#SOL14 - Revisioning Ourselves

One of the best field trips I've ever taken a class on was to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. It was a writing trip, so as we took a tour through the museum, our guide asked my students questions meant to help them think deeply about the paintings and sculptures they viewed, or to respond creatively to the work.

There are two moments from this trip I think of often and refer back to when working with young writers.

While viewing a bronze sculpture of a cowboy riding a horse, our guide explained how much work the artist put into the creation of the piece. At first glance you see a horse and rider. But when you look closely, truly inspect the sculpture, all the fine lines and intricate detail becomes clear. Without going back and reworking this piece continually, the final product would not be as striking. It's an excellent lesson on revision.

I was at the Kimball Art Museum recently with my two youngest to see the Picasso and Matisse exhibit. We found ourselves in front of Matisse's Bathers by a River.

Bathers By a River, Matisse - Art Institute of Chicago
He began this piece in 1909, completing it in 1917 after years of rethinking his style and reworking the canvas. The final product is actually quite different as he repainted much of the canvas when reworking it.

This has become my favorite painting. I love the message I found in his years of revision; there is meaning there for me as a writer, certainly -- but also as a person. I think we are all a little like Bathers At a River. Starting out as one thing, changing as our knowledge and beliefs evolve, and reworking ourselves to portray the learning we've done through the years.

Tomorrow I'll share my second aha moment from that long ago field trip - and a little more artwork, ask well.


  1. I love to hear about different ways in which revision shows up in our daily lives and how we can convey that information to students. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  2. I like the way you tie together fine art, writing and ourselves. I have to agree that we should always be striving to revise ourselves in an effort to create something amazing. :)

  3. What an excellent field trip! I love the way you have art intersecting with writing for your students!

  4. I've never thought about using art to prove that revision is a necessary part of life. I tell my students that a piece of writing is never done, but it's hard for them to conceptualize this with all the standardized tests that create a one and done mentality. Thank you for giving a wonderful way to illustrate that great artists are always improving on their works. And yes, revision is totally something that we can apply to human nature. Wonderful post!

  5. I love the connection you draw between the revision of the painting and revising your writing! I also love that the revision of the painting was so many years in the finishing. My own revision process can be quite long, and sometimes I get angry with myself for that, but your post reminds me that the work just needs to take as long as it needs to take and that I can't force it.

    Your post also reminded me of two of my favorite field trips. Both were taken when I was an adult literacy teacher, and both were to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Those two experiences continue to resonate for me when I think about ways to engage with art, ways to work with students. Thanks for the reminder!