Monday, September 1, 2014

Art and Education in a Brave New World

It's a brave new world and Dorothy doesn't live in Kansas anymore.

Like most businesses and organizations Art is seeing paradigm shifts that are leaving seasoned professionals feeling like we've been banished to a deserted island or launched to the planet Mars. Education is no longer tied to bricks and mortar classrooms and MOOC courses include participants from around the globe in such quantities that instructors filtered by layers of assistants never have contact with their students. Art students rarely dirty their hands with such things as charcoal or turpentine, and most arrive at their educational institutions with little or no knowledge of historical art-making techniques and supplies.
No caption needed.
You might say the world has gone to pot! And though it appears I will see legalization of marijuana in the US in my lifetime, I cannot say all is bad in the world of art and education. Thinking historically, if we look at the Industrial Revolution, we see definitions that include 'moving from hand production methods to machines'. This was not necessarily bad since it allowed us to move forward and reach avenues that no one had previously accomplished or even considered. But in art and design, the 'IR' distanced and separated the artist, architect, and designer from the very thing he or she conceived. Eventually products in particular seemed sterile, obviously manufactured and eventually influenced an Arts and Crafts style that emphasized traditional craftsmanship described to be 'essentially anti-industrial'.
Even today we see DIY movements popping up across the globe where artists seek a return to low-tech and historical processes that include hands-on and the identifiable touch of the artist. As for myself, I am very interested in natural materials for painting, dying, printing and drawing. Gathering walnuts in the fall is a great way to bring a class to bonding camaraderie. Soaking and processing the nuts and hulls, (while students snap selfies with their bounty), renders wonderful brown liquid that is used for dying, drawing and printing. Suddenly those students see the tree, the nuts (fruit), the brown liquid, their iPhone and computer in a different way. Starting small can lead to bigger things..........Making connections and making art from those connections may be just what we need to get us through this "Brave New World".
Happy Labor Day !!
Walnuts in the shell with outer hull.
Walnuts with hulls in a cast iron pot soaking in water.

BTW, Hemp is a great natural material that (among other uses) renders oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel. All can be used in 'making'.