editing disabled

Project 3: Proposal
November 24, 2009

Contributing Factors in Controversial Incidents Sparked by Imagery in Art Education

Problem Statement:
Controversial imagery is a long-standing and widely spread issue in art education, yet art educators often express a lack of understanding in dealing with such issues. Without fully understanding the complexities of controversial imagery, art educators may put themselves in a professionally risky situation. Censorship is a common solution to this problem; it ensures professional security for the art educator but it is also detrimental to the field of art education.

Research Question:
To begin to understand the complexities of controversial imagery, one must find out what makes imagery controversial. The primary research question for this study is: What are the factors that determine imagery to be controversial in art education?

To research this overarching question, other questions need to be considered, including: What do we already know about controversial imagery? What can be learned from research conducted about controversial imagery in art education in the last five years? What themes and patterns occur? How can a better understanding of the relationship of controversial imagery and the context in which it is presented effectively equip art educators to approach controversial imagery rather than censoring it?

Additional Information:
I intend to begin researching this topic through a study of research that has been conducted in the field of art education about controversial imagery in the last five years. I reviewed much of the literature about this topic completed before 2004 in my MA thesis, but I know very little about what has been researched in the last five years. As I found previously, I expect that context continues to be a critical factor in controversial incidents surrounding imagery in art education. A limited time frame for this literature review will allow me to explore this relationship further.

After reviewing the literature and theoretical frameworks for understanding the complexities of controversial imagery, I propose to create a visual representation that explores this issue. I am interested in creating a visual work that conveys knowledge gained form this study, as well as translates a theoretical framework for art educators to better understand the complexities of approaching controversial imagery.

Project 3: Research Design/Implementation
December 21, 2009

Censorship has a long history in education, art, and art education. F. Scott Regan (1990, p.4) states, “Perhaps we can no longer straddle the fence of artist/educator if education is to be defined as an activity designed to offend no one and reinforce a social vision that no longer approximates reality. If we must choose between artist and teacher will we have meaning? Will we have work?” This project provides a new conceptualization for considering controversial imagery to better equip art educators to deconstruct controversial imagery and surrounding incidences to alleviate the unnecessary use of censorship as a resolution/solution to controversy.

Theoretical Frameworks:
Jeffers & Parth (1996) and McFee’s (1991) describe the dichotomous relationship that seems to exist between the art of art education and the education of art education. The art of art education is more concerned with content. The education side of art education is concerned with ability to teach students of varying interest and skill levels in art (Jeffers & Parth, 1996). “…There [is] a difference between the agendas of the art world and the school world, [and] the art teacher as educator of the young might not have the same stance as the citizen outside the schools” (Smith, 1991, p. 6-7). Jeffers and Parth, however, argue that when art educators align themselves heavily with education they may not be able to stay abreast of developments and issues in controversial contemporary art.

Jeffers and Parth’s study acknowledges philosophical-pedagogical stances of teachers and how they relate to teaching about controversial art. These four teachers were also asked: “What do you expect your students to get out of the show?” Jeffers and Parth felt as if “the two veteran high school teachers seemed to view the exhibits as ends in themselves, as stimulating events or topics to be scrutinized and studied” (Jeffers & Parth, 1996, p. 27). The other two artist-teachers seemed to view the exhibits as the beginning of inquiry for students. The MOMA teacher expected her students to get “lots of questions” from the exhibit (Jeffers & Parth, 1996, p. 27). Likewise, the LACMA artist-teacher said that she expected her students to explore (Jeffers & Parth, 1996, p. 27). The answers to these questions start to create a dichotomy of ideology: on one hand there are the veteran teachers who viewed the exhibit as an end, and on the other hand are the artist teachers who viewed the show as stimulation for deeper learning.

Conceptual Framework:
This video is designed to provoke questions, rather than provide answers. It is the changing relationship between the images that changes part of the contextual information, raising different questions. Also, each viewer’s unique perspective while interpreting the work is part of the contextual data that influences the interpretation of the work. All of this information is fluid and significant. This video is an exercise in sifting through the rapidly changing contextual information that surrounds works of art, especially ones that have been the source of controversy.

Empirical Framework:
The video is an artwork, and also includes appropriated images of artwork that has been the center of controversy. Each artwork is a site for research, as is the video and compilation of the works. The various sites for research are symbolic of the significance of context when criticizing art. Each viewer constructs the data as he or she interprets the images in the video, and, as researcher, I would collect and construct the data in a reflexive manner (Mason, 2002).


Regan, F. S. (1990). The artist/educator responds to censorship. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, Minneapolis, MN.
Jeffers, C.S. & Parth, P. (1996). Relating controversial contemporary art and school art: A problem-position. Studies in Art Education, 38(1), 21-33.
Mason, J. (2002). Qualitative researching. London, UK: Sage Publications.
Smith, P. (1991). The scylla of Helms, the charybdis of Mapplethorpe: Obscenity and
morality in the art class. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National
Art Education Association, Atlanta, GA.