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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Painting

Instructor(s): Paul Sattler, Studio Art

When paintings are at their best, they reveal themselves as a true synthesis, a rich entity composed of elements that extend well beyond the limits of simple pictures. One great painting can utilize the spirit of other art forms, suggest particular moods and emotions, address profound philosophical questions, promote innate visual experiences, create anxiety and tell a story. Painters depend on us to be willing, thoughtful and patient to energize the link between artist, artwork and audience. Using Wallace Stevens’ poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, as a portal to various interpretive strategies, this class, each week, will focus on one painting and one theme. By examining connections between paintings and literature, film, music, science, history and more, the class will investigate how painters communicate complex concepts by means of formal orchestration. In other words, the class will explore what paintings do and how they do it. To meaningfully satisfy this inquiry and to learn with hand as well as eye, the class will research with drawing and painting techniques to visually analyze paintings—stripping paintings down to their base elements and building them back up with imaginative, informed and critical inquiry. Ripened with deeper meaning, we reassemble the artwork to its original synthetic splendor.

Course Offered: