Thursday Thoughts: Learning to Look at Art

"How is this art?"

“How is this art?”

To teach is to make yourself vulnerable. To stand before students is to open yourself up to questioning, to expose the glaring gaps in your knowledge and hope nobody notices. Unfortunately, I teach 9th graders and they notice everything you wish they didn’t and nothing you wish they did. “How is that art?” is a question I get asked every day. My classroom is decorated with posters featuring the work of Kandinsky, Rothko, Klee, Picasso, and many other prominent modern artists. My students see these images and want to know what makes them famous. The problem is they want a simple answer. They don’t want to hear that art history is a story and that you have to start at the beginning. They don’t want to hear that art is a different language they have to learn to speak and that learning to speak a new language takes time and hard work. They don’t want to hear that the projected slides and posters on the walls are not the art and that you have to see the real thing to have the real experience. They don’t want to hear that what a Rothko painting means is not a sentence I could tell them, but an experience they have to have in a dimly lit gallery. Learning to look at art is a process that spans a lifetime. I find that prospect thrilling. Imagine a lifetime of making discoveries, having moments of epiphany, seeing something you thought you knew become new again. I do my best to communicate that excitement to my students, but more often than not I have to swallow my pride, tell them I can’t explain why Rothko is a great artist, and let them smugly say, “so you don’t know what it means.”

Have any of you dealt with this? What are some ways you have found to help people understand art better?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Art, Jacob Rowan Studios, Thursday Thoughts

3 responses to “Thursday Thoughts: Learning to Look at Art

  1. There are similar struggles in teaching literature — it has to be experienced; lived. Fortunately, with lit, I can always fall back on the I’m-going-to-read-this-aloud-so-you-can-experience-it model. But you can’ read a painting aloud, can you?

  2. marygunther

    I loved Nancy Pearsay’s Saving Leonardo… it gave me great understanding to the philosophy behind the art. Here is a fun blog… thanksgiving dinner as the artist would portray… http://www.hrothstein.com/thanksgiving-special/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s