This past weekend, I took a trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to see the “Picasso to Warhol” exhibit. This exhibit explored the various art movements within the twentieth century through works by some of its most notable artists.
I love modern, twentieth-century art. As someone who is passionate about the arts, but does not have any formal education in the subject matter, I find it difficult to put into words why I love modern art compared to its more traditional counterparts. For instance, the image below on the right is Miro’s Dutch Interior (1), which is Miro’s interpretation of the image on the left, Hendrik Sohr’s The Lute Player. I find Miro’s version to be much more inspiring, but why? While at the exhibit, I read various artists’ interpretations of their own transition to modernism, and it helped put things in perspective for me.
Biographers noted that Miro “looked inward to invent an abstract language.” Piet Mondrian, most known for his bare-boned grid paintings, shared that his move towards complete abstraction was motivated by the belief in a “universal vision.” Mondrian also said, “I wish to approach truth as closely as is possible, and therefore I abstract everything until I arrive at the fundamental quality of objects.” In reference to Jasper John’s paintings of everyday icons such as maps and numbers, he forces the viewer to see in new ways “things the mind already knows.”
It became clear to me that the more abstract an image is, the more I can focus on its essence. I will not become distracted by the details of the content, but instead see the the overall beauty of the shapes and colors. Taking the focus away from technical accuracy, modern movements bring to focus the main reason why I choose to look at art in the first place - the emotional experience attached to looking at something familiar in new light. This same thought explains why I value program assessment. Program assessment, when done right, should allow faculty to look at their students’ course work – the same course work they grade in class - in a new light.
The relationship between modern art and more traditional forms of art is a great metaphor to explain the relationship between program assessment and course assessment. Program assessment (or modern art) is a more abstract form of course assessment (or traditional art). Program assessment should evoke the essential features of student work - the technique, the process, and the level of creativity and maturity – in order to measure how well the program is meeting its standards. On the other hand, course assessment details every element of an assignment (scale, color, spatial awareness, supporting documentation, installation, etc.) in order to provide student’s with specific feedback for improvement. Neither type of assessment is better than the other. Both are equally important 1) because they provide information for different audiences and 2) because they are dependent upon each other. Just as Miro’s expression of form in The Dutch Interior is dependent on the content in Sohr’s The Lute Player, so are the overarching themes of program assessment inextricably linked to the multiple elements of a course assessment.
Categories : discussion point