My teaching philosophy centers on the activity of students
learning a language – the language of visual form – and attempting
to construct meaning about themselves and their relationship to the human condition
through it. Throughout the history of art human beings have practiced
this language with numerous intentions in mind: philosophical, religious,
social, political, environmental, art historical, aesthetic, emotional/psychological,
etc. The visual arts are clearly an essential component of the human
experience at many levels, and to acquire a sense of its history, meaning,
and practical possibilities through the study of studio art is to become engaged
with “the life of the mind” – that vital concept which is
at the core of the liberal arts philosophy.
Generally speaking, there are five areas of learning that I emphasize in my
studio courses. These areas occur in the context of students realizing
two things: the importance of embracing a strong work ethic (I believe
in a “blue collar” approach to making art); and, the sheer difficulty
in making and thinking about art – though, it is a wonderful kind of
difficulty that requires discipline, analytical and creative thinking, critical
thinking, intuition, and caring. The five areas of learning are:
- Learning the language of visual form – that is, learning
to see, read, and “speak’ the language of visual form. A
foundation for this is established in the 100-level studio courses; but,
it is an activity that is ongoing for years.
- Learning the importance of process (as well as product) – that is,
learning through experimentation, taking risks, and making mistakes. This
involves cultivating open-mindedness, being able to recognize problems (both
formal and conceptual), and creative and successful problem solving. It
also encourages intuitive thinking and allows formal investigation to lead
preconceived notions about content; therefore, expanding the possibilities
of content in the work.
- Cultivating critical thinking. Critical thinking occurs through formal
analysis (both during the process of making and afterwards in critiques)
and contextual analysis.
- Recognizing the importance of tradition in the visual arts – that
is, relating one’s work and intentions to the work of past and contemporary
artists; seeing connections between different movements and ideas in the
history of art. Encouraging the student to ask and discover where he/she
fits in – and, when appropriate, challenging this perception.
- Communicating effectively and meaningfully through the language of visual
form as it is practiced in a specific medium.
As a teacher of studio art it is my goal to cultivate student-artists who:
- value the importance of the activity of seeing and paying attention to
the world, and who appreciate the link between seeing, thinking, and caring;
- respect the importance of the idea of tradition and of diverse traditions
throughout history in the visual arts;
- possess an understanding of important issues in 20th and 21st century art;
- appreciate the ongoing value of having studied art in the liberal arts
- become better citizens as a result of studying art.
Finally, recognizing the inevitability of change within my field, the importance
of presenting ideas freshly, and the changing needs of new students, I consistently
revise established courses (and/or presentations within successful courses),
and design new projects for them.
Professor of Art
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA 24401