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Text and Texture: An Arts-based Exploration of Transformation in Adult 


A Dissertation 
submitted by 

Enid E. Larsen 

In partial fulfillment of the requirements 

for the degree of 

Doctor of Philosophy 

May 2010 

Lesley University 
Ph.D. Program in Educational Studies 

Student's Name: Enid E. Larsen 

Dissertation Title: Text and Texture: An Arts-based Exploration of Transformation in 
Adult Learning 

School: Lesley University, School of Education 

Degree for which Dissertation is submitted: Ph. D. in Educational Studies 


In the judgment of the following signatories, this Dissertation meets the academic standards that 
have been established for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. 

Dissertation Committee 

Chair Ofea J^>-x i M- $L & 

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Dissertation Committee Member -y^t ' / Yl L ""h-^ -" A-* 3 l" 

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Dissertation Committee Member 

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(signature) (date) 

Director of the Ph. D. Program L^U^^^ /f€We_T 

(signature) (date) 

Dean, School of Education y%W- / L ^^cj V ? 7 /< ? 

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Lesley University, Ph.D. Program in Educational Studies, Doctoral Handbook, 2007-2008 180 

Text and Texture: An Arts-based Exploration of Transformation in Adult 



This research explored the transformational and co-transformational potential of 
collage, assemblage and mixed media in an accelerated undergraduate adult 
course on imagination and creativity. The methods were qualitative and arts- 
based artist-teacher inquiry within a constructivist art class for ten, female adult 
learners. Informed by the researcher's living inquiry through visual auto- 
ethnography, a collagist methodology shaped the research, including syllabus 
construction, course delivery and data gathering. Process was an emergent and 
interpretive analytic tool, drawn from multiple perspectives of artwork and 
reflections by the students, and the multiple identities inherent to the artist- 
teacher researcher. 

This research indicates that collage and assemblage were effective methods for 
artistic expression and exploration of self with these adult learners. Collage and 
assemblage allowed the learners to explore and express multiple, complex 
feelings simultaneously in an accelerated experience of perception. Collagist 
methodology facilitated transformation of assumptions, perceptions, feelings, 
and behavior within the students' and the artist -teacher researcher's living 

These adult learners required significant amounts of restoration and reparation 
in their return to education. The collage process increased their sense of agency 
in dealing with unfamiliarity and identified impediments to transformational 
learning. As a malleable concept, collage provided a metaphor and analogy for 
adult learning and modern living while simultaneously providing the students 
with an opportunity for stimulating discovery, profound pleasure and energized 
spirit. As a way of knowing, collage contributed to transformation within the 
students' lives. 

Keywords: transformation, transformational learning, adult-learning, arts-based, 
artist-teacher research, collage, living inquiry, way of knowing. 

Dedication and Acknowledgements 

I am deeply grateful to everyone who has shown me what possibilities lay within 

living inquiry - my students, my committee, my dear husband and children, my 

sister, and especially my mother. "Thank you, Mom, for the trajectory." 

Life is constant learning 
Never the lessons end 
And the more we learn 

the further we find 

the bounds of our lives 


If V 

*itf*tv tit tt,^,.j ,^,C 

-fab. i^.&.ttM--'- tSt-v-v -Ci^-j. 

Hand-written poetry, a literary ruin, found in my mother's china cupboard among 

her linens, tablecloths and life ephemera. I remember reading it countless times 

in my childhood ethnographic hunts. 

Table of Contents 

Front Page 

Dissertation Approval Form 

Title Page 



Table of Contents 

Poem: The Way It Is 

Chapter I Introduction to the Research 9 

Chapter II Introduction to Literature Reviews 13 

Qualitative Research 16 

Arts-based Research 24 

Transformational Learning 50 

Chapter III Visual Autoethnography: An Artful Encounter 

with Eros 60 

Chapter IV: Research Methods 85 

Chapter V: Thematic Analysis 104 

(themes on continuums of human experience) 

Cognitive 105 

Affective 129 

Sensory 147 

Spiritual 164 

Relational 177 

Chapter VI: Discussion and Implications for Future Study 195 

References 219 

Appendices 229 

Consent Form Sample 229 

Course Syllabus 231 
Image and Photo Index 
(located in Supplementary File) 

The Way It Is 

There's a thread you follow. It goes among 

things that change. But it doesn't change. 

People wonder about what you are pursuing. 

You have to explain about the thread. 

But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can't get lost. 

Tragedies happen; people get hurt 

or die; and you suffer and get old. 

Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding. 

You don't ever let go of the thread. 

William Stafford 

Chapter One 
Introduction to the Research 

This research is focused on the phenomenon of transformation and exploring the 
potential for arts and creative processes in transformational and co- 
transformational learning in adult education. A primary objective is to increase 
understanding of realities and factors in transformational learning - that is, of 
perspective change or even deep, paradigmatic change - into clearer 
understanding and practical usage for adult learners and educators through a 
deeper understanding of creative art processes in adult learning. At the heart of 
the research is the challenge of how I can be better equipped to recognize, 
facilitate and manage learning at the edges of knowing (Eisner, 1997; Berger, 
2004; Diaz 2004; ) in constructivist learning environments (Hein, 2002). 

As a college administrator in a graduate and professional studies school in a 
Liberal Arts College, as a professor, a Social Work therapist, and a self-taught 
visual artist, I am deeply appreciative of the many routes that lead to learning 
and development. Throughout my interdisciplinary career, which spans over 
thirty years, I have remained committed to transformational learning within the 
individual - to the kind of learning that is driven and informed from inside out, 
and to actualization of the Self - as a means of contributing vibrant, meaningful 
life back to culture. I want to become more accomplished in facilitating 
transformational learning because, simply, this is my life's work, and because 
individual transformational learning is an important, valuable and threatened 
component in the education of adult learners. 

Despite recurring trends towards positivism and pragmatism in educational 
research and delivery, interest in the phenomenon of transformation continues 

to grow in post-modern culture, evidenced by socio-cultural and educational 
disparities, educational debates and reform, spiritual exploration, burgeoning 
self-help books, a call for ecological renewal, to name a few. When encountering 
such immediate individual and cultural need, an interest in the phenomenon of 
transformation can take on idealized, perhaps, even over-whelming forms and 
scale. I seek to find my place of contribution in the culture of higher education in 
realistic and accessible forms to educators of adult learners, and to adult 
learners, themselves. 

My research on the phenomena of transformation is a means by which I am 
making the archetype of transformation more conscious, not only for my own 
individuation and professional development, but particularly as a contribution to 
adult learners as a means to increase development of Self (Jung, 1969) in adult 
learner education. I seek increased perspective and deeper insight about the 
phenomenon of transformation through creative processes derived from art 
studio methods - both my own and the work of my adult learning students. 

To prepare for my research, I began with living inquiry of myself - a self-taught 
artist, a teaching artist, an artist scholar - each archetype respecting the learning 
experience and growth of one who learns through experience, and who then 
shines light on the paths of others coming along on the learning journey. I 
identify myself with "life history researchers with deep roots in meaning-making 
systems that honor the many and diverse ways of knowing - personal, narrative, 
embodied, artistic, aesthetic - that stand outside sanctioned intellectual 
frameworks"(Knowles & Cole, 2007, p. 7). I wanted to learn from my most solid 
point of authority - my own personal experience and the rendering of self - 
because, in the end, I wanted to be better able to validate and facilitate my 


students' knowledge, as it can be gained, from their own rich, personal 

Through the genre of artist-teacher research, the following dissertation is an 
arts-based exploration of transformational learning depicted in two ways: first, 
through rendering of self in visual autoethnography and second, through living 
inquiry, arts-based research of ten female adult learners who, upon returning to 
college to complete their education, completed an art course in imagination and 
creativity. The studio work and reflections issued from the course provided data 
for analysis of their processes. 

The Chapters 

Chapter One introduces the research and provides a context and rationale for 
the exploration of transformational and co-transformational learning in adult 
learning through creative art processes. 

Chapter Two provides three literature reviews, beginning with an historical scan 
of the history of qualitative research, and a second which contextualizes the 
research in the more recent experimental time frame of arts-based research. A 
third literature review of transformation explores the phenomena of 
transformational learning in adult learning, including discussion on attempts to 
define transformational learning, transformational practices, and the value and 
challenges of transformational learning. 

Chapter Three portrays visual autoethnograghy conducted as living inquiry and 
my initial exploration as a self-taught artist, a teaching artist, and an artist 
scholar. The studio experience and the fine arts methods of collage, assemblage 


and mixed media established the impetus and foundation for the subsequent 
artist-teacher research in collage and mixed media in an adult learning 
classroom. The chapter documents the visual autoethnography through 
photographs of the art work produced and discussion of the work and studio 

Chapter Four depicts research methods used with ten female students in an 
undergraduate adult learning art class \r\Art, Collage and Imagination through 
the question: How can the use of collage, assemblage and mixed media be 
transformational and co-transformational in an undergraduate adult learning 
course on imagination and creativity? The methods chapter provides 
definitions, context, data-gathering activities, assumptions, descriptions of 
participants, method of analysis, and limitations of the research. 

Chapter Five is a thematic analysis of the research based on themes on 
continuums of human experience through ways of knowing that were initially 
evidenced in the visual auto-ethnography. Ways of knowing depicted in the 
research analysis include cognitive, affective, sensory, spiritual, and relational. 
The analysis is documented through photographs and discussion of the students' 
art work and studio processes. 

Chapter Six provides a discussion of transformational and co-transformational 
learning evidenced in the research through collage and studio experiences in 
adult learning, both through the research participant and the researcher. The 
chapter includes photographs of artwork and text that portray and exemplify 
collagic integration of text and texture. Implications for future study and the 
potential of collage as both a method and metaphor in adult learning classrooms 
are discussed. 


Chapter Two 
Introduction to the Literature Reviews 

My decision to research recursively, along the path of my own experiences, 
placed me squarely in the stream of educational debate, new ideas and on-going 
discord regarding validity and credibility in research - not only in the use of art- 
based methods but particularly on the use of the "I" voice to produce and 
demonstrate knowledge (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000/2008). What research method 
will allow me to find my voice, exercise my words and validate myself as an 
educational researcher and as a visual artist? What is the relationship between 
researchers and artists? How can I explore my assumptions through the 
perspective and experience of an artist? 

My literature reviews were driven not only by my own disenchantment with 
traditional research methods but also that expressed by my students in both 
undergraduate adult degree completion programs and master education 
programs. I learned that, as a program director and educator of adult students, 
advisement and classroom teaching necessarily includes acknowledgement that 
research is a frequently maligned requisite in education and an obstacle through 
which some students require careful guidance and reparative learning 

A practical worry for adult learners is utility - that the investment of time and 
effort required by a research project will be something apart from their 
educational and practice goals, and will ultimately compete with the little time 
they have as adult learners. Worse, is a concern for meaninglessness - that the 
research process will be an exercise with little connection to their working world 
and, more so, to their passions and interests. 


Cochran-Smith & Lytle (1993) state something is missing in educational and 
teacher research for this anticipated and experienced disconnection to exist so 
commonly. There is a sense that, along the way, educational systems have not 
laid adequate groundwork or provided experiences for adult learners to embrace 
the values, processes and potential of research as vital and meaningful means of 
knowledge acquisition (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993; Diaz, 2004). Kettering in 
Hubbard & Power (1999) states research is a "high-hat" word that needlessly 
scares people, teachers, in particular (p. 1). Furthermore, Cochran-Smith & Lytle 
(ibid.) state that even teachers who have daily access, extensive expertise, and 
knowledge of classroom teaching and learning lack formal ways for their 
knowledge to become part of the literature on teaching. 

I recognized myself in the population of discontented and disconnected adult 
learners for whom traditional quantitative and even qualitative research was an 
encounter with methods and propositions that seemed discontinuous with my 
professional passions. My predilection for learning through images, especially 
from and through the concept of Self (Jung, 1969), was typically greeted as 
invalid means of creating generalizable knowledge - good for me and maybe, 
randomly, good for others. 

Curiosity and puzzlement over this pedagogical disenfranchisement, the need for 
a research methodology, and longing for professional affinities motivated this 
literature review. My literature review explores current arts-based research and 
pioneering artist - teacher researchers that are cutting paths and shining lights 
on those paths for me, and others like me, to explore. The literature review first 
establishes a context of qualitative research and then explores what 
contemporary visual artist-researcher teachers are doing in arts-based research, 


with emphasis on female visual artist scholars. Who is doing what in the field? 
What is not being done? Finally, how does their work help to establish my niche? 


As the Eagle Flies: An Historical Scan of Qualitative Research 

The scope and depth of the history and field of qualitative research is 
prohibitive. A review and recursive discussion over centuries-old traditions of 
learning is a much larger perspective than this literature review can provide. It 
was impossible to acknowledge the numerous researchers who account for the 
evolution of the field, or the numerous researchers who write so eloquently 
about their own research. However, just as the scope of an eagle-eyed, digital 
satellite brings swift location in fell swoops to geological sites, such a scan of the 
history and traditions of qualitative research was helpful in locating current 
trends and stances of arts-based scholarship and research as they are evolving in 
the field. This historical review taps major thinkers and synthesizers in the field, 
but that does not invalidate the important contributions of the many others who 
contributed to the stunning collage of qualitative research history. 

Eisner (1997), Creswell (1998), Coles & Knowles (2007), Denzin & Lincoln 
(2000/2008), lions in qualitative research, agree that qualitative research is 
complex in definition, terms and traditions. The separate and multiple uses and 
meaning of the methods of qualitative research make it difficult for researchers 
to agree on any essential definition of the field for it is never just one thing. 
Qualitative research is known by many labels, including descriptive or naturalistic 
research. The descriptive and naturalistic paradigms go by numerous labels, not 
limited to postpositivistic, ethnographic, phenomonological, subjective, case 
study, qualitative, hermeneutic, and humanistic. Writers agree that any attempt 
to create static definitions and timelines misses the complexity of the evolving 
field. Nevertheless, qualitative researchers invariably use definitions, timelines 
and other categorizing methods as a means of organizing the complex 
information about and contained within qualitative research. 


Denzin and Lincoln (2000) provide a perspective of developments and traditions 
in qualitative research in The Handbook of Qualitative Research, a voluminous 
second edition collection of articles that contextualize qualitative research along 
overlapping timelines, albeit acknowledging "artificial, socially constructed, 
quasi-historical overlap of conventions" (p. 2). They identified key historical 
moments (including the future) in a timeline of qualitative research that spans a 
full century. 

The first half resides in positivist paradigms of traditional, statistically-driven 
methodology and objective reality (Eisner, 1997; Glesne, 1999; Denzin & Lincoln, 
2000). In positivist research tradition, variables can be identified and 
relationships are measured. Qualitative research in the field of education in the 
1960's had little saliency, with some exceptions. But battles lines were drawn 
between qualitative and quantitative. The authors refer to it as a dirty war with 
increasingly high stakes in maintaining the status quo. 

The 1970's, however, are recognized as a period when genres began to blur and 
the overall cultural revolution led to a period of post-positivist/postmodern, 
naturalistic, and constructionist paradigms and practices. It was a period of 
experimentation in which social sciences, cultural anthropology, ethnography, 
clinical psychology, historians, writers of all kinds (arts & humanities) 
experimented with new ethnographies (Eisner, 1997; Denzin & Lincoln, 
2000/2008). Qualitative researchers expressed a rising concern for literacy and 
explored narrative, story-telling as means to compose ethnographies in new 

Denzin & Lincoln (2008) produced an equally voluminous third edition 
Handbook, barely a decade following the second, with an equally dense review, 


noting in particular how the field of qualitative research continues to evolve. 
The recent decades of qualitative research, referred to as an Experimental 
period, are identified by most as a revolution (Eisner, 1999; Knowles & Cole, 
2007; Denzin & Lincoln, 2008) and are concerned with moral discourse and 
transparency. It is within this development that Richardson (in Denzin & Lincoln, 
2000) notes that "all research is now produced within the broader 
postmodernist climate of doubt" - readers and reviewers want to know how the 
researcher claims to know. "How does the author position the Self as a knower 
andteller?"(p. 930). 

Traditions and Conventions of Qualitative Research 

While a definition of qualitative research is nuanced, it invariably starts with the 
question -what does it mean to do research? In the simplest of terms, research 
is the construction of knowledge - about advancing knowledge, however 
knowledge is defined (Knowles & Cole, 2007). Eisner (in Knowles Handbook, 
2007) states the definition of knowledge depends on how inquiry is undertaken 
and the kind of problem one pursues (p. 4). According to Cole & Knowles (2007), 
"Knowledge is propositional and generalizable, and research is the process by 
which knowledge is generated" (p. 59). 

A more recent view of knowledge construction is that life is lived and knowledge 
is made in everyday encounters. Knowledge is constructed through experiencing 
and processing the world, through living inquiry (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Diaz, 
2004; Springgay, Irwin, Leggo & Gouzouasis, 2008) to portray certain kinds of 
knowledge to evoke empathy needed for instigating change, and for providing 
insight into circumstances that are not best portrayed through statistical and 
scientific procedures. These moments of meaning-making are not typically 


thought of as knowledge. Eisner (2007) notes that the "deliteralization of 
knowledge is significant in that it opens the door for multiple forms of knowing" 

At its essence, research systematically builds idea upon idea, theory upon theory 
- pulling out, lifting up threads of questions, knitting, hooking, weaving, webbing 
threads of ideas and experiences. Fresh insights are extracted from someone 
else's labor and insight, someone on whose work we can build or with whom we 
can agree or disagree. Spreadbury states that research has always been a 
collective experience, for "academics are in constant conversation with the 
scholars who have gone before them" (Unpublished dissertation, 2005). 

Speaking in Metaphors 

Qualitative researchers deploy metaphors in defining qualitative research, an 
approach Greene (1995) purported as a means to link theory and experience in 
educational research together in new and dynamic ways. Eisner (1997) portrays 
research as a knitting/weaving process in which the new researchers hook on to 
the accumulated work of a previous knitter and in so doing contribute to a huge, 
ever-expanding net of knowledge. Janesick (in Denzin & Lincoln, 2000) likens 
qualitative research design to choreography. Metaphoric precision is the central 
vehicle for revealing the qualitative aspects of life (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). Few 
metaphors are sufficient, however, to imagine the breath, depth and scope of 
qualitative research itself. As Janesick states, "Metaphor defies a one-size-fits- 
all approach to a topic" (ibid, p. 380). 

Metaphors assist not only in portraying the outcomes of their work, but also in 
capturing and expressing ineffable forms of feeling, multiplicity and dimension of 


experience. Visuals artists and writers function in the world of metaphor. Yet 
Denzin & Lincoln (2000) point out an irony in the professional socialization of 
educational researchers - the use of metaphor is regarded as a sign of 
imprecision. Nonetheless, for making the ineffable visible and public, qualitative 
researchers agree that nothing is more precise than the artistic use of language. 

Choice of Genre 

How does one find the way to describe what is going on in this world through 
the medium of qualitative research? The choice of genre for research is 
determined by the subject matter to be studied. Creswell (1998) identifies five 
traditions of qualitative research. Traditional qualitative research houses a range 
of traditional methodologies, including biography (from historians), 
phenomenology (from psychology and social sciences), grounded theory (from 
sociology), ethnography (from anthropology), and more recently case studies, 
(from social, urban studies, and feminist studies). All these different approaches 
have their purpose. They attempt to answer different questions. As Van Manen 
states, "The method one chooses ought to maintain a certain harmony with the 
deep interest that makes one an educator in the first place" (1990, p. 2). 

Blurring of Genres 

The major researchers agree qualitative research now cuts across disciplines, 
fields and subject matter and that the disciplinary boundaries are blurred 
(Denzin & Lincoln, 2008). The social sciences and humanities have drawn closer 
together in a mutual focus on an interpretive, qualitative approach to inquiry, 
research, and theory. 


Yet, an over-riding consensus among researchers and historians of qualitative 
research is that the field was and continues to be rife with tensions and 
contradictions that operate within the field (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000/2008), 
originating from its earliest roots in ethnography and anthropology over a 
century ago. Ethnography and anthropology developed sullied reputations in 
that research was formed and defined by investigation of the Other, that is, 
people and cultures that were different than the Western norm. The 'other' 
began as an exotic, primitive, non-white, foreign culture, judged to be less 
civilized. Vidich & Lyman (in Denzin & Lincoln, 2000) state that the Other was 
most typically defined by dominant white males who investigated exotic sites of 
colonized or non-dominant, non-white cultures. 

However, since the 1970' s, reflexivity in research has grown again, particularly so 
in anthropology. Scholarly discourse now includes discussions of forms of 
common sense that shape everyday life - the practices, texts and representations 
of culture that circulate and mediate lived experiences (Ellis & Bochner, 1996; 
Jipson & Pa ley,, 1997; Bagley & Cancienne, 2002; Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; 
Diaz, 2004; Springgay et al., 2008). Ellis & Bochner (1996) assert that an interest 
in reflexivity is a positive aspect of ethnographic research, rather than an 
undesirable effect to be minimized. Jaeger (1997), Biddle & Locke (2007), and 
Denzin & Lincoln, (2008) agree that the growth in popularity of qualitative 
research across disciplines now extracts some of the most interesting dialogues 
about culture - dialogues that take place outside anthropology, among scholars 
focusing on media, technology, history, literature, pedagogy and politics. 


The Quiet Revolution 

The burgeoning publication of research handbooks and texts represents the 
bubbling and fermenting conversation of qualitative research as researchers 
encourage and challenge each other regarding conventions of knowledge 
building and sharing. Qualitative research has become a field of inquiry in its 
own right (Diaz, 2004; Irwin & deCosson, 2004; Springgay et al., 2008). 

Although these trends are not new, researchers agree with Denzin & Lincoln 
(2008) that the extent to which the "quiet qualitative revolution" has overtaken 
the social science and related professional fields continues to be "nothing short 
of amazing" (p.vii.) At the same time, Ellis & Bochner (1996) assume that most of 
their readers already understand that boundaries between academic disciplines 
have been dissolving for a long time, exemplified in the recent decade of 
interdisciplinary educational research. They declare that to a large extent 
academic departments are only budgetary conveniences for universities and a 
means of crafting professional identity for faculty (ibid, 1996). 

Even though we need to know different things for different reasons, positivist 
traditions and conventions of research continue to undergird traditions and 
exert enormous influence in attitudes and challenges of validity and credibility in 
research. Denzin & Lincoln (2000) point out that despite the revolutionary 
evolution of knowledge creation and knowledge representation, it is an uneasy 
crossroad between pragmatism and postmodernism. Culture typically reduces 
what we have learned to text and number. Knowledge as process, as an 
impermanent state, is scary to many. 


On a methodological level, qualitative research is seen as a philosophy of inquiry 
that challenges reliance on positivism. Many educational cultures still cling to 
the valuation of quantifiable knowledge acquired in the most objective methods. 
That preference poses enormous challenges to methods that do not rely on, nor 
benefit from quantification or statistical analysis. 

The World of Inquiry is Restless 

What emerged in this literature review of the history of qualitative research is 
that the world of inquiry is restless. Art, aesthetics, philosophy, spirituality, 
ethics, poetics, technology, among other disciplinary threads, have created new 
and stimulating connections and perspectives that suggest new questions and 
the need for new methods in educational research. The growing discontent with 
traditional conceptions of knowledge reflects too much restriction in qualitative 
research methods. Denzin & Lincoln (2000/2008) agree that the history and field 
of qualitative research remains discordant even as it presses towards change. 
The field is still defined primarily by tensions, contradictions and hesitations, by 
the differences that characterize it. The dysphoria in qualitative research that my 
students and I experienced is an echo of the field at large. 


A Tangle Of Lines 

we need a poetic line, 

not a prosaic line, 

a line that plays with possibilities of 


draws attention to itself, 

contravenes convention, 
will not parade from left to right margins, 

back and forth, as if there is 

nowhere else 

to explore, knows instead lived experience 

knows little of linearity 
knows the only linearity 

we know is the linearity 

of the sentence 
which waddles across the page like lines of penguins, sentenced by the 

to the lie 
of linearity, 
chimeric sense of order, born of rhetoric, 

and so instead a/r/tog rap hers weave their ways in tangled lines, 
know wholeness 

in holes and gaps, in fragments 

that refract light with fractal abandon, and 

the possibilities of prepositions and conjunctions 

Carl Leggo, 2008 

Literature Review of Arts-Based Research 

In the most recent decades of qualitative research, new conversations have 
emerged for artists and educators in the form of arts-based research. What does 
it mean to research through arts-based methods? Broadly, the term "arts-based 
research" is a descriptor of methods in which art may function as methodological 
enhancement, an instrumental use of art, or where the research process itself is 
regarded as an art form (Barone & Eisner, 1997; Knowles & Cole, 2001; Bagley & 
Cancienne, 2002; Diaz, 2004; Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Sullivan, 2005; Eisner, 
2007; Springgay, et al., 2008). The process of researching through arts-based 
methods is creative and responsive and the representational form may embody 
elements of various art forms -poetry, fiction, drama, two-and three- 
dimensional visual art, including photography, film and video, dance, music and 
multimedia installation (Knowles & Cole, 2001; Sullivan, 2005). Arts-based 


research also includes research through expressive communication as in 
expressive art therapies (Allen, 1995; McNiff, 1998). Given the range of 
modalities, data production, and expression, there are endless possibilities and 
devices for the merging of research and art. 

Artist-researchers fit ideas into categories even as they seek to shake-up, re- 
shape and alter the terrain of research paradigms. Arts-based research, like 
traditional conventions and methodologies of qualitative research, has become 
sub-divided, parsed and formed into numerous research paradigms. Each 
paradigm is increasingly particularized with proprietary definitions, 
methodological forms and political implications and aspirations. The forms and 
variations are numerous. They include, but are not exclusive to: "Aesthetic- 
informed research", "arts-informed research", "learning in and through the arts", 
"research-based art", "artist/researcher/teacher", "a/r/tography", 
"autoethnography", "participatory action research", "expressive arts therapy", 
"image-based research", "visual representation in ethnography", "aesthetic 
research", "performative social science research methods", "living inquiry", 
"practice-led research", "art as research", "research as art." 

Arts-based research, as qualitative research, strives towards meaning-making 
and an effort to engender a sense of empathy (Knowles & Cole, 2007). Even 
though arts-based research clusters are increasingly differentiated by an 
admixture of terms and overlapping identifiers that are not necessarily 
interchangeable, they share a common drive to extend the boundaries and 
practices of arts-based research. Differing assumptions and emphases on ideas is 
not surprising given the complex experiences and perspectives of artists, 
educators and researchers. All the different approaches of arts-based research 
have their purpose as they attempt to answer different questions. 


For example, Allen (1995) and McNiff (1998) established arts-based research in a 
therapeutic context through methods of expressive therapy, utilizing a wide 
range of art mediums (that might include visual arts, movement, drama, creative 
writing, and/or storytelling). McNiff (2008) defines arts-based research as the 
"systematic use of the artistic process, the actual making of artistic expressions 
in all of the different forms of the arts, as a primary way of understanding and 
examining experience by both researchers and the people that they involved in 
their studies" (p. 29). Drawing from post-modernist philosophical and 
educational theories to situate and validate knowledge gained through 
expressive art engagement, McNiff (1998) extrapolates concepts from expressive 
arts-based therapy to arts-based research for educators, with particular pursuit 
of studying the personal expression of educators and learners as a valid means 
gathering knowledge. However, Irwin (2004), from the perspective of an 
artist/teacher/researcher, acknowledges the value of McNiff's arts-based 
research for art therapists, but asserts that the approach is unable and 
insufficient to meet the needs of researchers wishing to integrate the visual arts 
into educational research methods. 

Arts-based research practices are driven by wide ranges of artist-researcher 
backgrounds. Each artist-researcher is positioned somewhat differently in the art 
and educational worlds. This results in the benefit of numerous, rich 
perspectives upon which to draw, while simultaneously generating efforts to 
increasingly different, if not competing agendas or outcomes. This may explain 
in part the multiplicity of interpretations and extensions of arts-based research. 
Each variety of knowing bears its own fruits and has its own uses. Even Eisner, a 
lion in qualitative and art-based research, is viewed by Sullivan as 
characteristically language-based, structuralist and essentialist in methodology, 


thereby not extending into the newest calls for studio-based methodologies for 
educational research (2005). 

Delineation of identities may have unintended outcomes. Particularization may 
delimit the good intentions of qualitative research, which is to increase our 
empathy, expand our engagement and participation, not to sort and divide. 
Delineation provides affinities, professional homes, and identities but it can also 
force us to choose identities and affinities and to take sides. Hence, from this 
perspective, the qualitative wars, extended into arts-based research, are 
continued and perpetuated. 

Expanding Forms of Art-based Research 

Research methodologies such as living inquiry, practice-led research, artist- 
teacher research, and autoethnography emerged out of restlessness and 
disenfranchisement of artist/educators who chafe against the limitations of the 
traditions and conventions of qualitative research methods (Paley, 1995; 
Ellis/Bochner,1996; Jipson & Paley et al., 1997; Bagley & Cancienne, et al., 2002; 
Irwin, et al., 2004; Springgay, et al., 2008). Numerous authors rebuff what 
research seems to demand of educators and artists. The language of traditional 
qualitative research is experienced as defensive, aggressive and contemptuous 
of ideas such as wisdom, generosity, silence, liminality, unknowing, love, and 
faith - words viewed with suspicion and contempt in the Academy (Irwin et al., 
2004; Springgay et al., 2008). When work cannot be accessed through 
conventional criteria, there is a tendency to dismiss it because it does not model 
traditional canons. Arts-based researchers are attempting to redefine those 
canons and convince the Academy to validate and include non-conventional 
forms of data representation. 


The newest ground of qualitative research includes recursive, reflexive, arts- 
based methods in ever-expanding ripples of experiential and experiential 
approaches (Ellis/Bochner, 1996). Increasingly, arts-based researchers are 
undertaking research outside of the Academy, in community and personal 
settings, where false distinctions created between the personal and the 
professional fall away - the 'academy of the kitchen table', the community 
center, boarding houses, art museum, skateboard park (Paley, 1995; 
Ellis/Bochner,1996; Jipson & Paley et al., 1997; Irwin et al., 2004; Springgay et 
al., 2008). 

Paley (1995) and Jipson & Paley et al. (1997) were heralds in early 
experimentation with art, education and culture in research outside of school 
settings. Paley's Finding Art's Place portrays ground-breaking experiments that 
provide representations and self-representations of children and young adults 
who are striving to find a place for art in their lives and to participate and 
contribute to the making of their culture (1995). Jipson & Paley in Daredevil 
Research transgressed mainstream academia by experimenting with wide- 
ranging social and personal content and alternative forms of representation 
(1997). Recognizing that the expressiveness and unpredictability of imagination 
generates tension within the Academy, each of these authors nevertheless 
disturbed the landscape while simultaneously reframing questions about critical 
thinking, knowledge creation, and non-analytical rendering of self and other. 
In the intervening years, numerous artists have generated a diverse range of 
research derived from image-based exploration. Fast-forwarding to the present, 
in Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry, Barrett & Bolt et al. 
(2009) advance compelling explanations of emergent process and reflexivity as 
both aspects and strengths of the subjective dimension in studio-based research. 


They assert studio-based enquiry as a method that unfolds through practice, and 
that practice, itself, produces knowledge and engenders further practice with a 
text suitable for research curriculum. 

The Other may now be one's Self. The emergence of new perspectives in 
qualitative research both challenge and augment possibilities of inquiry through 
methods that value image-making and new forms of ethnography, including, 
self-study (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2004; Vaughn, 2005; Irwin, 2008; 
Springgay, 2008). Increasingly, this development has pushed beyond 
conventional formulations of research and has linked the construction of 
research knowledge to alternative models of representation including 
performance art, personal conversation, nonobjective artistic practice, 
asignifying presentation, journal entry, dream narrative, deep subjectivity, and 
fictional production. Jipson & Paley (1997) state: 

As forms of this newer kind of practice continue to erupt in multiple ways, in 
multiple locations, for multiple reasons, inside and outside the grids of defined 
research categories, the sphere of scholarly inquiry has become an 
extraordinarily animated site for a diverse and experimental analytic 
production by a number of thinkers not hesitant to situate inquiry in a vast 
epistemological space, (p. 3) 

Visual Artists, Scholarship and Research 

The distinction between an artist and an author of qualitative research is, for me, 
blurred but compatible. However, that is an arguable stance within art and 
educational communities. An over-riding observation from this literature review 
is that significant strides and experimentation in arts-based research are 
occurring outside of the United States. Arts-based discourse and research is 
vibrant in coalitions of theorists and practitioners from Europe, the United 
Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand (Sullivan, 2005; Barrett & Bolt, 
2009). Sullivan (2005) credits this to "government funding and legislated change 
to institutional structures which resulted in unintended but generative debate 


about the value of visual arts as an academic discipline and ways of 
conceptualizing studio inquiry as a form of research" (p. 82). 

The Academy within the United States, however, remains ambivalent about arts- 
based research and the role of the artist in higher education. The juxtaposition of 
artist as researcher troubles the Academy along numerous lines. According to 
Sullivan (2005), art as subject and object is well-studied. Scholars agree, 
however, that studio practice and art processes are studied less well, poorly 
defined and easily dismissed as a site and means of knowledge creation (Diaz, 
2004; Fordon, 2004; Irwin et a I. 2004; Sullivan, 2005; Springgay et al., 2008). 
The Academy is the privileged source and site of knowledge, discovered and 
created by intellectuals - researchers and theorists. Knowledge is held by them 
until its implications are determined and sanctioned for dissemination through 
traditional academic and public auspices. Echoing the discourse within the 
qualitative wars, Sullivan (2005) states: "The hegemony of the sciences and the 
rationality of progress make it difficult for the visual arts to be seen as reliable 
sources of insight and understanding" (p. 23). 

The cultural and social significance of art is also grossly undervalued (Eisner, 
1997; Diaz, 2004; Sullivan, 2005; Hetland & Winner, 2007). Scholars agree that 
even when the arts are included in schools and institutions of higher education, 
visual arts programs struggle for acceptance as important areas of the 
curriculum and are among the first to be eliminated under budgetary 
constraints. More specifically, "Visual arts remain mostly sequestered within a 
limited cultural and political orbit. At worst they are seen as elitist; at best, visual 
arts are misunderstood" (Sullivan, 2005; Hetland & Winner et al., 2007). Arts- 
based, practice-led research also challenges practicing artists who value the fine- 


arts practice of art-making for its own sake or where research processes and 
analysis are viewed as impediments or irrelevant to creative process. 

Nudging Opposites Closer Together 

An increasing number of artist-educator researchers are picking up the challenge 
of suggested irreconcilability between artistic practice and scholarly research by 
pushing researchers to think more like artists and for artists to think more like 
researchers (Ellis & Bochner, 1996; Diaz, 2002; Slattery & Langerook, 2002; 
Vaughn, 2005). Diaz (2002) states "the processes of artistic creation and 
scientific inquiry are similar in many ways, yet at the same time they rest in 
distinct discursive discourse maintained as separate and inequitable" (p. 148). 
Sullivan (2005) continues Eisner's drumbeat for the importance of visual arts as 
an agency of human knowing in calling for "a broader conception of inquiry - 
one that is based on creative and critical perspectives" (p. 34). Educators and 
qualitative researchers are being pushed to ask new questions and to think 
differently about how to ask questions (Sullivan, 2005). 

Sullivan encourages an approach to examine visual arts as a form of inquiry into 
the theories, practices and contexts used by artists. The artist makes art to see 
things anew, to make people see the familiar in a new way. The critical and 
creative investigations where artists work are forms of research grounded in art 
practice. Sullivan (2008) asserts that "artists, as much as social scientists, are 
making headway in re-fashioning ways of envisioning who we are and what we 
do" (p. 236.) 

Geichman and Fox (2001) further assert that contemporary art can induce 
generative disorientation through defamiliarization. Contemporary art, by virtue 


of its strangeness, unfamiliarity, and highly personalized processes can suggest 
and invoke greater openness to what we consider educational experience (Stake 
& Kerr, 1995; Fox & Geichman, 2001) by invoking more shock, deeper conflict, 
and greater variety in the questions being asked in the classroom and in 
educational research. 

Advancing Dewey's declaration that the purpose of art is to defamilize the 
familiar (1934), Geichman & Fox (2001) state that a function of art in modern 
conversation must be to expand art processes and perspectives into the 
conventions of qualitative research in such a way as to disorient and redirect 
reigning perspectives in educational research and educational practice. 
Geichman & Fox (2001) further assert that contemporary art provides strategies 
and perspectives that suggest new questions for educational research in that 
"approaches used effectively in contemporary art and educational research may 
be effective with each because they inhabit a similar context at the turn of the 
twenty-first century" (p. 34). 

Emerging Forms of Art-based Research 

Going forward, the review identifies emerging forms and artists related to artist- 
teacher research. It is impossible for this literature review to account for the full 
range of prolific and generative portrayals of artist -teacher researchers that are 
now available. Once again, that does not invalidate the important contributions 
of the many others who are contributing to the growing collage of artist -teacher 



An example of emerging identity in art-based research is that of artist-researcher 
teacher through a defined, articulated identity of a/r/tography - a form of 
representation that privileges both text and image as they meet within moments 
of metissage (Irwin et al., 2004; Springgay, et al., 2008). Metissage in 
a/r/tography is appropriated from the French term for mixed race in European 
colonialist populations (Aldrich, 1999) and, as such, provides a socio-cultural 
perspective of autobiography-ethnography for artist -teacher researchers (Irwin, 
2000). The concept of metissage positions a/r/tography as a site for writing and 
surviving in the interval between different cultures and languages, a way of 
merging and blurring genres, male and female, texts and identities. It is a 
language of borderlands; an active literary stance, a political strategy, and 
pedagogical praxis (Aldrich, 1999; Irwin et al., 2000/2004; Springgay et al., 
2008). A/r/tography emerges out of a liminal space of practice and alternative 
identity (Pryer in Irwin, 2002). Irwin (2004) claims a/r/tography, at its core, has 
been with us a long time but "what is different now is a declared identity, and 
with identity comes a chance to articulate what that identity has come to mean 
for many people" (p. 71). 

Graphical Identity and Meaning-Making 

In privileging text and image, a/r/tographers leverage hyphens, dashes, slashes 
and spaces within English writing mechanics to create graphical representations 
in the artist-teacher-researcher identity and research experience. Graphical 
languaging is used to communicate and represent the space between one role 
and others as spaces of possibility and sites of radical openness (Pryer in Irwin, 
2004, p. 21). Most obvious are the identities that comprise the lives of artist- 


researcher teachers indicated by hyphens and also by slashes in the noun 
"a/r/tographer" (Irwin, 2004). Art, research and teaching contain parts of each 
other and, in praxis, form an "aesthetic synthesis" (Pearse in Irwin, 2004, p. 21). 
As a visual heuristic, graphical texture creates a strategy for expressive, 
interruptive and disruptive energies that cannot be systematized and objectified 
(Paley, 1995). Hyphens, dashes, slashes and spaces graphically represent the in- 
between and luminal spaces, the third space between, collaged lives and 
experiences, and processes of deep and complex inquiry of artist -teacher- 
researchers (deCosson, 2000; Pente in Irwin, 2004). When talking of the spaces 
between artist-teacher-researcher, Irwin (2004) says, "It is in that living space in- 
between that we are residing. We are alive in movement, in the intertextuality of 
visual and written texts" (p. 202). 

"The political, cultural and social positioning of all these artist/research/teachers, their 
consciously chosen non-fixity of identity, and the heightened awareness and 
simultaneous disregard for institutional frameworks and boundaries, marks them as 
marginal to mainstream artistic, academic, and pedagogical practice" (p. 22). 

Living Inquiry 

Not all artist-teacher researchers claim identity with a/r/tography but conduct 
artist-teacher research nonetheless. Artist-teacher researchers embed the 
practice of living inquiry in and through the arts in diverse and divergent ways. 
While our society commonly locates knowledge as dwelling beyond the realm of 
the everyday, artist-teacher researchers use their own artistic practices as 
primary or complimentary practices to other forms of inquiry. However, image is 
an integral component of the inquiry process. Each engages with their art and 
practice, art and text, self and other, artist and teacher, focusing on the spaces 
between theory and practice. 


The emergence of new perspectives in qualitative research both challenge and 
augment possibilities of inquiry through methods that value image-making and 
new forms of ethnography, including self-study (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 
2004; Vaughn, 2005; Irwin, etal., 2008; Springgay et al., 2008). Many of the 
artist-teacher researchers play with their marginal identities in their subject 
matter as well as their practice (Irwin, et al. 2004), exploring the depth, shadows 
and responsibilities such new connections create. Self-study practice creates 
profound possibilities for generating new connections. A/r/tography provokes 
questioning, wondering, and wandering that brackets the everyday and the 
conventional as artist-teacher researchers study and perform knowledge, 
teaching, and "to see themselves, and art, as if for the first time" (Smith in Irwin 
2004, p.23). 

Rendering Self 

Rendering self is a meaning-making process implicit in artist-teacher research 
practice. Artist-teacher researchers draw from Dewey's 1934 conception of 
simultaneous continuity and interaction of experience through experiencing and 
portraying living and moving forces that interplay with past and present 
situations and interactions. In a/r/tography, Irwin & de Cosson et al. (2004) delve 
into the process of rendering self through attention to memory, identity, 
reflection, mediation, storytelling, interpretation, and reinterpretation in their 
living practices. Artist-teacher research, as living inquiry, is concerned with self- 
and human-study. Each are potentially as complex, generative, curious, 
conflicted, nuanced, dark, particular, transitory, changeable, enduring, and 
hopeful as the other (Paley, 1995; Hubbard & Power, 1999; Bagley & Cancienne 
et al., 2002, Maclntyre Latta, 2001). 


In Being with A/r/tography, Springgay (2004) states, "I am always artist" while 
embracing complexity and otherness in aesthetic creation (p. 11). de Cosson 
(2004) explores his discomfort with the researcher identity in "a hermeneutic 
dialog of finding patterns in the aporia of artist/teacher/researcher" (p. 127). 
Maclntyre Latta (2001) explores the role and place of fear in what it means to 
teach and learn. Pryer (in Irwin & deCosson, 2004) explores intellectual 
nomadism and artist/researcher/teacher practice. Wilson (in Irwin, 2004) 
explores and manages the fluidity of self, grief, death, fragments, and darkness 
through the medium of quilting and narrative. Central and common within these 
(and numerous other) diverse subjects and multiple forms of blurred genres is 
that self is rendered through search and re-search, and always through image. 
Springgay (2004) states "art allows us to have the direct experience of being in 
multiple places at once, feeling multiple emotions, and holding contradictory 
opinions" (p. 11). 

The Female Voice 

Artist-teacher research as inquiry opens the way to describe the complexity of 
experience not only among researchers, artists and educators but also the lives 
of the individuals and communities with whom they interact. As a result, artist- 
teacher research practice has the possibility to privilege voices and cultures not 
well represented in traditional research forms, including female/feminist voices 
and forms of representation. While hooks (1997) recognized that feminist and 
critical pedagogy are two alternative paradigms for teaching which have 
emphasized the issue of coming to voice, artist-teacher research inquiry provides 
a means to open the worlds of female experience in a wide range of cultures. 
Artist-teacher researchers argue for the need to increase research approaches to 
portray lives and communities not portrayed in the scientific community - 
communities with particular problematics, voices, values and experiences 


differing from intellectual pursuits. The experimental work of Sadie Benning (in 
Paley, 1995) was an early representation of the unfamiliar world of female 
teenage development and angst. Springgay (2007) provides similarly evocative 
female research in which Watt disrupts mass media perceptions of veiling and 
Muslim dress. Jolly analyses the medicalization of modern birth. Springgay 
explores intimacy in Janinine Antoni's provocative artwork. 

Nonobjective Artistic Practices 

A common thread in the literature review of artist-teacher researchers is an 
imperative to maintain nonobjective artistic practices - artistic modes of 
representation and different approaches to critical inquiry without categorizing, 
naming and systematizing - groundwork laid by Paley's (1995) early 
experimentation. Artist-teacher researchers resist positivist analytic 
objectification by merging educational thinking with artistic practice in a most 
open way possible that includes bricolage and rhizomatic conceptualizations and 
polyphonic voices (Paley, 1995). 

Bricolage and the rhizomatic serve as strategic, non-compartmentalized, un- 
centered, methodological approaches to recode literary and visual experience in 
art-based research - conceptualizations with no orienting centers (Paley, 1995; 
Irwin et al., 2004; Springgay et al., 2008), invoking images of animal boroughs, 
bamboo plants, iris roots, ginger plants. Paley describes a rhizome as a virtually 
endless, complex, densely connected series of structures and inter-structures 
with multiple entrances, intersections, galleries, dead ends, entangled 
crossroads. The rhizomatic was conceptualized by Deleuze and Guattari (1986) 
as a way of avoiding reductive analysis, by entering the complexity of Franz 
Kafka's writing and art as a burrow or a rhizome, "not to explain or determine 
absolute meaning of his work, but rather to open up new ways of extracting 


intensities, tonalities and energy" (p. 11). Arts-based researchers similarly 
privilege all entrances to their work to discover connections, new meanings, 
linkages between points, the map of the rhizome, and how the map may be 
modified by entrance from any particular point (Paley, 1995; Irwin, 2000; 
Springgay, 2000). 

Bricolage, too, provides an alternative to compartmentalizing systems of 
knowledge production/display (Paley 1995). Bricolage is characterized in large 
part by "discontinuity, juxtaposition in overall form, and by a de-centered, 
porous association among its discontinuous parts" (Paley, 1995, p. 9). Bricolage 
provides for the possibility of creating a text in/between in a no/space and an 
every/place where images can shift from topic to topic. Bricolage entertains the 
idea of "a sphere whose center is everywhere and periphery nowhere and which 
demands a high level of participation without goal and direction. As such, 
"bricolage serves mechanics of imagination rather than doctrinal concerns" 
(Paley, 1995, p.10). 

Deleuze and Guattari (1986) assert that only the principle of multiple entrances 
prevents the impulse to name and categorize and attempts to interpret work 
that is actually only open to experimentation. Deleuze and Guattari (1986) 
further assert that inquiry about the nature of a thing can free the form from 
restricting belief systems - of assembling explanations of the meaning in relation 
to a given theory, thereby avoiding analytic categorizations. 

Maintaining such indeterminacy in art serves unregulated forces rather than 
forces that smooth out experience into normalized, objectified, analytic 
arrangements (Paley, 1995; Denzin & Lincoln, 2008). This stance runs against 


disciplined analytic practice. As hooks (1996) reminds us, in refusing the centre, 
one chooses "the margin as a site of radical openness" (p.48). 

Body Knowledge and Embodiment 

In response to the discipline and disappearance of the body in Western 
educational traditions, some artist-teacher researchers centralize the body as a 
subject of meaning-making. Bagley & Cancienne et al. (2002) move beyond 
established traditions and locate the body as a site of data gathering and 
meaning-making. Snowber (in Bagley & Cancienne, 2002) explores the 
relationship between dance improvisation, bodily knowing and performative 
inquiry through "lived-curriculum" as opposed to "curriculum-as-plan" (p. 21). 
Springgay (2008) and Snowber (2002) welcome and celebrate materiality and 
sensuality through the body, problemitizing what it means to interface body with 
curriculum. Maclntyre Latta (2001) explores the body's role with teaching and 
learning with the assumption that embodiment is elemental to human beings 
and that disconnection and disembodiment are a complication and impediment 
within education. Springgay (2008) poses the question of how the body as 
meaning, rather than the container of meaning, disrupts normative assumptions 
and dualistic thought. Central to the theme of embodied knowing, rather than 
projective knowing, is that body is a vital site of knowledge and data in living 
inquiry, whether as object or metaphor. 

An Aesthetic Way of Knowing 

An infused, or at times, a central theme in artist-teacher research is attention to 
aesthetics as a way of knowing. In comparing, contrasting, liking, disliking, 
making judgments, interpreting from experience, artist-teachers entertain new 


possibilities for knowing the world through active engagement. Artist-teacher 
researchers agree that the value is less on the actual art product and more on 
the experience of making the art (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2004). 

Greene (in Diaz & McKenna, 2004) refers to the aesthetic as perceptual journeys 
- "pursuit of more and more unexplored perspectives, for attentiveness to all 
sorts of forms in their concreteness and particularity" (p. 25). However, 
McKenna (2004) further asserts that "perception must be charged with an 
emotional tone if we are to draw any meaning from the experience" (p. 54). Diaz 
(2004) asserts that aesthetics is fundamental to critical thinking, occupying both 
a transcendent and everyday function in life. Through aesthetic awareness, we 
are led to apprehend the qualities and meaning of artworks through direct 
experience, which Diaz (2004) states "involves a sensuous awareness of the 
physical context and an intrinsic delight with specific actions, along with a desire 
for joyful meaning, and a need to feel gratitude for the whole process" (p. 85). In 
this respect, the aesthetic experience is akin to the experience of embodiment 
(Snowber in Diaz & McKenna, 2003), contrasted with what Greene describes as 
passive, awe-struck approaches and mastery of traditional art appreciation 
common to traditional study or museum appreciation (2004). 

Artist-teacher researchers variously describe how aesthetic sensitivity fosters an 
experience of connection in life, harkening to the binding/connecting function 
between collage parts and pieces of a thing or experience. Donovan (2004) 
states that aesthetics foster connections for engaged students - connecting 
students with each other, to their own meaning-making and to life beyond the 
moment. Through aesthetic awareness, Diaz (2004) calls for reintegration of the 
body and mind, spirit and intellect, arts and education - things that culture and 


individuals separate within and without - as a means of creating authenticity 
through connection. 

Snowber (in Diaz & McKenna, 2004) describes how making and viewing art leads 
one into aesthetic experience, but it also happens in reverse. Living attentively in 
the world, eyes wide open, heart expansive, can lead one into a kind of 
perceiving that deepens our aesthetic experience of the world. This experience 
begs for form, and we are far more open to the emergence of curriculum of 
artistic expression. 

Forms and Methods of Artist-Teacher Research 

Collage and Assemblage 

Qualitative researchers have identified collage and assemblage as a method to 
evoke new ways of knowing in postmodern, postcolonial manuscript (Ellis & 
Bochner, 1996; Biddle & Locke, 2007). Collage is a fine arts practice with a 
postmodern epistemology based on the idea of spontaneously layering images 
and symbols (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2002; Vaughn, 2005) through which 
traditions and experiences can be reinterpreted and connections can be forged 
between the seemingly random or disparate (Joseph Cornell Retrospective, 
Peabody-Essex Museum, 2007). Museum curator of the Cornell Retrospective, 
Hartigan (2007) identified collage principles as central to the modern concept of 
creativity as the idealism and recombination of ideas. 

A collagist method brings things together while simultaneously recognizing the 
separateness of parts and pieces. Maclntyre Latta (2001) explores lingering in- 
between tensions, conversations and sites of experience. Diaz (in Bagley & 


Cancienne, 2002) created collage as a "double stage effect" of the visual and the 
discursive through an overlay of text/images that promotes "a drama of two 
realities enacting on two levels of experience (p. 148). Vaughn (2005) used 
collage as a model for interdisciplinary research to give equal weight to visual 
and linguistic processes while exploring collage methodology and epistemology. 
In the creation of Unwearables, Vaughn embraces a collagist methodology in 
which each component of her interdisciplinary work is embodied not simply 
described, in that the art products reflect, reveal, and document the process of 
their own creation. 

Collage is further exemplified in numerous contributors to Composing 
Ethnography: Alternative Forms of Qualitative Writing (Ellis & Bochner, 1996) 
and Dancing the Data (Bagley & Cancienne, 2002). The results are a range of 
writing that experiments with various textual forms in order to deliberately push 
the boundary on conventions for disciplinary texts. The content is provided in a 
wide range of non-traditional sociological writing. 


The new and different forms of the arts disrupt the mono, one-voice nature of 
research. Bagley & Cancienne et al. (2002) in Dancing the Data embrace 
intertextual forms of representation through visual and performing arts with 
educational research to open up new conversations between artists, educators 
and researchers. The text, the accompanying words and movement make data 
presentable and discernible in a way that cannot be achieved by more bounded 
representational forms. An accompanying CD-ROM presents new ways of 
knowing, learning and teaching. The use of multimedia augments and cross- 
fertilizes representational genres, thereby generating new conversations. 


Jenoure (in Bagley & Cancienne, 2002) describes how, as a performance artist, 
the process of creating an art piece and research are both/and experience as she 
moves in and out of sensual, spiritual and cognitive realms. Also as an example 
of embodiment, Jenoure describes this as moving inside and outside of her body 
almost instantaneously and she experiences the work through different lenses, 
constantly scrutinizing her work from every angle (as cited in Bagley & 
Cancienne, 2002). 


Duncan (2004) and Smith (2005) explore autoethnography as an alternative form 
of qualitative writing. Autoethnography provides a means of inquiry outside the 
conventions of traditional qualitative research which Ellis and Bochner (1996) 
portray as a "new ethnography" that appeals to those who feel marginalized by 
the conventions of positivist and traditional social science research. 
Autoethnography allowed Smith's self-participation in a study of acquired brain 
injury (2005). An autoethnographic approach supported Duncan's self-directed 
approach to developing hypermedia educational resources (2004). Neuman (in 
Ellis & Bochner, 1996) also claims autoethnography is a "form of critique and 
resistance that can be found in diverse literatures such as ethnic autobiography, 
fiction, memoir, and texts that identify zones of contact, conquest, and the 
contested meanings of self and culture that accompanies the exercise of 
representational authority" (p. 191). Richardson (in Ellis & Bochner, 1996) 
expresses "renewed appreciation for self-expression in interpretive communities 
where academic conventions have constrained rather than enabled the 
representation of subjective experience" (p. 193). "As a term of textual analysis, 
autoethnography reminds us that ethnography - like other forms of cultural 
representation - matters deeply in the lives of others who find themselves 
portrayed in texts not of their own making" (Neuman in Ellis & Bochner, 1994, 


p. 191). Neuman (in Ellis and Bochner, 1994) claims that autoethnography stands 
as a attempt to come to terms with sustaining questions of self and culture -as 
"a discursive activity that finds its bearing, practice, and value as a response to 
the ambiguities of a particular cultural and historical culture" (p. 193). 

What Can We Learn From the Visual Artist? 

What this literature review reveals is that research methods that draw from the 
long history of anthropology and sociology do not fully satisfy the interests and 
concerns of visual arts researchers (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Sullivan 2005; 
Springgay, 2008; Barrett & Bolt, 2009). Anthropological and sociological 
traditions emphasize the researcher as "editor" rather than artistic 
"practitioner", tilting towards critique and analysis of phenomena, with little to 
say about the creation of new knowledge using visual means. However, as these 
(and other) artist-teacher researchers are showing, informative theories and 
practices are being found in the art studio through the artist -theorist as 
practitioner. Visual artists, building on traditions of social critique, make use of 
all manner of circumstances, settings, and technologies to ask questions that 
might affect the way people think, feel, and act as a result of their encounters 
with art (Sullivan, 2005). 

Meaning is not merely an outcome of reduplicative analysis or thematic 
synthesis in artist-teacher research. Rather, effective research is more of a Rilke 
experience (1934) that increases opportunities to raise better questions that not 
only seek to add information to our store of knowledge by helping come to 
understand what we do not know, but simultaneously requires us to 
problematize what we do know. Artist-teacher researchers seek alternative 
means to conventional classification of phenomena which uses empirically based 


conceptual frameworks to categorize things. Drawing upon the analogous, 
connecting function of collage, art-based researchers envision 
interconnectedness where criteria is used to identify relationships among 
entities of interest, rather than a tendency to separate things into typologies and 


The problematic nature of how artist -teacher researchers knowingly or 
unknowingly interpret images in the construction of meaning however, is an 
issue of ongoing debate (Sullivan, 2005). Reflexivity was a construct initially 
identified in feminist discourse, linked to the notion that positions are 
discursively and interactively constituted and are open to shifts and changes as 
the discourse shifts or as one's positioning within or in relation to that discourse 
shifts (Sullivan 2005). In other words, one's stance can change based upon 
experience (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2002). Sarah Pink (in Sullivan, 2005) 
argues that reflexivity can be a conceptual asset in revealing information, but 
also an operational liability that can raise concerns about issues such as ethics. 

Research and Politics 

Ultimately, what should count as research leads to a very deep agenda. Issues of 
epistemology have political ramifications as well as intellectual ones. 
(Eisner,1988; Jipson & Paley, 1997; Denzin & Lincoln, 2008). Over a decade ago, 
Jipson and Paley (1997) recognized that the "ideological and personal 
dare"(p.l4) in producing independent research is a tight-wire activity that 
involves risk which implies, in no small part, changes in power relations. Not all 
forms of data are considered legitimate research, even though as Eisner, has 


repeatedly declared in various ways over the decades, "Forms of data are as old 
as the hills; they are just new to research" (1997, p. 5). Research is an agenda 
with high stakes in that it pertains to matters of legitimacy, authority, and 
ultimately resides with whoever possesses the power to publish and promote. 
Attesting to the on-going conservative nature of the Academy, Barone and Eisner 
(1997) note that useful non-science-based texts are still not regarded as 

The quiet research revolution is met with resistance in other ways. Politics drives 
the paradigm of the times. In many quarters, a resurgent, scientifically based 
research paradigm has gained the upper hand. According to Denzin and Lincoln 
(2008), interpretive methods are read as unscientific and unsuitable for use by 
those who legislate social policy. Borrowing from the field of biomedical 
research, the National Research Council (NRC) appropriated neopositivist, 
evidence-based epistemologies (exemplified in No Child Left Behind) which 
embodies a re-emergent scientism in which well-defined causal models and 
independent and dependent variables have created a hostile political 
environment for qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2008, p. 11). 

What is My Niche in This Field? 

The literature review provides a context to understand my students' and my 
dysphoria and conflict in research. The entire field, for an entire century, is 
defined by constant churning, yawing struggle and inspiration to manifest 
knowledge for a society that, too, demonstrates growth at unprecedented rates. 
Sadly, in the American Academy and American culture, arts and education are 
not valued sufficiently to match the growth and investment in other disciplines. 
American colleges and universities have increasingly become pragmatic places 


where students train to get jobs rather than to obtain educations (Berg,2004), 
sharpened in the most recent months of world-wide economic crisis. Colleges 
are increasingly test-marketing "no-frills" programs and online delivery to defray 
the increasing cost of higher education. Education research and learning through 
the arts would seem to be even more threatened in the current political and 
economic climates. 

The research debates bring us to the edges of discourse about representation 
and cognition. One of the ideals of conventional social science and quantitative 
research is to reduce ambiguity and increase precision. Traditional qualitative 
research is about asking good questions and finding the best genre and method 
to find answers to one's questions, to find clues and explanations to minimize or 
eliminate competing explanations, rival hypothesis, or personal judgment and 
emotional content. However, as this literature review acknowledges, many 
alternative forms of data representation do not provide that kind of precision or 
comfort. Practice-led research contrasts with research cultures that value the 
efficiency of numbers, statistics and quantifiable, comparable facts and figures. 

Additionally, the arts are forms that generate emotion. That is their strength 
and hindrance in artist-teacher research practice. In the end, Eisner summates, 
that ironically, good research complicates our lives. Can we as educators, 
together with our students, tolerate the increasing tension of our modern life 
and 'live the questions' toward meaningful understanding and answers without 
immediate gratification or soothing, comforting answers? 

I am heartened that the literature indicates the field is shifting. The research 
field is moved slowly and inevitably by those who imagine new possibilities and 
who persuade colleagues of their utility (Barone & Eisner, 1997). Artist -teacher 


researchers, with whom I identify, must gradually persuade colleagues of the 
value and utility of the new lenses for viewing previously unnoticed educational 
phenomena, forms of data that are unable to be captured and displayed within a 
numerical symbol system. The knowledge that artists acquire/construct from 
their wide-ranging practices is increasingly recognized as valuable and credible in 
the larger field of education, especially in the education of adult learners. This 
literature review indicates that artists can provide a valuable perspective to 
educators of adult learners. The literature review provides evidence that there 
are evolving conversations and conventions in qualitative research in response 
to a need to portray sociological realities of cultures that may not be well 
represented through traditional conventions of research. There is evidence of 
increasing interest in conventions of research that portray meaning-making and 
the process of an experience through a wide range of research methods. I am 
hopeful that arts-based educational research using visual arts could reduce the 
disenfranchisement and disconnection in educational research felt by adult 
students in their education. Artists provide valuable information on how 
transformational learning can be fostered given the variables of learning 
contexts, learners, and educators. 

From the perspective of artist-teacher researchers, art is more than a personal 
rite of passage of personal discovery. Living inquiry, as an arts-based approach to 
research, is a fluid, generative, heuristic enterprise - a non-linear, rhythmic 
circularity of the creative, non-linear artist-teacher research journey. The artist- 
teacher researcher explores truths that prevail, even as the contextual, political, 
and sociological dimensions of learning and inquiry realign truths in new ways. 
When we understand this resonance in terms of how we create, teach, and 
inquire alongside one another, we recognize the incalculable abundance of our 
personal and collective capacity to effect change. More research is indicated to 


provide as broad a perspective as there are experiences from studio-based 


Literature Review of Transformational Learning 

My doctoral study on the phenomena of transformation is a means by which I 
am making the archetype of transformation more conscious, not only for my 
own individuation and professional development, but also, as a contribution to 
adult learners and as a means to increase quality and development of Self (Jung, 
1969) in adult learner education. My study of transformational learning with 
adult students is situated in the context of their socio-cultural experiences, self- 
perceptions , and the influences of their learning experiences. It is a primary 
objective in this literature review to increase our understanding of realities and 
factors in transformation, that is, of deep paradigmatic change, into clearer 
understanding and practical usage for the adult learner and educator. 

Educators, however, disagree on the value and need for transformational 
learning, and not all students seek transforming experiences (Cranton,1997; 
Taylor, 1998; Mezirow, 2000). Many adult learning contexts do not necessarily 
lend themselves to transformational learning, and transformational learning is 
not the only goal of education (Cranton, 1997; Taylor, 1998). Some programs of 
study are less conducive to transformational learning than others. Additionally, 
not all learners and educators are predisposed to engage in transformational 
learning. Despite recent decades of development in adult learning, many 
administrators and faculty function out of what they know best - a traditional 
academic and administrative paradigm - lacking sufficient understanding of adult 
learning theory, constructivist learning, and how to facilitate transformational 
learning in the classroom (Taylor, 1998). Increasing economic delimitations and 
the prodigious use of field practitioners as adjunct faculty complicate the 
challenge of transformational learning. 


Through my own teaching experience, and that of educators in my institution, I 
witness the value and challenges of transformational learning across a range of 
disciplines. How can transformational learning best be fostered, given the 
variables of learning contexts, learners, and educators (Taylor, 1998)? 

What is Transformation? 

While there is a plethora of cultural interest in transformation, there is, however, 
much less literature that provides a definitive working definition of 
transformation because it is a phenomenon, and as such, it is more amenable to 
description than definition. The same could be said about the phenomenon of 
transformation that Tisdell (2003) says of spirituality: "It seems to defy 
definition, or at the very least, all definitions of it seem to be inadequate" (p.xi). 

The phenomenon of transformation is perhaps better known by descriptions of 
its effect, such as is experienced with poetry, art, symbols, and music, rather 
than by definitions. Descriptions engage our imagination and our affect, while 
definitions engage our intellect. Additionally, Creswell (1998) points out that 
subjects of phenomenology are better suited to descriptive methods of research. 
But this leaves our understanding of transformation at risk for suffering from 
cultural popularism and subjectivity, and possible dilution of meaning and 

My Personal Grounding in Transformation 

I conducted research with the concept of transformation grounded, as a way of 
knowing, in the archetypal psychology of Carl Jung in which the unconscious of 
the individual and of culture is recognized as an aspect of the consciousness of 
both. In The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (1969), Jung spoke of 


transformation in what may be described as mythical, archetypal, psychological, 
and spiritual language that differentiates transformation into subjective, 
transcendent experiences of rebirth, contextualized in both internal and external 

According to Jung, the psyche is the starting point of all human experience, and 
all knowledge we gain eventually leads back to it - the psyche is the beginning 
and end of all cognition (Jung, Collected Works, 1969). Jung (1969) declared that 
for true learning to occur, the affective realms must be engaged. 

Jung's studies and work led him to conclude that the unconscious is the real 
source of all our human consciousness. Depth psychology, as an academic 
discipline, is sourced by a long lineage of individuals who look and listen with 
metaphoric sensibility to the subtleties of human experience (Jung Institute 
Summer Seminars, 2007). Jung's work inspires a stream of discourse on multiple 
ways of knowing in the context of transformation among scholar-practitioners 
who pay particular attention to the role of the unconscious, the mythic, and the 
spiritual (Yorks & Kasl, 2006). This attention was recently re-sparked with 
publication of Jung's Red Book, (2009), the original writings of Jung's self- 
experimentation with active imagination. 

Jung, however, is frequently resisted in higher education because his work is 
viewed as mystical, psychological, and spiritual. Transformation is often 
associated with spirituality because of the growth and change that individuals 
can undergo in their experience of spirituality (Tisdell, 2003). These associations 
create challenges in academic circles where value is placed on behavorial, 
structural learning theory (Piaget, 1950; Erickson, 1959) and on traditional 
methods of learning in the classroom. Through Freud and Piaget, the structure 


of learning is set. Biology is given and all we are adding is details. I began to feel 
that I needed additional frames of reference for my exploration of 
transformational learning with adult learners. 

Transformative Learning Theory Was a Bridge 

A theme that consistently runs through the literature review on the theories and 
concepts of adult learning is the emphasis on praxis - action and reflection upon 
the world in order to change it. This is a foundational construct of both 
democratic process and of transformational learning, which has process 
orientation at its roots. While transformation theory is closely linked with 
psychology and developmental theory, it has more recently been introduced as a 
theory of practice in adult education (Grabove, 1997). Mezirow's theory of 
transformative learning created a bridge for me to examine and facilitate 
transformation in the adult learning classroom. 

Influenced by the writings of Paolo Freire, Third World emancipatory educator 
(Freire, 1970), and the phenomenon of consciousness-raising in the woman's 
movement during the 1970' s, Mezirow evolved the theory of transformative 
learning as a process in changing perspectives and assumptions through 
reflective discourse (Mezirow, 2000). Transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 
1978) emerged as a concept to describe how we revise meaning from our 
experiences through an encounter with difference that destabilizes our 
assumptions and our thinking, typically triggered by disorientation that occurs 
when an experience does not fit with our assumptions and expectations. 
Transformative learning is, at its core, an individual process involving shifting 
perspective and individual transformation (Mezirow, 1998). 


According to Mezirow (1991) and transformative learning theory, the principal 
goal of adult education is reflective and transformational learning. He stresses 
the need to empower learners to think as autonomous agents in preparation for 
the twenty-first century, emphasizing that skills and knowledge have taken on 
new forms in an information age. Learners need to understand and manipulate 
information, not simply acquire it (Grabove, 1997, p. 90). In this sense, Mezirow's 
theory is a continuation of emancipatory learning established by Freire (1970) in 
that he asserts education is not about escape from but rather about deeper 
immersion into the rough-and tumble-of human relationship (Mezirow, 2000). 

Transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 2000) states that we, as learners, 
must journey away from certainty, away from familiar frames of reference to 
change meaning perspectives and to create shifts in understanding. 
Transformative learning theory is built on the concept that there are necessary 
components to creating substantive change to our perspectives and frames of 
reference. These components involve a gamut of criteria including: 

"disorienting dilemmas, self-examination of charged emotions, critical assessment of 
assumptions, exploration and planning, acquisition of knowledge and skills, provisional 
experimentation, and building competence and self-confidence, all of which contribute 
to reintegration dictated by one's new perspective" (Mezirow, 2000, p. 22). 

These are particular challenges and risks to the concept of transformational 
learning and to the transformative learning theory as it becomes increasingly 
inclusive. Mezirow (2000) asserts not all change is transformative and not all 
critical reflection leads to transformative learning. Transformation and 
transformative learning are concepts that are at risk for becoming generalized, 
popularly embraced, all-purpose words. When they become words with worn, 
sanded surfaces, and familiar, comfortable edges, they lose their potency and 
potential for stimulating awareness and consciousness. We need to be careful to 


use them with cognitive and emotional discernment to maintain the clarity and 
nuances of their individual and collective meanings. 

Disorienting Dilemma 

Mezirow asserts that transformative learning begins with a disorienting 
dilemma, with some experience that problemitizes current understandings and 
frames of reference and then functions as a stimulus and framework for 
perspective change and behavior change (Mezirow, 2000). Moving away from 
certainty takes us to what Jennifer Berger refers to as the growing edge, the 
threshold of our thinking and sense-making (Berger, 2004). Berger describes the 
liminal space of the edge of knowing as unfamiliar, potentially uncomfortable 
ground, making it "the most precarious and important transformative space" 
(ibid, 2004, p. 343). 

Our lives are ripe with potential for disorienting dilemma in day-to-day minutiae 
to major life encounters. Our assumptions and ideas about the world get 
challenged in innumerable ways in the course of daily living such as when 
reading something new, or someone says something that exemplifies a totally 
different experience than we have had. In the larger spectrum of life, we may be 
involuntarily thrust into a new experience. We may also voluntarily undertake 
what Greene refers to as "a search to refuse the stasis and flatness of ordinary 
life" (Greene, 1988, p. 123). As we know from the social sciences, lived 
experience in the classroom, and from our own personal lives, disorienting 
dilemmas and the edges of knowing have the potential to stimulate innovative 
action that we may not have previously considered However, we also know that 
uncertainty can foster inertia, mis-direction, or even retraction of engagement. 


As educators, we encounter learners' growing edges continuously. Education is 
optimal ground for challenge to assumptions and possible transformation of 
ideas and perspectives. The edges of knowing is where much of the action in the 
classroom occurs through cognitive stretch to ideas and thinking and through 
interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics. If we teach for transformation, we 
encourage learners to embrace what they do not know. 

There are many different experiences of the edge. Perry (in Berger, 2004) 
portrays that learners fear catastrophic disorganization, real or perceived, at the 
edges of their learning. Learners range from those who seek out, embrace the 
edge and enjoy transformation to those who anguish at the edges of their 
understanding or retreat from it back to some kind of certainty. A point of 
empathy with students may be to understand that transformational learning is 
not easy. While we, as transformational educators may be in a position to 
encourage, influence and facilitate transformation, Berger emphasizes that only 
the person on the edge can do that learning (Berger, 2004, p. 345). This is 
reminiscent again of what Rilke, the poet, reflected in his exhortation to the poet 
to draw up from inner resources and to "Go into yourself" (Rilke, 1934, p. 18). 
Our challenge and responsibility as educators, supervisors and advisors in 
education, is to contain the learning process, to be "good company" at the edge 
(Berger 2004, p. 347), and to hold our students' experiences while encouraging 
them to progress in means and methods that are appropriate to them . 

The literature review reflects that personal familiarity with transformational 
education allows us to better facilitate and allow students to have their own 
personal encounters. Our central task as transformational educators is to 
present learners with diverse ways of thinking and acting. Our responsibility is to 


go with their experiences, replete with potential complexity and messiness, but 
to not be a part of breaking the experience. 

When teaching from heart, understanding the role of disorienting dilemma in 
transformational learning and changing meaning perspectives is a process, not 
an outcome (hooks, 1994). Canned, generic responses will not adequately 
attend to the complexities of adult learners' needs as they face the edges of 
their knowing. How, then, can we be better equipped to recognize, facilitate and 
manage learning at the edges of knowing in constructivist classrooms? How can 
we use our understanding to reshape our own assumptions about our practices? 
hooks challenges educators in both courage and skill when she asks "How far can 
we go in stretching peoples' experience without breaking the thread?" (hooks, 

Transformational Learning 

This literature review indicates that transformational learning benefits from 
systematic and self-critical inquiry. Transformative learning theory has been 
viewed primarily as a cognitive process that interdisciplinary contributors are 
increasingly challenging and developing to increase the validity of the theory 
across a wider range of contexts and audiences (Mezirow, 2000). The theory is 
criticized as too branded, rationally driven, and limited to consciously rational 
processes, and therefore limited to learners with cognitive, rational preferences 
for learning. The theory suggests that the meaning schemes we construct from 
our beliefs, attitudes, and emotional reactions are based upon experiences that 
can be deconstructed through critical reflection and acted upon in a rational way 
(Taylor, 1998). More recent researchers of the theory, such as Grabove (1976) 
and York and Kasl (2006), assert that transformative learners move in and out of 
the cognitive and the intuitive, of the rational and the imaginative, of the 


subjective and the objective, of the personal and the social (p. 89). This is the 
direction of critical inquiry that attracts my attention in transformational 

Why Bother with Transformational Learning? 

