Diego Rivera says it with flowers

The Artdog Image of Interest

The Flower Carrier, by Diego Rivera

Throughout time, artists have often turned to workers in various industries for inspiration. I’ve been spotlighting a few examples this month, in honor of Labor DayHokusai’s rice farmers and the bakers and brewers immortalized by the ancient Egyptian modeler for the Tomb of Meketre all worked with grain, to produce an indispensable staple for their societies.

But not every trade focuses on society’s most basic needs. Today’s artist, Diego Rivera, was a prominent painter and muralist in the first half of the 20th Century. He was trained in Mexico and Europeworked in Paris, was a great friend of Amodeo Modigliani and other members of the artists’ group at Montparnasse, and explored cubism at roughly the same time as PicassoBraque, and Gris. His mature style also drew upon the imagery of the Mayan stelae of his native Mexico.

Rivera also was a dedicated atheist, socialist and supporter of communism. Many of his murals and paintings celebrate the common working person. The Flower Carrier, painted in oil and tempera on Masonite in 1935 (original title: Cargador de Flores) is one of several works Rivera created, focused on workers in the Mexican cut flower trade. It was a recurrent theme, often featuring calla lilies and female workers. This painting is currently in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Other Rivera paintings that feature flowers and the workers who collected, carried, and sold them include Flower Day (1925), The Flower Seller (1941), The Flower Vendor (1949), and another Flower Carrier (1953).

Khan Academy has collected many of these flower paintings in a short video. I discovered it after I’d written most of this article, but the writer of the Khan Academy piece and I are definitely on the same page about the message of these paintings. Rivera has used the beauty of the flowers to call attention to the arduous lives of the workers.

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Diego Rivera website, for this image.

Ancient Egyptian Bakers and Brewers

The Artdog Image of Interest 

Model bakery and brewery from the Tomb of Meketre (public domain; The Met)

Our celebration of labor through art history continues, this week with a fascinating glimpse of two important allied culinary arts: baking bread and brewing beer in ancient Egypt.

This model, created during the Middle Kingdom period (1981-1975 BCE) was one of several fascinating models discovered in 1920 in the High Steward’s tomb, showing various types of work, including livestock-tending in a cattle stable and a cattle-count being performed, a granary complete with inventory-taking scribes, a traveling boat being rowed, a fishing scene, a weavers’ workshop, a carpentry shop, and a porch and garden. Tomb wall paintings from many different eras also depict subjects such as buildinghunting, and harvesting.

For more information about the models in the Tomb of Meketre, you may enjoy this PDF from Brown University.

IMAGE: Many thanks to The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City) for this image of the model. There’s a whole collection of photos, not only more views of this model, but of other models from the same tomb, online. Cool stuff. Check it out!

Universally understood

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

I’ve heard it said that mathematics is a universal language–but only if you’ve been taught how to decode it. With the arts–especially music, dance, and visual art–no translation is required for the human heart and mind to respond. 

We’ve explored the value of the arts in education during this back-to-school season in my home country, the USA.

But I would submit that no matter when your school term starts, where you live, or how, where, or from whom you learn, if your education is untouched by the arts, it embodies only a pale shadow of the fascination, depth and lifelong relevance it could hold.

IMAGE: Many thanks once again to designer Lonnie King, for enriching this important thought from Richard Kamler with an evocative design.

To the very core

The Artdog Quote of the Week  

The educator’s struggle is often a struggle to demonstrate relevance–but nothing is more relevant to life than the parts that are too deep for words.

That’s why participation in the arts at school–be it band, choir, orchestra, art, theater, creative writing, or dance, is linked with greater student resiliency and engagement, better grades, and better attendance.

As with athletic programs that engage students in whole-body activities and help bond them with groups, school arts programs may seem like “frills,” but that is wrong.

They speak to the very core of what it is to be human, and open paths for greater, deeper learning.

IMAGE: Many thanks to designer Lonnie King for this perceptive quote, rendered as a memorable image.

Nature can teach kids about the world and themselves

The Artdog Images of Interest

Last May, I blogged in some detail about ways that kids can learn to think better and be creative by getting out into nature. That series was focused on keeping kids learning and teaching them to value nature during a summer away from school.

But just because they’re back in school now, that’s no reason for them to stop learning from nature. I’d like to hope that they benefit from classes that teach science on beaches and riversides. But if their schools can’t afford field trips, I hope they get an opportunity somewhere.

I’d like to hope they get to grow things in school-run gardens, to learn about plant life cycles and where food comes from. But if they don’t get that experience in school, I hope they get it from someone.

