October 2010

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Until recently, I owned a large red dictionary.  It has disappeared.  I bought it when I was 16.  I was doing a lot of writing in school and, as a child of phonics, I can’t spell to save my life.  At any rate, the dictionary is missing.  I’m not sure how someone loses a five pound, four inch thick, red book, but….  I’m told actual dictionaries are antiquated – pushed aside with the endless volumes of encyclopedias at the Goodwill.

My quest: a definition of art.  One might assume that to be common knowledge.  After all, Joe Q. Public can often be heard questioning, “You call that art?”. 

Dictionary.com defines art as:

The quality, production, expression or realm according to aesthetic principles of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Well now, that is a bit problematic.  See, without knowledge of aesthetic principles, Mr. Public defines art according to that which he finds appealing; beautiful.  Ah yes, and beauty is subjective.  You know, ‘in the eye of the beholder’ and all.  Still, Joe is not alone.  Many students of the arts operate on the art = beauty premise.

I see art within different parameters.  I understand and teach art as problem solving; using the aforementioned aesthetic principles to communicate.  (I’m almost certain my red dictionary would define art in such a manner.  After all, it had reproductions of etched illustrations scattered throughout it’s onion skin pages.)  For beginning students, their message is generally focused on the clear communication of those principles.

I’m sure my students were fairly disappointed the first day of class when they realized the course doesn’t operate as a think tank for all that might be considered acceptable beauty as an offering to Joe Q. Public.  No.  We are all about problem solving.  Creating specified parameters for the student to work by, struggle with and push through to execute the strongest possible solution.  The students are really disappointed by now – they’ll get over it and rise to the challenge.

Their first problem was to create three-dimensional objects (a cube, a cone, an hemisphere and an object of both curves and angles) using only matt board.  The object must measure at least three inches in any one direction, be comprised of only one piece and created without the use of adhesives.

Is it art?  Maybe not.  But, the process was beautiful.

They’re catching on.  A very talented group.  Our last problem: use lines to create planes; to define the volume of a shoe.

This is getting fun!!!