Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#artinquiry - week one - post two... three cheers!

I’m in the class! Happy day. With this MOOC there will be readings and videos, quizzes, discussion forums and a final project. We are advised to read first – then watch the videos… Our overall score will be comprised 25% each for our quiz and forum participation – and 50% for the project. We will peer review each other’s work.

Big Ideas For Week One:
·                 What are inquiry methods and object-based teaching?
·                 Why should we engage in inquiry around art?  

Week One Components:
·                 READINGS (see below) 
·                 INTRO VIDEO:  https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/lecture/27 
·                 LECTURE VIDEO: https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/lecture/13 
·                 DISCUSSION QUESTION: https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/forum/list?forum_id=10012
·                 QUIZ: https://class.coursera.org/artinquiry-001/quiz/start?quiz_id=29 

Required Reading: 
Required Discussion Forum Question:
Why are you interested in the topic of Art and Inquiry? You can give an example or anecdote from your classroom practice, anything that will give us a sense of what your current classroom experience is like and how you want to improve it. Don’t be shy—I want to hear any reservations about, and expectations for, taking this course and welcome any questions you might have about how this course might help you in your classroom.

Reading Notes
First reading: Laurel Schmidt (2004) Classroom Confidential: the 12 secrets of great teachers Portsmouth; Heinemann - Chapter 5: ‘Great teachers don’t take no (or yes) for an answer…’  upon Inquiry Based Teaching (https://d396qusza40orc.cloudfront.net/artinquiry%2Fsecret5.pdf)

Schmidt’s fundamental proposition is that we need to wake students up with the Socratic method and create gymnasiums for the mind:
  1. Ask initiating questions
  2. Respond with follow up questions
  3. Insert information at key points.

Ask initiating questions
So – if using this in my latest course – instead of telling students why the University or School wanted the course and explaining my reasons for designing it the way that I had, I could ask the students these things as questions. And prompt further responses… yes – and what else? What else… Not just to be contrary – but to demonstrate that there really is more than one right answer to the question.

Respond with follow up questions
Whether the response you get from the students is insightful, fuzzy or lazy – the best response is more questioning – and don’t panic! Better thinking covers the ground more slowly – but it is better covered! So – push, probe, ask for clarification… From a, ‘That’s interesting, can you tell me more?’ approach to ‘Your answer assumes …. Why have you taken that approach?’ ‘What would someone who believes … say?’ ‘When wouldn’t this approach hold true?’ ‘Can you explain your reasons to us?’ ‘Is there any reason to doubt that evidence/stance/approach/opinion?’ ‘Tell us more about how that would work?’

Insert information at key points
When, desperate to share your great knowledge, you feel the need to feed in information – try to do that in a way that also promotes further thought in your students – rather than a, ‘Okay, I’ve let you maunder about, here’s the right answer…’ We are advised to intrigue – offer a tidbit – and invite the students to explore further themselves… and help the students keep track of their learning – making an illustrated set of notes on the board [– or ask different students to do so].

If you’re wondering why go to all this trouble: surely it is quicker and simpler to just TELL them the answer – and by god they so just want you to leave them alone and tell them the answer! - Schmidt argues that we so under-challenge and under-stimulate our students that at best they are having a nap whilst with us and at worst some sort of angst fest is taking place in their minds as they wonder what torture we will inflict next. Thus, it is not only better to provoke interest and engagement – to stimulate thought; this mode eventually builds confident thinkers. The inquiry method shows students how to use their brains: developing the ability to find and evaluate information, solve problems and create new ideas. Training in the inquiry method allows students to develop sensitivity to the clarity and rigour of the arguments of others; arrive at judgements through their own reasoning; adopt a penetrating and rigorous approach to subjects from the arts to politics… and mirrors the way they will have to live in the world much more than any MCQ ever can. The chapter concludes with examples of how to teach using the questioning technique – and shares many useful questions for us to use in our own practice.

Smoking alert
A lovely analogy in this text is the smoker’s wait. Schmidt warns that most teachers cannot bear the pause that happens when students actually think about a question; in our panic we blurt out more variations on the same question – we start asking questions with answers in… we cause fear and reaffirm the suspicion that learning *is* about supplying teacher with the right answer. So, she says, lean against the board and visualise smoking. The slow proper, long in – slow out, smoking of a dedicated smoker who meditates as they inhale and exhale… This models that you have all the time in the world to wait for the answers to flow… and when they do, you will nod, note – and say, ‘And what else…?’

