Teaching with Contemporary Art

Words and Art

Cai Guo-Qiang, "Drawing for Transient Rainbow," 2003 Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York

I had no idea what to write about this week, so I asked my son, Paul…. He’s six.

“Write about words and art,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because words help explain art. You know, in case there’s some wacky drawing there, you know what it is,” he told me.

The kid’s right.

The soup de jour for galleries (not so much in museums, though) when it comes to avoiding all wall labels of any kind leaves me, well, speechless. I’m all for giving art an opportunity to work on my soul, but eventually I want some information to work with- a title, a name, the media. Please!

When it comes to teaching with contemporary art, it’s important to remember we’re always modeling and teaching, even through our displays and school exhibits. Students may very well create a wide variety of work that will elude even the most astute observer. Take opportunities (often) to include narratives, descriptions, and artist statements when exhibiting student work.

As Paul says, if you’re sharing “some wacky drawing”, it sure helps to have a little help understanding…

On a separate, yet important note: Rest in peace, John Parente. My mentor. Our teacher and friend. Your lessons live.



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