Thursday, October 31, 2013

Discussion of the Shelton With Sunspots by Georgia O'Keefe.

The Shelton with Sunspots Georgia O'Keefe 1926 (Plate 39 Page 85 from Twentieth-Century American Art)
The viewer upon seeing the Georgia O'Keefe work The Shelton with Sunspots, is immediately aware of its urban imagery. A large gray and black rectangle fills the center of the portrait format painting. The portrait format accentuates the towering form rendered with childlike simplicity and easily recognized as a symbol signifying a skyscraper. Blocky light gray forms placed in rows are present to signify windows, other partial rectangles cut into the foreground and background to connote surrounding buildings. As we read larger objects as closer and diffused smaller objects as further away, a sense of atmospheric perspective is achieved with a handful of darker and lighter shapes. 
Surrounding the largest central rectangle is a large glowing white negative space. The use of this negative space adds the feeling of vast towering scale to an image with very few details. The sense of the deco movement of the love of streamline forms is present in the piece and with a little imagination perhaps something of the jazz age. The work is bold and seems to express a love and admiration for urban life and modernity curious for an artist that famously walked away from both never to return. There is no sense of the grime or dirty under belly of the city from the work instead we are presented an almost angelic quality of work that reaches the heavens piercing cottony clouds and wisps of smoke that fill the white negative space area. Again these cloud forms are nearly graphic or childlike and seem symbols for smoke or clouds. 
A playful touch is the namesake of the painting, the sunspots. Near the top of the central skyscraper there is a diffused atmospheric area. The viewer is left to decide for themselves is this reflection of the sun bouncing off the enormous structure or the sun creeping from behind the edifice? A circular area the lightest and brightest of the nearly monochromatic composition is the disk of the sun either reflected or in plain view. One might be lead to read into the work an idea of man achieving the heavens or nature trumping man, the sun seems to somehow conquer the black and gray central tower and scatter its light around it. The geometric fixed even stark forms seem to be toyed with by light glowing circles scattered throughout the image and adding a yin to the overall yen of the work. Dancing light atmospheric clouds form a dichotomy a juxtaposition or paradox of light and heavy, masculine and feminine, natural and cultural. It would be easy now knowing what we know of O'Keefe to read into the work a love of the natural world. the central skyscraper pierced by sunlight seems nearly a man in business suit the white disk of the sun a single eye. 
Contrasting this is the only truly abstract element that seems to have no reference in reality and may be present for the sake of whimsy or fancy. In the upper left third slightly exiting the format as some of the buildings do, is what a appears a lock of black hair. the locks position in the format is in contrast to the rest of the angular elements, the disks representative of sunlight, and the rows of wisp of smoke or passing morning fog. Resting atop the format and the entire composition it is as if the lock of hair crowns the negative space the white portion of light and soft clouds surrounding the stark fixed central skyscraper.  
References: Doss, E. (2002) Twentieth-Century American Art Oxford Press.
Where did you start? 
I began with the title and name of the work looking for clues and interpretation within it. Being very familiar with Georgia O'Keefe I was surprised once seeing this painting at her museum in Santa Fe. It does not fit with what we think we know of the artist, in choice of palette and subject matter yet there is something feminine that creeps into her work and seems to hint at her later works.
What did you include/leave out?  
The history of Georgia O'Keefe was alluded to but not elaborated upon it is assumed that art scholars know her story well. The relation to Stieglitz would have been important to mention in that it looks like one of his many urban photos but would have been off task. She was married to him at the time of the work they lived in the building that is the subject of the work, and perhaps she was over shadowed or at best influenced by him. These details seem obvious to anyone that knows their work and history but speculation with regard to this work. I left out comparisons to her later work or any other work and merely described the work at hand as that was what was asked for. 
What aspects did you most attend to? 

I attempted to describe the image to stimulate the intellect and the imagination with the result of the feeling and appearance of the work being known.

Was There An Armory Show?

