I was helping a high school ceamics teacher tame some of the entropy raging in the school ceramics studio. While we did some basic organizing, the next task was to have the students really do the bulk of the clean-up themselves: cleaning tools, sorting glazes, and so forth. The teacher and I talked about how investing art students in every step of the process -- from preparing the clay to clean-up, say, or from stretching canvas to brush clean -up to frame-making-- helps students to uild an "identity as an artist." Learning all of these skills is empowering in general, and helps one go from "art student" to artist.
Anway, amidst the studio mess, I got thinking about the dualities of order and chaos. A colleague of mine at GW is having his painting students address these thematic concerns in their end-of-semester painting projects. So many possibilities...what a good springboard. Beautiful chaos? Destructive chaos? Order as tranquil or sterile? Abstraction? Representaion? As a teacher it is hard to strike just the right balance in setting assignment parameters: the assignment must be open enough to permit wide-ranging investigations of genuine interest to the students, but specific enought to impose useful, practical limitations.
In any case, if I ever riff on this assignment idea, I am thinking I would want to show artwork by, among others, Julie Mehretu, Mia Feuer, and Jessica Braiterman (above), as well as old-school vanitas paintings.