Psychological Thinking and the Self-Portrait in Art Education
a summer seminar by Olivia Gude,
was offered at Ohio State University in July 2010.
Self-portraiture is often given a central role in art k-12 art curricula. Based in the philosophical tradition of the Enlightenment and the aesthetic tradition of Rembrandt, these projects tend to be framed in language that encourages students to use visual contemplation in order to understand their “real,” “true,” or “hidden” inner selves. This seminar suggested that such projects and language teach students ideas about the formation of identity and self that are fundamentally at odds with current thinking about self in psychoanalytic and contemporary theory discourses.
Essentialist notions of a “true self” do not help students recognize that identities are formed in familial and societal discourses. Hence, these projects, meant to help students develop as powerful individuals, instead tend to send the disempowering message that identity is fixed and innate, rather than constructed in dynamic social discourses. The traditional self-portrait sequesters the formation of identity in a disconnected, humanist wonderland and does not stimulate critical thinking about how identity is shaped in complex media-saturated cultures.
This seminar fused critical reading and discussion with studio projects, engaging participants in considering a range of theoretical and aesthetic practices that encourage investigating the construction and deconstruction of identity. Readings will included selections from Freud and Beyond: A History of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought by Stephen A. Mitchell and Margaret J. Black and from Re-Visioning Psychology by James Hillman, a leading figure in neo-Jungian Archetypal Psychology. Artmaking in drawing, collage, and digital media, based on a decade of curriculum research in the Spiral Workshop, modeled explorations of the formation of self using contemporary art practices as well as methods for creating safe spaces for students to interact and share feelings and personal narratives.
I will leave this course portfolio posted as it may give you ideas for your teaching at levels from K through college.