Class 3: Questions

After a long break between classes, the Teen Docent Program welcomed four new students this week. To get to know each other, the students answered the question, “If you could go on an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Yasmin didn’t hesitate before saying “Florence!” Danielle would love to visit Japan, Stephanie’s heard that Paris is beautiful and Vivian and Ana would both really like to see California. Perhaps the most surprising answer was Melissa’s–Calgary, Canada.

After some independent investigation in the galleries, the students spent time looking at Sabrina Gschwandtner’s Camouflage. They each wrote down two questions about the piece on an index card. Nicole, the instructor, chose three of the questions to discuss as a group:

  1. Why did she choose this specific design?
  2. Why did she use these colors?
  3. Why did she decide to use film as her material?

The group discussion sparked by these three questions lasted nearly half an hour. The students noticed the upward motion created by the patterns in the work, as well as the way the two dark upper corners seem to halt that motion. They had a spirited debate about the possibilities for self-expression and audience-connection inherent in fabric versus film. Some of the students called on the background reading they did on Gschwandtner and her activism to inform the conversation.

The discussion then moved across the Museum to Luke Haynes’s (Iconography #7) Rags to Riches. The prevailing question on everyone’s minds was: Why did the artist combine Jay-Z and Kanye West’s faces? The students were able to draw on their pop culture knowledge to discuss why Haynes selected these two particular icons for his quilt, and on their powers of observation and art historical knowledge to discuss why he chose the colors and format that he did. They listed other potential pairings–Biggie and Tupac, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood–and realized they had to choose icons with different face-shapes to make the idea of overlapping work.

Lastly, the students discussed the annotations they’d done of the exhibition’s wall text. One of the points that stood out to them was the idea that “art doesn’t necessarily speak in words but still screams to be heard.” They also were interested in the idea of a new “fluidity with the vernacular” in art.

It was a busy day!

Class 2: alt_quilts Walk-Through

The entire second class of this year’s Teen Docent Program was devoted to the exhibition alt_quilts, which showcases the work of three contemporary artists–Stephen Sollins, Luke Haynes and Sabrina Gschwandtner–alongside the kinds of traditional quilts from the museum’s collection that inspired them.




Students were particularly interested in Sabrina Gschwandtner’s use of 16mm film to create works like Camouflage. The material had a different meaning for these students–who are familiar with film only as what tourists use in their disposable cameras–than it does for older museum visitors for whom digital technology is still new, rather than what they’ve always known.

The students’ observations and the depth of their insights into each individual artwork, as well as the relationships between them, speaks well for the many conversation to come throughout the year.