Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why I Don't Have a Fine Arts Degree

The war was still on, full force, with bombing and napalm and mayhem in Southeast Asia, and confusion amongst the students at home. Ohio University in Athens is my alma mater and for four years, beginning in 1970, I learned a lot about many lessons at and around that campus that sprawled along the Hocking River in those beautiful Southeast Ohio hills.

The early Seventies was a period of contradictions and "mixed up confusion." The Sixties ended with a man walking on the moon while events like Kent State, illegal bombings in Cambodia and My Lai were in the news. Whether it was public education, the times we lived in or simply the air we breathed, "Question Authority" was part of the attitude with which we learned to approach everything. Skepticism about the motives of our leaders, skepticism about our past, skepticism about our values... We were products of the Sixties.

One notion that took hold in me was the incorrect belief that the past had no relevance for what we were living through in the present.

Kate Ellis opens her essay "Parallel Lives: Are We Closer to the Past Than We Think?" with this statement: "Many people today consider the past to be an irrelevance. To a large proportion of the population history is something confined to theme parks, costume drama, museums and what is known now as the heritage industry." Where did this idea come from that the past has no relevance for us today?

Actually, I don't have time to explore that question. Of real interest to me here is that I bought into it. I accepted it wholeheartedly. And as I signed up for art classes at Siegfried Hall, the only art history that interested me was the one class on Modern Art. I had no use for the other art history classes, I believed. Except to graduate with a fine arts degree you had to have two, not one, art history classes. Despite my 90 credit hours of art classes I was still one point shy of obtaining that arts degree.

This is how I finished college with a General Studies degree, instead of Fine Arts. For what it's worth, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

By the way, week three of the Robert Hughes film series "Shock of the New" about the history of 20th century art will be playing at the Zinema 2 here in Duluth. Today's reel is titled, The Landscape of Pleasure with a discussion afterward led by Jeff Kalstrom, Drawing and Painting professor at UMD. Hopefully, I will see you there.


Ann Tracy Mueller said...

With or without that other art history class, you turned out okay, dontcha think?

ENNYMAN said...

I'm not the final judge of that, but I did learn early on the importance of lifelong learning, which includes un-learning some of what you previously learned. Or as Dylan put it, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."
Thanks for the comment.

Georg said...

Bonjour Ennyman,

So you have come to terms with the fact that you didn't obtain an academic degree in Fine Arts.

There are artists and people who boast a fine arts certificat enabling them to talk about what they never do themselves.

As to history, there is a general tendency to cast it aside. If one doesn't know where he is coming from it's a sure bet this person will not have a clear idea where it should go to. All the better it might seem.


ENNYMAN said...

Thanks for the comments. Glad your accident last year was not more serious. Best to you,