The following was posted for my current grad art education class
Twentieth-Century American ARH 6930
The discussion was based on the Armory Show an event that took place in New York in 1913. It featured some 1300 works mostly from Europe. The Eight a group of American artists several of which had worked for newspapers was highly publicized as the art event. Both rebellious against the art establishment and forming a new art establishment of wealthy patrons (The Whitney Collections namesake was a supporter) the Armory Show lives on. 
For more visit this blow by blow account of the show the uproar and the hype that still resonates.
The Question was "What if there had been no Armory Show?" the following is my reply.
I was fortunate enough to have spent a year in Florence studying conservation and restoration, museums studies, and art history. It was not surprising that the art history was centered around the many incredible achievements of Italian artists. What was surprising was to learn that the Renaissance as we are taught it was a fabrication of art historians looking back and not something that really occurred. A tiny experiment my professors would say a failed experiment in realistic depiction, perspective and nearly scientific works. What we consider to be Renaissance Italian art historians break into numerous other specific categories that are seldom taught or mentioned in art history classes. 
Likewise the impressionist had no banner or common style or dogma that they adhered to but are now lumped together. Manet and Degas have nothing to do with each other any more than Botticelli or Leonardo did. 
My point is looking back art historians tend to create turning points or moments that may have been in important or perhaps not. The fabled Armory Show I would allege is one of those mythic moments conjured up by art historians. Evidence the reviews of the time which labeled areas the, "hall of horrors" or "Rude Descending a Staircase." The Armory Show did not hinder or halt the golden age agenda or end the classism or elitism of the day, anymore than the Renaissance experiment ended religious art or the Vatican.
What was unique about the Armory show was the press it received the PR machine it created and the aligning of forces and ideas that changed the commodification of art. Publicity for a show as an art event is still how galleries and art dealers push their artists.
The annual art summit that is Art Basel brings together the big name traders and curators of the world. While sipping an espresso in the cafe I heard two dealers haggling over two Francis Bacon works. "I will give you them both for $10 million right now but, right now, don't ask me about them tomorrow." One of the curators or dealers sheepishly nodded in agreement and the deal was sealed. A tiny hint of a grin passed over the buyers face as if ten million dollars for two Francis Bacon works was a steal. I tried to imagine how many starving artists could live from ten million dollars. I tallied all the paintings I have ever sold and found it reached about maybe ten thousand dollars. My point is that the PR and art trading machinery was really what was put in place at the Armory show. The idea of the big highly publicized art event as generator of sales is ultimately the legacy of the Armory Show. 
New York is an always will be an island unto itself with its own culture, mores, and rules. The idealized gallery is based upon notions of what Stieglitz and the Eight represented, the eternal push and pull between the art establishment and art as commodity, and the independent art for art sake under current of American bohemia. That the Armory show figures into the myth making of an imagined New York art scene, does not mean it had any effect on American history or in truth the life of the average citizen. 
First and fore most art means little to the vast percentage of Americans. Museums for a variety of reasons struggle to keep their doors open while sporting events, movies, and other forms of entertainment continue to break records. Most of my educator friends meanwhile teach from a cupboard or cart and are forced to convince everyone down that the line that art can be integrated into the teaching of other, "important" subjects. Ask anyone on the street if the Armory show changed their perception of art or was an important event in art history I would be surprised if anyone had heard of the event at all. Further to say important and art history in the same sentence for most people is already dubious. 
According to the accounts of the Armory website Picasso was largely ignored at the event though it does not seem to have hurt his rise to fame or notoriety. If he had been praised and made an instant star everyone would sort of yawn and say, "yes of course he was at the famous Armory show." Being that the opposite is true can it really be argued that it was a game changer, when the shock and horror over Matisse hasn't stopped every poster and chain art supplier from selling his works in mass. Duchamp is hardly a house hold name the damage to western civilization that one critic predicted must have been inflated. 
Would it have been exciting to see the reactions, to walk the galleries of the Armory show certainly. Will it live on as a mythic moment and be the model of all large art events for the rest of time, maybe. Art has changed it is old fashioned to paint at all, the happenings of the Cabaret Voltaire and later beat and hippy shows have added performance art to the regular gallery experience. Video and electronic found object displays push the boundaries of what is considered art in much the way Duchamp's readymades once did. 
Yet I routinely as an exhibiting contemporary artist showing paintings from Basel to Macedonia, still have to defend my abstract works. They are still referred to as, "that modern art stuff," in much the way people reacted to Duchamp and others a hundred years ago. Imagine riding up in a hundred year old car and and introducing it as my modern auto. So did the Armory create an acceptance or understanding of modern art for the most part for most people absolutely not. 
So is the world different due to the Armory Show? Would the the world be different had it never happened? For art historians certainly and students of art history yes. For the larger history of the world no. I do not believe it changed anything at the moment of its existence or in its aftermath. The next time you are staring down a Thomas Kinkade so called fine art print ask yourself did the armory really change anything?
Doss, E. (2002) Twentieth-Century American Art, Oxford Press. 
International Exhibition of Modern Art (Armory Show, 1913)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Artificial Curiosities Curriculum Project ARE 6148

