I’m a middle school art instructor who emphasizes art history as a launching point for learning to give cultural context to one’s art expression. This concept of art confronting its viewer is not new.
I think honest observation of the truths that are depicted in an artistic piece can likewise comfort the disturbed: witnessing this truth can be quite validating.
From the first day of my instruction, I have stressed that there will only be one rule: students may not be self critical or criticize other students in the class. I’ve been teaching my students the difference between critique and criticism. Denegration is harmful.
An emerging artist can instead do some self-inquiry and assessment in order to further explore an approach or to amend it: this process can be constructive and informative. A student might address questions such as “What appeals to me about this piece?” “Can I further explore this approach in an evolving series of pieces?” “What changes does this work lead me to make as I work on my next piece?”
I like to encourage developmental awareness and an illumination of one’s inner world as part of artistic expression. This likely comes from my background as an occupational therapist; likewise, it has its roots in art history. It certainly adds depth and an evocative sensibility to the work of my students.