Aesthetics as Critical Inquiry

By Anderson, Tom | Art Education, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Aesthetics as Critical Inquiry


Anderson, Tom, Art Education


Substantial work has been done defining aesthetics and positioning it in art education (Eaton, 1988; Hagaman, 1990; Hamblen, 1985; Kaelin, 1989; Lankford, 1992; Madeja & Hurwitz, 1977; McRorie, in press; Parsons & Blocker, 1993; among others). Still, from a teacher's point of view, practical strategies for implementing aesthetics may be the least clearly understood of the four disciplines of discipline-based art education. Therefore, this paper addresses aesthetics, framed as critical inquiry, as a teaching and learning strategy. Aesthetics as critical inquiry, within an educational context, is defined as instruction in which students actively participate in the process of asking questions and developing answers using the strategies of professional aestheticians. This educational strategy results in content acquisition (aesthetic theory) through development of critical skills, strategies, and thinking structures intrinsic to the discipline of philosophical aesthetics.

This description of an instructional sequence centers on asking questions and seeking answers about: a) meaning and value in art, b) how we talk about art, c) aesthetic experience, and d) beauty. The sequence, from an introduction to aesthetics and art criticism for teachers course, is meant to illustrate methods of aesthetic inquiry for secondary and post-secondary art education.

MEANING AND VALUE IN ART: FOCUS ON SHERRIE LEVINE

The first activity addresses the meaning and value of art and how we talk about art Students are engaged in art criticism (T. Anderson, 1988; 1993) of what appears to be an Ansel Adams print The usual dominant collective interpretation is that the image is awe inspiring and/or represents the magnificence of nature and human beings' relative insignificance. Then more contextual information is given about Adams' use of the zone system, his method of getting the perfectly timed and situated yet "natural" shot, and his refusal to manipulate the negative or resulting print Two camps usually form, with some students holding a position on Ansel-as-eco-god helping us to see our place in the world and others taking a "been-there-doneit-seen-that" position, influenced by too many postcards and holiday calendars. This debate leads to the importance of context to meaning and evaluation. Then students are told that what Adams did to achieve the original effect is of only secondary importance in understanding the image, because, in fact, this is a picture by Sherrie Levine.

The instructor shares what many students don't know: Sherrie Levine became famous as an appropriation artist (Siegel, 1988), and this is a picture of a picture. While working in this mode, she claimed taking a picture of Adams' picture was like taking a picture of a landscape or still-life. She made a feminist statement by appropriating the work mainly of white males, taking it from the exclusivity of white male dominance into the public domain. Then I tell the students her stated goal in art school was to become famous and this was her means. Finally, I tell them that she was sued for copyright infringement by the family of Edward Weston and lost

Some outraged students will attack Levine severely at this point and some will come to her defense. The argument should be allowed to build for a few minutes with discussion being cut off while there's still a controversy. Then students are given a one-page homework assignment entitled either "Sherry Levine is a True-Blue, Original, BigLeague Artist" or "Sherrie Levine is a Plagaristic, Charlatan Con-Artist" It's important that students know they are to come back with a considered argument That means they must have reasons and/or evidence to support their positions. Research is encouraged.

On the second day the "great debate" takes place. Those who think Sherrie Levine is not an artist sit on one side of the room; those who think she is an artist are on the other. Students present considered reasons and evidence to support their claims. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Aesthetics as Critical Inquiry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.