ETHEL THE EDUCATOR
The Art of Experiencing the Arts
EXCERPTS FROM ETHEL W. OWENS: WHAT IS A WORK OF ART?
The first question is, "What is a Work of art?" How does it relate to nature, the world we live in? To answer this, I show a series of slides ...
We see that the words, "Mother and Child" are grossly inadequate to account for the emotional and visual worlds we have just explored. Why? Because the plastic arts have their own language -- they communicate meaning and feeling, but very differently from the language of words.
What is that visual language? It is a language of color, of line, of texture, of plane, of composition, that tells you in each case something ELSE about the mother and child, in addition to what the words mean.
What ABOUT that mother and child excites the artist and makes him want to communicate that to you? Is it the serenity and calm of the first (done by smoothness of line and texture, lightness of color, closeness and completeness of composition), or the anguish, anxiety of the second (done by dark color, broken up planes, angular, sharp texture, straight lines, openness of composition, etc.)
Our conclusion: Each of the arts has its own language (its elements and methods of organizing them expressively) and what they express is an interpretation of nature, a selection from nature, abstraction from nature, distortion of nature -- and that derives from the artist's imagination.
What we have said so far is a caveat to Aristotle's "Art is an imitation of nature." I have been saying it is not an imitation rather it is a personal interpretation, unique to each person's view. If a model were in the room and a roomful of artists drew that model, each drawing SHOULD be different. One would respond to the texture of the skin, one the line of the face, one the texture of the hair, one the length of the legs, on the expression of the face. One's line would be swift and sure, one other's would be slow, hesitant, short rhythmic lines, one would emphasize the volume of the arms, legs, breasts; one would love the graceful outline of the figure.
But in a more profound sense, Aristotle was profoundly right. Because each work of art is a creation, just as nature creates unique creatures -- each different from each other (fingerprints, snowflakes) and each complete -- an organic whole with each part interdependent and interrelated.
Therefore, to truly understand the miracle of the human body, one must recognize the FUNCTION of each member of the body to the health and beauty of the whole. Otherwise one is not truly recognizing this miracle of creation.
In the same way, consider a Mozart symphony ...
TESTIMONIALS FROM ADMIRERS
NYU School of Continuing Education "Intro To The Arts" (1999):
"Ms. Owens is amazing. So diverse, so exciting as a professor -- so knowledgeable. I hope to continue with her courses." (Student)
"Fabulous course, well paced, very informative. Instructor is multi-facted and knowledgeable in all areas of the arts. Provides good visuals and auditory examples. Information is excellent both for novice and people with knowledge of the various arts." (Student)
"Here are the evaluations we've just received for the spring term. As you can see, they amount to set of fine reviews. I'm not surprised, having sat in on one of your classes myself and really enjoyed it." (David Greenstein)