Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Play the Culture

The following is an assignment for the UF grad program in art education.
course 6641 Contemporary Issues in Art Education!

Lesson plan for Visual Culture Discussion Forum

Since I present my educational programs in a museum environment my lesson is geared toward the use of the MIM collection. Focusing on the guitar gallery and the adjacent museum orientation gallery.

Guitar gallery MIM
Orientation gallery MIM.

A Little background.
Guests enter the museum obtain their wireless headset system. They can watch a six minute film about the museum near the orientation gallery which focuses on the artistry of instrument making. In the middle between the theater, and the main museum galleries is a u-shaped room depicting the whole history of the guitar. From the oldest known guitar to a modern heavy metal doubleneck electric a guest can see the full evolution of the instrument. In the adjacent room sitars, ouds, and erhu are examples of near guitar Asian cousins of the European instrument.
Cross cultural Aspects
The opportunity to talk about cultural transmission the way instruments traveled the Silk Road into the far east made it to America is unique chance to discuss ways in which the world is connected historically through musical instruments.
Visual Culture themes
Instruments are handmade or manufactured functional works of design. Often inlayed with precious stone, polished shell, or metal they are fanciful works that can be used as well as viewed. The museum with so many instruments hanging on walls and simply viewed promotes the idea that someone dreamt the things up brought them to life.
The plan
A busload of kids arrives they are broken into groups some take the standard tour some go to the theater to watch the orientation film and the final group comes to me at the orientation gallery. Addressing some of the near guitar instruments and the hand crafted quality of them, that they come from far off countries, how the influenced the guitar and focusing on the visual elements the design aspects of the instruments, a foundation for the program is presented. Moving into the guitar gallery familiar electric guitars are seen a humorous display case exhibiting an air guitar and some very old instruments are visible. In keeping with the ideas of visual culture items that are contemporary and in truth the kids might even have at home are contrasted with the old court instruments of the Renaissance and the folk instruments of the Appalachia.
What do the instruments say?
After presenting some history behind the instruments a discussion is opened up. First about the visual elements why are they pretty or ugly how are they appealing or boring. What does that mean? The court instruments are incredibly fancy the old Spanish village instruments simple plain, opening a chance to discuss class and the stratification society historically.
What do these instruments symbolize? Prestige, homespun entertainment, race, gender?
Moving to the electric guitars a conversation is presented over the fight between Gibson guitars versus Fender. Using printed visual aids the contrasting ad campaigns are presented (a surfer with a playing Fender while riding a wave vs a concert hall with Les Paul in a tuxedo playing a gold gilded instrument). Again how are things marketed? What does a gold plated instrument mean vs a plain beat up Fender?
Modifications are everything.
Finally a beautifully hand painted instrument is presented to state that a guitar can be a canvas.

visit the MIM website and find out how you can get involved and support this new national treasure.

A Discussion of Visual Culture

Jonathan Sanchez
Date Jan 23 2013
   A Discussion of Visual Culture Theory. All three writters agree that the basic premise of viusal culture theory is that there is a need to create a multi-disciplinary approach to education at large and art history in specific. Tavin makes the case that art history can benefit greatly from cultural studies (Tavin, 199) and has listed some thrity disciplines that he argues should be incorporated into the sphere of visual culture. Julie C. Van Camp in her critical look at the visual culture movement, seems to warn of the rise of a potential new dogma (Van Camp, 34). "Still further, the term "interdisciplinarity" can simply suggest ways of expanding our methodologies in a variety of disciplines without staking a claim that only particular notions of interdisciplinarity are acceptable" (Van Camp, 34). Van Camps mild endorsement of visual culture theory comes in the form of a question, "Can our understanding of visual culture be used to enchance our undertanding of what we traditionally termed or deemed as art?" (Vaan Camp, 34). 
   Tavin seems to burn with the fire of a zealot lighting a torch to the whole art academy and Eisner rests somewhere between Van Camp and Tavin, when he simply states, "Justification improves overall performance," (Eisner, 7). Pluralism pushes in one direction and standardized testing in another a pedullum swing that leaves art educators grasping.
    Perhaps the strongest points that all agree on are the following; art is no island, visual experiences are profound and far reaching, the everyday in the classroom breaks down the barrier of high art. Art is no island. In short transdisciplinary approaches inspired by visual culture theory, can only help to bring context and a socialogical component into the art classroom.
    Visual experiences are profound and far reaching even if they happen in a football stadium.The "medium is the message," to see someone's name in lights is thrilling weather we know why or not (Mcluhan 1). It is that visual experiences reach us on a primal level like moths drawn to a flame. By saying that some experiences are high art and others not worth mentioning we close off a vast current of inspiration, and limit are realm of intellectual meandering. As Tavin states, "By inculcating students to existing cultural hierachies, the canon of high art is maintained as unproblematic," (Tavin, 197).
   Finally, bringing the current and the everyday into the classroom will not only help students relate it will address issues of whose culture are we making? Are we to simply repeat what has been done as a kind of art mantra or are we as May said active change agents (May, 146).

Problems with a visual culture approach
 1. Visual culture does not seem to have an overarching or concrete quintessence all of the authors seem to allude to this as a point of confusion. 
2. It is perhaps too far reaching it would be as if arguing, why do we need geology and biology why not talk about them as the same thing? We break things into categories in order to make sense of them. 
3. How do we talk about art or visual culture if all terms are deemed antiquated and culturally loaded? "Visual culture seems to have rejected not only formalism but also almost any other way of appreciating and understanding art objects themselves." (Van Camp, 35) She seems to warn of throwing out the baby with the bath water, suggests that we should be slow to throw all of our ideas out in favor of the new Zeitgeist. 
4. Funding to create a whole new department for visual culture studies would be costly.


