Earth-Works & Landscapes Show
Digital Photography, Taking Pictures & Creative Design Class Collaborations
All of the images were constructed on-site near the Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve with groups of 3-5 students.
Up through the end of the semester – 12/15 in our Student Gallery – go to “Student Gallery” page to see more images
Taking Pictures, Photography and Visual Culture(s), a digital photography
course, integrates elements of art history, photography history, contemporary art,
photography, film, and mass media. Creativity & Design, a basic requirement
taken by all art majors, introduces students to various two and three-dimensional
media as they explore design problems and play with the creative process. Instead
of exams or traditional papers, students demonstrate their learning by creating
images and artworks in response to traditional themes and specific artworks.
A collaborative assignment between the two classes includes a fieldtrip within
small groups to make site-specific earthworks. In preparation, we present ideas
and artworks that include a wide range of possibilities: Earthworks (ie. Robert
Smithson, Richard Long); Performance (ie. Ana Mendieta, Fern Shaffer); Formal
Modernism (Richard Serra, Tony Smith); Photographers who alter the Landscape
(John Pfahl, Andy Goldsworthy); Interventions (Mierle Ukeles, Cave Paintings);
and Community Cooperative projects (Christo and Jean Claude). Instead of the
predictable results from conventional landscape assignments, students consider
new ideas, experimenting in interdisciplinary groups, and often relying on skills
and ingenuity informed by their major discipline, life skills, and ideas. Taken to
a forest that borders a Native American burial mound, many consider the history
and character of the place as well as ecological and environmental concerns.
The photographs documenting the project, become fuel for a whole other
discussion. Our challenge as teachers is to point out the myriad possibilities
inherent in what they have done. We find more meaning in the work than they
do. The work done also filters back into the larger discussion of art, contrasting
‘participatory’ sensibilities with the typical Western paradigm: the Renaissance
convention of perspective, one of mastery, ownership, and control. Through
dialogue, and the consideration of ideals and issues of enchantment and ecology,
students development a greater group communion.