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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Peggy Woolsey (woolspeg)
Sat, 18 Oct 1997 15:02:53 +0800

Whao, let's slow down here a minute. I'm starting to feel like a lightening
rod for all kinds of stuff. Theresa says,

>If we are not to teach about cultural artifcacts, processes,
>belief systems, and attitudes because of our inability to accurately
>portray them, what possible connection, then, is it to teach about a work
>of art
>which took years to create by having students work with the theme of
>the work, make "Van Gogh" lines as if we could possible recreate them
>exactly, or any other such activity which uses a work of art as the
>impetus for an art activity? Should we not hold up the Mona Lisa
>because it's false to try and do work without oil paint and varnish?
>Do we not do work based on Lascaux cave paintings because we can't go
>into a cave to recreate the experience and are only doing it on
>crumpled brown paper bags..Or do you think appropriation can only be
>culturally based?
>If we follow this logic then why reference anything at all, as it
>cannot be recreated in the classroom as it was intended, imagined,
>conceived, executed, or portrayed? What do we work with if not the
>items that are in our world, that have been created, that are
>signposts to some meaning each person will ascribe some different
>interpretation to?
>Each of us sees things and values things differently. As art educators,
>we are only conduits for an experience to be created. The meaning is
>individual. We can only do the best we can with what we have.
>Teresa Tipton

I'm not suggesting that we "don't teach about cultural artifacts,
processes,belief systems, and attitudes because of our inability to
portray them." Good heavens, what would we be doing as teachers, especially
art teachers if we didn't use material and information from all kinds of
places to carry out the many goals of art education? But referring to or
even copying the Mona Lisa is not the same as trying to "duplicate" a totem
pole as accurately as possible using materials at hand. The Mona Lisa is
clearly an art object within a frame of reference that is generally
familiar and accessible to us. Yes, we could have our students copy the
Mona Lisa, using oil paint but are there not many other things one could do
with the life,the times of Mona and her author?

The point is not wether we can accurately portray something, but
why we want to protray it. We have an abundanace of cedar where I live and
I have lots of carving tools. I still would not propose the totem pole as
an art object to my students. The reason is that I don't think I am
equipped to provide information on the levels which the totem pole requires
(in my estimation). This doesn't mean I'm not going to talk about the
native peoples of the Northwest Coast! If I could get Ned Bear (local
native carver of spirit masks) to come in and do a workshop with my kids I
would, but he's very busy and he doesn't like the school system. And he's
already told me that he will talk about his culture, but we're on our own
for inspiration. When I do masks, I show Ned's work, I show pictures of
African masks, as well as Iroquois false face masks. But I use the Mardi
Gras as my chief souce of inspiration. I just feel more comfortable with
this because it is closer to my own culture (many of my students are of
Acadian descent) and therefore has more authenticity for my students.

> But shouldn't we ALSO be pushing what we have in common? Wouldn't
>this commonality make for a better world and a better
>brotherhood/sisterhood of man? We're different, to be sure, but also aren't
>we all the same in humanity?

Bunki, I sure don't want to be on the wrong side of Brotherhood and
sisterhood. I'm a firm believer in a better world. Alma Brooks, one of our
local native leaders is constantly reaching out to non-natives, offering
sweat lodges, healing circles for us. At the same time she says that we
cannot rely on native spirituality, that we must find our own center within
our own cultures and that this makes our coming together stronger. I did a
long project on Miq 'maq quill work when I taught on the school that her
kids went to but in general, laid off the dream catchers. The next year,
they changed the grade 8 social studies curriculum. For once, history gave
a healthy value to the native perspective. The birch bark canoe was
described as one of the greatest feats of technology on the N. American
continent. I went for this one in a big way, building three almost
full-sized canoes from paper and cardboard. I took the students outside to
identify birch trees and talked about how the bark was cut and that we
didn't have any birches big enough any more in our area to make a real
canoe. I did bring in lots of birch bark which the kids used to decorate
the cardboard canoes.

Mark, let's not relate the fabulous thought-provoking discussion
we've been having on this subject to a debate about "political
correctness." I'm sorry if you feel like a bit of a lightening rod too,but
nobody is policing you, least of all me. You sound like a great teacher and
I've learned alot from your postings. I just might be able to learn from
you and others who do it, how I could teach totem pole making in my art
classes, because really I can't get my head around it, I don't know how to
do it. Thanks! Peggy