We asked our spring 2021 intern Emma to complete one of the activities in the Writing Prompts for Visual Art packet we created to guide museum goers of all ages to engage more deeply with works of visual art. Emma chose to do the Bloom’s Taxonomy-inspired page with Meghan Donohue’s painting All Consuming in Young Contemporaries 2021. You can see this activity and all the other writing prompts by clicking here.
According to Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching, “In 1956, Benjamin Bloom with collaborators Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl published a framework for categorizing educational goals: Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Familiarly known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, this framework has been applied by generations of K-12 teachers and college instructors in their teaching.”
As you can see in Emma’s example below, following the reduced Bloom’s Taxonomy steps is a classic method to slow down and consider a work of art more closely. There are four steps to this activity are: description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation. After reading Emma’s blog post, why don’t you try this activity yourself?
Meghan Donohue, All Consuming, 2020, Oil Paint on Canvas
Only describe what you see. Do not use value-laden words such as “beautiful”, “pretty”, or “striking” in this section. The objective here is to take a complete inventory of what is there without making an apparent value judgment. This section of your paper will deal with subject matter. Write several sentences.
I see a paved road that vanishes into the horizon line. There is a fire burning and smoke coming up from it. The fire is in the distance, it is not covering the entire canvas. The smoke covers the sky, and the flames seem to be quite large.
Here you discuss how the visual elements—line, shape, value, texture, mass (volume) and color- function in the artwork. Discuss elements and not the subject matter. Write several sentences.
The lines of the road disappear into the horizon line, creating two-dimensional perspective. The fire is a bright orange that contrasts with the smokey sky, which is painted in grey shades. The road is also grey, making the majority of the painting appear to be done in grey tones. The flames and surrounding smoke is painted very freely, using light brushstrokes that help to create the illusion of actual smoke. Darker hues of grey are used in the smoke as well, in order to add dimension to the sky.
Review carefully your written description analysis for clues as to the idea or ideas the artist may be attempting to communicate. Remember that the artist may have more than one “message.” However, one idea or concept will stand out. Essentially, you will deal with the question of content meaning of the work.
The title of the painting, All Consuming leads me to believe the artist Meghan Donohue is discussing the fire, and how it is completely engulfing the nature she painted. I get a feeling of uncertainty when viewing this painting, and I also feel cautious. I think the overlying message of this work of art is the destruction of nature from fire. As a viewer, I don’t just fear the flames, but the smoke is also concerning as it takes up the majority of the canvas. With recent forest fires in the news, this painting is especially relevant to the past year.
After having carefully described, analyzed, and interpreted the work of art, you are now in a position to evaluate it. Is the works you have selected an example of good art—perhaps masterpiece? Or, is it pedestrian, mediocre, uneventful? Write several sentences.
Personally, I really like this painting. I think is has a dramatic feel to it, and I feel a sense of urgency to get the flames out. One change I would make, would be either darkening or lighting the color of the paved road, so that it is not the same shade as the smoke. I think that this change would create more if a dynamic scene, however I do really like her artistic approach to this. I love the gentle brush strokes, and the flow of the smoke. I think that the smoke is the strongest element in this feature, as it is incredibly realistic.