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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
taylorh (taylorh)
Sun, 19 Jul 1998 12:18:42 -0700 (MST)

Bob Fromme wrote that:

>>"Aesthetics involves an area of philosophy which deals with art, and
was a time when aesthetics could have been simply defined as "the
of the beautiful." However, philosophers came to realize that art was not
always concerned with beauty."

Every dictionary begins its discussion of aesthetics by noting the Greek
word: aisthetikos" translated as "pertaining to sensory perception." Over
the centuries, philosophers seem to have hijacked the concept and
eliminated the sensory aspect as not easily amenable to reason. I still
think that aesthetics are founded on the physical senses, even more than
on their conceptual counterparts. By this I mean that I think we need to
understand the 'real' limits to, or borders of, our senses and to
distinguish what physiology allows
in comparison to what reason allows. Logic is an inadequate model of

Someplace it is agreed that "art is not always concerned with beauty" but
not yet in the popular mind. That, by the way, could be a significant
contribution of art teachers, especially Primary educators who establish
the foundations and assumptions that will tend to remain with us. To touch
on beauty it might be fair to note that our understanding of Beauty
changes over time as well as across borders. We are still struggling with
the burden of the conflation of beauty and prettiness urged on us by
european writers of the nineteenth century. We also remain blind to the
aesthetic models and concepts of non-european cultures dismissing them out
of hand. The dictionary or history of the aesthetic concepts that have
appeared on this planet, in the past 4,000 years, has yet to be written.

The concept of beauty, central or not, continues to dominate the western
mind. Beauty is not only "in the eye of the beholder" It can also be
reflected in what that "eye" beholds and when it is beheld. It once was
that understanding was commonly accepted to be external from what was
understood--that we could establish criteria which would remain unchanging
even as that which was to be understood continued to change. That is
changing. Some philosophers (and biologists) suggest that our
understanding exists only in the context of that which is understood.
Where once we were given the option "either/or" (it is either THIS way OR
it is THAT way) we now have the additional option of "both/and" it is BOTH
this way AND it is THAT way as well -- simultaneously!

I'm sure there are people jumping back in terror at this moment. But
seriously, I'm positive that we all have had the experience of looking at
a "purple mountain" in the late afternoon when the sun's angle has put one
face of the mountain in shade. Tho we seldom think about it, as often as
not the unseen face of the mountain is NOT in the shade and so not cast in
purple shades. Similarly I'm sure that we have all seen the Gestalt image
which is BOTH the face of an old crone as well as the portrait of a young
girl with her head turned. BOTH/AND. While it may be that we cannot
perceive simultaneously, we can know and understand the simultaneous
existance of contrary data in immediate and useful terms. Both/And is a
very real possibility.

We have come through an era where universal and eternal criteria for
beauty and use were lauded and nurtured. We really do seemed to have
passed out of that era and things have simply changed. While the
possibility of singular criteria, is not gone or abandoned it is no longer
seen to be quite as useful.

Bob made a good point here:

>>"I was also at a loss when you asked 'do we all know how to establish a
useful criteria for good?' I must admit that I am not sure if you are
talking about student art projects or art objects in the real world."

I had much the same response. When I was a kid I always hated the notion
of "projects" in art class. As far as I was concerned one either did art
in the 'real world' or one didn't do art. Since then I've learned about
preliminary sketches, studies, maquettes ... etc. These are not "projects"
however. They are not exercises divorced from the creation of a specific
art object or goal. I'm still not entirely comfortable doing "projects" in
class. I'm not happy assigning formal exercises to develop a specific
skill though I acknowledge that there are art formats so refined as to
make necessary the work of exercise. I think I'm going to try to reserve
such exercises for students who actively wish to pursue such a format or
medium. I'm going to try to continue to work away from the "exercise" and
"project" approach to art even if it is less convenient.

At another point Bob got their first, again:

>>"In your question, I have no idea who "We" are. (Did you mean we the
educators on the list "we" or "we" the general population of this
culture?) Also I am confused by your use of "good" in the question."

"We" could also be the enlightened, the cognoscenti, or the elite. :)

I guess it's all relative.


  • Maybe reply: RWilk85411: "Re: aesthetics"
  • Maybe reply: MarshArt: "Re: aesthetics"