Maybe they’ll be sent on nature scavenger hunts. Those always make great homework projects. But if the schools are forced to teach to a different test, maybe their moms, dads, older cousins, Scout leaders or someone will take them out to find the wonder in nature, anyway.

Perhaps they’ll have a class project to observe a variety of clouds and learn to tell them apart. But if they don’t, I hope some caring adult will take the time to show them.

Perhaps their school will have a birding club, or they’ll take a trip to a zoo, aquarium, or nature preserve. Wouldn’t it be great if they could learn to observe animals with quiet respect? But if the school’s too busy drilling on grammar and math facts, perhaps an uncle, aunt, grandparent, or other trustworthy adult can help them learn the joys of such excursions.

Family is the first resource when schools are stretched too thin, but if your family can’t take on a full-fledged nature and science curriculum, remember there’s help available in faith communities and community groups. 

Importantly, there also are active youth organizations, such as Camp FireGirl Scouts, and Boy Scouts of AmericaYes, I know both Girl and Boy Scouts have been embroiled in controversy recently. But don’t let that make you lose sight of the fact that they’ve enriched the lives of several generations, and I’m here to tell you that both organizations still contain plenty of committed adults who only desire to help young people grow into knowledgeable adults. (Full disclosure: I was a Girl Scout myself, a Camp Fire summer camp counselor, my daughter was a Girl Scout who deeply loved her summer camping experiences, my son is an Eagle Scout, and I served as a Boy Scout Merit Badge counselor, so I’m not exactly unbiased about these organizations–though I’m also not blind to their flaws).

Whatever you do with your kids and wherever you do it, remember that an enduring connection with nature is a lifelong gift for your children–and a vital survival understanding for all of us.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the photo of young kids with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent observing life along a riverbank. I also want to thank the Green Corn Project Blog, for the photo of the enthusiastic class of second-grade gardeners; to Connecting Youth with Nature for the photo of the kids with magnifying glasses and Small Talk SLP via Pinterest, for the Nature Scavenger Hunt page; to InnerChildFun for the photo of the little boy with the “weather window,” and to E is for Explore! for a different variation on the “Weather Window Cloud Identifier” idea; to EDventures with Kids for the Animal Observation sheet, and to Cornell Labs’ Bird Sleuth K-12, for the photo of the budding birders with binoculars. Finally, I’d like to thank C&G News, and Harper Woods, MI Girl Scout Leader Anna Jochum for the photo of 2nd- and 3rd-Grade Brownie Scouts on a winter survival exercise, and to the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America for the photo of the Scout leader teaching a group of boys a little about leather tooling. I deeply appreciate all for sharing!

Valuing Creativity

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

Finding a way to value creativity in education, in the workplace, and in life, tends to ignite joy wherever it is found. Keep searching for new ways!

IMAGE:  Many thanks to Looney Math Consulting for sharing this image. It’s one of several in their excellent article, “Honoring Creativity in the Classroom.” 

Dogs teaching kids how to read

The Artdog Images of Interest

My Images of Interest this month spotlight creative and unconventional approaches to teaching that have been gaining traction in schools, libraries, and other places devoted to teaching–including our own homes, if we share them with children.

Literacy dogs:

By now, the science is pretty well settled: reading to a calm, accepting dog (or other animal) really does help children learn to read better. Here’s a video that covers most of the important things about kids reading to dogs.

My first video is about therapy dogs of R.E.A.D., Reading Education Assistance Dogs, from Intermountian Therapy Animals, an organization started in Salt Lake City, UT in 1999. It’s a group I’ve blogged about before.

But now for a little something different: how about a dog who inspires children to read–by reading, himself?

Meet Fernie, whose owner Nik Gardner (headmaster of the school where Fernie works) chose him for his temperament, and taught him not only to be a literacy-support therapy dog, but to respond without verbal cues to commands that are printed on flash cards. He’d learned to read four different commands (“Sit,” “Down,” “Roll Over,” and “Spin”) when they were featured in The Telegraph in February 2016, but Gardner vowed then to teach him more.

Regular readers of this blog will remember I’ve featured literacy dogs before. Just sayin’–they do their work well. You’ll probably see them featured here again!

IMAGES AND VIDEOS: Many thanks to VOA for the video and photo of the R.E.A.D. program in the New York City Public Schools. Thanks also to The Telegraph, and to SWNS TV, photographer David Hedges and YouTube for the information, video, and photo of Nik Gardner with Fernie.