Saturday, May 16, 2009

NAEA Minneapolis

The Art Education student Chapter at Brigham Young University, me included, received a generous donation that allowed us to travel to the windy city of Minneapolis to the National Art Education Association Convention. I am reporting without my notes, so the details might be a bit hazy. The first speaker I was able to hear was Paul Duncam, a professor from the University of Illinois, and a name I had seen previously in a paper about visual culture. He talked about the importance of creating an atmosphere in the classroom where important dialogue can take place. He explained that many times teachers feel that they have prepared a wonderful lesson that unfortunatly students dont take anything from. Students who may not be paying attention might not feel they can express their oppinion, and the ones who are participating may be rehearsing what they think the teacher wants to hear, which then becomes one big guessing game. I remember the feeling. A question is given by the teacher; followed by silence. A brave students attempts to answer then is shot down, the next student gives an acceptable answer, folowed by a correction from the instructor as they cleverly recite the "right" answer. Ive never learned anything in tehse sorts of classrooms besides the various teaching strategies I dont want to implement in my own classroom one day. He called this kind of teaching critical pedagogy. The teacher is the authority, and they are the source of all wisdom. This type of teaching seems to be completely outdated. I am a student, an insider. I know how it feels in these classrooms, almost like you are watching a film in which the instructor becomes a type of expert in their own mind, not connecting to most students, and staying within the realm of their own mind and knoweledge. The type of teaching I am interested in is what Duncam called, dialogic pedagogy. This si where the teacher is not the expert, but a leader. The classroom is a place where everyone learns together, ideas are not just given but questioned as well. The instructors oppinion should not be hidden from the students, to the same degree that students' oppinions should be freely expressed. A classroom should be a place that is safe for constructive dialogue and learning to take place. I really need to proofread this.... oh well. Other talks about social theories in art education were extremely informative. Mark Bradford, an artist from ART 21, a PBS series, and an artist who has incredible talent and a very lovable dimeanor spoke. I was able to sit behind him before his presentation begun. I was impressed by him, everything about him. One of his projects involved building an arc in the Ninth ward, New Orleans. An area DEVASTATED by hurricane Katrina. He helped a non profit organization by selling his artwork and giving them the proceeds. His collages are innovative, thought provoking and give the idea of an arial view a whole new meaning, as well as a look at urban culture and how it ties into his map collages. I have a lot more to say but I will use a few words to do it: Made to order breakfasts, bagels for lunch, the WALKER, talking dolphin, the guthry, funny girls, delicious organic baked goods from french meadows, the missing cherry, Power lines falling and shocking my arm!, the Mississippi River, sky walks, dr graham and blindness, my tour guide at one of the art highschools, art supplies, speaking at the students chapter night, there is allot more where this comes from. I wish you could have been there. You would have had a chance to ask the dolphin questions at the Walker.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mormon Artist?

I am a student at Brigham Young University. This year will be my last. I am working on my bachelor’s degree in art education. The decision to be an art teacher and an artist is still being worked out in my head. It seems to be a hard balance to manage. Back to the reason I was writing this whole thing. This blog has been pretty void of meaning; hopefully this entry will change that. I am taking an art criticism class at BYU from a visiting professor from New York, Brent Wilson, a well-known name in art education worldwide. We have been discussing contemporary artists as well as some of the big ideas behind their work. One dark and stormy afternoon Dr Wilson brought up the issue of Mormon Art. To some, (or to me) the phrase “Mormon art” induces images of idealized paintings of family life and Thomas Kinkadish landscapes, most of which make me feel like the events depicted are so far fetched that they are impossible. I work in an art gallery that sells Carl Bloch paintings, a large majority focus on Jesus Christ’s life. On some occasions people come in and ask if we have anything more contemporary, something a little brighter. The paintings they are looking for are much different than the depictions of Christ that Carl Bloch portrays. One of my favorite Carl Bloch paintings is of Gethsemane (altarpiece). (Sorry about the tangent, Carl Bloch was not Mormon, but what I like about his paintings is what may be lacking in some of the contemporary paintings of Christ that I would stereotype as Mormon art) The biblical account of Christ’s suffering in the Gethsemane states that an angel appeared from heaven, strengthening him. This account has helped me appreciate what Christ came and completed a long, long time ago for all of mankind. The Bloch depiction of this account shows the Savior being supported by an angel who looks as if they can feel the pain that he is suffering. The account in this painting strives to come close to the truth. What point am I trying to make? The truth. A lot of art that has been classified as Mormon art, seems to be so idealized that it is not true. These events really did happen. I am sorry if I am offending any of the artists that might produce art that is in the “Mormon art” category. My intent is to figure out what obligations I have as an artist and a Mormon. What is a Mormon Artist anyway? If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and an artist, does that make you a Mormon artist? Usually artists are categorized by their style, time period, or subject matter, not by their religion. Does being LDS and an artist come with an obligation to produce a certain type of art? Does “Mormon art” view the world through rose colored glasses? All of these questions and much more were discussed in my art criticism class last week. I am beginning to come to a conclusion. I am a member of the LDS Church; it is one of the things I am the most sure off in life. I am not a professional artists, the artwork I make is usually commissioned by my mom and given to her or stashed away in my room. The way I see it, being a member of the LDS Church does not restrict my artwork in anyway at all (It may be restricted if they were putting it in the Ensign or some other church publication) My conclusion is that I don’t want to make artwork that leads a person to believe that what is bad is good or that what is good is bad. Honestly sometimes when I am making art, I have no intent at all, I am just enjoying the feel of clay in my hands or looking at the colors of paint run onto my canvas. Other times there are issues I would like to make people aware of. One of my favorite reasons for making art is when it makes someone else happy. My mom would be the example there. She may not understand a lot of the things that I do but she and my dad support me in what I am doing. When I painted Puff the Magic Dragon in the Playroom in our basement over the summer I was not thinking how rewarding it would be to see my 4 year-old nephew go downstairs to count the dolphins on the wall, or to see the dragon. I love it. My conclusion: art can be a gift in so many different ways, one of the ways may be that it is bringing up an issue that needs to be discussed to move towards something better, the truth it may be telling may not be a pretty one, but art is powerful. Now I am sounding like Mau, art can be a weapon, but it does not have to be. How can a statement about Mormon art end with no conclusion and chairman Mau? It was not very well thought out I guess, but now it is free to do what it needs to do.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Body Worlds 3

Last Tuesday I found myself in Salt Lake City, with my mom, staring at bits and pieces of human bodies. I had not planned on going to the Body Worlds Exhibit for various reasons. Leaning on the margin of error I wondered where this kind of exhibit will take us. I learned more about the body and most importantly I leaned about the heart, but most of it was learned from the quotes on the wall rather than looking at human bodies cut into slices. The only problem my mom had with it was the smell of BO from fellow exhibit goers. There was an article published in the New Atlantis in 2007, by Thomas S. Hobbs a professor of ethics and culture at Baylor University stated, "The question is whether it (Body Worlds) has substantive educational value, or is merely feeding our inordinate taste for the macabre while masquerading as science education." and also explained that , "Body Worlds brings us face to face with something profound, but it will leave us mute and inarticulate, the very image of what we behold." In the end this exhibit has forced me to think about ethics regarding the human body and use of it when it is vacant.