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This showed up on Alltop, but where is it from!?

What a great image:

I searched on TinEye, but couldn’t find original attribution. If anyone knows, please let me know.



Holy cow, what a whirlwind.

Just a brief entry here- Beginning of school is usually hectic, but for some reason, it’s been a bit off-beat this year. It’s been interesting and fun, and I have lots of great things going on…. but it has been NON STOP.

I’m teaching 3 new classes this year, plus an RTI group starting in a two weeks. I’m teaching ‘Hands on History’ which is sort of an experiential pass/fail art history survey class for one quarter. Those are a mixed group of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. (Wow. And what will we do for this course for next year?) I’m teaching ‘Reading Through the Arts’ which is not graded, but ‘commented’ on the report card. I’m getting the students up to snuff on public artworks in Chicago, and talking about some of the interesting developments in Chicago public spaces (Cloud Gate, [the Bean] Crown Fountain, and the rest of Millennium Park) And we watched a 10 minute clip of ART:21 with Maya Lin. They’ll be designing a maquette for an installation, and we will be continuing to read articles and come up with some really great vocabulary words. Winning the award for the weirdest class is a mixed homeroom of mostly 4th grade with 6 third graders thrown in for good measure. I decided I need to modify the curriculum and create something completely new, otherwise someone would be repeating something. I don’t like the solution very much, but it is better than having a class repeat a whole year’s worth of projects.

Add in a late budget, two curriculum nights/open houses, and tons of outside-life activity and shenanigans… well, I think I am going to absolutely relax… sometime… It doesn’t look too promising for this weekend, either!! Yowza!


Still eccentric, optimistic, and weird.


Digging Deeper: AIC Day One.

Cooling off at the Millenium Park fountains!!!

So, the fountains photo is actually getting ahead of myself a little, but it is one of the pictures from the last two days that really sums up the HEAT in Chicago!

I’ve been taking the El down to the Art Institute to attend a class; Digging Deeper: Connecting the Art Museum to Your Classroom.

Today was day two of three- I had intended to write a post yesterday, but we covered so much, and the day was so hot, that I think my brain melted a little.

So yesterday I met (for the second time, I think) Georgina and Grace, two brilliant and inspiring AIC museum educators, and a ton of really amazing educators from all kinds of schools in the Chicago area. We talked a bit about our goals for the three-day class- for me, I really want to dust off and reconfigure my curriculum, work a bit more on cross-curricular teaching (maybe co-teaching again someday) and smooth out the logistics of getting my students to the Art Institute, either with a field trip, or put together some kind of a packet or webpage that will make it easier to go with their families.

After an introductory exercise with some reproductions from the collection, we headed up to Gallery 263 to look at some of the works. (More on that link to collections page later…) We settled in to our little foldy chairs around this painting.

Georgina instructed us to not pay any attention to the label, but I confess, the printed word draws my attention- I saw a name and the word “Mexican” but remembered to not pay attention before I saw the title. We looked- really attended- for about 2 minutes before she asked very simply and quietly: “What do you notice?” And we discussed all of the things we noticed. (I blurted the “Mexican” information and said that I noticed some Aztec motifs in the woman’s face, jade ear-plugs, hair ornament, etc… I couldn’t resist reading!! And I recognized a lot of Pre-Columbian stylization from my art history classes. I wasn’t trying to show off, really!)

You’ll probably observe a lot of the things we did if you enlarge the thumbnail, (go ahead, check it out, I’ll try to make a good connection for you at the end on this, too.) but we also did address how important it is to really go to the primary source in the museum, as there are so many nuances of texture, scale, and so on that you just cannot appreciate from any kind of a reproduction, no matter how close you can zoom in.

After we had discussed this single work in fairly close detail, we were invited to wander the room. It had about fifteen or so paintings, a small bronze figure, and a large bowl. The three dimensional works slipped past my attention at first!

We did a great exercise with slips of paper, writing down what we noticed about the other works in that particular gallery room, laying them on the floor in front of the paintings. When we had an observation about the room as a whole, we laid a slip of paper on the bench in the middle- and when we had an idea that tied two works together, we stretched ribbons to indicate the connection. It’s called floorstorming, and we did another floorstorming exercise today, too- it worked really well, and would work really well for students that aren’t as blabby as yours truly— and even for talkers like myself, gave me a little more time to compose my thoughts on the matter. (I couldn’t find any good resources that summarize it well on a cursory search- just another slightly different technique online)

The whole day yesterday and today, we were instructed to not look at the museum information on the artworks– an idea so counter intuitive to the part of myself that wants to understand and have confidence over various little parts of the world by researching the heck out of them.

