700 years ago, the culture of Renaissance humanism flourished, inspiring new educational approaches that diverged from the dogmatic utilitarianism of Medieval Europe. Guided by the belief that education could improve society, Renaissance-era teachers trained their students in poetry, mathematics, music, astronomy…a novel combination of traditional academic subjects and the arts. We still use the expression “Renaissance man/woman” today to refer to someone whose talents span a wide variety of fields.
The common saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” asserts that a simple image of an idea can more effectively describe it than the written word.
For many students, reading about history and memorizing facts and timelines isn’t enough to fully grasp the effect these events still have today. I have discovered through my 10 years of museum experience that research, literature, and primary sources really do go hand-in-hand with interpreting images. Speaking through the lens of the Western American art collection with which I work, I will share a few examples of historic paintings. Each painting has a unique story to tell, and each can really speak volumes about what has happened throughout history.
Have you ever wondered ‘how’ I do what I do? Although not the same every time, my technical process of the printing and cutting stays consistent. Allow me to share.
I have a library of images that is ever growing. When I decide on a series I choose my best photographs with the most interesting angles, brightest colors and strongest contrast. For ease of understanding, the images below are examples from my most current series, which was installed in October, Timeless Denver architecture and landmarks, with splashes of the west!
Art has always seemed unattainable to me; my drawing ability stalled out at the stick figure and the square house with the triangle roof, my painting ability went no further than eight little puddles of Crayola watercolors, and my high school pottery class (grade: B-) was highlighted by a lopsided pentagonal slab pot that I still use to hold mail. Art was, I decided, for people who were good at it, whose idea of time well-spent included things like sketch-books, gesso and decoupage. These artists could look at a pile of craft supplies and pull out of their brain an amazing and creative use for all of them at once. They could, when asked by their five-year-old, draw a dog that actually looked like a dog. In short, they could interpret the world around them in a creative, non-verbal manner that so far surpassed my stick figures. I figured art (and the ability to communicate without the medium of words) was a lost cause for me. I know I’m not the only non-artist to feel this way. I’ve heard countless people express this same thing: “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body.” “I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since second grade.” “I’m terrible at art.”