Melanie Layne worked with us today on how to 'read art' and how to help students make sense of art when we use it in the classroom. Some of my notes:
Most art can be placed in a continuum from representational to non-representational.
Abstract--abstract fits in between representational and non-representational on the continuum. Sometimes the 'representative' idea (in this Sheeler you can seen the buildings amid the geometry) can be easily seen but sometimes what looks non-representational has some sense of representation when you know more about the artist, the subject, the process.
Ms. Layne then walked us through a way of analyzing art with students. She broke the process down in seven steps and asked us to look at the art from level one; 'objects, lines and shapes' to level five 'location'. The first five are really identifying what you see--the decoding of the piece from general to more specific. The last two involve the interpreting of the art and then bringing all the separate levels into one cohesive connection.
Then we were taken into the gallery and asked to read 8 or 9 pieces in a 30 minute period. All of the pieces were from the 30s or related to the 30s. As a team, we tried the process. I wasn't shocked that it worked but how quickly we moved from art novices to eagle eyed interpreters of the peices. Once done, they asked us to reflect on the pieces and then write a six word story based on the collection. I'll give you a sample of one of the peices and my story. It will lose something in translation but ...
(BTW-the six word story is a cool tool to use with students. How do you get your point across in only six words? The most famous six word story is by Hemmingway: "For Sale. Babies Shoes. Never Worn.")
Diamonds are refined through intense pressures.
We then fused all of the six word stories into a poem or sorts. The cool thing about the process was that what I struggled to express in these images or missed completely, someone else got. It was powerful and I can see it translating back into my classroom. I could also see this process working with historic documents as well.