Blog Five by Taylor Simard
Introduction to the Author
My name is Taylor Simard, and I’m a 20-year-old student living in Canada. I study at Carleton in Ottawa, and double-major in Humanities and Art History, which both follow my life-long passions for books and art, and I’m completing a minor in Biology.
I’ve learnt a lot throughout university. The humanities program boasts the fact that they produce thinkers like no other program can, and I believe they have good founding for that, as I prove it more and more myself every day. I started out my university career in only this program; I was in love within the first week. There’s nothing like studying the literature of ancient civilizations and realizing that they’re just as ridiculous and emotional and funny as we are today. There’s something special about realizing the creators of great works of art are just people responding to their circumstance, and I know I’ll never stop learning about the funny quirks of ancient people’s that make them geniuses through the lens of time. In my second year of school I added a major in Biology, I thought maybe I’d become a physiotherapist if my arts dreams never fleshed out, it was like my back up plan. I’m too passionate a person to rely on a back-up plan, though, and instead I found a second love; within the humanities curriculum there was an art history year-long course that covered the emergence of art to the contemporary. I feel in love all over again with studying art, and I decided to drop the biology major to a minor, since it wasn’t my passion, and add an art history major instead. All of this was a mess by my third year, but I still added the major, even though it meant I’d have to add another year to the end of my degree, which was undoubtedly worth it.
And now you’re all caught up. I’m living through my third year of university in the time of Covid-19, and it’s hard, really hard compared to the love that I found in a classroom, the ease of chatting with professors about silly things after a confusing class. But it’s getting better, we’re all figuring out how to learn remotely, and how to teach remotely, and how to find our happiness in studying remotely. The world isn’t going to go back to being the same after this, we’re going to have to learn and adapt, and it’s quite possible that I’ll have to finish my degree partially online, but we’re getting better, and hopefully, that’ll be okay. I know that me and my generation are stepping into the world and the workforce in a very uncertain time, but I have faith in the world’s adaptation to the virtual, and I know that I’m following my passions, and I believe that everything will work itself out.
This week I participated in an art history workshop with Global Experience, and it discussed an incredible piece of art, but the main takeaway was the importance of art in the workplace. We mentioned that art can help you stand out in a workplace, or put you in a better mood, but more than that, we talked about how if art is studied and understood, a culture can be better understood. This is especially important when studying or working abroad, and even more so when in a non-western context.
There’s a belief that Western art was the leader and innovator of all artistic movements, and maybe that’s truer to more recent years, but in antiquity it’s not. Because Western art in antiquity is what is primarily studied, we’re prone to thinking that the Greeks might have been the primary innovators, but they were influenced largely by the Persians, and the West-Asian cultures. Anywhere that had trade was influencing and being influenced by other cultures, no one was removed.
Studying art thus reveals links between different people’s cultures, leaving them with more in common than they might have thought. People have always thought that Greece was the very forefront of pottery, but that wasn’t necessarily true. Athens had a rich clay bed within their territory, but for a long time they were decorating their pottery with simple, geometric shapes. It wasn’t until Corinthian pottery emerged that figures and narratives on pottery became dominant. This happened because Corinth was a trading city on the coast, so saw pottery coming in from other places, like Persia and Egypt, and were able to mimic those figures, applying it to their own pottery. Athens then started adding figures to their own pottery to continue to compete with Corinth, and that’s how they continued to have the best pottery in the Mediterranean. Without the influence of the other cultures, this change wouldn’t have occurred, though, and all of the iconic pottery styles we imagine when thinking about Greek art wouldn’t have existed. Despite the fact that Greece and Persia were at war for years, their cultures are still tied through this.
More than just being relevant to an individual, art can be incredibly relevant to a whole group. It can teach people the basics of a culture’s beliefs, and help them to stay sensitive to those beliefs and what they mean. It could eliminate biases, and grant a deeper understanding of what a religion or group preaches, and the different contexts that are available. Learning about the art of a culture you’re working in, or the culture of people you’re interacting with, can help you to understand them better. Instead of believing the stereotypes of a culture, one can learn something deeper, and thus better understand their surroundings and interactions. If everyone learnt about art in school, and not just from their own culture, biases would be eliminated, and every culture would understand each other a little more. It might be naïve to say, but I believe that this could lead to a more loving world, in which people are more informed, and thus take more care to avoid insulting each other’s culture. It’s worth thinking about, at least.