Second reading: The Shuh, John Hennigar. Teaching Yourself to Teach With Objects in The Educational Role of the Museum: Second Edition . New York: Routledge, 2001, pgs. 80-91.  article is very user-friendly and illustrates the power of  objects to initiate thought and inquiry. This piece concludes with 50 questions to ask when examining objects – and demonstrates beautifully the inquiry method’s potential for developing thought and voice.

Third reading: Creating Classrooms We Need: 8 Ways Into Inquiry Learning offers us Diana Laufenberg’s eight strategies that support inquiry:
  • Be flexible: relinquish some control – create space for students to follow their interests.
  • Foster inquiry by scaffolding curiosity: think of an approach – a question – a task – that is interesting – and that will seed curiosity.
  • Design an architecture for participation.
  • Teach students not subjects: show you care – and students will know it is safe to take risks in your space.
  • Provide opportunities for experiential learning.
  • Embrace failure: we must fail if we attempt – discuss the difference between praiseworthy and blameworthy failure. Have failure festivals celebrating great attempts…
  • Don’t be boring: even though students may react against your interesting style don’t be boring – and don’t let them be boring.
  • Foster joy as a condition for learning – see her TEDTalk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up4hFj-jcTY

Fourth – Thom Markham’s Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist? examines the viability of the inquiry method in a content driven system. His context is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of the USA – but is equally applicable to the National Curriculum of the UK. Markham argues that rather than being ‘entombed’ in ‘the truths of the past’ this ‘multi-polar world’ requires the development of a critical, flexible mindset and more of a ‘just in time’ approach to creativity and development. Markham strives to placate educational ‘measurers’ by emphasising that these more process-focussed qualities can be assessed we just lack a ‘performance rubric’. His six factors include:
  • Redefine rigour: an information age requires empathy and the ability to ‘move gracefully through a connected world’.
  • Blend critical thinking, social-emotional learning… he cites Prensky’s four E’s - Effective: Accomplishment, Action, Relationships and Thinking - emphasis on teamwork, persistence, mastery and rigour.
  • Make team work the norm not the exception.
  • Create a dynamic relationship between content and inquiry.
  • Relinquish some of our own control.
  • Teach inquiry skills: creativity, problem-solving, design- and critical thinking can all be taught … and measured (!).

The video bit – modelled the MOMA method with school teachers and for us watching. Key elements include that we learn to:
  • Observe – look – describe – focus…
  • Analyse – generating more and more subtle observations and developing own hypotheses and interpretations
  • Communicate – by articulating and listening
  • Engage in a Community – understand ourselves in relation to others
  • Have group conversations – share thoughts in welcoming, supportive, challenging atmosphere.

Discussion: So Why am I interested in the topic of Art and Inquiry?
I love the idea of IBL – and PBL and Project Based Learning. I see it as a way of harnessing the human animal’s genetic desire to learn, where so many educational practices seem designed to turn off that imperative.  I can see that the US education system is as caught up in transmission and measurement as the UK one, at the same time they both fail a high proportion of the students. Perhaps searching for a measurement rubric for IBL is therefore fundamentally misplaced. I would argue that all this measurement rubric yardstickery is what got us into difficulties with learning in the first place. Even before the digital age it could be argued that students would learn more and of a higher quality by doing, by projects and by experiential learning – than the majority can by rote learning. But these things were more costly to deliver – especially to hoi polloi who inherently were not worth it – or who could become dangerous if educated… so the argument was made that the more measurable should be taught. So rather than argue that these inquiry skills can also be measured and disappear down the route of working out how – let us argue that measurement itself is part of the problem – and embrace the depth and breadth that inquiry fosters? 

Monday, 29 July 2013

#artmooc2: Art and Inquiry: Inquiry, Project and Problem Based Learning

I was due to start a new MOOC today, my third this year: Art and Inquiry from MOMA (Museum of Modern Arthttps://www.coursera.org/course/artinquiry. This MOOC is designed to introduce us to Museum teaching strategies that we can use in our own classrooms.

When I went to log in to the class this morning there was a problem and I found myself staring at the recommended reading rather than watching an introductory video.Oh good grief. Forced out of my comfort zone or what? So – I actually did start to plough through the reading – and what a joy… Blogs and SlideShare on Inquiry and Problem and Project Based learning – spot on – totally engaging – and I am already so excited about re-shaping my teaching next (academic) year.

Here’s the Recommended Reading
Suggested readings include reviewing materials on the MoMA site: 
Other readings:
Inquiry Learning Vs. Standardized Content: Can They Coexist? 

