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Having taught in the public schools for 20+ years, I have great respect for
what Glen had to say about formulistic approaches to art viewing and art
making which tend to limit rather than expand students' thinking. Few
educators would disagree.
However, I would like to ask a question about the idea of "killing the awe"
with discussion and that sometimes it is better "to point and keep quiet."
I think I understand what student "awe" (minus discussion) is (maybe not).
My high school printmaking students, for instance, were always filled with
awe when they looked at Durer's etchings. Having experimented with etching
themselves, they were flabbergasted at the detail and size. I didn't have
to say a word. They thought Durer was "awesome."
But students did not always have the same experience with other artworks.
The works of Dekooning and Warhol come to mind as does the Parthenon or
other architectural sites partially (or completely) in ruins. These were
often greeted by "that is stupid" or "my little sister could do that" or
"why do we have to learn about THIS?" Each time, the students' awe and
understanding increased only AFTER discussion because they needed the
background (contextual information) to help them make sense of the images.
The Parthenon, for instance, just looked like a building in disrepair with
a bunch of columns around it until they understood the time period, lack of
modern tools, mathematical precision, and complexity of the structure.
Based upon these experiences, I would say that whether discussion is a part
of art viewing/making may depend upon students' prior knowledge. Without
prior knowledge, teacher/student inquiry, or discussion about art objects,
"awe" frequently is missing.