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Re: Visual Culture and the Venus of Willendorf


From: Michelle H. Harrell (michelle_h_harrell_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue May 07 2002 - 15:57:55 PDT

Venus of Willendorf can be seen at:

Good twist on the thread- First, I'd ask the kids what do you see? What are
your honest first reactions? What kind of art form does it look like? A
statue? A monument? Something small? What does the size have to do with
use of an object? Ok, you say something small that people carry around..
who carries it around and what do you think it might mean to them? I might
share some information about when it is dated and the location and then ask
more questions based on what they think she represents (I bet most of my
high school students could surmise that she has something to do with
fertility). I'd try to pull from them how the image of female and beauty
has changed throughout time and reasons for it. More questions, more

But honestly, I'm not really sure if this is a VCAE or a DBAE critique- I
just think my art criticism is based on Socratic questioning and inquiry
based art criticism (Geahigan). VCAE and DBAE seem to refer to the overall
structure of the curriculum or unit and not just one class discussion. If I
took the lesson another level to look at "modern goddesses of fertility," I
could pull images from latest fashion magazines and photos of "normal"
people and get the kids to manipulate images to represent what our society
sees or should see as the goddess of fertility. What ideals we treasure in
a mother- the ability just to conceive or to balance a career, a family, a
home, and manage to keep up a killer body? We could compare Cosmo's
covergirls to Ruben's beauties and discuss how our visual lens has changed.
Then, I might be approaching a little bit of Visual Culture because we can
begin combining art history, criticism, production with a critical look at
how we see images right now in our society.

Also, I don't really organize my curriculum chronologically according to art
history so this lesson could fit as easily into the end of the year as well
as the beginning.

Michelle Harrell wrote:
"Look up the "Venus of Willendorf" ... and let's critique it according to
DBAE, or according to Lowenfeld, or according to VCAE, or according to a
cookie cutter lesson in one of those ubiquitous "365 days of
art" books -- pick any paradigm and imagine you have just shown the slide to
a group of students. It is the beginning of the art year, you are exploring
prehistoric art (but you also want your students to do a studio component).
What are some of the questions you are going to ask to get your students
thinking critically about art?"

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