Oil on canvas, 8″ x11″
I gaze for long periods of time at the Colorado Department of Education Visual Art Standard templates, because I work in art teacher licensure. At the time of this artwork, the K-12 grade art standards had 92 distinct, template pages, with 2,208 bullet points. Benign Intervention includes 9 paintings based on this template. Each painting represents the grades I taught: Kindergarten to 8th.
As an artist and teacher, I do not love 92 pages of any kind of template, but it made me think about all the unloved tabulations from the frenzied world of standardization and assessment. Ironically, even though I hate them, I spend so much of my time gazing at these grids and caring about their meaning. It is not a gaze of love, but it resembles a gaze of love.
I guess that Jasper Johns had a similar relationship with the American flag. Critic Robert Rosenblum, called Johns’ flag paintings a beloved handmade transcription of unloved machine-made images. I borrow this definition to explain my response to the Colorado Department of Education’s Visual Art Standard’s template. I think about how the intimacy of a child’s art making process is translated as performance tasks and mastery skills. A hand painted replication of the tabulation of creativity is my best response to that paradox for now.
These paintings were displayed for a year in a tight grid in the foyer at the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. When the School of Education’s Assistant Dean departed from MSU that year, he asked me if he could break up the set and give individual paintings to his colleagues at the Colorado Department of Education. I said yes. I like to think that some of them are hanging on the walls of the CDE.