Artificial Curiosities the ASU Show
I am in the process of creating a show for the downtown campus of ASU. The works featured range from large format abstract works, found object abstract works, mixed media objects featuring photo elements, a few works I refer to as specimen trays, and finally a few Cornell type works.
I will update this page as the show goes up, opens, and as classes use the curriculum I have created for the show. I have contact with one school that is interested in working with me as an artist/musician and they will attend the show along with the other educational activities we have planned. As these things materialize I will post info here about them. In a few days I should have another short clip showing me working on the projects, the works for the ASU show, and further explanation of the student activities. For now here is an outline of the project with some images to illustrate the project.
There is also a narrated slide presentation which features some of the works in progress to be featured in the show below

Artificial Curiosities Curriculum Project ARE 6148 
My idea is to bring in the history of museums and how museums have changed through history. Discuss found object artists Joseph Cornell,  Louise Nevelson, Fred Wilson and Jean Tinguely 
Activity and discussion of roadside attractions as forgotten museums of the 50's. Historic and archaeological preservation in a disposable society. Students will discuss and create their own curiosity cabinet.
The big ideas 
Who writes history and why? How does knowledge and our perception of it change? Why do museums work or bore us?
Do museums ever tell the truth or an imagined truth? Where did museums come from?
History is on going. What history have the students lived through their families their grand parents?
All objects tell a story have a history.
Specimen Gathering
Find a small object to be used as specimen tray or box. Gather three to six small items from your home, the ground, goodwill, or that you have kept. Arrange the items in the tray.
Play with the arrangement until it is pleasing to look at. How can you arrange them to tell a story? Let the others in the class try to figure out your arrangement and the items in the tray.
Explain the items what they mean where they came from, if they are important to you why. Select one object to be the tall tale object. In your explanation have one object be of exaggerated or purely fictional origins. See if the class can decide 
which one it is. Repeat the process throughout the class. How is it that we create histories for objects? 
Did some of the stories get elaborate? Were they all true? How important is context and provenance to viewing objects how does knowing the story of an item change the way we view an item?
Assessment and discussion
Imagine a museum where you have to simply guess what you are looking at?
Talk about the way science works, gathering specimens information data putting forth theories. Is specimen gathering cruel, zoos, killing jars, and dissection? Talk about the way museums work researching documenting curating items. 
How have museums changed from shrunken heads and stuffed animals to hands activities and children's programing. Reference the book, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads, A, Stephen (2001)
Big ideas 
Is science cruel? Why do we collect things? Berger in his writings talks about the need to possess the subject of a painting and the need to show status and wealth through oil painting (Ways of Seeing, Berger, J. 1973, Penguin Books). Do museums still need to collect?
Brief discussion of the book The Museum in Transition Hein, H. 2000. 
Research component optional
Pick your favorite item from the example above and research it find out what you can about how it was made where it was made and of what it was made. Talk about the mining the museum exhibit.
Roadside Ruin Idea 
Louise Nevelson in her found objects glorified and Jean Tinguely and his made contraptions. 
Both deal with pop culture to a degree one uses the junk of our culture to create beautiful forms the other leaves the object as junk unrefined but turns them into new machines. 
In the 1950's an extension of Curiosity Cabinets, medicine shows, and circus sideshows sprung up the roadside museum. Like many of the elements of our past most of these once grand attractions have closed or fallen into ruin.
Look for an "undisciplined local collection," a roadside or homespun museum in your area. Reference the book Offbeat Museums, Rubin, S. 1997. 
Is there an old part of town in your town? Is there a highway that has been replaced? Are there old attractions, museums, or tourist traps in you town? How do the students feel about these old areas and why?
Research component 
Gather images of abandoned or ruined buildings in your local area. Gather images of ruins around the world from the internet magazines etc..
Talk about what the Coloseum in Rome or Mesa Verde in Colorado must have been like before they were ruins. Visit the UNESCO world heritage site, what are they up to?
Why do we save things and places that are connected to famous people or events? Are some types of history valued more than others?
Are some peoples history valued more than others? 
Activity Instant Ruin.
Find scrap wood (home depot usually has a free or cheap pile) junk from a junkyard, look around your neighborhood for rusted old items, bits of wood, or visit goodwill (free is better of course). 
Using the junk create a small sculpture draw from Tinguely and Nevelson if you like but think in terms of a ruin or an abandoned building or object. Imply or leave, age and decay or hide the decay as Nevelson does. Crackling effects, painted on rust, sandpaper can be used to imply age and erosion. 
