chapter  8
11 Pages

EMBODIED KNOWING THROUGH ART

ByMARK JOHNSON

The general public almost never thinks about artists, and when it does, it almost never thinks of them as great contributors to the growth of human understanding and knowledge. I suppose that nearly everybody has heard of Picasso, and a lot of people even like his work, but ask them what contribution Picasso has made to knowledge and they are likely to be left speechless. Even worse, ask them what Picasso’s art research consisted in, and they probably won’t have a clue what you are talking about. Evidence of this relegation of art to an inferior cognitive status can be found in the now wornout fact that the arts are always the first thing to be cut when schools face financial hardship. I’ll wager that you’ve never encountered anyone exiting an exhibit of the work of artists like Pablo Picasso, Elizabeth Murray, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Mark Rothko, or Henri Matisse and heard them exclaim, ‘Wow, I learned so much from that.’ For the most part, we do not think of the arts as vehicles of important knowledge. Some people might say of some artist that she is insightful, but that remark does not translate into a belief that the artist’s works give us profound knowledge. If you asked someone what profound truth they gleaned from Picasso’s Guernica, I suppose they might say something on the order of ‘war is absolute hell,’ or ‘what happened at Guernica was abominable’, but that would be the lamest possible summary of the transformative power of Picasso’s great work.