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Top 10 Ways to Make Anyone Hate Art History


Be sure to follow any and all of these suggestions if your goal is to put children - or anyone else, for that matter - *off* the study of art and art history. Properly done, the once curious will come to loathe the very thought of art history. (Note: This list is fondly dedicated to Suzanne Eberle, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, Kendall College of Art & Design. By disregarding everything below, she taught me and countless others to love art history as she does.)

1. Be extraordinarily Serious.

"Serious" is capitalized for good reason. Be ever vigilant, lest a stray element of fun find its way into what is a Very Serious Topic. Bonus points are awarded if informative, albeit pedantic, bons mots are delivered in a snore-inducing monotone. Additionally, be sure to chastise Others - be they students, social acquaintances or the cashier at the convenience store - who have shown even the slightest tendency toward injecting enthusiasm into this Very Serious Topic.

2. Use loads of foreign phrases. Offer no translations.

"Foreign" phrases are relative, so let's clarify. Pepper native English speakers with French, Italian and Germanic phrases from art history. Reverse this process by inserting mystifying English vernacular for those who do not speak English. Deliver these phrases with an authentic-sounding accent, but do not explain them. Under no circumstances should a phrase from outside Western art be employed, let alone explained. Discourage questioning with a steely, authoritative gaze.

3. Portray artists as a unique mammalian species.

Offer no anecdotal tales of an artist's life that might shed light on why he or she created that which s/he created. Impressionable children should realize, and as early as possible, that artists are different from the rest of the human population. Artists never have rent payments, love interests or temper tantrums. Nor do they eat, sleep, procreate or relieve themselves. Simply say, "So-and-so did what s/he did and you must accept the fact that this is important." Then move on.

4. Dismiss the observations of rank amateurs.

Anyone who hasn't spent years obtaining post-secondary degrees in art history has nothing valid to say about the subject. A 40-year-old newcomer is just as hopelessly lost as a 4-year-old. Make it absolutely clear to each that comprehension is beyond their simplistic grasp. Leave no doubt that your own observations are the only valid ones. Back this up with dozens of supportive citations from Serious Professionals, if you must, but do not entertain other points of view.

5. Present art history as lifeless.

Art is always created in a vacuum. There never were, or are, personal, social, political or religious circumstances that exert(ed) any influence over which pieces got created when and by whom. Explaining this clearly will prevent the befuddled listener from relating an artist's experience to his or her own. We all know that children, in particular (emotionally mature creatures that they are), are adept at thinking "outside the box" of their own respective universes. Force them to learn there.

6. Assume those who hear your words cannot keep up with you.

Most people, and especially young people, aren't as smart as you are. Do not make the mistake of crediting others with intelligence or the ability to make leaps in cognitive thought. Belabor all utterances - particularly when opining - to the extent that listeners begin to exhibit the behavior of trapped, fur-bearing animals about to gnaw off limbs in order to facilitate escape. Added bonus: the near-spastic desperation you engender will cause you to resemble a Super Genius by comparison.

7. Deny the existence of artistic license.

Artistic creation isn't nearly as important as your analysis of it. If the piece in question is dreadful, do not allow anyone else to see merit in it. Should they persist, tell them why they are wrong and why the artist was wrong to have created such an eyesore. Conversely, present some artists as demigods and never permit the uninitiated to view their works with anything less than adoration. Viewer and artist alike should not be permitted to drag imagination into this Very Serious Topic.

8. Demand more proof.

Strive mightily to be the bearer of The Last Word on any work of art ever created. Never lend credence to the theory that art is a subjective experience. If Others are bold enough to thrust differing views at you, tell them their own eyes cannot be believed. Occasionally, the more mulish will continue to argue that they can so believe their own eyes. At this point, do not back down. Demand that they defy all logic and present you with factual proof for their subjective opinions.

9. Criticize things you don't know about.

Should questions arise about some aspect of art for which you have no wisdom to offer, never say anything as silly as, "I don't know. Let's investigate it together." A better approach is to fix the questioner with a disdainful look and say, "No one who knows anything takes the art in video games seriously." Be sure to emphasize the words "No one", "knows" and "anything", in case the poor asking fool has failed to recognize that he or she just said something outrageously stupid.

10. Discourage further exploration.

Last but not least, it is important to squelch any tendencies toward self-study that Others may exhibit. You have already told them all they need to know. Should you witness a wrong turn into uncharted territory, gently but firmly steer the Misguided back to safe haven. Your thoughts on Cubism shouldn't cause another to grab an encyclopedia hoping to learn more about the topic or even, perish the thought, wish to try their hand at creating an example of Cubism. Do not encourage this behavior.
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