Creating Classrooms We Need: 8 Ways Into Inquiry Learning

And so – Project Based Learning
Following the links led me to a great piece on IBL: ‘How to trigger students’ inquiry through projects’ http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/07/how-to-trigger-students-inquiry-through-projects/ . There are six steps to designing valid projects – I am instantly thinking about how to use this in my University teaching.

Step 1: Identify project-worthy concepts
Students relish being set real challenges that have meaning in their lives – for my Project I’m thinking about re-framing my whole course as a Project. As my module is entitled: Peer Mentoring in Practice (PMiP) – and is concerned with students grappling with the theory and practice of Peer Mentoring (PM) – that could be the Project:
What does successful Peer Mentoring and Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) look and feel like?
Sub-categories: for the mentee; for the mentor; for the institution; for…
Stepping stones: Explore PM/PAL theory – practice strategies and techniques with cohort of first year students – run interactive workshops passing on information to own peers – produce reflective/discursive essay.
Additional mile stones: Get involved with the student conference: Get Ahead; develop resources to support PM/PAL at our University.

Step 2: Explore the significance/relevance of the proposed project
Ask yourself why the projects that you are brainstorming would matter. Why should the students engage with those topics? Why and how might they benefit over time because they had engaged with those ideas and that material? How relevant is the topic to their lives – to the lives of others – to the world?
A reasonably easy justification can be found for PMiP as my students are educationalists – but most professions have some form of mentoring policy – and all have a CPD condition…

Step 3: Find real-life contexts for the topic
The advice here is that you hook your project to the real world of work and the professions – between 5-7 arenas – and that you consider inter-disciplinarity.
As my PMiP students are training to be educationalists there is an obvious benefit to their future professions – but if I were running the module in the Business School or for Life or Computer Science students – or Architecture students… I would have to find reasons for them to engage with the Project as well.

Step 4: Engage critical thinking
Here we are asked to wrestle with how we can engage our students in the project – and provoke investigation, analysis and synthesis rather than rote learning and comfort…

One tip that is hared on the accompanying SlideShare presentation (see below) is that we share our philosophy of teaching with our students – and require them to reflect and feedback upon it. This activity could help justify Project work per se – and a Project approach to PMiP.

Step 5: Write a Project Sketch
For all our Project ideas, we need to produce:
* An overview
* A relevant scenario to explore
* Meaningful activities  - and
* Clear learning possibilities.

Step 6: Plan the set up
We are advised to really think about:
* Project title
* Entry event
* Driving question…
Suggestions in the post include setting the scene with a mysterious letter, jarring news, a provocative video or an attention-grabbing event.
Last year a colleague initiated his ‘Becoming an Educationalist’ module with a post-apocalyptic scenario – student groups imagined themselves emerging from their nuclear bunkers and having to think about re-building the world. In that context – what education system would be needed – immediately, after five years, ten, fifteen? The entry event was designed to distanciate the taken-for-granted notions of what education is and who it is for – and to free up the students to discover their voices. Most importantly the activity was novel – so students were ALERT to the task – and it had emotional significance – so that they CARED about it.

For more on better Projects: SlideShare:
Suzie Boss & Mike Gwaltney (2013) Signposts to better projects at ISTE June 2013:

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Artmooc week 7: Don’t mention the critical appreciation – and last lessons for practice

This week was the last week of #artmooc: week 7. We thought that all we would have to do this week would be to peer review at least two other Collections; *if* we had produced a Collection of our own. You have to earn the right to peer review. And then – they threw a critical evaluation at us! We had to find a piece in a real gallery or online, research it – and write our own critique. Well there was a new challenge indeed – not least because I had booked a couple of days’ vacation – and away from the Internet – so I did not see how I could get this task done.

Anyway – I sat down with Wikipedia – and I got going…

# 12: You can use Wikipedia for research
So I chose a piece of sculpture that I loved – and Googled it – and there it and the artist were on Wikipedia… So I made notes – followed links – and made more notes. My trick is key word, pattern notes – not taking down whole chunks of information – but snatching points of interest. When I had one A4 side of paper complete with what I thought were good notes, I stopped… I did a quick free write upon my sculptor and his piece just to get some words down on the page – and to prime my brain for the real writing that was to come. Later that week, back in contact with the web, I sat with my notes and numbered the different points that I saw in there from 1-13… then opened my free write, ‘saved as’ version 2 – and I wrote in one go the first draft of my critique. I put together a draft ‘background’ and ‘influences’ part of my piece from my notes – following the order of my numbering. Then I wrote my critique of the sculpture itself. I re-read and tweaked - and because of the time scale - and the target audience - I stopped. If I had been doing this as a piece of University writing, I would not have stopped at one source – and definitely would not have brandished Wikipedia around like a flaming banner… But I thought that it was all okay for this piece and this time limit.

