Brian Dickerson: Constructed Paintings and Drawings

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1 January 28 April 21, 2012 University of Wyoming Art Museum 2012 Educational Packet for K-12 Teachers Purpose of this Packet: To provide K-12 teachers with background information on the exhibition and age appropriate suggestions for exploring the concepts, meanings, and artistic intent of artwork before, during, and after the museum visit. Curricular Unit Topic: Teachers and students examine the ideas, styles and techniques of Philadelphia artist Brian Dickerson, whose constructed paintings and small drawings are on exhibit at the Art Musuem. The focus of this educational packet and curricular unit is to observe, question, explore, create and reflect. Observe: Students will observe the artwork of Brian Dickerson. They will look closely at his paintings and drawings, exploring the ideas and themes presented and the formal qualities of the work: the colors used; the shapes of the paintings; the subject matter; style and techniques. Question: Students will have an opportunity to read, write, sketch, listen to teachers and museum educators, and then come up with questions about the artwork and the artist who created it. Students will question the materials and techniques used and their own responses to the art on display in the exhibition. Explore: Students will explore the artist s background and how that has contributed to his artwork. They will be encouraged to research vocabulary words and other related aspects of the exhibit. Create: Students will be given time to practice sketching and drawing, and may create their own constructed paintings or drawings, either in the Shelton Studio or in their school art room. Reflect: Students will evaluate their final art products with other students, teachers, and museum educators. They will receive feedback on the art work and the concepts behind it. After this process, they may write an essay about their art, the artist, or their museum experience. Brian Dickerson (American, b. 1951), Autumn s End II, 2011, oil, wax, mixed media on wood, 42 x 21 x 9 inches, courtesy of the artist

2 University of Wyoming Art Museum 2012 Introduction: During this visit students will view Brian Dickerson: Constructed Paintings and Drawings. [The artist] explores remembered landscapes in his iconic three-dimensional paintings on wood. Heavily layered and reworked surfaces in Dickerson s constructions reveal a deeply felt process of exploration. Each work contains hidden forms and apertures suggesting almost inaccessible mystery. Seen as objects, these paintings redefine our notions of sacred space and provide an opportunity for contemplation. Using mixed media and wood construction, these sculptural paintings achieve what one art critic referred to as spiritual resonance. Dickerson grew up in the Schoharie Valley, located in the Helderberg Mountain region of upstate New York. Following a high school visit to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts he moved to Philadelphia where he is now a professor at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and Philadelphia University. Numerous galleries and museums have exhibited his work, including Kouros Gallery, New York, NY; Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia; Butler Institute of American Art; National Academy of Design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 2010 he was awarded a Franz and Virginia Bader Fund Grant and received a Ballinglen Foundation Fellowship in 2008 to travel to Ballycastle, County Mayo, Ireland in 2009, 2010 and Artist s Biography ( History: Long before he began making abstract threedimensional paintings Dickerson painted landscapes. These works, he says, were dark nocturnal landscapes of the Helderberg region painted in a traditional format of foreground, middle ground, and background. However, in the early 1990 s, influenced by artists like Michael Heizer, whose land art piece Double Negative consists of two enormous trenches cut into the edge of the Mormon Mesa in the Nevada desert northeast of Las Vegas, Dickerson began to shift in a new direction. I was particularly drawn to the concept of imagined space, he explains. Most people experience works like Double Negative not through actually being in their presence, but through photographs, and therefore have to enter them through their imagination. Dickerson was also drawn to the sculptures of Richard Serra, which allow viewers to step into its interior and physically enter the work. At the same time, Dickerson was continuing to think about the landscape of his childhood near the Helderberg and of his experience at age fourteen of witnessing the excavation of an Owasco Indian settlement site in the area. I remember very vividly peering into the pits and other excavated areas, the colored layers of soil, and various artifacts, including the remains of a dog that was buried, Dickerson says. This made a big impression on me. I identified with the process of archaeology, particularly the layers involved, of removing layers that were earlier deposited, the role of intuition, burial, the past, what is known and unknown. It was at this time that Dickerson began bringing abstract art elements from sculpture and painting together in one new form the three-dimensional works that became his Helderberg and Settlement Paintings in the 2000s. Done primarily on wood and measuring no more than two to five feet, these constructed paintings evoke landscapes through their earthy palettes, weathered textures, and architectural elements, while their forms remain geometric and abstract. Each extend out from the wall by several inches and contain small three-dimensional apertures, which Dickerson explains, allows the viewer to enter the painting, but also by its size, limits the ability to do so physically. The viewer is left to enter through their own imagination, memory, or experience. Brian Dickerson (American, b. 1951), Vroman, 2011, oil, wax, mixed media on wood, 47 x 40 x 4 inches, courtesy of the artist From the catalog: Brian Dickerson Constructed Paintings Eve Bowen essay KOUROS Gallery, 2011