There are many challenges associated with transformational learning. Mezirow 
asserts that the disorienting dilemma is not only a necessary component of 
transformative learning, it is also vital. Freire (1970) positioned disruption to 
assumptions as an essential factor in all human existence: "There is no creativity 
without ruptura, without a break from the old, without conflict in which you 
have to make a decision. I would say there is no human existence without 
ruptura" (p. 38). 

Additionally, transformational education takes time, commitment and skill. Both 
educators and students experience cultural, societal and institutional 
delimitations in transformational learning. The fundamental principles of 
transformational learning involve values and processes that increasingly strain 
under contemporary economic and educational trends. With so much 
complexity and obvious challenge with transformational learning, why then 
would we even undertake such a proposition? 

The value of art and creative processes to transformational learning lies in the 
many qualities inherent in art images and in the process of creating images. Art 
and creative processes reveal the complexities of transformational learning while 
also providing additional lenses through which to view possibilities and potential 
in disorienting dilemma. While the arts bring up nuances and subtleties that may 
be difficult to speak in words, shifting media also enables us to shake off the 
trappings of that which holds us down. 


Through the charting of my own experience of disorienting dilemma and 
individuation, I am further convinced that transformational learning benefits 
from sustained and intensive experimentation with art images and ideas, from 
constructing and deconstructing them, putting together and taking them apart. 
Charting the path of transformation will facilitate educators to be more 
thoughtful and intentional guides. My doctoral exploration is, then, to expand 
transformational theory through focus on consciously non-rational processes 
related to art, methods of creative processes, and to extra-rational sources such 
as symbols, images and archetypes to increase its applicability to a more diverse 
group of learners. 


Chapter Three 
Visual Autoethnography: An Artful Encounter with Eros 

As a path for mid-life individuation, I chose a logos journey to engage in graduate 
education as a means to develop my intellect through deep study, critical 
thinking, and objective understanding of my passion for the concept of 
transformation, all while developing my artistic self. I wanted to simultaneously 
claim my space as a visual artist and artist/scholar/educator. This was a difficult 
feat that required constant attunement to issues of balance and paradox. 
Sometimes, I felt at risk for becoming too academic in this pursuit. I feared losing 
my creativity. I feared I would lose the elixir I experience through my more easily 
experienced feeling function (Jung, 1969). How can artists be both intellectually 
and academically facile? 

"It was as if it had been so important that to think about it, to know just what 
one was trying to do with one's paints, had been to risk losing something; it 
seemed at first glance as if an experience so intimate and vital must be kept 
remote and safe from the cold white light of consciousness which might 
destroy its glories." 

Marion Milner in Barron, Montuori, & Barron, 1997 (p. 113) 

Unquestionably I needed a new and different experience of Eros in my life; one 
authenticated through my own authentic, bodily-felt experience to 
counterbalance my developing intellect. In this chapter I describe my journey of 
discovery as I explored various ways to understand my own becoming. The 
authoethnographic exploration of my own transformation through studio 
engagements with collage and assemblage served as a guide to the design for 
this current project. 

Arousal of desire and longing bring important messages of what is needed in 
one's life. During my studies, a tourist visit to the outdoor museum, The Gustav 


Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway 1 provided me with that kind of 
experience. Through that museum visit, I experienced an arousal of desire and 
longing that brought important messages of what I needed in my life. 


Photos 2 Vigeland Sculpture Park 

The statuary have a characteristic of human beings caught in a 'freeze-frame', or 
an act or moment that is archetypal and larger than the actual moment. They 
have a quality of truth - of "that's how things are" - if we were to authentically 
and honestly portray internal or external realities of human experiences. 

Photos 2 Vigeland Sculpture Park 

The archetypal, dream-like quality of Vigeland's statuary gave me just enough 
distance from reality to allow me to gaze at the most mundane, intimate or 

brutish exchanges without feeling intrusive, voyeuristic or naked myself, and to 
then contemplate its impact on me. I was stunned. I felt awe. I was overtaken 
by emotion. I became gripped with inarticulate longing, and tears began to 
stream down my face. I felt I had entered a dream. The moment was larger than 

The Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway is an open-air museum on 80 acres of grass and public gardens. The 
park contains 192 bronze and stone sculptures with more than 600 human figures. 


life and numinous. Yet, it was all so familiar. Everywhere I saw the human 
condition and I felt I knew these figures and dynamics. I knew them in my 
senses, in my emotions, my relationships. I had met them in my own life, in the 
lives of my family, students, clients, colleagues, and friends, in the movies, in 
museums, on the streets. They are we. The archetypes that power our lives were 
enlarged and lined along the corridors, over the bridge, around the fountain, 
through the gardens, up the monolith. 

The statutes are unblinking, truthful, straightforward, and honest. Some of the 
statues were hard to look at, not because of nudity but because of their 
truthfulness of the facts of humanity. The nakedness is not in the bodies. The 
nakedness is in the truthfulness. Some are exquisitely tender, full of beauty. 
Some portray mundane life. Some portray brute force. Some are brutally 
honest. I felt in some strange way that I had arrived upon truth that I already 
knew but had been secreted down deep in my bones. I longed to be able to be 
that truthful in my art, in my life. 

The fact of nudity did not shock me. I was stunned, however, that a Norwegian 
had sculpted such unclothed physicality. I am a Norwegian American. What had I 
missed? Entwhistle (2000) describes conventions of dress as the means by which 
bodies are made appropriate and acceptable within specific contexts. Dress is 
fundamental to micro-social order, and the exposure of naked flesh is, 
potentially at least, disruptive of that order. Here were acres of nude statues. 
Nowhere did that kind of physical forth-rightness or cultural openness fit into 
the heritage of my earthy but socially and religiously conservative immigrant 
Norwegian mid-west culture. 


Photo 3 Paternal Family Homestead in Norway. Late 1890's. Family archive. 

My family (and droves of Scandinavians) left Norway while Vigeland was 
emerging as a renowned sculptor. I knew about their poverty, hardship, the 
beauty of the land, their religious struggles, but not about this art. Despite my 
contemporary and educated adult life, I felt like I had missed something 
important in my upbringing, in my education. Something of life, or of my culture, 
had eluded me or been kept from me. I felt like I had picked up an important 
piece of a puzzle. I was convinced it was a critical piece that would bring some 
larger picture into focus, but I did not know what that picture might even look 
like. What I knew, through my tears, was that I was in the throes of desire, of an 
energy force field that I had longed for, needed, and had striven to acquire 
throughout my life. I found it but what was it? And what was I now to do with it? 

A Disorienting Dilemma 

In that one touristy day I stumbled into a disorienting dilemma, which, in 
transformative learning theory, Mezirow (2000) describes as a situation of 
disorientation when an experience does not fit with our assumptions and 
expectations and becomes a catalyst for exploration. Despite my well-developed 
relational qualities and artistic proclivities, the sculpture park deeply challenged 
the precepts and assumptions of my Norwegian and mid-western agrarian, 
cultural grounding and perspectives while simultaneously rocketing me to a new 
plane of passion and artistic possibility. It all felt deeply connected to my body. 
My physical and emotional senses became quickened. My inarticulate longings 
felt like ache. I felt fiery burning deep inside. I wept. I wept with sorrow. I wept 


with longing. I wept with recognition but I did not know of what. I felt like I was 
at the threshold of something, that, if I could just experience it, I would have "it", 
whatever "it" was. From the perspective of depth psychology, Jung (1969) 
describes this as being gripped by an archetype - a psychic energy source that 
broke through into my conscious life. 

Over time, I began to recognize that passionate, blissful, excruciating force and 
longing as Eros, the archetype of passionate desire and a creative, poetic force in 
life. I had an encounter with one of the most important driving forces in human 
life - passion, love, and desire. But this time it was not attached to another 
human being (man or woman) through love, friendship, collegiality, or 
sexualization. There was no projection. This was all within me. 

The Inner Fire 

This experience is reminiscent of the alchemical process in individuation that 
requires prima materia be submitted to a series of processes in order to be 
transformed into 'The Elixir of Life', or the 'universal medicine' (Edinger,1994). I 
felt as if my prima materia was aglow with an inner fire. The inner fire is 
represented in the vessel photography series created from a papier mache 
vessel, the first of many vessel images - "places to hold my passion". 

Images 5 Papier Mache Vessel: "The Inner Fire." Actual size 10"x 10". 


Here, through natural lighting and photography, a simple, white papier mache 
vessel (which might be as the blank white page for a writer, a blank white canvas 
for a painter, a chunk of clay for a sculpture) became emblematic of my 
transforming process in education. While I created a metaphoric vessel for my 
alchemical process of change and growth, I also began to extricate elements of 
transformation through recognition of the chaotic "edges" of learning (Berger, 
2004), and I began to formulate an aesthetic for expressing the inexplicable, and 
mostly invisible process of transformation. 

Dewey (1934) recognized the impact of desire and passion in the learning 

"When excitement about subject matter goes deep, it stirs up a store 
of attitudes and meanings derived from prior experience. As they are 
aroused into activity they become conscious thoughts and emotions, 
emotionalized images. To be set on fire by a thought or scene is to be 
inspired. What is kindled must either burn itself out, turning to ashes, 
or must press itself out in material that changes the latter from crude 
metal into a refined product. "(p. 65) 

Dewey's imagery of transformation through internal fiery arousal is analogous of 
fiery imagery in alchemical symbolism in Carl Jung's process of individuation in 
depth psychology. Here, too, transformation emerges from the prima material 
that must be submitted to a series of chemical procedures in order to be 
transformed into universal medicine (Jung in Edinger,1994). 

The shared imagery of ferment and fire suggest processes that constitute deep 
engagement and change. Not every learner elects to engage in such learning, 
but disorienting dilemmas may have the capacity to induce such powerful 
engagement. If we encounter or stimulate learners who become so engaged, 
Greene (1988), with Rilke (1934) encourages that we, along with our students, 


learn to love the questions, as we live with their complexity and their potential 
to provide paths towards transformation, both the learners and our own. 

I longed to increase my ability to integrate my passion values as embodied 
knowledge into my classrooms. How else might I experience the archetype of 
Eros? I needed to increase my understanding of my own passion values through 
an engagement of aesthetics. I explored passion and aesthetics as valuable 
aspects within the transformational nature of art. I also wondered how I can 
turn that which I truly love into a source of usable knowledge and practical 
wisdom in the art of teaching? 

Eros, as Symbol and Metaphor 

To Guggenbuhl-Craig (1980), a Jungian scholar, love is understood to include the 
entire spectrum of emotional attachment. Eros is the god of love, and yes, he is 
at work in the love men and women feel for each other, in all their expressions. 
But as the god of love, he is also at work wherever passion and desire are 
experienced, which includes love for anything and everything. 

In ancient times, Eros' quality of love was thought to be spiritual as well as 
physical. Teachers, lawyers, politicians, healers, artists, mathematicians, 
plumbers, poets, engineers - all who love their professions - have experienced 
the pierce of Eros's arrow. Eros was generally believed to be the deity who 
caused the love of beauty, healing, freedom, and many other good things as well 
as the love between people. In fact, it is Eros who makes the gods (the 
archetypes) loving, creative and involved. Otherwise, the gods (the archetypes) 


are neutral, cold, inhuman, and distant. Eros brings vitality and heat to any 
experience. 2 

The Eros and Psyche myth teaches me that a daily, passionate, informed, and 
reciprocal relationship with Eros is not to be attained without going through the 
paces and demands of learning how to be reflective, discerning and disciplined in 
attaining wisdom from within. The dark features of beauty, of the feminine 
(Aphrodite) make sure of that, an irony that is hard to contemplate unless we 
continue to remind ourselves that opposites exist even in archetypal realms 
(Jung in Edinger, 1994; Myss, 2006). 

This knowledge (intuitive or acquired) may be an inducement for me to 
sometimes stay in the dark, uninformed and powered only by the capricious, 
immature, feel-good aspect of the young Eros archetype. Or, as Psyche 
exemplifies as she progresses through her journey, I may become weary, 
discouraged or overwhelmed by the throes of impediments to my passion. I may 
feel the eloquence of ineffability, but lack the ability to find words or action to 
respond to my passion. I need to learn how to press on for love, or in more 
pragmatic terms, to find a means by which to grow consciously. 

Garrison (1997) declares that ignoring the role of eras in education is the most 
serious gap in contemporary education. 

"The ancient Greeks made the education of eros, or passionate desire, the 
supreme aim of education. They thought it necessary to educate eros to 
desire the good. The result of such an education is practical wisdom, the 

In Roman mythology, Eros was known as Cupid and his mother was Venus. According to the Greek poet Hesiod, 
Eros was one of the first deities born into the world. He emerged from Chaos, and was the cause of the birth of the 
race of immortal gods and goddesses. In other tales, he is the son of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Ares, the 
God of War. He is variously depicted as a beautiful winged boy or young man usually with a quiver of arrows or a 
torch of flame. He is a representation of one of the primeval forces of nature and the embodiment of the harmony 
and creative power in the universe. His representation in mythology and art has changed with the mores and 
expressions of the time. But always, Eros is known as the god of love, passion and desire. 


ability to distinguish between what we immediately desire and what proves 
truly desirable after reflection." (p.xiii) 

While Garrison provides a more reasoned and intellectualizing means of 
recovering the original meaning of eros, the point is still the same. Eros is more 
than a feel-good archetype. Eros is a long neglected and misunderstood factor in 
how we make decisions, how we understand and organize ourselves, and how 
we determine what is important and good. Eros operates at full-tilt, and when 
we do not know how to manage his power, we get into trouble and sorrow. 

Lessons Learned 

One lesson in the story of Eros and Psyche is the value of organization in the 
midst of chaos and disorientation. Psyche learns this value through sorting and 
organizing, strategic planning, and ignoring distractions to her process. This, 
however, is where we, as educators, need to be discerning ourselves in response 
to students. Values of organization do not necessarily translate into traditional 
patterns and principles of organization in teaching. We need to take multiple 
factors into consideration, such as learning preferences (Gardner, 1983), the 
degree and type of disorientation and potential anxiety displayed by the student 
(Mezirow, 2002), developmental stages (Kohlberg, 1981), pedagogy (Hein, 1999; 
Diaz, 2004), and most importantly, the student's interests (Dewey, 1994). In a 
constructivist learning experience, the educator is a tender to the learning 
process (Hein, 2002). 

Does this mean a conscious relationship with Eros takes the fun and joy out of 
eros experiences? Perhaps, sometimes, it might feel like a hard day that does 
not end, but I think it is more generative to view it as growth and maturity. The 
Eros and Psyche story shows us that Eros (personally and culturally) is in need of 
some maturity. His task is to pierce hearts and to start heartfelt fires. His arrow 
can and does go anywhere and everywhere. He pierced my white papier mache 


bowl with sunlight and set it ablaze, not only with beauty, but also with 
challenges and possibilities that needed to be explored. He is on task for 
Beauty's sake. It takes Eros time and experience, too, to 'grow up' and work 
hard on behalf of his own love interest. Eros is a rather capricious fellow until he 
himself falls in love and experiences desire and has to do hard things to bring his 
desire to fulfillment. 

The prima materia, the primary material of our life, is perhaps the most potent 
stimulation in that it is generated from within (Jung,1961). When I wept in the 
Vigeland Park and occasionally throughout my studies, it was for the recognition 
that not only has culture thwarted passion, I, too, thwart myself. It is even 
sadder when I do it knowingly, when I am not honest and brave enough to carry 
through with the difficult Psyche-tasks of reflection, discernment and discipline. 
This is where I am reminded of Henry Miller's searing statement about thwarted 
and slaughtered passion: 

"Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a 
heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and 
recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because 
we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of 
truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes 
desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths." 

(In Creators on Creating , 1997, p. 30) 

Love's losses frequently hurt deeply, however they occur. They are like a living 
death, but if we can transcend egotism, we may catch a glimpse of the 
underlying rhythm of life, of the Matisse dance in each of us. We may recognize 
that a deeper sense of love lies in expansive growth through commitment to life 
and especially through relationships with others, as I experienced in the 
sculpture park. 


A Growing Sense of Aesthetics: Ruins 

Throughout my studies I collected ruins. Modern ruins. My favorite material was 
rusty, metallic, and wooden ephemera collected from roadways and sidewalks - 
washers, nuts, bolts, slivers and slabs of rusty iron, aluminum, wire, broken and 
worn glass. These images depict modern ephemera and fragments of ruins - all 
droppings and fragments of everyday life collected from streets in 
Massachusetts, New York City, Ground Zero, Minnesota and my family farm, 
Greece, Norway, and Italy. The majority, however, were collected from the 
streets between my graduate school and the college cafeteria. The shapes are 
separated, broken or worn from their origins and are functionally mysterious. I 
collected them prolifically, passionately. Johnson in Barron, Montuori, & Barron 
(1997) echo the artist/archeologist/anthropologist/researcher impulse: 

"If the purpose is discovery, I need to let the experience direct me, one find 
leading to the next. Wandering gives me a new set of eyes - or removes 
adulthood's blinders from the ones I have. It is permission to see as well as to 
wander, to be an archaeologist of my own life." (p. 60) 

Images 6-a Modern ruins and ephemera. Actual size 1/4" to 1-1/2" 

The ruins were beautiful to me. They looked like tiny pieces of modern sculpture. 
They excited my imagination with their mineral textures, the earthy, rusty, silver, 
coppery colors. I enjoyed them individually. I enjoyed arranging them, 
rearranging them. As I manipulated their abstract forms, my artwork grew 
increasingly abstract, universal and metaphysical, three dimensional, physical 
and kinesthetic. I reveled in affinity with Johnson (in Barron, Montuori, & Barron, 
1997) when she states: 


"I may not see the pattern if I look only at individual shards with their cryptic, broken 
meanings, turning them over in my mind, but from the perspective of time my 
wandering is an intentional as the butterfly's and as necessary serendipity. Coming 
upon an unexpected good is a treat. If I give myself permission to wander, these small 
serendipities are as good as mine already" (p. 59). 

The fragments turned me into a sort of philosopher. I wondered how the original 
source (car, building, truck, bicycle, modern accoutrement) can function without 
them. How long will it take until it no longer functions? If they are still 
functioning, how necessary was the fragment in the first place? What place do 
these fragments play in the total picture? I mused that decay and debris get 
dropped, extracted, sloughed, pitched all the time as we navigate our life. We 
shed modern ephemera like our bodies shed cells. We, like our vehicles, 
disassemble and deconstruct on rough roads or through poor care. The ruin 
ephemera are metaphors for life, for parts and pieces of our life. I saw natural 
art occurring in the form of ruins. 

It might seem that in order to collect these modern ruins, I would have to always 
walk with my head down, as my colleagues liked to tease. How else would I be 
able to discern these objects among other street debris? I want to assure the 
reader that when one has a need and desire to find things, they are there, 
catching your eye as much as you are searching for them. I can spot a modern 
ruin from a distance. 

"The faculty of creating is never given to us all by itself. It always goes hand in 
hand with the gift of observation. The true creator does not have to put forth in 
search of discoveries; they are always within his reach. He will have only to cast 
a glance about him. " 

Igor Stravinsky in Barron, Montuori, & Barron, 1997 (p. 192) 

But it is exquisitely as exciting to look down and see a ruin right before me, 
under my feet. Our streets are cluttered with ruins, some cities, states and 
countries more than others. Sullivan in Springgay (2008) reflects: 

"There is something real about not knowing at the time why a decision was 
made, but having a felt need that an object or image may hold significance and 


meaning that may be revealed later. When artistic practice is used within the 
context of inquiry, there is an investment in the potential that insight may 
emerge as a reflexive action sparked by a creative impulse that can help to see 
thing in a critically different way." (p. 242) 

Many times, though, I felt awash in 'data' in my prolific use of 'things and 
ephemera' to contain, make meaning and explore my world. At times I doubted 
my ability to organize my distillation into valid, legitimate research. What was I 
doing? Is this research? Where was it leading? What meaning can possibly 
come from my eccentric, odd, but passionate practice? 

Ruins became a core aesthetic of my research and narrative writing. I worked in 
ruins and fragments, raw edges, worn textures, layers, torn edges, showing 
things as they are, yet reassembling them to extract meaning, create new 
stances, find new perspectives. By definition, the ruin is more than a fragment: 

"The ruin conjures up absence. And yet in the same breath one might say that 
the presence of a ruin creates a world with colors, atmosphere, and ghosts of 
its own, tearing itself off the past like a page ripped from a calendar. Hence 
the ruin is more than a fragment. By freeing it and endowing it with autonomy, 
writers and artists made it a genuine work of art; and by the time the ruin 
concept of the fragment arrived as a literary form, it was the ruin that served as 
its archetype." (Makarius, 2004, p. 147) 

But this is not just my truth. It is also a collective truth about the fact and 
consequences of devouring qualities - mine, yours, others, and even institutions. 
I do think that before we can speak to a truth, though, we need to face it first in 

Organization of Chaos 

One day I lined up my ruin ephemera on a 12-foot sheet of white paper on my 
floor. The individual pieces of ruins instantly became a new art form. Then I had 
the desire to display them on a wall. I attached a thin gold wire to each one, 
constructing a tiny hanging loop at the end. I imagined a large white wall in a 


gallery. But no such gallery existed, at least in the immediate future. I paced 
back and forth along this beautiful line of markings on the floor. I took pictures 
and reconstructed them in collages and in a journal. I wrote: 

i°- v q*-*>V^ r ' <f< * 

Image 6-b "Calligraphy". Ruins and ephemera. Actual size 5" x 12' 

"The broken off, lost, discarded pieces are beautiful in their own right, but 
when sorted and organized, they became calligraphy that is uniquely my own. 
Thoughts and ideas emerge out of the strange but beautiful encryption." 

I realized I could reorganize the ruins endlessly; so, too, my thoughts and ideas. 
Creativity comes from endless resources. 

It was not practical to leave the fragments and ephemera on my floor. I looped 
them on a wire for storage and instantly experienced a cascade of neurological 
firing, cutaways, breakthroughs, and breakouts (Ratey, 2001). Art is also a 
neurological event. I wrote: 

"I liken the wire loop to a large sweeping dragway and the neurological activity that 
navigated from my limbic system to my frontal cortex as a vehicle that ran over and 
flattened my blank-eyed, nail toothed inferiority complex while simultaneously scooping 
up and organizing all my jagged, unorganized, twisty, fragmented parts and pieces of 
emotions and experiences." 


Image 6-c "The Necklace". Ruins and ephemera, complete. Actual size 5' x 7", 11 pounds. 

OK, it was just a necklace. But I instantly knew it was more than a necklace and 
an object of adornment. New possibilities and ideas tumbled out before me. In 
my exhilaration and 'aha' moment, I knew I had made a giant leap of 
consciousness and aesthetic discernment. I still scramble to catch them as they 
roll out before me. Schick (in Le Van 2006) describes the role of necklaces in 
human history: 

"Stringing objects on cords to hang around one's neck is common and comfortable 
enough that some of the oldest known necklaces are Neolithic, dating to around 15,000 
B.C. and older. Reasons for making necklaces include demonstrations of power, love, 
status, religion, and wealth, to name a few." (p. 7) 

This necklace is not an object of adornment. It cannot be worn because it is very heavy. 
From another perspective, it is a manifestation of a dynamic process of discovery and 
embodiment. A viewer might make literal and symbolic interpretations, commenting on 
the weight and burden of so much modern ruin and ephemera. There is an element of 
truth in that perspective. I know what it feels like to be a modern woman wearing the 
burden of accumulated cultural, social and personal ruins. But I think that I successfully 


created an art assemblage that transcends my personal experience. We all know what it 
is like to wear this piece, male and female. It is only our personal stories that are 

A viewer might not take the personal route but see other implications on 
modern humanity. What is the impact of consumerism, fashion idealization, or 
ecological sloughing on our culture? What is the cost of our modernity? What is 
the cost of beauty? Is adornment essential or adjunctive? What does it mean to 
wear our ruins as adornment or identity? What kind of choices do we really 
have? The commentary and projections are as endless as the imagination of the 
viewers. That is the nature of art. That is also the sheer glee that I experience in 
the imaginative and cognitive realm of ideas. 

The assemblage is an image of aesthetic appeal and curiosity. The viewer can 
take pleasure in aesthetic qualities- the textures, colors and material contrasts 
of metallica - rust, copper, iron, aluminum, silver, and wire and glass - against the 
silver minimalist modern female form (a vintage vestige of Macy's Department 
Store acquired at an antiques shop). The entire assemblage is minimalist, which 
serves to heighten its power to evoke a response. 

Transformation is Becoming Visible 

I distilled and felt my Self evolving, transforming slowly. I felt cognitively more 
organized. I felt affectively quieter. I felt my persona reconfiguring. I felt 
identified with the organized, compacted intensity of the assemblage. The range 
of perspectives that I wrestled with in previous artwork remained flexible and 
pliable. I felt, however, capable of seeing my Self, my challenging professional 
contexts in sympathetic and wiser terms without retreating, withdrawing or re- 


burying my messiness. In my discovery and accomplishment of aesthetic 
minimalism, I also accomplished a transformation of stances and perspectives. In 
so doing, I became a more authentic person. I felt ever so much closer to my 
truth. I wrote: 

"Authenticity is a requisite for being successful as a human being, whether as 
an administrator, a writer, a visual artist, or a researcher. I began this study 
feeling fragmented and broken off from my own authenticity and I am 
completing it closer to my own truth." 

Sometimes transformation can seem to be instantaneous but from my 
experience and initiatory study of brain neurology (Art and the Brain, 2006), one 
perspective must include the recognition of this as an organized, cascading 
neurological event that is influenced by years of experience and neurological 
patterning (Ratey, 2001; Levitan, 2006). It is closer to the joyful, relaxing, 
expanding experience of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) in which the brain 
unleashes a cascade of smoothly connected, unfolding neurological patterns 
(Ratey, 2001; Levitan, 2006). 

I contrast this from the instantaneous neurological, retracting experience of 
flooding that we experience in trauma where neural pathways are scrambled 
and disorganized from too much firing in the ancient limbic system that is keyed 
for survival (Ratey, 2001). In trauma and anxiety, neural pathways are flooded 
with ancient survival approaches of "fight or flight", 'kill or be killed' - responses 
that are not as globally functional in 2010 as it was for primordial humans. 
Excessive and un-integrated activity from the primordial limbic system inhibits 
organized executive functioning (such as attention, inhibition, planning, internal 
ordering, motor control, regulation of emotion and motivation) that emanates 
from the pre-frontal lobes of the frontal cortex. 


Deconstruction of Boxes 

While writing my qualifying papers I became inexorably drawn to boxes. Not 
intact boxes, but the torn, ripped edges and fragments that resulted from ripping 
boxes apart. I generated piles of fragments of all sizes - rolling, spiraling jags, 
chunks, fragments, parts, and pieces. 

Photo 7-a 

Each piece had its own beauty -abstract, simple and 

elemental - as did the rusty environmental ruins and 

ephemera. Again, I let my mind play with the forms. I reveled 

in the sheer beauty of the scrolling, rolling, unfurling, curling 

strips. I felt empathic to the hard, linear lines of other pieces. 

While trying not to literalize the forms and the process into dichotomized logos 

and eros conceptualizations, I mixed and matched them to create new forms. I 

stacked shapes just to contemplate the abstract forms and sculpture of the 

interrelating ripped, torn, textured edges. I reveled in their beauty, each a paper 

ruin with textures, scrolls, and edges that quickened my senses with memory 

and possibility. 

Photo 7-b 

More surprising was the pleasure in ripping the 
boxes apart with both abandon and calculation. 
Sometimes it felt brutish. I had to leverage, cut, 
pull, and tear. Textures and lines were revealed 
or created. 

Boxes are cultural workhorses for moving, storing and organizing the goods of 
our life, pragmatic vessels of everyday life. They are astoundingly strong with 
just three layers of warping and woofing fiberboard. What would we do without 
boxes? But the box has also became an iconic metaphor for all that is 


tereotypical, safe, old, outworn, constrained and unimaginative in contemporary 
functioning, and stale in terms of creativity and productivity. I continuously 
ripped and rearranged them- all the while wryly noting that, after having 
created numerous vessels as a metaphorical process of holding my passion in the 
alchemical fire, at the closure of my coursework, I was now reveling in taking 
apart the quintessential vessel, the box. 

Image 8 "Metamorphasis". Mixed media. Actual sixe 14" x 20" 

Furthermore, after having previously manifested Eros in a glorious depiction of 
metamorphosis and integration through an orange, fiery butterfly, I was also 
depicting the internal, brutal, change-drama that goes on invisibly inside a 
chrysalis through collage and assemblage. It all seemed so dis-ordered and 
ironic. Decomposition and deconstruction. Coming apart, not together. More 
chaos, not less. Divergence, not emergence. 

I got lost in the process. The chaos of the abstract configurations refused to 
come together in an aesthetic or meaningful assemblage. Once again, I welled 
with doubt and uncertainty about what I had undertaken. What have I been 
doing all these years? What value could this possibly have for academia? For the 
first time, I considered stopping, quitting the entire enterprise. While I knew 
there was value in the theme of taking apart boxes and putting them back 
together in a new way, I was experiencing how difficult is that enterprise. The 
Academy and all that implies, is, perhaps, one of the biggest boxes of all. I 
derived affinity and understanding from Makarius (2004): 


"The task of the artist is to go back to the original chaos and gradually transform it, 
within the work of art, into conscious chaos, into organized confusion (p. 149). "We need 
to understand the artist's relationship to chaos is in the context of a desire to synthesize 
contradictory forces and a conviction that truth itself is inevitably fragmentary" (p. 148). 

Image 9-a "Metamorphasis, continued". Mixed media assemblage. Actual size 3' x 5'. 

I finally created a flag-like assemblage that was aesthetically beautiful to my eye. 
I closely attended to foundations of design to create an abstract wall sculpture 
intimating unrolling and unfolding narratives. The materials (paper and twigs) 
related to each other. Lines and structures intimated the logos and eros factors 
in the stories of our lives. I even included butterfly spots of eye-decoy as a nod 
towards self-empowerment and self-protection. But it was not until I rotated the 
entire assemblage forty-five degrees did meaning unfurl before me. 

Images 9-b 

Change of Perspective". Mixed media assemblage, continued, in rotation. 

I saw yet another ruin - the capital portion of an iconic column (the top part), 
replete with crown molding of traditional architecture. I saw architectural ruins 
of Greece and the foundations of civilization and organized knowledge. I saw the 
Academy made visible through its numerous institutions, degree programs, 
research, publications, professors. (Once, I think I even saw Plato, Socrates, my 
doctoral committee - Gene Diaz, Bill Stokes and Sara Quay, sticking their heads 
out from behind the folds and rolls!). I saw the foundations upon which culture 
is constructed. I saw knowledge and life - simultaneously enduring, tentative, 


and transitory. I also saw the narratives, my narratives, unfurling, unfolding, 
bridging down from the capital. 

Image 9-c Mixed media assemblage, continued. 

"Unfurling". Mixed media assemblage, continued. 

I felt intrinsically a part of it all. 

Assemblage 9-e " Iconic Ruin". Mixed media assemblage, complete. 

To complete the assemblage, I built out the ruin into an actual twelve-foot 
assemblage of a column. The sheer size and heft of the assemblage emphasizes 
the scale and proportions of this exploration. But for the sake of time, I had to 
stop, collect my bearings, and articulate the process so far. This assemblage 
begs more development. There are surface areas perhaps, for script. Perhaps 


collage representation of iconic figures or of my own processes. It, like me, is a 
work in process. 

The Studio Experience 

Self-study, in any form, can be powerful and potentially transformational. Auto- 
ethnography, as a research genre, evokes new questions about self and the 
subject, reminding us that our work is grounded, contextual and rhizomatic. Yet, 
how do we know what we know? What is the authority of that evidence? 

In using an arts-based method to gather my self-study data, I extended the genre 
of autoethnography to include autoethnography through visual arts. What 
followed - living inquiry through visual arts-based autoethnography - became 
both the method and the meaning-making of my early doctoral studies. I 
experienced my journey of self-discovery through a framework of archetypal 
concepts while recognizing continuums of human experience that included 
cognitive, sensory, affective, spiritual, and relational ways of knowing - concepts 
and means that are not mutually exclusive, but rather overlapping and 
intersecting, much like assemblage and collage. Ways of knowing are 
frameworks upon which we construct everyday life - our conversations, 
arguments, affiliations, the decisions we make, how we work, play, think, even 
vote. The evidence of my self-study is comprised of art images constructed from 
modern ruins and ephemera, and is also found in the dynamic relationship 
between the images and the ways of knowing and how that dynamism 
contributed to changed cognitive awareness and expression of Self. Magritte, 
(1938) a herald of constructivism, said, "A painting does not express ideas but 
has the power to create them"( in Whitfield, 1992, p. 111). Deep learning in the 
studio provided new paradigms from which to deconstruct and reconstruct 
frames of references, adjust my emotions, and alter habits of mind and practice, 


while deepening my understanding of the role and impact of arts in adult 

What became apparent to me in the process of the visual autoethnography is 
that my studio exploration was an exploration in epistemology - that of 
constructing and validating learning derived from collage and studio methods. 
Sullivan (2005) affirms that art is more than a personal rite of passage of 
personal discovery. The studio experience is a construction site of knowledge- 
making. But what artists do in the practice of creating artworks - the processes, 
products, proclivities, and contexts that support this activity - is not well studied 
from the perspective of the artist (Sullivan, p. 82). 


Epistemology asks questions of what and how, and requires introspection to 
understand the strengths and weakness of what we think we know. True 
learning is integration of data and experience on both affective and cognitive 
levels (Eisner, 2002) a dynamic interaction and balance of logos and eros (Jung, 
1969), but I realized I lacked sufficient recognition and articulation of what Eros, 
as a principle and archetype of passion, desire and love, could look like in my life 
and in the classroom. Despite my abiding commitment to transformation 
through art and creative processes in adult learning, along with the majority of 
western culture (Garrison, 1997), I am deeply impacted by the dominant post- 
modern, logos principle of logic and structure. Garrison (1997) declares that 
teachers intuitively understand that life-affirming passionate desire or eros lies 
in the middle of everyday practice, yet eros is missing from almost all theory and 
research on teaching (p.xix). 


Paradoxically, I was self-conscious that my art appeared self-focused, self- 
indulgent. Self-indulgence, introspection and individualization are critiques to 
autoethnography. Yet when I started to share my work, I discovered that 
colleagues, artists, students, and friends resonated with the personal and 
archetypal themes. I began to understand that my study was not limited to 
artists or educators. It speaks to any aesthetically oriented individual who is 
aware of desire and who wishes to problemitize and/or professionalize the 
experience of longing and integrate it to enlarge their teaching skills and 
meaning to life. 

My experience in adult education is a common problem, one articulated in a long 
lineage of educators that include Dewy at the turn of the century. My 
exploration of artist-teacher research practice provided a means for me to 
explore passion - how we can we learn from that which we truly love; how we 
can turn that which we truly love into a source of usable knowledge and practical 
wisdom in the art of teaching; how we can better understand passion as part of 
our reasoning processes and use it as a tool for learning; how we can organize 
passion and aesthetics for knowledge and perspective change. Through this first 
phase of doctoral study, I recognized and claimed myself as a discipline bricoleur 
adept at performing diverse functions within the fields of psychology, art, 
organizational management, and higher education. The research method of 
visual autoethnography allowed me to find my voice, exercise my ideas, and 
validate myself as an educational researcher and as a visual artist. 

And Then... 

