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I have found it easier to teach how to render recognizable objects and to teach
students to draw human figures in proportion than to stimulate exploration, even
meaningful distortion. Most students would prefer to continue copying nature or
whatever is in their environment, including other art forms.
It seems appropriate at the secondary level that students hone their
representational skills. If they skip this stage, they may regret it, and I
agree with you that most people prefer to see recognizable figures convincingly
rendered than try to appreciate new forms and materials which may appear to
strange. Familiarity, up to a point, breeds appreciation.
The creativity which "destroys" the object (a la Picasso) is very difficult to
teach. The continuous decision-making found in "action painting" is difficult
for students to experience, but painting to music sometimes helps students see
the parallels, to appreciate the depth of "tone", rhythm, texture, resolution
of a non-objective work. Many non-objective paintings can reveal significant
personal experience, as e.g. Mark Rothko's work or that of Arshille Gorky.
There are criteria for judging works of visual art, and art teachers and critics
are constantly trying to verbalize them . These criteria have to do with
principles of design, but I don't think they stop there. Personal involvement
would be an important criteria, I think. Explorations of materials might also
be considered a criteria for a successful work of art, especially art produced
in a century when there has been so much exploration of everything! This is an
exploring time and has been since the Renaissance, with a few detours which
usually indicated a severe regression.
Is it not possible to appreciate the works of Caravaggio and also the works of
Yes, it would be helpful from time to time if artists could express themselves
in writing, to hint at what they have been trying to achieve with visual and
tactile art materials. There are, however, some qualities which cannot be
expressed verbally, some original explorations which do not lend themselves to
traditional words and phrases, and so we have the great multiplicity of of art
experiments, some of which are truly "great". Now, which ones are they?