Sara E. Thomas
Even through my lifetime of three short decades I have seen drastic changes in technology. When I was a kid we had a computer with 64MB of memory, which is less than even a memory stick today would hold. ATM cards have practically replaced checks; GPS allows you instant access to maps and directions. Cell phones, texting and chat allow us to never be out of touch, even for an instant. Myspace and Facebook give us constant updates about the lives of peers, family members and friends. Digital cameras and web cams allow information to be recorded and uploaded immediately. Students are extremely familiar with this technology and couldn't imagine their daily lives without it! Other technology is being created to make the world a cleaner place, like solar power and hybrid cars. Futurist artists working in the 1910s were exploring how to capture the new technology of their decade on canvas with paint, though their new technology was motion pictures, still frame photography and the industrial revolution. I would like to challenge my students to capture the new technology of their own generation while exploring how it has changed their everyday life. While futurists were capturing the motion of the figure itself, how will students deal with the idea of capturing the movement of information that happens all around us, but we don't actually see?
Also, I would like to use futurism as a way to answer a common question in my classroom: "How is that in a museum? I could do that!" I love this question and I love challenging my students to think about what kind of circumstances might have caused the artist to consider creating artwork that appears so simple. Students look at an artwork that appears to be only shapes and colors and assume that the artists simply painted whatever they wanted, with no thought to what they were putting down on the canvas. Students assume that simply because the artist has simplified a subject in his/her artwork it is less sophisticated, when in fact usually the exact opposite is true. I want students to understand that when the technical act of painting a painting is difficult, usually the subject is easy to understand; while when the technical part of painting the painting looks easy, the concept sometimes took the artist much more time. Futurism is a great example of this because the focus becomes celebrating the movement instead of capturing a realistic rendering. I would like to focus on futurism as a style where students can experience this process of decision--making and simplification themselves; while exploring subject matter which is an integral part of their lives.
I am writing this unit for my Introduction to Art class, which is composed of students who have seen abstract art, but are usually unable to put it into context. I see my students every other day for a block period of 80 minutes. This schedule allows me to plan a variety of different activities in one meeting to get students engaged in the artwork. It also allows for a solid chunk of studio time. I usually try to break the period into at least three smaller lessons so that students learn the same material through different modalities, as differentiated instruction is extremely important. I would like to create this unit to give them a means to understanding abstract artwork. This unit also fits perfectly into my strategy for teaching drawing. Just recently I have switched to teaching a parts to whole approach where students learn to draw the basic shapes, and their three--dimensional counterparts first. Once they have mastered these shapes and learned to give them volume, students create a still life from objects with fairly similar shapes to those they have been studying. I would like to use this unit to take them to the next step, where they need to look at an object of their choice (related to technology and the future) and break it down into those same basic shapes. Because they have already done a still life in this manner they will need to determine how these basic shapes can be composed to show motion.
I teach art at High School in the Community, a small magnet school in New Haven. Two--thirds of our students are from New Haven, and one--third are from the surrounding suburbs. Because my students come from a variety of different neighborhoods and a variety of different school systems they come to me with a variety of different art experiences. However, most students react the same way to abstract artwork.