I dreamed: 

I was inside my childhood playhouse. I wanted privacy so I went to lock the door, but 
first I looked back towards the farm. The woods were not as thick as they used to be. I 
saw my farm in a way that was not visible years ago. My playhouse was no longer 


secluded and as isolated as it had been. It was still scruffy, but inside there were shelves 
covered with cloth curtains. I was curious what was behind them. I locked the door. I 
was surprised at the rusty, industrial style, size and scale of the lock. There were no 
glass or panes in the old windows, so in actuality, the playhouse was unsecured and 
totally accessible from the outside. 

I woke up recognizing my childhood playhouse as a transformed ruin, in 
actuality, in my dream world, and in my imagination. Perhaps this is the 
circularity that T.S. Eliot writes about when he says: "We arrive where we 
started/And know the place for the first time" (1943). 

Image 10 

"Childhood Playhouse: A Transformed Ruin". Collage. Actual size 10" xl2" 


Chapter IV 
Research Methods 


Given the range of modalities, data production, and expression within arts-based 
research, there are many possibilities and strategies for merging research and 
art. This research was qualitative, art-based, artist-teacher research in a 
constructivist art studio/classroom for undergraduate adult learners with 
minimal to no formal art education or exposure. The course was designed to 
enable adult learning students to have an encounter with art that would include 
development of art skills within the medium of collage, to have an experience 
with art and aesthetics, and to facilitate recognition of art concepts that could 
apply to the whole of their lives (as a way of knowing). The research was also 
designed to explore the potential transformational and co-transformational 
potential of those components. 

The Question 

How can the use of collage, assemblage and mixed media be transformational 
and co-transformational in an undergraduate adult learning course on 
imagination and creativity? 

Definition of Terms 

As discussed in the literature review of arts-based research, there are 
increasingly numerous ways to speak of arts-based research paradigms and 
assumptions. For the purpose of clarity, the following definition of terms 
provide context and differentiation for the terms used within this research. 


Art and Creative Art Processes: Art and creative art processes are experimental 
and responsive art engagement through which the representational form may 
embody elements of various art forms - poetry, fiction, drama, two-and three- 
dimensional visual art, including photography, film and video, dance, music and 
multimedia installation. In this research, creative process was expressed 
primarily through visual arts, with flexibility in the curriculum for a range of 
expression through other forms. 

Collagist Methodology: To thoroughly, deeply explore the transformational 
potential of collage, a collagist methodology was utilized as the conceptual and 
artistic engine to frame, organize, and power the entire inquiry. Collage and 
assemblage is a contemporary fine arts practice with a postmodern 
epistemology based on the idea of spontaneously layering images and symbols 
through which perspectives, practices and traditions can be reinterpreted and 
connections can be forged between the seemingly random or disparate 
(Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2002; Vaughn, 2005). A collagist methodology 
entails lying down and removing layers, moving parts and pieces around, 
changing forms, and making connections. A collagist methodology brings things 
together while simultaneously recognizing the separateness of parts and pieces. 

In this research, collage is driven by the response and interplay of student's 
individual and group engagement, and that of my artist-researcher's response 
and interplay with the students. While experimentation with various art 
materials familiarized the students with the potential of art tools to express 
one's self, collage was the primary method of drawing out student participation. 
My own art-making as artist-teacher researcher during the class revolved around 
collage and assemblage. Collage, accompanied by reflectivity, was the means of 
the student's and my knowledge- and meaning-making processes. Collage 


provides endless forms of exploration, expression, analysis, and knowledge- 

Constructed knowledge: The central premise of constructivism is that human 
beings construct knowledge and that human experience is the site upon which 
knowledge is constructed. The world of meaning is generated by us through 
personal and idiosyncratic contexts (Dewey, 1938). 

Prima materia: The primary material of our life generated from within (Jung, 

Rhizomatic: A concept used by arts-based researchers that privileges all 
entrances to their work to discover connections, new meanings, linkages 
between points, the map of the rhizome, and how the map may be modified by 
entrance from any particular point for the purpose of avoiding reductive analysis 
and opening up new ways of extracting intensities, tonalities and energy. 

Self: Represents the totality of our being, the center of our psyche that carries 
our sense of meaning and purpose as we move towards experiencing its 

Transformational and co-transformational learning: Teaching and learning, 
between the learner and the educator, that is a continuous process of 
reconstruction of experience and education as change, growth or maturity occur 
in the learning process. 


Research Design: Arts-Based, Artist-Teacher Research 

The research design is arts-based, drawing on the genre of artist -teacher 
research. Arts-based research is a method of research in which art may function 
as methodological enhancement, an instrumental use of art, or where the 
research process itself is regarded as an art form. Artist-teacher research is an 
identity and form of research that integrates the multiplicity of perspectives of 
the artist as an educator and researcher, utilizing image as an integral 
component of the inquiry process. The use of one's own artistic practice is 
primary or complimentary to other forms of inquiry (Springgay, 2004; Irwin, 

Artist-teacher research privileged me with multiple perspectives and angles of 
approach in the data collection and analysis, while utilizing image as an integral 
component of the inquiry process. In this research, art-making was the primary 
source of data gathering for both the students and me, as the artist -teacher 
researcher. An emergent approach allowed for guiding questions and prompts 
that initiated exploration and analysis while simultaneously allowing questions 
to evolve through continued engagement, during and following the course time- 

The Context 

The research was conducted in a non-traditional, accelerated model of 
programming for undergraduate adult learners in which courses are divided 
equally between direct contact and independent/collaborative work over a time 
period of 5 weeks versus traditional 14 week semesters (in this case, four 
consecutive classes, and then a final fifth class). Within an intensive format, 
students are required to participate in twenty contact hours combined with 


twenty hours of independent and/or collaborative work. Each of the classes was 
four hours in length, scheduled mid-week, from 6-10 PM. 

The research setting was a 400-level art course at a small liberal arts college on 
the east coast of the United States in the Graduate and Professional Studies 
Division. The adult learner Bachelor of Science curriculum includes a Core 
Curriculum for students in their designated disciplines with course selections 
from the divisions of Arts and Humanities, Science and Mathematics, and Social 
Sciences. Students enrich their programs of study by choosing electives from a 
distribution of courses outside their major designations (College Handbook, 
2009-2010). Depending into which program of study an adult learning student is 
matriculated, this course, Art, Collage and Imagination serves as a requirement 
in the Liberal studies and Psychology programs, and as a general elective in the 
Business program of study. 

A studio is typically understood as a classroom which is set up to provide space 
for learners to engage in artistic, discursive and dialogic exploration of art 
products and art processes. The studio space in this research was a flexible- 
design, non-traditional classroom that allowed for an art studio set-up for each 
class. Large round tables were configured into a large circular pattern for group 
discussion. As needed, the room was re-organized for work space by spreading 
the tables out for privacy and flow of movement, or consolidated to make room 
for floor work. Walls, easels and white boards were utilized for horizontal display 
space and content communication. An adjacent work room with a sink and 
cleaning supplies facilitated ease in the maintenance of the studio environment. 
Mediated technology allowed for internet access and digital display of artwork 
or support materials. Space was available for students to store art work, and 
studio space was made available to students between class meetings. The 


flexibility of the classroom greatly eased facilitation of the intensive, quick- 
change nature of intensive course delivery and the research process. 


The syllabus was a textual collage - constructed as a collaged, curricular road 
map, of sorts, that was subject to change based on the needs of the class. While 
creating a curricular framework that met requirements of the academic program 
and the official course objectives was important and necessary, delivery of the 
course was simultaneously interactive and constructivist. A constructivist 
syllabus must necessarily be flexible, fluid, and interactive - capable of addition, 
subtraction and adjustment of course elements. (See Appendix for full 

Through an exploration of imagination and creativity, the curriculum was 
designed to guide students in an arts-based exploration of living inquiry and 
rendering of Self while simultaneously exploring the potential of collage as a way 
of being in contemporary life. 

Data Collection Methods 

The syllabus was designed to facilitate data gathering. Drawing from the 
activities of the class, the data gathered included the following: Weekly art 
assignments that coincided with weekly topical readings; a student-driven final 
art project; student reflections in the form of free-writes; weekly response 
papers; a final reflection paper; class critiques and discussion of student art- 
work and presentations. Faculty observation included the following sequential 


Ethnographic Artifacts 

The students were given a pre-assignment to bring a meaningful object to the 
first class to introduce themselves. An objective of the first assignment was to 
induct the students into the concept of world-making and symbolism by bridging 
their everyday world of meaning-making to the classroom site of artful 

The leveraging of precious objects as ethnographic artifacts (Diaz, 2002), full of 
memory, passion, and meaning-making, draws from a borderland epistemology 
that reminds us borders are always with us and within us. Ethnographic and 
autobiographic accounts show how we mark and cross those lines, carrying back 
artifacts and stories to collect ourselves as we work to understand the dialectics 
of self and culture (Behar, 1996, Diaz, 2002). Behar (1996) describes those 
stories and artifacts as an effort "to map an intermediate space we cannot yet 
quite define, a borderland between passion and intellect, analysis and 
subjectivity, ethnography and autobiography, art and life" (p. 174). It was my 
hope that such sharing of precious objects would readily introduce the students 
to each other through sharing an object of utmost meaning- a literal place on 
their personal maps. 

Group Mural 

Mural-making is an art experience that can bring individuals together for a 
common purpose. There are many ways to organize and arrange this activity to 
suit any particular objective. The purpose of this ritual/exercise was to continue 
building group trust and cohesion through non-threatening play. Paradoxically, 
the mural was a way to reduce resistance and disorientation through the shock 
of revisiting a familiar, child-like activity. Finally, I also hoped to initiate 


expressiveness and imagistic creativity on a level playing field. Of play, Booth 
(1999) states: 

"Play combined with creative art process is a potent and fertile combination. It taps 
directly into what you know, bypassing interpretation and explanation. It bears no 
responsibility beyond the moment, it is not self-conscious, it distorts the sense of time, 
it seeks control within different kinds of order, and it tells the truth. What you know 
meets with what you do not know"( p. 125). 

Assemblage: Vessel 

The students were assigned to create an object, which we referred to as a vessel, 
from any materials which engaged them. The students were encouraged to 
conceptualize a vessel in the broadest definition of the word while constructing 
it as an art piece that would imagistically and metaphorically contain and hold 
their artistic passions as they engaged in the study. There was only one 
requirement - it must literally have some form of a holding/containing space to 
help engage and concretize the idea and concept of vessel. The students were 
give questions/prompts to consider: 

What does this vessel mean to you? 

How does/can this vessel contain you and/or your passions? 

How is the selection of materials important to you? 

How is this vessel a metaphor for you? 

Collage Construction 

The purpose of the collage activities was to explore foundations and elements of 
design related to collage and to experience the approachability and potential of 
collage as a creative art form. The collage activities were also constructed to 
identify personal blocks and impedances to creativity and to understand the role 
and value of chaos in creativity. The collage activity was divided into two projects 
- Collage #1 and Collage #2. 


Collage #1 

The purpose of Collage #1 was to express personal impediment to creativity. It 
was variously referred to it as the "Impediment/Inner Critic," the "internal 
running commentary" that criticizes or impedes their approach to art, the "artist 
block," or "anything" that impedes their creative process. 

Several assumptions undergirded the Collage #1 assignment. A primary 
assumption was that resistance, reluctance, disorientation, fear, and creative 
impediments dwell in the world of prima materia - the under-valued, under- 
developed, misunderstood, hidden, shadowed realms of human experience. A 
curricular and research method in this artist -teacher research was to address 
objections and impediments to creativity and learning up front - to invite 
resistance, and give it creative expression and value. An assumption in this 
research is that if we do not acknowledge the presence of impediments to the 
creative process, in addition to their potential value, they will make their 
presence known anyway, typically in disagreeable, distracting or impeding ways. 
The method hopefully brings learning impediments to as much consciousness 
and focused awareness as possible so they do not unknowingly undermine the 
student's learning process. However, development of self-awareness and 
consciousness is recognized as a process in multiple areas of human experience. 
Process infers a gamut of factors that may include time, personal history, and 
creative agency. 

Another assumption in this assignment was that we have to first recognize that 
impediments are present before we can develop an individual response to them. 
However, to minimize dwelling on negative influences, Collage #1 was limited to 
15 minutes because, as I had learned from my own living inquiry, this is 
potentially a very powerful, emotionally stimulating and activating assignment. I 


did not want the students to begin intellectualizing or changing their images to 
make them more acceptable. An assumption was that 15 minutes would provide 
the students with just enough time to acknowledge their impedance without 
additional time to edit it, cover it up, or develop shame or anger with it. My 
intention was also to operationalize the working, dynamic group trust that would 
hopefully be created through the initial vessel work to manage this potentially 
difficult (self-incriminating) prima materia in the service of creative process. 

Collage #2 

Immediately following Collage #1 and group discussion, the students were 
invited to create a second collage, Collage #2. The purpose of Collage #2 was to 
freely explore the art materials, experiment with collage and express whatever 
they were drawn to, and to fully explore the experience of collage for the 
remainder of the evening. 

In recognition that this may be a first encounter with collage (or perhaps any) art 
form for the majority of the students, I recognized that too many choices may be 
overwhelming. But I also did not want to facilitate cookie-cutter production of 
collages. I strove to find a balance between managed access and freedom to 

The collage technique and process was straightforward and basic. In keeping 
with my research exploration of the color white as a metaphor of possibility and 
potential, the students each received firm, white, 14" x 18" boards as 
foundation for their collages, but they were not limited to white or to that 
board. There were numerous other papers, colors and textures from which they 
could choose as a foundation for their collages. 


In keeping with my own collagist methodology of hunting, digging, and 
searchingfor imagistic ephemera, the students were invited to pilfer through a 
large stock of magazines for images that appealed to them for any reason. They 
were encouraged not to ask "why" they liked an image or word or graphic. They 
could later hone their search, selecting images with the most appeal. They were 
also informed of the option of working solely or in combination of textures and 
colors, drawing from a large selection of paper, fabrics and embellishments that 
were also available. Demonstration of various forms of attachment, glazing, and 
embellishment were included as the project commenced and throughout the 

Final Project - Free Expression 

In preparation for the final project of free expression, the students were 
presented with yet another model for artistic work. Together we watched the 
artist documentary Rivers and Tides: Working with Time depicting installation 
artist, Andy Goldsworthy (2004). The documentary is a rare, in-depth portrayal 
of what happens inside one artist's studio and inside his creative process. The 
purpose of showing the documentary was to hopefully provide tangible, visible 
authentication to the student's own creative processes and fledging impulses. It 
was also my attempt to provide didactic information beyond traditional text to 
support and accelerate the intuitive nature and idea-formation within the 
student's art-making. 

The students were provided wide latitude for the creation of their final project. 
They were invited to artistically portray something that was new, stretching, 
integrative, and meaningful to them and which communicates a theme that 
stood out for them in the class; and/or portray a new perspective they 
discovered that created changes in their thinking; and/or creatively portray 


something they are passionate about. They were prompted to consider creating 
discrete art objects, installations, or perhaps an artful group experience they 
wished to facilitate. The final presentations were invited to be a time of 
manifesting each student's creative process, and hopefully, as is a component of 
the arts, a time of celebration of creative process. 

Accompanying Data Gathering 

Accompanying each art project, students wrote reflections in the form of free- 
writes, weekly response papers and a final 5-7 page reflection/integrative paper 
about their art project and their experience in the class. They were encouraged 
to express themselves freely, incorporating as many concepts from the course as 

In keeping with the tradition of art class critiques, class discussion of student art- 
work and presentations occurred following each project, during which time I also 
participated with faculty observation. 

As a component of the artist-teacher research experience, my simultaneous 
artistic and process experiences included the research tools of field/process 
notes and art-making before and during the course delivery. I continued to make 
my own art following the class as an emergent analysis. (While the course 
required a syllabus and letter grading -see Appendix, student grading was not 
factored into the research design, methodology or analysis of the research.) 


While neither the course nor the research was gender limited, gender 
representation in the research was homogenous. The class roster and resulting 
research participants included ten female adult learners, Diane, Leah, Emily, 


Amber, Anita, Carol, Doris, Donna, Rachel, and Caroline (the names are 
pseudonyms to protect the student's privacy). The ten students represent a 
broad age spectrum of female adult learners - young adult, mid-life and older 
adult. The youngest woman was 23 years of age and the oldest woman was 72 
years of age. The remaining women ranged in age from 30 to 51, with an average 
age of 40 years. The social relationships of the women were diverse. The 
research represented single women and wives, single and married mothers, 
widow, grandmother, divorcees. One woman was undergoing an imminent 
divorce during the course delivery. 

Within this class, eight women were matriculated into the undergraduate 
Business program of study, one woman was matriculated into the Liberal Arts 
program of study, and one was an audit-participant. Eight women were 
employed in various full-time business settings, including marketing for a 
pharmaceutical company, a business/account manager in a retirement home, a 
children's dental hygienist, an active United States Military Reservist with 
combat experience, a corporate events manager, a medical patient research 
assistant, and a business systems analyst. One woman was a stay-at-home 
parent, and one woman, a retired, yet practicing fiber and textile artist. 

For nine of the students, completion of their degree was strategy for long-term 
financial and professional security, professional growth and development, in 
addition to personal growth and independence. The sustained world-wide 
economic crises had displaced several women from jobs they loved and they 
were now unhappily, but gratefully, working in what they called "temporary 
survival" jobs. One student contemplated degree completion to fulfill an 
education dream, but faced with both possibility and reality, the 'road-not- 
taken' began to look too long and arduous, and her health was too unstable. A 


life-time dream and attitude shifted before the class even started. She then 
participated to fulfill her need for artistic, creative stimulation and collegiality. 

Course and research participation was available to adult learners with any 
amount of exposure to the arts (including none). Two students had engaged in 
private art classes years earlier, and a third student had an early foray into 
formal art education. The students variously viewed the class as a respite from 
the arduous monotony of business courses, as an opportunity to work with this 
instructor/researcher, and to experience something "fun and different" in 
education through an elective offering. 

Method of Analysis: Process 

An arts-based analysis in this research assumed the students' work as the 
starting point for analysis. Process was an interpretive, analytic tool. Student 
output and input occurred on multiple levels, continuously, at each and every 
class. Initial analysis by both students' and me, the artist-teacher researcher, 
occurred through interpretive discussion and analyses of art production and art 
images, student reflections and critiques, spontaneous and formal writings, and 
formal presentations. 

During the course delivery, the students made meaningful connection of their art 
work to their lives and meaningful connections between each other's art work. 
Throughout the research, I sought to discern where and how the students were 
experiencing transformation through their art engagement. I reflected and 
mirrored their impressions and interpretations back to them, leveraging each art 
product for the learning process and for amplifying and exemplifying concepts 
and themes that were beginning to emerge with each student and within the 
class at large. 


In class, through my field notes and back in my private studio, I created my own 
art as part of the analytical process, paying particular attention to places of my 
discomfort, to areas where I felt tweaked or drawn, for the purpose of 
deconstructing my own assumptions, as I had in the visual autoethnography 
collaging, writing, and creating assemblages. I continued with more advanced 
analysis following the course delivery through continued objective review of the 
research data and through analysis of my own collage and art-making in 
response to the students work. The interplay of images and narrative created the 
ethnographic field for both the students and me to portray the analysis of our 

Multiple Perspectives: Metaphor and Method 

Multiple perspectives were obtained from the art products (ethnographic object, 
group mural, vessel, collages, and a final art project), the students' written 
responses (free-writes, response papers and a final paper), class discussion, and 
my participation as artist-researcher. I engaged the metaphor and method of 
crystallization to conceptualize and analyze both the students and my processes 
of learning and knowledge-making. The metaphor and method of crystallization 
contributes to the consideration of multiplicity and complexity of the research 
experience. Crystallization, a means of qualitative research analysis, 
acknowledges multiple perspectives and assumptions (Richardson, 2000). In the 
image of crystallization, there are more than three sides from which to see the 
world. The crystals "infinite variety of shapes, substances, transmutations, 
multi-dimensionalities, and angles of approach" (Richardson, 2000, p. 934) 
reminds us that what we see depends upon our angle of view and the premises 
of our assumptions. Crystallization, as a multi-dimensional concept, aligns well 


with the multi-dimensional methodology of collage and assemblage. It also 
provided a means to extend beyond traditional qualitative triangulation (three 
discreet points of validation of data) to bring forward the meaning- and 
knowledge-making process in the research. 

Interconnectedness versus Classification 

Artist-teacher researchers seek alternative means to conventional classification 
of phenomena, which uses empirically-based conceptual frameworks to 
categorize things (Paley, 1995). A common thread in the literature review of 
artist-teacher researchers is the imperative to maintain nonobjective artistic 
practices. Drawing upon the analogous, connecting function of collage, arts- 
based researchers envision interconnectedness where criteria are used to 
identify relationships between and among entities of interest. 

Bricolage and the rhizomatic arec conceptualizations with no orienting centers, 
serving as strategic, non-compartmentalized, un-centered, methodological 
approaches to recode both literary and visual experience in arts-based research 
(Paley, 1995; Irwin et al., 2004; Springgay et al., 2008). These methods of 
analysis account for the students and the artist/teacher researcher in a 
progressive process of analysis and leaves open the possibility for both artistic 
and textual methods of analysis. These approaches are affirmed by Maxine 
Greene (1988) who encourages the development of awareness and cognition 
through both reflective and logical thinking while asserting that "the point of 
cognitive development is to interpret from as many vantage points as possible 
lived experience, the ways there are of being in the world" (p. 120). 



Maintaining openness to an indeterminate experience of art without 
categorizing, classifying, and creating hierarchies is contrary to disciplines of 
analytic practice. As hooks (1996) reminds us, in refusing the center, one 
chooses "the margin as a site of radical openness" (p. 48). 

Full contextual detail enables both trustworthiness and limitations of assessing 
the art and textual materials. This indicates a need to seek understanding of 
both internal and external art-contexts. In this research, such contexts were 
multi-faceted, reflecting, but not limited to: the academic discipline of the 
students; the research paradigm and theoretical frame - (that of artist-teacher 
research as living inquiry concerned with self-and human study); my contribution 
as the researcher; the extent of disparity between the students and me, as 
artist/teacher researcher's, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, and values; the art 
objects; and interactions with the art objects and art products. 

Emergent Process and Reflexivity 

Barrett and Bolt et al. (2009) advance compelling explanations of emergent 
process and reflexivity as both aspects and strengths of the subject dimension in 
studio-based research. They assert studio-based enquiry as a method that 
unfolds through practice, and that practice, itself, produces knowledge and 
engenders further practice. 

The problematic nature of how the artist-teacher researcher knowingly or 
unknowingly interprets images in the construction of meaning, however, is an 
issue of ongoing debate (Sullivan, 2005). Reflexivity was a construct initially 
identified in feminist discourse, linked to the notion that positions are 


discursively and interactively constituted and are open to shifts and changes as 
the discourse shifts or as one's positioning within or in relation to that discourse 
shifts (Sullivan, 2005). In other words, one's stance can change based upon 
experience (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2002). Sarah Pink (in Sullivan, 2005) 
argues that reflexivity can be a conceptual asset in revealing information, but 
also an operational liability that can raise concerns about issues such as ethics. 

A challenge of reflexivity lies in mastering the art of self-reflection. In this 
research, I examined and looked for connections and themes in my students 
artwork through introspection of my artwork and my writing. The multiple 
sources of arts-based, oral and written data by both students and me, the 
facilitator, together with repeated contact during the course delivery, provided 
face-to-face opportunities to check and confirm my observations and provide 
checks and balances for my assumptions, biases, and interpretations. 


This research study was comprised of all female adult learners, thereby limiting 
extrapolation of analysis and meaning-making to that singular population 
despite recognition that male adult learners may be similarly interested and 
impacted through such an encounter with art. This limitation of the study is 
simultaneously strengthened in that the female voices were then privileged to 
openly explore the world of female adult learners without gender inhibitions and 
tensions, thereby opening the world of female adult learning experience to a 
wider audience. 

The accelerated format of the course delivery provided numerous on-going 
challenges, delimitations and opportunities within the research process. Time 


was a precious commodity, and therefore required close management in the 
course delivery. Time is also necessary to distillation of meaning in making art. 
During the course delivery and following, throughout the analysis, the factor of 
time sometimes functioned as a stimulant for creative thought and intuition, and 
other times, as a deterrent to reflectivity. 

In the following chapter, Chapter Five, I discuss five themes through which the 
analysis was conducted. The thematic analysis included ways of knowing on 
continuums of human experience, including, cognitive, affective, sensory, 
spiritual, and relational ways of knowing (ways of knowing that emerged through 
my visual autoethnography as indicated in Chapter III). 


Chapter Five 

Thematic Analysis 

(themes on continuums of human experience) 

The Students: Ten Women 

Ten women: mostly strangers to each other, spanning young adulthood to elder 
age. Single women with no children; single and married mothers; wives; a 
widow; a grandmother; a divorcee, an imminent divorcee; daughters; sisters; 
aunts; friends. 

Ten women: sharing fond and joyful memories, stories of longing and lost loves, 
hurt, pain and struggles; moving in with a new love and his children. Stories of 
chaos, life messiness, recovery from heroin addition, war and soldiering, family 
dysfunction, family values, economic squeeze, time squeeze, unfulfilling jobs; 
lives in transition; life boredom. 

Ten women: engaging in spirited, spiritual, emotional, thoughtful, sometimes 
irreverent discussions. Beautiful women - women with tattoos, women horrified 
at tattoos. 

Ten women: worrying about the future of children, all children. 

Ten women: divulging details of their personal lives, telling little narratives 
within big narratives. 

Ten women: whose lives intersected for five weeks in an art class in an adult 
learning classroom. 

This classroom was the site of my dissertation research, driven by the question: 

How can the use of collage, assemblage and mixed media be transformational 
and co-transformational in an undergraduate adult learning course on 
imagination and creativity? 


Thematic Analysis: Themes on continuums of human experience 

(All names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the students) 

"Thinking in any of its manifestations, is a cognitive event. " Eisner (2002) 

Cognitive Way of Knowing 

In this analysis, the cognitive function, as a way of knowing and 
performed/expressed through the arts, includes all the processes through which 
we, as human organisms, become aware of the environment or of our own 
consciousness (Eisner, 2002). The cognitive function is viewed as a way of 
organizing and representing perceptions and frames of references and as a way 
of knowing the self through one's thoughts, ideas, symbol-making, and use of 
metaphors (Booth, 1999; Eisner, 2002). One cognitive function that the arts 
perform is to help us learn to notice the world, read the world (apprehend), and 
create worlds of meaning (world-making) (Booth, 1999; Eisner, 2002). 

This perspective aligns with Jungian depth psychology, in which the thinking 
function is viewed as one of the four basic ego functions, 3 with thinking as one of 
two means of making judgments about experience (Jung, 1969). From a 
perspective of depth psychology, judging experience is a rational, objective 
activity in that it requires making a decision based on how an experience affects 
you, others, or your personal, subjective values (a function often mistaken for 
the function of feeling- a function that tells us whether or not we like the facts 
and how we prioritize respective facts, assigning them a indicator of value, as 
portrayed in the Affective Analysis). 

According to Jung, thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition are four basic ego functions which serve to perceive 
information in development of Self. 


Cognitive Analysis 1: Christine 

"/ never thought of it that way. " Christine 

Christine, a 32 year-old mother of a 3 year-old son, awaiting an imminent 
divorce, decided she needed to complete her bachelor degree in order to create 
a stable future for herself and her son. She registered for the course in art, 
collage and imagination following a student advisory that laid out the 
progression of her bachelor completion. She was labile and quick to tea r. She 
feared her future while simultaneously longing for freedom from a self-described 
"fairy-tale" marriage that could not mature, even with professional assistance. 
As a young adult quickly thrust into adult responsibilities, Christine's world was 
influxing and rapidly changing. Christine's affective expressions were quite raw 
and just below the surface, despite a veneer of composure and her swift ability 
to recompose. 

Christine's life was in the throes of disorienting change but it took on an even 
more confusing spin when, at the first class, she realized that she was in an art 
class. Despite careful portrayal of the course, she had interpreted collage and 
imagination as a creative writing class. She told the group that she was "scared to 
death," claiming she could not draw, was not creative, but she liked to cook. At 
first, Christine's emotional vulnerability and affective expressions belied her 
cognitive ability to re-conceptualize and reframe a situation. More spot-on than 
she realized, she gamely quipped, "Maybe collage is like cooking." Through the 
analogy of cooking, Christine found a familiar frame of reference through which 
to initially conceptualize collage and signaled her ability for metaphoric thinking. 


For the assignment, Create a Vessel, Christine constructed an orange sailboat , 
the S.S. Tyler (named for her son and constructed from his milk carton, a straw 
and his craft papers) in full green sail - a color chosen to communicate "go-go-go!" 
The sailboat was thoughtfully outfitted with a red pail filled with collections of 
rocks and shells, harkening to beaches as precious sites of tranquility, inspiration 
and relational communion with her son and her own aspirations. Christine had 
often watched sailboats from the comfort of a favorite beach and yea rned for 
the experience of their freedom and grace - "the ability to chose whether to put up the 

sail and let it take me to where it will or to direct it to the place where I want it to go." A library 

of books to represent her journey into education lined the aft behind a beautiful 
woman-doll, who stood alert behind the helm. An anchor was connected to the 
aft. Christine, who one week earlier totally discaimed any creativity, announced, 

"I'm very proud of myself. Art is fun. This is fun. There is more to art than stick figures." 

Christine was surprised by her playful, naive, child-like artfulness and ability to 

communicate visually through a symbolic visual image. An assumption about her 

creativity shifted. She saw and received affirmation from her classmates that she 


was capable of creative, symbolic expression; that her whimsical, child-like 
sailboat was an effective means of communicating her "transformation to Captain of 

her own destiny." 

The cognitive conceptualization of a sailboat as a simultaneous image of 
emotional containment (a vessel) and an energetic symbol of life-change and 
movement had the effect of stabilizing Christine's affective expressions about 
her distressful and disorienting life changes. She became energized and excited. 

She wrote: "l am now experiencing what it feels like to be on course, to have direction and 
focus that has been missing for a long time. I was tired of going in circles." 

At the onset of the collage assignments, Christine was convinced she would 
make a mess because, as she reminded us, she is "not very creative." The changed 
assumption about her creative ability during the first week was obviously not 
stable. In recognition of that fact, she created Collage #1, Impediment/Inner 
Critic, depicting an internalized self-criticizing voice, a voice of judgment and 
diminishment. She visually narrated a 6-year-old girl in pigtails standing before 
three easels of child art, innocently and eagerly anticipating a response to her art 
project. A cigar-smoking, crude, gun-toting woman demands "what'z up?" and 


then declares "There's no beauty here!" as a visual and textual narrative of an 
aggressive, insensitive, impeding thought process to any expression of creativity 
and individuality. Christine was shocked to stand back and observe the external 
representation of her very familiar, but intangible thought process. She claimed 
"i never thought of it that way." Christine discovered an unconscious aspect of herself 
that was simultaneously edictal and freeing. 

Through the concept of collage, when asked about the white space, both as the 
foundation of the collage and the in-between spaces of the images, Christine 
quickly conceptualized possible disconnection between the imagistic elements - 
each image stands alone and apart, out of her control. She also saw 
incompleteness. She began to see the white space as opportunity for creating a 
connection between self-elements and as surface space to communicate 
something more, something different, something new. She "filed the concepts in a 

new creative folder in her head for the next collage." She knew immediately what she 

wanted to do with Collage #2, Free Exploration, and jumped right into the 


Christine chose a foundation that was purposefully twice as large as the offered 
basic form because she had "a lot to portray." Expanding the perimeters of the 
canvas was evidence of shifts and growth in her cognitive functioning. Christine's 
work flow was simultaneously deliberated and experimental. She set up a model 
template on which she organized the images but she was frustrated that she 
could not find an adequate sunset image to portray the colors of the flaming sun, 
a symbol of inspiration and peace. With prompting, she quickly grasped the 
concept of abstraction through layering multiple sun colors, metallic sheens and 
multiple textures instead of using an actual picture. Christine was thrilled to 
both see and feel the sunset in what became a new foundation of her collage. 
Christine successfully made a transition from literal to abstract representation. 
That aesthetic choice also solved her challenge of dealing with in-between space. 
Color became a unifying, integrative element between her multiple elements of 
Collage #2. The peacefulness and inspiration that Kelly felt when she watched 
sunsets on the beach was now represented in her collage. 

The center of the collage #2 was an (unintentional) heart-shape of a tree, with 
the viewer's perspective mysteriously and seemingly coming from within the 
trunk. Christine had not seen this but when the class observed this as their 
viewer's perspective, Christine's vision shifted. She took deep comfort and 
inspiration from that view. She felt like she had inadvertently created another 
vessel experience - a safe, containing place - an internal space in addition to 
finding a new perspective of the world, her world. The latter may be an example 
of unintentional spiritual awakening through both the relational and sensorial 
realms. Christine did not state it as such, and no one pursued it. 

But mostly, Christine liked the images of the confident strong-faced women in 
her collage - one looking in the mirror and seeing herself, and another with hair 


blowing freely and confidently in the wind. Christine derived and demonstrated 
an augmented idea of her Self through the inclusion of these images. 

Christine's final project was embodied collage through cooking and performative 
assemblage. Harkening back to her original conceptualization of collage, she 
made six pizzas with progressive layers and toppings to demonstrate work flow, 
features and attributes of collage in cooking. While the class communally 
munched on the pizzas,she proceeded to portray her growth and change 
through construction of an abstract representation of change in the assemblage 
of a new vessel, this one in glass - transparent, strong, and vulnerable. As she 
depicted a modern fairy tale of a princess marrying her girlhood prince and the 
whole myth collapsing beneath her, she ceremoniously filled the glass vessel 
with six layers of colored sand, each color symbolizing an important stage or 
moment of her growth in self-awareness and consciousness. As Christine 
created the large orange upper layer, which she labeled as her son, Tyler, she 
pressed in a deep concave, a maternal vessel space, over which she filled and 
topped with a "go-go-go!" green sand layer, labeled herself and her new life. 

While Christine entered the course through an affective portal, through 
processes of framing, reframing her feeling values, and significant amounts of 
emotional expression, she demonstrated multiple examples of meaning-making 


through cognitive perceptions and symbol-making. She quickly conceptualized 
the concept of collage and demonstrated capacity to abstract it towards a way of 
being, thinking and living. She demonstrated change in cognitive representation 
from literal to abstract and symbolic. She shifted her Self perception as "totally 
uncreative" to a person capable of creative expression. She developed recognition 
of an under-lying negative self-thought which provided her with a new frame of 
reference about her self-concept. She demonstrated ability to create a mental 
concept of vessel as a containing, self-organizing, protective, protected, and 
generative space which she created several times, including one for her son. 

Christine's transformation in cognitive perception took hold in the five weeks of 
creative exploration of imagination and creativity. But she is vulnerable. During 
her final performative collage-making, Christine's voice occasionally choked and 
she would turn to me to read a few sentences until she recollected herself to 
continue. We passed her paper back and forth a few times until she burst out 
laughing and finished successfully on her own. Bolstered by the relational and 
new trust in a purposive expression of affect, Christine demonstrated cognitive 
transformation far beyond what she had imagined entering "an art class." 


Cognitive Analysis 2: Anita 

"/ change my mind. " Anita 

Anita, a 38 year-old, Insurance systems-analyst, and wife of a Baptist minister, 
finally carved out time and energy to complete her bachelor degree in business. 
She presented as quiet, pleasant and politely reluctant. She was in a confounding 
dilemma. Her business class had been cancelled and she was in the imagination 
and creativity art class by default because she wanted to keep pace with her 
scheduled degree completion. Anita stated she was a business woman to whom 
a class in imagination and creativity was "just not appealing". She was emphatic 
that not only did she "lack creative bones in her body" but that she was always in a 
compression tank of time. Should she withdraw and lose time on her plans to 
get a degree or should she stay in her dilemma and experience "God knows what"? 
Anita soon had the class in stitches with her deep-voiced, dry, self-deprecating 
humor, and the comic, desperate, perhaps classic, course-enrollment-dilemma in 
which she found herself. Even though the class enthusiastically telegraphed 
encouragement and empathy, she murmured, "I don't know about this. You're going to 
have to convince me." I wondered if she would even return to the second class. 


