Crafts in the Classroom Are Not Just For Kindergartners

Crafts in the Classroom? Not Just for Kindergartners

Why the arts are vital to fostering growth and personal development, and not just a silly excuse to be creative.

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As someone who immensely enjoys arts & crafts, it's always a relief to see an art project on the class syllabus – the perfect grade booster. Art projects provide a creative outlet without exhausting my mental supply; a common symptom of more technical endeavors. This isn't to say you can't learn from art projects, however, quite the opposite, in fact.

Artwork is a reflection of the artist's internalized ideas about the world, and seeing your own can be rather jarring. This week, I had an art project due in my Women, Gender, and Islam class, and the transformation my project endured taught me a lot about my own positionality and ended with me turning in a blank canvas.

The image of a brown woman in hijab has been reduced by Western society to symbolize female oppression, particularly when contrasted to the "ever-so liberated" Western woman. When I began this project, I wanted to utilize this archetype, by painting a brown Muslim woman in hijab. I then cut words from Daily Tar Heel newspapers that were overwhelmingly negative and have been used in adjunct with anti-Muslim hostility.

Many of the excerpts I chose were from articles detailing racist activities on UNC's campus, but when taken from context, apply to nearly every marginalized community. I then left the hijab white to starkly contrast the black and sinister background. I then realized that my choice of woman and backdrop were manifestations of stereotypes and oversimplification. Stereotypes that do exist but are in no way representative of the Muslim population as a whole. For this reason, I decided to scrap my first idea.

My next thought was to change the race of the woman in the painting. I considered painting a black Muslim woman without hijab, drawing from Amina Wadud as my inspiration, and then discussing the duality of the background words in application to both Muslim and African American communities, and how a black Muslim woman may be vacillating between identities, but ultimately, will still be "othered" by the American populace.

But upon further consideration, I realized that my only real motivation for selecting a black woman was to remove myself from presenting the overused image of a woman in hijab, which is problematic in itself. The only demographic I could draw a personal connection to would be a white woman, but I don't want to pretend that a white woman in hijab faces the same prejudice as a woman of color. The more I deliberated, the more I realized trying I was trying too hard to define The Muslim Woman.

In all honesty, I've spent most of these religion classes a little lost, trying to grasp abstract ideas with no concrete basis of Islam. But these abstruse discussions have taught me that Islam is not meant to be definite, and instead is constantly evolving, as is The Muslim Woman. Therefore, my project was futile. Instead, a blank canvas was the best representation I could provide of the typical Muslim woman because such a thing does not exist.

Becoming aware that I had fallen prey to the exact societal structures that I often strive to alienate myself from was not a particularly pleasant experience. This moved me to consider a quote from the 2018 Vanity Fair article on Republican women at UNC, but originally appeared in Rebecca Traister's Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger: "White women, who enjoy proximal power from their association with white men, have often served as the white patriarchy's most eager foot soldiers."

While far from Republican, here I was, a white woman, using my privilege to exacerbate the stereotype of a veiled woman, contributing to the Western patriarchy's image of oppression. Knowing this, however, I can continue into the world more cognizant of my own positionality, while more willing to question my own instincts. All this, from a simple classroom art project.

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A Revival: Greek And Roman Impact On The Renaissance

How Renaissance artists departed from the Gothic style
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Just as the Romans were often known as Greek imitators, the artists of the Renaissance took a big interest in ancient Greek and Roman art. Therefore, the Renaissance came to be known as an era of revival, one in which the influence of Greek and Roman art was seen in both art and architecture. Pieces such as the Palazzo Rucellai, David, and Birth of Venus are all noted for being composed of both Greek and Roman elements and styles.

The Palazzo Rucellai stands as a landmark Renaissance palace, designed in 1446 by well-known Italian architects Leon Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino. The humanistic influence of the 15th century is noted in its composition, but most importantly, the structural elements of ancient Rome are incorporated within the structure. The Roman-like arches, pilasters, and entablatures give the impression of strength. The pilasters are composed of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders which are reminiscent of the Colosseum. Just as the pilasters of the Colosseum are used for a decorative purpose, the ones of the Palazzo Rucellai also depart from simply providing structural support.

The David sculpture was created by the notorious Donatello. Donatello was known for his studies of Greek and Roman art, which allowed for him to make a connection between the classical world and the Renaissance. The Greek formula for contrapposto is noted in this sculpture, as his weight appears to be mostly on the right foot while the left leg seems to be more relaxed. The Greek influence is also demonstrated as David is fully nude, which departs from the clothed Biblical figures of the Gothic era and instead resonates Greek conventions. Just as the Greek Kritios Boy is described as “the first beautiful nude in art,” the bronze David was the first freestanding nude of the Renaissance.

The Birth of Venus, created by Sandro Botticelli, also appears to carry Greek and Roman influences into the Renaissance era in which it was constructed. Just like the Roman marble Aphrodite of Menophantos, the Birth of Venus employs the Capitoline Venus pose in which Venus covers her breasts with her right arm and her groin with her left arm. An obvious allusion to Roman art is the use of the Roman goddess Venus as the subject of the painting. The use of classical subject matter is strategical as it appeals to the rich Florentines who patronized such pieces.

The Renaissance is known as the “rebirth” or “revival” of Greek and Roman styles and conventions. Such Greek and Roman influences are well noted in the Italian-made pieces such as The Palazzo Rucellai, which can be compared to the Colosseum, David, which can be compared to the Kritios Boy, and The Birth of Venus, which can be compared to the Aphrodite of Menophantos. It is this revival that is credited with helping European artists and architects depart from Gothic styles, among others, while bringing back notorious Greek and Roman ones.

Cover Image Credit: Artble

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Poetry On Odyssey: Raising Teens

Don't sleep all morning and wake up at two.

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If you go outside, oh the things that you can do!

Ride your bike, skateboard, and rollerblade, too!

You could go build a fort, or see animals at the zoo!

Don't sleep all morning and wake up at two

only to waste the day watching movies about kung fu!

I'm wasting my breath, you're not listening, are you?

You little prick, I bet you'd be up if your friends said to come through.

I swear, the only exercise you get is jerking to a random black guy screw

or to some broke meth-head teen making her porn debut.

Fine, fuck it, kid, I don't care anymore. Do what you want today. You do you.

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