Cinco: Say “NO!” to Art Education

I have somehow developed this ridiculous habit of accidentally putting my underwear on inside out. I don’t know how I do this; I typically feel mostly functional after showering in the morning, but nevertheless, upon using the facilities within the first few hours of the morning, I look down to discover once again that I have made this crucial error in judgement.

Maybe it’s because I have really adorable patterned underwear such that it is difficult to discern which was is up: yes, this is definitely a strong candidate in the list of possibilities. Maybe it’s because I have a really short attention span: this I have discovered is true. Maybe it’s because my world is backwards… but I don’t think that’s the case. Or maybe it’s because to me it simply doesn’t matter; half the time I don’t see the point in underwear anyways.

In any case, today prior to an important meeting I ascertained that once agin, I had made this mistake. Luckily, the meeting wasn’t of the type of importance where my correspondent would be seeing my undergarments. I pondered if I should reverse my situation while in the bathroom of the building I was in (it wasn’t too public: there weren’t cracks under the doors – I had my own room with a sink), but then I decided against it if in the off chance that someone would open the door that I ensured was locked, I could find myself in quite the awkward situation indeed. So I continued on, went upstairs, and promptly cancelled my meeting.

Just kidding, the person with whom I was meeting had to reschedule my meeting for later on today, so I returned to my room and switched my underwear in a more safe and secure environment in which I may only find my roommate… and she already worries about my sanity slightly.

Which ends that story and brings me to the next one: I adamantly refuse to take an art history class.

It turns out that I have to take some sort of art-related class to fulfill a requirement for my major. Don’t get me wrong, I love art. But my advisor keeps pressuring my into taking an art history course, and I don’t want to. Let me begin with some background information:

I adore art; I go to art museums every weekend and annoy the bejeezes out of my boyfriend with the time I take pondering and observing each piece. I can’t get enough art, modern, in particular. I love the colors and abstractions that comprise each piece. I enjoy the different mediums and materials that artists use, am entertained by the various senses of humor artists have, take pleasure in the different brush strokes and sculpting styles that artists use, and so on and so forth. Last weekend we saw the Ai WeiWei exhibit in the Hirshhorn Museum in DC. We have made a goal to go to at least one museum in DC every weekend and so far, our plan has been unraveling quite smoothly.

My favorite medium is wood. I LOVE WOOD. And I don’t say that insinuating anything inappropriate; I literally love trees and the patterns that nature creates within them. I have two old pieces of wooden furniture that I sanded down and recreated into modern, decoupaged pieces of furniture. They are actually functional, but I have my giant life size teddy bear sitting in the chair and the desk is used mainly for display (and piles of paper). I was actually supposed to donate the giant armchair I made to my prep school as it was part of my senior design project… but right as I was moving out at the end of my senior year, my father and I snagged it and threw it (no – placed it very gently and in an organized manner) in the back of his enormous brand new Dodge Hemi 4×4 pickup truck. (It was new at the time… now I suppose it has gained a few years.) I would prefer that the pieces actually weren’t used because between the hundreds of hours of work I put into them, it is in my own personal best interests that they are not destroyed. I don’t even let my prized possession Missy (my puppy) sit in the chair, regardless of how much she begs and puppy-dog-eyes me. Those two pieces reside in my bedroom at my father’s house: the walls of which are covered with the art my father has purchased for me from almost every place that we have gone together. I have a collection of Andy Warhol’s on one wall (they’re not real, unfortunately, just prints); my whiteboard full of the song lyrics of my favorite song (By The Way, RHCP); my push-pin board full of bits of everything from everyone and everywhere; a caricature of my sister and I as children; my name in English but created for me in China in Chinese calligraphy via the gift of my grandmother; the collage of my prep school graduation; a modern art piece whose name and author evade me; a puzzle of hot air balloons which we glued and framed above my headboard (I’m always this is going to fall on my in the middle of the night); and a few more smaller pieces scattered throughout the room. There is literally no more wall space. I am always so frustrated when I am met with a “No more” from my father when I request another piece.