So – instead of shunning Wikipedia – perhaps we should set a timed writing exercise that allows the use of Wikipedia – so that people can experiment with notemaking – thinking – researching – writing… and then allow them to take away their drafts and improve with additional research?

Below is the piece that I wrote… and below that some last videos from Penn State upon art and creativity and metaphor – and that I will also use in my practice later on.

A critique of Richard Serra’s Fulcrum, Liverpool Street Station, London, UK
By Sandra Sinfield

Fulcrum 1987, 55-foot free standing sculpture of COR-TEN-Steel outside Liverpool Street Station, London, UK. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Serra accessed 08/07/13)

Serra is an American minimalist sculptor and video artist – and I am writing a brief critical consideration of his piece, Fulcrum, which is constructed from three nearly-60-foot pieces of COR-TEN-Steel learning against each other. COR-TEN-Steel is also known as mild steel – and it differs from Stainless steel in that it will oxidise and rust. This steel therefore will interact to some extent with the elements; it does not just impose on a space – but also interacts with it, changing slightly over time, as does the space itself.

Serra was born in1939, San Francisco. He had a Literature background and studied painting on an NFA programme at Yale, 1961-64, with Brice Morden, Chuck Close, Nancy Graves and Robert Mangold. He supported himself by working in the Steel Mills (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Serra). He studied under and was influenced by Philip Morton and Guston Feldman. In 1963 he wrote ‘Interaction of Colour’ with Albers. His early sculpture was in unconventional fibre glass and rubber and was abstract and process-based. He would also work in lead, creating pieces by hurling molten lead spheres at a wall.

Influences and Connections
Serra is part of the Process Art Movement the antecedents of which are ritual and ceremony (Ibid). Process Art is connected with Performance art, Installation Art and with Environmental Art. It is predicated on the principal of ‘intentionality’ – which is not about having control over intended outcomes, but upon the acceptance of the mind’s ability to create. Art is about the doing, about the journey and represents a pure form of human expression. Serra has cited as an influence William Basinski’s ‘Disintegrating loops’ and the notion of ‘being destroyed’ (Ibid)

Process Art can be seen in the acts of gathering, sorting, collating, associating and patterning – and in the initiation of actions and proceedings. Serra’s work has been compared to Dadaism and also to the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollack (Ibid). The performance of the artist in the production of the art work harnesses the body’s movement, initiates improvisation and celebrates the realisation of the random.  Serra is known as a pioneer of LARGE, site-specific sculptures/installations designed to challenge our perceptions of a space and of our own bodies as we move around the spaces he creates (Ibid).

From 1969 Serra experimented with cutting, propping and stacking lead and timber to create sculptures held in place by their own weight (Ibid) moving on to large steel sculptures in the 1970s. The elements of his minimalist COR-TEN-Steel structures are produced in Germany and installed by Budco Enterprises, a Long Island Rigging Company with whom he has maintained an extensive working relationship (Ibid).

Wikipedia cites as influential upon Serra’s work Marshall McLuhan’s (2005) Marshall McLuhan: Theoretical Elaboration Vol 2.; where McLuhan elaborates on the complex network of relationships between people and objects. It also cites the modernist novel, Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 which is said to concern itself with the ‘waste’ in language, focussing on the power that negative space has to determine outcomes (Ibid). In this light, Serra’s minimalist steel constructions could be said to expose the essence of a space or of our relationship to that space by eliminating all the non-essential elements of the piece. In its simplicity it could be said to embrace the Japanese aesthetic of Ma, negative space (Ibid).

I chose to write about Serra’s Fulcrum before I had researched the piece – basing my choice upon the fact that it is a public sculpture with which I have had a long term ‘relationship’ and which has moved me in very real ways over time.

Fulcrum is a piece of Installation or Performance Art placed just outside Liverpool Street Station, London, UK. It is not an ephemeral piece, as with the works of Christo and Jean-Claude, though it is magnificent in scale. Fulcrum is not transient – nor self-effacing. It will not disappear after some moments leaving only a memory in the minds of some – or access to photographic records to re-kindle the event and its pleasures… Fulcrum is huge and steel and permanent. It is imposing – and some might say brutalist. It could be accused of rendering ‘man’ insignificant and humble. It could be said to be paying homage to the train station it is contingent to – or ‘the city’ and finance – which is just a short walk up the road…

However, this is COR-TEN-Steel and it weathers with age. It rusts and mutates and changes. Perhaps if Fulcrum is making a comment then upon big travel and big finance, it is that all is mutable – all turns eventually to dust. It could be said to mock that which thinks itself so powerful – so in control of our world.