Anita returned. For the assignment, Create a Vessel, she constructed a miniature 
room replete with a miniature bed, bureau, pillows, digital television, carpeting, 
a Bible, and pictures of her family, all captured in a space labeled 'Anita's 
Sanctuary'. Watching her niece construct a self-soothing, comforting teddy bear at 
'Build-A-Bear' 4 had triggered an idea in Anita. She could construct an adult 
version of comfort for herself. She transformed the 'Build-A-Bear' box into a 
representation of precious, private space, which she deeply values and needs. 

She wrote in her reflection paper: "My vessel is the place where I feel safe, secure and 
most importantly, it belongs to me. The place where I go to find solace, peace and tranquility, the 
place I run to when I don't want to be disturbed so that I can think or plan or simply contemplate 
life's events. It is not a place for any and everyone - an invitation is a must. It is a place where I 
can dream, reflect and recharge." These are the building blocks which Anita brought 
into class. 

Anita experimented with creative process through materials of everyday and 
familial life, while simultaneously doing her "academic duty." Her face beamed 
with surprise and pleasure when her classmates enthused over the interpretive 
success, charm and appeal of the vessel representation. They all stated they 
wanted one, symbolically and in reality, for their lives. Anita had inadvertently 
imagined and symbolized, perhaps, the most necessary vessel of all for busy 
women, an inner private sanctuary. 

Build-A-Bear is a retail franchise at which customers may construct, embellish and dress a teddy care 
according to their own desire. The bears are replete with a shopping box which functions both as a 
shopping bag and a storage place for the teddy bears. 


Anita's disorientation emerged, however, portrayed in both cognitive and 
affective confusion. The next week, Anita was over-stimulated with the materials 
in the studio and she admitted to feeling flat at the start of class. I contemplated 
that Anita was both a weary adult learner and perhaps emotionally shut-down to 
manage the unfamiliarity in which she found herself. 

Collage assignment #1, Impediment/Inner Critic, was daunting for Anita but she 
was at least certain that time was her impediment: "Time is the thing that hinders me, 

the one thing that there never seems to be enough of so that I can do the things that are 
expected of me, and also pursue the things that I want to do." Anita wrote that she is 
dogged by an internal script, "You don't have time forthat" to which she laments, 
"Where do I find time to do all the things that are expected of me?" But she was unsure 

how to represent this underlying thought process in a collage and was utterly 
convinced of her lack of imagination to figure it out. Her negative internal, 
cognitive script was an impediment to idea formation. 

With the timed exercise pressing on her, she decided to just literally portray 
what was required of her - "things that eat up all my time" - expectations, refinery, 


beauty, traditions. Each idea was distinctly depicted in symbolic images, spaced 
separate and apart on the collage, floating over a vacuous, light, white 
background. There was a certain lushness and formality to the collection of 
images in the gold tones and silky, satin fabrics, white frostings and white 
flowers. One orange color block with sculptural white flowers stood out - 
distinct and separate, lively and vibrant, individualistic and rebellious - Anita 
liked that her fellow students noticed it, and called it such. Anita perked up with 
a grin of acknowledgement. This was a significant acknowledgement for Anita. 
Students need to be seen and accepted for their authenticity. Sometimes 
authenticity emerges so obscurely, it can almost be missed. The bright color 
orange became a portal to further self-exploration. 

For Collage #2, Free Exploration, Anita continued with the theme of time - 
feeling and exploring the compression of time and expectations in daily life and 
in real time with the collage assignment. She now changed her white background 
to a field of energetic, vibrant colors. She depicted both external expectations 
and her personal desires through images and prayerful text. Then just as she 
began to organize the collage, she once again found herself running out of time 
and was not be able to complete it as she would have liked. In what might 


appear, at first, as familiar compromise or perhaps a burst of surrender and 
acquiescence, she threw up her hands, quickly glued on the images, and added 
the text Just do it on a banner of the feisty, vibrant color orange. An image which 
Anita described as a "self-determined woman with attitude" was affixed front and 

Anita tapped into multiple ways of knowing throughout the class. In her 
response paper, she stated while she was not particularly interested in the 
making of collages during class, she found herself continually thinking about 
Collage #2 during the following week, including ideas and ways that would have 
helped her better display how to get the most of what hinders her. Between 
classes, she began to integrate her experiences in class to her work and personal 
life. She adroitly told her fellow classmates, "This class kind of sticks on you and l am 
going to remember it for a long, long time." Once again, Anita was referencing time, but 
here, "time is a friend, not an enemy," providing her with perspective and the 
possibility of longitudinal reflection and integration instead of in-the-moment 
protective and reactive responses. 

Some kind of lethargy or resistance shifted into action. Anita became 
behavorially activated to problem-solve within her own life through the self- 
admonition to "just do it." Anita also demonstrated the ability to extend her 
transforming cognition into daily life -a cognitive skill of transfer of learning -an 
objective of adult education (Knowles, 2005). She conceptualized how the work 
and discipline of artists is the same as the work of any professional -just though 
a different medium. She found herself "looking at the way l perform certain tasks at 
work, and how I can be more creative and how I can mature some of my amateur abilities. This is 
also one of the reasons I decided to return to school, so that I could learn more and mature my 


The Goldsworthy movie, Rivers and Tides, provided Anita with an artistic focus - 
nature -which she calls "God's work of art." In response to her perceived need to 
speed up, she found herself paradoxically slowing down to take walks, noticing 
nature, especially gardens, to clear her mind and just be a part of it. For her final 

project, Free Exploration, Anita sought to "capture some of nature's beauty and 
splendor in a garden." She created an assemblage called "Tranquility Garden" - a 

miniature garden-scape with miniature grass, flowers and pots, garden tools, a 
worm, and a rock path leading up to a miniature garden fountain. In her final 

paper, Anita Stated: "Tranquility Garden is a place where God's artwork is on display, a 

meditative place to go and look at natural beauty." Anita opened herself and her creative 

process to Others through this project. "Tranquility Garden, unlike my private Sanctuary 
which required an invitation, is a place for one and all to come and gaze upon the beauty in 

nature." The pinnacle of her presentation was pushing a button to start the sound 
of flowing water in the miniature fountain, which elicited gasps of delight from 
the class and a final burst of applause. 

Through the disorientation of a course in imagination and creativity, Anita 
augmented her sense of self and cognitive agency by discovering creative 


process. Anita had heretofore thought of art as something she purchased or 
something others do, but she began to see that "there also is an artist in me." She 
was activated by the idea to notice and investigate the ordinary in life. The 
aesthetic appreciation that "There is nothing so ordinary in an ordinary day that 
it doesn't warrant some meaningful investigation" (Booth, 1999) aligned with 

her spiritual values to "appreciate the least in life, as well as the bountiful" (explored also 

in Spiritual Analysis). 

Anita was a weekly portrayal of overcoming resistance to new cognitive 
perceptions and fear of the unfamiliar. Anita experienced intense confrontation 
with her own assumptions about imagination, creative process, art and time. 
While she experienced the creative process as confounding, frightening, alien, 
and massively cognitively and affectively disorienting, her aesthetic expression 
was succinct, clever and compelling. Anita's resistance was strong but perhaps 
somewhat of a red herring because even though most adult learners are typically 
time-pressed, when Anita began to respond to the assignments and create 
solutions to her own problems, she made profound cognitive shifts to her 
assumptions, asked different questions, and came up with different perspectives 
for her life. The discovery that she was capable of constructing new ideas and 
self-perceptions through creative engagement was revelatory to Anita. Anita is 
happy she stayed in the class. She stated: "Learning how to leam is the ultimate goal of 

education. I feel I reached that ultimate goal. I have learned and received an education here." 

Creativity can be contagious, and ironically, while Anita had originally challenged 
the class to change her mind, she is passing on the contagion she experienced in 
class. In her reflection paper, she said, "My talking about the class has also sparked an 
interest from those around me. As they listen to my experience about the things I have learned 
and created for this class, it has inspired them to become more creative." It might appear 

that conversion begets conversion. 


Cognitive Analysis 3: Leah 

A new idea: "I am more than my past. " Leah 

Sometimes there is so much happening in a student's learning experience that it 
is extremely difficult to parse out the dynamic, interacting, kaleidoscopic 
movements of all the ways of knowing that are operating simultaneously with a 
deeply engaged student. Such was the situation with Leah, an artful and creative 
(yet disclaiming both), 24 year-old woman, and a heroin addict in recovery two 
years, nine months. 

Leah told a narrative of hidden teenage heroin addiction - a story of an affluent, 
middle class North Shore family whose youngest daughter broke the mold of 
drug addicts depicted in newspapers and seen on the streets of east coast, North 
Shore towns and cities. She looked like a stereotypical socially and economically 
privileged North Shore bright, beautiful, "girl next door" who commuted to a 
prestigious private school in another town. No one, including her family, saw 
(until it was almost too late) her slippage into an increasingly dark, life- 
threatening experience of heroin addiction. It took years of progressive 
interventions and learning for Leah to change her life to chemical-free 
functioning. Now, as a young adult in recovery, she is constructing a life for 
herself while trying to catch up to developmental, emotional, relational, and 
cognitive learning and skills that were disrupted and unevenly formed during an 
important development stage (Erickson, 1959). 

Leah was aware of all of this and acknowledged living in a 'no-place space', a 
place she referred to as 'in-between everything'. She could not hang with her old 
drug-using crowd, she felt it would be unwise to disclose her history at work, she 
did not know where to meet non-using friends, and everywhere she went, drugs 


and alcohol were social stimulants - in public, after work, on TV. She felt she fit 
nowhere. Traditional college, also, was no longer a social or emotional option for 
her but Leah wanted a college education. While on the young end of the adult 
learning spectrum, Leah was reconstructing a life that now included a non- 
traditional adult learning educational track. 5 

By this time, into her third year of recovery, Leah felt capable of and eager to 
participate in the breadth of engagement that this art course in imagination and 
creativity might incite. Leah's engagement can be tracked along every way of 
knowing, depicted in this analysis as follows, but with emphasis on cognitive and 
affective areas. Such was the depth and breadth of her engagement and her 
commitment to recovery and to learning. The reason her transformation story is 
depicted under cognitive is because it was the cognitive frame that helped 
organize the other frames into a comprehensible whole. 

While addiction is not the focus within this research and analysis, it is valuable for educators to keep in mind that at any 
point in time, there may be recovering addicts in their classrooms, a factor which may impact a student's engagement 
with learning. Over time, no matter what recovery philosophy one adheres to, addiction recovery requires reparation and 
development in multiple ways of knowing, including cognitive, affective, sensory, relational and spiritual. The first year of 
addiction recovery is typically focused on cognitive reframing and toleration of arousal and affect without self- 


In response to Collage #1, Impediment/Inner Critic, Leah announced: "i don't feel I 

am very good at expressing myself with symbols". Nevertheless, she effectively 

expressed her internal reality with both literal and symbolic representation. Leah 
used images to portray how, through drug addiction," she was her biggest problem", 
how she was her own impediment to life, to creativity, to anything. A lethargic 
woman on a bed of pills that look appealing as candy is surrounded by image 
fragments depicting a world of despair. Select text fragments added to her story 
of addiction — "you've got a problem, not good enough, lost, don't fit in, alien, not normal, 
help, explode, destroyer, f*ck up, it's you vs. you." suffer was included in tinier print. The 
expressive and aesthetic choice to use scrabbly, zig-zagging crayon to fill the in- 
between white spaces created an electric, felt sense of desperation and of 
emotional, neurological jolting and jagging. 

Leah is experimenting with defining and creating, in her words, "a new normal". 
While this was a depiction of her past, she still struggles with trying to learn what 
is normal because she is not sure what is normal. While determining what is 
normal is an indeterminable, unending philosophical debate in culture, it is 
especially so for Leah as her emotional development was truncated by the use of 

As a recovering addict, Leah also lives with a new and different experience of 
relational isolation. She fears being fired, shunned by new friends, and she wants 
to show her parents she is moving on. She cannot freely talk about herself. She 
told the women, "There are not many places that I can say 'this is me." Daily, she counters 
a haunting inner script that tells her she is "not good enough." In her response 
paper, Leah wrote, "I destroyed a lot of peoples' lives, and I hurt my family." She is not 
only "not good enough", but she is also (in her own mind) responsible for other's 
pain and lack of goodness and joy in life. 


It was easy for Leah to collage the inner critic, but Leah found it hard to get 
started on Collage #2, Free Exploration, because she was feeling thick awfulness 
at having revisited her history so directly. She stated that the inner critic is harsh 

and dominant and "screams at me during various points through the day. After Collage 

#1, in her reflection paper, Leah described how she feels inundated by 
negativity, not just from her inner critic but also from habitual complaining of 

friends. She wonders: "Why do they (we) do this? When did we stop looking at things with 
child-like wonder and start being cold, cynical adults who rarely allow joy into our everyday lives? 
How have our minds become trained to notice all that is bad in the world while the good is just 
passed over?" 

Modulating mood is a challenge for Leah. But Leah has learned to cognitively 

reframe her emotional experiences - to "find the positive in every negative" and 

she approached this art project as no different. She quickly translated the idea 

that art is everywhere in life, waiting to be noticed, to exemplify her mantra in 

text - the four principles around which she tries to live in recovery : Love, Honesty, 

Unselfishness, and Purity of Motive. She declared that these principles, too, are 


everywhere, waiting to be noticed. The latter portrays, in particular, the 
transformational affect through the cognitive frame in formulation of words and 
through speech and text. 

Leah was immediately drawn to thick, brightly colored paper and started cutting 

each letter for each word "since they came from within me - not the pages of a magazine". 

The cutting of each letter was exacting and provided time and means by which to 
reshape the mood into which she had slipped. "As I cut each letter, my mood, which 

had gotten a little dark from building my first collage, started to lift. More and more ideas came 
into my head of what I could say, the other side of me that I could show my classmates. Once the 
letters were shaped, words and symbols jumped out at me from the magazines." Her collage 

became a bold field of interconnected words and texts on a now clear white 
background. She extracted particular pleasure in an image of cupped hands 
lifting Rachel petals out of water. "Take two" text gave her permission for 
abundance. Someone associated it with a cleansing, healing, water ritual. Leah 
basked in the experience of her collage and the bounty of encouragement the 
class bestowed upon her. She noted the impact of words and images on her 
classmate's feelings, too: ""By the end of class I was in a great mood and I think my 
classmates felt the same. It's interesting how speaking or reading certain words and seeing 
images can affect how we feel. I think a lot of people focus on the negative." 

Collage #2 reinforced Leah's desire to continue on the path of living-for-the- 
moment and taking time to notice all the good around her: "it only takes practice and 

attention. I'm dedicated to seeing it through every day until it comes as naturally as noticing the 
negative was before." 


For her final project Free Exploration, Leah made two birdhouses because she 
wanted to portray her changed concepts of safety and risk. She conceptualized a 

birdhouse as "a safe place and at the same time a place where risks are taken because every 
time you go to take flight, you risk falling to the ground." The blue birdhouse represents 

how Leah would have approached this project prior to taking this class. She 
described it as a traditional birdhouse, bland, with some interesting features, but 
no flair. The class chuckled at her definition of bland because they agreed 
unilaterally the blue birdhouse was colorful, charming and fetching. However, in 
constructivist learning environments, it is essential to ask for meaning. 
Aesthetics is subjective - one person's perception beauty may be another 
person's description of bland. Leah's birdhouse was aesthetically deceptive in 
appearance, just like her teenage persona and addiction had been to everyone in 
her life. 

The blue birdhouse represented a point of change for Leah. She ritualistically 
transferred one black stone, an artifact, from her vessel project to the blue 
birdhouse, thereby creating a performative, collagic, connective element 


representing past to future, darkness to light. She also used color to represent 

change, adding that "The interior is painted pink because despite the bland exterior, there is 

something heating up inside." She portrayed moving from despair to the anticipation 
of new life. 

Building the second bird house was a completely different experience. Leah 
demonstrates numerous areas of shifting, changing ideas, perceptions, and 
feelings. Leah gave herself permission to just let ideas flow, to just have fun with 
it. Birdhouse #2 (open for lightness, painted with riotous colors, including a 

yellow roof) shows "how I now approach creative endeavors with, to quote Diaz, 'an 
awareness of the sensations of living, and an appreciation of being alive." Although each 

feature has personal meaning, she experimented with Goldsworthy's statement 
that "total control can be the death of a work." A happy accident of not screwing the 
cross beams in tight enough resulted in rotating, spinning cross beams upon 
which she texted her mantras - Love, Honesty, Unselfishness and Purity of Motivation. 
The opposite banner/beams stated: strong, Hopeful, Happy, and Fearless -each text a 
repetition and reinforcement to her previous collage texts. She had appropriated 
Goldsworthy's observation about not being too controlling with art work to her 
carpentry skills, and she now had an assemblage with which she could pleasantly 
and joyfully interact. 

Leah demonstrated ability to cognitively transfer artist concepts to her recovery 
process through the idea that a canvas, or as she extrapolates, in her case, the 
birdhouse and the fence, doesn't hold artists back but gives them a concrete 
area to work with and to push the limits within that capacity. Leah stated: "Even 

though freedom is important, at the same time, so are boundaries and guidelines to follow." 

Leah's transformational experiences are exemplified in multiple ways of 

knowing. She began the class stating that she was not creative, and by the end, 


demonstrated capacity for imaginative conceptualization and aesthetic 
appreciation. In her final paper, she read: "I don't want to say that I necessarily like the 

way my 'creative' birdhouse looks, but I do love it in its own way. I put a lot of effort into it, and 
to me, it looks like something someone who is on their way to becoming less inhibited would 
create. It does look a bit childish, but I'm not the most mature person in the world so that's 

okay." In the last minute, Leah edited her statement to aesthetic appreciation. 

"No, I do love how it looks. It may not be perfect or the way I had pictured it when I started, but 
the process was amazing, which is pretty much the definition of my life story." The course 

resonated with latent processes already at work within her. 

In addition to her own symbols and meaningful representations, she 
incorporated features of her classmate's symbols - shells, the sea, fences, even a 
color as a final gesture of relational appreciation to her classmates. The stacked 
hearts on the rooftop were recognition of the layers of love, support and 

acceptance she felt "being piled on me in the last few weeks. It has not gone unnoticed and 

will never be forgotten." An affirming, caring, class environment provided her with a 
place to express what she could not express elsewhere. The level of honesty that 
the class honored and valued, took, what she called, "a weight off my shoulders". 
The class's warm, relational, reception was encouraging and she learned her 
anticipatory fears were for nothing. Leah learned how women of varying ages 
and life situations can share different feelings, opinions, and that she was 
capable of appreciating every single woman. She could step outside of herself to 
see what someone else is missing in their life. Leah demonstrated an augmented 
expression of empathy and ability to step outside of a habitually addicted, self- 
centered way of being. 

Leah tended to create artwork and to conceptualize in pairs and categories of 
representation (multiple vessels, talismans (see Spiritual Analysis), collages, final 
project) - always working on an experience of balance in between ways of 


knowing, with particular attention to cognitive and emotional terms. Leah 
learned that while perceptions are gathered and accumulated, we can change 
perceptions through ongoing experiences. Leah strongly grasped the collagic 
concept that we accumulate more and more layers of perceptions and 
experience, and occasionally come up with some kind of comprehensible whole, 
for the moment, perhaps. Tolerating the time between moments is a challenge 
to a person in recovery. Leah worked her thoughts, ideas, feeling values, and 
emotions in careful consideration of what would maintain her cognitive, 
emotional and behavorial stability and agency. Leah was very adept at thinking, 
re-thinking, framing, re-framing, extrapolating ideas, and making meaning 
through symbolic expression which strongly supported her emotional responses 
and her feeling values of authenticity, honesty, love, and purity of motivation. 
Leah's transformational learning was expressed in cognitive congruityto 
affective feeling values with the new life she was developing. 

In response to the final assignment, Free Expression, Leah's first paragraph in 
her final paper and her opening statement to the class was full of positive "I" 
statements - a tribute to the transformational power of art practice. "I have never 

been so touched by a class in my life. I am more than my past. I am able to make meaningful 
connections with other people - let alone women of all ages who I had previously thought would 
be the hardest to win over. I can notice art all around me if I only open my eyes to it. I am 


Affective Way of Knowing 

in spite of my long 

illness, I feel 

immense joy 



Freida Kahlo 

Art creates a portal and means of exploring our interior landscapes. When the 
arts genuinely move us, we discover what it is that we are capable of 
experiencing. In this sense, the arts help us discover the contours of our 
emotional selves (Eisner, 2002). In this analysis, an affective way of knowing 
portrays the expression of emotions related to a wide range of emotions - 
including positive, negative, welcome, unwelcome, disturbing, joyful, sad, 
anxious, or even lack of feeling. In this sense, an affective way of knowing 
provides resources for recognizing and expressing a range and variety of affect. 
In this analysis, the affective realm particularly provides evidence of 
disorientation students may feel in the class on imagination and creativity. 

In this analysis, an affective way of knowing also aligns with Jungian depth 
psychology, in which the feeling function is viewed as one of the four basic ego 
functions (footnote) with feeling as a second means (besides thinking) of making 
judgments and decisions about experience - a function that tells us whether or 
not we like the facts (Jung, 1969). From a perspective of depth psychology, 
judging experience through one's feelings is a rational, though subjective, activity 
in that it requires making a decision based on how an experience affects you, 
others, or your personal, subjective hierarchy of values. 


Affective Analysis 1: Diane 

"What have I gotten myself into?" Diane 

Diane recently returned to school to complete a near-finished degree that she 
abandoned years ago to raise her family. Now that she was over fifty and her 
children were successfully launched, she felt the need to fill her "empty nest" 
with her own growth and development. She was also a business/office manager 
in a large and successful alternative retirement community and she was told she 
needed a degree to qualify for promotion. Despite, or because of these 
compelling internal and external motivators, she was extremely nervous. She 
discussed her degree-completion ambitions with high anxiety and performance 
worry. Without giving specifics, she expressed a deeply internalized belief of not 
being smart enough for college despite having successfully already earned over 
three-fourths of her credits. She also alluded to recent workplace trauma 
through surviving a protracted hostile work environment that had ultimately 
resulted in the firing of her boss, but the impact of the experience was pervasive 
and deep. 

Diane knew that she was insecure, anxious, and was still living out of perceived 
threat to her well-being while simultaneously declaring that she had done a 
great job learning how to manage stress with professional help and self- 
determination. With one elective to go before embarking on her thesis 
requirements, Diane joined the class on imagination and creativity because her 
business class was cancelled. While emphatically declaring that she was not 
creative, she was relieved and excited to know two classmates on the roster. She 
was also familiar with me as a professor and she thought maybe the class would 
be fun and a pleasant reprieve. 


Diane signaled a number of indicators of deep stress. She was so nervous she 
occasionally slipped into talking about herself in the third person, thereby 
creating some emotional distance from her own self. In class, she occasionally 
spurted out loud, 'What have I gotten myself into?" She frequently lept at the 
opportunity to get her presentations over with first so she could admittedly 
relax, observe, and take in the rest of the presentations. It is typical of someone 
with anxiety or even light trauma history to momentarily disassociate, lack words 
and experience difficulty in feeling expression in their communication and 
relational styles (Ratey, 2001). 

But Diane has narrative gifts and she quickly found her stride through 
storytelling - adding words to her images. In response to the "Make a vessel" 
assignment, she constructed a nostalgic assemblage recollecting childhood 
family camping experiences in Maine and humorously enthusing over simpler, 
happier times. She constructed a canoe from brown felt and filled it with 
emblematic ephemera - a pine branch, a photograph announcing the campsite, a 
gum wrapper she had saved over the decades, a replication of her red sleeping 
bag, and a leather wristband she had made and worn. She longed for the 


experience with nostaligia and pride. "My childhood was simple and easy. Life was simple 
and easy then. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life." Through harkening back 

and grounding herself in a happy, stable, unburdened time and memory of life, 
Diane created a vessel that protected herself in a perceived precarious, 
threatening situation. 

However, when encountering the assignment of Collage #1 - to depict her 
Impediment/Inner Critic - Diane rolled her eyes and again lamented, "what have I 
gotten myself into?" In her reflection paper, Diane stated she was overwhelmed at 
seeing the classroom reconfigured as a studio with numerous materials. She 

wrote, "I am not one to experiment so I chose safe magazine pictures and a few pieces of 

Despite her trepidation and verbal protestations, Diane constructed a collage of 
sophisticated composition and effective minimalism - an image inviting 
contemplation. Her impediment - Stress - was graphically texted and arched over 
her collage. Tiny script included: chain, stress, loss, alienism. 


The visual portrayal of her inner impediment, however, was too potent for Diane 
for continued direct observation. She was visibly agitated throughout and after 
its construction. In the last minute, she diffused her agitation with an interactive, 
sheer, filament overlay that could be lifted and lowered, "as a shade" with viewer 
control to more fully reveal or diffuse the impact. She shared: "I am like hiding 

behind it." 

For Collage #2, "Free Exploration", and perhaps stepping back into retreat, Diane 
invoked a nostalgic collection of personalized, humorous memories and 
caricatures of the seventies -an era, that for her, again represented no stress 
and anxiety despite what the class recalled as a cultural era of heaving social 
change. The collage was texturally and textually thick and rich with words and 
images grouped over a woody, textured background (invoking similarity to her 
initial vessel). Harkening to embodied memories of nature restored Diane's 
optimism and humor. 

During the critiques, Diane expressed that she was surprised and very pleased to 
be able to speak of her "past personal struggles", but at the end she continuously 


stated she hated Collage #1. She kept obliquely referring to her impactful, 
distressed history with stress. When the class ended, she dramatically threw it in 
the waste basket. She did not want its physical presence or visual memory in her 
home. She announced that she was very pleased with her act of assertion and 
self-control as she left the studio classroom. 

Constructing a collage is a powerful experience, especially if the creator feels 
vulnerable. The experience of hiding, holding back - an inhibitor to wonderful 
expressions is often a private experience. The collage made Diane's emotional 
realm visible. Vulnerability may both increase and dissipate with sharing. Sharing 
takes time and courage. In her reflection paper, Diane stated: "As I look back on this, 

my class members allowed me to publicly verbalize my pain for the first time and it was 
emotionally invigorating and draining at the same time." Diane added it was not until a 

few days later that she realized the large impact the class was having on her. 

* a " rf 

For her final presentation Diane presented a surprising and evocative image in 
the imagistic recreation of her father's boots - a retired fireman whom she 


admires as a hero - but whose insensitive remark about her youthful college 
potential (which she finally verbalized) had imprinted shame and insecurity 
about her academic ability over the years and resulted in a feeling of inadequacy 
and a life-time of yearning. She created fireman's boots out of felt, texturized by 
a background of matches in an attempt to symbolize her perspective change 
about that life-defining conversation while also signifying passions and fires that 

Still exist within her. "The burned lower half symbolizes the many fires my father has literally 
extinguished. The live matches at the top symbolize the many goals and experiences I look 

forward to achieving and creating." 6 Amazingly, Diane was not cemented in blame. 
She acknowledged her perception of their exchange as a "reason or perhaps even an 
excuse" for not finishing her education years ago. In so doing, Diane 
demonstrated tolerance and cognitive ability to entertain multiple 
interpretations to an emotionally-charged conversation and memory. It began to 
appear that Diane's affective experience in the course was a shift of a long-held 
assumption which was ready to change. Her artful engagement and emotional 
wrestling created the final push to change and transformation, an affective shift 
of an assumption. 

Diane confessed that she had not thought she would continue after the first 
class. She did not think she could succeed. But despite continually wondering 
what she had gotten into, she stated she felt the class positively intensified her 
feelings about her life experiences, a distinctive state of feeling judgment and 

Diane also absorbed the concept that life, like imagination and creativity, is an 

on-going experiment. "Life is filled with experiences and experiments, and art, too, is a series 
of experiences and experiments. The experience of making art is hard, sloppy, messy and very 

The matches had been laboriously deactivated - one by one, in safe circumstances - a fact which the entire class sought 
to ensure! 


unpredictable. Being aware of the process of creation is the point of the class. Doing all of this 
made me both aware and more open to all kinds of experiments and experiences around me." 

Diane's final project suggests multiple unexplored meanings and possible 
interpretations, but most importantly, Diane made a connection between her 
early yearning to complete a college degree and yearning that fuels curiosity and 

persistence in life and in art. "The stresses of my life and the inability to believe in myself 
have held me back. My renewed capacity for my educational and personal growth has been 
reignited by this class. This surprising class helped to open my feelings, senses and awareness." 

The class triggered anxiety and stressful memories in Diane, the very thing she 
later ironically acknowledged that she had worked so hard to get command over. 
It was an unexpected emotional disorientation and destabilization, something 
that can happen in any adult learning classroom. Stress, anxiety or memory of 
trauma can be triggered by seemingly innocuous, unrelated events. Given the 
potency of the arts to evoke and provoke emotional and sensorial response, it is 
not surprising to encounter strong affective responses in a classroom. While it 
was not an objective of this class, the artistic can be a portal to explore and 
express trauma, and if it emerges inadvertently, it must be respectfully and 
skillfully managed and de-escalated. 

Diane enacted impressive emotional agency. When needed, she established and 
returned to light and happy times to re-ground herself. In the exploratory, but 
supportive and affirming environment of the class, she increasingly became 
capable of acknowledging her anxiety and self-doubts, and navigated between 
safety and risk, exposure and withdrawal to such an extent that she could be 
creatively expressive. The strongest evidence of transformation through the 
affective is depicted in the portrayal of her fireman-father's boots. Identifying 
with and assimilating bravery from her hero father, Diane was able to reach back 


through time and cognitively re-construct their debilitating exchange about her 
collegiate potential and she was able to reclaim and re-frame her yearning and 
passion for fulfilling her goal of a college degree. 


Affective Analysis 2: Emily 

"Art is not just the good stuff you find in a museum, which can feel out of reach, 

but it is in part, the way the dance of life unfolds around us. At the completion of 

each project, I feel like I have rediscovered some lost part of me. " Emily 

Emily is a 38 year-old liberal arts student and an experienced events planner who 
lost an exciting and invigorating job at the onset of the current economic 
downturn. She now works as a marketer for a major pharmaceutical company 
and is highly motivated to start her degree completion as a means to secure a 
better job future. 

Despite an infectious, ebullient, extraverted personality, Emily states she is 
increasingly unhappy. She introduced herself by saying: "Every day I do all this work 

with spreadsheets and numbers, and at the end I say, 'I'm glad my client is happy, but I didn't do 
anything today that made me happy. I don't have any creative outlet at work or in my personal 
life. I feel trapped in an uncreative job. I am in this class so I will get my creative juices flowing 


In response to the "Make a Vessel" assignment, Emily placed two vessels in front 
of her. She had an undeniable need to express how she felt devoured and 
depleted by her job and she engaged her imaginative skills right from the start. " 

Vessel #1 is my attempt to try to create something out of a marketing job that I don't really like." 

The vessel was a red monster-mouth deconstructed from a biohazard container 
for syringe sharps that her employer provides to their consumers. One of the 
numerous drugs they market is delivered in a syringe which cannot be casually 
disposed. The sharps container therefore cannot be thrown into common trash 
either. The program to process these materials is tedious and difficult, made 
even more so recently when the company changed procedures without 
adequately informing consumers. As a result, Emily receives the brunt of angry 

consumer calls: "I imagined the sharps container and the program as the monster that I feel it 
is - a green-eyed jealous monster. I often feel it is waiting around the corner to eat me alive. I put 
some of the drug verbiage in its mouth so that the hungry monster can devour it. I felt better. It 
was therapeutic!" 

The monster vessel was humorous and outrageous in its deconstruction. The 
color red screamed for attention. Large ominous X's sat on its temples. Clear 
white plastic was repurposed as monstrous teeth. The googly eyes were crazy. A 
lapping tongue caught a piece of drug company verbiage and enlivened it. For 
Emily, it was cathartic and tension-releasing. 

But the wider meaning and impact of Emily's vessel began to settle on the class 
when they realized these containers went first to Texas and then to China for 
unregulated disposal. Emily's portrayal of being consumed by work suddenly 
vaulted from personal interpretation of a devouring and destructive 
employment reality to an ecological, political portrayal of under-regulated 
industrial policies in the arena of world health. The sharps container was a vessel 


of containment and protection for some but one of destruction and poison for 
others, particularly the children who scavenged through dumpsites for salvage 

As if an antidote to the pharmaceutical, ecological work monster she portrayed, 
and with continued metaphoric and symbolic skill, Emily created a second vessel, 
Vessel #2- a delicate egg painted with hot pink "feminine insides", encased by gold 
and silver on the outside. Through this vessel, Emily spoke of passions, 
enthusiasms, safe havens, family love, all surrounded by, as Emily described, 

"optimism and hope, encased by a silver lining." While the class projectively saw a 

womb, a world egg, a cosmos, Emily talked about the exceeding fragility and 
remarkable durability of eggs in an expression of optimism and good-will. Eggs 
are full of protein, essential to all living cells, which she thought it was a fitting 
place to hold her feelings, her family, and all things that she valued for herself 
and the world. 

"For a family to grow up strong, they must be given a home and love that will nurture 
them and provide them strength. A family holds each member safe but provides them 
the ability to go out into the world and discover themselves. One end of the egg is open 
to easily peer out and see what is going on outside of the egg. My family has cracked 
under pressure but we have remained whole despite the cracks. Through the fibrous 
structure of family protein we have been bound together to continue living through 
cracks and storms to come out on the other side where we can see the pink or silver 


Emily had to travel for her job, so she completed the Collage assignments 
independently. She created collages that were densely filled with carefully 
chosen images, materials and embellishments, complex with multiple meanings 
and symbols. However, she chose to construct Collage #2 Free Exploration first 
because without the benefit of class support, she felt it would be easier to 
approach her passions without having the critic at her side. As indicated in the 
Methods chapter, exploring Impediments/Inner Critic is a potentially powerful 
assignment and destabilizing process. Emily felt a need to first create a positive 
image to buffer her feelings of vulnerability and exposure. 

Emily's found great pleasure in composing Collage #2. She luxuriated in multiple 
textures, random composition, personal meaning-making with precious artifacts 
and ruins from her life, such as a button from her grandmother's coat, curtain 
fabrics, sheer, diffusing fabric screens, raindrop-shaped beads to represent the 
rain that makes her beautiful gardens grow, pictures of contemporary and 


ancient architectural ruins, each meaningful to her memory. Everything was 
contextualized in family love and zest for her life. 

Her detailed collage was intentional in portraying a persona attitude towards the 
world. Fabric layers and tie-back curtains symbolized control and management 
of exposure. Pearls of wisdom symbolized her inner knowing. She included a 
quotation that guided her at difficult junctures: "Whatever anybody says or does, 
assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or a 
problem will become different." 

A picture of European ruins unfolded a funny narrative of a family vacation that 
left an indelible impression on young Emily. She looks at ruins differently now, 

recognizing loss and decay. "It's too bad that this building fell apart and nobody kept it as 
an active piece of community. But at the same time there is something so basic to see just the 
remnant of a building and that it was something or could be something again." Emily's collage 

communicates rhythms of life - loss, birth, rebirth, decay, renewal. Emily's 
collage pulses with zest for life - visual communication and expression of her 
feeling values. 


Emily's bubbly, ebullient personality belied her emotional vulnerability. Of 
Collage #1, Impediment/Inner Critic, Emily said, "I think of my inner critic as a voice I 
stand in front of, stripped of all my securities." A nude statue of a woman stands with 
her back to the inner critic, which is depicted as a pop-out. Closed or open, it 
has the feature of a beak-like, mechanistic, monster mouth, with pecking, 
devouring capacity. A crumple of clear plastic creates a brittle sound effect - the 
feeling Emily's inner criticism gives her. "\ needed to show the overwhelming feeling 

when the inner critic makes you crumple in on yourself, and your body and mind feel rumpled, 

scrunched up and crinkled." The text 25 Reasons exaggerated the critic's criticisms to 
publishable-worthy proportions. 

Emily wanted to also show that the inner critic can be quieted. She added ribbon 
"so the mouth could be tied closed." When the beak is open, it also suggests the 
feature of an eye - an ambiguous quality of seeing and observing. Paper strips 
with affirming quotations frame the eye and further influences this perspective. 
Emily glued pearls of wisdom below her critic, because, she admitted, "if I'm 

honest sometimes my inner critic is right and offers up some important evaluations." 



