Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Context is EVERYTHING!

By far the best teacher I ever had is named Erica Doss. She turned on that light bulb in my head, and it all made sense after that! She taught Art History at the University of Colorado, Boulder where I did my undergrad. Specifically I took several American art history courses from her. Why was she so good? She taught me that context is everything. You can’t remove something from it’s surroundings and understand what it means. Specifically, a piece of art in a museum with white walls has no context, no meaning. How could you ever understand what the artist was trying to convey if you take the art out of the time, history, moment in which it was created? What were other artists painting at the time, what was the political environment, what was the fashion, where did the artist live, who were his/her friends, etc., etc..

So, where am I going with this... well, even to this day, I think about what Erica taught me... “context is everything”. There is so much great vintage imagery out there. It’s easy enough just to cut it out with fancy scissors, paste it onto a decorative background, and call it beautiful vintage art... but it really doesn’t do the image justice.

I love thinking about the images I work with in more detail. Why and when was this image created. Who looked at the image? What were they wearing? What was their day to day life like? Basically-- what was the context in which this image was created. From there, it’s fun to try to find imagery, textures, colors, ribbons and/or ephemera appropriate to collage together.

This is especially fun when I create a new party kit... Take for example the Pirate Party Kit. I had a great time reading about a pirate’s life-- how he was recruited, where he explored, what he ate, what his fellow pirates were like, how he talked, etc. With all this information, I had a great time coming up with a story and imagery to try to evoke the context of a pirate’s life...

OK, I know, it’s only party decorations, invites, holiday and home decor, but hey I’m having fun-- and maybe if you buy some things, you’ll learn a few things too!

BTW-- I just received my alumni newsletter from U of Colorado Art and Art History Department. I was saddened to find out that Erica has left Boulder. But to anyone who’s aching to take an art history class, or head off to college, you can now find her chairing the American Studies Department at the University of Notre Dame. Those lucky Fighting Irish!


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