Looking & Learning Looking Beyond
Discuss the work of Ramírez, Castle, and other
visionary artists with your students. Ask them
to consider how each visionary artist has created a uniquely individual, personal style of
work. Discuss how these artists have become
well-known despite a lack of training or traditionally developed skills. What might this tell
us about the nature of art and art-making? Ask
them to describe how visionary artists might
help us look at the world in new or different
ways. Ask students to think about how we
might take inspiration from the work and ideas
of visionary artists without exploiting or copying their work. Explain that while it is impossible to reproduce their experiences, we can find
ways to change the way we see the world.
Martín Ramírez: ww.folkartmuseum.org/ramirez
James Castle: www.jamescastle.com
American Visionary Art Museum: www.avam.org
Ask your students to imagine that like James Castle, they cannot
hear, speak, or write. Ask them to create an assemblage or collage
that features one of their favorite parts of their daily life, such as their
home, a room, people, animals, clothes, or objects. Remind them that
their artwork should include as much information as possible. When
they are complete, ask each student to present their work to the class
without speaking. Each presenter should listen silently as the rest of
the class discusses the work and tries to guess what it is about.
Inform your students that while it is nearly impossible to intentionally create a visionary or “outsider” artwork, there is much we can
learn by examining it. Visionary artists often inspire new ideas and
possibilities in the work of others. Ask your students to create a work
of art that breaks at least three of the rules from the list they created
in response to the work of Ramírez and Castle. Allow them to choose
from a variety of materials to complete the project, as long as they use
at least some of them “incorrectly.” When the pieces are complete,
ask students to reflect on what they have learned about their art by
breaking rules on purpose.
Place three containers at the front of the room labeled “Media,” “
Subject,” and “Materials.” In the “Media” container, place slips of paper
with a form of media written on each, such as collage, sculpture,
painting, drawing, fashion design, or any other category appropriate
for your students. In the “Subject” container, ask students to place
slips of paper with a wide variety of potential subjects (politics, historical figures, animals, memory, etc.). In the “Materials” container,
include a wide variety of traditional and unusual materials (wood,
paint, cardboard, food, rocks, etc.).
Inform students that they will select one slip of paper from each
container and create a piece based on these selections. For example,
they might create a collage about politics with rocks. They can
choose additional materials, but their original selection must be a
significant element in the work. They should begin working immediately and may not share their selections with anyone until the artwork is complete.
When the works are completed, have a class discussion and critique. Do the pieces communicate something? Can the viewer
identify the artist’s selections? Did the artist’s individual style and
sensibility come through despite the unusual process? What have
they learned about themselves and others by working this way?
Written by Karl Cole, curator of images at Davis Publications; and Robb
Sandagata, digital and interactive media coordinator at Davis Publications;
with consulting editor, Dr. Marilyn Stewart, professor of art education at
Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.