Becoming more familiar with Post-Modern art has presented as many problems as well as opportunities for me as an artist and art educator. This form of expression forces me to question not only the way I express myself, but how and what I should be teaching. Is it necessary for students to learn how to draw with traditional drawing methods? What is my role? Should I demonstrate?
Are contemporary artists using their art as a form of expressing their thoughts and ideas, or is their purpose to stimulate thinking in the viewer? Increasingly, these artists seem to create a situation or visual image that that causes the viewer to rethink politics, religion, social issues, morality, etc.
Brian Sikes stated that the Post-Modern philosophy is "I think, therefore, I am. I think.", but I would tend to see it as "I think, therefore, you must."
Some Post-Modernist Techniques Include:
Appropriation-borrowing and element of expression by another group or individual.
Juxtaposition-contrasting/connecting different elements
Recontextualizing-extracting signs, text, meaning from original context.
Layering-piling on top of each other (since we are inundated with images, they are no longer precious)
Interaction of Text and Image-playing with meaning other than literal with visual and text.
Hybridity- cultural blending
Gazing-who's looking at who?
Representin'-proclaiming one's identity; locating one's personal voice.
Brian helped me understand these techniques as well as gain a greater appreciation for this era of art making. The divisions between fine and graphic art have blurred and I feel more comfortable exploring a "hybridity" of the two, as an artist and educator, however, I am still concerned about the authenticity of post-modern art and prefer art making that is not only meaingful, but also joyful and beautiful. As Renoir stated, "Art should be beautiful. There is enough ugliness in the world."
Artist Mentors are very important to me as I develop as an artist. Some new landscape artists that I have become familiar with include:
Additionally, I would like to include works from the following Post-Modern artists with my students. They are:
Cindy Sherman, Photgrapher
Kara Russell,Collage Artist
Working cooperatively with the elementary team, we designed three units of study centered on various Post-Modern artists. One such unit is based on Kara Russell's Paper Silhouettes.
Students could be introduced to examples of Paper Silhouettes from the 18th and 19th Century, then compare/contrast with a Kara Russell silhouette (find an example that is appropriate for kids since much of her work deals with harsh racism). "Here is a contemporary version of the silhouette. How are they different?"
ART IS THINKING YOU CAN SEE
When I entered this institute, I had not spent enough time in my own art making and development as an artist. I have my own furniture painting business/hobby in addition to teaching, but I have been feeling "stale" as an educator and artist. Consequently, I was nervous and excited about being a part of the course.
Throughout the duration of the course I experienced new ideas, materials, and techniques as I observed and collaborated with my colleagues. I became familiar with many new artists such as Debra Yoo and Rachel Whiteread. I had the privilege of working with and learning from a very talented group of artists including not only Duane Sabiston, but also my "Painting Sisters" who were inspirational in their desire, intelligence, creativity, and kindness. I honestly feel that I was a part of something very special. It was probably a culmination of several factors, but it worked.
My engagement in studio deepened because the atmosphere was very accepting and non-judgmental, but also very stimulating. This experience has inspired me to take risks as I continue painting, in fact, I intend to begin working on a landscape when I have completed my reflections!I was able to experiment with the interaction of color, the summarizing of shapes (as opposed to itemizing), layering, juxtaposing, appropriating, etc. I also felt en"light"ened (pun intended) by the way Duane introduced drawing with students by looking for ellipses, eclipses and the number 3.
Strategies and Processes for Deepening Engagement
*Centering activities including quieting, music, stretching and deep breathing help me to get focused. Journaling also helps to clear my mind. I loved Karen's idea of having students write their worries/fears on a piece of paper and throw them away. I have tried this technique with my students when making kites. The students listened to soft music and wrote down their worries/fears. Then we cut them into strips and attached them to the tail of our kites as a way of ridding ourselves of them.
