It was John Berger who said, "Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak"
For instance, many times a viewer may look at an artwork and suddenly feel a particular way, yet he or she may not be able to find the words for this emotional response. This "seeing" or, better yet, observation is the first step in responding to art through art criticism and in the process of making art. It is also the first skill students must learn to develop their ability to view an artwork or object. So what comes first? As in the writing process, the first step in making art is planning. Through a variety of strategies, students will learn how to develop ideas for their work during this step by making careful, detailed observations about artworks both in writing and through verbal discussions. Students will be presented with the idea that visual art and literary art may share similar analytical qualities to introduce this concept. The philosopher Horace has said: "A picture is a poem without words," a concept that in a sense views these two art forms as belonging to the same "family" treating painting and poetry as "sisters." While doing this, students will be able to strengthen and build their art vocabulary. By developing an art vocabulary, students will begin to build a base for their skills in responding to art throughout the unit.
After building a strong basis for their responses through vocabulary and analyzing art, students will move to the second step in art making, creating art. During this portion of the unit, students will create detailed artworks based on the observational skills that they have learned. Students will be asked the question: "How does a written description of an artwork or object change, enhance, or confuse the viewers' understanding or interpretation?" Students will begin to see how written descriptions can alter a viewer's interpretation. In some cases the artist him or herself has included textual elements into their artworks that may alter a viewers interpretation. Other times, another viewer, sometimes an art historian or art curator has written a description of the artwork and may accompany the artwork in a museum in the form of a wall label. Throughout this activity, students will learn how to make observations that go beyond the obvious and how to look deeper into the meaning of an artwork to formulate an interpretation and opinion of the artwork.
Finally students will learn how to incorporate writing into the reflective portion of art. For this portion of the unit, students will work as art gallery curators in creating an art show. Acting as art curators and art historians, students will write about art and put together an art show based on what they have learned. . This student-run show will be based upon a central theme that will allow the students to attempt to redefine art history. They will practice their skills of art historians by writing about the artworks with the aim to of beginning to solve the "word-image problem." The hope is that students will be able to curate this show and present it to the public by hosting it within the community either within a gallery space or at a public business, thus making them change-agents within their community.