Learning Art History and Visual Culture in Art105

Art 105, Introduction to Visual Culture, is a broad survey that covers prehistory through postmodernism and considers work from around the world. In class we use a comparative method, typical to the discipline of art history, where we look at works in pairs to reveal similarities and differences, but without creating a hierarchy. We are also using something called Visual Thinking Strategy (VTS), which employs careful looking. More than half of what we can learn about works comes from this careful looking, and employing an expanded version of Erwin Panofsky’s iconographical method, which divides the study of work into subject matter and style;  the rest of what can be learned comes from research, which provides historical contexts for what we see.

In this course we use what is called the “flipped” classroom. The lectures for the class are recorded and are watched through Moodle as homework. In class we practice the careful looking and comparing; sometimes through discussion and sometimes using artistic methods like sketching, which provides allows for kinesthetic learning. Students take four exams and complete a course project that is displayed at the end-of-the-semester exhibition Art Now. For the project students choose four styles or cultures from each unit and create a “timeline” around a theme and medium of their choice.

Below are works created by students who took the class last year, illustrating the cultures and styles that we are studying in the first unit. Both Kaylin Greer (’18) and Sheridan Gallagher (’14) illustrated the paleolithic part of the prehistoric era. Kaylin has subtly captured colors and shapes from the cave paintings of Lascaux; the curved form alludes to the Woman of Willendorf, which Sheridan has captured in her miniature painting. The society that produced the works that inspired these interpretations were primarily concerned with finding food sources – their visual production was functional in that it was thought to help them achieve success in finding food and fertility.

Kaylin Greer ('18), Graphic Design to illustrate Prehistoric, Paleolithic period.

Kaylin Greer (’18), Graphic Design to illustrate Prehistoric, Paleolithic period.

Sheridan Gallagher ('14), miniature acrylic painting illustrating the prehistoric, paleolithic period

Sheridan Gallagher (’14), miniature acrylic painting illustrating the prehistoric, paleolithic period

Brooke Dominguez (’17) used photography to capture the notable feature of Sumerian votive statues — their large eyes and static poses; while Josh Gaal (’17) used his unique style of line drawing to capture the spirit of Egyptian work we studied.

Brooke Dominguez ('17), Photograph illustrating Sumerian visual characteristics

Brooke Dominguez (’17), Photograph illustrating Sumerian visual characteristics

Josh Gaal ('17), ink drawing showing Egyptian characteristics

Josh Gaal (’17), ink drawing showing Egyptian characteristics

We also studied Greek and Roman art in the first unit (the Greeks had a fully-developed Aesthetic theory thanks to Aristotle; the Romans had the first Art Critic–Cato the Elder). Sheridan produced an abstracted miniature acrylic of a Doric-style Greek column (seen as the more masculine style compared to the more feminine Ionic style); Josh was inspired by black-figure and red-figure Greek pottery. His design provides an original take on the conception of space by the Greeks on functional and also decorative art objects.

Sheridan Gallagher ('14), miniature acrylic painting of Greek Doric column.

Sheridan Gallagher (’14), miniature acrylic painting of Greek Doric column.

Josh Gaal ('17), line drawing inspired by Greek red and black figure pottery

Josh Gaal (’17), line drawing inspired by Greek red and black figure pottery

josh_buddhism

Josh Gaal (’17), ink drawing illustrating characteristics found in Buddhist sculptures

We also studied visual representations of three religions in this unit–Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. We looked at examples of sculptures and architecture for each. Josh Gaal (’17)  has captured several elements of Buddhism in his line drawing (below). He’s illustrated the Buddha’s urna (third eye) and ushnisha (top-knot hairstyle) both of which indicate the wisdom achieved with nirvana. The empty stretched earlobes indicated the method that nirvana was reached — by rejecting material goods.  Siddhārtha Gautama, who became known as Buddha, was first a Hindu prince; the result is that some elements of Hinduism were transferred to Buddhism.

We concluded the first unit with study of the Middle Ages, focusing on the Migration Style (Viking metalwork), Early Christian manuscript illumination, Byzantine mosaics and the Gothic style of church architecture. Brooke Dominguez (’14) used photography to capture a makeup that simulates the tesserae (glass pieces) that are combined to create mosaics. The expression of her model mirrors the attitude of figures found in Byzantine icons.

Brooke_Byzantine

Brooke Dominguez (’14), photograph illustrating characteristics of Byzantine mosaics.

