. The four noble truths give the Buddhist power to see the world for what it really is. The Buddhist is taking control, implementing authority over the 'self.' The pre-enlightment person is filled with greed and desire, hatred, and destructive urges. Buddha promises a path of power, or authority over those pre-enlightenment traits.

hagia sophia

Date: 532-537 C.E.

Place of origin: Istanbul, Turkey

Materials: Brick and Mortar

Size: Outer extent of structure - 269 feet (81 m), width 240 feet (73 m)

My fourth selection, Hagia Sophia, is the great church of the Byzantine capital Constantinople (Istanbul). In this jaw dropping structure, the shear magnitude is enough to question how such a structure has built. In addition, through out the structure we see deep carving through the capitals, spandrels, and entablatures. This deep carving is meant to give an impression that the stone seems impossibly unfit to accomplish keeping the building standing. If you can be convinced of the structure to be unfit, then you must point to something else, something powerful, to be the reason for the building remaining intact.

Bahram gur fights the karg

Date: c. 1330-1340

Place of origin: Iran

Materials: Ink on paper

Size: 16.3" (41.5 cm) x 11.8" (30 cm)

My final selection is an epic scene of Bahram Gur on a horse standing as a hero over the frightening Karg. Bahram was a king of the Sasanian empire that ruled over Persia. A king, and a hero, is the greatest representation of Power. A king has control and influence over the people, but influence must be enforced. Unless that king is also a hero, because a hero has earned the respect of the people, and King with respect influences the people by his actions, because the hero is watched and admired. We can represent this watchful admiration with the movement of the artwork. This movement is described by Jayne Yantz, "The Karg’s head, very close to the viewer, is centrally placed and dripping blood, while the splayed length of the Karg’s battered body pulls the viewer’s eye toward the left. The focus returns to the hero, however, because a visual circuit is created around him. Our eyes travel along the horn of the Karg, to the continuous arc of the tree branch, and up to Bahram Gur, whose glance leads our eyes back down across the vegetation and the body of his horse" (Yanz). It is a virtual circle, with Bahram Gur, the king and hero, at the center.