Okay, we can’t look at the labels… maybe a peek? Nope, don’t look, don’t look, don’t look…!

Oh, it was so hard for me. But I started to notice something- in the same way that having an open ended, divergent-thinking project is so important to me, not reading the label prevents you from slipping right into the left-brain-categorizing-concentric behavior that a neat little label has a tendency to prompt by its very nature. Wow, nice epiphany!

We headed down to the Mesoamerican galleries. Things have been shuffled quite a bit from a few years ago, and the space and displays are much improved for it. This time, we were invited to look around a smaller section of the hall and choose an artwork and complete a worksheet with two questions: make some notes about what intrigues you, and write a “biography” of the object. Everyone had great observations and insights, including Peter, who picked this object.

Again, we were not to look at the labels… I tried to find something that I didn’t know a whole lot about from any art history classes. Several of our group shared their worksheets; Peter speculated that this object showed someone in a costume, to directly interface with the god it represented. But he was having a hard time reading the expression that was on the costume’s face. I was literally biting my lip, trying to not to give away the story I knew about this particular god. After everyone had talked, I shared that I would not have had the same insight as Peter because I knew too much about the background of this work: I told the story of Xipe Totec, the flayed god- whose worshippers would wear the actual skins of their sacrificial victims until they decayed off the wearer. The reason Peter couldn’t see an expression on the face? It was a dead person’s skinned face, worn as a mask. My knowledge and revulsion wouldn’t allow me to see what Peter had seen: a way of getting into the god, in order to make a divine connection.

After we had gone through everyone’s reflections, Georgina asked if we made any connections between the Tamayo painting from earlier, and the objects in this gallery. At the time, I was thinking I had kind of blown the connections, and the ‘a-ha’ experience of making the referential connections to the Mexican and Aztec cultures… then, she said, specifically the object that Peter picked- that character of a mask- and the red streaks and outlines that we had discussed fell into place in my head with a thunk. Wow. What a revelation that I was not expecting at all.

And that was all before lunch!

In the afternoon, we did a scavenger hunt- exploring the museum and essentially doing a critique sheet, very different from my handout, and quite likely more effective! I’ll share it if I am able and link it here and in my pages if I can.

And if that weren’t enough, we spent the last 45 minutes digging around the AIC website: Holy cow, it deserves a post of its own. For now, though- you should check out the Educator Resource Finder. We are talking PDFs of lesson plans, complete teacher manuals for you to use, artwork resource packets, well, stuff that makes my little list of resources online cry for mommy. Holy cow what a treasure trove!

Go look at some NOW!

Signing off for now; I need my rest for tomorrow, day three of three!!

and art saves lives *every* day….

A lovely video from Swil Kanim, a virtuoso violinist and storyteller. Sometimes the right thing to do doesn’t always follow the rules.

And in so many ways, the arts save lives, and make lives worth living, every day. Be everything you are meant to be!

Don’t be so critical! Art Criticism + Bonus Art Crit Worksheet

By popular suggestion, I’m attaching the packet I wrote up for the last assignment of the blogging class. It’s an amalgamation of *many* art criticism resources- I first ran into an art criticism packet like this about 8 years ago, but it never fit my needs exactly, and some versions I have seen floating around have sections missing. So I’m attaching my version today.
But wait, there’s more! If you act now, I will throw in my class critique sheet for free! I use that when I would like a gentle way for classmates to critique each others artwork.

Art criticism used to scare me. Maybe it was the intense critiques in one of my studio class where the instructor broke students down to tears. Yikes! That is not really what I would call a reasonable way to critique. Especially since we all knew the student had been logging heavy hours late night in the studio, and had not been lax at all as the professor was insinuating. Bleah. I don’t have time for that negativity!

Or, just as uncomfortable, going to the Walker Art Center  (which is a great, fun museum and not uncomfortable at all!) with my parents, grandma and aunts, and being the designated docent- So, Ingrid… what is going on with this piece here…..? Uh…….

And sometimes being able to give an insightful take on a work, and sometimes….. well, I didn’t feel I “got” the piece, or didn’t even like the work, in fact… sometimes, I got flashbacks to critiques in college where the student didn’t spend any time in the studio, but spent a lot of time in the bars and bohemian house parties near campus… and then smooth-talked their way through a critique, sounding infuriatingly like this, and the rest of us in class would roll our eyes, fume, and remember The Emperor’s New Clothes as we gritted our teeth and watched the instructor vapidly nod their way through a  load of baloney. Or maybe that was just me.

Well, here’s the real deal. (In my opinion.)