Big ideas 
There is often a lot of beauty in forgotten abandoned things. Why are we so quick to throw things away? One persons junk is someone else's treasure. Once historic things fall into ruin you have to imagine them back, is this how history 
and archaeology are written? Isn't it easier to save things then recreate them? All objects have history even if they are personal items. Talk about the idea that junk transformed into art might be displayed in a museum is it still junk? why or why 
not? Museums are part entertainment and the roadside museums of the 1950's were mostly entertainment. How much car culture are we left with from the 1950's (drive-ins and drive thru, highways and road trips)
Assessment and discussion
Are there abandoned neighborhoods towns or buildings near by in your hometown or city? How did they fall into ruin and why? Did the car culture of the 1950's lead to these ruins? 
Curious Curios
Imagine living in a world and time where you would pay a nickel to look at a display of relics from history or the far side of the world? Hard to imagine in the internet age of limitless information. 
Present curio cabinets as a concept. How did these cabinets lead to museums? "The birth of the mercantile and first middle class gave rise to a collecting mania by about 1650", leading to curio or cabinets of artificial and natural history curiosities from Museums Objects and Collections, Pierce, S. (1992) Smithsonian Press.
Research component
Discuss Charles Wilson Peale, did he create the first American museum? The origin of the word museum, where did it come from? 
Present information about the history of museums, from curios to the Smithsonians. Visit the Smithsonian website reference The Official Guide to the Smithsonians (or other Smithsonian literature as available)  American Alliance of Museums for further discussion on what a museum is.
How have museums changed? Wifi video screens wireless headsets all add to the modern museum experience as do museum websites and hands on activities. How does this contrast with the old school museums (things in boxes, stuffed animals and pickled heads)? Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads (The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums) Asma, S. (2001) Oxford Press.
Personal history cabinet activity
Find a small to medium size box, decide if you want to paint the box sand it down weather it to make it look old etc..
Gather objects from the ground, goodwill, a junk drawer, the garage or objects you have saved for yourself as important. 
The final portion is tying it all together. 
Talk about the artist Joseph Cornell. 
Using the methods of Cornell create a small personal cabinet.
Decide what story about yourself or an imagined narrative you want to tell using the objects you have gathered if the objects are worthless how does that change your approach? if they are precious keep sakes how do you treat them? 
decide if it is to be display to yourself a personal curio cabinet or an imagined self? If personal does it tell the story of your life? some event in your life? Your family? Your community or town?
Present the cabinets without explanation let the class imagine their meaning or create them. What does your cabinet say about its creator real or imagined? Have people throughout time created their own history?
Give the example of the Egyptian pharaohs of how once they came to power they created their own fantastic history. Shaman of the Yanamamo upon encountering bananas revised their creation story to include them. 
Assessment and discussion
What is the difference between a good tale, tall tale, history or myth? By the way things are presented (or not presented) do museums tell their version of history? How important is context? A mining lamp, a lunch pail and shovel do not really put 
you into a mine, how much imagination is needed to fill in museum displays? If we are using our imagination is it really history or our version of it, imagined version of it? deeper discussion talk about the book or paper, Mining the Museum: An 
Installation by Fred Wilson, Corrin, L. (1994) The New Press.
Offbeat Museums, Rubin, S. (1997) Santa Monica Press.
Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson, Corrin, L. (1994) The New Press.
Making Museums Matter, Weil, S. 2002) Smithsonian Press.
United States of America: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties and Handmade Bitters, Reighley, K. (2010) Harper Colins Books.
Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads (The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums) Asma, S. (2001) Oxford Press.
The Museum in Transition, Hein, H. (2000) Smithsonian Press.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, Weschler, L. (1995) Pantheon Books.
Ancient Pueblo Peoples, Cordell, L. (1994) Smithsonian Press.
Museums Objects and Collections, Pierce, S. (1992) Smithsonian Press.
Official Guide to the Smithsonian, no author listed, (1996) Smithsonian Institute Press.
Do Museums Still Need Objects?, Conn, S. (2010) University of Pennsylvania Press.
Museums and American Intellectual Life, (1998) Conn, S. University of Chicago Press.
Ways of Seeing, Berger, J. (1973) Penguin Books.
The Manila-Acapulco Galleons: The Treasure Ships of the Pacific, Fish, S. (2011) Authorhouse Press.
Out the East (Spices and the Medieval Imagination) Freedman, P. (2008) Yale University Press.
1493 (Uncovering the New World Columbus Created) Mann, C. (2011) Vintage
UNESCO World Heritage website (
ICOM International Council on Museums website (
AAM American Association of Museums website (
Smithsonian Institute website (

