The Art of Fred Martin
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On Teaching Studio Arts

June 2006.
This month's little essay...

May 4, 2006.
Oakland, late afternoon.
(Revised Tuesday, June 06, 2006)
Since the human is the animal with the least instinctual knowledge of how to live, we have no other models but ourselves. That’s why, aware or not and like it or not, we art teachers try to make our students to live like us—what other way is there to live?

Well, what are we like that we are trying to make our students live like? We are like our parents—that’s culture, that’s survival—but our parents are not only the biological ones (Daddy and Mommy), but also the cultural ones—the teachers we had in our formative years. And was it adolescence was the formative or was it when we were first thrown out more or less alone into the world?

For me, the formative years were that time of being first thrown out into the world—like some mystic philosophy I remember had it that we are tossed from Heaven down into the absurd to make the best of it.

The cultural world I was given to make the best of was the ending of WWII, and the personal world I was given was a sexual, moral, intellectual and aesthetic crisis. The sexual crisis was polymorphous lust, the moral crisis was to see the results of such lust, the intellectual crisis was to know that “only by what you make for yourself can you ever be true to yourself” (call it “Existentialism”), and the aesthetic crisis was to realize that by making images both painted and lived, I could make that self that is the true self beyond the lust that fucking gives and the death that is faithlessness’ result.

So, I went into the art world to help to make a world for students whom I assumed would be like I had been when I was a student—confronting more or less the same world and finding solutions more or less like mine. However, now more than half a century after my crises and solutions, I am surrounded by teachers several generations younger than I, generations it seems whose crises when thrown into the world were neither moral nor sexual, whose intellect has given postmodern globalism as the crisis to know, and whose aesthetic (we use what we’ve seen to make what we can) is film (video) to make and watch.

And so for today’s student, you’ve got us all. Half a century of crises and more or less usable solutions all pushed at you at once: “Live like this, it’s the only way that works.”

“I shot an arrow in the air; if it landed, I know not where.” We teachers, that’s what we do. We help you students string the bow (with all our knots). And if you land, we know not where.