And whilst Fulcrum creates a huge cathedral like space, unlike a cathedral which imposes GOD and god’s will upon ‘man’ – this space allows anyone to walk in and around and under. You can lean inside against a wall and gaze up at a small patch of grey or blue sky and just dream for a moment – swept away as though in a wood or upon a mountain. Ironically, this vast piece echoes or recreates a Goldsworthy moment in the midst of the urban. It should not be possible that something this huge and brutal could do that – but it does. In this vast piece you can be for a moment Lost in the City – and connected with the air and the sky – perhaps with the rain. You can be in a very different mental and physical space to that created by monolithic architecture and monitored-access Malls. *This* space grants a moment’s reverie. This space welcomes everyone – and allows them to be – to connect with air and sky (if they choose) – and to be different.

You might hide in Fulcrum to have a solitary cigarette (there is no smoking allowed in doors anymore) and in this space you are not shunned – you are not a pariah – just a fallible human being – allowed to be. Some people complain that Fulcrum is used occasionally as a urinal… but even that is human – and perhaps offers some refuge and respite to a homeless person when no one and nothing else will. And the transgressive act will soon be cleansed by the rain – no permanent damage done – no terrible crime committed.

When I first spotted this enormous and strange piece outside the station I used to walk swiftly by – it was obviously ‘art’ and therefore not for the likes of me. Just being ‘art’ set up a wall – a ‘do not touch’ feeling… Over time, Fulcrum itself dispensed with all that – and enticed me in. Here it was in fair weather and foul – to be walked in and under and around – and it took my breath away. I felt privileged to be allowed to experience this wonderful, huge thing. This sculpture. This art. And the more I could ‘take it for granted’ – the more it drew me in and gave me space to be. I truly love this piece. It is huge and brutal – but it is welcoming and human somehow. It imposes – and it welcomes. It stands guard – but it embraces. I love that we the people are accredited the wit and wisdom to appreciate and inhabit such a wonderful sculpture. I cannot imagine that these cruel, neo-liberal times would ever again take a risk of producing this and letting it loose amongst the public; I am so glad that Fulcrum exists – and that I got to inhabit, experience and be within it.

(Word count circa 1330 - sadly – only source is Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Serra - accessed 08/07/13.)

Finally Penn State offered us some good bye videos and I’ve put the links to them here for they are thought-provoking – and this way I can use them in my practice later on:

Liking mistakes:
Personal reflection by potter/tutor and the human element of art – and of teaching…

Drawing as thinking
I especially love the first example where he persuades people that they can risk drawing, by drawing with his foot! That’s one up from ‘blind drawing’ – will try that next time!

How do you grade art?
Objectivity and subjectivity in art… The four Cs – craft: how it’s made, technical virtuosity – but more than that…– creativity – the idea behind it – for example Duchamp’s found objects – remember the horror at the fountain/urinal… content – composition… and the more we know, the more we will see.

Throwing a snowman – metaphors in art
Creating metaphors to engage children in pottery – but that did bring the pottery alive… Everything an artist makes is a metaphor: something that references something else; which can be brought alive when we ‘notice what we notice’.

Can you teach creativity?
Thinks that you can teach creativity – especially if we let go of the concern of coming up with the wrong answer!

What is art?
Collection of Faculty giving their quick fire answers to the question…Magic – coming to know different things – and knowing them differently…

Advice for the young artist
Think about what frightens you the most – then do that… Embrace failure again and again and again…

I have really enjoyed this MOOC - and I've enjoyed reflecting on this MOOC and blogging about my experiences. I hope that any readers out there have enjoyed this as well - and I'd love to hear your art and/or your MOOC experiences...

