teaching art

I seem to be getting sick more and more. Stuffy nose, aches, pains, sneezing, coughing and overall tiredness afflict my helpless body. Its the result of the scientifically studied phenomenon called 'Having No Time' syndrome. With photography, art, studio and everything else, I'm moving in a "lugubrious" manner. (I like that word -- adj. meaning mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree) I yearn for time, any time. Time to sleep in or watch Saturday morning cartoons, or better yet, sitting in front of the TV for a prime time evening, with a carton of chunky monkey ice cream to finish.

My photography class took a field trip to the Museum of Modern Art to look at an exhibit of Ruth Bernhard nudes, as well as selections from the permanent collection. While strolling through the galleries, a strange sense of self-pride washed over me, almost an arrogant cockiness. I can't really explain why it happened, maybe it was the nudes. Actually, I think it was seeing new things, thinking wildly of everything I could do, and the importance of Art in my life. The semester had started out quite slowly, but my plate was now full - photography, sculpture, life drawing, as well as my three days a week working with 6th graders at the Arts Magnet School. I started to think that, yeah, I really could devote my life to doing this.

During last week's tutoring session with the sixth graders, the teacher, Bill, showed the class a slide of an ancient Egyptian artpiece. He said art, even in ancient time, swung back and forth from peiods of realism to abstraction. The abstractions of the Myceneans and Early Greeks evolved into the more realistic and humanist works of the Egyptians and Classical Greeks. Before, styles would last for centuries, until art would be compelled to the opposite in pictorial view. Now with all the technological advances in worldwide communication, art is swinging back and forth very quickly, often abstracting and pictorializing at the same time. A tug of war where the rope and team members are pulling in hundreds of different ways.

A recent Home and Garden article spoke of a 'new spirit' of style in architecture. Its being heralded as a return to the revolutionary Modernism of the International Style with an emphasis on material and construction, rather than historical allusion or Post-modernism. If the rallying cry is now "Post-modernism is dead!" its only come ten years after the previous cry of "Modernism is dead." The article goes on to say that neither Post-modernism or the New Spirit adequately gives reasons for a new architecture because both look to the past for inspiration. Do either have anything to say about our times now? How do we live, work and play? Is the substance of today only a mirror image of some harkening to times gone by?

It seems to be all a matter of relentless self-examination. What do you think recording all this stuff is for anyway? Everything is a recording device -- pens, pencils, tape recorders, paints, easels and video. We use them to look back on life, reflecting and wondering if it really was real. The memory fades and details become insignificant, but art captures the moment - our thoughts, dreams and feelings. At worst, art can evoke nostalgia. Better to use art to help us conquer our insecurities about understanding our own selves.

back to fountain send a comment june 1996