Questions About the Nature of Art

Questions About the Nature of Art

I'm so grateful when I hear from subscribers, from whom I receive wonderful emails and articles which are inspiring and provocative. Tim Vermande recently shared an excellent article, Can Art History Be Taught Without Someone Becoming Angry? by Kathy Johnson Bowles. The article was in the publication Inside High Ed.

Tim and I taught at The Art Institute of Indianapolis (Ai) for several years. Tim was a favorite of students. He was not an easy professor, far from it. Tim challenged students with thought-provoking topics and asked them to use critical thinking skills. There were times in recent years when teaching Critical Thinking seemed passe, but not in Tim's classroom.

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on
Photo by Christopher Sardegna on


Tim taught three classes at Ai, World Civilizations, Anthropology, and Research & Technical Writing. It was not unusual for me to enter my classroom to overhear students discussing the recent topics taught in one of Tim's classes. As a teacher, I know it's a big deal having students engaged in a subject you taught well after they have left your classroom.

I will not reinterpret the article, as a link to the article is below. Here are the main talking points.

  • Art reflects the person who created it and the time, place, and culture in which they lived.
  • What is offensive in one moment in history may not be in the future. And vice versa.
  • Sometimes the point of an artwork is to offend you and make you mad.
  • Art that is offensive to one person may not be to another person.
  • A work doesn't have to be "beautiful" to be art.
  • Art isn't defined by whether you like it or not.
  • Art isn't mathematics. (Or, as my dad would say of math, "It isn't why; it just is!" The poor man, an engineer, was attempting to teach me math, when I was a child!)

I know some of you are art historians, and I have had the pleasure of studying with one of you. I enjoy a well-informed article challenging me to think, and this article fits that bill. As an artist, I don't always see beyond my personal perspective, meaning I somethings miss the bigger picture.

Thank you, Tim, for sharing this article!

Link:  Can Art History Be Taught Without Someone Becoming Angry?

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.