Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Supporting the Aesthetic through Metaphorical Thinking

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Supporting the Aesthetic through Metaphorical Thinking

Article excerpt

During my time at the C. W. Post campus of Long Island University, I have been fortunate to be the mentor to a number of art majors who have also been honors students. During this time I have found that defining the fine line between input and output needs to be finessed. These students normally deal with the visual image and how it relates directly to their own personal work. In many cases, especially with freshman and sophomore students, their understanding of creativity is that an artist's inspiration comes out of thin air. As they progress through their academic years and through the honors process, they start to understand that this is not the case. Their scope of comprehension broadens, and their ability to use this newfound capability helps them in other areas of their discipline and throughout their core courses as well; however, keeping the balance between influence and derivation is a difficult task. The possibilities of derivation and influence were defrayed by requiring these students to focus their honors tutorial and thesis projects on topics not directly related to their specific discipline in the visual arts. In this paper I will discuss how I have used the honors method to impose a strong research framework, based on metaphorical thinking, which has subsequently improved the artistic process of four art students.

Metaphorical thinking as defined by Pugh et al. (1992) and used by Dr. J. W. Hamilton in her dissertation, "Doubly Informed" (2002) draws parallels between apparently unrelated phenomena to gain insight and make discoveries. In her dissertation, Dr. Hamilton speaks of how "metaphorical thinking under girds the creation and understanding of both literature and art." Hamilton also discusses how she has used art to broaden the skill sets of her writing students to see different relationships and harmonies brought out in the art. In my experience as an honors advisor, I have flipped this process by mentoring digital art and design students to see the relationship between the construction and process of the written word and the visual arts.

This restructuring has, at times, been a difficult process for these young artists and designers to embrace. Art and design students do not necessarily 'see' things the same way as other students. Michael Baxandall in his Words for Pictures, Seven Papers on Renaissance Art and Criticism best expresses the problem by stating, "Our language and other languages around the world are crude. We are able to share feelings and communicate with others, but it is our descriptive and informative speech that is a problem. It is nearly impossible to share with someone a purely visual sense of a scene or picture through words or writing. It is easier for our own eyes and mind to perceive them visually." The balancing of these two issues, the necessity to 'show' something as opposed to writing about it and the need to build a strong basis of critical thinking relies on the use of metaphorical thinking. The balance is not an easy problem to solve but the honors process has helped to reinforce, the structure that Hamilton describes.

MAINTAINING INTEGRITY AND PROGRESSION

As with any method of teaching, maintaining the integrity and progression of the student is paramount. As a teacher of the visual arts, I feel that keeping the student from being predisposed to inspired free-spirited creation as opposed to creating from focused research may be more of an issue in art than in other disciplines. In the arts nothing could be more detrimental to a young artist's career than being seen as a bad copy of another artist. Being from a certain school or derivative is one thing, but structuring one's approach on the research or styling of another artist can be the death card to an ingenue. In mathematics or in any of the sciences, imitation--even rote learning--may have some positive value. Students must understand theorems and the "order of operations" before they can move to more difficult processes and to their own concepts. …

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