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Re: Not Dead Yet (art ed)

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From: henry taylor (tortolitascom_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Jun 18 2002 - 09:12:10 PDT


Hi Jane!

Lets take a look at the theories.

> 1. Art education has always responded to community standards.
> Professional artists have not.

Art Education as a discrete function is only a few centuries younger than
Professional artists. Neither one has been on the scene very long in the
scheme of things or in terms of the history of art. Education in the new
world in particular has mostly been a Pop Culture institution along with
the entire idea of "meta-education", of teaching teachers. Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi describes our more recent educational attempts as a six
generational exercise in failure. (Wall street Journal - Millennium
edition) Maybe we can add to your observation that possibly the response
to community standards, as they are currently conceived, doesn't matter
one way or the other.

> 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).

Ok While the community has been up to it's nose in a Pop Education
mentality artists who used to have better things to do a thousand years
ago have been on a schizoid grail quest caught between the desire for
wealth and fame and the desire to discover a purity and significance in
art that could be scientifically and academically measured. While the
professionals have become further and further removed from common
realities the community has clung to model of art revealed in the first
baby steps of the modern professional from the earliest moments of the
renaissance and petering with the impressionists.

There has yet to be an art education in the sense of the greek pedagogues
beyond a few rare apprenticeships. The current attempts to spark a sense
of "educare" remain more about education theory and socio politics and
less about the traditional roles and functions of art in human society or
the traditional modes of learning, development, and growth in human
society.

> 3. The world's problems have always been the stuff of some art making
> by professionals.

Yes and no. All kinds of possible technical arguments possible arising
from this overly simple thesis. Feldman put his finger on the problem of
greatest continuing concern to art over the millennia in the title of his
great book "Becoming Human Through Art". The artists of Lascaux et al had
an additional concern: the continuity of a viable and stable ecology.
Historically, most of art's attempts to address the worlds problems have
been driven by concerns outside of art. Art has been everyone's handmaiden
at one time or another simply because it is both powerful and effective.
Don't be misled into thinking that art is concerned with religious or
political problems simply because religious and political individuals have
attempted to use art to serve their purposes.

> 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).

Childhood, like contemporary art, is a modern invention a few hundred
years old in its current formulation at best. The invention of childhood
is widely attributed to John Amos Comenius who was offered the first
presidency of Harvard university and who was a Bishop in the Moravian
church known today as the Amish and Mennonites among others--just to put
the invention in historical perspective. Young children desperately want
to mature. Our current system powerfully channels them into the
never-never-land of Peter Pan and enforced Neotony (go look it up folks
useful in discussing Mickey Mouse too) Then when they graduate from
college the crunch is supposed to hapen and the kids are supposed to
mature by Fiat. "You're 23, so GROW UP and get a life!" Which is what
those kinders were trying to do in the first place. This is the best
argument for authenticity in education.. Doing real things in real ways
for real purposes....no more endless pointless exercises as education!

> 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.

Just goes to show how effective their education has been when people don't
want to pursue it when it is no longer enforced. Knowing modern values in
art and being able to honestly appraise our own capacity in confronting
the practices of modern art as professionals is it any surprise that more
art teachers are not also working professionals? There most be more than a
little unvoiced guilt out there as well as well as the willingness to
accept the stripping of participation in art from the citizen... Art is
too rapidly becoming defined as a "professionals only" club which most of
our students will never join or participate in as other than customers!
How far this is removed from the practices in our society of a thousand
years ago? How far removed from the practices of most people on the planet
even today? (outside the modern urban world of course) Is it to our true
advantage to continue as we have been?

> 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
> and Fear.

Now we have ventured beyond theories. On one hand of course this is
absolutely correct. On the other hand, the older one, how important are
portraits and realistic drawing to art? I must grant that the kids and
their parents expectations are deeply connected to the renaissance model
of art and artist (Ignoring most of DaVinci's work which fell outside
representation or used representation only as a tool for other
concerns)Diagraming is the more important technical skill that more
students will use all of their lives. It's a real struggle for me. I want
to teach from the renaisaance tradition I understand that because its was
the education I pursued awhen young and still value. But studying history
(and biology) has persuaded me that that value is somewhat misplaced. Art
has always had better things to do..now especially with photography
available. (and I say this at a moment in my life when, due very recent to
family financial problems, I'm having to consider whether or not to
abandon (to some degree) my own artistic career as an abstract modern
professional artist and take up a potentially more profitable career as a
professional impressionist which I can manage but lack suffuicient
enthusiasm for. Use a Nom d'brush maybe?)

Rather than:
> 7. Do a year-long observation drawing project....

...consider a year long project going back to older and more widely held
concerns for art, design, fashion, and craft. Consider where people
continue to maintain aesthetic practices and how those aesthetic practices
and the things that are made (trivial tho they may be) impact the lives of
their makers. Think of all the varieties of aesthetic participation
available to people and about how few of them will ever master modern
artistic representation to professional, popular or even THEIR OWN
expectations.

We could live in a world where most people were proud of their aesthetic
practice rather than denying as they do any connection to "Art" and
feeling embarassed by their puny attempts to participate when they do.
There is much much more to art than drawing, painting, collage, prints,
sculpture, cinematography, or what have you.

Art and Fear is a good title Jane spend the summer asking people around
you about art and their connection to it and participation in it. Discover
where they are afraid to go or to admit connections. What people fear in
their encounter with art tell us a lot, I tend to think, about where art
education has gone wrong. It speaks of where we have asked things of
students without being prepared to insure the student's success at level
acceptable and enjoyable to them.

well time to stop, eh?

cheers

-henry

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