Criticizing Art

I just finished a 12-week course titled "Critical Studies 1" at the Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA) in Victoria, BC.

This course introduces students to approaches and methodologies of visual literacy as they pertain to Western art. Focus is on studying a range of artworks, both historical and contemporary, through slide lectures, field trips, readings and discussion. Students develop the tools to analyze art works in aesthetic terms as well as understand the importance of social and historical context. 

This intensive studies course was taught by Wendy Welch  the Director of VISAwho is always well prepared and  knowledgeable on contemporary art issues. Wendy created an excellent program.

Textbook: Criticizing Art by Terry Barrett (1999 or later) Second Edition or  Third Edition 

Amazon.ca describes the book: "Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary takes readers inside the world of contemporary art and shows them how to think, write, and talk about art. Throughout, the principles of art criticism are presented and applied to contemporary forms of American art giving students of art and art history a solid framework for critically considering contemporary art through describing, interpreting, evaluating, and theorizing".

Throughout the 12 weeks we discussed art, artists, critics, read reviews, viewed many slide shows and videos. We developed an understanding of subjective responses to art work; went on 2 field trips to local galleries; studied and discussed Modernism vs. Postmodernism; looked at the many types of contemporary criticism such as: Marxist, Psychoanalytic, Feminist Aesthetics, Multicultural Aesthetics and Postcolonialism criticism.

We read and discussed not only the chapters from the book "Criticizing Art" but also supplemental readings posted on our class blog; discussed how to develop powers of observation; how to see and describe what one is looking at, talked about formal considerations; how to interpret art;  how to write about looking at a work of art using description, interpretation and judgemnet.. 

During one class local poet Carla Funk joined us for an hour talking about "Ekphrastic writing"...the creation of original poetry and prose in response to works of visual art. Carla viewed  "Art Incognito"  a fundraising art show held in September at VISA, at that time she selected 6 works of art for inspiration and used ekphrastic writing to create poems that she read to us. It was an excellent lecture and a real delight to see images of the paintings projected on the screen as she read her poetic responses to each painting.

We had a very interesting assignment from Wendy in response to this lecture; having to choose from one of two long poems. "The Man with the Blue Guitar" by Wallace Stevens  based on the painting "The Old Guitarist" by Picasso, or "Self portrait in a Convex Mirror" by John Ashbery, based on the painting by 16th century painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari. Our assignment was to read and analyze the poem based on certain criteria. What a learning experience that was!

This was an excellent class and I look forward to "Critical Studies 2" which is described this way in VISA's program guide:

In the second part of this course, students engage in a more conceptual and philosophical discourse surrounding visual culture, in particular, how it pertains to contemporary art. Slide lectures, readings, field trips and discussions introduce students to a more thorough understanding of the art world and the economic and social forces that shape visual art today. While looking at art is a fundamental part of this course, students are also challenged to develop a broader understanding of the way contemporary artwork relates to language, history and politics. Textbook: Artists, Critics, Context: Readings in and around American Art Since 1945 by Paul F. Fabozzi. 

New drawing in progress

Beginning stages of  a drawing with watercolour (22 x30") -  The various stages as it progresses.

"The Palouse" in September

In early September Paul and I had a photography holiday in "The Palouse" located in southeasternWashington, this area combines 208 miles of rolling hills and farmland with a rich history, small town charm, spectacular scenic vistas and outstanding recreational opportunities.

The weather was fantastic  the time we were there. It was 95 - 102 degrees Farenheit. We loved it! It was great to have such hot weather after our cold and hardly there summer on the West Coast.

All phtographs below by Jill Ehlert 

At 3614 feet at sunset and moonrise - how cool is that!

 Sunset and moonrise on top of Steptoe Butte at 3,612 feet.

Sunset and moonrise on top of Steptoe Butte at 3,612 feet.

 3,612 feet at the summit of Steptoe Butte; this shows the shadow of the butte  on the wheat fields below as the sun is setting.

