On Jun 27, 2007, at 11:07 AM, Marvin Bartel wrote:
> 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
> 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 kept Marvin's words intact because I think it's such a wonderful
way of looking at process.
I'm thinking about a show I went to years ago at the MOMA-- a Pierre
Bonnard retrospective. I was so visually and mentally exhausted after
going through this show I had to end my day of museum going---- and I
spent a long long time thinking about what he made me think about. It
was not only the technique and the insistence on looking at edges and
the juxtapositons of paint, but also the little domestic scenes and
what he accomplished in "one room." There was mystery I couldn't
resolve, and yet I so identified with what Bonnard was confined to.
Very powerful stuff. That show has never left me. I only wanted so
much to read Pierre's mind, but jeez how I felt for this man with the
dysfunctional wife living in her tub and he couldn't go anywhere
else. My lesson was about restriction and confinement and
obligations and somehow finding some joy in expression. Bonnard said__
"There is a formula that perfectly fits painting: lots of little lies
for the sake of one big truth."
It's the truths we have to find that will spark the youngin's to make
their own truths.
Meanwhile, I scan the books and magazines and go to galleries and
museums to see if I can mind read. and see if I can find the spark
that ignites a thinking process.
I'm still cleaning up my art rooms at school and looking at the
products left behind. During the process I always think things
could be better, but when I reflect-- I am so proud that my lessons
are about developing ideas and not so much about technique. I'm
trying to organize a permanent display for my principal's office. I'm
looking at my final project for advanced art. I gave each student 6,
6"x6" canvasses. My requirement was the each canvas had to stand
alone as well as work with the other as a whole. Subject matter was
open.My only demand was that it be from observation. As I look at
these now I'm amazed at individual response----- 6 hands racing up
and down piano keys, 6 paintings about time, 6 paintings focussing
in on minute parts of a favorite musical instrument, 6 paintings
about the sun, 6 paintings about sign language, 6 paintings about
pattern, 6 paintings about the brick wall viewed from the seat .....
on and on
The limitations were minimal, the response was gigantic. I wanted
the focus to be little observations and I got it.
And that's what I think we have to concentrate on. How to make
the connection from the big ideas to how the artist so often finds
the little things as a focal point. And stressing the observation
and I don't mean observation as reproducing
I mean observation as to what is important in the student life.
When I give such open ended problems to solve, I get so curious as to
I want to read their minds.