Sunday, October 6, 2013

10 things all art educators should know about art integration

ARE 6148
Review 6
Jonathan Sanchez 
For the University of Florida art education program

"10 Things All Art Educators Should Know About Art Integration"

As Damkohler states in her recent artsblog there are limits to integrating the arts in all disciplines and integration should not allow for the replacing art education or art educators, (anymore than language or PE instructors). Here however are some ideas from our recent readings that make a good argument for integration of art education into other subjects and other subjects into arts. This two way street can enrich both art education with other dimensions such as social or history studies, and also put a human aspect to many other pursuits such as the aesthetic thinking involved in engineering or industrial design. So below is my top ten list of the many ways art can augment and be augmented by integration with other subjects.

#1 Experiential Learning
As Maeda puts it, "the study of getting your hands dirty." Art allows learning through doing like nothing else does.

#2 The Human Quest (for truth and beauty)
All of the writings this time out suggest in various ways that art is inherently bound to enduring ideas as Maeda states the arts are, "dedicated to finding truth and beauty." Therefore it is believed that art will and can be an important invitation or initiation to the really big ideas.

#3 Metaphorical thinking
So much of are experience with regard to visual culture, literature, and the performing arts requires an unlocking of symbolic meaning or metaphorical thinking. Stewart, M. & S. Walker in Rethinking Curriculum in Art (pg 111, 2005) suggest that our first Vorstellung or introduction to symbolic thinking and therefore metaphorical thinking is usually through art. They further state that contemporary art being largely conceptual and less reliant on traditional representation is perhaps the best way to introduce students to metaphorical thinking. 

#4 Aesthetic Dimension of Knowing 
How do we interpret the world around us? How much of are experiences are based on design and other aspects of visual culture learning to interpret therefore our visual experiences is the primary goal of art education. 

#5 Encourages Innovation
"With global competition rising, America is at a critical juncture in defining its economic future. I believe that art and design are poised to transform and sustain… America's role as innovator of the world." Maeda, J. (October 2, 2012).

#6 Multi-cultural integration
Art appreciation and exploration can be used to bring in a variety of cultural traditions and therefore form a ethnographic, sociological, historic, anthropological or social studies dimension.

#7 Problem Solving
Like chemistry or any form of lab work mixing materials, or forming a composition involves a basic problem solving ability. The skills of problem solving are not unique to art and therefore can be applied to any discipline. 

#8 Interactive Learning
Group projects, research applied to creating a work, actually making things in an art classroom are all examples of the unique forms of interactive learning found in an art classroom. These mind opening processes can then be applied to any discipline. 

#9 Topical art and current events
Topical contemporary art can easily be used to discuss current events in a wide range of subjects.

#10 Aids in Creative Thinking
"Whether today's students go on to be artists, doctors or politicians, we know that the challenges their generation faces will demand creative solutions. We should fully expect that, in the coming decades, many of our best leaders will come from art and design backgrounds." Maeda, J. (October 2, 2012).

Damkohler, L. (July 6, 2011) Arts integration isn’t enough. ARTSblog.  Retrieved from

Maeda, J. (October 2, 2012).  STEM to STEAM: Art in K-12 is key to building a strong economy.  Edutopia.  Retrieved from

Stewart, M. & S. Walker (2005). Rethinking Curriculum in Art. Worcester, MA: Davis Publications: Chapter 7: Art and Integrated Curriculum pp. 105-117.