Listen, learn, be kind and connect.

I gave a presentation yesterday using a SAQA Trunk Show to guide the participants in understanding/appreciating art. There were 57 mini art quilts in this show and nearly 80 people in the room. From table to table, we passed stacks of 5 or 6 around the room. The participants were instructed to closely look at each quilt and critique them.

To critique doesn’t mean criticize. When we look at art we should make it a challenge NOT to make quick value judgment of “good” or “bad.” We should be specific about what we see or feel. General terms like “pretty,”  “busy,” or “I don’t like it,” don’t explain what’s really happening. When viewing art, if we find a point of connection we can better explain how we’re reacting to it. Some questions to ask are:

  • How does it make you think or feel?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What draws you in or pushes you away?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by the concept the artist is trying to portray?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by their method of execution (how they created it)?

We also need to be generous and empathetic when we make our comments. Even though the artists may not be in the room with us, try to find what’s good about the art. Always remember that it takes courage to put your artwork out there for others to see.

The best way to learn about art is to take time to look closely at it. I instructed the participant to really study each piece for awhile, then flip it over to read the artist’s statement on the back. You can learn a lot about the artist’s vision by reading the artist’s statement. After they read the statements, I asked them to look again at the quilt to see if their opinion changed. After they viewed each one in the stack, I asked them to share their thoughts: What was their favorite or least favorite and why? Did they find connection?

I enjoyed hearing their feedback. Art is subjective. Something I like may not appeal to you, but either way I can connect to it when I take time to understand what I’m looking at. I can also connect to the people I’m with by listening to their opinions of what they see. Sounds like a lesson for life: listen, learn, be kind and connect.

 

4 comments

  1. Martha Ginn says:

    Nanette, this is a fascinating and innovative way to do a trunk show. Engaging the audience surely enhanced their enjoyment of the event. And probably added to their body of knowledge about art quilts.

    • Nanette Zeller says:

      Thank you Martha! Time was limited so they couldn’t enjoy all of them, but what they saw they really appreciated.

  2. Susan Lenz says:

    Great blog post for any art group! Love the approach to a critique as one needing empathy and finding positive things to say. You were also wise to have people look, think, feel … and then read the statement before looking, thinking, and feeling again! Great job!

    • Nanette Zeller says:

      Thanks Susan, this means a lot coming from you. I found myself changing my opinion after I read the artist statements. When the artists write things that have meaning, it makes me go back and find what they’re talking about. Sometimes its not always evident.

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