Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Home Sweet Home? Decorating Magazines as Contexts for Art Education

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Home Sweet Home? Decorating Magazines as Contexts for Art Education

Article excerpt

This article explores home decorating magazines as unique and interesting, albeit complex and contradictory sites of art education. One can argue that these magazines 'teach' art both overtly, through direct instruction about interior design or domestic crafts, and tacitly, through the promotion of implied values about appropriate aesthetics for the home. In addition, home decorating magazines target a particular segment of the population-women-and as such provide an example of art education that is interestingly gendered. Further, they constitute contexts in which art education and visual instruction are caught up and used in the service of a non-art educational agenda, that of stoking yearning and consumption around the notion of home.

Home decorating magazines can be viewed both as foci for instruction about visual culture, and as purveyors of art education in which particular kinds of content and pedagogical relations are promoted. Their images can therefore be used by teachers as resources that can animate student discussion and art production. Scholars can also, however, analyze the ideological orientations of curricula that these magazines contain, as well as teacher/learner relations that frame content. An examination of this sort provides insights into covert uses of art education in our society and illuminates pervasive alternative messages (including deeply rooted gendered assumptions) about art as a school subject. This kind of exploration helps to unravel the complexities of any form of education that is fundamentally grounded in and fueled by a market economy, and contributes to a stronger comprehension of mass media as a pedagogical force. As art educators continue to explore the meanings and impact of visual culture (Bolin & Blandy, 2003; Boughton, 2004; Chapman, 2003; Darts, 2004; Duncum, 2004; Efland, 2004; Freedman, 2003; Garoian & Gaudelius, 2004; Hicks, 2004; Kindler, 2003; Marshall, 2004; Pauly, 2003; Tavin, 2003; Taylor, 2004; Wilson, 2003) it follows that there is a need to examine the natures of particular contexts through which various forms of visual culture may be experienced (Jeffers, 2004).

In the following section, I discuss my own relationship to home decorating magazines and my unfolding awareness of their significance as foci for study. In the next section, I continue by considering how magazines may be viewed as educational contexts. The third section briefly addresses the interdependence of a market economy and visual style, as this relationship establishes the macro environment in which magazines and their pedagogies are positioned. The fourth section considers the micro context, or the particular nature of overt and tacit communication and content within home decorating magazines. Finally, I offer some specific ways in which art educators might use decorating magazines in teaching, and I suggest meanings and implications of this examination for the field as a whole.

Home Decorating Magazines as Personal Research

It seems important to begin by addressing my personal connections to this topic, as studying home decorating magazines has been both compelling and discomforting (Lackey, 2003a). Tavin (2003) urges teachers to "problematize their own relationship [s] to popular culture" (p.200) and so must researchers. On one hand, this is because studying popular culture catches academics in ethical binds as we critique realms that we may simultaneously use and enjoy. Even as we claim to disparage consumer culture, we may gain attention to our work and therefore benefit from seductive marketing surrounding the product about which we write. On the other hand, I have sometimes been troubled by inadvertent insinuations that my work is 'fun' or frivolous as opposed to academically rigorous and worthwhile. I notice that critical discussions about home decorating magazines can slide easily into talk about the joys of decorating and home crafts or obsessions with celebrity, and I have sometimes struggled to articulate the value of this focus for scholarship. …

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