<< Recently Terry Barrett at Ohio State University mentioned
her desire to begin a dialogue on the subject of past personal
experiences with critiques. I sent her the following, and she
asked that I share it. She would like a dialogue on this subject.
I think this would be beneficial for many of us.
My husband and I both got our undergraduate degrees in the
60's. During this time period, it was fashionable for critiques to
be extremely harsh, sort of public humiliation events. I learned
beneficial design conepts, formalistic concerns from these
critiques, but I learned many things that were detrimental in the
process. I avoided going back and taking additional studio classes
for a number of years just to avoid critiques. Eventually I got a
Masters in Art Education; the local universitiy wouldn't let
students work toward an MFA unless they were full time students.
(I think this is another topic for discussion!) My husband who has
an MFA in art had similar critique experiences; he avoids certain
media thanks to his critique expereinces in those area!
As a result of our experiences, we try to make sure that in
critiques with our students we have our own students look for
positive attributes in each student's work. I feel that this is
not artificial, although sometimes difficult. We also make
suggestions for improvement in each student's work. Sometimes we
hold critiques in which only positive remarks are allowed. I have
had several students tell me that the critique experience was one
of the most valuable things they learned in high school art classes
and that dealing with college critiques was much easier as a
I wonder if extremely negative critiques were the rule of
thumb through a certain time period.
Kay McCrea >>
I also attended university art school in the 60s and again in the 80s. The
style of critique I experienced and observed was similar to your experiences
and observations: ruthless attack and merciless criticism. The professors and
instructors, mostly male, by the way, seemed to perceive this as some sort of
rite of passage that a senior undergrad or graduate in a MFA program needed
to go through. What crap!
The issue of gender here is important, I think. A sizeable percentage, in
some cases, a majority of the students were women. The instructors on the
other hand were men in overwhelming numbers. It dosn't take a genious to see
what was going on.
The female instructors I had, by the way, fell into two categories. Those who
were "political" or self-consciously feminist, in most though not in every
case, carried out their critiques in a more constructive manner.