Monday, March 26, 2012

Finding Commonalities

To understand a work of art, we must first understand ourselves and in so doing, relate our own lives to that of the artist in question. In order to help students question the meaning behind a specific work of art, we must first ask them to question the life of the artist. This requires much research, either on the part of the educator or on the student, but also deep reflection. We must help them to develop questions about the work that not only reflect their own dealings, but the cards that have been dealt to another, to relate to situations that they may or may not have experienced.
Understanding aesthetic valuing in art, known also as the philosophy of art, centers its focus around such questions as these, that ask students, “what is art?” and “why is it considered art?”, reflecting on “how they arrive at their conclusions, decisions, and solutions through processes of meta-thinking” (200). Students who are engaged in these conversations with their art educator and within themselves will ultimately develop the ability of looking deeply at a work of art, and also life in general. They will gain an understanding of observational qualities, to note the work’s realistic, formal, and expressive qualities, or a combination of all three. Students will be intrinsically rewarded, in time, by ultimately being able to uncover the bigger ideas that the artist raises through this mode of questioning, relating to it as it pertains to their own relative lives and the life of the artist.
    To help students develop this understanding, educators must also be avid, participating students, always questioning and ever-hungry for knowledge about the artist in question. They ask themselves the very same questions so that they may be able to help students think critically and become open to the honest responses that life encounters can only tell. They (educators) must also be “willing to journey with the students into the worlds of contemporary art have the opportunity to touch students’ lives in ways that educate about life and its realities” (199). For, to stand at the doorway of a work of art and be able to serve as the student’s tour guide through the imagery is the educator’s key and tool in opening those doors in the student’s mind. By doing the initial leg-work, art educators “plan encounters with works of art that raise questions about society and the human condition” (200) and the student can then relate it to their own waking life.
    As educators continually research and seek out more in depth information about certain artists and/or themes, that are of important issues prevalent through various art works, they will be continually feeding the well of knowledge for their students. They will be able to pass along and relate that information, teaching students how to do the same. “As issues are found in the contexts that surround works of art, they integrate well with the contexts for subjects...issues that run the gamut from the general to the particular. Generalities that deal with the human condition...” (202) By doing this, educators can provide students works that add a dose of healthy perspective on life, by viewing their own through the looking glass of another.
    For, it is by discovering meaning within ourselves and questioning the human condition of others that we, as human beings, gain a more firm grasp on the commonalities and linear truths that span the world over. “Works of art can help students realize that other people in the world may share the same quandaries or excitement about life” and “develop a respect for the multitude of ways that artists create art works that speak to us.” (203) To be able to understand ourselves, we can ruminate over the meaning of the work of another.

Contemporary Issues in Art Education; Yvonne Gaudelius, Peg Speirs; Prentice Hall; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458; 2002

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