Teaching with Contemporary Art

Let’s See It Again!


I had a great experience recently sitting with my son, Paul, and doing a little preparation for this column. Since he’s an inquisitive, very verbal, curly-haired three year old, I thought he might enjoy checking out the Laurie Simmons segment with me, since so many students had positive reactions to her work when we included her in our preview screenings this year. I didn’t expect the reaction I got, though.

Whether it was the puppets coming to life on screen or the dancing camera and clock, he kept asking me to back up and show him again.

So we watched Laurie Simmons’ segment four times together.

Each time, Paul would zoom in and ask questions such as, “She is an artist??? But she is a dancer!” or “How many people help her make pictures, Dad?”

Laurie Simmons makes an important point in her Art:21 segment by stating that she’s an artist that uses photography and the camera as a tool, just as other artists use brushes as a tool. Simmons, along with so many of the Art21 artists, especially in Season 4, remind us that a singular style or way of making art is becoming harder and harder to find in contemporary art practice. While Robert Ryman, our featured artist in last week’s column, certainly falls into the signature style category, many artists like Simmons have a range of interests and abilities.

As I viewed her segment a fifth time (Paul had left the room to find a way to dress up as a dancing house) I thought about the interdisciplinary connections with Social Studies, Drama, and Language Arts that a segment like this can provide. If you have used Laurie Simmons in your classroom, or plan to use her segment next year, please share how. I will check in during the week and share some ways I plan to incorporate her work in 2008-2009….

For now, I am going to try constructing a house costume for Paul that’s loose enough for him to dance….


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