Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Drawing (gothic) acts: A dynamic aesthetic serving the adolescent's search for meaningful expression
by Wilson, Aileen Elizabeth, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2012, 291; 3512529
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the aesthetic drawing interests of a group of 11- to 13-year-old adolescents attending Drawn to Stories, a Saturday program in a Brooklyn Art School. Central to this study are the ways in which a gothic aesthetic and violent content seen in the narratives, themes and motifs of the adolescent's drawings support meaningful expression. Literature points to a gothic sensibility in contemporary art and culture, indicates violent, grotesque and macabre imagery in adolescent art and writing and argues for the significance of drawing context in how meaning is created. In a qualitative case study, data were collected across the contexts of a Saturday program, home and school for a year. Analysis of the data reveals that a gothic aesthetic and violent content in adolescent drawing centers on a challenging set of concerns: death, decay, evil and the macabre with the violence quite literally embodied, depicted in drawings centered on the body. Further analysis of the data reveals that the accessibility of a gothic aesthetic in the culture supports the adolescent's philosophical inquiry into the materiality of the body and the boundaries and limits of the body and the mind. The drawings collected for the study were produced in the interstices of space between school, home and the Saturday Art School reflecting a range of resources and drawing processes and calling upon the interpretative support of subjects' families and peers.

The implications of the findings challenge the meaningfulness of assessment in the arts as adolescents create a distinct community of practice producing drawings that borrow and appropriate imagery from the entire cultural lexicon with no concern for authorship, distinctions of genre or academic processes or skills. The excesses of the imagination are celebrated as subjects draw collaboratively with others. The significance for education of the complex sensibilities evident in these adolescents' drawings, and others like them, lies in how to respond to this discomforting subject matter. At a time of budgetary cuts in education particularly in the arts, the findings challenge the education field to consider adolescents' artistic and philosophical inquiry into issues such as death, evil and violence as fundamental to both the role and value of the arts.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burton, Judith M.
Commitee: Brassard, Marla, Hubard, Olga, Laverty, Megan
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Arts and Humanities
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art education
Keywords: Adolescents, Drawing, Meaningful expression
Publication Number: 3512529
ISBN: 978-1-267-41623-0
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