SchoolArts Magazine

MAY-JUN 2007

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Visua l C ul ture Body Piercing… IsitanArtForm? Ken Vieth American teenager with plug and piercings. Masai with elongated ear (Tanzania). B odyadornmentanddecorationhavelongbeenapart ofhumanhistory.Cultures aroundtheworldhave foundwaystoaddelementstothe humanformtoenhancebeauty.Ina traditionalway,preciousandsemipreciousmetalsandstonesareused tocreatewearablejewelry.Other examplesincludetattooing(colored inksappliedbelowtheskinsurface) andhenna(decorativedyeapplied totheskin).Allembellishmentssay somethingaboutthecultureofthe peopleparticipatingintheexperience. RecentlyIhavenoticedan increaseinbodypiercingandtattooing.Ifindmyself,asanartist/ teacher,asking"Isthereanaesthetic elementImightbemissing?"Somehowwecanacceptstudentsofany agegettingtheirearspierced.On thecontrary,whenourteenagergets hisorhertonguepierced,wemight behorrified.Attimeswhenwesee multiplepiercingsinaperson's head,wemightbealarmed,atleast atfirstglance. APersonalExperience Iwasinalargeartsandcraftsstore thatwasbrightwithfluorescent light.Alargemetaldisplayunit wasbeingassembledbyayoung maninthemiddleofthestore.As Iapproached,hestoodupbehind thedisplay.ForonebriefsecondI couldnotvisuallyunderstandwhere 10 SchoolArts May/June2007 • Howdowediscusstheintegrahebeganandthe tionanduseofmaterials? metalshelving • Someseethehumanbodyasa ended. canvasonwhichtoaffectperNowthis sonalchange.Dowereadthisas couldhavebeen anartisticindividualexpression aresultofthe oranartform? blindingfluorescentlighting,but I'mnotsure.Hisnosewaspierced, SubjectiveAesthetics hislowerlippiercedtwice,andhis Intoday'sartworldaestheticsplays tonguedisplayedtwobarscapped animportantpartofwhatdefines withroundballsateachend.Each art.Whatoffersusatrulyaesthetic earhadalargemetalringstretching experience?Whodecides?Somehow theearlobes.Thetopsofhisears theparticipantsmakethedecision hadadditionalpostsaswell,andhe ofwhatisaestheticallyattractiveor hadanotherattheendofoneofhis notforthemselves.Thissubjective eyebrows.Hehadtenpiercings,just realityleadstheobservertomake inhishead. thesameevaluativedecisionfor Icouldn'tresist themselvesaswell. All embellishments say Attimes,asart askingifthelarge stretchedearpiercsomething about the teachers,wecanfeel ingswerepainful. quitesafeaswedisculture of the people Hesaidthatthey cusswhatweseein participating in the wereactuallynot termsoftheelements experience. painful.Heshared andprinciplesof thathefeltthere design.Yetweknow wereaestheticqualitiesconnected thattherearethingsthatspeakto withthisformofexpressionandhe thehumanspiritandwecanreflect trulysawbodypiercingasanart andgivealittlespacetoareaswhere form. wearenotreallysure.Thiscan moveusintoplacesoutsideour comfortzonewhichcancreatenew Reflection growth.WecanquestionourpreconAsanobserverofbodypiercing,one ceivedideasabouttheworldofart canbeattractedbytheactofsheer aswecontinuetogrowasartistsand voyeurism.Somehow,wewantto teachers.Intheend,isbodypiercing gawkand,attimes,becompletely anartisticexpressionoranartform? repulsedifwethinkthepersonhas Itisuptoyoutodecide. goneovertheline.Formethisexperiencecreatedquestions: Ken Vieth is the author of FromOrdinary • WhereorhowdoesbodyadorntoExtraordinary and EngagingtheAdolesmentand/ordecorationbecome centMind, and co-author of TheVisual viewedasartform? Experience (all published by Davis Publi• Whatisthesignificanceofculcations, Inc.), and is a contributing editor for SchoolArts. kvieth@crusoe.net turalexpressionanddiversity throughbodyadornment? • Intermsofteaching,wouldwe addresssymmetricalandasymmetricalbalance?

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