   Interdisciplinary is addressed in all three papers and is a tenet of visual culture and can be defined as a paradigm shift that allows for other studies to be incorporated into art studies.  Context or contextualization the process of placing art into a historic or social sphere.
Critcal Response/Application/Personal Reflection/ Assignment Souvenirs                         Rose Bean Simpson from Santa Clara Pueblo uses found objects, traditional and non-traditional media to create often haunting and introspective works. Her creations exist somewhere between the ancient world of Santa Clara Pueblo (first inhabited around 1300) and the modern world of nearby Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

   In contrast, Rose Roxanne Swentzell also from Santa Clara uses traditional images and themes. Her works do not at first glance appear to often vary little from museum artifacts of her ancestors. Under closer examination it is revealed that in fact she has used the traditional art forms to express everyday modern ideas.

   Open a discussion with students about how important a sense of place, your personal history, and that of your ancestors, and what are art materials? Using these three themes, three different ideas present in visual culture theory are presented. 
First, your home, your environment personally shapes your experience be it a seven hundred year old Pueblo or a modern suburban home. This theme addresses ideas of what visual experiences surround us daily, mesas, chilis and katsina, or shopping malls, SUVs and Ipads. 

   Second, Pueblo folks often live with their ancestors in items, in the walls of their sacred spaces, and symbolically. How important are our ancestors in mainstream America? Do we have a sense of history? If not how do we relate to our present surrounding friends and family? 

    Both artists are from the same unique culture, trained in western eurocentric schools, but choose to express their identities very differently. Rose leans toward contemporary art but still uses Pueblo themes and Roxanne bends and pushes traditional themes and icons to make them lifelike and fill them with a sense of the everyday and universal. Start out with images that orignate within the culture and everyday experience of students rather than imposing too quickly academic constraints on what counts as legitimate art. (Tavin 206) Simpson uses items that she has had contact with, a connection to sorts of souvenirs of her daily life. Students would be given the assignment to bring in three tiny items from their daily life symbolizing past, present and the future. They are then charged with combining them into an original work.


Tavin, K. (2004). Wrestling with angels, searching for ghosts: Toward a critical pedagogy of visual culture. Studies in Art Education, 44(3), 197-213.
Eisner, E. (2001). Should we create new aims for art education? Art Education, 54(5), 6-10.
Van Camp, J. C. (2004). Visual culture and aesthetics: Everything old is new again. . . . Or is It? Arts Education Policy Review, 106(1), 33-37.
May. W. (1994). The tie that binds: Reconstructing ourselves in institutional contexts. Studies in Art Education, 35(3), 135-148.
Marshall McLuhan,(1964) “The Medium is the Message” From Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: Signet, 1964): 23-35, 63-7
Tower Gallery Website Tower Gallery 78 Cities of Gold Road Santa Fe NM
Website Contemporary Native American Artists
Wendy Red Star Adjunct Professor Department of Art Portland State University

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Portrait Jonathan Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez
Artist, musician, field archaeologist, museum worker and educator

BA in Physical Anthropology,
BA in Fine Art Studies

Collections Technician and museum educator, Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Museum worker general, Museum of Cultures Basel, CH
Museum worker general, Museum Liner, Appenzell, CH
Museum worker general, Kunsthalle Ziegelhütte, Appenzell, CH
Museum Educator, Western Museum of Mining and Industry Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Field archaeologist, UCCS, Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Field archaeologist, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM, USA
Collections technician, Nature and Science Museum, Denver, CO, USA
Collections technician, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Paintings (traditional artwork)
As an artist I have been able to exhibit in seven countries, sell many works, and be involved with both gallery and museum exhibits. I currently display works throughout the Southwest of the US having returned from extended stays in Switzerland and Italy.

Music projects (performer, photographer, songwriter, and producer)
Music has been a vital portion of my life experience since church choirs as a child through recording, writing, and producing CD releases. I have been able to live from music and perform countless shows in several countries.

As an Educator
My latest adventure has been a journey into the world of education. Having worked for several museum education departments I have decided to focus on art education through a mostly online graduate program. It is my hope that I will be able to use what I learn through the program to enrich the museum programs I present through the Musical Instrument Museum and other institutions. Below are photos of the Delta Blues themed Museum Encounter I present for MIM.
Slides or bottlenecks of various materials and sizes with a voodoo hang.  
Demonstration of resonator guitars.                                                                                              

Research Interests
Museum education
Art therapy
Art in the penal system
Multicultural studies
Creative - Research Biography
My most recent research and application of research has been related to music ethnocology. Trying to trace the rooots of Delta and Piedmont blues of the 20's and 30's back to West Africa. Along the way trying to relate the multicultural aspects of the Blues (from Celtic to Spanish influences) to the overall history of the genre. The goal of this research was to add a historic and cultural component to a lively and entertaining musical presentation. Being that the event was to take place at a musical instrument museum a look at the many stringed instruments and musical traditions of West Africa was needed. Through the process of weaving very ancient and current ideas together a profound respect and reverence for the multifaceted and living musical genre of the blues was instilled and hopefully conveyed through the program.