Teaching with Contemporary Art

Test-Driving the New Season 5 Educator’s Guide

Paul McCarthy, "Painting Face Down- White Line", 1972  Courtesy Scala Archives

Paul McCarthy, "Painting Face Down- White Line," 1972. Courtesy Scala Archives.

Yesterday I was talking with a two students who attended a recent preview screening that featured Paul McCarthy in the Transformation episode. The students asked me about why McCarthy’s work seems to purposely make the viewer uncomfortable, and then the discussion got around to the kinds of things we do in response to feeling uncomfortable, especially as artists. It was like a lightning bolt. One of the students interrupted the conversation to blurt out, “Wait a minute, a ton of art work is made BECAUSE artists are uncomfortable or don’t like something—something they have a strong reaction to.”

It was at this point that I decided to test-drive the new Season 5 Educators’ Guide.

I asked both students about recent works they created that they didn’t like—works that were “ok” but not really being considered for their final portfolio. Literally taking a page from the Guide itself, I asked the students to destroy those works and then put them back together in a way that sends a different or opposing message. They thought I was absolutely nuts…. and then they loved it. Both students agreed to give it a try and update me on the results. I made it clear that while this approach won’t guarantee a portfolio-quality work, it’s the idea and process that I am interested in them experiencing.

As many of you begin to use the Season 5 Educators’ Guide, please share your stories and anecdotes about how questions and ideas in the Guide inspire your teaching and student learning.


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