Saturday, 6 July 2013

#artmooc week 6: Cabinets of curiosities - lessons for practice

This week we had to produce our own 'Cabinets of Curiosities' - either evoking the early collectors and museums that sought to inspire awe - or the later collectors  like Cornell, Warhol, Dion, that were more iconoclastic and rebellious in their Collecting - and in their curating. In the process we were also exploring the nature and pleasures inherent in collecting - and that was supposed to emerge in our reflective critical commentary.
#11: Set a Cabinet of Curiosities exercise for your students
As Cabinets have the potential to tell so many stories - set exactly this task for your own students. Get them to design and make their own Cabinets - may be just in a match box or an old CD case - it does not have to have a large scale to be effective. This task could be set in the first week of a long course - with students presenting and discussing their Cabinets in the second week. This would then act as an extended ice breaker, as an exercise in creativity - and as practice in critical and reflective thinking.
Here are some pictures of my 'Cabinet' - plus my critical reflection:

1.  Explain your process (medium and technique).  How was it made?  Which art materials and approached did you use and why?
This Cabinet could be said to have been influenced by all the (20th and C21st collectors that we studied: Cornell, Warhol and Dion. I built this Cabinet in what we call the ‘front room’ in the UK (other names have been the parlour, the receiving room, the reception room) – basically it is the main room of the home - the 'status' room. I wanted to create a Cabinet that reflected my love of the seaside – and that also challenged traditional notions of what is appropriate decoration for such a room; and what it is appropriate to collect, cherish and display.
The 'cabinet' itself is not made from oak or mahogany or even of proper pine - it is literally 'bodged' - made from wood still wet, that then dried and changed shape in the drying. In the process, gaps appeared between planks - and nothing is 'perfect'. Thus the Cabinet itself is a small social commentary - refuting refined woods and artistic carpentry - and celebrating the rustic and homespun. It is definitely not the sort of Cabinet or display case that you would expect to find in this sort of room - nor is it the sort of case that would normally be used to display your most cherished possessions. 
Typically the front room is a formal room with formal decorations: it can be the ‘statement’ room of the house that tells people who you are and what you value. In a capitalist, wealth-obsessed society, it can be the space where you display your wealth though the objects you collect and display. It is where you tell people about your status – and your ‘taste’. We divide ourselves one from another by wealth, status and taste… Ornaments can be purchased to decorate this room – and are usually expensive. Similarly art work may be displayed in such a room and as with the art work in a gallery or a museum – it is also formal and produced by named artists – or could be copies of works by named artists. 
Cornell, Warhol and Dion wanted to challenge the formality of museums, the taxonomy and classification systems themselves, all the rigidity inherent in galleries and in curation. They wanted to challenge what is considered worth displaying – and how it is displayed. In the process of creating their Cabinets they produced their own art works that were interesting, curious or beautiful in and of themselves – but that also challenged the status quo of curation – and even of society and its values. In just this way I wanted to create my own Cabinet - I wanted it to evoke the beauty of the seaside - but also to comment on taste/wealth/society. I created my representations of the seaside by placing found objects from the seaside itself – rocks, shells and crab shells – alongside ‘cheap’ art or mass produced art – or art made by family and friends, or given by family and friends… and challenge what is acceptable to display in a formal front room – and what ‘good taste’ is. 
2.  Describe the idea behind your artwork.  What story or message does it get across?  What does it mean to you?
The simplest idea behind my art work is that is an evocation of the natural world – especially that found by the sea – with an emphasis on the UK shoreline. It is designed to evoke the sense of a place that I find beautiful – the Kent coast - and many of the shells and stones displayed there are from that coast. Having a watercolour of a forest in one of the layers of my cabinet also evokes the Norfolk coast that I used to visit with my friends so many years ago. In that part of Norfolk the trees go right to the edge of the sand dunes near the sea – and also the friend that I used to visit there is the friend who bought me that watercolour as a present. 
I have placed skulls amongst the seashells for I find these beautiful – but I also like the juxtaposition of life, the sea, and death, the skulls themselves; that is the fate of us all. 
The boat, the pictures, and various items there were given to me by family and friends as they know my love of the seaside. The items tend to be not expensive, perhaps mass produced – but beautiful for all that; beautiful also for the love with which they were purchased and given to me. 
3.  Why did you create it?  What are your reasons for creating that specific art piece?  What do you want your audience to feel and think while observing it?  
I created this piece to remind me of the seaside and the people that I love. I also wanted it to be iconoclastic: to disrupt notions of what is acceptable and unacceptable art work in the formal room of a house. I wanted this to challenge notions of good taste – and of buying social status and approval by the art and ornamentation that you purchase and display. But I wanted this also to intrigue – I want people to stand and stare and to think. I want them to remember what they like about being at the sea. I want people to go away and re-discover their child selves; to collect shells and stones – and display them themselves in their own homes. Whilst there is an element of confrontation in the piece – my main hope is that it inspires joy…