Artist invites students to pierce her masterpiece
An art professor in elementary education, Pente recently challenged her students and colleagues to an unusual experience that included piercing holes through an original Canadian landscape painting she had created that now hangs in the main floor of the H.T. Coutts Library, located in the Education Building on the U of A campus.
“I invited all who use the library. Some watched, some cut and prepared the materials, some taped wool and some pierced the painting with needles. The two-day performance created a community of learners, with decision-making continually being shared among the participants,” said Pente.
According to the teacher and artist, the performance raised questions relating to people’s uneasiness about putting holes in something of beauty that clearly took many hours to create. As a professor, it meant taking risks, yet she says it was one of the better lessons she taught this year.
“Students raised questions about the kinds of values we commonly place on artworks, and the differences between art as a beautiful object and art as an event that critiques those aesthetic values,” said Pente. “I suggest that the very images we love can lull us into complacency with regard to sharing, preserving and caring for the land and for each other in the land.”
Pente says this apparent paradox raises questions about the kind of values that are communally placed on artworks. Although, she says pleasure was gained in her lesson from viewing the landscape and recreating it through art, the former Canadian Society for the Study of Education Arts Graduate Research Award winner wonders how to make meaningful connections between the myriad of images of wilderness landscape in society’s visual culture and the ways that landscape is actually lived in.
“Let’s face it, my crawling up and down a ladder, stringing wool across a room, stumbling over lines of wool in an increasingly difficult space is not the average image of a university professor at work, but this is about disrupting the normal, everyday spaces of learning so that students can begin to raise questions about the relationships of power embedded in social life,” she said.
“I want student teachers to be willing to consider if and how they will authentically share power with their students. Such sharing can lead to children experiencing what it means to share responsibility as part of a community.”