Confusion to New Set of Tools

Before walking into class February 11th, 2019, I did not know what to expect with our special guest lecturer Dan DeZarn. However, when I sat down, he said he used to be a sculpting professor at SUNY Geneseo. The reason he was in our class was to provide art terms to help facilitate our discussions. But instead of delving right into definitions and answers he posed us a question: What is art? I never thought about what constitutes as art. At a young age, most of us sat in an art class and did a simplistic drawing of a house. But is that art? Sitting in my desk I felt uncomfortable participating in class discussion because of my lack of knowledge in the subject material. However, I was attentive to my classmates who were giving their ideas about art. For example, Liv claimed art has to have intention. But what is the heart and core of art? Well, Professor DeZarn believes that art intersects into three things: 1) Craft 2) Design and 3) Content.

Then, he dived into the elements of art that can help expand our tools for discussion. The five, or as he likes it, six elements are: texture, shape, color, like, material, size/scale, and value. I thought to myself, “Sounds easy enough.” However, DeZarn unpacked another set of tools called the principles of art: pattern, contrast, unity or variety, balance, mass and volume, symmetry, focal point, movement, direction, rhythm and dominance. Again, the list didn’t overwhelm me, which boosted my confidence slightly. However, little did I know that DeZarn was going to put me to the test. He placed one of our desks in the middle of the room and said, describe this to me using the vocabulary I just gave you. Instead of feeling confident, I did not know where to start. Suddenly the words that seemed easy turned into complex definitions. While my classmates were describing the chair, I sat back and was trying to process how these words were truly being used to describe an object. The entire time I became mute. I truly felt ignorant and distressed that I did not know how to use these words correctly.

After the class took some opportunities to use our new tools, DeZarn showed us various art pieces created by Steve Prince’s mentor, John T. Scott. DeZarn kept challenging us to use the words and describe what we see. By grounding ourselves in the vocabulary of visual art that we had just learned, our classroom’s level of discussion heightened and we had a more sophisticated conversation about art. DeZarn gave us some helpful tips such as to look for the triangles in given artwork and to trace it to see what other shapes we can find. When we looked at artwork by Scott, everyone was attempting to use the tools and describe what they saw on the board. Towards the end of class, DeZarn said he wanted to hear from new voices in the crowd. So I thought, “Why not try it?” In that moment I thought about the article, “Intellectual Humility: the Importance of Knowing You Might be Wrong.” Intellectual humility is “the recognition that the things you believe in might in fact, be wrong.” The three challenges that set us back to achieve intellectual humility are: 1) understanding and acknowledging our “cognitive blindness” 2) need to be braver admitting your mistakes and 3) choosing “our convictions thoughtfully.” I pushed myself to seek intellectual humility by not being afraid to recognize that visual art is my weak spot in knowledge. Additionally, I was not afraid to make a mistake by attempting to analyze a composition. Therefore, I raised my hand to analyze the artwork called I Remember Birmingham. Instantly, I mentioned how the focal point was the cross in the middle. Furthermore, I said there is symmetry and asymmetry because of the tree-like structure. I also noted the numerous triangles I found in the artwork.

At the end of class, when DeZarn finished his lecture I was proud of myself. Sure, I still felt uncomfortable with utilizing my new set of tools. But, I was proud that I took the initiative to push myself out of my comfort zone and contribute to the class discussion. I felt that I played a small but vital role in class just by describing one piece of artwork at the end of class. Although it took me to the end to gain courage with myself with these words, I was still proud to see the shift in my knowledge. Now, my goal is to try and use the tools that he gave us in class to remember what they mean and to serve the artwork justice

John T. Scott

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