In my current apartment in DC, we have a giant world map tapestry in which I have begun marking all of the places in the world where I have been. This has been a long-term dream of mine and the fact that I am finally realizing it is great fun for me. We also have a giant photograph and a beautiful painted lion’s head (of course) in the living room. The other two walls are another tapestry and the Inspiration Wall of Sandy which my wonderful roommate and I created out of magazine clippings (my other favorite medium) when we were trapped in our room for the duration of Hurricane Sandy. I have another idea recently which part of me feels like I shouldn’t reveal but being that I am probably the only person in the world besides my father who still makes to-do lists but… I want to create a piece of artwork made of all of my to-do lists. The idea is preliminary and not well-formulated, but it is there all the same.

I have this goal that in a few years, one of the three bedrooms of my penthouse apartment will be my arts & crafts for big kids room. I don’t have the apartment yet, but I plan that the other two rooms will be my actual bedroom and a bedroom converted into a closet. I have more clothes that good sense. Not true, I have a lot of good sense. But I also have A LOT of clothes. Needless to say, art and all of its constituents are an important component of my life.

But as far as taking an art history class goes, I won’t do it. I quite honestly think that it is stupid. Well, up to a point. I think that knowledge of art and artists is important and that the general theme of the piece can be indispensable evidence and information about its composure and context, but I also think it is a horrible idea to know this information. Why, I know you are wondering? Well, I shall tell you.

Take one of my best friends for example. Last semester, he took a photography class in which he captured and subsequently printed many beautiful moments in life and etcetera. They were amazing; I don’t want to diminish at any level how incredible I think his photos were. I even wanted to blow up a few of them and hang them in my apartment. My curiosity got the best of me and I started asking questions about the theme and project base of each piece. I immediately regretted this action.

See, when he began telling me about the purpose and inherent meaning of each piece, I lost the original impressions which I found in them – impressions which (no offense) I found more interesting than the messages the pieces were meant to convey. I don’t care if something is supposed to signify ‘darkness’ or ‘happiness’ because I would prefer to find the meaning myself. If a photograph means the same thing to everyone, then does it really mean anything? Isn’t a picture supposed to yield a thousand words? In explaining each piece specifically for a precise purpose, are we not declining any other words that could be used to describe the photo? What if I want to feel that a light at the end of the tunnel, for example, means ‘it’s going to be a long trip’ instead of ‘there is yet hope’? (I don’t, but that’s not that point.)

If we aren’t free to create our own interpretations of art, then we are suppressing the inner creativity that is within us and I have strong ground for believing that the American education system already does that enough. In an art history or art education course, a professor will direct you towards what you should think and feel about each piece that you learn about. They will play the role of the artists, relaying the message of what (they think) the artist’s message really is. They use concepts and expressions which all artists and those educated in art know and use to create an air of authority about their knowledge of art; a sense of snobbish and haughty pretentiousness, if you will. These people have conformed to the mass ideas that what is known is known and thus that each piece is unequivocally reserved for a set of thoughts and ideas; a notion which I unrelentingly disagree with. Students are taught to think that something is beautiful but are then taught to think why something is beautiful. When I abruptly pointed this out to my friend in the midst of his explanations of his pieces, he stopped for a moment until he realized he agreed with me, to which he responded (and I quote), “Touché.”

This is not to say that I don’t think anyone should ever take an art education course; if we do this, there is the chance that we actually will lose some of the meaning that art holds. I think that history is important and in fact imperative to a well-rounded and solid education. I am a person who does subscribe to the notion that if we do not know our history, we have the tendency to repeat it.

And I love history, as well. Family and culture history, in particular. My cousin actually pointed out to me once that he has never met someone so fascinated with the stories of their own relatives before. There is a rather large possibility that this is true; I am constantly asking every member of my family to tell me stories of the good old days, the old country, and how things used to be – I love it. It fills me with a sense of joy which is difficult to me to find in too many other aspects of life.

However, I do not want to be told under any circumstances what I should thing about a particular topic, person, place; any who, what, where, when, why, or how, realistically. I like my own thoughts and ideas and do not think that many people have the mentally abstractedness (or ridiculousness) as I do, and I intend to maintain my apparent insanity forever, if so possible – and I think it is.

And that, my friends, is why I think you should say “NO!” to art education.

Yours Truly,

A Monday DandyLion



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