Looking with our whole selves
Thursday is when pieces start to come together for the students. Their group cohesion is on full display during mealtime banter, lecture debrief and the bond they’ve formed with their mentor. On Thursday, we challenge students to practice their skills of thinking, seeing and feeling well. We take them off-site to an art museum and ,later, to a theater production.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” - 1 John
A main theme of today was seeing well. At Wheatstone, we encourage students toward doing and being a lot of things “well” — it’s a summative word that encompasses intention in seeking excellence. We desire excellence and intention for the students in prayer, appreciation of beauty, study of scripture, friendship cultivation and much more.
Seeing is much more than just looking. In preparation for today’s visit to LACMA, Peter David Gross gave students some points on how to see, think and feel art — yes, it’s possible to do all three for art. Peter explained that to see art well requires intention with time: be it 10 uninterrupted seconds or 40 minutes and asking the right questions of yourself and the art.
Even if art museums aren’t “your thing” we encourage students to try and try together!
How to see art
- What are the colors?
- Where are your eyes drawn?
- Simply observe: withhold interruption and interrogation of the piece
How to think art
- What context can the plaque near it give you?
- Does the piece engage in a debate?
- How was it made?
- What is it saying/not saying?
How to feel art
- Does the piece strike or shock me?
- Walk quickly past several pieces of art, but look at each with intention: what jumps out at you?
- What story does the piece tell: can you empathize?
“How are images shaping your souls? People only see what they expect to see because they are thinking with their eyes. - Peter David Gross
Students shared sitting in front of Rothko pieces for much longer then they thought, enjoying Lee Krasner’s Desert Moon and finding even a useful beauty in Albert Giacometti’s drastic statue Severed Leg. LACMA opened up opportunities to consider beauty in ways they might have thought inaccessible. Processing pieces as a group is also another way in which they digest the "visual sermons" paintings can tell.
After three hours at the museum, we took buses to Griffith Park — the second largest city park in California. Every summer, The Independent Shakespeare company puts on Free Shakespeare. This year we saw Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most famous works and involves a merry tale of mistaken love, the playful antics of fairies and the persistence of dreams.
Leader Mentor Keith Buhler and Peter David Gross gave students some thematic pointers on how to be a good audience for the play. Plays are interactive experiences: audiences react to what is being said on stage and actors are bolstered by the outbursts and reactions of the audience. Plays are also “in-between spaces.” The show is happening live, but the characters and events are not real. In Midsummer, characters drift in and out of sleep and the play is full of shadow and light imagery.
“Aye, would that my father would see with mine own eyes” - Hermia, Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s
During the play, our group loudly showed their support: guffawing at the jokes, booing the villains (or bad wooing), chuckling at the cultural references and cheering at the small and hilarious triumphs.
Pray for us as we go into our last full day with the students. Peace to you, may we learn to see ourselves as God sees us.
Picture credit: Leader Track, Ken Dong and Student Mentors