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Re: copying and multiculturalism


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Jun 18 2003 - 14:10:19 PDT

I am glad to see the controversy of copying return to this list AGAIN.

The tradition of students copying Master works is a long one and valid
as a teaching tool. BUT the tradition is copying from actual works - not
posters, pictures, or slides. I went to art school in NYC. I had the Met,
the Frick, the Morgan .... you name it all the masters to copy from
actual works. The EXERCISE and that's was it is is to OBSERVE
look at the strokes, the marks, observe the layers of application the
skill and technique carefully observing and duplicating to break down the
skill of the technique and SEEING. No one can observe the skill form a
picture of a picture. The whys and wherefores of how the content of the
picture evolved was taken care of by other means. The copying was not about
the content --it was about the technique. I can't duplicate what Rembrandt
"saw" but I can maybe mimic his technique..maybe but maybe in the
process learn about the skills that offer the opportunity for communication.
The idea follows. One of the standards is about being able to choose the
proper technique to convey the idea. That comes through a lot of instruction
in technique and investigation of personal ideas. I think in the limited
time we have with kids, the exploration of the ideas is much more important.

In the the style of stuff absolutely annoys me. If we hold to teaching
tradition then teach the tradition--- it's not about convenient materials
or easy application of a "look."
We do a disservice to all the artists and innovators and thinkers when we
juvenlilize a technique and especially when we disregard the how and why
the content was/is expressed through the choices of the media and technique.

I cringe when I see objects from cultures not so familiar to us reduced to
"chewing gum" as Wendy says. The standards have forced us to explore
cultures that we may not be familiar with or comfortable with and I see too
much stuff that is probably insulting to the the signs and symbols of that
culture, to the rituals and beliefs of that culture. Andre Serrano got in
deep doo-doo for photographing a crucifix immersed in urine. It offended
without the offended investigating why he did it. Some of the lessons I
see, the so-called multicultural lessons are way more offending. But those
cultures don't have the strength of the offended voice. Art should only be
insulting or offensive through the informed knowledge and investigation of
the artists choices. Not through a lesson that meets some standard.

Art isn't easy.
We need to know too much about too many things.
I think the best we can do is depend on what we know and present genuine
lessons with genuine content. If copying is a concern, then "lifting"
lessons from internet sources becomes as ingenue as the copying of
cartoons. Take the sources the internet offers and make it your own.
Don't attempt lessons you haven't tried and investigated yourself. Don't
ever attempt a technique or idea you are not secure about. The kids will get
you and you won't have the answer. .. and then they will really know art
isn't a "real subject."

Whatever comes across this list as a great lesson started somehow, someway
as an artist/teacher inspiration. Can you copy an inspiration? I'm not
sure. There are some art forms that I have studied for years and I am yet
to be inspired enough to present a lesson. If I'm not inspired -- I'll get
the equivalent response. Art is not about technique it's about observing
and responding and it comes from the bottom up , not the top down.

I'm very weary. I have 3 more days to go and it's been a long long year.
Take my thoughts as weary thoughts but BUT please think about
what is important for you to convey to your students not something that
may have been successful for someone else (who was inspired).

Teach inspired it's the only way art will survive