Daddy Daycare, Daffy Duck, and Salvador Dali: Popular Culture and Children's Art Viewing Experiences

By Eckhoff, Angela; Guberman, Steven | Art Education, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Daddy Daycare, Daffy Duck, and Salvador Dali: Popular Culture and Children's Art Viewing Experiences


Eckhoff, Angela, Guberman, Steven, Art Education


In contemporary society, what, why, and how students come to gain knowledge and understandings of art defies traditional boundaries. In part, this is because of the prevalence of many forms of popular visual culture.

In this article, we present three vignettes that demonstrate the ways in which three young children created connections between popular forms of visual culture and the fine arts. We propose that this interaction occurs in and through the social world and it is through the exploration of the interaction that we may come to develop an understanding of the relationships between the two art forms. As the following vignettes reveal, knowledge gained from exposure to popular culture media afforded the children the opportunity to actively engage in an art viewing experience. he vignettes presented here are part of a larger study that aimed to develop an understanding of social and cultural foundations of aesthetic development in young children.

Hopping into Persistence of Memory

Reece1, a 7-year-old boy, and I2 sat together in a quiet corner of the classroom and I had just turned over a poster-size reproduction of Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory (1931) in order for Reece to view it. Reece became animated upon seeing Persistence of Memory. "Oh, oh, I've seen this; I've seen this painting in Bugs Bunny.""This one?" I asked as I pointed to the poster. "Yeah, this one.This one was in Bugs Bunny cause [sic] they hopped in, in um in paintings in, which one was it? Uh..." I responded by repeating, "In one of the episodes they all went into paintings?" Reece answered, "Yeah, it was Looney Toons: Back in Action" (Dante, 2003). Reece then explained the scene he recalled from the animated and live action movie where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck raced through the Louvre and jumped into Persistence of Memory. During this scene in the movie, the characters began slowly melting and Daffy Duck is heard to say, "Well, this is surreal." The characters then ran slowly and hopped into Edvard Munch's The Scream (1893).The connection Reece made from the reproduction to the cartoon remained throughout the rest of the interview as he talked about the reproduction.

At the end of the interview, Reece took time to state his fondness for Persistence of Memory.When I asked him why he felt such fondness towards the image he responded, "Um, because I saw it in Looney Toons: Back in Action and that's pretty much my favorite show back at home" Looney Toons: Back in Action had not only shape d Recce's understanding, thoughts, and fondness of Persistence of Memory, but had also provided Reece with an initial entry point for talking about the artwork.

Visual Art and Popular Culture

As the above vignette illustrates, the visual arts can provide young children with meaningful viewing experiences while offering opportunities to engage the imagination and draw upon previous experiences with popular visual culture. The role of prior knowledge and experiences in art viewing is gaining increased attention as our society becomes increasingly dependent upon visual culture as a means of communication. Kerry Freedman (2003) writes that we must view the whole of visual culture as a real and important part of everyday experience. Children and adults construct new knowledge and understandings based upon what they already know and believe (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). Our ability to use existing knowledge to construct new understandings underscores the importance of recognizing and valuing children's arts-related prior knowledge and experiences.

As Kevin Tavin (2000) stated, "The focus for art education informed by and through visual culture is everyday life" (p. 38).The vignettes presented in this article illustrate the ways in which very young children draw upon knowledge gained through everyday experiences with popular visual culture to mediate fine arts viewing experiences.As teachers, we can develop and refine our understandings of the role of the arts in student's daily lives and experiences by exploring the connections these students made between popular culture and the fine arts.

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