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Re: [teacherartexchange] Artist Research


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Jun 27 2007 - 08:07:16 PDT

>After messaging a student and asking, "who are your
>favorite photographers", I received a the following
>responce: "Only photographer I know by name is Ansel
>Adams. I try not to look at pro's, the temtation is to
>great to coppy them. This way I think I will develope
>my own unique style."
>It's a statement I have heard many times in many
>different ways. When I respond to this student, I'd
>like to have an intelligent justification for the
>importance of artist research. I was curious to know
>how other teachers responded to similar statements
>made by students.
>Susan Brown

What a great topic and I agree that it is ironic. I like irony. It jogs the mind.

I am sure the regulars on this list realize that I am troubled by overdependence on image flooding and art examples as a method of explaining an assignment. Looking at examples SEEMS to work so well (in getting nice looking products) that other instruction about the creative act is often not offered. Students miss experience and practice with the kind of thinking that is needed to materialize ideas that grow from our own experiences.

For some weeks, I have been working on an essay in which I reflect on what creative artists and art teachers do when we look at artwork. In this essay, I explain what I tell students about why and how I look at the artwork of other artists.

My working tile is: READING MINDS to Invent Art Assignments. In the essay, I attempt to explain the way many great artists look at other artwork as well as all other life experiences. My thesis is that art teachers who read the minds of great artists by looking at their artwork will never lack ideas for new, challenging, and relevant art assignments for their students. When studying artwork in order to read the artist's mind our assignments will have little to do with producing what the artist produced and much to do with what and how the artist was thinking. Our students will have assignments that will deal with effectively dealing with their own visual and social issues. They are more likely to learn something more useful in their future if they have a teacher that knows what kind of thinking strategies have a chance to visualize feelings and ideas.

I cannot say exactly where my ideas about reading the minds of artists came from, but I have one theory. As often happens to me, my studio had gotten so cluttered that there was no longer any place to put the next project. I was forced to take time to organize and clean up. To make the work go faster, I listened to a Faulkner novel while working. Virtually every character in his novel was acting (wrongly) on the basis of what they mistakenly thought other people were thinking. The plot thickened and many people needlessly suffered and died because everybody in his story made terrible mind reading mistakes.

I am sorry that my essay is not ready to publish. This preview will have to suffice for now. In the meantime, if I am lucky enough to visit museums and galleries this summer, I will be looking at art in order to be thinking about thinking. I will be forming art assignments using the thinking strategies that I think I see. I can only hope that, unlike in Faulkner, not too many will suffer as a result of my erroneous mind reading abilities.

"I am sorry this letter is so long, but I did not have time to make it shorter." from Mark Twain or Blaise Pascal


Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
studio phone: 574-533-0171??
"Art is me when I am myself." ... a kindergarten girl when asked, "What is art?"
"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before." ... a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time.

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