Emily's final project, Free Expression, invoked a Joseph Cornell box construction 
(2003) in which treasured oceanic artifacts are suspended with thin plastic string 
within a memory box creating an underwater- dreamscape of textures, shells 
and vegetation - an illusion suggesting timelessness and ephemerality drawn 
from Emily's long history by the eastern seaboard. The re-texturized background 
of sandpaper and gently swinging shells leaves viewers to ponder about 
perspective - are we looking down into the water or are we, like the objects, 
suspended, on the same plane? Are we, too, in the water? 

Emily entered class in an impoverished state in cognitive and emotional frames 
of reference. Her disorientation in the classroom was less related to 
encountering unfamiliarity through artful endeavors, but more so in the inability 
to re-image and recoup her creative self in relation to the formulaic mechanisms 
of her marketing job. Stepping into a generative, supportive and artful 
environment swiftly re-invigorated her innate imaginative skills while also 
gradually changing core perceptions of artfulness in the whole of life. 


Through each assignment, Emily discovered increasingly artful and aesthetic 
appreciation in her daily environment. Each walk with her dog, for example, 
holds new discovery in her neighborhood surroundings. She now sees art at the 
airport, where her job often takes her: "it dwells within the way the flights land and take 
off with perfect timing, the way the bags come down the baggage claim carousel. I cannot say 
that I spend as much time basking in the artist form at the airport as I do at the beach, but I do 
appreciate how things work together and there is magnificence in that timing." Emily has 

learned to find and value artistic nuances in her highly-charged business 
environment while simultaneously restoring herself with a changed perspective 
through her feeling value that there can be qualitative evaluation and valuation 

in her business world. "It is a very calming way to add a breather to my hectic day. There are 
artful nuances in everyday life. When I feel things spinning out of control I take a moment and 
look for a touch of art. What did my team accomplish? Did we look at the details we needed to 
see in our tasks? Or did our undertaking run amuck and the details become lost to us? Do we 
have the tools we need? Were we able to achieve the desired outcome? Are we able to stand 
midway though our journey and enjoy our work? These questions are symbolic of this class to 

me." Emily has learned to imagine and cognitively re-frame her job functions into 
a qualitative valuation of professional functioning, even at a job that she feels is 
formulaic, driven by statistics and artless most of the time. She implants her 
feeling values through a newly acquired appreciation of collage as an artful way 
of professional functioning: "While my job is not art in the literal sense of the word, it is 
still an art form that my team has skillfully mastered. Each team member adds their own stamp 
to the project and much like collage, it texturizes the final project." 

Through an affective way of knowing, Emily explored her depleted interior 
landscape through emotional expression and statement of feeling values which 
inform and direct her judgments about her life. From the beginning of class, 
Emily's strong ability to think abstractly, create symbolically, and construct 
artwork that communicates thick, dense narratives supported her efforts at 
creative exploration and emotional renewal. Upon finishing each project, Emily 


felt like she had recovered, rediscovered some lost part of her Self. She kept 
saying "This course is art therapy!" In her final paper, Emily described her 

experience: "This class took me out of a depleted place and brought me back to my inspired 
roots. Art is not just the good stuff you find in the museum, which can feel out of reach, but it is 
in part the way the dance of life unfolds around us. I now see my job as a daily dance I 
choreograph with all the vendors, staff members and our client." 


Sensory Way of Knowing 

"Intense aesthetic perception derives from an awareness of the sensations of 
living, and an appreciation of being alive. The arts engage the senses in an 
exploration of possibilities. The arts allow us to represent our truth, our 
assumptions and our imagination through dance, music, painting and drama. 
The arts make connections between experience and vision. They promote 
discovery, nurture trust, and generate transformation. The arts are about life. 
Let's teach an appreciation of life in our schools." 

Diaz, Leading with the Arts (1998) 

In this analysis, an aesthetic experience is recognized as a sensory way of 
knowing - involving direct interaction, emotional and sensuous encounters - 
between artwork, the artist and the viewer. In comparing, contrasting, liking, 
disliking, making judgments, interacting with, and interpreting from experience, 
we sensorially entertain new possibilities for knowing the world through active 
engagement with art. In keeping with Greene (in Diaz & McKenna, 2004), an 
aesthetic way of knowing is a perceptual journey in the "pursuit of more and 
more unexplored perspectives and attentiveness to all sorts of forms in their 
concreteness and particularity " (p. 25). 

An aesthetic way of knowing is fundamental to critical thinking, occupying both a 
transcendent and everyday function in life (Diaz, 2004). An aesthetic way of 
knowing "involves a sensuous awareness of the physical context and an intrinsic 
delight with specific actions, along with a desire for joyful meaning, and a need 
to feel gratitude for the whole process" (Diaz, 2004, p. 85) followed by some 
form of critical discrimination (Dewey, 1934; Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2004), 
resulting in heightened appreciation. In this respect, the aesthetic experience is 
akin to the experience of embodiment (Snowber in Diaz & McKenna, 2004) 
contrasted with passive, awe-struck approaches and mastery of traditional art 
appreciation, common to traditional study or museum appreciation (Greene, 


In this analysis, from the approach of this artist-teacher research, value is less on 
the actual art product and more on the experience of making the art (Mclntyre- 
Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2004). 

From a Jungian perspective, the aesthetic can bridge all four functions of ego- 
consciousness (thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition) but an aesthetic way of 
knowing specifically engages the individual, sensation function regardless of how 
well or underdeveloped a function may be. While the thinking and feeling 
functions are ways in which humans organize their interior and exterior worlds, 
sensation and intuition are specifically how humans perceive or "take in" their 
interior or external worlds. 


Sensory Analysis 1: Donna 

Transformed Through a Color. Donna 

Donna's "nest is empty" and she is in mid-life with a successful career as a dental 
hygienist. The second half of her life looms ahead of her while she has 
tentatively stepped out to start an undergraduate degree. She swings 
emotionally between fear, drive, lethargy, aspiration, boredom, satisfaction, and 
restlessness. She gave everything she could to mothering and her marriage. 
"Now what?" she muses. Donna perseverated over her deep desires, worrying and 
gnawing at her longings while simultaneously producing objections and 
impediments to every offered encouragement. 

To the pre-class assignment, "Bring an object to introduce yourself, Donna's 
ethnographic artifacts were an assemblage of her desire to develop her art skills, 
to loosen up her imagination and creativity, and to express her confusing fear 
and apathy towards her desire. She shared her first fine-arts landscape oil 
painting and 'Day of the Dead' relics which represented her desire for funk in her 

art: "I am so passionate about this painting because it was my first one and it was actually in an 
art show. But I would love to be able to loosen up. I would love to be able to do like crazy funky 

art." Her third object was the book, Art and Fear by Orland and Bayles (1993), 
which she claims to have read on every vacation for the last five years, while 


simultaneously reading Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama (2009), a spiritual 

Donna has been yearning for a long time. The class affirmed her talents while 
she simultaneously, seemingly habitually, provided impediments to every 
encouragement. Donna harkens to deep spiritual practice through yoga, but she 
constantly feels out of balance with her life. She longs for creative expression 
but cannot get past her malaise. Donna longs for more time and balance in her 

life. She is artistically paralyzed. "Finding the balance between my art life and my family 
and work life has always been something of a challenge. I actually do have art in my life. I go to 

galleries and openings. But I don't make art." Her yoga practice helps her to be more 
grounded but she wants to be able to paint with grace and easy flow, too. 
Donna's ethnographic objects and her roaming, fragmented story-telling style 
took on the effect of a living, in-process visual and narrative assemblage of her 

For the assignment, Collage #1, to portray her Inner Impediment/Inner Critic, 
Donna first announced, "I hate everything that I do. it is not good enough." Donna chose 
orange, transparent, tissue paper for her background which she let float over the 


edges of the white foundation. She resoundingly stated that she hated the color 
orange as she loosely attached the orange tissue to the frame, creating a puffy, 
disheveled, but sumptuous textured surface. She tore and ripped the edges. She 
liked the experience and the visual edginess of the tears and rips. The color 
orange spilled over the edges, dominated the senses, and electrified the eye. 
During her critique, with a combination of lament and self-deprecating humor, 
she cited numerous unpleasant associations with the color orange, starting with 
resentment at the childhood autumn and Halloween-themed birthday cakes she 
had to endure when she really wanted pretty, girly, pastel cakes with summer 
flowers. But bad, sad things had also happened to her family in October time- 
frames and autumn became associated with sorrow, sadness, longing. For a long 
time, Donna never enjoyed or grew orange flowers in her gardens. Her palette 
was pastel. But she added, as a humorous endnote, that she was trying to 'make 
peace' with orange through the beauty of the Hari Krishna and the Dalai Lama's 
orange robes and her many associations with love, beauty and peace. She had 
been trying. 

Donna picked bronzy metallic letters and magnetic words to text her collage with 
her theme of perfectionism and "all about me-isms". Medusa's snaky hair 
portrayed her edgy energy, an iconic white picket fence portrayed her long, 
successful, traditional marriage, and a fruitful assemblage represented her love 
of mothering and all the goodness in her life. The collage was aesthetically 
pleasing. Each element was compelling and a visual narrative of its own, bound 
by the disreputable dominance of the color orange. But her text: "Me, Myself", 
"The curse of the perfect" belied her comfort. 

During the critique, Donna declared she was a whiner, and that she and her 
perfectionism were her own impediments. She declared that since she started 


this class she decided she wanted to stop whining and take responsibility for it 
because she is the one who makes the choice to try to be perfect and she 
realized that she is the only one who can do anything about it. Through this 
cognitive shift towards self-responsibility, Donna began to activate her 
imagination. She chose to do this through deep experience and exploration of 
the phenomena of a single color - the color orange. 

Donna continued to collage with the color orange in Collage #2, Free Exploration. 
While continuing to declare her dislike of the color orange, she chose an even 
more intense, orange- copper, shiny, metallic paper that had texture and 
wrinkles already layered and structured into it. It was a definitive grounding for 
her collage - opaque, dense in structure and stability. She affixed and glazed 
autumn leaves (that she so resented in childhood). She distributed clusters of 
spiritual representations - the Buddha, three trinity rings. The white picket fence 
of Collage #1 was replaced with a snake-skin picket fence. With dry, wry humor, 
Donna affixed the text, Happy as clams, to the now wildish domestic fence with a 
bit of irony, and then backed off of it, fearing she was misunderstood. But the 

irony was left hanging along with all the other images that had morphed and 


adjusted from Collage #1 to Collage #2. Donna was exploring and expressing 
deeply held feelings through a wide range of text, texture, and images. 

Donna confidently approached the final project of Free Expression with 
techniques of a disciplined and skilled artist. While the gesso dried on a new 26" 
x 30" canvas, she created a prototype on a smaller sketchpad with oil pastels. 
She added meditative text to contemplate during painting: finding the balance/ 
fulfilling the yearning /satisfying the inner critic. 

Donna had intended to try to paint an abstract painting, but she kept thinking 
about the color red after seeing the artist Goldsworthy's work with red iron in 
stone (Rivers and Tides, 2004). Donna shared that she has felt as ambivalent and 
agitated about the color red as she has felt about the color orange. But now, in 
addition to orange, she was seeing the color red everywhere - on signs, 
buildings, clothing, sky, skin. She found red vitalizing and exciting. She kept 
thinking how she never had red flowers in her garden. Everything was pastel. She 
dryly added, "No wonder I am yearning." Donna achieved another cognitive 


Donna used red as an under-painting instead of her intended black and suddenly 
she was fascinated with long rivers of red on the white canvas. She thought back 
again to Rivers and Tides and realized this was the beginning of a very special 
moment. She felt risk at painting on such a large surface and working with an 
unfamiliar medium - matte gel. But she liked mixing the colors. The large brush 
felt freeing. The color was bold and so was she. She harkened to Georgia 
O'Keefe's bold poppies as she created a larger-than-life exposition of the 
emergence of red in her palette and aesthetic awareness. 

Her inner critic popped in from time to time and when that happened, she 
stepped back and looked at the painting, but with a different perspective. "This is 

for me and no one else. Maybe the story I tell today is just for me alone." Her final paper 

read like a self-statement about art philosophy. "What is art? Art is all around us. it is in 

nature. It is in the way we present something. It could be in a beautiful dinner, a painting, a 
garden, dancing, poetry, or music. It can be a way to tell a story to other people or to oneself - 
the inner self that says to you that you have accomplished something good or beautiful." 

Evidence of Donna's transformation through a sensory way of knowing, through 
aesthetics, is most evident through the change in her color palette. Donna 
experienced transformation through deep exploration of color. She entered the 
class preferring a subdued, but uninspired palette. She explored that which 
agitated her most aesthetically and emotionally. Donna satisfied aesthetic 
cravings and yearnings through an exploration of bright, vivacious, vivifying 
colors, bold on the color wheel. She ended the class collaging and painting with 
bold primary and secondary colors, orange and red. She harkens the phenomena 
that sometimes that which we buck the most has the most to inform us. 

Donna also fulfilled her desire to be able to paint with 'funk', through abstract 
and free, modern expression. She successfully navigated from representational 


fine art to abstract, contemporary art. In so doing, Donna transformed from a 
"should do", yearning mentality to a free-choice approach to her art 
appreciation which ironically withdraws the constant striving for balance 
equation. Through a change in her aesthetic appreciation and artistic abilities, 
Donna now has many options for expressing the creative impulse in her life. This 
resulted in a cognitive transformation in her perception of who is an artist and of 

her own creativity: "No longer will I perceive an artist as I did before. I had the romantic 
version imbedded in my mind. If I had not taken this class I would not believe that I do live 
artistically. Now when I look around my house at the vignettes and the colors I choose, I feel 
artistic. It has been some time since I had made art, and it feels good to fill that yearning. I trust 
that if I ever feel that lack of confidence again I could meditate on the essence of this class." 


Sensory Analysis 2 

"There is beauty in the ordinary. " Rachel. 

Rachel is an 32 year-old, insightful, divorced, young woman with a professional 
history of entrepeneurship and gutsy, innovative problem-solving. She is an 
adventurer with a self-declared desire for the aesthetically unique and 
extraordinary in life. She invoked the movie American Beauty as a haunting 
portrayal of her dread and disdain for the "ordinary". She is also an avid creative 
writer, having written journals throughout her life as a means of self-exploration. 
An art class in imagination and creativity appealed to her in the early stage of 
degree completion. But Rachel's life is chaotic and in transition at the moment. 
"a mess," she rued. Next week she is moving in with her new love and his two 
children, a long considered decision that did not include her own beloved, 
renovated-church-turned-condo - a provisional safety-net/business asset in 
case the move does not work out (or even if it does, she added). 


During the collage assignments, Rachel was noticeably distressed and 
uncharacteristically quiet. She had a faraway, distracted look in her eye. She 
informed us that the transition was not going as she had anticipated. For Collage 
#1, Portray your Impediment/Inner Critic she chose to construct a collage on 
thickly textured, dense, black handmade paper and emphatically stated she 
wanted nothing to do with pristine, pure, bright, open-ended white. She was so 
concentrated in her feelings of the moment that she could not think beyond 
them. She chose to focus on what impeded her today, right now, not life in 
general. When she presented her collage, she expulsed a triumphant exposition 

of her "Boyfriend's witch of an ex-wife who holds me back from everything. She is probably 
green with envy because I am 'the woman'. My Dad drives me nuts, calls my Mom crazy. I have 
left my beloved condo, and I feel like my life is a mess." 

Rachel's projective blurt began to take on comic performative drama, especially 
when reviewing her collage process. She had stewed over the collage, gluing 
clumps of paper with fist thumps, pounding the stapler to attach the random, 
wildly circling raffia paper. Text and images hung over the torn edges of the black 
paper. The wilder the collage looked, the more satisfied was Rachel. In the end, 
the collage looked like Rachel felt, and she was very pleased. 

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After her expulsive expression, Rachel settled in and quietly collected more 
materials. At first glance, this collage, too, looked cluttered and chaotic until she 
deconstructed the meaning of the elements. For these, Rachel was thoughtful 
and intentional. The background combined multiple textures- a map of the 
northeastern seaboard with a big red heart marking the site of her life and loved 
ones. The map dovetailed with animal print ground which she called her life, 
over which she layered images and text depicting her self-identity through 
athleticism, her passions and values: charity, Body Best. Green tissue paper 
between the elements created vibrant textured roads winding throughout. 
Through the text Party of One, Rachel reestablished a sense of individual self in the 
midst of joining with others in her new relational setting. 

In the end Rachel stapled Collage #2 over Collage #1, allowing looping raffia 
threads to show and hang out over the edges. Collage #1 was present and not to 
be dismissed, but it was not permanently affixed - staples were a strong binder 
between elements, but they were provisional, not permanent, and if removed, 
she noted there was less damage than separating glued paper. Rachel was very 
pleased with her creations and the symbolism that she used to express herself 
and her life-changing transition. 


It would seem at first viewing that Rachel's transformational learning was 
emerging along cognitive, symbolic, expressive, emotional, if not even 
therapeutic lines. Her collages were spontaneous, authentic expressions of 
internal and relational disorientation and cognitive and emotional reorganization 
during a big life transition. But Rachel's final project took everyone by surprise 
and jettisoned her aesthetic sensibilities into focus through her disorienting and 
chaotic creative process. 

Rachel had set up a new white canvas, thinking she should try traditional 
painting. She sketched out a photograph from Good Harbor Beach. But she 
lacked painting skills to create a representational painting to her liking. She 
hated it and her inner critic screamed "ugly!". She set the photo aside. In 
changing her mind, which is often a signal of cognitive transformational shift, she 
chose, instead, to let the brush just flow. She longed to follow her senses and her 

"I created a sky with a meadow, and flowers creeping up a hill. I love nature and I wanted to feel 
the calm and peace of a painting that showed elements in nature. I painted green grass and felt 
that there needed to be some color on the page. I mixed primary colors together to create 
purple. I used different brushes to achieve a look of shading or impressionistic dots to resemble 
flowers. I enjoyed the process of painting from my own mind rather than mimicking a photo. I 
felt proud as I signed my name." 


A white frame brings the viewer's eye to the lightness and brightness of the 
horizon. Broad, loose brush strokes in the sky create a sense of the wind, a 
breeze, that follows, pulls, lifts the eye up the hill of flowers. Incrementally-sized 
brush strokes and varying tones of green create an intimate, then kaleidoscopic 
perspective, from succulent grass. The painting was full of aesthetic elements 
that brought pleasure to Rachel's face as each one was recognized and 
appreciated in the critique. 

The process took on more aesthetic appreciation to Rachel when the collages 
were compared to each other through line and color in that the lines and colors 
could be viewed as relating to successive art works. The overlying, seemingly 
chaotic, somewhat spiraling, unruly raffia lines of Collage #1 transformed into 
sensical pathways and roads in Collage #2 on which Rachel emotionally moved 
freely and confidently between aspects of what was important to her. The 
dense, dominant blackness of Collage #1 receded and joined with chaotic yellow 
to be become "natured ground" in Collage #2, marked by overlays of verdant 
green roads - paths of navigation within Rachel's life. 


In the same aesthetic approach, the structural, underlying lines of the Collage #2 
(now rotated to its left) replicate the primary lines of Rachel's final painting. The 
energetic, nature-oriented ground of Collage #2, which Rachel calls her life, is 
now manifested in thick, green, lush vegetation in the painting. The blue water 
of Collage #2 transformed to a sky full of energetic possibility. The geographical 
map of her loved ones and her life transformed into a field of flowers, blooming 
and extending beyond in the painting. In the painting, the space in-between - the 
intertext - is highlighted with white, a feeling Rachel now appreciated for 
openness, expansion, everything, and anything, in contrast to her rejection of 
the color white in Collage #1. A white frame both bounds and opens the painting 
while directing the eye to the white intertext, creating a viewing and sensory 
experience of centeredness and wholeness. The class felt, as viewers, that they 
were deep into the lush green grass with Rachel, peering out over the abundant 
flowers and drawn to the white space and swept upward and beyond by the 
movement depicted in the blue brushstrokes in the sky. The aesthetic, sensorial 
interaction between the painting and Rachel gave her a feeling of joy and 
peaceful contemplation. 

In a process of portraying extreme situational, relational, and internal 

disorientation - Rachel's series of art projects became aesthetically ordered and 

meaningful, as did Rachel. In her final presentation, Rachel shared, however, 

that her personal critic had shown up again a few days after completion of the 


painting and began to see flaws and too much simplicity, naivety, and 
unattractiveness in her painting and in her creative process. Rachel 
acknowledged this underlying voice that so quickly screams "Ugly!" had 
embarrassed her many times during class projects. In response to the 
concentrated, intense encounter with new aesthetic expressions, Rachel 
collected experiences that changed her perception of beauty and outfitted her 
with different cognitive and emotional responses. She restated that while she 
has sought every attempt to escape the ordinary in life, creating and comparing 
chaotic, spontaneous and seemingly unskilled, naive but imaginative art, has 
awakened her mind about what is beautiful in life. Rachel's exploration with 
aesthetics impacted her cognitive thinking, facilitating change in her thought 
processes and her ability to appreciate beauty in life from a different 

"I have taken from this class the ability to look at moments from an artful 
experience. The class awakened me to the ability to see beauty in simple 
everyday things. The simpleness in ordinary items and occurrences is to be 
cherished. This class taught me that there is beauty in the ordinary." 

In this analysis, a sensory, aesthetic way of knowing is recognized as an 
interaction between artwork and the viewer in which there is an emotional and 
sensuous encounter followed by some form of critical discrimination (Mclntyre 
Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2004). In comparing, contrasting, liking, disliking, making 
judgments, and interpreting from experience, Rachel visually, kinesthetically and 
cognitively explored new possibilities for knowing her world through active 
engagement with it. Through the process of multiple sensory exposures and the 
experience of disorienting emotional reactions to both the creative process and 
the art product, Rachel developed a idea of a different idea about beauty, one 
that she was loathe to appreciate. In so doing, she developed changed emotional 
and cognitive responses to her limiting, self-crippling inner voice. From the 
approach of artist-teacher research, value is less on the actual art product and 


more on the experience of making the art (Mclntyre-Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2004), 
which enlarged Rachel's possibilities of what defined beauty. Process was now 
also a possibility. 

The class listened with rapt attention as Rachel told the story behind this tranquil 
impressionistic painting, but not before they wondered what had transpired 
between the extreme materiality of the collage assignments and the simplistic 
execution of the painting. Rachel told them: 

"If there is one thing that has stood out to me in the last six weeks of class, it is 
that one should take chances and embrace the creation process, not fight with 
it. Individuals are talented in many different ways. Although I have never felt 
comfortable with drawing or painting, I am capable, and I should expose myself 
to try new mediums." 

In seeing beauty in simple, ordinary things, and in taking artistic chances, both 
Rachel's provisional and aesthetic attitudes enlarged, sensorially, emotionally, 
relationally, and cognitively. In awakening the ability to look at life from an artful 
experience through an appreciation of simplicity and process, Rachel had, 
perhaps, achieved the extraordinary - a transcendent experience of 


Spiritual Way of Knowing 

Earthly things must be known to be loved; 
Divine things must be loved to be known. 

Blaise Pascal 

The topic of spirituality is illusive and all definitions seem to be incomplete, 
inadequate and contextualized (Tisdell, 2003). Any attempt presumes that the 
experience of spirituality can be captured in words, its meaning contained, and 
its essence identified (English, Fenwick, & Parson, 2003). The spiritual, as a way 
of knowing, may include a wide range of diversity along many parameters, 
including race, ethnicity, class and gender, as well as spiritual or religious beliefs 
and behaviors (Smith, 2004). As previously portrayed in the Research Methods 
chapter regarding the phenomenon of transformation, spirituality, too, is 
perhaps better analyzed by descriptions of its effects, such as with poetry, art 
and symbols , rather than by definitions. 

In this research , a spiritual way of knowing was approached, greeted and met in 
the context of the art class with respect (Glazer, 1994), acknowledging our drive 
to wholeness through interconnectedness and meaning-making of that 
wholeness (Tisdell, 2003) by manifesting and giving expression to spirituality in 
non-religious terms. A spiritual way of knowing may include a student's 
normative religious engagement but particularly acknowledges the student's 
individual value, experience and expression of the Divine (Jung, 2002) or the 
transcendent aesthetic (Diaz, 2002), and how that relates to their 
transformational experience in the art course. When acknowledging spirituality 
in adult learners, this analysis also acknowledges that spirituality is concerned 
with a drive to wholeness, however, and wherever, that is expressed (Jung, 


Expressing self through a spiritual way of knowing was the least consciously 
expressed way of knowing for the subjects in this study, but to those who 
expressed value for the spiritual, it was very important. Engagement and 
meaning-making in the spiritual dimension was an important element in the 
integration and assimilation of the students' transformational process, 
contributing to their underlying congruity of the self. 


Spiritual Analysis 1: Anita 

"Nature is God's work of art. " Anita 

The Goldsworthy movie, Rivers and Tides (2004), provided a means for Anita 
(previously discussed in Cognitive Analysis) to integrate her spiritual way of 
knowing into her artwork and meaning-making. Anita considers nature "God's 
work of art" and nature became a means by which Anita could begin to integrate 
concepts from the class. Anita says she sees beauty in nature, even when it is 
catastrophic - during times of typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis', and other life 
shattering events where lives are claimed, or even cities destroyed. Anita sees 
awesome beauty, signaling not an expansive appreciation for the aesthetic in 
beauty and the terrible. Coming from an attitude of harried, rushing, unnoticing, 
during the course (discussed previously in Cognitive Analysis) Anita found herself 
slowing down to take walks, to notice nature, especially gardens, to clear her 
mind and just be a part of it. In allowing herself to awaken to aesthetic 
appreciation, Anita also tapped into and made room for her spiritual meaning- 

Through a spiritual way of knowing, Anita learned how to protect, soothe, 
escape, rest and renew herself through her vessel construction, Anita's 
Sanctuary, her inner and literal sanctuary, a place which includes quietness and 
privacy to read her Bible. As do many adult learners, Anita resonated with 


Goldsworthy's comment that he 'feels drained by people' (2004). In her final 
paper, Anita compared Goldsworthy's withdrawal to nature to renew and 
refresh him-self to her own withdrawal to her inner and outer sanctuary - a place 
of emotional and spiritual revitalization. 

For her final project, Free Expression, Anita sought to "capture some of nature's 
beauty and splendor in a garden." She created a project to capture some of nature's 
beauty and splendor in a garden. She stated, "I wanted to show the beauty in nature, 
as I see it now." She created another miniature world called "Tranquility Garden" - a 
miniature garden-scape with grass, flowers and pots, garden tools, a worm, and 
a rock path leading up to a miniature garden fountain. In her final paper, Anita 

Stated: "Tranquility Garden is a place where God's artwork is on display, a meditative place to 
go and look at natural beauty." 

In contrast to the privacy of her Vessel Sanctuary, Anita opened herself up 

relationally to Others through this art piece. "Tranquility Garden, unlike my private 
Sanctuary which required an invitation, is a place for one and all to come and gaze upon the 

beauty in nature." The pinnacle of her presentation was pushing a button to start 
the sound of flowing water in the miniature fountain, which elicited gasps of 
delight from the class and a final burst of applause. Through her presentation, 
which included this brief, but dramatic, performative portion, Anita 
demonstrated transformation through the transformational symbol of water, 
which for many adult learners may be archetypally and symbolically rich with 
spiritual meanings of renewal, cleansing, refreshment, and activation. 


In another sign of transformation through a spiritual way of knowing, for all her 
reluctance and resistance, Anita is passing on the contagion she experienced in 

Class. In her reflection paper, she said, "My talking about the class has also sparked an 
interest from those around me. As they listen to my experience about the things I have learned 
and created for this class, it has inspired them to become more creative." Anita entered the 

class stating she was uncreative, uninterested, reluctant, and resistant. She left 
the class, inspired and willing to share with others the value of creativity as 
spiritual practice, as she had challenged the class to convert her and change her 
mind about creativity and imagination. 


Spiritual Analysis 2: Donna 

Creative process as meditation. 

Donna (previously discussed in the Sensory analysis), was verbal and open about 
her desire to integrate creative art processes into her spiritual practices which 
include the Eastern meditation practice of yoga and following the guidance of 
her spiritual mentor, the Dalai Lama. Donna seeks balance as a cognitive 
framework, a feeling value, a relationship construct, and spiritual expression for 
her life. 

Donna feels even more out of balance and disoriented after having sent her 
daughter to college, started a full-time job, and her own college studies. In 
addition to reading Art & Fear (Bayles and Orland, 1993) on every vacation for 
the last five years, she simultaneously reads Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama 
(2009), as she portrayed through the assignment, Ethnographic Artifacts. 

In response to the Make a Vessel assignment, Donna conducted dictionary 

research to better understand the concept of the word vessel. From various 

nuances and interpretations, she liked the definition that a vessel was to hold 

something, 'something into whom or what some quality (such as grace) is 

infused'. From that cognitive orientation, she chose an old wooden box that had 


been repurposed many times - into a spice rack, then a shadow box. Now it was 

to be a vessel "to represent different ideas that form my art and some that inhibit my art." 

The vessel collage contains an original oil painting from a dying friend and 
philosophical, wry, modern quips about duty, perfectionism and values: 'I 

dreamed my whole house was clean' ; 'I'm happy ...yet I am aware of the ironic ramifications of 
my happiness.'; 'Learning is a treasure which accompanies us everywhere.' It included text 
such as: ART/Balance/Family/Work. Kharma. Art and Soul. Beyond. The assemblage was 
aesthetically appealing and intimated longing infused with spirituality and 
modern wryness. 

In the collage assignments, #1 Impediment/Inner Critic and #2 Free Exploration, 
Donna tapped into her meditative practices and spiritual way of knowing by 
choosing to explore imagination and creativity through deep experience and 
exploration of the phenomena of a single color -the color orange. She chose to 
experience its sensory, emotional, cognitive impact on her through its visual and 


emotional agitation, link to unpleasant and unresolved memories, and 
underlying negative cognitive thoughts and ideas that had formed over the years 
(as depicted in Sensory Analysis). 

In the final assignment, Free Expression, Donna continued with a single focus, 
meditative approach, this time through exploring aesthetics of the color red. On 
her prototype, she scripted meditative text to contemplate while painting: 
finding the balance/ fulfilling the yearning /satisfying the inner critic. 

Evidence of transformation through a spiritual way of knowing is seen in Donna's 
transformation to a changed identity. In her final paper, Donna described 
changing from dis-identifying herself as an artist to being able to think of herself 
an artist with visual art skills and to recognize the breath of artistic expression 

she creates in life: "No longer will I perceive an artist as I did before. I had a romantic, 
unattainable version imbedded in my mind. If I had not taken this class I would not believe that I 
do live artistically. Now when I look around my house at the vignettes and the colors I choose, I 
feel artistic". 

Donna also enacted agency to her change and activated her emotional agency. 

She wrote: "it has been some time since I had made art, and it feels good to fill that yearning. I 
trust that if I ever feel that lack of confidence again I could meditate on the essence of this class." 


Donna created a new aesthetic expression and integration of her spiritual life 
into her creative life. Through choosing to explore (meditate on) what was most 
aesthetically disturbing to her, Donna uncovered a means of transformational 
learning, exemplifying, perhaps, that which we buck the most has the most to 
inform us. Donna successful moved from long-term stasis to an activated, 
aesthetic way of knowing integrated with her spiritual values. 


Spiritual Analysis 3: Leah 

Living forward with hope. 

In presenting her ethnographic artifact in response to the first assignment, Bring 
an Object to Introduce Yourself, Leah intonated a somber, serious tone, without 
telling facts. She removed a necklace with talismans - a tiny silver charm of St. 
Jude and a gold sand dollar and stated:. 

"I wear this necklace all the time. I have this ongoing quest in my life to find 
happiness, to keep moving forward. St. Jude is the patron saint for lost causes 
or for the hopeless. But something about being hopeless is usually when you 
are hopeless, that is when you truly find hope, and realize that you have faith, 
and you can move forward, and move on. You have to reach a deep, dark place 
to go forward. That is something that I am passionate about. It has true 
meaning for me. I also have a charm from the beach (a sand dollar). The beach 
is a place where I am truly happy." 

Leah described numerous quests to find real sand dollars, quests that were 
imbued with deep meaning, as in a sacred act. She added that her life quest is "to 

seek happiness as a spiritual practice". 


Through the Make a Vessel assignment, Leah took the risk of sharing her history 
of heroin addiction (discussed in Cognitive Analysis) and simultaneously created 
a visual representation of a recovery process that was deeply embedded within 
spiritual beliefs and practices. 

"My three vessels represent my past, my present and my future. I have also called them 'Fear for 
the past 1 , 'Reality for the present' and 'Goals for the future'." Leah's three vessels 

contained symbolic representations of time - her past, present and future. She 
invoked the Trinity because "God is a figure in my life." Each vessel was filled with 
meaningful artifacts- an empty pill bottle, money, photographs, journal entries, 
jewelry, a crucifix, a symbolic black rock, and additional talismans. As she made 
her presentation, she spoke of developing and evolving philosophies and 
spiritual rituals that strengthened her capacity to deal with daily life and to catch 
up on her disrupted and uneven emotional, social, relational and spiritual 
growth. Leah stated her need for faith practices: "I could not do any of this without 

faith and will to survive. I used to only pray in extreme circumstances. Now prayer and 
spirituality are a part of everyday life. Faith, not just in God, but in myself, my family, and in 
people in general. Without faith and hope, the world would be a miserable place." 

Leah used the class itself to practice and exercise her principles of love, honesty, 
unselfishness, and purity of motive, principles that have shaped her life since 
starting a sober life. She actively extended friendship, interest and caring 
towards the wide range of stories and challenges that emerged around hers. 


She resonated with Goldsworthy's statement: "The real work is in the change." 
She transferred one black stone from her vessel project inside the blue 

birdhouse to represent her past. "The interior is painted pink because despite the bland 
exterior, there was something heating up inside." 

Leah recalled her numerous passive attempts at 'cleaning up' and during this 

class, she declared, "Change is definitely brewing. One week from tonight I'll have been 

getting it right for two years and ten months." The class blew out in cheering and 
clapping. Time was being measured in the slow, laborious calculation of days, 
weeks, months, and years. 

Building the second bird house was a completely different experience. The 

second one (open for lightness, painted with riotous colors, including a yellow 

roof) shows "how I now approach creative endeavors with, to quote Diaz, 'an 

awareness of the sensations of living, and an appreciation of being alive.' " She 

gave herself permission to "step outside the box and just trust the process." She 

let ideas flow over her and although everything had meaning, she took 

Goldsworthy's statement to heart - that "total control can be the death of a 

work" - and just had fun with it. In addition to her own symbols and meaningful 

representations, she incorporated features of her classmate's symbols - shells, 

the sea, fences, even a color. "I have never thought about the color orange 


before, but since it's been brought to my attention, I've been noticing it 
everywhere and I find I'm really starting to like it." 

In a final gesture of appreciation to her classmates, Leah stated the stacked 
hearts on the roof top is recognition of the layers of love, support and 

acceptance she felt "being piled on me in the last few weeks. It has not gone unnoticed and 
will never be forgotten." As a final statement, she read: "l don't want to say that l 
necessarily like the way my 'creative' birdhouse looks, but I do love it in its own way. I put a lot of 
effort into it, and to me, it looks like something someone who is on their way to becoming less 
inhibited would create. It does look a bit childish, but I'm not the most mature person in the 

world so that's okay." In the last minute Leah edited her statement. "No, I do love how 

it looks. It may not be perfect or the way I had pictured it when I started, but the process was 
amazing, which is pretty much the definition of my life story." 

Throughout Leah's intense encounter with imagination and creative process in 
this class, a feeling value for a spiritual way of knowing undergirded and guided 
her every point of development and transformation. The process of change and 
"growing up" will continue to be an on-going task for Leah. Not every 
movement, shift or expansion is equally remarkable or perhaps, even 
transformational, but each one contributes to her astounding task of filling in 
growth, development and maturity along many areas of the development 
spectrum (Erickson, 1959). Grounding herself in a faith practice that is supported 
by family tradition and recovery practices integrates the entirety of her life, 
providing Leah with yet another frame for transformational experiences, such as 
she experienced in this class. When many factors coalesce simultaneously and 
align with her spiritual and recovery values, Leah's recovery will have all that 
many more ways to form her life into emotional health and maturity. 