3,612 feet at the summit of Steptoe Butte; this shows the shadow of the butte  on the wheat fields below as the sun is setting.

 Panorama - at the top of Kamiuk Butte  - 1000 feet - a hazy day from fires burning in Idaho

Panorama - at the top of Kamiuk Butte  - 1000 feet - a hazy day from fires burning in Idaho

 Kamiuk Butte - a hazy day - fires burning in Idaho

Kamiuk Butte - a hazy day - fires burning in Idaho

 Topnotch Cafe in Colfax, WA - This was a panoramic image, so there is movement in this image. 

Topnotch Cafe in Colfax, WA - This was a panoramic image, so there is movement in this image. 

"Dahmen Barn" in Uniontown, WA 

"Artisans at the Dahmen Barn" is a  non-profit organization that cultivates creativity on the Palouse by providing studio space for working artists. The state-of-the-art facility has been transformed from a former dairy barn. There is over 1000 iron wheels in the fence.

 Dahmen Barn - Uniontown, Washington. This is now an artists co-op.

Dahmen Barn - Uniontown, Washington. This is now an artists co-op.

 This is a double exposure.

This is a double exposure.

Drawing classes at the Vancouver Island School of Art

I was very lucky to participate in 3 different 5-day drawing classes July/August at the Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA) with Wendy Welch. Wendy is the director of the school as well as a gifted teacher who gives so much. She has the most creative ideas for the classes that she teaches.

Ornament and Decoration:

"Often more associated with design and craft, ornament and decoration is increasingly part of the vocabulary used by many contemporary artists and illustrators. This workshop focuses on how the decorative can be both surface and content. A range of imaginative approaches to creating designs from doodles, making patterns based on geometry as well as free-form organic designs are covered. Materials used include pencils, ink, watercolours and gouache". (VISA)

These are the artists work we looked at during the slideshow.

William Morris, Gustav Klimt, Terence LaNoue, Dijanne Cevaal, Dtienne Zack, Gene Davis, Joyce Kozloff, Judy Pfaff, Robert Kushner, Robert Zakanitch, Dan Bennett, Sandra Cinto, Laura Ownes, Sigmar Polke, Lecia Dole-Recio, Valerie Jaudon, Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse, Jennifer Bartlett, Terry Winters, Random graph paper art, Lorenzo Duran.

 In progress

In progress

 More progress - detail - Jill Ehlert

More progress - detail - Jill Ehlert

Jill Ehlert

Language of Mapping:

"Maps are a visual representation of specific places. Early maps were made by artists who often had no hands-on experience with the location depicted in the map; they were made through the testimonials of others and the imagination of the artists. This workshop uses the language of mapmaking to explore other terrains such as the imagination, memory and space". (VISA)

Artists work we looked at:

Landon McKenzie, Nancy Graves. Hirokazu Kosaya, Jeff Woodbury, John Hurrell, Kristin Bly, Adolf Wolfi, Clodagh Emoe, Dannielle Tegeder, tilbor kalman, Howard Horowitz, Irwin Morgan, Mark Bradford, Simon Evans, Susan Hiller, Susan STock well, val Britton, Jasper Johns, Guillermo Kuitca, Sara Fanelli, Nina Katchadourian, Kelvin Wilson, Harry Allen, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Paula Scher, Kim Dingle, William Wegman, Chris Kenny, Joyce Kozloff, Julia Ricketts, Quentin Blake, Mark Bennett, Julie Mehretu

 Jill Ehlert

Jill Ehlert

 Jill Ehlert

Jill Ehlert

 Jill Ehlert

Jill Ehlert

 Jill Ehlert

Jill Ehlert

 Jill Ehlert

Jill Ehlert

 Jill Ehlert ©

Jill Ehlert ©

 In progress

In progress

Alaska in May

I was truly blessed to be able to go with friends on an Alaskan cruise for two weeks the end of May. It was absolutely awesome, the scenery was out of this world. The "Island Princess" was a fabulous ship. Here is a few photos to give you an idea of the scenery. Look at the colours in the water around the glaciers.