Both Kaylin Greer and Amber Mills illustrate aspects of this unique type of architecture. Kaylin combines the shapes of both pointed arches and flying buttresses to create her design; Amber Mills (’14) focused instead on the large circular stained glass window (known as a “rose window”) as her focal point.

Kaylin Greer ('18), Graphic Design illustrating characteristics of Gothic architecture

Kaylin Greer (’18), Graphic Design illustrating characteristics of Gothic architecture

Amber Mills, ('14) logo for Gothic architecture

Amber Mills, (’14) logo for Gothic architecture

Learning to See Through the Use of Line and Observational Drawing

The first few weeks of the semester have been busy and productive in Art 107: Line and Value: Drawing + 2D Design. Students are learning how to transform simple shapes into complex objects as they build their compositions using only contour and cross contour lines. Through careful observation and the utilization of sighting and measuring techniques, students learn how to see and how to create a representational drawing from life. The objectives of these first few weeks were to draw objects that are in correct proportion and to accurately display light and form through varying the characteristics of the line.

Working from life, using only contour and cross contour lines, and slowly building up the composition through careful observation allows the students to create a solid foundation to build upon throughout the semester and for future art making.

 

Alicia DiMaccio, Study of Ellipses

Anna, Gerlach, Study of Ellipses

Brooke

Brooke Benoit, Study of Drapery

CamilleB

Camille Bates, Study of Drapery

Lindsey

Lindsey Byers, Study of Ellipses

Christina

Christina McNeiley, Vegetable Still Life

Michaela

Michaela Raffin, Vegetable Still Life

 

Alicia

Alicia DiMaccio, Vegetable Still Life

 

Learning to take Photographs in Contrast: Photography + Digital Manipulation

The fall semester is in session and my students are hard at work learning to use DSLR cameras in Contrast: Photography + Digital Manipulation. The first goal for the class has been to get oriented with the camera; learning the basics of controlling aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to affect the depth of field, motion blur, and grain – all while getting a balanced exposure.

The images below reflect the class’ first studies – reflecting a wide range of personalities and concepts. Here are some of the highlights:

Tori Adachi's photograph of leaves

Tori Adachi’s photograph of leaves

Tori was interested in the variegated colors of this plant, but also captured a certain flawed beauty – notice the steady rhythm of the caterpillar bites.

Margaret Citron's photograph of the door stop in her dorm room

Margaret Citron’s photograph of the door stop in her dorm room

Margaret created this wonderfully abstract and almost bodily image, simply by turning her camera towards the door stop in her dorm room.

Reid Bruner's photograph of a butterfly

Reid Bruner’s photograph of a butterfly

Reid used shallow depth of field to focus our attention on the sharp details of this monarch butterfly.

Bekah Pollard's photograph of a bundle of wires found in an alley

Bekah Pollard’s photograph of a bundle of wires found in an alley

Bekah found this bundle of wires in the alley behind her sorority house, and became captivated by the juxtaposition of the bright wires and the swirling, tangled mess.

Mary Pennington's photograph of a sink stop

Mary Pennington’s photograph of a sink stop

Mary created this elegant image of a rather mundane item, sitting on the window sill above her kitchen sink.

Kimberly Bradford's photograph at of a wine glass

Kimberly Bradford’s photograph at of a wine glass

Kimberly took advantage of the camera’s ability to freeze the distorted ripples of wine in this glass.

Josh Gaal's portrait of a fraternity brother

Josh Gaal’s portrait of a fraternity brother

Josh has had a strong interest in portrait photography, so it’s no surprise that he wanted to capture a member of his fraternity.

Jordan Lightner's portrait of a friend

Jordan Lightner’s portrait of a friend

Jordan described this photograph as one that just makes her smile; a playful moment with a good friend.

Danny Pobereyko's photograph of a melting ice cream cone

Danny Pobereyko’s photograph of a melting ice cream cone

Danny confronted us with this image that mixed ‘sweet’ and ‘uncomfortable.’

Brooke Dominguez's photograph by the canal

Brooke Dominguez’s photograph by the canal

Brooke was captivated by the writing on this post she found, walking along the canal.

Britt Garrett's photograph of sheets

Britt Garrett’s photograph of sheets

Britt took dozens of pictures of these bright, striped sheets – creating an abstract terrain.

Abbi Miles' photograph of faded initials carved into a tree trunk

Abbi Miles’ photograph of faded initials carved into a tree trunk

Abbi was interested in this tree, whose bark had once clearly shown the initials of a couple in love.

Anne Gouty's photo at the IMA gardens

Anne Gouty’s photo at the IMA gardens

Anne took this picture of a rustic figure at the IMA sculpture gardens.