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My Art Education Continued


Entering Memphis State University when I did was a was a unique college experience. The University had recently been integrated, just 3 years earlier. Many of the restrictions that were instituted when the first group of African American were admitted were still in place. This made it obvious to us Black students that we were not welcome into the full life of the college community, not to mention the negative vibes we always aware of from the White students and faculty. The Art Department was different. It was an oasis in a desert. The Art instructors treated us the same as everyone else. Their major concern, it seemed to me, was developing talent. I felt respected.

My Initial intent when I enrolled was that I would be an English major, but it only took one Art class for me to realize that was where I belonged. The approach to art education in the 60’s was experiential learning. The academic approach to art had been scrapped and it was "no rules pasta". In painting class, I was told what medium I would need to work with oils and how to use them then told to go for it. Even though I honed most of my technical skills later, I still count this as an important experience.

I remember my experiences in drawing classes. So much was about expression. For one assignment I chose to pose in a mirror for a nude self-portrait. When I finished I felt timid about showing it, so, using an eraser I stroked across the page to smudge the color and blur the image. The teacher thought it was brilliant. I remember taking a commercial layout class, with zero knowledge about commercial layout and feeling totally lost. The "B" I got in that class was definitely for effort. In another drawing class the instructor asked us to paint a series based on literature that interested us, and I did a Biblical series in tempera. I remember how she raved about my paintings, which surprised me because I had wondered whether my choice of Biblical subject matter would be appreciated. I suppose that experience was a precursor to the Biblical series that I started much later, and I’m still expanding today.

TO BE CONTINUED


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2016 Annette Fortt