Relational Way of Knowing 

"/ am holding the tension of the opposites for them and for myself 
while the shimmer vibrates through me. " 

Enid Larsen, 2010 

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: 
if there is any reaction, both are transformed." 

C.G. Jung, 1969 

A relational way of knowing broadly refers to relationships experienced 

between and within, internal and external, intrapersonal and interpersonal. In 

this analysis, a relational way of knowing assumes factors of energetic, dynamic 

exchange which may be experienced between students, between the students 

and teacher, or within the student's experience of their own Self. 

Relational transformation is analyzed through experiences of bonding as a group, 
development of trust between students and of the instructor, and development 
and expression of empathy. In alignment with a depth perspective, awareness of 
the world (through sensation or intuition) or organization of the world (through 
thinking or feeling) is not enough to sustain humanity (Jung, 1969). The moral 
task is to apply what is learned in the realm of meaningful relationship to self, 
others and the world at large. 


Relational Analysis 1: Amber 

"My grandmother, the lighthouse, is my guiding light to let me remember 
she will always be with me, guiding me through life." 


Amber is a modern solider - a beautiful, fine-boned, young, single mother, with a 

tough-as-nails persona who traveled for some distance in rush-hour traffic to 

attend the course. She stated she wanted to venture into something new by 

challenging her creativity. Amber is determined to complete her education to 

improve her and her 3 year-old daughter's life. She wanted to experience 

something different than her business program of study and her job. From the 

first assignment to the last, Amber situated her creative expression through 

value for relationships - both external and internal. 

In response to the pre-assignment, Bring an object to introduce yourself, Amber 
held up an ethnographic artifact of two 8'xlO' photographs of tattoos, and said 
"My object is rather family oriented. " Stars covered the pages in graceful, artistic 
flows and arcs. There were clusters of dragonflies and fairies. The women burst 
into confused and startled 'ooh's and exclamations'. Someone asked, "Are they 
yours?" Yes, they were, which released gasps and laughter, and Amber was 


pummeled with even more curious "when, how, why and where" questions. Finally, 
she just stood up and provided a discreet, quick, performative, if not 
exhibitionist, display of her back to her hip - graceful, feminine arcing of delicate 
stars, fairies, dragonflies, butterflies, flowers, hearts of many beautiful colors and 
sizes. Now the women shrieked with laughter, delight and shock. One mother 
instantly relived the horror of discovering her own daughter's tattoo and feeling 
apoplectic for three days. Now here was a whole relationship cosmology 
tattooed over a young woman's body, each design, color and pattern 
representing someone in her life. Amber declared, "My daughter, friends, family, my 
military mentor are the most important things in my life." She attributed a name to each 
star and image. She added that she had designed a dragonfly to tattoo-out her 
ex-husband's name. 

Amber feels passionate about her tattoos. "Mine have like meaning to me. it is 

something that I am passionate about. Something that is important, that I feel good enough 
about having on my body for the rest of my life." Amber acknowledges she has a creative 
side, "but sometimes it hits a wall. I don't know why." 


Amber quickly associated the assignment, "Create a Vessel" to maternal and 
relationship containment. Building off her love for books and reading, she 
embellished a wooden bookform crafted with a drawer. It was painted hot pink 
(a color she defiantly associated with being female and feminine) and neatly 
collaged/decopaged on all sides. One side portrayed her daughter, immediate 
family and pets. Other sides portrayed her dog tags, family life, work, and 
friends. Interspered were symbols and words of value, pleasure and memory - 
the American flag, butterflies, fairies, a ferris wheel. While sharing her vessel, 
Amber told tumultuous stories of family life and personal relationships, military 
tensions, but insisted on the centrality and role of family value in her life. She 
defended her crisp, edgy relational style: "Really, I am pure. I tell you like it is. 

Unfortunately, I lack tact while I am at it. My first impression is never good. All my best friends 
hated me at first." 

With Amber's book vessel, it was hard to discern what was the top, bottom, 
back, or front of the book. It required handling, rotating, exploration, and 
appreciation for a different experience of a book and an object of containment. 
Unintentially, Amber managed to deconstruct the assumption of what a book (or 
a relational vessel) should be, and by extension, how she should be relationally 
interpreted. While this was not her intention, she was very pleased at that 
outcome and observation. It further communicated her non-conventional 
personality and extraverted attitude towards life. She liked that the class needed 
to get really engaged with her "to get her." 

In her response paper, Amber stated that the concept of collage clicked in during 

the vessel assignment: "In making my book vessel, I realized that I am a collage. There are so 
many layers and angles to me - pain, happiness, my daughter, my family, my education, my 
career. But my core is who I am and will never change. Everything else in my life is just collage 

building and adding to who I already am." Inside the book, she painted a silver lining. "I 


have always said, 'Never judge a book by its cover.' Some things never change. I don't like 
getting hurt, but I always look for the silver lining. I'm like this book." Amber may have 

unconventional forms of self-representation relational style, but she claims a 
core stability and wide appreciation for symbolic expression. 

In the week following, however, while constructing collages, Amber participated 
without her usual enthusiasm and forwardness. She was noticeably retracted 
and quiet, frequently communicating emotional distress. She briefly commented 
to the group that her week was terrible and dramatically full of familial distress. 
As the evening progressed and her work unfolded, indeed, it did appear acutely 
difficult, with family chaos resulting in the need for police intervention. Amber 
felt responsible for the weight of her familial world and was struggling on many 
fronts. She stated: "This is the story of my life." I felt concern that the assignment 
might be too stimulating for Amber that night. 

Amber, however, quietly began to work on Collage #1, Impediment/Inner Critic, 
responding to my interest and valuation of aesthetic qualities while 
simultaneously disclaiming her creativity and aesthetic capability. Tyrannical 
perfectionism reared its head at her studio station. For my lifestyle, nothing but the 
best/ beauty police/ better/ repulsive text were scattered between widely spaced and 
unrelated letters and graphics. She stated that she "hates when things aren't perfect - 


in my art, my life, my work. But as I am getting older I am realizing not everything in life can be 

perfect." So she deliberately depicted a backwards letter amongst the graphic 
letters. She also intentionally did not finish the collage. Then she noted with a bit 

of irony, "Of course, from that (perspective), now it is perfect because imperfection was the 
effect I was going for." 

Amber leveraged fast conceptual skills to externalize the relational dilemma she 
was experiencing. Amber showed a glimmer of cognitive transformation - a shift 
of perspective - when she acknowledged that as she is getting older, she is 
realizing the futility of personal and familial perfection and idealism. She lassoed 
the tyrannical, pervasive underlying cognitive thought idea of perfection that 
was so internalized, it crippled her ability to reframe her situation and to 
problem-solve. Cognitive changes were occurring. However, aesthetically, the 
bare white spaces still bothered her and she wanted to communicate something 

Amber was still agitated with her family disturbance during Collage #2 , Free 
Exploration, but she was much more focused and increasingly experimental. 


While cutting, gluing, and layering the collage, she described how she was always 
the "family fixer" but this problem was beyond her abilities. She transfixed her 
hope and longing onto the collage. She chose bright yellow as her background 
and texturized it with glaze before filling it with red hearts. With pride she stated 
that the text: "inittoendit" spoke both to her military commitment and personal 
fortitude. She added compelling topside and underside features to a big blue 
circle that imaged more complexities. In another signal of softening affect and 
shifting perspective, she humorously, ironically, portrayed the blue circle as a 
"once-in-a-blue-moon" expression of hope and acquiescence to reality. She 
affixed a bright pink sheer tissue overlay "because pink makes me feel good" and "it 
softens everything, even the army." An angel "lurks" in the corner, its wing sticking out 
from her 'good-feeling' overlay. 

Amber was experiencing acute relationship distress that seemed to alleviate 
through her narrative style of constructing an oversized book-like collage and 
sharing her personal meaning with the class. The completed assemblage was 
another inventive, interactive book assemblage, full of complexities, hope and 
optimism. In her reflection paper, Amber acknowledged that she had been 
overwhelmed by her family and her personal inner feelings. She had kept her 
head as high as she could, at home and in class: "By the end of class, I realized, as 

uncreative as I felt, I still made a creative piece out of my sadness and frustrations." 

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■-?• "X. *| 


For her final project, "Free Expression", Amber chose to paint, an art form she 
had never attempted. She rendered a euphoric, idyllic, calming, peaceful scene 
experienced earlier that week with a friend - fishing on Plum Island at sunset. 
The painting is aesthetically appealing, invoking two-dimensional folk art. The 
layers of the sky are brilliant with Amber's aesthetic signature - defiant, hot, 
feminine pink cutting a swath across the horizon. Green sea grass is thick and 
heavy with lushness. However, again, in constructive learning environments, it is 
crucial to ask for meaning from the student. Amber's story of relational 
transformation occurred unexpectedly through the image and symbolism of the 
lighthouse, remembered through a scrabbly line of relationship associations and 
memories (a narrative of associations that replicated the unconventional back 
and forth, upside down, and forward reading of her book vessel). 

That week, while painting, it unexpectedly dawned on Amber that the soap 
opera, Guiding Light, had come to an end - a modern tale that telegraphed into 
homes for decades. She had watched the Guiding Light with her beloved 
Grandma till her death, which was when Amber was twelve. Amber described 
the loss of that maternal relationship as profoundly sad. Her early teenage grief 
left her bereft, emotionally dulled, and increasingly lost in life. Upon painting the 
Plum Island scene, the associative and projective memory of her Grandmother 


with the lighthouse broke back into her awareness with shocking but infusive 
comfort and remembrance of the childhood guidance her Grandmother 

provided. "The lighthouse, my grandmother, is my guiding light to let me remember she will 
always be with me guiding me through life." 

Amber symbolically brought forth one of the deepest archetypal connections 
humans can experience - the internalization of a maternal figure (her 
grandmother) who had played a significant role in her development years and 
who was a ready (but out-of-conscious-awareness) source of comfort, solace, 
and healing relational bonds. Through the stimulus of the assignment, 
remembrance, and symbolic recreation, Amber adjusted some of her familial 
and relational assumptions. The creative art process allowed her to adjust her 
own unrealistic and over-responsible idea of being the 'family fixer'. She settled 
into acceptance of her limitations and her relational realities with optimistic 
philosophic and collagic attitudes that things "always work out the way they are 
supposed to - maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even in the near future, but they will." 

Amber was deeply satisfied with her venture into an art class. During her 
presentation and critique, Amber expressed herself with quiet, simple joy. She 

said she would love to "take the class over and over. It helped me to let my emotions out 
through art. It is something I have never done in the past. I may not know much about art shows 
and the different artists of the world. Let's remember my major isn't art! I learned to challenge 
my creativity and venture into something new." 


Relational Analysis 2: The Students and Instructor 

"Let the object speak for you, with you, about you." Enid Larsen (2010) 

Ethnographic Artifacts 

The first assignment, Bring an Object to Introduce Yourself (ethnographic 
artifact), was an invitation for the women to introduce themselves to each other 
through personal objects of importance. Ethnographic artifacts, the introductory 
objects of affection and value, created a non-traditional, imagistic and 

accelerated way of saying "Hello, my name is ". The artifacts 

simultaneously inducted them to the concept of world-making and symbolism by 
bridging from their everyday world of meaning-making to the classroom. They 
engaged immediately through mutual curiosity at the idiosyncratic nature of 
each other's objects, which, clustered together, might look like a shelf on a thrift 
or consignment shop: a Mickey Mouse watch purchased at the last family 
vacation before encountering an "empty nest"; a mother's gold necklace 
acquired after her death; a necklace commemorating a transitional, 50th 
birthday with friends; a jar of memorable rocks collected by a two year-old son; 
a decorative gingerbread house representing an annual family tradition; a kitschy 
frog vase of velvet (given in a private exchange between a student's parents 
when she was born) only recently given to her by her mother; a photograph of a 
woman's tattoos, each representing a loved one; a two-inch, open-bottomed, 
woven basket emblematic of a professional crafter's skill, perfectionism, and 
unusual artistic vision; a disparate assemblage of art, artifacts and a 
representational book to portray a difficult journey into artistic expression and 
creativity; a necklace with St. Jude and a sand dollar - talismans of ritual, hope 
and healing. 


Images 22 Student Ethnographic Artifacts 

In an accelerated classroom, adequate introduction of each student may impinge 
on precious class time, but it is nevertheless essential to invite the essence of 
each student into the learning circle. The ideosyncratic oddities and deeply 
personal meaning of the ethnographic artifacts provided each woman with 
means to cross over from her individual world of meaning-making into an adult 
learning art class of strangers where expression of self is valued through 
symbolizing and making relational connections. The ethnographic artifacts and 
their accompanying oral text elicted questioning from multiple perspectives and 
pronounced value to the uniqueness and eccentricities of each individual self. 

The artifacts incited curiosity about each other. They provided a relational 
challenge to accept ideas and experiences alien to one's own. The sharing by the 
students established early relational connection between the students. 
The sharing of precious objects readily introduced the students to each other 
through sharing an object of utmost meaning, while shortening the route to 
recognizing and appreciating symbolism. A precious artifact worked faster than 
words. Beneficial or not, it was not until the third week that they realized they 
did not remember each other's names, but they were intimately familiar with 
each other's process. 


Group Mural 

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Image 23 Group Mural. Actual size 3' x 8'. 

The assignment, Group Mural, gave the women a group bonding experience 
through play while also transitioning from individual to group expression. The 
women progressed around the mural with cray-pas, adding to the image before 
them, until a composite image was created from every woman's participation in 
every discrete image, after which they created imaginative verbal narrative. The 
stories ranged from 'neighborhoods that grew and began to inhabit people with 
lives and stories, to fish avoiding a compelling, wormy, fishhook with knowledge 
gained from their fish-life-experience, a meditative mandala, a calming palm 
tree, a flower garden with living creatures, a busy cityscape with a big blue 
moon, the iconic rainbow, children playing, hands creating a vessel. The stories 
grew and interrelated and became elaborate, nonsensical and outrageous. 

The progressive group creation of the mural stimulated a range of reactions, 

primarily beginning with reluctance, sensitivity to exposure and sensitivity to 

upsetting others. For example, Carol said the process of building off each other's 

previous images bothered her at first. She felt inadequate to the task and 

wondered what she could possibly add. She worked out her feeling of inferiority 

with each successive addition until she felt herself getting freer and increasingly 

expressive. Leah stated that she enjoyed creative anonymity while blending and 

merging with the group. Donna felt apologetic every time she added features, 

thinking she was ruining someone's picture, even blurting "I'm sorry" a couple of 


times. After a few progressions, she began to grasp the nature of group 
construction and began to enjoy and relish contributing. 

Through play, each participant became increasingly desensitized to their 
particular inhibition or resistance and concluded with enthusiastic and 
supportive participation. The mural, by design and definition, created a 
composite/collective experience, fortifying the relational experience of the 
women with each other. 

The entirety of the class was unfamiliar and disorienting to the majority of the 
class, requiring trust in the instructor to skillfully and safely navigate the students 
through the complexities of the work. This trust was in place for some of the 
students and otherwise acquired in the delivery of the course. The course also 
required willingness for the students to trust each other. The Vessel assignment 
provided a venue for building interpersonal trust while simultaneously creating 
an a place for intrapersonal containment, exploration, and potential 



"But, Enid! You gave us permission!" The Students 

Images 26. Vessel, continued: A container, a holding space, a place of safety, a place to hold one's 
passion, an internal environment, an idea, a site of incubation, a place of possibility, a place of change, a 
symbol of the Self. 

The students were given wide latitude to interpret the concept of a vessel as an 
aspect of their living inquiry. Early in my doctoral studies, I created a simple, 
white papier mache vessel (which might be as the blank white page for a writer, 
a blank white canvas for a painter, a chunk of clay for a sculptor) which became 
emblematic of my transforming process in education. Its simple whiteness, 
transformed through natural lighting and photography, took on the feel of a "hot 
pot" aglow with my passion (as portrayed in Chapter III - Visual 
Autoethnography). While I created a metaphoric vessel for my alchemical 
process of change and growth, I also began to extricate elements of 
transformation through recognition of the chaotic "edges" of learning (Berger, 
2004) while exploring the torn, ripped white edges. I created multiple forms of 
vessels from multiple materials, each one variously expressing aspects of 
holding, incubating, protecting, and nurturing my process. The vessels were 
joyful, contemplative, sometimes excruciating points of holding, changing and 
integration. Through the concept of a vessel, I began to formulate an aesthetic 
for expressing the inexplicable and mostly invisible process of transformation. 

In that spirit of alchemical transformation, I invited the students to create their 
own metaphoric idea of a vessel. Together we discussed possible interpretations, 
but all the while stressing the point that they were to imagine for themselves a 


personal interpretation of a place/idea/concept/time of holding and place of 
change. The oddity and enormity of the concept initially flummoxed them but 
their individual interpretations became initial ideas and representations of 
personal containment and holding for the remainder of the course. 

Images 25 Student Vessels 

As the students metabolized the metaphor of vessel into a form of personal 
representation, they grasped the concept that as a class, as a learning 
community, we were simultaneously creating a vessel for the whole of our 
intense, short-term learning time together - a place to respectfully tend each 
other's imaginations, experimentation, and tentative expressions. Rotate the 
eggs, stir the pot, fan, fuel or tamp the fire, each as needed. As educators, we 
need to be always mindful of creating spaces of activation, respect and safety for 
students. How much better that the women could participate in that creation 
through a deep understanding of their own and each other's interpretation of a 
safe, generative site for creative exploration and growth. Together, we were in 
constant flux and evolution within the learning vessel. 

Early in the course, the students discovered and identified their own ability to 

create and respect emotional safety and boundaries, have a place to explore 

their passions, instill the concept of nesting and incubation, or create a place for 

rest and rejuvenation. In a moment when I expressed joy and amazement at the 

transparency, authenticity and swift depth of their portrayals, their collective 


response was, "But you gave us permission, Enid !" Their comment jolted me like 
a shock. Yes, indeed, I did. I underestimated the power of permission to facilitate 
change. If permission facilitates change, perhaps holding back, fear and 
complacency in educators impedes transformation. The contrast of sharing an 
individualist ethnographic artifact to group mural-making provided both a model 
and contrast for our future individual and group work together. 

Sharing the Vessel assignment became intensely relational for the women. The 
assignment brought forth increasing stories of deep importance to each woman. 
(Some elements have been portrayed and discussed in previous sections of 
analysis). For example, 

Carol was surprised and amazed at how seriously the students took 
the project and what emotions her, and others, vessel evoked. The diversity, but 

Similarities surprised her, tOO. "Everyone used different approaches, however, when 
listening to the meaning of the students, the themes that emerged were so similar." 

Rachel found each woman interesting and was curious to hear more of 

their Stories. She described the class as "a group of strangers who quickly bonded by 
reflection on art. Art was our common bond. Art brought us together." She recognized that 

"Art brought empathy to the room despite different backgrounds, ages, and living 
situations. She left wanting to know more. 


Donna began to take a self-accounting and experience a shift in self- 
perspective as she took an empathic look at realities of some of her classmates. 

She observed that "it seems that my block in minimal compared to some of the difficulties in 
my classmates lives. I should not complain. I think I will start to look at art a little differently from 
now on." 



Deep sharing emboldened and enabled Leah to take the risk of sharing 
her addiction history through her Vessel: "I am just going to get this out of the way. I am 

an addict. I am in recovery. I have been clean for two years and almost nine months." 

Doris, as an older woman who admittedly had lived through 

many difficult life experiences was "amazed at the courage of some women to share very 
personal things." She portrayed the vessels as "small microcosms of a larger life, and 
whether that was their purpose or not, they managed to absorb us into the lives of their 
creators. We got to know each other a little better without hours of endless questions and 
answers. We learned more from the vessels than we would have been allowed to see by delving 
into their minds with mere words. 

Anita, who had taken the class by default and immediately wondering 
how she could get OUt of it, found herself "becoming intrigued by the stories of the 
women." She added in her final paper, "It appears that maybe on the very first night, 
introducing ourselves through items that meant something to us, and being on the floor creating 
and adding to each other's ideas, may have helped us to bond." Anita resonated with the 

compassion and empathy between the women. Relationship and sharing of 
feelings kept Anita in the class. 

Through the initial relationally oriented art project, students began to see the 

difference between individual expression and group expression, between 

individual/self and composite/group work. They also experienced the potential 

of multiplying perceptions through collective group sharing. They increasingly 

interpreted their work with a developing sense of humor, trust, collaboration, 


and care. In between bouts of laughter, there was considered reflection and 
wonderment. While the women perceived unique features in the narratives of 
each individual student, they also began to see and experience their similarities. 
When the vessels were paired with the narratives, it's as if we were all propelled 
into a deeper vessel - one of group-making. 

By the end of the second class, the students were starting to challenge each 
other's self-perception of non-creativity. The vessel projects were executed with 
great imagination, care and intuitive nuances. A number of students were struck 
by the fact that most of them had claimed no artistic talent but agreed with 

Emily's observation that "art lies dormant in all of us until it is presented with the right 


Chapter Six 
Discussion and Implications 

Text and Texture: An Arts-based Exploration in Transformational Learning 

A theme that consistently threads through literature on transformational 
learning in education is emphasis on praxis - action and reflection upon practice 
in order to facilitate change. In alignment with a psychological depth 
perspective, awareness of the world or organization of the world is not enough 
to sustain humanity. The moral task is to apply what is learned in the realm of 
meaningful relationship to self, others and the world at large. This is a 
foundational construct of the democratic process (Dewey, 1934; Freire, 1970), of 
individuation (Jung, 1969), of transformational learning (Mezirow, 2002), and 
arts-based teacher research (Maclntyre Latta, 2001; Diaz, 2002; Springgay et al., 

Following my own deep learning through visual autoethnography in the studio, I 
longed to increase my ability to integrate my passion values as embodied 
knowledge into my classrooms. I desired to express Eros values through arts- 
based teacher methods. Visual autoethnography, which began on the 
ethnographic ground of play, grew into an unfolding professional curiosity about 
the power of living inquiry through art. Visual autoethnography became a means 
through which I could speak symbolically and soulfully. Through its forms I 
learned to facilitate learning through transformation of perspective and found 
how that may contribute to individuation (Jung, 1969). 

My research question evolved from passionate interest in inquiry and the 
rendering of Self through collage into adult learning as an artist -teacher 


researcher. What emerged was meaningful, transformational and co- 
transformational within adult education. I asked again: What value did an arts- 
based exploration of collage and living inquiry bring to the educational journey 
of the adult learners? 

The value of collage to transformational learning lies in many qualities inherent 
to art images and to the process of creating collage. Braque and Picasso, at the 
beginning of the 20th century, experimented with collage and assemblage as a 
means to portray more than one point of view at a time. As Cubists, they broke 
with traditions of painting which they saw as inadequate to portray 
contemporary sensibilities and emerging modern consciousness (Ferrier, 1999). 
Cubists used space to produce many simultaneous points of view in addition to 
creating a sense and literal representation of texture. The impact of the whole 
and the spaces in-between fragments engaged viewers in a new and different 
relationship, with the artist and viewer as co-creators and co-meaning-makers. 
Collage was a great discovery within cubism that envisioned modern life and 
altered future expression of self and culture. 

Photos 26 Collages. Picasso. Glass and Bottle of Suze (1912); Guitarra (1913). 

Near the turn of the century and into the 21st century, qualitative researchers 
identified collage and assemblage as a method situated within an experimental 
moment in research in the human sciences (Ellis & Bochner, 1996; Maclntyre 
Latta, 2001; Vaughn, 2005; Biddle & Locke, 2007) to evoke new ways of 


knowing in postmodern, postcolonial manuscript. By definition, collage implies 
and requires working with parts and pieces of disparate materials, applying and 
removing layers, changing forms, creating multiple dimensions, thereby, both 
implying and creating texture. Collage makes connections in which the art 
product reflects, reveals and documents the process of its own creation (Diaz, 
2002; Vaughn, 2005). Collage is a malleable concept with a core framework and 
established design elements or rules: overlap, connection, focal points, tonal 
values, scale, while yet remaining extremely accessible to unskilled engagement. 
Combining simple elements can result in meaningful imagery. Collagist methods 
bring elements together while simultaneously recognizing the separateness of 
parts and pieces - a process I recognized in my experience of visual auto- 
ethnography and within the individuation process (Jung, 1969). 

As I conducted my visual autoethnography in collage and assemblage and mixed 
media, it increasingly seemed to me that my work as a professor in an 
accelerated classroom, too, was an experience of collage - that experience being 
an artful, dynamic, living, experiential construction, deconstruction and interplay 
with my students and the curriculum. Might the concept of collage translate to 
arts-based research in the context of living inquiry in an art class? From that 
point of insight and query, a collagist methodology conceptualized, organized 
and powered the entire research inquiry - including syllabus construction, class 
delivery, collection of data, data analysis, and research presentation. The 
multiple identities inherent to the artist-teacher researcher genre aligned with 
the concept of collage and bricoleur in that it privileged multiple perspectives 
within the research process (Vaughn, 2005). 

Drawing upon the analogous, connecting function of collage, I envisioned 
identifying relationships among and between ways of knowing - an 


epistemological approach drawn from my visual auto-ethnography. 
Transformation in the students was identified within dynamic, interconnecting 
continuums of cognitive, affective, sensorial, spiritual, and relational ways of 
knowing - five traditional ways of learning, perceiving, experiencing, and 
functioning, all drawn from developmental research (Erickson, 1959). These are 
dynamic, discontinuous processes. These ways of knowing activated, functioned 
and impacted each other simultaneously, presenting emerging possibilities that 
were not envisioned when the work began. Adjustment, alterations, shifts 
between and within ways of knowing occurred simultaneously. Activation of 
some or all of these areas stirred and challenged latent (or undervalued) aspects 
of self to participate with favored (or valued) aspects in a dynamic interaction 
and integration. 

Creative processes through art engagement provide broader means by which to 
access and produce learning and meaning through visual, sensory, kinesthetic, 
and emotional experiences (Gardner, 1983). Art is a means for accessing and 
portraying the prima materia - the primary material of our lives (Jung, 1969), the 
invisible qualities of sometimes ethereal, heady and conceptual material (such as 
transformation, art, passion, research.) Art can bring knowledge through our 
body, emotions, and felt sensations, emerging as embodied knowledge 
(Mirochnik, 2002). The arts are an effective agent of change, disrupting and 
making unfamiliar what we take for granted as natural and normal (Dewey, 
1934). The truth of art is that it can disclose the beauty of extraordinary 
possibilities concealed beneath the cloak of the actual, the ordinary, and the 
everyday (Dewey, 1934; Booth, 1999). 

In working with images, we bypass the cogitating mind, the intellect, essentially 
moving it aside to dip to a deeper level, into our inner world, where we most 


easily encounter imagination. Imagination and experimentation are closely 
related and each encourages the other. Art objects, through their symbolic 
power, allowed the students to 'try 'on' or discover different points of view. 
Drawing from the metaphor of crystallization (Richardson, 2000), the students 
came into new perspectives from different angles of perception. 

As with my visual autoethnography, the gestalt of the collage method was key to 
understanding the student's meaning-making. The collage process created 
opportunity to consider new perspectives, to extract words and provide 
structure for cognition. The various steps the students enacted in collage 
brought meaning into focus: how they chose images, created a composition, 
connected elements, and attempted to find meaning in the resulting artwork 
through sharing and dialoging, with each other and with the images. Creative art 
processes through collage made the student's experiences and knowledge 
acquisition tangible, accessible and available for recognition. 

In the vernacular, the collage experience may be considered an educational 
engine with six cylinders - an accelerated experience of perception. Through 
collage, the students accessed multiple perceptual modalities (visual, aural, 
sensory, olfactory, taste). They experienced and witnessed multiple ways of 
knowing (cognitive, affective, sensorial, spiritual, and relational). They collaged 
increasing layers and aspects of experience. They made choices about what to 
do with their perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and behavior on a continuing 
basis, portrayed with paper, fabric, paints, threads, buttons, shells, life 
ephemera. The students layered, de-layered, painted over, stapled, glued, 
sewed, ripped, cut, and texturized their art work while communicating, altering, 
and adjusting their thoughts, ideas and emotions. Springgay (2004) says art 


allows us to have the direct experience of being in multiple places at once, 
feeling multiple emotions, and holding contradictory opinions. 7 

The students' experiences with imagination and creativity supported a different 
form of literacy, an embodied literacy conveyed through the aesthetics and 
expressiveness of art (Diaz, 2002; Springgay, et al., 2008). Dewey provided 
foundational recognition of the expressiveness of art as a language that is 
comprised of many forms, asserting that "each art medium says something that 
cannot be uttered as well or as completely in any other tongue" (1934). Maxine 
Greene (1988) underscores Dewey (1934) and Freire (1970) in her assertion that 
transformational learning is about reading the world in a type of literacy that 
includes comprehension, particularly through the arts: 

"For those who are authentically concerned about the birth of meaning, about breaking 
through the surfaces, about teaching others to read their own world, art forms must be 
conceived as an ever-present possibility. If transformative learning is our concern, the 
arts ought to be a central part of curriculum." (p. 131) 

Art and aesthetics can provide a powerful impetus for exploration in the world 
with adult learners (Dewey, 1934; Greene, 1995; Diaz, 2004). As we see in this 
research, art acts as a stimulus and portal for deep exploration of self and 
transformation. The adult learning classroom is ripe for images and symbols by 
virtue of the volume, breadth and depth of experience that accompanies adult 
learners. Greene (1934) insists: 

"that every teacher (like every student) should have an opportunity to work with at 
least one medium to mold, to carve, to detail, to embody feelings somehow. No matter 
what the degree of insufficiency, the very effort to say how it was, how it is, by means of 
words, to transmute a startling perception into an image, to express a feeling through 
an arrangement of chords, somehow brings us into the heart of the artistic-aesthetic. 
We may not succeed. We may not complete what we want to complete. But we know 


While the objective of transformational learning is for beneficial effect, the possibility should also remain open that 
transformation may not always be positive, and may also have detrimental or deleterious impact to self or others, such as 
was experience through the events of 911 (Jung, 1969; Greene, 2001; Mezirow, 2002). 


in some measure; and we rediscover what it is to move beyond, to question, and to 
learn (p. 26). 

Carbonetti (1998), a practicing, publishing and teaching artist, equally insists 

"it is vitally important for more people to make more art - not just fine artists making 
their living at it, but everyone, in whatever way they can. Just as we use writing and 
reading as tools for our Logical Mind, so our ability to express what we see and feel 
would must communicate constantly to the other parts of our being, to our great Body 
Mind and Heart Mind, helping to keep us whole." (p. Ill) 

Through artful encounter with collage and assemblage, the curriculum and 
studio experience of the class simultaneously engaged the students in self- 
exploration to thoroughly, deeply, explore broader applications and implications 
of collage as a way of organizing self and as a way of being in contemporary 
culture. They acquired a framework from which to perceive and respond to their 
personal worlds and the world at large. 

What did I learn about transformation and co-transformation while working 
with the adult learners and creative art processes? 

Data analysis placed me squarely back into the inherent tensions of portraying 
the ephemeral and liminal quality of artwork and lifework in the context of 
transformational learning. This tension within the analysis harkens to Derrida's 
(1930-2004) re-statement of skepticism that " the arts are impossible; and even 
if the arts are possible, understanding the arts is impossible; and even if 
understanding that art is possible, communicating that understanding is 
impossible." The enduring dilemma of how to understand and communicate 
what can be known through artistic processes and products of oneself and 
others is compounded by the difficulty, which I discussed in Chapter II, of 
defining the phenomenon of transformation. By virtue of the multiplicity of 


perspectives honored within artist-teacher research -those of artist, teacher, 
researcher, and student - methodological tensions were multiplied. 

Despite both enduring and multiplying philosophic approaches and attitudes 
towards arts and transformation, there must be a system of examining the 
evidence of research that fully discloses the researcher's method for meaning- 
making. While transformation seems to defy definition, or at the very least, all 
definitions of it seem to be inadequate, a definition of transformation was 
needed to provide full disclosure of my assumptions. 

An assumption in this research was that transformation is never just one thing 
nor is it restricted in time. In this research, transformation was defined both as 
change that occurs through shifts in perspective, such as Mezirow (2000) 
portrays through a sequence of cognitive responses to disruption and 
disorientation of assumptions, and secondly, to shifts to a core sense of self, 
such as Jung (1969) portrays through individuation. Transformation, seen as 
shifts of perspective, changes of affect and behavior, heightened aesthetic 
appreciation, and spiritual expression, and their concomitant effects on a core 
sense of self, were evidenced through artistic, textual and verbal responses. 
Transformation was characterized by movement of some sort -enlargement, 
contraction or shrinkage, emergence, disappearance, shifts in different 
directions, adjustment to ideas and changed feeling states. 

The analysis particularly examined the role, impact and value of encountering (as 
a learner) and facilitating (as a teacher) disruptions and disturbances to 
perspectives, assumptions and habitual frames of reference as part of 
transformational experience. The purpose of an analysis of these student's 
transformations through their artwork and written words was to provide a 


glimpse, a view, or a directional, of sorts, of the process of transformation and 
convincingly show that transformation indeed occurred. 

An inherent challenge in the analysis of transformation through creative art 
processes lay in the paradox of simultaneous seeing and obscuring the dynamic 
relationships and impact between all the ways of knowing (Eisner, 2002). The 
students' process of transformation was more collagic, multi-dimensional and 
holographic in nature than linear or two-dimensional. Separating and lifting up 
the threads of each way of knowing separated it from its dynamic integration 
with other ways of knowing. Separations may secure a glimpse of one aspect, 
one way of knowing, but provide an impartial view of the way it impacts and 
enacts, or is impacted and enacted upon, by others. In keeping with the collagic 
nature of the entire research, when the different ways of knowing were 
discussed in the analysis, one way of knowing was highlighted while also 
indicating how other ways were dynamically interacting with and influencing the 
process. This collagist approach to analysis aligned, in the artistic realm, with the 
function of a bricoleur, someone who assembles/puts together images and 
accompanying textual data to make something whole that another can see or 
read - a whole that in some way evoked the students' life world. 

Drawing from a rhizomatic conceptualization of arts-based research (Deleuze & 
Guittari, 1986; Paley, 1995; Irwin, 2000; Springgay, 2000), a collagist approach to 
the research also privileged all entrances to the students' work without assigning 
positional value to any particular way of knowing. The students entered and 
navigated through a variety of portals and pathways within the collage and text 
assignments. Any point of entry enabled discovery of new connections, new 
meanings and linkages within the Self without reductive analysis. Each portal 
opened up new ways to perceive, experiment with, and assimilate their learning 


- adding, subtracting, changing - while maintaining the essential core sense of 
their Self. 

These methods of analysis accounted for the students and the artist-teacher 
researcher in a progressive process of analysis and left open the possibility for 
both artistic and textual methods of analysis. These approaches are affirmed by 
Maxine Greene (1988) who encourages the development of awareness and 
cognition through both reflective and logical thinking while asserting that "the 
point of cognitive development is to interpret from as many vantage points as 
possible lived experience, the ways there are of being in the world" (p. 120). 


Transformations may be arduous and harrowing. They can push us to the edges 
of our knowing (Berger, 2004). As Diane (Affective Analysis 1) stated in her final 
paper, she learned that both life and art are sometimes hard, sloppy, messy, and 
very unpredictable It is not a matter of whether chaos will be present in 
transformational learning; it is more a matter of how chaos will be encountered, 
engendered, contained, and processed to facilitate the goals of the class and the 
needs of the students. Chaos is inevitable in transformation and it may be one 
reason why educators avoid transformational practices. Dewey warned us, 
however, as both learners and educators, of the dangers of becoming 
complacent with life, of over-comfort in living with "recurrence and complete 
uniformity" and "the routine and mechanical." Complacency is an anesthetic in 
experience that "numbs and prevents us from reaching out, from launching 
inquiries (Dewey, 1934; Greene, 1988). 