It isn’t mysterious. It isn’t full of obfuscation and bulloney. A kindergarten class can do this, scaled down, and stun you with their insight. After all, it was a little child who called out the Emperor when no one else would say what they saw. Kids have a clarity and honesty that adults do have, but adults silence it with a sense of propriety. If you’re talking about the art critic in a business sense, well, they have a much different agenda, influenced by money, context, fashion, even politics and propaganda machines at points in history!

The nitty-gritty though, is this:

  1. Identification: Who is the artist, when was it made, etc. Not absolutely needed, but a nice formal start to the critique.
  2. Description: What do I see? List everything you notice, elements of art and subject matter.
  3. Analysis: Ask how. How is it organized, what principles of art have been employed?
  4. Interpretation: What does it mean? What is the artist trying to say? Understanding the culture and context will help a lot.
  5. Judgement: Do I like it? Did they do a good job? Is it successful?

Before I start a critique with my class, I ask them about their hot dog preferences– a potentially tense subject in Chicago- in some places, asking for ketchup is a heresy that will get you kicked out. (I just wanted the ketchup for my FRIES!!!)

In any case- the class is usually willing to discuss how they like their dog: poppyseed bun, no ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, no peppers. Or plain bun, ketchup and Doritos stuffed in the bun. One person is a vegetarian, one person hates hot dogs and could they describe a burger instead? I ask them “Who is right?” And they say, well, all of us are, it’s a matter of taste!

And then we start the critique.

Wow, that was fast!

Class is over! (Well, technically, tonight at midnight it is over. I’m a procrastinator on account of perfectionism-stymieing, so I am actually very glad I didn’t hold out until late- night!)

I had a great time. I hope all my classmates continue to come and visit me here on my little corner of the web. I am going to try to set up a vaguely regular schedule of posting. I’ve noticed that if I put too much pressure on myself about making something super-awesome, I will avoid doing it rather that not do it right.

So again, hooray for messing up joyfully! (or, just hooray for not worrying about perfection! The process, not the product, Ingrid… silly…)

And, I guess, More To Come! Just wanted to officially cross the line into not-posting-on-account-of-it’s-for-an-assignment-post-posting.

Guess I am officially blogging. 🙂

A Review of Indiana Jones’s Museum

Photo by John Kannenberg

Could I have picked a more complimentary picture colorwise?! (Photo credit: John Kannenberg)

Oh, all right, technically Indy is a fictional character. But Edward Chiera, Robert Braidwood, and J.H. Breasted were possible models for Indy, (I can’t remember which one was said to escape office hours at the University of Chicago by crawling out his office window….) and they were all involved in the OI, building up the collection, going on adventures… But I digress.


A review of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

What can I say about this hidden gem of Chicago? Well, to start your adventure, you may likely drive to the museum. Street parking is very easy and free!

Enter the unusual art-deco-gothic building, under the very curious deco-gothic tympanum carved in a deco motif of modern westerners (and American Buffalo) greeting ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians (with Assyrian lion), and you already know you are in for some adventure. As you enter, you may notice that the museum is FREE. A modest suggested donation of $7 for adults and $4 for Children is beyond reasonable, and I have seen many people enter without donating, and no one minds or even blinks. When entrance for one to many museums is as high as $18 per adult, plus parking or transit, it is a lovely bonus to find an inexpensive outing.

This museum was established in 1919, and the current building opened in 1931. It houses the university’s collection of Middle Eastern art and antiquities. (Orient being Near East, not Far East.)There are mummies, Elamite (like Cuneiform) tablets, daily goods like makeup cases and personal items, tiny Sanskrit tax returns (more or less, upon reading the translations provided- they really loved meticulous paperwork!) systems of weights and measures in the shape of graceful ducks… Fascinating items.

And then there are some real show-stoppers: A 17+ foot tall (tallest in existence, other than it’s twin) statue of Tutankhamen, one of a pair. The other is in Cairo. Monstrous 40 ton stone Assyrian mythological creatures, part man, part lion, part eagle, part bull. (an Iamassu) Ponderously massive bull heads that once guarded Persepolis’ Hall of One Hundred Columns. Sections from the enameled-brick lion gate- I saw another section of it in the British Museum.

The collection is gorgeous. The daily-life pieces are almost more informative than the jaw-droppers, but wow, you won’t want to miss any part of it.

It’s also very easy and accessible to people with limited mobility.

There’s a charming gift shop with affordable items that are hard to find anywhere else. There are docents and audio guides available.

Also of note, most of the collections were not purchased, unlike most museums. These are the research collections of archaeologists, finds from excavation expeditions. So when they are talking about “the museum” in the movies, you’ll know where to find it!

I love this museum! I highly recommend going, if you have the means.

See more photos here