Category Archives: exhibition

A Matter of Perspective

Perhaps one of the greatest educational concerns in these modern, cell-phone-saturated times is that our children learn to interact with others in a meaningful way, to connect and have empathy for others.

One of the most powerful but under-recognized learning outcomes in the arts is an understanding of the relationship between the artists intent and the interpretation of the viewer. At its core, this is about understanding others, understanding how others might feel or react, understanding how others have a different background and experience that impacts the way they interpret the world around them. It’s a matter of perspective.

A great example of this interaction was recently brought to my attention and I thought I would share it for all to consider and learn from.

Brauntheus, by a 12th grade art student

The impressive artwork above won a Gold Key award in the regional Scholastic Art Awards program and hangs,  as seen above, in the exhibition of award winning work. I received a letter from a Chinese-American visitor to the exhibition. It reads…

While I was [at the exhibition] I saw many paintings were exhibited on the walls, most of them are nice and artistic pieces. However, one of them makes me feel uncomfortable.

It is the piece titled: Brauntheus by a 12th grade student. Referring to the “dragon slayer” story, Brauntheus presents a man fighting an evil creature with spears. Looking carefully, I found that the creature in there is not a western dragon. What the man fighting against is clearly a Chinese Loong.

The letters author provided the images of “Western Dragons,” above, and the images of the Chinese Loong, below, to illustrate the differences. What do you think? Is the dragon in the artwork a Western dragon or a Chinese Loong?

He went on to write:

If you know some Chinese cultural, you may understand that a Chinese Loong is not an evil creature as a western dragon is. And the Chinese often call ourselves as the Loong’s successors.

The letter’s author was even kind enough to provide a web page about the differences between a Chinese Loong and a western dragon. Use the link to check it out if you like.

The authors of Brauntheus make the Chinese Loong look really evil, and he/she specifically used papers full of Chinese characters to make this piece.  Therefore, what the authors want to express is quite clear. As a Chinese American, I can feel that the hatred and hostility are directly poured over me when I stand in front of the piece. I feel very offended, and I also learned that many Chinese Americans feel the same way as I do.

I sincerely believe that an institute… should not exhibit a piece of work like this which promotes hatred and hostility.

Powerful feelings! It is no small matter that a visitor to an art exhibition can feel attacked by an absent artist, and nearly declare the act of artmaking a hate crime. I don’t want to diminish that reaction! It is at the center of this conversation, but here’s the kicker…

This student artist intended to flip the roles! His teacher explains:

The funny part is that the human in the composition IS the monster. The monster is minding his own business in his lair.

What a fascinating case! Even as the artist was pushing back against our notions of monsters, he was perceived as one! And while you don’t want the viewer to feel attacked, he was actually right on target to feel like the dragon slayer is the more evil of the two characters represented.

I believe the most important thing that came from this was the conversation. Next time you feel misunderstood, or feel offended by something someone else is expressing, I hope you will talk it out. You might just find that you and your opponent are actually on the same side!

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Scholastic Art

Such a busy time of year! But I want to take a moment to acknowledge a big milestone in the Scholastic Art Awards season: the exhibition is installed!

We judges more work than ever, and have more work than ever to install in a gallery space that has remained stubbornly unchanged in size from year to year.

We also had our fair share of weather challenges including at submission deadline time, and for installing this show. A HUGE thank you to the teachers who came in on their snow day to get this work going.

Nearly 400 gold key and silver key artworks are on display at the Ernst Center at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

There is still much to be done to prepare for our award ceremony on February 21. Stay tuned for more!

Thankful for What We Have

I don’t usually talk directly about where I work, but today I am feeling particularly proud to be part of the Fairfax County Public Schools art program. I have been communicating with an art teacher who left our school system a while back to live in another part of the country. She is excited to finally have a Fine Arts Supervisor in her division and has been talking with this supervisor about some of the wonderful things we have been doing here in FCPS.

She wrote:

Our new fine arts coordinator shared several goals she has for the future of our program. They all aligned with what FCPS is doing or has done. She was thrilled to hear more about my FCPS Fine Arts experience.

This supervisor is especially interested in supporting new teachers, and would like to emulate some of the resources we provide to our new teachers and the way we share resources to all art teachers through our blackboard organization. Nothing of that kind currently exists in that school system.

Another common interest was found in an art teacher exhibition. Many of you have read about our annual Artist Teacher Exhibitions through this blog.

Another big change for this year is a Art Teacher Exhibition, which she was unsure if/how it would work but wanted to give it a shot. I told her I know that it would work because I have seen it and showed her an article and youtube video of your last FCPS Exhibit that solidified her vision.

While it’s wonderful to think of all of these supports and programs being emulated, it was especially good to hear her views on our curriculum.

She also noted that all FCPS curriculum and lessons I use and have shared with her are very rigorous and I shared that it is easy to teach with rigor and many moving parts when you aren’t creating every single piece on your own. The resources, training and support make all the difference.

She repeatedly told me that she couldn’t wait to meet “these amazing people” and is curious to learn how they built this program and all of these resources… I am inspired by her hopes and vision for our program.

Wow.

Working within a system like FCPS can make you hyper-aware of its challenges and shortcomings, but notes like the ones from this teacher are a great reminder of how good we have it. Despite any criticism we may have or hear, FCPS is still providing a world-class art education for its students, and other school systems are trying to get to where we are. I’m proud to be a part of it!

Display Durability

There’s a little frustration that I deal with every year when we hang the regional Scholastic Art Exhibition — mats that fall apart! How do you like this lovely artwork? Very avant garde, right?!


I will concede that most matting applications do not require the durability that this show does. Most mats just need to hold together well enough to be placed into a frame which then holds everything together. Not so here! We hang the whole show without frames, and the work is suspended from its backing. 

Inevitably, a few mats and artworks fall off the wall and backing leaving behind something like the picture above in their spot on the wall.  I’m happy to make repairs, but the artwork and mat are often damaged in ways I cannot fix. 

If you have a similar show set up, ever, here are a few tips. 

  1. Don’t use masking tape. At all. For any of it. 
  2. And that definitely means no painters tape. 
  3. No scotch tape. 
  4. No double sided scotch tape. That doesn’t work either. 
  5. Don’t connect the backing with tape loops. Doubling or tripling the number of tape loops does not make this work better. 

I realize this is one of those “DO NOT” lists, but the ones that fall apart are the ones that inform my list. Maybe I should see how the really good ones are put together. I think there’s a little irony in there. 

Scholastic Season

It’s a busy but very exiting time of year – Scholastic Art Awards season!

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In our small art region we assembled a fantastic group of professional artists and art educators to judge 2600 entries. You can read more HERE.  Congratulations to all of the student award winners. I can’t wait to see the artwork displayed in our annual exhibition.

 

 

Artist Teacher Exhibition

I look forward to seeing many of my friends and colleagues at the Artist Teacher Exhibition opening reception this evening. This is always a fantastic event and a great way to recognize the artistic achievements of FCPS arts teachers. 


If you’d like to come out, you are welcome to join us intheMcGuireWoods Gallery at the Workhouse Arts Center, tonight until 9. There will be other receptions at the Workhouse as well. Come on out and enjoy an evening of art. 

A Show with Punch

And I don’t mean cookies and punch! I want to give props to the Westfield Pyramid for the excellent art event they put  together this week. This is certainly not the only group that puts together an outstanding show, but I want to share some of the things they do to make it so. Let’s count ’em down.

Continue reading A Show with Punch