Uncovering the History of Children's Drawing and Art

Uncovering the History of Children's Drawing and Art

Uncovering the History of Children's Drawing and Art

Uncovering the History of Children's Drawing and Art

Synopsis

Reactions to children's artwork have varied throughout different times and places. Donna Darling Kelly is calling for a more joyful appreciation of our youngest artists. She presents the dichotomy of the Mirror and Window paradigms. First, she explains the Mirror paradigm, which art educators, psychologists, and art historians use; it is a psychological focus on children's art. It can be defined as the ability of the child to represent images of something other than the object itself. Psychologists who believe in this theory are interested in the self-reflective qualities of children's drawing as they relate to language, intelligence, and cognitive development. The opposing Window paradigm is an aesthetic perspective followed by people working in the arts. The subscribers to this theory see children's art as an objective reproduction of reality that carries all of the meaning with the image. The act of representation is the ultimate goal in this model, not the truth behind the goal. Darling Kelly would like to see the interested parties in the field of children's art placing less emphasis on the prevailing Mirror paradigm and embrace the Window paradigm.

Art educators often feel sidelined because subjects such as science and mathematics are requisites, while art remains at best, an elective. Art is often classified as a sub-discipline concerned primarily with therapeutic areas. An unwanted effect of the Mirror paradigm is the stereotypical, psychological model of the artist as a hopelessly neurotic or troubled soul. This volume is a call to arms for the aesthetic Window paradigm, so that art as an autonomous discipline can gain stature in the curriculum of all children's schools.

Excerpt

The universal appeal of visual and decorative art by young children is appreciated not only for its innocent charm and fascination, but also for its enduring, enigmatic nature for adults who attempt to appreciate or analyze it. How do we explain or attribute aesthetic meaning using the artistic vocabulary of adults to the seemingly uninhibited flowing and graceful strokes of a three- or four-year-old? When we compare these preschool emanations to the obviously self-conscious and stilted drawings of the same child at twelve or thirteen years old, these questions become even more complex and perplexing to both the art educator and theorist. Even the casual observer of this phenomenon must ultimately ask, Why do we have so much artistry from our youngest, including [gifted,] offspring and so few older children capable of continuing to develop and maintain this early passion for creative self-expression? Furthermore, one must ask, What do these initial school drawings signify, and how have they been accepted and interpreted by the society from which they came?

Acknowledging and developing these complex questions has inevitably drawn me toward an interdisciplinary inquiry, since the record immediately reveals that adults have tried to explain the creative impulse in children from deeply biased and rather narrow fields. Thus, one inevitably ends up examining and challenging many prevailing attitudes toward children's art from research including, but not limited to the historical, artistic, and psychological perspectives. This lengthy and circuitous academic itinerary unavoidably found me exploring centuries of research from around the world in a pursuit of the many explanatory theories of children's art and drawing. This book is a historicallaesthetic synthesis of this often neglected or misunderstood area of artistic development. This retracing and reinterpretation of the genesis and semantics of children's drawing are meant to provide the present-day practitioners of what I call the psychological Mirror, and . . .

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