Monthly Mentor

Shelly Breaux (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Shelly Breaux established the Art Program at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy in Lafayette, LA. In her classroom, Breaux focuses on inquiry-based learning, problem solving, collaboration, conceptual thinking, and constructive criticism. She believes in using art as an educational tool, and that art provides her students with a voice and an outlet. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« New Eyes Discovery | Main | FTC Palette: A Tool for Deeper Engagement »

May 06, 2013

Seeing more than meets the eye…

     It is not enough to believe what you see,
     you must also understand what you see
                                       --Leonardo Da Vinci

Living in today’s rapidly-changing, digital age, where popular culture’s preoccupation with  transformation, talent, and innovation, compels a need for vision and understanding to scaffold meaningful communication and connections. Everyone can become a visual learner and the experience can be stimulating, inspiring, and captivating, if not also sometimes distracting and even addictive.  With instant access to information using Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we in art education have potential to develop new sight, skills, knowledge, and languages.  For example, using Pinterest, everyone’s a visual collector, developing curatorial skills that can lead to shared discoveries.   In addition to his effective demonstrations of medical concepts, Dr. Oz sometimes ends his television shows by displaying large public sculptures to underscore specific health concerns he’s highlighted.  My Pilates teacher recently used the Visible Body medical app on her iPad to show students the relationship between ribs and lungs during breathing. 

Increasingly, as our students need to decode and encode complex understandings, an art teacher’s role will go much deeper than exploring what is shown at face value.  In addition to the plethora of images and information, repetition of media-covered events often affects the students’ psyches. For example, Lynell Burmark, author of Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn, admonishes us as teachers to understand the potential impact of looking at terror when we present our students with works of art such as Munch’s The Scream

When we decode compelling artwork such as The Scream or Hokusai’s The Great Wave, using a balanced approach to formal, thematic, and contextual (FTC) qualities, we can discover subtexts leading us deeper into the meaning of art--in context.   Furthermore, we can relate these artworks’ meaning(s) to our own lives and current events.  For example, how might we use FTC to help our students make further sense of the horrible Boston Marathon attacks?  How might they achieve more balanced insights and understand what they've been exposed to in the media coverage?  How might they describe form, theme, and context?  Would they discern form from media coverage and new surveillance techniques?  Could they find themes in the horrific acts and heroic deeds?  Might they see context in the need to continue community traditions, the need for collaboration to assure safety and security, the appreciation of the skills and dedication of first responders, caregivers, and the courage of survivors?

FTC can be used for meaningfully navigating phenomena for deeper vision and understanding; my next blog entry will focus on the FTC Palette as a Tool for decoding and encoding meaning.  I’ll show how this graphic organizer can be applied to integrating art with a number of different fields as a catalyst for fully perceiving what is present and allow us to draw our own conclusions in terms of significance and relevance.  As photographer and educator, W. Eugene Smith wrote: “If I can get them to think, get them to feel, get them to see, then I’ve done about all that I can as a teacher.”

Note: While googling the phrase “Seeing more than meets the eye…”, I found the following by Jim Goldstein that should resonate with art teachers: “As leaders, we have the potential to affect people’s lives in ways that others often don’t.  One of the most powerful things we can do is to see more in a person than they are currently showing us.”

-Renee Sandell

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