Intellectus Conlectio Evening of Art & Beauty

This evening (Wed) we had the opportunity to hear a presentation on Art and Beauty from Mike Carter, the art teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, TN. I will try to hit the highlights of his talk before discussing some of the things he discussed after during our Q&A time.

He began by extolling the powers of PowerPoint. Especially for what he does, it frees him to teach and leave the “notes” up to the screen. His presentation was first rate.

His thesis was that “Great Art is a universal language.” He built his theme around the fact that if great art is a language, Christians should be able to converse in it if they are indeed classically trained in the use of that language.

He presented a brief but provocative look at the “10 best” pieces of art according to a recent Art Review survey. I tried but could not come up with the survey online. As we looked at these pieces, some of them worthy, some very much not from our perspective, we then moved to the two aspects that make up art: presentation and technique.

When either one is above the other, it is a mess. From his perspective presentation has totally overcome technique in our day. This could be seen by taking a quick history of art tour and seeing the committed line of early work give way to almost complete lack of such in modern work.

His point was to say that of all men, Christians should be the best artists in the world.

During our Q&A we discussed:

  • Nude vs naked = he cited a gentleman who drew the distinction between the nude as a study in pre-fallen human form and nakedness which came from sin and should be covered; WA does not do any apology for studying art which includes nudes.
  • Grading = this has always been uncomfortable for him. He currently assigns research and writing that becomes grades but does not actually grade the art.
  • Number one key = patient, profuse, purposeful encouragement – don’t lie, but don’t discourage with brutal criticism
  • Budget = parents pay art fee, about $10 / student, though differing grades do differing media, meaning differing costs
  • The problem with once per week class is that a piece takes so long to complete that the student loses interest as he has “moved on.”
  • Had to run after, but I wish to see our new art teacher get together with him at Circe. I will get it set up.
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