Monday, March 26, 2012
The two questions that Barrett asks students to refer to, in the book Contemporary Issues in Art Education, are simply two questions that ask the students to dig deeper into their personal experiences and interpret the works of art from their own perspective, from their own shoes: “What do you see? and What does it mean?” (p293) This pair of questions, as pointed out by Barrett, can produce both descriptive and interpretive statements from the students. The students can pull from their own experiences, by describing the work in ways that no one else may be able to comprehend.
By using these questions as a starting point, when viewing a work, the educator can then help students identify certain themes that may have influenced the artist, the mood that is present by the use of color, line and shapes that can all be written down, shared with each other and then built upon as repetitious viewings, revisiting, of the same work are touched upon in future lessons. They will retain the information more so, if it then becomes meaningful to them as was quoted of Paul Ricoeur, that “an interpretation is incomplete until the interpreter has meaningfully appropriated the significance of the work for his or her own life.” (p294) If students are able to eventually bridge the gap between the artist, whom they do not know, and themselves, whom they are struggling with in knowing, and be able to use this type of questioning in other subject matter that they observe and interpret as well, it will “better one’s life” and create a purpose within themselves and the world around them.
Once students are allowed to express what they think something means, know that they are in a safe environment to do so and to realize that their interpretations are of value to the whole collective of the class. And, once students are able to share their interpretations with others, they will soon find that their world is not so small and that more people struggle with or experience the same ideas and thoughts that they are experiencing by viewing the work.
The student’s emotional and social issues of the time will be identifiable in the works that they are observing and interpreting, because many of the social issues that are present are enduring themes that have been present throughout history, and thusly the students will learn how to verbally communicate with the class about the artist who produced the work without ever meeting them, but by engaging with a dialog of knowing themselves.
The mysteries of these enduring social ideas will begin unfolding before their eyes, once students are allowed to use their voice to describe what they think that they see and what they think it means. Because there are no right or wrong answers, and no one person has experienced the world in quite the same way, each interpretation will leave a lasting impression upon them and change the way that they view the world around them, not only through the lens of an artist, but through the lens of their own eyes, looking at and interpreting the work with their own voice.