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CELEBRATING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Clare Dorber

Clare graduated from Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton) in 2009 with a degree in Fine Art, Printmaking. Clare then went onto study for a secondary school Art and Design PGCE in 2010 from the University of Cambridge. After seven years in teaching, Clare then decided to study for a Masters in Arts and Learning from Goldsmiths University, London. This course was titled ‘Artist-teacher and Contemporary practices’ and encouraged educators to study the theory of art teaching and making and reengage with their own personal art practices.

Since 2017, Clare’s work has focused on her dual identity as both an Artist and a Teacher.

Her works from 2017 show Venn diagrams of the similarities and differences are between an Artist and a Teacher. These diagrams turned into a series of collages both physical and digital.

For her final major project titled ‘Artist, Teacher, (m)other’ Clare’s work explores themes of identity, feminism, motherhood, art and teaching. Why is it that teachers are often mistaken for mothers by their learners? What identity would an art teacher want? or aim to have instead?

Clare created a series of portraits of herself and her learners interacting with each other in the classroom. The classroom is represented by the paper on which the print has been created. The learners are the circles that are collaged onto the print. The Art teacher is represented by the relief print of a net bag. Here we see a playful dynamic between teacher and learner forever changing within the rigid confines of the classroom.

But why a net bag? Clare was inspired by a quote by psychologist Valerie Walkerdine who observed female teachers as often becoming ‘…caught, trapped inside a concept of nurturance…’ (Walkerdine, 1986, p.55). Clare says “I observed the bag print, almost cage-like in structure, yet also loose and being the shape of a container. I pursued the double meaning of the net bag. The net could trap a female teacher in a role of nurturance but due to the holes and the malleable structure of the net bag, there is also a quality of space and openness.”

“Although the net bag may not on first appearance conjure the idea of a female art teacher, through my research, one can evidence that the bag is often associated with being female in terms of evolution. In Ursula Le Guin’s essay ‘The carrier bag theory of fiction’ (Le Guin, 2019), she locates the container/bag as the greatest human invention. The bag contains, carries, gathers, collects, supports, holds energy and things that are thought to be useful or precious. This argument is reiterated by anthropologist Sally Slocum. Slocum argues that we are sold the story that we evolved from man the hunter being able to make tools and kill, yet hunting and aggression shows only one side of human life. Slocum argues that the first tools used ‘…were not weapons at all, but rather aids in gathering’ (Slocum, 1975, p.46). These early containers would have provided energy in the products they carried. They would have nourished and enabled sharing in communities in order for our ancestors to eventually produce other types of cultural inventions (Slocum, 1975, p.46). This anthropological perspective of the female act of gathering could be compared to that of the female art-teacher’s classroom. Teachers gather, nourish and share dialogue, concepts and skills with students in order for them to produce and go onto make discoveries of their own independently. Le Guin observes the bag as ‘…full of beginnings without ends, of initiations, of losses, of transformations and translations…’ (Le Guin, 2019, p.35). “

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