Defamiliarization, a necessity in transformational learning, was an artistic and 
pedagogical technique to inject a dose of generative disorientation into the 
students' familiar and comfortable frames of reference. Defamiliarization 
discloses aspects of experience that we do not ordinarily see (Dewey, 1934). 
Response to the unknown and unfamiliar is essential for mining the potential of 
defamiliarity. Rejection, avoidance and devaluation are possible responses in the 
classroom, as well as curiosity and imagination. Defamiliarization, too, may be 
experienced as disorienting and, therefore, avoided or minimized. Empowering 
students to welcome and manage the stimulation of unfamiliarity, as opposed to 
warding off or avoiding challenge, is an essential challenge for transformational 

Working with images has the possibility to increase our agency with disorienting 
dilemma (Mezirow, 2000) in that imagination is a conduit between the known 
and the unknown. Dewey (1934) and Greene (1995) assert that imagination is 
the portal for integrating the meaning of past and current experience. The 
exercise of imagination provides a way to approach what is unfamiliar and a way 
to navigate through disorienting situations. We may entertain ideas and affect 
with immediacy and distance simultaneously, extracting and integrating 
understanding and meaning, when we are ready and able to. 

The entire encounter with imagination and creativity through collage was an 
experience in defamiliarization and disorientation for the students. Drawing 
from my visual autoethnography and the creation of an alchemical vessel for my 
passion and learning, through the artwork of constructing their own vessel, the 
students discovered and identified their own ability to create and respect 
emotional safety and boundaries, have a place to explore their passions, instill 


the concept of nesting and incubation, or create a place for rest and 

As the students metabolized the metaphor of vessel into a form of personal 
representation, they also grasped the concept that as a class, as a learning 
community, we were simultaneously creating a vessel for the whole of our 
intense, short-term learning time together. We created a metaphoric place to 
respectfully tend each other's imaginations, experimentation, and tentative 
expressions. We rotated the eggs, stirred the pot, fanned, fueled or tamped the 
fire, each as needed. Together, we were in constant flux and activation within 
the learning vessel. As educators, we need to be always mindful of creating 
spaces of activation, respect and safety for students. How much better that the 
women could participate in that creation through a deep understanding of their 
own and each other's interpretation of a safe, generative site for creative 
exploration and growth. 

Internal Impediments to Transformation 

A primary assumption in this research was that resistance, reluctance, 
disorientation, fear, and creative impediments dwell in the world of prima 
materia -the under-valued, under-developed, misunderstood, hidden, 
shadowed realms of human experience. As I portrayed in the visual auto- 
ethnography, the prima materia, the primary material of our life, is perhaps the 
most potent stimulation in that it is generated from within. The prima material is 
found in the shadows, in the unlit, discarded, despised places of a person's life 
(Jung in Edinger, 1994). 


When the students were invited to collage their internal impediment to their 
creativity and imagination, they entered into unlit, mostly unexplored, even 
despised places within themselves. It was a time-limited, serious, potentially 
overwhelming experience. It was an invitation to chaos. It was a pedagogical risk 
made safer with the internalized and activated concept of a personal and group 
vessel already in place. 

It was valuable to address the students' objections to creativity and learning up 
front - to invite impedance and resistance and give it creative expression and 
value so it would not unknowingly undermine the learning process. A negative 
thought form, an inner critic, a crushing idea, was thriving in every student. In 
some instances, it was so dominating it threatened to overwhelm and sink mood 
and spirit. If we do not acknowledge the presence of impediments to creative 
process, they will make their presence known anyway, typically in disagreeable 
or distracting ways. 

We also have to first recognize that impediments are present before we can 
develop an individual response to them. Through collaged images and text, the 
students saw what they think and what they feel. The collage brought the 
students' negative thoughts to as much consciousness and focused awareness as 
possible in a short time frame, and made their thoughts available for discussion, 
consideration, and response. Imagination in images gave way to new 
considerations. The provocative images and words provided a compass, a 
directional, a visual text for discovering deeply established negative thought 
patterns and assumptions while potentially revealing a resource for 


"The journey into the unfamiliar can be scary. Some discoveries may be so 
strange we want to cover them back up and run. Whether exploring the depth 
of the human soul or the depth of matter, artists, mystics, and scientists have 
come face-to-face with chaos and disorder. But the opened mind thrives on 
difference and remains open to the contradictory." 

(Barron, Montuori, & Barron, 1997, p. 57). 

Collage was an expedient medium for accessing and portraying the student's 
impediments to transformational experience. The exercise of imagination 
through collaging allowed them to navigate through what, for most of the 
students, was a surprising and disorienting experience. Through the collages, 
the growing edge was its own teacher in that giving attention to what they 
devalued, discarded and feared provided them with old material in a new form. 
They were able to entertain their ideas, affect and behavior with immediacy and 
distance simultaneously, extracting and integrating understanding and meaning, 
when they were ready and able. 

The Art Critique versus Inner Critic 

The capacity to explore our own creations and recognize the accomplishments 
they hold is one of the critical skills of the work of creating art. The art critique, a 
traditional display and discussion of one's work in art education, provides time 
for reflection and critical thinking within the learning environment. To do this, 
students must learn to "set aside prejudice and judgment, perceive with clarity, 
discover what works and does not work, celebrate the process, and bounce 
ahead" (Booth, 2001). This is a difficult task, one that must and can be learned. 
The traditional art critique, however, has a reputation as an encounter with 
uncertainty, exposure, and potential shame and humiliation (Singerman, 1999), 
making it fertile ground for activation of learning impediments and inner critics 
in students. 


In this research, the art critique was interpreted as a time of witnessing, verbal 
sharing, responding, clarification, and affirmation. The art critique was designed 
to contribute to the whole of the adult student's educational enterprise and life 
through integration of art sensibilities, art engagement and art aesthetics. After 
initial trepidation at the risk of exposure, and once the students experienced 
feedback that respected their strengths and vulnerabilities, the students began 
to eagerly look forward to the critiques. The students learned that when they 
engaged in open exploration of their own artwork, they magnified artistic skills, 
engagement, and pleasure in living, in what Diaz (2004) refers to as intense 
aesthetic appreciation. When the students participated in open exploration of 
other's artwork, learning was expanded through multiplication of learning 
scenarios, problem solution and formation of new ideas. Self-conscious, personal 
reservations expanded to aesthetic and relational curiosity. The students 
expressed compassion and tolerance for diversity in artistic expression, life 
experience and emotional expression. Rachel expressed for all when she 
observed in her final paper, "Art creates empathy." 

Emergence of Text and Texture 

Transformational teaching may also be a chaos experience for the teacher. The 
teacher needs to be willing and able to participate in not knowing while 
simultaneously holding the space for the students. Throughout the research, I 
engaged in studio exploration of the students' and my own transformational 
processes. In the context of artist-teacher research, I maintained focus on core 
aesthetic elements established through my visual ethnography and my personal 
lexicon of transformation: ruins, ephemera, parts and pieces, texture, 
assemblage, dis-assemblage, chaos, the blank white page. Mid-course, I wrote 
the following: 


A Short Story from the Classroom 

The students are creating raw, deep, authentic expressions, which is shaking them up a little bit. 
They have commented that this is not what they expected in higher education. It is not what they 
expected in an art class, nor coming into a class of strangers. When I too, expressed delight and 
amazement over their swift trust, deep sharing, and honest art, they shot back, "But you gave us 
permission, Enid!" They cited images and vessels, artwork, and statements that gave them 
courage, ideas and permission to "go for it". I felt a small jolt of surprise, fear and responsibility. 
Yes, I had. Why should I be surprised? Then I felt a little bit of Diane's intone with a teacher's 
variation: "What have I done? What have I gotten myself into? What have I gotten them into?" 

I am in a parallel state of chaos with the students. They unnerved me last week when they said 
they did not like the textbook. The more vocal students said that "He (the author) is too verbose. 
He says too many words." "The book is dense." "I can only read a chapter at a setting. He could 
say the same thing in just one paragraph." I was amused at first because they then talked about 
their experiences in just as many paragraphs, digressions and extensions before they got to the 
core of their own nuggets. I responded, "That is all right. That is good. Digest it in small chunks." 

But what is happening is that instead of linking what they are reading to what they are doing, 
they keep digging deeply into what they are doing and what they are sharing, which is rich and 
wonderful, but it began to throw me. It felt like lost wind in my sails. Something in me feared the 
class might not have an adequate art foundation. I worried that it would not be a legitimate art 
class. To what do I reference the concepts? I worried they might not develop capacity to express 
and integrate concepts without assistance from text and vocabulary. I feared the class would 
veer irretrievably into a psychology group session, digress to a woman's consciousness raising 
group or something equally contentious to the Academy. I felt both protective of the Academy 
and its mission, and conflicted in my belief and trust in my own experience and what I was 
bringing forth from the students. By the end of class I felt myself getting a bit didactic and 
preachy. My chin went up, my face tilted a bit to the side. I talked high. Everything felt like it 
was stretching up - my head, my neck. I was trying too hard. I did not feel natural. 

When I came home from class I rustled around, sleepless and restless, my agitated thoughts 
reviewing the class. No, they were not disregarding the text. They were reading it but they were 
contemplating, resisting and arguing with it. That is a good sign of student engagement. Then, 
while brushing my teeth, a pop-up memory jolted me mid-swish. I recalled that Erich Lindeman 
said: "Experience is the adult learners' living text book "(1926). 

I was stunned to a halt. Here it is. I am experiencing the very philosophy that has undergirded 
adult learning theory for a century. I have a little garden of students who are saying, "We like 
what we are saying to each other and we are getting more out of what we are saying to each 
other than what we are learning from the text book." It knocked me off my good senses. Then I 
started thinking about that. Why should that be? This is not a new concept to me. Experience, 
living inquiry and constructivism are core philosophies in my interdisciplinary practices. What 
was happening that I should feel so tentative and insecure when I am deliciously experiencing my 
deepest held convictions played out in the class and my research? 

Now I really could not get to sleep. I puttered around recollecting a memory - a book from my 
own life - a spontaneous, non-traditional, collaged book I assembled before embarking on 
doctoral studies. The book assemblage had ended up about 10 feet long of unfolding, re-folding, 
torn, ripped, layered, hand-stitched, glued, stapled, patched textures of monochomatic white 


paper with long, dangling threads and varied bindings. It was a sculptural, textural story of my 
life. In many ways, it was an early aesthetic expression with ruins, threads and fragments, 
constructed around the concept of the blank white page. 

I felt an urgent need to recreate that book, this time not as personal text, but as text and texture 
shared with my students. I began collecting monochromatic white papers and textures, using 
papers from class, from daily life. I continued to work on the collection throughout and after the 
class as part of the on-going research response and analytic process. 

I underestimated my words, my living inquiry, and my own art as valid and valuable contributions 
to the class and to the Academy. I am not apart from this research endeavor. The course text 
provided theoretical frameworks. But so did my words and my experiences. Teachers and 
students alike bring their life, work experiences and elements of knowledge to the classroom 
which they then piece, patch, glue, sew, staple together. Together, we construct the evolving 
formation of students' knowledge. 

I also saw how I underestimated the power of permission to facilitate change. If permission 
facilitates change, perhaps holding back, fear and complacency in educators impedes 
transformation. This is what this research and construction of knowledge is about - it is about the 
texture and text of students' (our) lives constructed from shared experiences. We are learners 

Image 27 "Art Text". Collage. Actual size 14" x 20". 

Back to Boxes 

I created my own Art Text, constructed from a textbook shipping box, 
deconstructed elements from a previous art piece, Ruin/Column (depicted in the 
Visual Auto-ethnography), handmade paper and 22 carat gold leaf. The text 
cover is, itself, a vessel, a layered assemblage of these elements that assembled, 
created numerous tiny places and spaces of containment, places for intimate 
exploration and storage. 


The Art Text opens to a lexicon of transformation within this research, followed 
by loose-leaf, unbound pages of paper that evoke the changeable, dynamic, 
interactive nature of the transformational experiences. Some pages are left-over 
materials from the students' collage construction; some pages are found papers 
and materials of everyday life, associated with, or symbolic of the student's 
experiences and expressions; some pages are collaged sheets, textured to 
portray an aspect of the participant's experience. Each page is a part and piece 
of whole textural and textual assemblage, meant to be handled, arranged, 
rearranged, experienced - a meditative place of artful contemplation in its own 

In the process of my analytic thinking/creating and artful response to the 
students, I discovered the emblematic symbol of the research, the blank white 
page for which I created a lexicon: 





all color 

no color 


The blank white page, prima materia, disorienting dilemma, vessel, time, chaos, beauty, ugly, parts, pieces, fragments, 
defamiliarization, ruins curiosity, experimentation, passion, rendering of self, yearning, awakening, world-making, idea, 
reading the world, deep learning, distillation, with a return to the blank white page. 


Image 28 "White Pages'. Textual, textural book assemblage. Actual sixe 12" x 20". 

I also discovered that through my deep exploration with the students, together, 
we arrived full circle to edges of learning on the papier mache vessel I 
constructed at the beginning of my visual autoethnography. I began to see that I 
had visually portrayed a thought; that the students were visually portraying 
thoughts. As the white papier mache vessel transformed into yet another 
textural, textual collage book form with numerous pages for filling, I bound it 
with a pragmatic whip stitch that evokes a spiral quality of learning and 
experience, made visible through the ever evolving layers of experience. 

In the process, I saw how I had yet underestimated my words, my living inquiry, 
and my own art as valid and valuable contributions to the class and to the 
Academy. I am not apart from this research endeavor. The course text provided 
the theoretical frameworks. But so did my words and my experiences. Teachers 
and students alike bring their life, work experiences and elements of knowledge 
to the classroom which they then piece, patch, glue, sew, staple together. 
Together, we construct the evolving formation of students' knowledge. This is 
what this research and construction of knowledge is about - it is about the 
texture and text of students (our) lives and constructed from shared 
experiences. We are learners together. 


In minutes, words, ideas, images came together in an object of mysterious 
contemplation. While the emergence of my transformation of idea to image may 
seem to have been almost instantaneous, it was not instantaneous. It was the 
result of extended, progressive, dynamic interrelating studio engagement over a 
period of six years. One perspective of change includes recognition of 
transformation as an organized, cascading neurological event that is influenced 
by years of experience and neurological patterning (Ratey, 2001; Levitan, 2006). 
It is closer to the joyful, relaxing, expanding experience of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 
1990) in which the brain unleashes a cascade of smoothly connected, unfolding 
neurological patterns (Ratey, 2001; Levitan, 2006). We experience the delight 
and satisfaction of a brilliant, shining moment when an image is greater than the 
sum of its parts, and the moment feels numinous. 

This is contrasted with the instantaneous neurological, retracting experience of 
flooding experienced in trauma where neural pathways are scrambled and 
disorganized from too much firing in the ancient limbic system that is keyed for 
survival (Ratey, 2001). In trauma and anxiety, neural pathways are flooded with 
ancient survival approaches of "fight or flight", 'kill or be killed' - responses that 
are not as globally functional in 2010 as it was for primordial humans. Excessive 
and un-integrated activity from the primordial limbic system inhibits organized 
executive functioning (such as attention, inhibition, planning, internal ordering, 
motor control, regulation of emotion and motivation) that emanates from the 
pre-frontal lobes of the frontal cortex. 

The students demonstrated transformational changes along the range of this 
spectrum - from anxiety-provoked, careful experimentation and retraction to 
smooth unfolding of considerations, and 'aha' moments akin to a light bulb being 
turned on. A longitudinal study of the students is needed to determine if the 


transformations were transient or enduring changes to perspectives, meaning- 
making and behaviors. Assumptions and thought patterns are not easily 
disassembled or reconstructed. They are learned over long spans of time and 
they represent architecture of the Self. 

An implication for adult learning educators and students alike is that 
transformations, like life, are an accumulation of experiences. As we keep 
returning to experiences and ideas, we develop multiple and increasing 
perspectives, over and over, while increasing our understanding through time. 
We do not know what relationship, experience or idea is going to be 
transformational or visibly transparent. As transformational educators, we need 
to be in a continual process of creating conditions and challenges that invite and 
allow for experimentation, exploration, imagination, and creativity because "it is 
in the process of effecting transformations that the human self is created and re- 
created" (Greene, 1988). 

Restoration and Reparation 

The developmental needs of adult learners are different than traditional 
eighteen-to-twenty-two year-old college students. Young adults are still 
developing socially and emotionally, and the college experience is as much about 
transition into adulthood as it is about identifying oneself in an academic field of 
interest. Adult learning students enter or return to academia having already 
encountered some degree, if not enormous amounts, of adult life, replete with 
relational, social and cultural responsibility. While pragmatism is a major engine 
of education, adult learning students are also, typically, at some point of 
adventurous encounter with life. They are students who portray the return to 
academia as driven by the need to complete "unfinished business" such as, 


setting positive examples for their children, a means to professional 
advancement, a remedy for a sense of incompleteness or private shame, or a 
means of personal fulfillment. Students' stories include casts of characters and 
lively dynamics occurring over long periods of time, as was depicted in the data 
analysis. This recognition is supported in adult education literature (Tennant and 
Pogson, 1995) where education is a means of responding to some experience of 
meaning-making, not just professional pragmatism. 

The collage process provided students with a venue for exploration through 
personal, artful expression. This was an unexpected and surprising experience 
for all of the students. It was not what they expected in higher education. Some 
collages were deep, dark and brutally honest. Others were expressions of 
common humanity, of mundane, boring, everyday living. Sharing within the 
group was authentic, transparent and often, surprisingly disclosing. Despite 
spiking charges of anxiety within defamiliarization, the students repeatedly 
referred to the collage experience as therapeutic, calming, and restorative, 
accompanied by stories of thwarted expressiveness and insecurity along the 
whole developmental spectrum of their lives. Through recognizing, witnessing 
and extrapolating the collage concept - organization of parts and pieces of an 
experience or an idea - to their relationships, the workplace, their families, to the 
whole of their lives - the students expressed relief and joy at an experience of a 
recovered self. Emily described it as having "found some lost part of herself" (as 
discussed in Affective Analysis). Collage, as an art form and a way of perceiving 
the world, provided the students an opportunity for profound pleasure, 
stimulating discovery and energized spirit. 

In our culture, some forms of creative expression and self are more accepted 
than others, and some forms are more popular than others. In this research, it 


became apparent that if meaning-making is to be a value in educating adult 
learners, there is much need for restorative and reparative work with adult 
learners. Too often academia is split as to the purpose and means of educating 
adult learners. Academia accepts meaning-making as a major concept in adult 
learning theory but is often stuck in traditional paradigms as to how that may be 
facilitated and manifested. The tension is increased in a business mentality in 
which education is increasingly viewed and valued as a commodity and has 
become increasingly competitive and market-driven. The outcome of an 
education, the educational product, is continually being recast towards 
quantifiable and pre-determined standards of measurement - a drive for 
outcomes-based education that now extends from elementary education to 
adult higher education (NEASC, 2010). Outcomes-based learning, equated with 
accountability and increased quality, may challenge, if not trump, processes of 
education and what learning potential lies within experience. The value of 
transformational learning, associated with, and facilitated through process, is 
simultaneously threatened. Not only is the Academy in a qualitative research 
revolution (as discussed in the Literature Review), it is in disequilibrium with 
world-roiling economic shifts, and perhaps, too, philosophical debate and 
redefinition as to the meaning and purpose of its own existence. 

My experience as an artist-teacher researcher made it possible for me to extend 
my passion for collage into a source of usable knowledge and practical wisdom in 
the art of teaching. I share with my students deep appreciation for what Diaz 
(2004) describes as intense awareness of the sensations of living and an 
appreciation of being alive. My experiences in the studio make it possible for me 
to feel like I am living fully and passionately. Deep learning through studio 
methods and collage created a means of living inquiry that allowed the students 
and me to explore and hold multiple aspects of self and develop flexible 


cognition regarding the impact of each, so that they could be integrated and 
lived wisely, with more consciousness. 

From my deep immersion into the alchemical vessel for my imagination and 
creativity, collage became more than a contemporary form of fine arts. Collage 
became a way of knowing, of being aware of the way parts and pieces of life can 
come together, be taken apart, replaced and connected, in moments and 
collections of fragments, yet still a part of a living, rhizomatic whole. In the spirit 
of Jung (1961), collage can bring forth parts of life that are invisible, hidden 
underneath and within the rhizome of a plant - manifestations bloom, appear 
and wither as part of its life process, but the life force endures beneath the 
eternal flux. 



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Letter of Informed Consent 

Dear Student: 

You are invited to participate in research conducted in fulfillment of PHD 

requirements at Lesley University. 

Title: An Artist -Teacher-Researcher Exploration of Arts-based, Constructivist 
Approaches With Adult Learners 

Principle Investigator: Enid Larsen, M.S.W., M.Ed. 

Description and Purpose: 

This research is a qualitative study that will explore art-based, constructivist, 
post-modern approaches through collage and assemblage in a studio classroom 
of adult learners engaged in higher education. It will specifically explore the 
utilization of imagination, creativity, and aesthetics to further the understanding 
of studio experience in knowledge-and meaning-making through collagist and 
bricoleur practices. The research will question how collage and assemblage are 
metaphoric and analogous to contemporary life; how art-based learning is 
transformational and co-transformational; and how this constructed knowledge 
impacts adult learning. 


Data gathering will occur during the delivery of the course, ARS 409 lArt, Collage 
and Imagination. Data will include: art artifacts from weekly assignments, a final 
art project, weekly student reflections in the form of response papers, a final 
reflection paper, class discussion, and faculty observation. Data collection may 
include photography of art artifacts and taping of discussions. 


Participation in this research is voluntary. You have the right to refuse to be in 
this study. If you decide to be in the study and change your mind, you have the 
right to drop out at any time. Student grading will not be factored into the 
research design, methodology or analysis of the research. 

Confidentiality, Privacy and Anonymity: 

You have the right to remain anonymous. If you elect to remain anonymous, 
your records will be kept private and confidential to the extent allowed by law. 
Pseudonyms will be used rather than your name on study records. Your name 


and other facts that might identify you will not appear when this study or 
presented or published. If for some reason you do not wish to remain 
anonymous, you may specifically authorize the use of material that would 
identify you as a subject in the research. 

You will be given a copy of this consent form to keep. 

Signed: Date: 

Student's signature 



Course Name: Art, Collage and Imagination 

Course Number: ART 409 

Credits: 3 undergraduate credits 

Semester: Fall 2009 

Time: 6-10 PM 

Location: Room 112 

Faculty: Enid E. Larsen, MSW, MEd 

Course Description: 

This seminar course will help each student develop an awareness of his or her 

own creative process. Student will learn to generate strategies for enhancing 

creativity through readings and discussion. 

Theoretical Perspectives and Instructor's Comments: 

Welcome to the studio course on Imagination and Creativity! 
During our five weeks together, we will create a studio learning environment in 
which we will explore our personal and shared assumptions about imagination 
and creativity. The primary text we will use, The Everyday Work of Art redefines 
the way we think of 'art' and shows a practical way of making the creative 
process a part of the things we do each day. Booth (1999) reassures us that "Art 
is not apart. We all function in art, use the skills of art and engage in the action 
of artists every day." Hopefully, we will be surprised at how much you are 
already functioning in the realms of imagination and creativity. In addition to 
experimenting with various art materials and methods to facilitate your learning, 
we will particularly utilize the contemporary fine arts practice of collage and 
assemblage as a method for artistic expression and as a metaphor for 
functioning in modern life. 

This studio class embraces an attitude of exploration. This means that those of 
you who are more comfortable with your creative self can deepen and expand 
your exploration. Those of you, who feel less experienced or uncertain about 
your creative self will have many opportunities to discover, take some chances, 
explore, and change some personal assumptions about your passion and 
understand it better. This course will give all of you the opportunity to more 
clearly understand concepts associated with imagination and creativity. 

Within each class we will engage in artful (and playful!) activities through which 
you will gain exposure and experience with factors that influence your 
experience of imagination and creativity. The ability to harness imagination and 
creativity is fundamental to all the roles and obligations that we fulfill. This 


seminar will be facilitated for practical application into your professional and 
personal lives. 

A theoretical foundation in this studio class is recognition and appreciation for 
internal stimuli in adult learning. Jung claimed the "prima material", the primary 
material of our life, as perhaps the most potent stimulation for human 
consciousness in that it is generated from within. The arts are an effective agent 
of change, disrupting and making unfamiliar what we take for granted as natural 
and normal. Increasing what is unfamiliar through creative art processes enables 
us to shake off the trapping of that which holds us down or maintains intellectual 
comfort zones and unquestioned assumptions. 

Art and creative process can be transformational. The value of art to 
transformational learning lies in the many qualities inherent in the process of 
creating images and in the images themselves. In addition to art being an 
excellent means for accessing powerful realms of affect in transformational 
learning, art objects, through their symbolic power, allow us to discover or 'try 
on' different points of view. Art and creative art processes have the capacity to 
surprise, delight, provoke, and challenge our assumptions. Art brings up nuances 
and subtleties that may be difficult to speak in words. Images and creative art 
processes can help us to extract our words, provide structure for cognition, and 
create meaning in learning. 

I look forward to exploring with you! 

Course Objectives: 

By the end of this course, students will: 

• Identify everyday skills and actions of art related to imagination and 

• Understand role and value of chaos in creativity 

• Identify personal blocks and impedances to creativity 

• Learn how to increase ability to take and tolerate risk 

• Develop a sense of one's own personal creative process 

• Develop appreciation for the role of collage and assemblage in modern 

• Increase skills in witnessing creative processes 

• Learn how to increase ability to imagine and create in work and personal 


Topical Outline: 

De-mystifying imagination and creativity 


Ways of knowing 

Elements of creative process 

Internal and externals sources of stimulation 

Body-mind connection 

Physio-neurological influences 

Socio-cultural influences 

Psychological influences 

• Value of chaos 

• Aesthetics 

• Creativity and leadership 


Basic art materials will be provided in class. Students are encouraged to augment 
their explorations with their own materials. Note: Please come to class dressed 
comfortably in clothing that does not inhibit engagement with art materials or 
with movement. 

Learning Approaches: 

A seminar approach uses a wide range of teaching and facilitative methods that 
are intended to create support, encouragement, stimulation for maximum 
participation and engagement of students, including: discussion and 
communication (written submissions, email, fax, tapes, telephone), journal 
writing, creative writing, art-making and reading aloud. Faculty will utilize 
processes to help students find ideas, create, reflect, and explicate work. The 
students and faculty will co-create activities. 

As this seminar is conducted as a 5-week intensive, students will be expected to 
engage in out-of class assignments and to document time spent. 

Required Readings: 

Booth Eric (1999). The everyday work of art. Awakening the extraordinary in 
your daily life. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc. 
isbn: 1-57071-438-x . 

Handouts and articles, as indicated by the instructor 

Resources and Recommended Readings: 

"A classroom library": The imagination feeds upon and is nourished by multiple 
sources of stimulation. The following list represents a wide representation and 
range of writing on imagination and creativity. Most will be available for perusal 


during the 5-week seminar, in additional to numerous other books of art 
techniques and skills that may be of interest for your exploration. 

Baron, F. Montuori, A., Barron, A. (eds.). (1997). Creators on creating. 
Awakening and cultivating the imaginative mind. New York: 

Cameron, J. (1992). The artist's way. A spiritual path to higher creativity. New 
York: Tarcher/Perigee. 

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New 
York: HarperPerennial. 

Dickinson, E. (edited by T.H. Johnson). (1960). The complete poems of Emily 
Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 

Edwards, D. (1996). How to be more creative. Mountain View, CA: Occasional 
Productions. ISBN: 0-933264-00-3 

Elliot, T.S. (1943,1971). Four quartets. IV,239-242. New York: Harcourt Brace. 

Goldsworthy, A. (2001). Midsummer snowballs. New York: Abrams. 

John-Steiner, V. (2000). Creative Collaboration. New York: Oxford University 

Jung. C.G. (1961). Memories, dreams reflections. New York: Vintage. 

McNiff, S. (1998). Trust the process: An artist's guide to letting go. Boston 
&London: Shambhala. 

McNiff, S. (2003). Creating with others. The practice of imagination in life, art & 
the workplace. Boston & London: Shambhala. 

McMeekin, G. (2000). The 12 secrets of highly creative women. A portable 
mentor. York Beach, Maine: Conari Press. 

Mellick, J. 1996). Creative ways to bring the wisdom of dreams to waking life. 
The natural artistry of dreams. Berkeley: Conari Press. 

Moore, T. (1978). Care of the soul. A guide for cultivating depth and sacredness 
in everyday life. New York:HarperCollins. 


Ratey, J. (2001). A user's guide to the brain. Perception, attention, and the four 
theatres of the brain. New York: Pantheon. 

Rilke, R. (1934/1962). Letters to a young poet. Norton: New York. 

Von Oech, R. (1998). A whack on the side of the head. How you can be more 
creative. New York: Warner. 

Helpful links: creatorig main.html 

http://www.angelfire.eom/tx5/q land/subject/imagination creativity.html 

Methods of Assessment: 

Students will be assessed according to their own progress throughout the class in 
the following areas: 



Demonstration of conceptual understanding 

Demonstration of self-reflection 

Originality and invention 

Demonstration of understanding of curriculum requirements 

Clarity and articulation of creative processes 

Writing mechanics (final products) 

Working with creativity and imagination is a process, and students develop their 
skills and understanding at an uneven pace. In an intensive delivery of the studio 
class, students will begin to explore ideas and concepts that understandably 
need time to integrate and skills that may take much longer to develop than 
throughout the seminar. The portfolio elements turned in at the end of the 
course are the final products and measure of what has been accomplished 
during the studio time period. 

Assessment will include the following: 

Course Product: A Portfolio 

A progressive self-reflective document that supports the creation of the 


• Annotated bibliography of text 

• Free-writes 


Weekly creativity projects 

Progressive, weekly, reflective papers that include documentation of 

creative processes. 

Final reflection paper 

Final creative project 

Final presentation to class 

Grading System: Letter grade. 
Final Grading System 



















Attendance Policy: 

Full and on-time attendance is expected. The college defines excused absences 
as those situations of illness, crises or situations entirely beyond the student's 
control. Additional assignments may be provided for students who need to 
make up excused absences. 

Full, focused, respectful and active participation is required in all large and 
small group activities and discussions, including being a respectful, actively 
responsive audience member during and after class discussions, and class 
performances/presentations, and in any on-line discussions. 

ADA Policy: 

A student qualifying as a person with a disability, as defined by Chapter 504 of 
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, students may wish to discuss the need for 
reasonable accommodation with the instructor. Students should make this 
contact at the beginning of the semester. 

Academic Honesty: 

Please be aware of the college's academic honesty policy. Cheating/Plagiarism 
(to include the cutting and pasting of unmodified code from the internet) is 
grounds for failure in the course, and possible academic dismissal. 
Cheating and Plagiarism 


a.) Cheating is defined as the attempt, successful or not, to give or obtain 
aid and/or information by illicit means in meeting any academic 
b.) Plagiarism is defined as the use, without proper acknowledgement, of 
the ideas, phrases, sentences, or larger units of discourse from anther 
writer or speaker. 
Students are expected to know and abide by the policy as stated in the college 
catalogue and student handbook. 

lweek One 

"Dwell in Possibility" 


1: Bring an "object" 

Please prepare to introduce yourself by bringing to the first class some 
visual aid /an object/ a "thing" /an art piece / a tangible "something"/ an 
important "something"/ that is meaningful to you and introduces you in a 
way that others probably do not know about you. Even though you may 
know others in your class, I encourage you not to share your "object" 
with your classmates in advance. Give each of us the opportunity to be 
surprised and delighted to get to know you differently. If you are 
uncertain about what to bring, consider the following: size does not 
matter, trust your heart on what is important to you, there is no right or 
wrong object, but the passion that is roused by your object is of utmost 
importance. Allow yourself to imaginatively enter the world of the object 
and let the story feed your imagination and stir your emotions, and 
subsequently help to tell your story. 

Questions/prompts to consider: 

How does this object express you? 

How does this object speak for you? 

What is the passion story between you and this object? 

2. Read: Booth, Eric (1999). The everyday work of art. Awakening the 
extraordinary in your 
daily life. Chapters 1-4. 


Introduction to the Studio/Seminar 

Syllabus review 

Assumptions and expectations 

Digital Art Presentation: "Why Make Art?" (Toler, 2004 MEd Arts and Learning 


Student introductions with object 

Assimilation of concepts: 

Collage and assemblage 

Paying attention 

Thinking from the inside out 

Internal sources of stimulation 






Reading the world 


Attentive noticing 



Group Art Activity: Mural 

As a group, we will co-create a mural (4' x 8-12' - depending on class size) using a 
variety of coloring materials, i.e. oil and chalk pastels. Please dress comfortably as we 
will work on the floor. 


Discussion and Assimilation of concepts: 

Role of play 



Role of community in passion, aesthetics and cognition 

Z Week Two 

"The growing edge is its own teacher. Although finding the edge may reguire a guide 

and staying there reguires support, ultimately the way through the confusion is to grow, 

and only the person at the edge can do that growing. There is a complex continuum 


that ranges from those who seek out and enjoy transformation to those who are in 

anguish while at the edges of their understanding." 
Berger, Dancing on the Threshold of Meaning. Recognizing and 
Understanding the Growing Edge f2004) 
Assignments due: 

1. Reflection paper- 2 pages 

2. Read: Booth, Eric (1999). The everyday work of art. Awakening the 
extraordinary in your 

daily life. Chapters 5-7. 

3. Create a vessel from any materials that engage you. Think of a vessel in the 
broadest definition of the word - that which will imagistically and metaphorically 
contains and holds you/your artistic passions as you engage in your study. 

Questions/prompts to consider: 

What does this vessel mean to you? 

How does/can this vessel contain you and/or your 


How is the selection of materials important to you? 

How is this vessel a metaphor for you? 

Anything else? 

Check in: 

Class discussion and assimilation of concepts: 

Vessel art project and reflection papers 

Containment/holding environments through art 
Class discussion: 


Multiple ways of knowing 


Regulation of stimuli/biological/neurological/emotional 

Sources of stimulation for creativity and imagination 


Group Activities: 

Temperament Survey (Aron), 
Multiple Intelligences Survey (Gardner) 
Bad Art (Says who?) 



Art activity: Collage: "The inner critic" 


Class discussion and assimilation of concepts: 

The inner critic 


3\A/eek Three 

"Play combined with creative art process is a potent and fertile combination. It taps 

directly into what you know, bypassing interpretation and explanation. It bears no 

responsibility beyond the moment, it is not self-conscious, it distorts the sense of time, it 

seeks control within different kinds of order, 
and it tells the truth. What you know meets with what you do not know. " 

Booth, 1999 

1. Assignment due: 

2. Booth, Eric (1999). The everyday work of art. Awakening the extraordinary in 
your daily life. Chapters 8-10. 

3. Reflection Paper: 1-2 pages 

Check in 

Discussion and review of concepts and reflection papers 

In-class activity: Play with Clay 


Discussion and assimilation of concepts: 



Prima material (Jung) 

Flow (Czikzentmihalyi) 




"When intuition and logic combine to direct our action, we discover our most 

authoritative individual voice. (Booth, 1999). When we include the felt body sensations 

and knowledge derived from our body's engagement with art, our knowledge becomes 

Assignment due: 

1. Read: Booth, Eric (1999). The everyday work of art. Awakening the 
extraordinary in your 

daily life. Chapters 11-13. 

2. Reflection Paper: 1-2 pages. 


In-class activity: Movie: Rivers and Tides: Working with Time. Andy 



Discussion and assimilation of concepts 

Creative process 

Reading the world 
Passion and generativity 


jWeek Five 

"Intense aesthetic perception derives from an awareness of the 

sensations of living, and an appreciation of being alive. The arts 

engage the senses in an exploration of possibilities. The arts allow 

us to represent our truth, our assumptions and our imagination 

through dance, music, painting and drama. 

The arts make connections between experience and vision. They 

promote discovery, nurture trust, and generate transformation. 

The arts are about life. Let 's teach an appreciation of life in our schools. " 

Diaz, Leading with the Arts( 1998) 

Assignment due: 
1. Portfolio: 

Annotated bibliography 

All free-writes 

All reflection papers 

Final Integrative Paper (7-10 pages) 

Creativity piece 


Presentation (length to be determined) 


Discussion, assimilation and review of concepts as derived from student presentations 


Closing Ritual 

Course Evaluation 

Syllabus subject to change based on the needs of the class.