Today's American Art Exploring the Fundamentals of Art
Welcome to the online course, Today’s American Art: Exploring the Fundamentals of Art, brought to you by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In this course, you’ll explore the works of several contemporary artists who employ a variety of techniques. You’ll experiment with these artists’ techniques, ideas, and concepts by creating artworks of your own, inspired by their work. These experimental art projects will help you find a concept or theme that you’ll develop for a class art exhibition. Get ready to play with new ideas, create, have fun, and talk with other students about the process of making art!
Throughout this course, you will learn about these elements and principles so that you have a language for talking about the artworks you are exploring and the artworks that you and your classmates are creating.
Session 2: REALLY SENSING THE WORLD
Artists are always using their senses to experience, understand, perceive, feel, and appreciate the world around them. They use their eyes, ears, noses, hands, and mouths to interpret the environment. They use their experiences to form their artwork, creating works that are sometimes beautiful and sometimes disturbing, that sometimes tell stories, and sometimes express their points of view. Art has the power to move people emotionally.
Session 3: SOLVING PROBLEMS CREATIVELY
What is creativity? Is it playing an instrument well? Is it faithfully drawing what you see? Or is that talent?
Session 4: THE MEANING OF SYMBOLS
If you look on the back of a dime, you’ll notice a torch (representing liberty), an olive branch (representing peace), and an oak branch (representing strength and independence). Throughout history, artists have used symbolism in their work as a form of shorthand. That is, rather than completely spell out the full meaning of an idea, they use a character, a color, or an object as a symbol to convey the idea. Artists from the Gothic and Renaissance periods (1300–1600) used symbols prolifically in Christian religious art. Their goal was to remind the largely uneducated parishioners to follow the teachings of the church and not to give in to their sinful ways. People who were unable to read could look at these paintings and learn what they were supposed to know because everyone knew the language of symbols.
Session 5: HOW DO YOU TELL A STORY WITH YOUR ART?
Telling stories is in our blood. Much of what we know of ancient civilizations is through the stories that people told through their art. This kind of art that tells a story is referred to as narrative art. The contemporary artists in this session create narrative art, but they use different techniques to tell their stories. As you explore their work, think about how you might like to tell a story through art. Do you want to portray a moment in time or a sequence of events? Are you interested in events from the past or the future? You might use images from well-known fables, myths, or legends to tell a story that is all your own. This session is about experimenting with visual storytelling. You’ll find an interesting person or event (real or imaginary) and create a project telling some of the story of that person or event, using any medium you like.
Session 6: ART FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
In Session 6, you explore the work of two artists who have deep personal connections to issues that affect the entire country.
Session 7: ENVIRONMENTAL ART
In Session 7, you explore the work of two artists who express their deep connection and commitment to the environment through their art.
Session 8: MAKING ART FROM OBJECTS THAT YOU FIND
Both artists in this session assembled objects that they found into works of art. You will create your own “found object” art after exploring how found objects can be used to create art.
Session 9: STARTING YOUR COURSE PROJECT
Think of every artist, artwork, concept, technique, and process you’ve explored in the course so far as seeds for your own artistic ideas. In Session 9, you begin to develop ideas for a series of works. You’ll explore your sketchbook to see what captured your interest or curiosity, and look for patterns and connections. Through writing, sketching, brainstorming, remembering, and discussing, you’ll identify the concept you want to work with in the second half of the course and then share your ideas with your classmates and your teacher.
Session 10: PHOTOGRAPHY AS ART
The artists featured in this session document the challenges and issues they witness—food politics and foreclosure—through their photography. In doing so, they capture these stories of time and place, connect them to bigger issues in their communities, and share them with a larger audience. Be inspired by their art, concepts, and processes as you continue to work on your own series of artworks in this session.
Session 11: MAKING SCULPTURE
While you’ve seen a few artworks in this course so far that could be classified as sculpture, you haven’t really explored sculpture as an artistic method. Most works you’ve seen have been two-dimensional—they have length and breadth, but no depth. Sculpture operates in three dimensions and can be created using a number of techniques including, modeling, carving, casting, and assembling.
In Session 11, you meet two contemporary sculptors. You’ll examine their works and make a sculpture of your own using paper-mache.
Session 12: CREATING COLLAGE
The word collage comes from the French, meaning, literally, “to glue.” To create a collage, artists assemble pieces of paper—magazines, books, newspapers, photos, etc.—and other two-dimensional objects (generally) to create a new work. The artists in this session created collages from discarded lottery tickets and letters cut from the Koran and the Bible. Their works derive meaning both from the materials that they are made from and from the form that they take.
Session 13: DESCRIBING YOUR ART
Session 13 begins the writing phase of your course project. Over the next two sessions, you write the text for your course project to prepare for the culminating event of this course—the final critique. In this session, you’ll review how contemporary artists title their series and describe them, as well as write the individual object labels. This will help you discover how you want to write about your own work.
Session 14: WRITING AN ARTIST STATEMENT
You complete the writing for your course project by preparing an artist statement and sharing your draft with the class for critique. This writing and the other work you’ve done—photographs of your art, object labels, and descriptions—are the beginnings of a portfolio. You finish this session by learning how a portfolio of your work can help you get into college or art school.
Session 15: COURSE PROJECT CRITIQUE
All of the artists in the course galleries were selected to inspire your own artmaking, including beyond this course. Learning by example is a powerful way to grow as an artist—it helps you find your own artistic voice. In this final session, you’ll celebrate all that you and the other student artists have accomplished in the course by showing the work you’ve created and critiquing the work of your fellow artists!