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Lesson Plans

Re: meaning and context (long)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Betty Bowen (
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 10:06:59 -0600

>I LOVE the idea of having students identify works of art that they
>"hate" and then working with them on those pieces.

I agree, that is a VERY valuable lesson.
One of the most important moments in my development as a young artist was to
realize the parts of my own work I "liked" were more likely to be
derivative, or done in a way to please someone else (like my teacher). You
know, they met the criteria, got approval, they looked "right". The parts I
(or my teacher) "hated" were more likely to be coming from ME - something
I'd never seen before and didn't have anything to compare with, so I was
afraid they were "wrong". It is incredibly hard for a young artist
nerd-girl desperately wanting personal approval to fight "positive

A visiting artist took me aside and pointed out to me that if there was
something in my own work that made me really uncomfortable, I may be telling
myself that was the direction to take. Boy was he ever right, and boy, as
soon as I took that advice my foundation of encouragement and support
vanished - like when Wile E Coyote runs off a cliff and suddenly realizes
there's no ground under his feet! I had to choose between the personal
approval I longed for and the art I needed to make - in my own voice. You
know that look he gets on his face at that moment of realization? I think my
face is frozen in that expression!
Fast forward fifteen years -- the other side of that these past
eight months, people are suddenly buying my work three and four pieces at a
time (I've sold out three consecutive showings), without even talking to me
(which is just as well, I'd point out the lint in the varnish), and even
before the opening reception, and it scares me half to death. I have to
understand why, so I don't let myself get pressured into following the easy
path of approval just because it's so nice to be able to pay for the frames
for a change. (and I'm NOT being coy) It's hard for my concern to be taken
seriously while everybody's slapping me on the back. I'm also painfully
aware that having work hanging on the wall around the corner from several
REALLY famous artists a few months ago has had an effect (affect?) on how my
work and my "standing" is perceived in the community, so I'm afraid that's a
big part of it (a microscopic version of "how art history gets made").
Whatever transition this is I'm in, is welcome, but hard. Are my prices too
low? (oh yes) Am I matching this year's decor (shudder), or have they
somehow "caught up" with me?
If they've "caught up" with me, do I stay there awhile or do I dive behind
the closest rock?

Sorry to "go on" so, but the "meaning and context" discussion has been
personally very helpful. (THANKS)