Mediating Culture

By Carpenter, B. Stephen, II | Art Education, May 2005 | Go to article overview
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Mediating Culture


Carpenter, B. Stephen, II, Art Education


On recent road trip from Virginia to Texas, I was reminded that in one way or another, culture is an active construct to be navigated, perpetuated, and reimagined.

Through the windshield and windows of our car I watched the culture change as evidenced through road signs, other cars, billboards, license plates, and shopping centers. And the ways in which people talked, dressed, and behaved altered slightly as the natural and humanmade landscape changed. These visual and material culture examples are all contexts in which the ways we live our lives and the ideas that are central to our lives are mediated. This issue of the journal somehow reminds me of that trip across the country.

I see the processes of negotiation, perpetuation, and reimagination as forms of mediation. Similarly, visual imagery and instruction used to challenge and convey important ideas are inherently central to these forms of mediation. Paint is essentially comprised of pigment and medium. If culture is the pigment, then the variety of ways we negotiate, perpetuate, and reimagine that culture for others is the medium.

For the most part, this issue of the journal is about ways in which culture is mediated through visual representations and constructions. Chung (2005) notes "The Guerrilla Girls have expressed their opinions and criticisms of gender and racial issues in the artworld and society through mainstream media such as street billboards" (p. 21). That is, these artists and social activists use a medium typically reserved for advertising to convey their messages. These forms of advertising and visual communication are only one way our cultural desires and ideals are mediated.

Roger Clark, Ashley R. Folgo, and Jane Pichette revisit the question of how women artists are represented in mainstream art history and the use of art history textbooks as vehicles for this information. Lorrie Blair and Maya Shalmon discuss a variety of ways in which physical beauty is culturally constructed, portrayed, and pursued through the art of Orlan and various forms of visual and popular culture. Sheng Kuan Chung examines ways to foster visual literacy in children as a means to navigate representations of culture in advertising toward the development of critical, informed consumers. Ismail Ozgur Soganci provides a look at visual literacy in the classroom and questions the roles of schools as mediators of knowledge and visual information through an analysis of the uses of shadow puppet imagery in Turkish mass media. Lynette Henderson comments on an intergenerational community-based education project within the Lao community of Phoenix, Arizona and the several important challenges she faced while teaching cultural traditions and the investigation and creation of visual art.

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