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Speaking Engagements


We Begin With Surface – 20th Century Prints from the Cochran Collection

Originally presented August, 2005 at the Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin, Missouri as part of their Art in the Afternoon lecture series. 

Printmaking begins with surface--a woodblock, an etching plate, a lithography stone, a frame stretched with silk; and ends up on a surface--paper. Yet in every technique of printmaking, and in its meaning, surface is always at one with depth! The works in the Cochran Collection of 20th Century Graphics vibrantly illustrate this statement by Eli Siegel, art critic and founder of the education Aesthetic Realism: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." Every print is a guide in how to see the opposites of depth and surface in the world around us, in the people we know, and in our very selves.

This Exhibition includes prints by Rosenquist, Thiebaud, Calder, Frankenthaler, Picasso, Katz, Wesselman, Indiana and more!

Aesthetic Realism Shows What’s Going On in American Art & in Ourselves

Presented at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in the Art-at-Lunch Lecture Series, September, 2004. 

What are American Realist painters doing today that people want to do in their lives? Artists and Aesthetic Realism educators Marcia Rackow and Donita Ellison will look at the work of contemporary realists in relation to this great principle stated by Eli Siegel, American critic and founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” 

Central in all realist art is the seeing that the commonplace also has grandeur, the everyday moment has intense and wide significance.  This will be shown in the paintings of Jacob Lawrence, Richard Estes, Alex Katz, Bo Bartlett, and the sculpture of Duane Hanson.  They all show how we should see ourselves and the world—as intimate, familiar and yet having the abstract structure of reality in common with all things!

Workshops for Teachers

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method explains that “the purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it” and shows that everything in it--including every subject studied in school--is related through how it puts opposites together.  Ms. Ellison regularly presents workshops together with science educator Rosemary Plumstead on how the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method shows the thrilling structure in common among art, science and our very selves.  Some recent subjects have been: 

* The relation of surface and depth in printmaking and the structure of the human skin.
* How sameness and change are in embryonic development and the art of modeling clay.
* Separation and junction in the making of coil pot and anatomy of the human heart.
* One and many, apart and together in the art of collage and the cell membrane. 

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