*Existential questions or prompts are a wonderful way to get children to become more aware of their feelings and insights. I have used them in the past, but not enough with my students. In one particular unit this spring, I combined some holistic approaches and existential questions. I had very relaxing music playing as my first graders examined Picasso's Mother and Child. They had to not only describe what they saw, but to also discuss what love is. The students gave some very thoughtful responses including, "Love is the feeling you have in your heart when you're away from your mom too long" from Andrew or "Love is when you care about someone so so so much" from Maysie. Next we discussed who we love and how we show love to one another. After sharing some of those loving moments in our lives, the children began their sketches, which included the day Devin's dad taught him how to ride a two-wheeler and Sheraz' picture of his mom making his favorite lunch every Friday. As wonderful as this lesson was, I realize that I am not doing this enough and too often I am focused on the end result.
I learned some wonderful prompts from Juan and one of my goals is to use this type of questioning more frequently to help make the student's art more meaningful. The book that he recommended was titled How to be an Explorer of your World by Kerry Smith.
*Because of the lack of time I have alloted for myself to develop as a painter (and because I have dabbled in many of other art forms such as print-making and stained glass), I used much of the studio time to get comfortable again painting, however, I was stimulated by the investigative techniques used by my "Painting Sisters" and I gained a greater insight, awareness and appreciation for Post-Modern Art which has empowered me to be more open to it and increased my willingness to explore the possibilities of PMA as a painter.
*Problem Solving Inquiry is a meaningful way to present ideas and concepts to children as opposed to teaching processes which should be seen as a vehicle for expression, not an end in and of itself. During one of my favorite lessons on print-making, I arranged all of the needed materials on trays and handed them out to the students. I explained that they had to work cooperatively as a team to figure out what and how they were expected to do using everything on the tray and write their own directions. They rose to the challenge when they figured out that they had to select an African Adinkra symbol which decribed their personality, carve it into an eraser to create relief, and make a printed pattern using markers that would fit into a square grid. The looks on their faces when they combined their deductive reasoning skills.......priceless.
*I structure the inquiry based on the needs and experience of the students. Initially, I thought that our paintig studio would be more structured, but due to several circumstances, it became very open-ended and it worked. One thing that I learned from Duane is to say "yes" to those students who want to take risks and explore their creativity. In general, however, I feel that newer students need more structure/guidance and less as they progress in maturity, comfort level, confidence, circumstances, etc.
* After Brian's presentations on Post-Modern Art, I have a much better understanding and appreciation of layering, hybridity, recontextualization, juxtaposition, appropriation and representin', and text/image. I am more likely to explore these elements in my own art, but with one exception. Unlike PM artists, I haven't had the desire to make art for the sole purpose of making a statement about religion, politics, social issues,, etc. It's not that I am opposed to taking a stand on an issue, quite the contrary. If I feel strongly about an issue, I write letters, make phone calls, volunteer, protest, etc. but instead of instilling a rebellious feeling in the viewer, I enjoy making art that is meaningful to me personally but also instills calm, relaxed, fulfilled, joyful or inspired feelings in the viewer.
* I prefer working thematically with my students because I feel that it provides a structured framework with which to work. It guides students with a starting point as they learn more about themselves and the world around them.
*While working on still lifes, I learned the importance of looking for summarized shapes, and ellipses/eclipses. Additionally, I did not realize that artificial light provided the yellows and natural light created the blues.
*This course provided me with an opportunity to sharpen my perception, practice and develop my skills, expand my knowledge, network with my peers, and have fun making art!
* While I was able to ascertain various techniques from artist mentors and colleagues, I still would have preferred to see some demonstrations of the techniques used by post-modern artists. I was very impressed with the MFA studios that we visited and it was especially meaningful to watch some of the artists at work and gain insights as we spoke to them directly.
*I definitely could have shifted in scale. I tended to work somewhat smaller than most. Although I wasn't satisfied with the amount of work I completed, I worked day/night, even waking up in the middle of the night thinking about changes I could make to my lessons to make them more similar to a "micro-lab" for student discovery and ways to assist students in connnecting the "familiar with the unfamiliar". I love the way Juan admitted his own mistakes as an educator and reminded us that everyone has a history, experiences, ideas and viewpoints from which we can build.
*In the future, I would definitely recommend keeping the MFA studio tours. Additionally, even though each of us worked over the weekend, I would provide a van for teachers who wish to tour art museums during the weekend and possibly visit the Inner Harbor for lunch.