I am currently working on a history of censorship in art education as
one of the papers we do to investigate our possible dissertation
topic (so far mine has been investigating censorship in high school
and college studio art programs).
From all my readings and writings I have come up with a few theories,
as yet untested.
1. Art education has always responded to community standards.
Professional artists have not.
2. This great divide has always killed art education in the true
sense of "educare" to lead out - (of students their own knowledge
made visible in art products).
3. The world's problems have always been the stuff of some art making
4. In art education in schools, we need to "keep children children;"
protect their innocence. We need to decorate the hallways
with "school appropriate" art making and craft making. Thus we
have "School Art," which is not art as art. (Apologies to Dr. Efland
and Ad Reinhardt).
5. Art teachers I have surveyed on the subject say they don't
continue self-education in art history beyond what they learned in
college. Most don't teach postmodern art or contemporary art because
they don't participate in in as artists and they don't go to gallery
shows or read current topics or texts. Their unease with what are
often difficult-to-understand works and thinking keeps
them "innocent" which is just fine with art education as it is.
For example: I just saw a year end show here in NYC of a middle
school art program. From the drawings of shoes, the reproductions of
Impressionism with crayon dots, the fashion drawings, etc. etc. there
may as well have not been a September 11th. Children were being led
away from their horror, fear, dread, and deep feelings of terror of
abandonment with tried and true "safe" art projects that had no
salience regarding their lived lives and those of their families.
(not that we all of us here in NYC don't need a vacation from fear
right now). I also saw a High School end of year show where the
teacher had encouraged students to express what was most meaningful
to them on any subject. And September 11 was right there in your
face. The teacher had to apologize to the school administration and
the parents that "these are not exactly happy works." Of course not.
But they were more true to the students and their world than the
middle-schoolers' pale imitations.
6. As for portraits and realistic drawing, have your kids read the
article on Eakins in today's NYT. Artists have always used mechanical
aids to reproduce faithfully what is seen in reality. Also buy a copy
of David Hockney's book that lays this all open neatly. Give your
students permission to use acetate, the overhead, a slide projector,
a scanner, computer, whatever to make a realistic portrayal of
something. Have you read Walter Benjamin's Art in the Age of
Mechanical Reproduction? Suggest you tackle that after reading Art
7. Do a year-long observation drawing project with each of your
students. Have them spend one hour a week, one time a month,
investigating and deconstructing a common object that will not
change: a can opener, an alarm clock, etc. At the end of the year
look at the sequence of drawings and see the improvement for
yourselves. Then have them trace a photograph of the object and
compare the things that camer from their hands through their eyes.
Talk about what you see.
Have a great summer and start responding to the first three chapters
of Art and Fear...here, and now.