At the Museum: Critically Thinking with the Artist
If you visit the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in the coming weeks, you will be amazed at the joy of color on the walls of the Lower Level Galleries. The exhibition titled Moe Brooker: Carelessly Exact presents paintings that consist of vivacious blocks of dancing, intense colors creating movement, life and visual tension. Most are created with oil pastels and encaustic (wax and pigment that become liquid when melted).
The painter, Moe Brooker, is the artist and he finds joy in all aspects of his art. He is also a teacher and community worker from Philadelphia, PA who enjoys jazz music and feels a kinship to the colorful quilts created by African-American women. He serves as a deacon at the First African Baptist Church in Philadelphia and considers his time of painting as part of his daily devotion and worship.
His paintings are abstract and created with large areas of flat color and patterns, including stripes and checkerboards. The blocks of color are reminiscent of fabric pieces placed randomly to create visual vibration. Calligraphic squiggles of lines float across the central portion of the image while small blocks of color float across the central portion of the canvas.
While his work gives the impression of spontaneity, Mr. Brooker does have a working plan. His work is defined by the use of shapes, patterns and color that involves intensity, chroma, and value. Those are not easy elements to juggle and the layers can easily create a painting of “mud” if handled without some organization.
Mr. Brooker held a day-long workshop for area artists in which I attended for a brief time in the afternoon. Mr. Brooker has quite a following from his days of teaching at the Mississippi Art Colony. He asked the students to bring along work that was in process or completed work to critique as well as some painting supplies.
The morning was spent warming up with color choices and loosening up the arm. The afternoon was set aside for critique. For those of you who have never sat through a college critique session, you would have had quite an awakening.
“Critique” does not mean that your teacher or advisor will pat you on the back and say “Great Job! Wonderful Painting!” Instead, the teacher might say: “Does that color really work there?” “What were you THINKING?” And, all the while, the student is sliding deeper into his seat and answering with a meek “I don’t know.” Of course, the student is thinking that the teacher is yelling those questions whether they really are or not.
Mr. Brooker’s session was conducted much the same way. This type of critical discussion is really the best way to teach students to improve their art. He was not there to pat the students on the back and say “job well done,” but he was right on target in asking thought-provoking questions. He discussed the good points, recommended other artists’ works to study, and provided other options to change the work and make it better.
One of the most important points that he shared was to paint large areas of color first and pursue the details last. That point is much easier said than done. As most of the artists who participated will agree, it can be scary and disheartening to have a critical discussion about one’s work. A solid understanding of design elements is essential to building on one’s knowledge of art. A teacher who avoids the discussion of them may be one who doesn’t know and understand them himself and he certainly can’t help his students improve or teach them to make critical design decisions on their own.
Moe Brooker: Carelessly Exact will be on display through Sunday, November 8, 2009. The Museum is open from 10:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Sundays from 1:00-4:00 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays. For more information, call 601-649-6374 or check the museum’s website at www.LRMA.org.
Tommie Rodgers is the registrar of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.