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I am so glad you used that word! Sentient. A fine word with which to
describe an artist. An artist must be aware of feeling and sensation, but
also perceptive of more concrete reality.
I agree, Ruby the elephant probably is not sentient. When I presented the
5th grade with the aesthetics exercise of determining whether Ruby's
paintings were art or not, they initially said yes because Ruby used art
tools. Also, we could talk about the paintings using the P & E terms, and
Ruby seemed to make artistic decisions. For example, Ruby seemed to decide
when each painting was done and which color brush to use. They also
thought her paintings were art because people paid money for the paintings.
But then we started talking about how Ruby might have just enjoyed the
attention. Maybe she just liked swinging those wet sticks around and
watching the mess they made on those white things her keepers kept putting
in front of her. I related to them that my dog likes to dig holes in the
yard. They are really beautiful holes! Andy Goldsworthy is an artist that
sometimes digs holes. Does that mean my dog is an artist, too? In the end
we did not reach any concensus.
I wonder where intent belongs when we apply modern definitions to 'ancient
art?' For example, in art history we often study about cave paintings,
religious artifacts, buildings, grain vessels, and many other kinds of
objects as if they were art. We know the original intent was something
else. But then, the concept of art being something seperate from everyday
stuff in regular life is a relatively modern idea. Putting art on a
pedistal rather than considering it as a simple basic fact of existance is
one reason the art budgets in schools are sometimes considered fringe.
Therefore, while I find the exercise of defining art as an act of intention
to be very interesting, I think it might be more productive to see art as
an act of perception (artist's perception, viewer's perception, etc.). To
be an artist one must be finely sensitive, perceptive, and responsive to
I want to allow Ruby to be an artist. The way the sun is glinting off the
window ledge of my studio right now, could be percieved as art, perhaps
As you can see, this thing we teach - I can't seem to pin it down. What
(VERY, VERY soon to graduate!!) art education student at
Central Connecticut State University