3 University of Wyoming Art Museum 2012 Artist Statement: Once the construction of the work is complete, I might study it for a period of several days, weeks, or months I sometimes have a preconceived notion of what the finished work will be but it usually ends up going in a different direction I begin to build up layers and textures. Inevitably things don t go as planned and I ll scrape the underlying paint layers away. Sometimes I use paint scrapers, but at other times I end up using a heat gun or sander As the work progresses the initial shapes and forms begin to change visually because of the addition of color. I also tend to reconsider some of the shapes I first started with [I may saw] through different pieces, taking apart certain sections and reassembling others. - Brian Dickerson in a 2005 interview with Judith Perry From the catalog: Brian Dickerson Constructed Paintings Eve Bowen essay KOUROS Gallery, 2011 Lesson Overview: Students will learn about the work of Brian Dickerson, considering the formal qualities and ongoing themes of his work, including memories, history, archaeology, nature and more. They will explore the ways he uses a variety of tools to construct paintings, and discuss why he takes away materials that he initially adds. They will observe his small drawings and consider how they are like or not like the constructed paintings. In the Shelton Studio students will have the opportunity to complete a constructed painting or a drawing that incorporates texture, contrasting layers, and form. While inspired by or responding to any one of the paintings or drawings in the gallery, each student will try, in his or her own way, to create something new. Techniques used to produce a painting or drawing will be borrowed, but not the ideas or subject matter each student brings to the project. Students and teachers may research and engage in conversations about memory, personal history, place, archaeology and more before arriving at the art museum. While here they will spend time in the galleries closely observing the work, discussing it, writing about it, and sketching it. They will begin conversations about the ideas behind the work which will lay the groundwork for future opportunities to pursue these ideas in their home classrooms and schools. Essential Questions: Grades K-6 What is art? What is modern art? What does it mean when we talk about original art work? What is a theme? What does constructed mean? Brian Dickerson (American, b. 1951), The Gypsy and the Troll, , oil, wax, mixed media on wood, 66 x 44 x 10 inches, courtesy of the artist Grades 6-12 What do we mean by style when we speak of art? How would you describe Brian Dickerson s style? Why does he construct his paintings out of wood? What are the ideas that seem to influence him most?

4 Art Questions to Consider: Grades K-6 What do you see? Describe the types of marks the artist has made. What shapes and forms do you see? What colors do you see? What is the subject of the paintings and drawings? How are these paintings and drawings the same. How are they different? Grades 6-12 University of Wyoming Art Museum 2012 What techniques are used in the paintings and drawings? How would you use the same techniques to make something new in art? How is a constructed painting similar to and different from sculpture? Brian Dickerson (American, b. 1951), Roseboom, 2011, oil, wax, mixed media on canvas and wood, 71 x 32 x 6 1/2 inches, courtesy of the artist Pre-visit Activities: In order to prepare students for their museum visit and extend learning possibilities, we suggest that teachers and students consider the following activities. Students read and research about Brian Dickerson on the web. Students research any of the artists Dickerson says have been an influence on his work. (Ad Reinhardt, Richard Serra, Michael Heizer). Students explore different artists techniques in creating their works. Prerequisite Skills/ Knowledge: Museum staff will work with teachers to ensure that all projects are age and skills appropriate. At the very minimum: Students should have some familiarity with sketching and drawing objects. Students should be able to identify shapes and colors. Students should be familiar with the concepts behind modernism. Students explore how memory, history and archeology can influence how we think about and remember places and peoples.

5 Museum Activities: Part 1 Time frame: 45 minutes University of Wyoming Art Museum 2012 Students closely observe the works of Brian Dickerson. Students identify lines, shapes, forms, patterns, repetition, color, light and shadow, techniques and styles in the artwork. Students discuss what they see with museum educators. Students explore the artist s work within the context of creating something new that looks old. Students explore the concepts behind the art work in the exhibit. Using worksheets, students respond in writing or drawing to the work they see by recording their observations and thoughts, writing short essays, or creating poetry inspired by the artwork. Students answer questions on a museum worksheet. Students engage in discussions about their observations with one another and with the teachers. Part 2 Time frame: 45 minutes 60 minutes (in the Shelton Studio) The following projects may be considered individually, or combined, or museum staff will work with teachers to develop specific projects which support ongoing classroom work. Students explore inventive ways to use materials by creating their own constructed painting, using wood, glue, paint. Students write about a memory that has a strong personal meaning and how they might interpret that in their art. Post Visit Activities: We have found that students achieve maximum benefit from a museum visit when time is scheduled for post-visit activities. Here are some suggestions: Students discuss or write about their museum experiences, reviewing what they learned, what has special meaning for them, how they will use new information and skills. Students continue to research the works of the artist, his ideas and influences (an essay, art work, research paper). Students explore their personal history and memories. They investigate the field of archaeology and what can be learned by studying previous peoples and times. Students create their own drawings and paintings to explore new ideas.

6 University of Wyoming Art Museum 2012 Suggested use in the curriculum: The study of Brian Dickerson s artwork ties to multiple curricular areas including art, history, social studies, writing, reading, math, geography, and philosophy. Museum staff will work with teachers to address specific Wyoming Teaching Standards and to align museum projects and studies with ongoing classroom curricular units. Some recommended resources: These are just a few of the many resources available. We welcome other suggestions that teachers and students find helpful which can be added to this list. UW Art Museum website: Exhibition descriptive materials (contact the museum education program for more information) Brian Dickerson s website: Materials to be supplied: The Art Museum provides selected materials for Shelton Studio projects. Assessment and Documentation of Museum Tour and Studio Experiences: In order to ensure that our museum tour program is meeting the needs of teachers and students, we ask participants to complete evaluation surveys. Surveys may be distributed to teachers and students, but they may also be requested via 1. Students will self-assess using a quick survey that asks them to consider their response to the gallery discussions and research, and their studio experience. 2. Teachers will assess the overall visit by completing a quick survey that asks for their observation and assessment of students experiences, as well as assessment of the overall process of the museum visit. 3. Museum staff and artists/teachers will record their observations and assessments. 4. When studio time permits, we will ask students to briefly discuss their art work completed in the Shelton Studio visit. 5. Museum staff may take photographs of students and teachers to document the learning taking place and the work produced during a museum visit. These are available upon written request to teachers who would like to use them as art of teaching and student portfolios.

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